“Icon, the greatest Filipino novelist”: CCP writers mourn the passing of national artist F. Sionil Jose

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MANILA, Philippines – “What’s your class? “

This is how Brother Sionil José usually greeted student writers. When I was asked the same question, I proudly answered, “Journalism”. To which he retorted with an even more proud response: “Stop! You can be a writer without doing journalism.

For Sir Frankie, as we affectionately called him, journalism was a pointless course. When I asked him one evening during our writers’ workshop at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Baguio City, what he thought was the best course to take, he firmly put his trademark wooden cane on the table. sol and said: “Literature! “

“Literature is the noblest of the arts,” he said. “Writers should always have a noble attitude. They should be godly not only in the writings but also in the way they live.

Sionil Jose and his good friend Nick Joaquin, of course, were among the best examples of non-journalist majors who became successful journalists and editors. From 1960 to 1962, Sionil Jose became the editor of Asia Magazine, a Sunday supplement distributed from Hong Kong throughout Asia.

Sir Frankie was very proud of his Ilocano roots, often telling us, “There are only two kinds of Filipinos: Ilocanos and others.

Ask any group of writers before and after us and they’ll tell you that they probably had the same basic experience as Sir Frankie. But our lot at the UST Writers’ Workshop, 2004, stood out for at least one thing. The week of the workshop was about to end with a festive evening when the panelists received a call: Nick Joaquin is dead.

The panelists, which included Dr Ophelia Dimalanta, recipient of Southeast Asia’s highest literary honor, the SEA Write Award, and fellow national literary artist and dear mentor, Dr Cirilo F. Bautista, announced the news gently to Sir Frankie, but he broke down anyway. The formidable but endearing pillar that was F. Sionil José burst into tears. And we all cried – some even hysterically – with him.

Previous workshop evenings filled with drunken videoke tunes have turned moody. Party animal Sionil Jose, who never failed to pour strong alcohol into our glasses with every meal (now I can admit that I sprinkled mine on plants to avoid hangovers, but he didn’t was quick to rebuild), cut into pieces.

“The greatest novelist”

From left to right: My article on F. Sionil Jose’s eulogy for Nick Joaquin, published in The Manila Times on May 9, 2004, titled “F. Sionil Jose on Nick Joaquin: The best novelist remembers the best Filipino writer ; »F. Sionil Jose’s business card that he gave me as an invitation to his famous Solidaridad bookstore. He was known to have invited many writers to come and dine with him. and his wife in Solidaridad.

Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

“NICK, who passed away on April 29, is our greatest writer. I am the greatest novelist, ”I quoted Sionil Jose in my Manila Times article published on May 9, 2004, titled“ F. Sionil Jose on Nick Joaquin: The Best Novelist Remembers the Best Filipino Writer.

“National artist Francisco Sionil Jose has always taught us to be boastful. Writers are never humble, he always said, to 15 of us who attended the fifth UST National Writers’ Workshop in Baguio City from April 25 to May 1 (2004), ”continued my article.

As well as being both national artists for literature, Sionil Jose and Joaquin both worshiped national hero Jose Rizal, whose works laid the foundation for Jose and Joaquin’s careers as fictionalists and among Filipino authors. the most widely read in the English language.

“We had serious arguments about the Philippines and the Filipinos, to the point that we yell at each other,” recalled Sionil Jose, as published in my article.

“He is very much in love with Spain. I tell him never to forget that it was the Spaniards who killed Rizal.

The next day, Sionil Jose wasted no time rushing from Baguio to Manila where his best drinking buddy, Manileño through and through Quijano of Manila, was laid to rest.

But it wasn’t the last of what we saw of Sir Frankie. He continued to write for his country and for his friend, because as he said, it is by writing nonstop that he was able to keep Nick’s memory alive. We continued to see him as The Varsitarian’s most prestigious and longest-serving alumnus. He lived and worked hard for as long as he could, writing with discipline to produce novels full time, for the dream of giving our country its first Nobel Prize in Literature.

Apparently 97 years was not enough to achieve this dream, but at least it brought it to a place we can only dream of: a very fruitful journey and a peaceful death, with the added bonus of having written a letter. farewell.

And so for you, dear mentor, Ka-Varsi, and one of my first real Facebook friends, Sir Frankie, I raise my glass and drink once more.

Sionil Jose with acclaimed writer Loyva Conje-Fernandez (left); Participants in the UST Writers’ Workshop with F. Sionil Jose (top right); workshop participants with other panelists, including the late great poet Dr. Ophélie Dimalanta and national artist for literature Dr. Cirilo F. Bautista (right, bottom).

Loyva Conje-Fernandez

“First true South-East Asia”

Dr Jose Wendell Capili, professor at the University of the Philippines and assistant vice president for public affairs, cited Singaporean poet and scholar Edwin Thumboo as describing Sionil Jose as possibly “the first true Southeast Asian”.

“Of course Frankie (Sionil-Jose), I guess, is the first true Southeast Asian. See what he’s trying to do with Solidarity,” Capili said, citing Thumboo, considered one of the pioneers. of English literature in Singapore.

The Solidaridad de Sionil Jose bookstore was designed as a showcase for Filipino and Southeast Asian writers, according to “Migrations and Mediations: The Emergence of Southeast Asian Diaspora Writers in Australia” (2016), which Capili cited in his tribute on Facebook.

“You can see it in the conferences he has organized over the years. You can see it in the many friendships he has made. And this is finally the test. He is a person from Southeast Asia. In 1980, F. Sionil Jose received the coveted Ramon Magsaysay Prize for Journalism, Literature and the Creative Arts of Communication for his intellectual courage, interest and encouragement for Asian and other writers and artists, for which his Solidaridad bookstore is a cultural hotspot …

“Solidarity is a tremendous resource that academics and others interested in our world will tap into. In addition, the biennial creative seminars organized by Sionil José for young writers in the region have had a lasting impact. What is important is that Sionil Jose has published writers who have become either mentors or mentors of diaspora writers from Southeast Asia to Australia, such as Thumboo, Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta , Ee Tiang Hong and Merlinda Bobis. The journal has enabled readers in South East Asia and Australia to cultivate a sense of local, national and regional concerns from the writers’ perspective. These problems were: the Vietnam War, the riots in Malaysia (1969), the proclamation of martial law in the Philippines (1972), the lifting of the “white Australia” policy and the emergence of multiculturalism as a central element. federal politics in Australia (1972), the Indonesian occupation of East Timor (1975), the rise of Singapore and Malaysia as economic powers, and many other social and political upheavals.

“Long live Manong Frankie”

“One of F Sionil Jose’s wishes was for young writers to grow old while writing,” Arnel Patawaran, editor of the Manila Bulletin, said in a Facebook post. tribute.

“For him, if you had it, you had to choose it and make yourself worthy of the profession, and ultimately make your profession useful to your community and to your country.”

In a press release sent to Philstar.com, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) recalled the life and work of Sionil José.

“The founder of the Philippine Chapter of PEN, F. Sionil Jose was one of the most revered and widely read Filipino writers whose works have been published and translated into various languages,” the statement said.

“Known for his novels and literary works espousing national sovereignty and social justice, his notable works include the Rosales Saga, a series of five novels consisting of The Pretenders, Tree, My Brother, My Executioner, Mass and Po-on. The novels tell the stories of Samsons of different generations, interweaving their personal lives with the social struggles of the nation.

“Through his prolific writing since the 1960s using Vernacular English, the late National Artist has received various accolades, including the CCP Centennial Honors for the Arts in 1998, the Outstanding Fulbrighters Award for Literature in 1988, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative. Communication Arts in 1980, as well as several Palanca Awards.

“He received the National Artist Award in 2001 for his outstanding contributions to Filipino literature.”

“Icon with enormous talent”

In short eulogy on Facebook, award-winning writer, activist and spoken word artist Angelo Suarez said: “If only F. Sionil Jose could meet the thousands of people killed by this fascist regime in the afterlife. Good night Manong. May our memory of your class be clearer than our memory of your fiction. “

In a Facebook Publish, journalist Angelle Lopez de Leon shared a photo with Sionil Jose and Bienvenido Lumbera, her fellow national artist and winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Prize for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communications.

“The Philippines has lost a great man… an icon, with enormous talent,” Angelle wrote.

“Maraming salamat sa lahat Monsieur!” Thank you for the advice, the warm welcome you have given me each time I go to Solidaridad and the autographed books you have given me. Thank you also for your amazing stories and contributions to literature. I will surely miss you and your writings… ”

RELATED: “Thank you, courageous heart”: F. Sionil Jose, national artist for literature and columnist for The STAR, writes 30


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