Character Description – Protagonist TATA SELO
His dark wrinkled complexion is evident of long days of
work under the sun. His palms are old and calloused. His
arms are scarred, but strong and sinewy. His tired eyes,
Malay, shifty, reddened and untrusting.
Tata Selo was born in 1939 in a remote farming village of
Dulo’, town of San Miguel, province of Negros, Philippines,
to a poor tenant farming family. He was given the full
Christian name of Crespulo Dominguez but he’s called all
his life by his nickname Selo. His parents, Isidro and
Estela, wished for Selo to have a formal education unlike
them, but could not afford financially. Youngest among five
siblings, Selo is the only son. At eight years old, He was
already in charge of feeding all the animals and taking
care of the family’s vegetable plot. By the time he was 14,
he became his father’s constant companion, assisting in
day-to-day work in the rice fields. Selo enjoyed every
moment with his father. He looked up to his father and
loved him deeply.
Dulo’ is a village of several families working the rice
lands owned by the Molina family, a politically powerful
landowning clan from Negros province. Every year, Selo’s
father paid the Molinas seventy five percent of rice
harvest and took the left over to sell, trade and use to
sustain his family until the next harvest. When Selo was
15, he tagged along with his father to a meeting of tenant
farmers. As they organized to renegotiate an increase of
percentage with the landlords, hooded gunmen carrying M16s
raided the hut and then shots were fired. That day was the
day when he witnessed his father’s death. Selo was
Not having the time to mourn, Selo took over the plow and
the land lease right away. He would not let his family
starve. Since then, He worked the land, planted rice,
sustained the family, and paid his dues religiously. He
swore to never attend any village meetings opposing the
landlords again. Selo stayed away from any political
situations. Many seasons later, after all of his sisters
married off and have moved to their respected families,
Selo married his childhood sweetheart, Camila. That same
year, his mother, Estela contracted tuberculosis. Selo
borrowed money from the Molinas to pay for some of the
doctor’s visits and medicine. A few days before Christmas
that year, Estela succumbed to the disease. Sorrow and
sadness shrouded Selo for a long time. Mourning not only
his mother’s but also, his father’s death. Mourning that
has been long over due.
After trying for many years, in 1965, Selo and Camila was
finally blessed with a baby girl, they named Clara.
However, a complication during birth would prevent the
couple in having another child. Nonetheless, they cherished
the girl. They loved her tremendously. Selo gave her all
the meager things he could. When she was five, he would
take her along fishing in the streams beyond the rice
fields. He painstakingly carved her dolls made of Balete
tree. And when the Jesuits finally built the first primary
school in Dulo’, Selo made sure Clara was enrolled.
Clara was about 15 years old when the Molina matriarch
“requested” for her to live with them to be their
daughter’s personal attendant. Selo understood this as
payment for his debt incurred during his mother’s ailment.
Reluctantly, he agreed. Selo not only felt very guilty for
her daughter but also very sad. The Molinas promised to put
Clara through high school during her stay. Selo always
wanted her to receive an education, perhaps even go to a
vocational school. Even though he knew that he would miss
her terribly, he wanted her to have a better life than the
one he could offer. Clara moved to the huge white mansion
up the hill to live and would return to visit home
occasionally. Later, Clara would move to Manila to
chaperone the Molina’s daughter while she attended college.
Selo never visited his daughter in Manila. As much as he
missed her, he never wanted to leave the comfort of Dulo’.
He feared the city. Selo and Camila continued their life in
the village until their old age. Selo became a respected
elder in the village earning the title “Tata” (old father)
which was added before his name by people in his community.
A few years later, after his wife’s death, Tata Selo
received a letter from his daughter in America. Read for
him by the mailman, the letter was enclosed with an airline
ticket to Houston, Texas along with the necessary papers to
CLARA – Protagonist’s daughter
Clara 37 works as a head nurse at the Methodist hospital in
Houston, Texas. She is married to Dr. James Marshall, a
prominent cardiologist from El Paso. They have a 10-year-
old son Joey. It has only been three years since she
became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Immediately, she filed for a petition to get her parents an
immigrant visa to the U.S. She wanted them to experience a
better life with her and her family. She wanted to take
care of them in their old age. Her mother, however, died of
undetected heart disease before the visa was approved. Now
she awaits her father’s arrival, whom she had not seen
in many years. Clara had been anxiously waiting for the
moment she would introduce her husband and son to her
father. She felt guilty for leaving them and being away for
Clara was born two weeks too early in July of 1965 as the
typhoon “Clara” pounded the countryside of Negros
Occidental. Although the storm left the region quite
devastated, her parents, Selo and Camila Dominguez,
rejoiced and named her after the storm. Clara was a bright
child and she excelled in school. She was good in
mathematics and science, but her favorite subject was
English. When she was in 4th grade, Ms. Mann, her English
teacher, was a missionary volunteer from Fredericksburg,
Texas. She was the first American Clara had ever met. She
enjoyed listening to her stories about America and dreamed
endlessly about moving there one day.
Living with the Molina’s was hard. But she persevered.
Clara woke up at dawn every day to do some chores before
she could leave for school. Iron clothes, assist the cook,
and wash the dishes. After school she was expected to wax
and sweep the floor, wash clothes and attend to Ellen, the
landlord’s daughter. Although she never had any time to
play, she always, late at night, made time for her studies.
It is also during nighttimes when she was by herself she
felt the loneliest. She would cry herself to sleep thinking
about her parents, her father.
When Ellen moved to Manila to attend college, Clara went
with her. In the city, Clara brought with her the same work
ethics that Tata Selo instilled in her. At night she was
allowed to attend a government vocational school which she
paid for with scholarships and with the meager stipend she
received from Ellen. Four years later, she graduated with a
nursing degree. After so many years working for the Molina
family, Clara, with Ellen’s encouragement, resigned and
found a job at the city’s general hospital.
In 1990, an American healthcare-recruiting agency offered
Clara a position at a hospital in Texas. With slight
hesitation, she accepted. After all, as a child she dreamed
of coming to America.
TED – another protagonist
A second generation Filipino American, Ted Jacinto 27,
works part time as a baggage handler for Sigma Airlines. He
has taken some classes at Austin Community College but most
of the time he never completes a whole semester, dropping
out or failing out. He is smart guy but he does not have
the drive to finish anything. He always takes the easy way
He moved to Austin partly to get away from his overbearing
family back in the Bay Area of California and to follow a
girlfriend attending the University of Texas. That
girlfriend is no longer with Ted. His father, an
electrician, has always pressured Ted into becoming a
lawyer. A career he dreamed for himself but never had a
chance to do. Ted was not really sure about what he wanted
to do in life, so finally one day he just took off for
Aimlessly, Ted went through a string of minimum wage jobs.
Ted’s parents has always expected and pressured their
children to have careers. Ted resented them for this. Along
with a strong work ethics, Ted’s parents instilled in them
to be kind to other people, particularly, to the elderly.
Once after getting fired from his job at Radio Shack, Ted
walked into a retirement home to volunteer. It was the only
job he performed responsibly. He was never late. He
actually enjoyed helping the retirees. He listened to their
stories. He thought maybe that working with the elderly
could one day be his career. Or something.
Some time later, Ted lived with a group of reggae musicians
on the south side of Houston. Here, they introduced him to
the way of the “Ganja”. He had of course smoked pot before,
but not as much as he did with these Rastas. Ted also met
Ernie, a small time “Ganja” distributor in the area.
Attracted to the fast cash flow, Ted went into the
business. Dealing supplements his part time income at the
Ted lives with his current girlfriend, Lynn, a stripper at
Pleasures, in her small duplex on the corner of East 38½
and Halfpenny. Ted cares for her but certainly does not
love her. Lynn is pretty much tired of his indifference.
Ted seems to be lost these days, apathetic to anything
placed in front of him. He has been pretty spaced out
lately and has been neglecting a lot of things including
the “business deals.” And definitely Ernie has noticed this
Tata Selo- Introduction.
- Tata Selo appears out of the concourse of Sigma
Airlines’ gate 30 of Bergstrom International Airport
at Austin Texas. The last passenger out, he looks
confused and frazzled. The strain of the 23-hour
direct flight from Manila is evident in his face. It
is mid afternoon and the throngs of people back and
forth is perplexing to him. He finds the nearest seat
and carefully sits down. He takes his old straw hat
off as he places his small piece of worn out luggage
on the floor. He looks around. He is fascinated at
everything he sees. All is foreign to him. He sits
there waiting patiently for about an hour. Then
finally he stands up and walks, following the arrows
marked above. He finds himself outside the terminal.
His eyes shift restlessly, looking for someone. As he
turns, a large Texan runs into him. He tries to say,
“Excuse me” but it comes out in Tagalog, his dialect.
Annoyed, the man tells him to “Watch it!” A black iron
bench nearby calls for his tired legs. He sits down
and waits. He waits for another hour. Then a few more
hours, he waits. Dusk arrives. He sits and waits. Then
night. People come and leave. Late night, the crowd
thins, the last flight. Still on the bench, he waits
In their west University home, The Marshalls are running
Clara helps her son Joey as he puts on his shoes.
Downstairs, James looks for the keys to the Land Rover.
Clara tells her son how excited she is to finally introduce
him to her father, his grandfather, whom they’ll pick up at
the airport very soon. She tells her son that she had not
seen her father for so long and misses him so much.
The station wagon heads down Kirby. The afternoon traffic
bottles up on Bissonett intersection. A Long line of cars
including the Marshall’s Land Rover waits for the green
light. Clara tells her family that she’s worried and did
not want to be late because her father had never left home
ever. They could not be late because he does not speak
English. They cannot be late. Green light, cars start to
move. Yellow. The Land Rover is a few cars away. Red. James
floors the gas. Then as Clara looks to her right, she finds
a U-Haul truck barreling towards them.
Ted strolls to his late afternoon shift at the airport
terminal. On his way in, he notices a commotion right
outside the door. A tall man in a cowboy hat yells at an
elderly Asian man. Ted goes in.
A few hours later, he comes out for a cigarette break. He
sees the same Asian man sitting on a black iron bench. He
stares at the man for a while. His break over, Ted goes
On his way from the long night shift, Ted passes by the Old
man still on the bench. Ted stops, glances at the man. Then
he turns around and approaches the bench.