Interpretive Reading no. 4:The Play Oli Impan by Alberto Florentino evaluated by John Paul Dela Torre on December 8, 2015

After the liberation of Manila, hundreds of indigent families settled in the squalid, cramped space of the bombed ruins of an old government building of Juan Luna. For more than a decade these “squatters” tenaciously refused to move out in spite of court rulings. The “casbah”, as the compound was popularly known, became a breeding place for vice and corruption. The city government was able to evict the “squatters” only on December 20, 1958 – five days before Christmas.
(On the middle of the stage, extending from side to side, is a stone wall one and a half feet high. At left may be seen a portion of a tall edifice. At right, is a portion of the “casbah”. Beyond the stone wall, an estero (unseen) – and the sky. A five-year-old girl sits on the stone wall, her thin legs dangling in the air. Offstage there is a continuous commotion of evacuation. A woman’s voice rises above the commotion as she reprimands a child for getting in her way. A six-year-old boy appears on stage walking backwards – away from his mother, nagging offstage. The mother quiets down. The boy turns around and plays with his toy: an empty milk can pulled along the ground with a piece of string.)
Girl: Is there a fire?
Boy: (Stops playing and faces her) Huh?
Girl: I said, is there a fire?
Boy: There is no fire. (Continues to play)
Girl: (Looks toward the street. After a pause.) I think there is no fire.
Boy: (Stops playing_ I told you there’s none.
Girl: There is.
Boy: How do you know? Do you see any smoke? Do you hear any fireman? (resumes his play. Runs around imitating a fire engine) EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I like it when there is a big fire!
Girl: (Worried) If there is no fire, why are they putting these things out? (pints to a pile of household belongings nearby)
Boy: Because we are being thrown out.
Girl: Who told you?
Boy: My mother.
Girl: Who is throwing us out?
Boy: (Sits on the other end of the stone wall) The government.
Girl: What is a government?
Boy: I don’t know.
Girl: You didn’t ask your mother?
Boy: I forgot to ask her.
Girl: Why should the government throw us out?
Boy: (Points to the compound) Because it owns this.
Girl: (Enraged) But this is ours!
Boy: No, it is not ours.
Girl: (Insistent) It is ours! It is!
Boy: It is not!
Girl: (A tiny scream) It is! It is!
Boy: (Loud) How do you know it is ours?
Girl: We’ve always been here, haven’t we?
Boy: Yes, but that doesn’t mean it is ours.
Girl: (After a pause) If they throw us out, we’ll have nowhere to go. How about you? You have any place to go?
Boy: None. But we will have one. (Proudly) My mother has a job.
Girl: She has?
Boy: Yes!
Girl: What does she do?
Boy: She reads hands.
Girl: She reads – hands? (Looking at her hands) Why does she read hands?
Boy: So she can tell what will happen tomorrow.
Girl: She can do that? By reading hands?
Boy: Yes, She can!
Girl: (Showing him her hands) Can she read my hands? I want to know where we will stay tomorrow.
Boy: She can’t read your hands.
Girl: (Looks at them) Why not?
Boy: They are too small… and dirty.
Girl: (She quickly withdraws them and quietly wipes them on her dress)
Boy: Besides… she reads only men’s hands.
Girl: Only men’s hands? Why?
Boy: Because they are big.. and easy to read.
Girl: How does she read hands? Like she reads the comics?
Boy: I don’t know.
Girl: You don’t know? Don’t you watch her?
Boy: My mother won’t let me. She makes me go out and play. And she closes the door.
Girl: She closes the door! How can she read in the dark?
Boy: I don’t know. (Proudly) But she can!
Girl: Don’t you ever peep?
Boy: No, I don’t.
Girl: Why not?
Boy: She’ll beat me up.
(Commotion offstage.)
Girl: What’s that? What’s happening there?
Boy: (Tries to see) I don’t know. I can’t see. (Pulls her) Come out, let’s take a look!
Girl: (Resisting) I can’t.
Boy: Why not?
Girl: My father told me to stay here. He said not to go anywhere.
Boy: (Turning) Then I will go and take a look.
Girl: (Frightened) No, don’t. Stay here. Don’t leave me.
Boy: Why?
Girl: I’m afraid.
Boy: Afraid of what?
Girl: I don’t know.
Boy: But how can we find out what’s happening?
Girl: Let’s not find out anymore.
Boy: (Restless) But I want to see. (Scampers up the stone wall) I can see from here!
Girl: What do you see?
Boy: (Incredulous) They are destroying our homes. (Sound of wrecking crew at work)
Girl: (frightened) Who are destroying them?
Boy: The men with hammers!
Girl: Nobody is stopping them?
Boy: Nobody.
Girl: But why? Are there no policemen?
Boy: There are. There are many policemen.
Girl: What are they doing? What are the policemen doing?
Boy: Nothing.
Girl: Nothing? They are not stopping the men?
Boy: No.
Girl: Why not?
Boy: I don’t know.
(Commotion. Shouts. Curses)
Girl: (Alarmed) What’s happening now?
Boy: (excited throughout) A man is trying to stop the men with hammers! Now the policemen are trying to stop him. They’re running after him. But the man fights like a mad dog! (A man shouts, cursing)
Girl: (Suddenly, with terror in her voice). That’s my father! (In her fright she covers her eyes with hands)
Boy: Your father?
Girl: Yes, he’s my father! What are they doing to him? Are they hurting him?
Boy: No, they are only trying to catch him… Now they’ve caught him! They are tying his hands!
Girl: What will they do to him?
Boy: I don’t know. Now they are putting him in a car. A police car.
Girl: (Whimpers) Father… Father…
Boy: They are taking him away! (A car with siren drivers away)
Girl: (Screams) FATHER! FATHER!
Boy: He can’t hear you now.
Girl: (Starts to cry)
Boy: (Walks to and sits beside her) Why are you crying? Don’t cry please…
Girl: They are going to hurt my father, aren’t they?
Boy: No, they won’t hurt him.
Girl: (Removes her hands from her eyes) How do you know?
Boy: I just know it. (Suddenly) Come, let’s sing a song.
Girl: I don’t know how to sing.
Boy: I’ teach you.
Girl: How?
Boy: I’ll sing… and you listen. (She nods and wipes her eyes dry)
Boy: (Sings) Saylenay…
Olinay…
Oliskam…
Olisbray…
Ranyonberginmaderenchayle…
Oli impansotenderenmayle…
Slipinebenlipis…
Slipinebenlipis…
Girl: (Smiling) That’s a pretty song. Who taught you that song?
Boy: (Proudly) My mother!
Girl: What does it mean? I can’t understand it.
Boy: It’s about God.
Girl: What’s a “God”?
Boy: I don’t know. I haven’t asked my mother. But she told me God was born in a stable.
Girl: What’s a stable?
Boy: A place for horses.
Girl: (Incredulous) He was born there? In a place for horses? Why?
Boy: My mother said he had nowhere to stay.
Girl: Was he poor?
Boy: I don’t know.
Girl: (Suddenly) I like the song. Will you sing it again?
Boy: No, let’s sing it together.
Girl: I told you, I don’t know how.
Boy: I’ll teach you. I’ll sing it a little… and you sing after me. (She smiles and nods)
Boy: (Sings) Saylenay…
Girl: Saylenay…
Boy: Olinay…
Girl: Olinay…
Boy: Oliskam…
Girl: Oliskam…
Boy: Olisbray…
Girl: Olisbray…
Boy: Ranyonberginmaderenchayle…
Girl: Ranyon…(She giggles) I can’t say that!
Boy: Let’s skip it. (Sings) Oli impan… n, skip that, too. (Sings)
Slipinebenlipis…
Girl: Slipinebenlipis…
Boy: Slipinebenlipis…
Girl: Slipinebenlipis…

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