“Eating with Lola”: A Theatre Piece25 min read

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Lights change. Lola sings the funeral song “Taps.” The American and Filipino flags are placed atop each other and are folded into a triangle and placed in Lola’s hands.

LOLA: Many war veterans came to pay their respects.

The funeral of Manuel. Numerous people come to Lola to pay their respects. All of them are veterans as well and the evidence shows: limps, hearing impairments, shell shock. Lola finally delivers a eulogy.

LOLA: When he found out I was pregnant, he immediately thought he was going to be granted a son. He bought his future son a baseball bat. But then, I had Mila. Kawawanaman siya. He had a girl. He was happy anyway. Daddy’s girl, diba? One day, while I was cooking torta, I saw him carving the baseball bat. He sat in front of the house with a carving knife and he carved and carved, whittling it down. He then took a piece of scrap metal and pounded it into a rounded metal circle. He attached the two and gave it to me, this wooden spoon. She holds it out for all to see. Just in time for me to fry the ground beef. It was the perfect torta. My side with raisins. His side without.

Lola opens a letter.

LOLA: I received a letter later that month.

Colonel Harper steps forward presenting a purple heart.

COLONEL HARPER: To Rufina Sanchez, widow of Manuel Sanchez. Please find in this package a purple heart, an overdue symbol of our gratitude for Manuel’s service. The information he gathered was invaluable as we sought to liberate Manila from the hands of the Japanese. In honour of Manuel’s devotion to the United States of America and unwillingness to succumb to the torturous pressures of the enemy, we are offering you and Manuel’s next of kin citizenship in the United States of America.

Lights down on Colonel Harper.

LOLA: And there it was, all of the sorrow, his other, his other self, his other life in this purple heart. And in it a key to a new life. We accepted.

Lola sings the riff of a California song. Lola opens the front door of her house. A welcoming wagon of women come to the door, all wearing head scarves.

ESTHER: Welcome to the neighbourhood! You are going to love California. Harold and I moved here to San Jose from New Jersey and absolutely love it. I brought a casserole. Watch out. It’s still hot.

LANA: Holy cow! Are you serious? 3 children and you’re a widow? Well, thank heavens I brought over some of my famous spaghetti Bo-lo-nay-say. That’s how the Italians call it. Do you have Parmesan cheese? You know, to sprinkle on top?

ESTHER: My husband served too. Us military wives are a different breed aren’t we? You’d better chill this potato salad surprise before it goes bad, honey. Pause. Well the surprise is, you don’t know what’s at the bottom. Pause. I can’t tell you or else it won’t be a surprise.

GRACE: Is that how the cooking stopped? Everyone just gave you food?

LOLA: I don’t…I don’t remember…

Lights change. A kid’s birthday party. The doorbell rings and Grace (as an 8-year-old girl with party hat on) answers the door. It’s Lola. Lola seems a bit out of breath.

GRACE: Oh. It’s you.

LOLA: Aba! Where’s my hug?

GRACE: Lola!

LOLA: And kisses?

GRACE: Loooolaaaa!

LOLA: Why are you in such a bad mood? It’s your birthday? You’re 10 now. Two numbers stuck together, diba?

GRACE: Mommy said that she ordered Ariel to come and sing for my party.

LOLA: Ariel?

GRACE: You know, from Little Mermaid? We made a paper mâché rock for her to sit on and everything. And she hasn’t shown up yet.

LOLA: Well, you know what will make you smile?

GRACE: What?

LOLA: Ube-Macapuno cake.

GRACE: What’s that?

LOLA: Your favourite.

GRACE: Loooolaaaaa…it’s…it’s gross Lola. It’s blue. It looks like it’s rotten.

Grace runs off.

GRACE: As a 19-year-old, taking off her party hat: I wasn’t that rude.

Grace notices Lola is unwell.

GRACE: Wait a minute. Wasn’t this the birthday party that you…

LOLA: Yes.


LOLA: Yes…I think…I remember…

Lola starts to convulse. Grace runs back onstage and sees her Lola convulsing on the ground.

GRACE: Moooomyyyy! Lola’s in trouble. Heeeeelp! Heeelp!

Lola’s convulsing calms but Lola is still looking up at the sky. Lights change. Several stethoscopes, magnifying glasses, tubes and various other medical tools start floating above the paralyzed Lola. Note: the Lola puppet has no hand inside to animate it. But we hear Lola’s voice.

DOCTORS: Text flowing freely as if spoken by numerous doctors: Hello Rufina. Can you follow my finger? Can you see it. Good. Follow it. Good. Do you know what day it is? Mrs. Sanchez, you’ve just had a stroke. Can you feel this side of your body? Good morning. Lift up your arm. Can you squeeze my hand for me? Excellent. Good afternoon. Time to change your bags, Mrs. Sanchez. Good night. Lights out okay?

LOLA: I can’t really describe what it felt like to be inside there. Someone once told me it was like a nightmare where you can’t move your arms. That’s close. But not really. Not a nightmare. More like a movie that never wants to end. Just watching, not doing. Mila transferred me to a home so that I could be cared for. It smelled like pee. And tears.

Lola is moved out of her bed and put into a chair. She sits completely still. Other patients sit in chairs, unable to move. A Fitness Instructor enters, sweat bands on and begins to lead the group in exercise.

FITNESS INSTRUCTOR: How is everyone today? Moans. How is everybody doing?! Moans. She begins to play “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.” Yay! Come on. Arms up everyone. Come on Charlie. I know you like this song. Wave them up in the air like you just don’t care. Come on. Hands open and close. Just like twinkling stars. Excellent. Stretch and stretch. Music changes to “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Lola starts to recognize the tune. Who likes this song, raise your hand. No one does. Everyone march in place. Come on. Good job Monique. That’s the most moving you’ve ever done. Good job.

Lola raises her hand up and moans.

FITNESS INSTRUCTOR: Can everybody clap your hands?

Lola begins to stir. Lights up on the American Soldier in SNAFU bar.

AMERICAN SOLDIER: Hey, Rufina! You sounded like an angel tonight. Listen: My pals and I are strolling along Dewey Boulevard. Wanna tag along, gorgeous? Come on. Walk with us. Come on. You gotta stroll, sweetheart. Come on!

Lola raises her arm. She begins to stir and moan. She suddenly twitches and convulses.

WOMAN: Ohmigawd! I need a nurse. Rufina is moving. Can somebody help me? She’s falling off her chair.

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