“Eating with Lola”: A Theatre Piece25 min read

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A tiny puppet theatre is pulled out. Finger puppets illustrate the entire story but in fast motion.

LOLA: Manuel Sanchez was a loner from day one. The son of Cesar Sanchez, the self-proclaimed agnostic…

CESAR: God is dead.

LOLA: Manuel was often ridiculed by his Catholic classmates.

CATHOLIC CLASSMATES: Who’s going to heaven? Us! Who’s going to hell? You!

The classmates beat him up.      

LOLA: His shyness coupled with his engineering background made him the perfect spy for the Americans. An American man shakes Manuel’s hands. A deal. Manuel took a job at the Manila Hotel as a repair man. Manuel enters the hotel and inspects it. When the Japanese began using the hotel as their headquarters, Manuel secretly set up radio receptors in the elevators to record private conversations between Japanese officials. Manuel places receptors in the hotel. The messages were relayed to the US for decoding.

The Japanese found him out, took him to Fort Santiago and tortured him for seven days. Manuel is summoned away by Japanese soldiers. They removed (a scream) each (a scream) of his toe nails (a scream). Manuel thought the end was near. But something was wrong. The Japanese were running for their lives.


LOLA: We were going to be liberated. But first the Americans had to destroy us.

The Americans drop the bomb on Manila. The puppet shakes in the wake of the bomb. The theatre is put away. Manuel emerges. He is at the door of the Boyle residence. He fixes his hat and smokes, preparing him for the weight of the social occasion. He finally gathers enough courage to ring the door bell. The sound of the door opening. Manuel double takes at the sight of Lola.

MANUEL: Ummm…Hello. You are so…Do I have the right address? I…My name is Manuel. I…I am here for tea.

LOLA: He never left.

Lights change. Movement piece: Lola and Manuel begin to swirl around each other completely in love. Lola sings “Goodnight, My Love.” Manuel and Lola fall into an embrace and kiss passionately. Lights change again. Grace hovers above the couple.

GRACE: What do you mean, he never left?

LOLA: He never left. Lola goes back to kissing Manuel.

GRACE: That’s all?

Lola, frustrated, escapes Manuel’s embrace for a moment to say:

LOLA: Yes. That’s all. That’s how things were done back then. We met and got married.

GRACE: How did you fall in love?

LOLA: By looking at him. Lola caresses Manuel’s face. And watching him eat my pianono. I knew then. I could feed this man for a long time.

Lights change. Lola hums “Ama Namin” while placing a veil atop her head. She looks at herself in the mirror, breathes and walks down the aisle. She turns and she is suddenly pregnant. Turns again and she is holding a baby. Lights change again. Lola puts the baby down for bed. She sighs. She goes to bed and calls out to Manny.

LOLA: Ay naku! Ang pagod naman ako. The baby is finally asleep. Mama really liked the taste of my leche flan tonight, diba? She had two servings. It’s nice to see her resting for once. She is so old na. Manny? Manny? Tulog ka, Manny. Please. Come to bed, na.

MANNY: You…you’re so beautiful. Do you know that? You set the table every day. In exactly the same way. And we sit here at the table. The kids. You. Across from me. So that I can see you. So that you can see me. So that you can see me satisfied with what you have cooked for me. Pause. Do you know who sits beside me at the table? Indicating an empty spot at the table. My head. My brain. My thoughts. This is where my body is. That is where my head is. Do you understand? We have to set a place at the table for it. Otherwise…I won’t think straight. These thoughts are looking out of my cell at Fort Santiago, waiting to die. Do you understand? These thoughts I can’t get rid of. I can’t trade my thoughts for my fingernails. They will never grow back.

Manny collapses into tears. He holds Lola.

LOLA: That was the most he ever spoke of his time at Fort Santiago. From then on, I set a place for his mind at the table. When he died of a heart attack a decade later, I stopped.

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