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Pila (Lines)

Excerpts from conversations that took place along the queue of community pantries in Manila during the pandemic.

  • Apr 14 2023
  • Kiri Dalena
    Kiri Dalena is an artist, activist, filmmaker, and mother. She took part in the artistic resistance movement in Southern Tagalog composed of students and graduates of the University of the Philippines in the Southern Tagalog region - far from the capital Manila. She was a founding member of Southern Tagalog Exposure (ST Exposure) in 2001, who were the first of their kind to use multimedia as a means of artistic-activist expression in the region. Since then, Dalena also co-initiated RESBAK (Respond and Break the Silence Against the Killings)—this time in Manila, a response by a multitude of artists to the extrajudicial killings in what former President Rodrigo Duterte called the "war on drugs."

In the film Pila (Lines) (2022) Kiri Dalena documents the queue of community pantries during the pandemic. Under the imperative: “Magbigay ayon sa kakayanan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan” (Give what you’re able to give, and take only what you need), Dalena worked with community members to collect food donations for a table she set up in front of her house. With their permission, she recorded conversations with those in line, asking them to speak freely; replicating what they would normally talk about while waiting—or, if they preferred, to continue resting quietly.

The text below is excerpted from conversations that took place along the length of Maharlika Street.

Babae 1: Anong oras ka pumila?
Lalake: Alas dos ng madaling araw.
Babae 2: Ako ala una. Hindi pare parehas ano?
Babae 1: Bakit nalaman mo na may pila?
Lalake: Nakikita ko. Hirap ng buhay ngayon. Dati akong guwardiya. Nang pumutok ang pandemic, tatawagan na lang daw ako. Pero hindi na ako tinawagan. Kung wala ‘to, magugutom talaga. Pandagdag din, sayang. Kahit na puyat-puyat ka tiyaga talaga sa pila.
Babae 1: Karamihan ngayon walang trabaho eh. Anak ko hirap mag-hanap buhay ngayon, tapos ang asawa ko rin, sa isang linggo, tatlong beses lang ang byahe. 
Babae 2: Ako nga dalawa lang kaming mag-asawa pero nahirapan din kami. Siempre magbayad ka rin ng ilaw.
Babae 1: Yung isda ngayon kala mo ginto na yung ano, yung bigas ang mahal…
Babae 2: Nakaramdam ka rin ng gutom?
Babae 1: Yung iba sinasabi nila “Ay, kalahating kilong bigas lang yan” Ako hindi, magpapasalamat pa ako non. Kung hindi kasya, lugawin mo. Yung kalahating kilo, kung lima kayo, isaing mo nang medyo malambot lang yung kanin, para magkasya lang, di ba?
Babae 2: Malagyan lang ng laman ang tiyan.

Woman 1: What time did you fall in line?
Man: Two in the morning. 
Woman 2: I came at one in the morning. It is not always the same right?
Woman 1: How did you learn about the lines?
Man: Not hard to miss. Life is hard these days. I was once a security guard. When the pandemic hit us, the employers said they will just call me. But they never did. If not for this, I will go hungry. It would be a pity not to come. You will have little sleep, but you need to be patient in lining up. 
Woman 1: So many have no work now. My own child is struggling to make a living, then my husband is only able to work as a driver three time times a week.
Woman 2: It’s only my husband and I, but it is still difficult. Of course there are utilities to pay for.
Woman 1: Fish these days sell for the cost of gold, and the price of rice is so high…
Woman 2: You also felt hunger?
Woman 1: Others say we only get half a kilo of rice here. But I am already thankful for this. You can make it into a porridge to make it fit. Half a kilo of rice, when cooked soft like porridge can be stretched to feed a family of five.
Woman: Good enough for an empty stomach.


Lalaki 1: Kaya ako pag nagsaing mula umaga hanggang hapon na.
Isang lutuan na lang hanggang tanghali.
Lalaki 2: Pag nasaing ka sa umaga isama mo na hangggang hapunan.
Kung isang kilo mahigit isaing mo na kaagad. Tipid ka sa gasul, tipid ka sa oras...
Babae 1: Hindi rin, Kuya. Hindi rin pwede yung sabihin mo tipid ka.
Kung may mga apo ka yung sinaing mo ng tanghalian naaabot pa ba yun? Syempre luto na, kakain na. 
Babae 2: Oo nga no. Hindi na.
Babae 1: Kaya hindi mo ako matuturuan, Kuya, sa pagtitipid kasi ginawa ko na lahat ng pagtitipid. 
Lalaki 2:  Hindi, ho. Yung sa akin naman po yung sinasabi ko lang... Kasi ako ha sa dami ng anak ko ha. Ilan ho ba apo niyo, ilan ba anak niyo?
Babae 1:  Siyam ang apo ko.
Lalaki 2: Siyam ang apo niyo. Ilan ang mga anak niyo?
Babae 1:  Tatlo
Lalaki 2:  Ang anak ko po labing anim. Ang apo ko labing apat. 
Babae 1: Ang dami rin pala
Babae 2: Ba't dinamihan mo naman?

Man 1: My style is I cook rice that’s good for morning till noon. Just one batch of cooking until lunch. 
Man 2: If you cook rice in the morning might as well cook enough for dinner. If you have over a kilo of rice cook all of it at once. You will save on gas and time. 
Woman 1: That’s not entirely true Sir. You can’t say that you’ll be able to save that way. 
If you have grandchildren the rice you cooked will not last till noon. If it is already cooked they’ll eat it all. 
Woman 2: That’s true. It won’t last.
Woman 1: So Sir, you cannot instruct me on matters regarding budgeting, because I have explored all the possible ways of saving food. 
Man 2: I did not mean it that way. I am saying this because of my experience with my own children. By the way, how many children do you have?
Woman 1: I have nine grandchildren.
Man 2: So you have nine grandchildren. How many children?
Woman 1: Three.
Man 2: I have sixteen children. Then fourteen grandchildren.
Woman 1: That’s a lot.
Woman 2: But why did you make so many?


Babae 1:  Nung may mga curfew pa no? Takbuhan.
Lalake 1:  Takbuhan talaga e.
Babae 2:  Alas tres hinahabol pa sila ng Task Force. Aakyat pa sa puno yan para di makita ng Task Force.
Babae 1: Kami nga na ticketan pa kamo pa kami kuya. Natiketan pa kami 300. Sabi namin,' Wala na nga po kaming makain titiketan niyo pa kami.
Babae 1:  Tsaka dapat e bigyan niyo muna ng abiso yung mga tao. Hindi yung basta basta.
Babae 2:  Oo nga. Wala namang awa.
Lalaki 1:  Pinabayaan lang nila e no? Mahirap na nga yung tao huhulihin mo pa. Wala na ngang makain pipilit-- Kaya nga pumipila para... makakuha ng pagkain e no? Tapos huhulihin pa
Babae 1:  Hinuli talaga kami, nasa bahay ko pa nga ang ticket eh, binayaran ko dyan sa-- 300 talaga.
Babae 1: 300 talaga.
Lalaki 2:  Hindi nila hinuli yung nagnanakaw.
Lalaki 1:  Oo mali yung ginawa nila, e no? Pipila ka kaya nga pumila ng maaga para maaga maka--
Lalaki 2:  Sila basta lang makahuli para maka pursyento sila kasi kikita ka eh... sila ang bida dun kasi marami silang nahuli. Ang sasabihin niyo alas singko magpila. Yung alas singko hong 'yon wala na kaming makukuha kasi may limit yung bilang. 
Babae 2: E pag nadaanan ng Task Force, taguan sila. Naranasan ko 'yon pumila ako.
Babae 1. Tago-tago.
Babae 1: Yung anak ko nga e. Ginising ko ng maaga. Nagpila kami. Dumating ba naman yung task force. Pinaghahabol yung mga anak ko. Sabi ko, ba't nagtakbo kayo e syempre mga bata isip nila ayaw nilang mapahuli, tumakbo. Nadapa tuloy. Nagsugat-sugat dito o. Andaming sugat. Daming sugat. Sabi ko susunod wag kayong tumakbo ha. Kasi hindi naman kayo huhulihin niyan. Kausapin lang kayo. Yun nga. Tiis lang tayo kasi wala tayo.

Woman 1: Remember when a curfew was still in place? People ran.
Man 1: There was so much running. 
Woman 2: At 3AM the Task Force (Discipline) would run after people. People would climb trees to hide from the Task Force.
Woman 1: Would you believe we were fined 300 pesos? We were fined 300 pesos. We said, why are you fining us, we are already starving.
Woman 1. And we said you should be more forgiving now. 
Woman 2. They have no mercy.
Man 1: They should have let us be. People are already suffering then they would be arrested. People have no food to eat and that is why they come to line up…to get food. Then they would be arrested. 
Woman 1: We were really arrested, in fact, the ticket is still in my house, I had to pay 300 pesos---think about it, 300 pesos.
Man 2: But they don’t go after the real thieves.
Man 1: What they did was wrong. We line up early for assurance of…
Man 2: They arrest people so that they will get a percentage and earn…they gloat because they’ve made many arrests. They tell us to line up at 5AM. But I’d say, by 5AM we wouldn’t be able to get food anymore, because the supplies are limited. 
Woman 2: When the Task Force comes, people hide. I experienced that when I lined up.
Woman 1: We had to keep hiding.
Woman 1: One time I woke my children up very early to line up with me. Then the Task Force came again and ran after my children. I wondered why they ran, but then they were young and feared arrest, so they ran. So they stumbled at some point. They had so many bruises and wounds because of that. I told them, next time don’t run. They will not arrest you. Let’s just talk to them. We have no choice but to bear with this because we have nothing. 


Filipino Transcript: Bea Mariano
English Translation: Kiri Dalena




    Cover, fig. 1, fig. 2: Kiri Dalena, Pila (Lines), 2022. Courtesy the artist.



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