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Duck's Egg, a play by Fatima Lim-Wilson
Duck's Egg by Fatima Lim-Wilson

CAST

Narrator/Jasmine
Steven
Tito Manuel
Lolo Godong
Girl with dog, Bulak
Tita Ising
Miss Gomez
Auntie Corina
Matron
Musician

I could see Steven in the distance as he walked briskly through the exit gate of the airport terminal. His eyes scanned the crowd, quickly passing over the college kids in shorts and straw hats, glancing briefly at the Indian men in turbans and business suits, and pausing...when his eyes finally found me...Steven! (waves)

Jasmine!
(3 BEATS. "SOMEWHERE MY LOVE...")

(Tito Manuel starts coughing tactfully after being prodded by Lolo Gadong.)

Steven, I’d like you to meet my family.

Hullo ... Hullo how do you do? ... (TO Lolo) Sir! ...(to girls) Hi, there...

(SLOW PACED) Son, are you related to Sgt. Stebben Golding? I was the one—pulling him out of his burning plane during da war! Luckily, our unit saw da plen coming down. Da plen! Da plen! And then... Kaboom! You know Sgt. Steve, don’t you—

(Interrupting, and enunciating every word) Welcome to Virginia, Mr. Espalding!

(Reacting to dog escaping) BULAK!!!

(WHISTLING. ShoUTING. PANDEMONIUM)

Oh, no! Oh, no! Tito do something!

Over there! Ayun! Bulaaaak!

Are you sure you don’t know Sgt. Stebben Golding from World War Two?

(Distracted) I’m sure, sir! But if I run into him, I’ll be sure to mention that I met you.

Tara na. Where are my keys?

(picks up Bulak from Tito Manuel and snuggles the dog): In your jacket, Tito.

Finally, we piled into Tito Manuel’s van!

(INTERLUDE: "Someone’s in the Kitchen w/ Dina")

Mr. Spalding—

Steven, sir—

(beaming): Stebben, yes... Stebben, now tell us a little about yourself.

Oh, no! Tito Manuel had interrogated me about Steven months before! He knew very well the details of Steven’s life...

Oh, no! Tito Manuel had interrogated me about Steven months before! He knew very well the details of Steven’s life, from how he chose to have his steaks cooked—

Well, being a southern boy, I loove steaks—

Rare, right?

Yeah, the rarer the better! how’ja know, sir?

—to what dressing he preferred in his salad...

You like thousand island dressing, son?

(laughing) Dang! Only stuff I kin stand! Y’see, sir, I’m originally from Texas. Jasmine and I—I’m sure she’s told y’all— we met in grad school. Been to Virginia only once before. It’s terrific to be here and spend some time knowing Jasmine’s folks. She talks so much ’bout you. I feel I know y’all...

Is dat so? Then, iho, how would you like to see Washington, D.C. by night? Ano, Jasmine??

(2 BEATS to UKELELE STRUMS "By the light of the silvery Moon")

(rolling her eyes up, defeated): Admittedly, Washington, D.C. by night was a lovely sight! Uncle Manuel drove past the well-lit monuments and the cherry trees whose blossoms glowed white in the darkness.

See dat ober there, Steppen, is the White house. I worked in there as head waiter por President Ike, Kennedy and Jackson...

See dat ober there, Steppen, is the White house. I worked in there as head waiter por President Ike, Kennedy and Jackson...

President Johnson, Lolo.

Yes, Johnson. Many, many pormal dinners and private ones too. Upstairs.

Is that right, sir? You must have heard some pretty private conversations!

: Yeah. Yeah. Ang hirap talagang mag-ingles. Nakakapilipit ng dila!

Jasmine, iha, it’s only nine o’clock. Your Tita Isabella will still be at the store. Don’t you think Stebben would be interested in seeing the Guevaras’ Nipa Hut in Chinatown?

Tito... Remember ho, Auntie Corina is waiting for us for dinner!

Tito Manuel made his living selling light fixtures but he devoted much of his time and energies to the fledgling enterprise he had set up with my widowed aunt. While many of the establishments in Chinatown had closed hours earlier, the Nipa Hut was garishly lit and full of customers. But it was deceptive. Hardly anyone bought anything.

(INTERLUDE: "Itik-Itik...." GREETINGS AMONG CUSTOMERS)

Ising, here’s Stebben, Jasmine’s BOYFRIEND from Tixas.

Hullo... Peel at home, hane? You like my store?

Oh, yess! So busy! Wonderful, I will look around.

No. You sit down ober there (points with her lips) and I will bring you my special pancit luglug. You like? You drink guyabano juice? Hala, sit down na! Mare, one more luglug! Use the pinggan, not the peper plate. Boypreng Cano ni Hasmine daw!

At the word "boyfriend", everyone in the shop stopped talking. They all stared curiously at Steven who smiled back.

At the word "boyfriend", everyone in the shop stopped talking. They all stared curiously at Steven who smiled back. Meanwhile, I kept myself busy on my knees as I toyed with Bulak’s leash, my eyes fixed on the brightly colored letters of the word "Welcome" on an abaca mat. When Tita Ising brought a dish of ube ice cream topped with toasted peanuts, my protests were dismissed.

Nonsense, iha, I am sure Stebben’s digestive system can handle my specialties. Sige, iho, eat na.

I thought with a sinking feeling of Tita Corina’s own array of culinary expertise cooling on the dining table. Suddenly Feliza Gomez approached me, took my wrist and began to check my pulse, her glued-on fingernails leaving crescents on my skin.

Ay naku, Jasmine, don’t study too hard. I can feel the current of your blood. It is rushing, rushing ...whoosh! whoosh! ... almost exploding in your veins. Be careful, iha, or else your blood will not reach your womb and you may not be able to bear any children. Ala eh, matakaw pala ang tiga-Tixas. See how clean his plate is! (To Jasmine) Hindi ka yayaman, anak!

Iho, come here. All these. Nowhere else in D.C. can you find such luscious mangoes. These were flown in just today on Philippine Air Lines non-stop flight! (holding out an egg) Now, THIS has got to be the Filipino’s greatest culinary secret!

I couldn’t believe it! He was not going to do this. I hated balut. Tito Manuel knocked the tip of the egg against the counter, licked a few crystals of rock salt, and proceeded to sip the fluid from within the egg noisily. He then peeled the egg professionally as he whistled—.

Don trow it dere. Ober here.

...Putting aside the albumin, Tito Manuel popped the rest of the egg into his mouth. I closed my eyes as he chewed ecstatically on the duckling’s nascent feathers, beak and webbed feet. I found myself muttering a quick prayer to my hometown’s patron saint to spare Steven from having to eat balut.

Stebben, my boy, BALUT is not only a taste of paradise, it is the most potent approdisyac. Why do you think the Pilipins is oberpopulated? (Laughter from others) Iho, I’d understand perfectly if you decline to taste this rarest delicacy. (Steven looks intermittently at Jasmine who shakes her head vehemently and mouths “No! No!” then he laughs while listening to Tito Manuel.) But it is here in our humble store where you can find the East Coast’s sole supply of FRESH BALUT. You may never have this offortunitee agin. (Smacking his lips) You don’t know what you’re missing. Just one bite and you’ll want to swim across the Potomac, climb the Washington Monument and— and—(winking as he rolls invisible egg while onlookers roar with laughter and urge Steven on)

Sige na, Steven. Isa lang. Oo, try, naman. Be a sport!

Tito Manuel, please...(through clenched teeth) Enough is enough. I think you like Steven, so please don’t embarrass him in front of all these people. And what if he gets food poisoning? His father is a lawyer, you know.

Besides, just because you never touch balut—which is most strange since your father...could eat a dozen of these killers in one sitting—doesn’t mean your BOYPREN won’t try it!

iha, iha...These duck eggs were boiled in the purest spring water. After all, I have a reputation to keep as the winner of the U.S. Dept of Health’s Safety Standard Award, Chinatown District. Besides, just because you never touch balut—which is most strange since your father (looks up and makes a sign of the cross) could eat a dozen of these killers in one sitting—doesn’t mean your BOYPREN won’t try it!

Jass, don’t worry... (Balut eating action)

(INTERLUDE SUPERIMPOSE ON CHEERS: "Hail, Hail the gang’s all here...")

That’s my boy!

Your boyfriend will bring you luck, iha! Do you see the freckles on the mound of his cheeks? That only means he will father many, many sons.

(proudly) Kamukhang-kamukha siya ni Sarhento Golding!

(Beaming) iha, huwag mong pakakawalan ito!

(Ukelele INTERLUDE)

Sunday morning I woke up with a stomach ache. Even though we reached Fairfax past midnight, Tita Corina refused to let us sleep until we had tried all her five (holds up her five fingers) dishes. That was last night and now here we all were at the dining table again... I noticed with growing resentment how everyone looked bright-eyed and hungry. Including Steven...

Could you pass the fried rice, please...

More tuyo, Stebben, iho?

... The box of muesli I had purchased just for him remained unopened. I returned his cheerful greeting with a tight-lipped smile.

iha, I know you had plans today, but perhaps you both would like to come with us to the Filipino Festival.

To refuse would have been futile. I could see Steven trying to catch my attention but I gazed into my cup of coffee with fierce concentration. Never mind the traveling exhibit of Monet’s “Waterlilies” at the National Gallery of Art. Or our reservation at the Scandinavian restaurant in Georgetown. If Steven wanted to spend the last day of our weekend together in the F... F...F...F and ...F.....

(except Steven): Pederation op Pilipino-Hamericans Pestival por Pamily en Priends!

Could we, Jass?

That’s fine with me!!

(Players TURN THEIR BACKS TO AUDIENCE as INTERLUDE "Tayo na Sa Antipolo" music is sung. 3 BEATS. FACE AUDIENCE with hands on their chest to the Bayang Magiliw.)

Steven would have worn my uncle’s barong if it had not been three sizes too small.

The huge hall of Our Lady of Perpetual Help shook with the strains of “Bayang Magiliw”. All around us, the other families, similarly dressed in lace, or embroidered pineapple fiber outfits or sayas moved in slow measures. Steven would have worn my uncle’s barong if it had not been three sizes too small. I wore my over-sized shirt and blue jeans with ease.

I fidgeted restlessly in my seat. Steven, on the other hand, tried to catch the meaning of each and every speaker’s long-winded spiel sprinkled with untranslatable colloquialisms and jokes. He clapped and cheered wildly at the “Pandanggo sa Ilaw”, a number I refused to participate in since I found it demeaning to sway on stage with a candle flickering inside a drinkling glass balanced precariously atop my head.

Ladeees en Gennelmen, I am berry proud to present this year’s Buko Award to Mr. Manuel Guevara por his outstanding pilantropic contriboo-shons to the propagay-shon of Pilipino tradi-shons in the Western Hemispeer.

Thank you... Thank you.. I want to thank my family, especially my wife Corina—“Thank you, Swethart!—my pader (points to someone in the audience with each named individual) to whom I owe my pilantropic attitude...to my beautiful girls. Stand up, ihas..., to my sister Ising.

Pader McMurreh, Thank you. All the angels and saints (looks up & signs himself). I wan to tenk my compadres ... stand up, stand up. All the members of the committee of the Ep-ep-ep-ep and Ep, I thank you for this honor..

(Salutes) To our beloved President of the Philippines, Cory Aquino. And especially to President George Bush. I am grateful to the didiketed pruit growers of Mindanao. To the estates of Virginya and Merilan. And op course, da cities of Washington DC and Manila.
I also want to acknowledge a gentleman from Texas. Come, iho... Mr. Stebben Spalding of houston Texas . Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Spalding will be the next King of Balut Eaters. He is the World’s fastest Balut eater ...next to me.

What about me? What happened to him being my boyfriend? ... Finally, as was the custom every year, the program ended with the TINIKLING.

(Intro to Tinikling is sung accompanied by sounds of wood clappings to simulate sound of bamboos. 4 BEATS)

Come, Stebben, berry easy... Pallow me...

Tingnan mo nga yung cano, ang husay mag tinikling!

C’mon, Jass!

Sige na, Hasmine, sumali ka na!

NO! No! (LOUD CLAP) Noooo!

Call 911! Call 911! Her blood vessels must have burst! Hurry, Pader, there may still be time for Extreme Unction!

(Ukelele INTERLUDE)

When I woke up, it was morning of the next day .... The end of our weekend. Tito Manuel, to my surprise, asked everyone to leave my bedroom just as Lolo Gadong brought in Steven.

Stebben, my boy, don’t take too long. She’s still on tranquilizers. And we do have your plane to catch.

It was only then that I became aware that the massive, white cast lying inert on the bed was somehow connected to my body. I tried to speak, but the word “sorry” rolled like molasses in my mouth. My lids started to droop again as much as I tried to keep Steven in focus.

What? Speak louder....Was I imagining what he was whispering....?

(Whisper) Jass, I looove balut ... I really love balut....

THE END

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