Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The FAYTS (The Filipino American Young Turks) - ACT I, Scene I - The Meeting


(It's the early 1970s. The play opens with a discussion between Senators Sitan Helel and Aswang Iblis. Senator Iblis knocks on office Sitan's office door. The office is plush. Sitan sits in a large leather chair behind a large mahogany desk. An American flag and a Washington State flag stand behind the desk.)

Senator Iblis, welcome. Welcome!
(Hugs him.)
It's been a while.

Senator Helel, got your message. You wanted to talk?

Have a seat.

If you don't mind, I prefer to stand.

Please, I insist. We want a relaxing discussion…don't we?

Of course, of course.
(He sits.)

Aswang, I've known you for a while…at least since you were elected. Call me Sitan. We're friends.

Thanks, Sitan. Glad we're on a first-name basis.

I heard there’ll be a vacancy in the 35th  district. May be  an opportunity, Aswang. Control of the State Senate's in the balance. A seat or two…especially a traditionally liberal one, we'll control committees.

You’re well informed,  I see.   It’d be a difficult win.   It’s very Liberal.

We need a candidate who's popular…someone with name familiarity. Possibly a minority. Thought you might know someone. You know those communities. Think of anyone?
A few. I know an activist or two who might be persuaded.

Not just anyone. Someone special…untouched…new.

Ben Adama comes to mind. He's Pinoy…has some interest in politics. I've known him for a while.
Pinoy?  What’s that?

                                                         SENATOR IBLIS
It’s slang for “Filipino”.

                                                         SENATOR HELEL

Filipino, you say?  Not derogatory.  

                                                         SENATOR IBLIS
Not at all.  Self-ascribed.

                                                          SENATOR HELEL
Sounds interesting. Another Marcos, perhaps?

Doubt that. He's American born. His primary interest is local. Want me to talk with him?

See about this…Adama. I'd like a sense of what it would cost to bring him along. Tell him it's an opportunity to increase minority representation. We'll give him committees that'll help his district.

What's the quid pro quo?

I expect your support.

You already have it. But—

You need a reward. Just testing. I see you learned not to offer things gratis. Okay. Here's my deal. If he accepts and wins, I'll assign you a choice committee.

Banking and Insurance. I sense future opportunities. Lots of devils in those enterprises.

That's a huge plum, my friend. Indeed, a very huge plum. I like your ambition. We all have dreams.

If Adama wins, I'm sure there'll be bigger plums for you. You're thinking national stage. Right?

I don't—

How badly do you want to win?

You drive a tough bargain, Aswang. Yes, you do. (Beat)  You know what politics is, don’t you? 

                                                          SENATOR IBLIS
The seeking of power.

                                                        SENATOR HELEL
Power’s the end game, son.   Politics are the illusions that drive the game.  Successful politicians create illusions that the public buys whether they are or aren’t served well by them.  Keep that in mind.  Now, what if—

No ifs. No buts.

Fair enough. Fair enough.

One other thing. You'll send a consultant. Right?

As a matter of fact…

This should be an opportunity for my Dila.

Don't get pushy, amigo. She's far too inexperienced and headstrong. She has the looks, I admit, but this is far too important for a novice.

You underestimate her. She'll do well. Consider her.

Sit down, please. I've already decided on Mara. It's settled.

Seems unfair. When will you give Dila a chance? She's better prepared than you imagine.

Now, now, Aswang. She's at a vulnerable age. I know you love your daughter. Hell, I love mine. But you can't predict what she'll do, can you?

If you don't—

Enough! You know how much I despise snivelers, especially those making idle threats.
Be content with what I've planned. Otherwise, I'll see you never get anywhere.

Dila should be considered. When—

I'll decide when. I'm not confident that she can't be turned. My advice: don't beg and don't ask again. Or else. Comprende?

I get it. You can't blame me for wanting my daughter to…
(He pauses as he looks at Senator Helel, who has folded his arms.)
I'll get back to you after I talk with Ben.

Better. I understand. But I am not understanding. Do as I command.

No offense—

That's more like it. Obedience and loyalty are important. You do agree?

Yeah. I get it.

(Walks behind him. Puts his hand on Aswang's shoulder.)
Tell you what I'll do. I meet with Mara soon. I'll propose you challenge her in a balagtasan, a poetic debate, before the tribunal. My consideration for your loyalty. Bako Nawa, the Unholy Spirit, will serve as Lakambini…the muse. You'll have to convince him and the dwende. I'm sure you're up to the task.

Agreed. Salamat po, Sitan. I'll call Ben.

That's more like it.   Now, let’s have a drink. 
(Pours two shots of scotch. Hands Iblis a glass.)  Returns to his seat.  Seal our deal.

 (Pulls out a couple of cigars .)  Would you like to try one?  Fair trade for the scotch.

                                                         SENATOR HELEL
I will.  I will.  (Takes one and lights up.  Inhales.  Gags.)   Ugh!   Ugh!  Like setting road kill on fire!   Where did you get these?  What are they?!

                                                          SENATOR IBLIS
They’re Cremona Cubanas…what I can afford.

                                                          SENATOR HELEL
Awful.   Leaves a flavor in your throat like puke.  (Crushes his out and takes a long drink of scotch.)   And that smell…like an inch of  hell released.  Put that out…NOW!  Can’t have my office smelling cheap.  (Goes into his desk and brings out a cigar box.)  Maybe, you’d like one of these. 

                                                         SENATOR IBLIS
What are they?                                                                                  

Cuban Cohibas. The best.  Seventy bucks each. Illegal, you know.  Fidel had them rolled specially for him.   You know the Golden Rule:   You got the Gold.  You make the rules.
(Blows a ring.)
                                                         SENATOR IBLIS
Thanks, Sitan, but I should get going.

Don't know what you're missing. High flier like you, oughtta try one.

(Reaches for the box.)

(Snaps the box closed and sets it down. Pauses.)
Well, maybe next time.  Tell you what, close the deal with Ben and I’ll toss you a few. Anyway…bad for your health.  (Beat)
We're done here.   I'll call you if I need you. Close the door when you leave.

(Senator Iblis rises slowly retreats and leaves. Sitan leans back in his chair and puffs on his cigar. Laughs evily and snorts.  Picks the butt of Iblis’s cigar from the ashtray.) 

Could be useful someday.

 Lights down. Scene ends.)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pajaro Beach

We return along Pajaro Beach.
Our footprints   
     diverge along the shore.
For a while, you drift away.
     Stop occasionally to wade the water
Or collect sand dollars.

I, on the other hand, wander ahead
  witnessing sandpipers and plover
scurry before receding waves
  retreating to the returning wash.

In time, our footprints merge.
   Haven't they always!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The FAYTS - The Filipino American Young Turks, my full length play inspired by Bob Santo's political campaign for State Senate in the early '70s is set for publication in a few weeks.  The play will be published by CreateSpace and is in final edits.  The following is a synopsis of the play.   I recently placed 8th in the 82nd National Play Script Competition held by Writers Digest.

The FAYTs (Filipino American Young Turks)
Robert Francis Flor

                                                                  PLAY SYNOPSIS 

The FAYTS traces the ambitions of a group of young, Seattle-area Filipinos during the

early seventies who seek to empower and raise the stature of Filipinos through the

political process.  When a State Senate seat opens in their progressive district, Ben

Adama, the protagonist, declares his interest.

A community activist, Ben has surrounded himself with a group of loyal friends, known

as the Filipino American Young Turks (The FAYTS).   His skeptical, reluctant, but

otherwise supportive wife, Ava,  agrees to take manage the family while he pursues his

political dream.

Ben and his friends lack the financial capability for a campaign.  Sensing an opportunity,

Sitan Helel, a powerful conservative Senator, sends forth Aswang Iblis, another Senator

and friend to  the FAYTs to recruit Ben.  Through Aswang, Helel offers Ben and

substantial financial support and consultants. Mara Hukluban, a beautiful, intelligent,

young woman and daughter of Sitan is assigned as consultant.  But, she and others are not

as they appear.

The FAYTs was inspired by an actual political campaign.  It explores questions of good

and evil, loyalty and the price of ambition though the use of mythology and folklore,

primarily Filipino in genesis.  Characters morph between real and mythic worlds in this

play that pits personal ambition and power against ideals and family.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Photos from the Past

Vince Matsudaira friended me on Facebook this morning.  Growing up, "Binko", his nickname, was my best friend.  We stood together in the photo, his family house on 16th Avenue in the background.  Further behind was Providence Hospital on the adjoining block.   We were probably around eleven or twelve years old.  I wore a plaid shirt and rolled jeans; Vincent, a plain blue shirt and khakis.

The picture evoked a string of memories.  Spring and summers, one of us would ricochet a tennis ball off the steps  leading to his house.  It would fly into the street where the other would field it.  This provided an inexpensive form of baseball.  Other times, we stood across the street from each other tossing s a hardball, pretending we were Seattle Rainiers.

Sixteenth Avenue filled with Filipino and Japanese families who attended Maryknoll Church and later grade school at Immaculate Conception.  Older, the girls would continue high school at Immaculate while the boys would continue on at O'Dea, Garfield, Franklin. A few would leave the area.

Kids filled the neighborhood playing touch football (curb to curb, telephone pole to telephone pole).  The teams usually were comprised of three or four players.  When we were younger, we'd divide up to play kick-the-can or capture the flag, designating telephone poles at either end of the street as fortresses to be protected.

Cherry Street, the east-west street at the north end of the block provided a steep slope.  It didn't have today's traffic..  We constructed sleds made of two-by-fours held together with a bolt to form a cross-shape.  Disassembled roller skates provided the wheels for the front and the rear and a rope attached to either end of the crossing arm, the steering mechanism.   A plywood seat nailed to the wood frame served as the seat.  Starting at the top of the hill, we'd careen down Cherry between 15th and 16th without a care in mind.

Winter months brought snow...much deeper than present day.  It often got two to three feet deep.  Like other kids, we had snowball fights, built snowmen and trudged to school in the cold.  But weekends filled with fun.   Instead of the roller skate, gravity-propelled sleds of spring and summer, we dragged our snow sleds, cardboard boxes or anything that would slide to the top of Cherry Street and slid down the hill.

A second picture showed Vincent and a flock of kids celebrating his birthday in his family's backyard. We gathered around as he was blowing out the candles on his cake.  His mom an avid gardener had a small fishpond constructed in the shape of two connecting ovals.  Where the ovals connected, she bridged them with a small artful log.   She filled it with goldfish and waterlilies.

The pond served us well.  We constructed small plywood hydroplanes, probably six or seven inches in length.  We inserted a paddle held by rubber bands, which when wound tight, powered the boats across the water.    We painted, numbered and named them after our favorite boats of those times...Slo-Mo-Shun IV, Hawaii Kai or Bardahl and raced them across the water.

If we weren't racing, we built plastic warships...replications of aircraft carriers, battleships...destroyers that fought in World War II.  We'd load them with firecrackers and the battle would begin.  Launching them out over the pond, they'd explode into a million fragments, sinking quickly to the bottom.  Then we'd buy and build more.

During Seafair, the Navy brought a small fleet of ships into Elliott Bay and we'd tour.  It was a short bus ride to downtown which gave us access to movie theaters like the Coliseum, Orpheum and Music Hall.  There were also a two neighborhood theaters, the Venetian on 15th and Pike and the Madrona, on about 25th and Cherry.  The Madrona played two cowboy movies on Saturdays including a cartoon and newsreel.   The cost of admission was probably a dime.  Not like today.

Bus routes 12 E. Cherry and 26th South also provided access to Mount Baker, our favorite beach.  Mt. Baker was the top attraction.   To get there, we'd transfer to the 27 Yesler or the 4 Mount Baker.   If we rode the latter, we could run the length of a park with a creek full with dragonflies and water bugs, tennis courts and a few Japanese stone temples before we reached the beach.  When the Matsudaira's purchased a new '57 Ford, Joe Matsudaira and Ed Beltran would drive a bunch of us down for a swim.
They were older.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dog Blog: Notes on Walk

I walk Cooper and Bella through my old Central Area neighborhood where I grew up.   Cooper’s a young shepherd and Bella, a white-faced setter.   Our walks weave the streets as I talk with them about the grade school and Immaculate Church I attended.  On the way, we pass the nun’s house, now a multi-family apartment. 

We turn north along 16th Avenue and I continue with stories of trick or treating from Jefferson to Union Streets.  Reaching Spring, we descend to 15th where the City installed a small park.  
Bella rests a moment as she’s older and panting.  Cooper patiently searches the grass knowing her companion needs a short break.  I give each a treat.

I diverted from the route one day and took them down to Seattle University where they play  the grass across from the St. Ignatious Chapel.  Catalina and I  married there three years ago in July.  We’re only two days from our anniversary. The dogs love the area where we held a family and friends picnic after rehearsal.

We cross 12th and heading across Columbia near the Langendorff Bakery.  I’ll leave a note describing this to their owners.  The day after, I get a return note telling me that my descriptions are providing a history of the area.  I’m encouraged to mention several personages like Judge Richard Jones and Charlie Greene  who grew up close by.

Normally, I take the dogs over to Union Street and we climb to 17th where a block of elegant, old apartments still survive.  They are as beautiful as I recall from the time I attended kindergarten at T.T. Minor across from them.  I remind Cooper and Bella that as a paperboy, I’d pick up my papers in a still-standing garage in the alley behind them.

We’re on our way back to the house as we travel southward to Columbia.  New townhouses wedge
between older remodels.  The neighborhood has been face-lifted and current residents breathe new life into the urban setting.  Tenants garden the curb medians so they fill with hollyhock, daisies, tomatoes, climbing peas and vegetable and flower assortments.  I’m told the neighborhood banded
together to create bee pathways.  An interesting urban concept encouraging the continuation of life.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Wisteria weeps walkway.

I immerse in its perfume,

fragrance of my loneliness.
There was little left to say.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Symphony for One

An elderly Chinese woman
wearing a great coat 
strolls past in Lincoln Park.  
Her head arches over music sheaves,
she carries in one hand. 
With the finger of the other, she etches air, 
silently conducting a symphony.
It’s a cool September morning, made cooler
by shadows on the high bluff.

An audience of red Madronas bends to listen.
Wind choruses through branches.
Beyond Puget Sound's sand and rocky shore  
the distant Olympics crest in harmony.
I pause in wait for the aria.