Trials, Dreams, Illusions: Ang Paglilitis Kay Mang Serapio

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Trials, Dreams, Illusions:
Ang Paglilitis Kay Mang Serapio
Throughout the scene of the “trial” of Mang Serapio, we can already see a lot of deviations from what a normal play should be like. In order to start the discussion of the play itself, I would like to state some elements that remained a mystery to me, even as I reached the end of the story and read it again all together. For some reason, it is very hard to truly understand what the play is alluding to, but nonetheless, what I would state here is my reading and understanding of the text.

The idea that a “trial” is juxtaposed with the idea of a “federacion” of these people of a lower status in society is very illogical. This federation of sorts is actually a group of beggars where these beggars are supposed to pay a fixed amount of money to the federation every day. This tax seems somewhat surreal and the reader is then urged to question and learn the identity of this said federation. Why do beggars have to pay such a tax to these higher ups in their group? What benefits do they get from this so called “federacion”? These sorts of questions are not answered by the author. It remains a mystery that the reader must challenge and solve as he goes on through the story.

The play, in itself is actually a very simple one. However, defining it as such, may pose some problems from other readers and interpretations of the play. What I would like to say, by defining it in such a manner is that, the play is very different from other traditional plays. The play shows only one scene, with the dialogue revolves around a few characters talking in a roundabout manner. The scene of the trial, at the start of the story, can be first depicted at first glance as that of the scene of lawyers and trials that can be seen in television and in actual hearings. However, as one starts to read more about Mang Serapio, we can actually see that this trial is not as it seems. There are no lawyers here, no “justice” being questioned and tried here. It is simply a formality that is being addressed by such so called “righteous” people of the federation. The trial, as what the two people questioning the main character says is not to show and make Mang Serapio be absolved of his crime, but to show the audience, beggars of all sort the punishment that he has incurred: being blinded.

The main character of the play, Mang Serapio, actually has little to say about his impending condemnation. The questions addressed to him were actually basic questions about his life: his name, occupation, his wife, his child. All of these things are actually already known to the two people questioning Mang Serapio. Again, as I said, all of the questions are actually just formalities, in order to make a sense of a real trial of sorts. A trial should be a test, in that the one that is guilty is given a chance to redeem himself, as what Mang Serapio tried to do by asserting his innocence all throughout the play

The play distorts the notion of what should be the qualities of a good story: a good plot, characters that stand out, character development, and a good setting. All of these constitute, in my opinion, what a good story should be like. However, the story of Mang Serapio is really different in that there is really no plot, and the setting makes it that there is no room for the characters to develop more. Although it can be argued that the main character changed at the end of the story, we can see him as somewhat delusional because of the way that he thinks a ragged doll or a chamois is actually his daughter Sol. It cannot be sure that he is actually telling the truth about the death of his daughter, or whether he actually had a daughter at all. However, his being delusional actually contributes to the idea that the grief of losing someone you love and close to, which in this case of Mang Serapio having lost both his wife and daughter Sol, can push you to a state of illusions and wanting to escape from reality....
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