F. Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature, 97
Known for his novels and literary works espousing national sovereignty and social justice, F. Sionil Jose’s works include the Rosales saga, a five-novel series consisting of The Pretenders, Tree, My Brother, My Executioner, Mass and Po-on.
Francisco Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature, died at 97 on Thursday, Jan. 6, a day before his scheduled angioplasty at Makati Medical Center.
A Philippine STAR columnist writing on politics, history and culture, “Manong” Frankie was a five-time Palanca Award winner and founder of PEN (poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists) in 1958.
He was one of the most revered and read Filipino writers, whose works have been published and translated into various languages.
Known for his novels and literary works espousing national sovereignty and social justice, his works include the Rosales saga, a five-novel series consisting of The Pretenders, Tree, My Brother, My Executioner, Mass and Po-on. The novels narrate the stories of the Samsons in different generations, intertwining their personal lives with the social struggles of the nation.
Through his prolific writing since the 1960s using vernacular English, the late National Artist received various accolades, including the CCP Centennial Honors for the Arts in 1998, Outstanding Fulbrighters Award for Literature in 1988, Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in 1980, as well as several Palanca Awards, according to the Cultural Center of the Philippines upon learning of his passing.
He was bestowed the National Artist Award in 2001 for his outstanding contributions to Philippine literature.
His family said that Jose wanted to be remembered by this: “He wrote stories and he believed in them.”
One of the last things he wrote on his hospital bed, which circulated on social media past midnight, was addressed to his “brave heart.”
“Thank you brave heart. There are times when as an agnostic I doubt the presence of an almighty and loving God. But dear brave heart you are here to disprove that illusion, to do away with the conclusion that if you doubt Him, you kill Him. I cannot kill you dear heart, you have to do that yourself,” he said in his note posted on his Facebook page.
“For 97 years you have been constantly working patiently pumping much more efficiently and longer than most machines. Of course, I know that a book lasts long too, as the libraries have shown, books that have lived more than 300 years. Now that I am here waiting for an angioplasty, I hope that you will survive it and I with it, so that I will be able to continue what I have been doing with so much energy that only you have been able to give. Thank you dear brave heart and dear Lord for this most precious gift.”
The CCP extended its deepest condolences on the passing of Jose, who is survived by his wife Tessie Jovellanos and children.
Malacañang also expressed Friday, Jan. 7, its condolences to the family of the National Artist.
“On behalf of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the Filipino people, we extend our condolences on the passing of F. Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature. Our prayers are with his wife Ma’am Tessie and her entire family, colleagues and loved ones,” acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said at a press briefing.
“Not only a legendary writer and storyteller, F. Sionil Jose is a true Filipino patriot,” he added.
Jose wrote a regular column for The Philippine STAR. His La Solidaridad bookshop has become a landmark in Ermita, a melting pot of rare books with its trademark door chimes that held occasional book launches and hosted receptions for visiting writers.
He marked his 97th birthday last Dec. 3.
Sen. Richard Gordon mourned Jose’s passing, saying he was not only an inspiration to Filipinos but also the rest of the world. “Manong Frankie was an inspiration across the world, with his works translated into 28 different languages,” Gordon said in a statement.
He said Jose’s outstanding work of literature, his dedication, passion and commitment to craft should be “a beacon of hope to everyone.”
He said Jose may have gone ahead, but his legacy will live on forever. “I join the nation and our literature community in mourning his passing and in sending our deepest sympathy to his wife Tessie and the whole family,” Gordon said.
Sen. Nancy Binay, on Twitter, offered her thoughts and prayers to the family of Jose. – With Helen Flores, Paolo Romero