Sunday, January 29, 2012

The FAYTs (Filipino American Young Turks) - Ben's Monologue

The following excerpt is from The FAYTs, my play about the ambitions of a group of young Seattle-area Filipinos and, in particular, Ben Adama as they seek political power.   The monologue in the form of a campaign speech is given by Ben at his kickoff for State Senate.  It was developed to explore his character...his wants...needs...strengths...weaknesses.


(A crowd of supporters has gathered at campaign headquarters.  Cheerful music plays loudly in the background.  It lowers when John and Ben rise to the stage and stand in front of the podium.   He and John are dressed in sport coats.   Mara dresses sexily in a short, red dress and high heels.  She wears a pearl necklace. She stands off to the side.)
(The crowd itself dresses casually.  A small table with wine, cheese, crackers etc. Is available in the back.  People stand around eating and drinking.  There are a few members of the press.  Political signs dot the walls.  A welcome and sign-in-table around which a small line has formed  by the doorway.  The table is staffed by a few supporters. Ava is not present.  The music lowers.)

Welcome to the Kickoff for our friend Ben Adama who’s running for State Senate.  You’ve known Ben as a friend, a neighbor...a tireless worker in our community.  He has an established recored for supporting equality, housing and employment.
Ben is one of us.  He brings a wealth of experience managing programs.  He decided to run for office.  When he wins, he’ll be the first Filipino to achieve this in the  State. 

(NOTE:  Audience is encouraged to join in for applause and chants in support of Ben during his speech.  Applause and noise from the audience.) 

Ben will tell us why he’s running and then take questions.  I give you the next Senator from this District...Ben Adama! (More applause, hooting.  Some noisemakers.)

Thanks, John!  Thanks everyone for coming out tonight.  Someone asked me why I was running. (Pause)  That’s win!  (Applause.)

Seriously, growing up, I had to guide my father Max ‘round the City.  He’d gone blind while boxing.  He was all but forgotten except for a few friends.

One day, we went into our favorite pool-hall.  Dad heard a someone bullying his friends.  He told me to take him over and stand him in front of the guy.  I did.   Dad asked the guy, “Why don’ you pick on someone who isn’t afraid of you?”

The man responded, “Who’s that?  You?  You’re an old blind man!”   Just as he finished, dad hit him with an upper cut.  Cold-cocked him.  Dad turned to me and said, “Ben, we got to get outta here.  Run!” 

We ran...Dad tapping with his cane.  Tap.  Tap. Tap.  Me scared shitless.  A few blocks away, cop yelled, “Max, stop.  There’s been some trouble at the pool-hall.  You see anything?  What’s up?”

Dad responded “Me no see nothin’.”

The cop let us go.  He knew dad...recognized and trusted him.

(Laughter from the crowd and lots of applause.)

This story reminds me where I’m from and what so many Filipinos experienced.  Dad was a fighter.

When his days in the fight ring ended, he didn’t have anything. He was poor...abandoned…unrecognized.  

I determined that I wouldn’t be forgotten.  That would not happen to me.  I would make my mark.

I wanted to make dad proud.  I wanted to show him I’m a fighter... show him that Filipinos could contribute and achieve in America...prove to him that I could win.   I had friends going to Catholic High School.  I thought this might be a way out.  I didn’t have money for tuition.  I got a job in a restaurant after school.  During summers, I worked in a gas station.  I earned money and paid the tuition.  I got into the school and graduated.

I joined the Marines. I served our country.  With the G.I. Bill, I completed community college.  I met my wife and started a family.  She’s home watching the kids so I could be here with you.  I made it my way.

I came back to our community...our neighborhood.  Loyalty is important to me.  I improve your housing.  Built a food bank. Organized a tutoring service for our schools.  I believe in giving giving you and your children chances that weren’t available to me.   I want you to have a chance to improve your lives the way I improved mine.

I know you. And, you know me.  I’m running because you know I’ll do the job for you.  Join me.  I can’t go back.  Come forward with me.  Rise with me on the American ladder.  We can have success.  We can realize the American dream.  We can be part of America.

(Huge audience applause and chants: “Ben! Ben!”)

I grew up in Chinatown.  My father was poor.  We lived in a one room apartment filled with cockroaches.  He slept in the bed.  I slept on the floor.  The cockroaches never slept.
When dad died, I was raised in Rainier Valley by my Tito and Uncle and Aunt.   My wife and kids grew up here and go to school here.  I’ve known poverty and rose above it.  If I can do it, you can too.

You know me and you can trust my word!
(Audience applauds and chants.)

I can make a difference!  My opponent is part of the political establishment.  We’ve witnessed decay in our schools, fewer housing opportunities and businesses vanishing from our neighborhood.  (Crowd applauds at each pause.) 

We need more housing (Pause), small businesses (Pause), better schools (Pause) and jobs.

I’m not like her.  I’ll represent you.  I’ll represent your dreams.  I promise to make government listen.  I worked years in our neighborhood.  I’ll take my life lessons and experiences to the Senate.  I ask for your support.

(Audience cheers loudly.)

We can move forward and bring prosperity.  We can improve schools, reduce crime and strengthen our economy. (Crowd agrees more loudly.)

You ask:  Why am I running?  I’m running because I’m you.  I believe in loyalty.  We grew up together.  We walk these streets together.  I’m running because I represent your hunger and hopes.

I will succeed. You have my word.

(Crowd cheers loudly.)

I believe in you.   Believe in me. Walk with me. You can trust me.  Join me in my campaign.  Thank you.

(Crowd applauds and cheers wildly. Joyful music starts up. John rises and joins Ben on the Podium.)


In celebration of your hopes and dreams Ben represents for us, we’re hanging this banner.
Give it up for the next Senator from this District: Ben Adama!

(Pedro and Paulo unfurl a very large banner that reads:  Adama for State Senate in bold letters.)

(Lead crowd in chant.) We know you and we trust your word! 

We know you and we trust your word!

Behind you are sign-up tables.  We need volunteers.  We need your support.  Join Ben’s

Join us.  Support Ben.  We have and drink. (Points to tables.)

Mabuhay, Adama!  Viva, Adama!  Mabuhay, Adama!  Ben! Ben! Ben!

(Music plays.  People head for tables.  Ben moves through the crowd shaking hands.  He receives pats an the back.  Then, Mara gives him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.)



Only dead stamen remain
of flowers you left behind
in vases on the window.
Like petals, love dries in vain.


Water gurgles in the pot.
Dawn beckons me with light.
Bold coffee removes the night.
I open my newspaper.