Another simple yet radical dream is the idea that one day the indigenous people will really get their land back. Told through a conversation between two children, Ida Palo manages to highlight the striking innocence of this imagination.
Out in the storied fields of a vast island, Sarah likes to read books under a big, old tree. For most of summer, she has spent afternoons here practising her reading, pronouncing each word out loud until she got better and better.
“Tree,” she says, repeating it a few more times until it rolls on her tongue. “Tree, Tree, Tree.”
“Tree,” a voice from up above her calls back. A tall girl emerges from the branches and swings herself back to the ground, landing on her feet, much to Sarah’s surprise.
“Like this one! A tree,” the girl says, pointing her lips to the big, old tree. “No, I meant the number,” Sarah replies, counting with her hands. “Three.” An awkward silence passes through with the breeze. They share a smile.
“I’m Ani, by the way. I live just here,” the tall girl says, pointing to the other side of the field where a vast community settles with nature.
“I’m Sarah,” her voice soft and meek. Her mother always told her stories about the large nipa huts that populated the other side. She said farmers live there communally, tending ducks and goats by the afternoon after a long day of work in the field.
“Ha! Suddenly, you’re quiet,” Ani teases her. “Why were you reading so loud anyway?”
“It’s my mother,” Sarah replies. “She makes me read a page from my book out loud. She says it’s important that I speak well.”
“Of course! You’re the daughter of the actress who lives by the green mansion.”
“Is that what they really call it?”
“Yes, the green mansion. What else would they call it? It’s covered in ivy, and it’s a mansion,” Ani chuckles. “Too bad they’re taking it down. I’ve always wanted to see how many people lived inside that it had to take such a big land.”
“Three,” Sarah says.
“There’s a tree inside?” Ani’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“No, I meant there’s only three of us.”
“Oh, three,” Ani sits beside Sarah in her white knitted blanket laid across the fresh grass. “That must be sad.”
“It’s fine,” Sarah smiles at her. “How about your mother? Where is she?”
“She’s buried under here! She always wanted to be by this big, old tree when she died,” Ani says with a subtle enthusiasm that Sarah noted. “Nanay likes to spend afternoons here like you, just sitting in silence with her thoughts. One day, she promised me that we’d finally get this land back to our ancestors. Did you know they used to plant all kinds of fruits here?”
“Really? What kind?”
“Every kind! That’s why it feels nice to finally have our land back.”
Sarah smiles as Ani’s eyes glisten with joy. It was their family’s last day in the green mansion. In just a few hours, she’s leaving her entire life behind.
“Oh! By the way, would you like to have some of the oranges we just started growing?” Ani asks.
Sarah chuckles. “Yes! Can I have three?”