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You Lovely People

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In YOU LOVELY PEOPLE, his first book, Bienvenido N. Santos has presented what may well be the essence of those years - the loneliness and hunger of a people who were almost all of them hurt and broken to the bone. But for an ideal, which Santos so eloquently dramatizes in this book, they would have lost their very souls.

In this sense YOU LOVELY PEOPLE is a document and at once a portrait of the Filipino heart.

Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1955

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About the author

Bienvenido N. Santos

20 books47 followers
Bienvenido N. Santos was born in Tondo, Manila, on March 22, 1911. When Santos started school, the Philippines was already a colony of the United States and instruction was in English. In his early attempts at creative writing, Santos developed an ear for three kinds of communication: Pampango in the songs his mother sang at home; English in the poems and stories his teacher read at school; and Tagalog in the street life of the Tondo slums.

Santos left for America in September 1941 as a pensionado (scholar) of the Philippine Commonwealth government. Thirty years old and an established short story writer in English at home, he enrolled at the University of Illinois in the master's program in English. When war broke out in December, he found himself an exile in America, cut off from his homeland and his wife and three daughters he left behind. The heartbreak of this separation during his first sojourn in America is crucial to Santos's development as a writer.

Exile defined the central theme of his fiction from then on. In the summer of 1942, he studied at Columbia University with Whit Burnett, the founder of Story magazine, who published his first fiction in America. After studying Basic English with I.A. Richards at Harvard in 1946, Santos returned home to a country rebuilding from the ruins of war. He came back to America in 1958 as a Rockefeller Foundation fellow at the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. His first two novels, Villa Magdalena and The Volcano, written under a Rockefeller grant and a Guggenheim fellowship, were published in Manila in 1965, the year Santos won the Philippine Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Literature.

In 1972, Santos and his wife Beatriz were on their way to the Philippines to "stay home for good," when news of the declaration of martial law reached them in San Francisco. The new regime banned The Praying Man, his novel about government corruption, and he was once again exiled from his home. From 1973 to 1982, Santos was Distinguished Writer-In-Residence at Wichita State University. In 1976 he became a U.S. citizen. His short story, "Immigration Blues," won the best fiction award given by New Letters magazine in 1977. In 1980, the University of Washington Press published Scent of Apples, his first and only book of short stories to appear in the United States. The next year it won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Santos died at his home in Albay on January 7, 1996.

Santos's stories can be grouped into three literary periods. The first period, the prewar years in the Philippines (1930-1940) are set in the fictive Sulucan slums of his Tondo childhood and the rural towns and villages in the foothills of Mayon volcano in Albay, where Santos married Beatriz Nidea, started his family, and built his house. These stories are in the collections Brother, My Brother and Dwell in the Wilderness. Santos's exile in America during the war years produced stories set in Chicago, Washington, New York, and other cities, where he lectured extensively for the Philippine Commonwealth government in exile. You, Lovely People, The Day the Dancers Came, and Scent of Apples belong to this period. In the postwar years Santos set his stories in different places as he commuted between the Philippines and America. These years mark a period of maturation and experimentation, and a shifting away from the short story to the novel form.

His use of memory--or, rather, a fictionalized memory--evokes empathy for his characters. A variation of this technique is Santos's use of other "I" narrators, like the Pinoy old-timer Ambo, he of the trembling hands ("The Door" and "The Faraway Summer"), or Tingting, the tennis player, in the San Francisco novel. But even with the voices of Ambo and Tingting, the stories are told from within, as if Santos had been inside them and felt their pain. Santos believed it was important for a writer to feel compassion for his characters: "When you have cr

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Profile Image for Jamille Mae Lardizabal.
7 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2016
This was one of the many book reviews I had to submit for my BLL 104 class in UP.

A Review

“The great man is he who in the midst of the crowds, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. This quotation aptly reveals the true Filipino Spirit, one that exudes zeal, especially when put in dire situations, during our nakedness, our helplessness. It is beyond our fine brown-skin which makes us standout among blonds and brunettes. It is the loveliness innate in every Filipino – our kindness of heart, hospitality, gallantry, tranquility, that is unique; that despite emotional turmoil we remain undaunted, like pliant bamboos swaying with the wind, but never wasted.

In his first book, You Lovely People, Bienvenido N. Santos impressively captured the portrait of the Filipino heart, the uniqueness of our character, the Filipino struggle to remain whole; mostly sentiments of Filipinos abroad, how the immortality and illegality of the war affected them.

The book which is the result of the author’s poignant recollection of his own experiences abroad not just revolves around simple reminiscence of acquaintances and poker games, of falling snow, and apple trees and solitude under the elms; but openly discusses serious concerns like patriotism, feudalism, interracial relationships, racism, and economic and political issues.

The book, composing a collection of short stories, was indeed ingeniously crafted in such an unconventional writing style that could not have been employed in any other literary sort than in a free-flowing narrative prose, delicately woven by the author’s subtle expression and point of view –a plausible account of past experiences, a combination of fiction and reality. Thus he is able to channel in his characters’ metamorphoses a clear picture of reality. This arbitrary then gives a redefined flavor that distinguishes the book from other literary pieces.

The story focuses on the uniqueness of the Filipino character, taking a closer look. Santos saw an enigma, that of a trait that is unique. To dwell on its truth, he sensitively penetrated the Filipino spirit into the character of Ambo, and that of his own viewpoint.

The story focuses mainly on Ambo’s point of view. He is the epitome of every Filipino, so do the other supporting characters in the story. They are not passive heroes but active men, who transform themselves from being naïve to being dynamic. Like Val, Leo, Mike, Ben, Doc, Teroy, the “hurt men” in the story, typical Filipinos – strong men of conviction, gentlemen, industrious, witty. These are the Filipinos with high ambitions, who dream beyond dreams, who do not accept limitation, always reaching, struggling; with a continual thirst for a better life, far beyond farms, coconut trees and nipa houses; but as far and ambitious as elm-shaded parks, apple trees, A-houses and stone monuments of foreign lands. And maybe a pair of modest, Americana suits would do and a white girl’s arms around their necks. Though they strive for all this, they still are resilient to raging circumstances. Beneath those wrinkled smiles, thick calloused hands, beneath that radiant brown skin, lies a wound, a scar even, which endured great longing and loss. Yet even so, they somehow remained disillusioned; with their sole consolation of their great love for their country, inspired by their fellowmen, much more by their unfading admiration and loyalty to the Filipino women. The Filipino spirit stays alive, the flame of survival amidst their plight flickers still; strengthened by their great love for their country, their fellowmen, inspiring them, making them whole.
The characters in the book are a reflection of every Filipino. I see many Filipinos, mostly overseas workers, who are just like Ambo; though they have tied themselves to menial chores, their integrity remains intact and are able to preserve in their own hearts the rich culture of their own country. That though they are faced by varying degrees of life’s challenges here and abroad, it somehow cultivated in them a unique sense of survival and unwavering loyalty to their country.

However, there are characters in the story that employ the mediocre ways of Filipinos. There’s Val who, at times, feudal and chauvinistic. There’s witty JP who became powerful because of his wealthy wife and whose colonial mentality makes him abandon his country. And there’s the attractive Doc who’s blonde crazy. And Ambo, the illiterate old man, the image of a gambler alive in him. This merely shows that we, Filipinos are human too, that we have our own human limitations and weaknesses.

It is sad to note that there are Filipinos who leave our country for greener pastures abroad and forget altogether their roots. It is in this context that we sometimes lose our own identity. We try to change it thinking it would satisfy us. We find solace in foreign lands, leaving our homeland behind in a swamp of poverty, economic crisis and illiteracy; thinking it would give us the security and improved life that our poor country cannot afford us.

Yet, as in the last story in the book reiterates, it is not in leaving our country that we escape our frustrations in our country. It may be true that our country is still in struggle, but there is still hope, if we Filipinos enliven the Bayanihan spirit that’s long been slumbering in us. There’s no use in getting away, for “only rats leave a sinking ship” (p. 235). If we just remain in the bosom of our homeland, the uncertainty and turmoil would gradually morph into a happy, hopeful realization that we will succeed.

There’s a knowledge that can be acquired in Santos’ You Lovely People. It is essential to strengthen the consciousness of people everywhere that they are world citizens as well as citizens of their own particular country. Every Filipino, though well scattered across the globe has a unique sense of individuality, the very Filipino heart which makes us lovely beyond our brown skin, our traits, our values that differentiate us from others. It is in the blood flowing in our veins, the Filipino blood that raises our identity, clamping us together, tightening our bond, nursing our hurts, giving us strength. This may well be the reason why foreigners openly expresses their fondness of us, readily embraces our culture even if it may backfire the society’s expectations. That’s how we are loveable to them. They see something in us that we ourselves do not see, something that is not found in their encounter with other people, in snow-covered streets, in apple-scented atmosphere. It is the loveliness we exude, the good quailties we are worthy of admiration – our being God-fearing, warm, one-woman man, hospitable, affectionate, loyal, and industrious and who has a great deal of noble simplicity and humility.

Moreover, the book teaches us to distinguish legitimate patriotism that creates a sense of worth and self-respect from nationalism which causes division and destruction. It also imposes in us the appreciation of the diversity of cultures and eradication of prejudice and how important it is to start in ourselves a willful change.

The book’s claim is then justifiable, that we Filipinos should start to integrate confidence in our own capabilities. We should stand proud. Like Ambo we can always emerge a winner despite our mediocre ways. After all, we are a lovely people.
Profile Image for myreadiary.
34 reviews
December 13, 2021
Filipinos are very one of a kind of people of color.

Very caring, hospitable, and faithful to God and their families.

Things change when circumstances hit.

Every character of the book represents what people are experiencing and going through. It's very depressing because discriminations are extremely practiced and people either cope with it and/or can't take it.

It's very depressing. And longing to fit in, in places they miss from their hometown, expecting it also would be the same.

Nonetheless, Filipinos during those times are very sentimental. Knicks and cramming of anything that reminds us of our home are very well treasured no matter how long.

Maybe that's why many foreigners are very fond of Filipinos because we are very friendly and easy to be with.

We are lovely people.
Profile Image for Jelina.
122 reviews1 follower
October 10, 2019
You lovely people has a sort of chipped nobility of people bowed but unruined.
A series of vignettes rather than a collection of short stories. This book explores the various pains and sacrifices Filipinos expats and their families and some cases lovers deal with the racism, alienation and frustration of living in the U.S. during the WWII era. Interracial relationships are tested in the face of disappointment and cruelty with friendships forged through alienation becoming brittle with complacency and time.
Profile Image for Judy Grace Legaspi.
33 reviews17 followers
September 17, 2017
"If you find nothing but indifference where you expected kindness, suspicion instead of trust; or find the dearest ideals which you have cherished all this time as scarce or completely gone as the goodness you believed you reposed in most men, pray, my friends, that such things do not last for long."
Profile Image for Timothy Sanchez.
2 reviews6 followers
August 9, 2011
an important historical,social,and cultural document, this memoir of Bienvenido N.Santos should be read by every Filipino who wish to understand our lovely people's plight in exile.
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