The Hanging Tree

The Hanging Tree

Jay Crisostomo

A One Act Play

Characters

Nino de la Cruz, the thirty year old prodigal heir of the de la Cruz Hacienda, disillusioned since the death of his lover, Corazon

Senorita Amparo de la Cruz, Nino’s Mother, religious to the core

An Old Woman

Setting

A garden in front of the main house of the de la Cruz hacienda. It has grown rampant despite the caring hands of Senora Amparo. The de la Cruz despite being a rich clan in the Philippines have fallen to poverty due to the death of their patriarch, the great haciendero, Seferino de la Cruz.

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1

(Before lights fully envelope the stage, a melancholy love song plays from afar. In the semi-darkness of an unnatural night, we see a silhouette of a woman tying a rope in front of the huge acacia flanking the mansion. She then makes a knot and with the help of a stool she brought along, slowly and contortedly, as if in those grotesque modern dances, lets her head in. Complete darkness follows. A thud follows, so real that it could not be anything else but human. The music dies off and silence follows, morose, as if the world wears darkness in mourning.)

 

(Light slowly seeps in as Nino sings the old melancholy tune while he sweeps the garden for withered leaves.)

Nino:   (Singing)  Hawak nga ng punong acacia ang mahahalimuyak na bunga

                                    Yakap-yakap ang mga panata ng bagong magkasintahan

                                    Ang kanilang mga pusong dalisay na humaharaya

                                    Bantay ng silong Acaciang lumuluha ng mapulang dagta.

 

(By the time he is finished with his song, he has also finished sweeping as did the lights come fully to life. It is an indescript twilight of any day of any year.)

 

Amparo:          (From inside the house)  Come in Nino. It is almost night. We eat our dinner and get ready for the rosary.

Nino:               In a while, mama. I just have to finish up here.

Amparo:          Just be sure before you’re in before it’s dark. Evil spirits come with the fall of night.

Nino:               Yes, mama.

(Nino sighs. He lights a cigarette with a cheaply bought lighter.)

 

(An old woman enters.)

 

Old woman:     You should listen to your mother senorito.

Nino:               (Defensive) Who are you? Have you come for alms? We have nothing to left give. The hacienda de la Cruz is in ruins!

Old Woman:    You misunderstand sir. I am a vassal of your family. I live by the lake that runs through your land.

Nino:               We have no more vassals left. The soil has dried, and the trees have died. You must be a thief!

Old Woman:    Senorito, you have only returned a week. Surely, you have not completely surveyed the span of your lands.

(A silence.)

 

Old Woman:    That song you were singing. It was beautiful.

Nino:               (Obviously offended) It was a song from a long time ago.

Old Woman:    Not all things that have aged are ugly, Senorito.

Nino:               Are you implying that you are still beautiful? Ha! Silly old hag.

Old Woman:    Yes. I know. Time has carved its ugly marks upon my face, and have let dirt wedge itself in its cracks. I am monstrous, am I not, Senorito?

Nino:               Yes.

Old Woman:    You detest looking at me.

Nino:               I detest being in the presence of your stench.

Old Woman:    You speak cruelly but you speak the truth. Time is more cruel to us women than you men. Like you, your kind ages gracefully, while we just plainly age. I should have just killed myself when I was young. On that tree, as the young boys and girls of the hacienda do when they notice each other looking more and more their hateful parents.

Nino:               You may not talk about that acacia (Suddenly raving mad, he throws the broom at the Old Woman) Get out. I never want to see you again.

Old Woman:    I must have stricken a chord, and now you reveal that you only look the part. The angel does not run deep in you. Fine, I will leave for tonight but I shall return. After all, I cannot get enough of that beautiful face of yours. And of course I must know what goes next that song. (Exits)

 

(Left alone, Nino stares into the night.)

 

(Nino’s voice is heard through the speakers mixing with the ominous sounds of night.)

 

                        Sapagkat alam ng acacia ang bukas ng namumugtong mga mata

                                                Ng mga dilang nagkabuhul-buhol

                                                Ng mga pusong matapang ang tibok

                        Matanda na ang acacia at napanood na niya ang kinabukasan.

 

(Nino kills his cigarette and enters the house.)

 

2

(It is the next day that the stage lights reveal. Senorita Amparo sits on a magnificent yet worn arm chair. In front of her is a table holding a plate of bread and some jam, and a chair similar to hers, part of a once eyed set for furniture aficionados.)

 

(Nino enters with two glasses of ice tea.)

 

Amparo:          Hay, salamat anak.

Nino:               (Lets down the glasses on the table) I don’t know why you wake up so late, mama. You have breakfast for lunch, and lunch for dinner.

Amparo:          It is good so that I only have to eat twice a day. You know, Nino, we have to tighten our belts a little since your papa Seferino died.

Nino:               But it is not good at your age.

Amparo:          O it is good for my age. We need less food and more sleep. In sleep kasi anak we old folks are made young again. Every night I am blessed by the angels, a dream of your papa, anak. O and how gwapo he is, how dreamy, him stroking my hair by that tree, waiting for me in his tsinos, in the midday sun like this.

It was … around this time that we saw him, hanging like flower, swaying, slowly, caressed by the wind and my love.

Nino:               It does no good for you to remember him like that. Your tears won’t bring him back.

Amparo:          Enough of your city cynicism. Let us pray.

(Senorita Amparo leads the sign of the cross, “In the name of the…” She notices Nino not following suit.)

Amparo:          Nino!

Nino:               You know I don’t buy into your saints and angels, Mama. That is for the old. We young people believe in hard work and human choice.

Amparo:          Ay your hard work doesn’t scare off the Spirits, anak. Only god can vanquish evil.

Nino:               I also don’t believe in evil spirits.

Amparo:          O? How do you think your lovely Corazon was taken?

(A silence.)

 

Amparo:          I’m sorry, anak.

(The old woman enters.)

 

Old Woman:    Senora Amparo! Senorito Nino! Good afternoon!

(Amparo coils back to her chair, stunned.)

 

Nino:               Do you know this old woman, mama?

Amparo:          (Getting back her cool, yet unsuccessfully) Y-yes. Yes.

Old Woman:    I am one of your vassals senora. I live by the river.

Nino:               She’s not a beggar? A thief?

Amparo:          Yes. One of our vassals. The last one.

Nino:               O, why’d you come here today, manang?

Old Woman:    I told you last night. To hear you sing and of course gaze on your beautiful face, my guwapo senorito.

Nino:               Excuse me, mama. My stomach has suddenly turned upon itself. (Exits.)

 

(The Old Woman wipes a tear from her eyes. Braces herself, and acts younger, stronger, and more gracefully.)

 

(A silence.)

 

Amparo:          Do you really work for us?

Old Woman:    No.

Amparo:          Do you really live by the river.

Old Woman:    No.

(A silence.)

 

Amparo:          You are Corazon.

(A silence.)

 

(Senorita Amparo, in an agilty surprising in her age dashes for the Old woman. She embraces her as she would her own daughter.)

 

Amparo:          You are Corazon! My boy’s lost lover! Where have you been all these ten years! Time has been so cruel to you! O but that can cured by a good bath and some cosmetics. Nino has been so gloomy since you left. In fact he has only himself come back from the city with the decay of his father’s lands and all.

Old Woman:    I am not Corazon.

Amparo:          Even if my old eyes fail me, my skin cannot be fooled. This is the body of my fair Corazon. Remember how I used to embrace you when you visited my boy? And here it still is behind the stench of a day’s work, sampaguitas!

Old Woman:    I am not Corazon. Corazon has been dead for ten years. Taken by the Acacia.

Amparo:          Then you are an angel. Sancta Maria! I have been blessed once again. How I prayed my novenas just so you could come back. Thank you. You will save this family from ruin.

Old Woman:    I thank you, Senora. Yes it was your prayers that brought me back and your angel-boy. But I, myself, am no angel and I have no power to save.

Amparo:          O no, Iha! You mistake the lord’s ways, if it was my prayers that brought you here, you have come to save my nino, this fallen house, and myself. O praise be the lord and his chorus of angels, my prayers have been answered.

Old Woman:    I have only come to hear Nino sing.

Amparo:          Then see him. Enter the house. Come in, iha. O we’ll have a feast tonight.

Old Woman:  I am sorry. I cannot come in. I cannot go to the tree which took my life.

Amparo:          Then I will call him out. Nino!

Old Woman:    Senorita, today I come for another, also taken by the acacia. In any case, i will call him tonight myself.

 

(A silence.)

 

Amparo:          Are you… an evil spirit. O you get away from my son! Get away from my son, you devilish denizen of the night! Ama naming sumasalangit ka, sambahin ang ngalan mo…

 

Old Woman:    So does he call you now. Listen.

(A stern strong voice comes from the tree. “Amparo. Amparo, come my sweet bird, it is time to fly.”)

Amparo:          Is that you Seferino?

 

Old Woman:    Yes it is him. Go to him. He is calling you.

Amparo:          (As in a trance) My nest. My warmth. How I’ve longed for your touch. From now on everything will be well. I and your children may dance once more with the angels.

(Amparo walks to the hanging tree.)

 

Old Woman:    (As she removes her shroud and her make-up, she once again becomes the young and beautiful Corazon.) Promises must be kept. We all die in pairs.

(Lights fade to black)

3

(Lights loom together with Corazon’s song. It is a deep dark night. Almost only Corazon is seen, hiding the fruits the majestic acacia bears. )

 

Corazon:          (Singing) Nanood lang ang acacia at hindi nagsalita

                                    Silang nagmahal at nagtaya

                                    Habang lumuluha lamang ng pulang dagta

                                    Sapagkat siya rin ay nagmahal at nagtaya

                                    Sa mga mangingibig na kasama niyang suminta

 

(Nino enters from his house.)

Nino:               You called me?

Corazon:          Yes, my Nino.

Nino:               I know you don’t I? from a long time ago.

Corazon:          Yes, my Nino.

Nino:               Do you know I came to lay flowers for my father. And today I mourn my mother?

Corazon:          Yes, my Nino.

Nino:               Why did you have to come back?

Corazon:          Because you did.

Nino:               You once called me only having an angel’s face. That I only play the part.

Corazon:          I am sorry.

Nino:               No it is true. When you died, I left this house even if my mama and papa begged me otherwise. I left it all. I was a coward. I went to the city and got a job, an apartment, a life so utterly removed from you and that tree. I am a monster. But you. Even with that taunting beautiful face, you remain the most grotesque of unholy aberrations. You killed my mother.

Corazon:          It was her heart that killed her. She could not live alone so she died.

Nino:               And you, why do you haunt me?

Corazon:          Because of prayers unsaid by your heart.

Nino:               I do not want to die.

Corazon:          It is almost time. The time that I died. You will speak true then. (Pauses) Nino, it is foolish to look back but for our benefit, please do. (She goes behind the tree)

Nino:               Corazon, I do not want to die.

(An unnatural wind sweeps the stage, light changes colour to follow mood.)

 

Corazon:          (Enters once again young, a blushing twenty, ready for love and life) Nino sing me a song.

Nino:               (Also younger) Corazon, you know singing embarrasses me.

Corazon:          Please, you told me you could have anything I wanted.

Nino:               (Rests by the acacia) Anything but that.

(Corazon ceases childish play and stares at Nino.)

Nino:               I hate it when you look at me like that, it’s like you look at me from the future, your eyes grey and wise.

Corazon:          Will you still like me if I am old.

Nino:               No.

Corazon:          How horrid of you!

Nino:               I will like this you. But I will sing for that old hag.

Corazon:          (Sits with Nino) Then I wish for nothing more than to be old.

Nino:               As I want you to be. I think only the old can truly love. They are not confused by beauty.

Corazon:          Then imagine me as if I am old, crooked, and wrinkled.

Nino:               I am now.

Corazon:          How do I look?

Nino:   (Sings)             Hawak nga ng punong acacia ang mahahalimuyak na bunga

                                    Kasama ang mga panata ng bagong magkasintahan

                                    Ang kanilang mga pusong dalisay na humaharaya

                                    Bantay ng silong Acaciang lumuluha ng pulang dagta.

 

Sapagkat alam ng acacia ang bukas ng namumugtong mga mata

                                    Ng mga dilang nagkabuhul-buhol

                                    Ng mga pusong matapang ang tibok

                                    Matanda na ang acacia at napanood na niya ang kinabukasan.

 

Nanood lang ang acacia at hindi nagsalita

                                    Sa kanilang nagmahal at nagtaya

                                    Habang lumuluha lamang ng pulang dagta

                                    Sapagkat siya rin ay nagmahal at nagtaya

                                    Kasama ang mga mangingibig siya rin ay suminta.

 

(As Nino sings lights loom revealing a hundred hung bodies from the tree.)

 

Kaya unti-unting yumukuko ang acacia

                                    Sa bigat ng kanyang mapupulang mga bunga.

 

Corazon:          What a sad song.

Nino:               It’s what I felt when I imagined you old.

Corazon:          You want to kill me?

Nino:               No. It is my love that will kill me. Because I would want to die with you. I would want to fall from that tree holding your hands. Because I would not want anything more from this world anymore. Not the hacienda. Not all the haciendas in the world. I would rather be poor. Old, and dead if it meant I could always be with you.

Corazon:          Yes. That is love.

Nino:               So now you see, I can only truly love you when you are poor, old, and dead.

(A silence.)

 

Corazon:          Those were your words.

Nino:               I remember.

Corazon:          Do you love me now that I am poor, old, and dead?

(A silence.)

 

Nino:               This is fate. This was promised, a long time ago.

Corazon:          I love you.

Nino:               I love you too.

(Lights fade to black.)

 

 

END.

June 2012

© 2012 Jay Crisostomo IV

 

 

                                     

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