Locus Focus: One Hundred and Nineteen!
Thanks to my latest reading challenge to read more books by writers from or with settings in other countries, I decided to twist the June Giveaway accordingly . . . or at least try to. Will it really be possible to feature four non-Filipino settings from books by Filipino writers? We'll see at the end of the month, but right now I'm pretty confident!
The Day the Dancers Came
by Bienvenido N. Santos
Time was passing and he had yet to talk to anyone. Suppose he stood on a chair and addressed them in the manner of his flamboyant speeches, recorded in his [portable tape recorder]?
"Beloved countrymen, lovely children of the Pearl of the Orient Seas, listen to me. I'm Fil Acayan. I've come to volunteer my services. I'm yours to command. Your servant. Tell me where you wish to go, what you want to see in Chicago. I know every foot of the lakeshore drive, all the gardens and the parks, the museums, the drive, all the gardens and the parks, the museums, the huge department stores, the planetarium. Let me be your guide. That is what I'm offering you, a free tour of Chicago, and finally, dinner, at my apartment on West Sheridan Road--pork adobo and chicken relleno, name your dish. How about it, paisanos?"
Given my challenge-within-a-challenge, Bienvenido N. Santos was a shoo-in. Most of his fiction is about Filipinos in America, and most of it sad. I'll write more about that in my review of his short story collection The Day the Dancers Came. For now, I'll focus on its title story.
The day the touring Filipino dance troupe arrive in Chicago could not be more perfect. It is only early November, but snow is already starting to fall. Not so heavily that it is a huge inconvenience to those who'd like to get around the city, but just enough so that people who are seeing snow for the first time can pick up fascinating fistfuls of it . . . just as Fil Acayan himself did, his first winter there. It was a wonderful experience made bittersweet by his inability to share it with anyone else; but he hopes this opportunity to share it, albeit many years after the fact, with the visiting dancers, will make up for whatever was lost to him by being lonely.
It's a lovely vision, isn't it? So I wish I could tell you more about Acayan's tour of the Windy City . . . or even about his humble West Sheridan flat's transformation, through Filipino home cooking and Filipino song, into a tiny corner of his lost homeland . . . if only because that is what Locus Focus is all about . . . but as I hinted in the first paragraph, Santos's exiled Filipinos have mostly sad stories.
The Filipino dancers in the story are definitely based on the Philippine National Folk Dance Company, popularly known as the Bayanihan Dancers. And this (strangely edited) video of a kind of "sampler" of Philippine folk dance and music will give you an idea of what Acayan and the rest of the audience would have seen and heard later that night in the theatre.
Question of the Week: If you could show foreign visitors one thing about your city, what would it be?
If you'd like to read The Day the Dancers Came and other short stories by Bienvenido N. Santos, you're welcome to join this year's June Giveaway . . .
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