By Catherine Hernandez
This play is performed by one person. The only character taking human form is Grace. The only character taking full puppet form is Lola. Everyone else is represented by a prop or series of props that draws a particular vocal expression from the actor.
Characters (age when first introduced):
LOLA, 87-year-old, Filipina (full puppet)
GRACE, 19-year-old, Filipina (full human)
AMERICAN SOLDIER, 22-year-old, American (glasses and beer stein)
MRS. BOYLE, 33-year-old, American (handkerchief and straw hat)
MANUEL, 35-year-old, Filipino (fedora, cigarette)
CATHOLIC SCHOOLMATES, 10-year-old, Filipinos (finger puppets)
BOY, 45-year-old, Filipino (shirt with clipped sleeve)
FERDIE, 42-year-old, Filipino (uneven shoes)
COLONEL HARPER, 50-year-old, American (feather pen)
ESTHER, LANA, FANNY, 30 to 35-year-old, Americans (head scarves)
FITNESS INSTRUCTOR, 25-year-old, American (pony tail)
The set consists of a raised platform, waist-high to the actor. On that platform is another raised platform, smaller and raised to the actor’s chest, representing Lola’s bed. Underneath the bed are the numerous props and objects making the other characters.
Grace enters with a tray of food. Lola lies on the bed completely still.
GRACE: Hoy. Lola. Good morning. Breakfast time, po. Lola?
Lola is still. Too still. Grace approaches Lola. Perhaps the time has come. Grace slowly lowers her head to Lola’s chest, prepared to confirm everything. Just as Grace’s head touches Lola’s chest, Lola stirs.
LOLA: What are you doing?
GRACE: Nothing. Nothing. I just thought you were…nothing. I just came in to feed you your breakfast before I head to the drugstore to pick up your things. Kain na, Lola.
GRACE: I made you breakfast.
LOLA: What breakfast?
GRACE: Longaniza. Lola grumbles. With rice. Lola grumbles more. And talong. Lola grumbles even more. And I cut it up like this so that it will be easier to chew on.
LOLA: I don’t want baby food.
GRACE: But what if you choke?
LOLA: Then I choke.
GRACE: What?! Pause. Listen, okay? I would really, really appreciate it if you weren’t as difficult as last time, okay? Pause. Okay?!
Grace props up Lola. Grace tries to put a tissue under Lola’s chin. Lola tosses it away.
Grace tosses the tissue aside. Grace spoon feeds Lola. Lola grumbles and spits out the food.
GRACE: What are you doing!?
LOLA: There’s no patis.
GRACE: Dr. Brooymans said you can’t have that anymore. It’s not good for your digestion.
LOLA: What? What would happen if I had patis? What’s the problem? What will it do to me now? Ayo’ko iyung lasa nito eh. It doesn’t have a…a…what do you call it? No keek.
GRACE: What’s a keek?
LOLA: You know…no wow factor.
GRACE: Now you wait a minute! I cooked this… I…I tasted it. And it tasted just fine. I didn’t burn the pan this time. I boiled the sausages first so that they wouldn’t be raw inside again.
Lola gives her a look.
LOLA: Nothing. Wala lang.
GRACE: Just because you…and you don’t think I…I’m learning okay?
LOLA: Maybe I should cook.
GRACE: Sure. Fine. Yeah. You cook. Go ahead. You can cook as soon as you can go to the washroom by yourself. Pause. I’m sorry. Sorry. I don’t know why I… Pause. I don’t even know why I said that. That was…that was stupid. I don’t even know what I’m doing. I’m not a nurse or anything. I don’t even know why mom asked me to do this.
LOLA: You don’t have to stay.
GRACE: Yes I do. She can’t keep…not one person can do it. We all have to pitch in. This is hard.
LOLA: I am a burden.
GRACE: You’re not a burden, Lola. We just feel stupid. All of us. We’re not experts in –
LOLA: In dying?
GRACE: No. I’m not saying that.
LOLA: Pause. It wasn’t always like this.
GRACE: I know. I remember, Lola. You were the best cook around.
LOLA: Not just my cooking. I was always in charge of food. Of getting food. Of finding food. Of stealing food.
GRACE: Stealing? What?