Remembering the legacy of F. Sionil Jose

FEU Advocate
January 08, 2022 11:10

National Artist for Literature and Far Eastern University (FEU) Alumnus, F. Sionil Jose, dies at 97, leaving behind a legacy that shaped Philippine literature. Most of his work dwells on the stories of the ordinary Filipino people, focusing on issues of poverty and social class divisions.

A writer for the ordinary Filipino

Deemed as one of the leading contemporary Filipino writers in English, Jose has left a permanent mark in Philippine literature—proving this by winning numerous accolades including the Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism, literature, and creative communication arts in 1980. He later received the National Artist award in 2001.

With his goal to become a voice of seeing heroism in the ordinary Filipino, he participated in protesting the Martial Law. With pen and paper, he wrote the stories of political injustices during those tragic years thus writing “Mass,” the fifth and final installment of his infamous series, Rosales Saga. 

A man’s long search for justice and a moral order

Before being one of the most prolific writers of Philippine Contemporary Literature in the 20th century, Jose was once a poor boy from the slums of Rosales, Pangasinan. The place he grew up in heavily influenced the setting in his novels including the set of five interconnected epic stories called the Rosales Saga.

Thematically, his novels inspire the experiences of his beginnings. While growing up, he was a bear witness of injustices and corruption on their land and his fellow natives. This consequently became Jose’s goal as a writer––to represent the Filipinos who were oppressed to speak and to "search for justice and a moral order.”

Apart from writing about the struggles of Filipino injustice, he also delved into the pains of Spanish and American colonialism. This literary giant never romanticized colonization in our history for he thinks that colonialism took away our national identity. In a 2016 valedictory speech he wrote at the 50th anniversary of the Philippine Center of PEN International, he declared that “the logic of colonialism is exploitation and therefore, no matter what guise it takes when it beguiled us, colonialism is immoral.”

Looking in hindsight

During his short-lived experience as a Tamaraw, Jose mentioned that the University’s library has exposed him to a multitude of books—something he has struggled to have access to during his youth.

Moreover, he had written several pieces for the Junior Advocate, where he first saw his name in print, calling it a memorable experience.

In 2012, FEU paid tribute to one of his prominent works, “The God Stealer,” which Jose gladly supported.

Despite being heavily criticized for his profound words and opinions on the shutdown of ABS-CBN, Duterte’s war-on-drugs, Catholicism, and more, it cannot be denied that the legacy he left on Philippine Contemporary Literature will remain impactful for generations to come. With more than 35 books about the underprivileged, his ambition to seek justice and heroism in ordinary Filipinos will be engraved in Philippine literature.

- John Vincent Cruz and Jemina Eunice G. De Leon

(File photo of Ron Jerome Alcantara/FEU Advocate)


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