Nostalgia in When the Dancers Came Bienvenido Santos When the Dancers Came, shares a common trait with the rest of his short stories in Scent of Apples. It is the trait that examines the sense of loss in the Filipino American community-a loss of home, country, and family. In When the Dancers Came, Santos portrays this loss through the main characters of the story, Fili mon Fil Aca yan and Antonio Tony Ba taller. Therefore, the main concentration of this dramatic story is the nostalgia that goes on between the two characters- how the past is affecting their own sense of emotion and how the past is deceptive in a social sense and how this is affecting them in their present lives.
Fil is a very simple character in the story. Oftentimes, he seems to convey a very na ve character in comparison to Tony, who sees life in a very different way as you will see later. Fil has a yearning to have a connection with his own countrymen. When he finds out that these dancers from the Philippines were coming, he was genuinely looking forward to see them and take them for a tour in Chicago.
He's more in touch with his Filipino side and he's not willing to let himself be Americanized. He shows that he's very proud of his culture. While he works he's humming faintly remembered tunes from the old country (116). He also showed mastery in the Tagalog dialect: His style, however, was florid, sentimental, poetic. Fil mentioned that when he first saw snow, he grabbed a handful, crunched it together, and stuffed it in his mouth. He immediately recalled the moment when he was home in the Philippines and the times he d used to do that there: it reminded him of the grated ice the Chinese sold near the town plaza where had played thatching with an older brother (115).
The day the dancers came, he still remembers this moment because he thought that they would do the same when the dancers see the snow. But later, he sees that they don t even acknowledge the snow. Tony, on the other hand, is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Unlike Fil who's very eager to see these dancers, Tony seems very annoyed and tense about it. Tony seems to be a more complex character than Fil.
It seems that deep inside, he longs to be in his country and to be with his fellow countrymen but at the same time he shows that he's like resenting himself for not being as successful as he thought he d be living in America. Filipinos have this term called balikbayan. It's the idea that the person would leave the Philippines and eventually come back to their homeland wealthier. In the story, it seems as though Tony is not happy with his living situation and shows a sense of shame because he didn t achieve the goal he had set out for himself in America. Like most Filipinos, he probably didn t have very high paying job. Filipinos around that time were probably looked down upon and discriminated.
Fil actually described his idea of a job is for a U.S. citizen: To a new citizen, work meant many places and many ways: factories and hotels, waiter and cook, which are jobs that are not considered as good careers (114). One Christmas, they both got drunk and Tony fell giggling and cursed all the railroad companies of America (118). This just shows what kind of jobs Filipino-Americans had at that time jobs that are underpaid or jobs that deal with very hard labor. It's apparent that they can t be living that comfortably because Tony asks Fil, What for you want to invite them Here Aren t you ashamed of this hole (116).
With this in mind, he probably had too much pride to let his family back home think that he was a failure and his resolution is just to try to forget his family or the past. Fil had no family to go back to because all of his family members are dead. Perhaps this is the reason why he doesn t understand where Tony is coming from and why he's so hopeful that the dancers will actually come with him for dinner. It's interesting to see how Tony tries to become more American than Fil.
As he said once when he was joking around with Fil, I m becoming a white man (114). This is an interesting comment to analyze because it can be looked in two ways. Physically, Tony is suffering from a disease that is making his face a white complexion. It's the gradual peeling around the neck and had spread to his extremities, and whiteness spreading on his skin (114-115). He was more willing to move on and he basically gave up on returning back home.
Fil says that, It was evident Tony was the better speaker of the two in English (117). This shows that he speaks less of his own native tongue. A lot of the imagery in this story deals with the snow. The day the dancers came, it started snowing and finally stopped at the moment when Fil finally meets the dancers at the hotel room later on.
This is a very interesting observation because in a sense, it gave a symbolic meaning of hope and promise that Fil was longing for a connection with these other Filipinos.