Style and Technique
A fine storyteller with a keen sensitivity, Santos is credited as the leading fictional spokesperson for his fellow expatriates in the United States. This comes out of his personal encounter with exiled Filipinos. “Immigration Blues” is a convincing example. His portrayal of Alipio Palma is vivid and powerful.
To let the readers sink into the tragic life experience of the protagonist, Santos uses a slow and controlled narrative tempo: It is as if Alipio, being old and recovering from a terrible car accident, cannot be rushed. He does things according to his own timetable. His slow movement provides a striking contrast to the urgent matter of the two sisters. This slow tempo allows several flashbacks to take place, such as his accounts of his early, carefree days in the United States, and his marrying of his first wife. These bits of information are necessary to help the reader understand what has happened to the protagonist and why he has become what he is today.
Santos also uses concrete details in the story to dramatize Alipio’s desire to live—which offsets the tragic subject matter of the story. Alipio’s drawers and refrigerator are stacked with food that may last longer than the rest of his life—the sight of the foodstuffs seems to enliven the old man and erase years from his eyes. This is an old man who knows that food means life and sustenance, and provides energy and health.