Scent of Apples Bienvenido N. Santos
Scent of Apples
Bienvenido N. Santos
When I arrived in Kalamazoo it was October and the war was still on. Gold
and silver stars hung on pennants above silent windows of white and brick-
red cottages. In a backyard an old man burned leaves and twigs while a gray-
haired woman sat on the porch, her red hands quiet on her lap, watching the
smoke rising above the elms, both of them thinking the same thought
perhaps, about a tall, grinning boy with his blue eyes and flying hair, who
went out to war: where could he be now this month when leaves were turning
into gold and the fragrance of gathered apples was in the wind?
It was a cold night when I left my room at the hotel for a usual speaking
engagement. I walked but a little way. A heavy wind coming up from Lake
Michigan was icy on the face. If felt like winter straying early in the northern
woodlands. Under the lampposts the leaves shone like bronze. And they
rolled on the pavements like the ghost feet of a thousand autumns long dead,
long before the boys left for faraway lands without great icy winds and
promise of winter early in the air, lands without apple trees, the singing and
It was the same night I met Celestino Fabia, "just a Filipino farmer" as he
called himself, who had a farm about thirty miles east of Kalamazoo.
"You came all that way on a night like this just to hear me talk?"
"I've seen no Filipino for so many years now," he answered quickly. "So when
I saw your name in the papers where it says you come from the Islands and
that you're going to talk, I come right away."
Earlier that night I had addressed a college crowd, mostly women. It
appeared they wanted me to talk about my country, they wanted me to tell
them things about it because my country had become a lost country.
Everywhere in the land the enemy stalked. Over it a great silence hung, and
their boys were there, unheard from, or they were on their way to some little
known island on the Pacific, young boys all, hardly men, thinking of harvest
moons and the smell of forest fire.
It was not hard talking about our own people. I knew them well and I loved
them. And they seemed so far away during those terrible years that I must
have spoken of them with a little fervor, a little nostalgia.
In the open forum that followed, the audience wanted to know whether there
was much difference between our women and the American women. I tried to