On F. Sionel Jose (and more..)

(This post is inspired by the posts of kate, sharing local Aussie Poets and Writers – https://aroused.blog/2021/09/10/dame-mary-gilmore, the form Ukiah introduce by kate and Val – https://aroused.blog/2021/10/11/ukiah/, and https://murisopsis.wordpress.com/2021/10/01/looking-into-the-hive/)

freedom (A Ukiah)

freedom is what we all cry

but the stakes are high

it ends before we could sigh

(Ukiah – 3 lines with a syllable count of 7/5/7 and it is required to mono-rhyme!)

“Poetry, fiction as novels or short stories – these are autonomous as created by their authors. They should stand on their own, like pieces of furniture that should be judged as to their usefulness, elegance” – F.Sionel Jose

F. Sionel Jose is one of my Filipino Literary heroes. I was in my first year of High School learning Philippine Literature when I got to love him as a fiction writer and novelist. His works were greatly influenced by the works of the great Dr. Jose P. Rizal. For that alone, I admired him so much, as Dr. Jose P. Rizal is our National Hero and has initiated the end of the 300 years of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. We would have not been the independent country that we are right now if not for the likes of Jose Rizal. And for Sionel Jose’s works to be greatly influenced by the works of Jose Rizal is so admirable.

Recently, Sionel Jose at 96 has been on the headlines in the Philippines for making a commentary on a certain Filipino journalist winning an international award. In return, F. Sionel Jose received tremendous backlash from people all over social media. They have surely forgotten the truth and reality that F. Sionel Jose, is without a doubt one of the Pillars of Philippine Literature, and to receive such disrespect only because he did not agree with what everybody thought to be right is unfairly unjust. And considering these people on social media have been crying for “democracy” “press freedom”, and now they want to silence an old man for speaking his great mind? Yes, Philippine Literature would have not been where it is right now if not for the likes of F. Sionel Jose who believed and instigated the truth about Philippine history and culture, back in the days when very few Filipinos ventured into creative writing. He believed in the minds and hearts of the Filipino people and wrote about it when there were very few who would write about it.

The old man deserves some respect for speaking his mind, and yes, even if it is not in accordance with what you all, believe in.

A Filipino won the recent Nobel Peace Price and was not received so well by many in the Philippines. 

For whatever reason, I highly respect and applaud her for winning. But I also believed that we allow others to speak their minds on the matter especially if that someone is F. Sionel Jose. I would not even question or ventured into discussing whether she is deserving or not after all it’s not for me to say it.

 A recent Facebook comment by a local TV personality triggered this piece and to quote him “my opinion as a reader – I’ve read your books and I’ve read Maria’s books. She’s a much better writer. Your books are hard to finish. your dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. Even your columns contain little to no insight”. Let me dissect this. (with all due respect if he is not a TV personality I would have easily let this go by. But he is on a national TV network and, I can’t help but wonder, is his network tolerating this kind of commentaries?)

1. Why the need to compare the two writers? And who are we to say that one is better than the other? What’s your basis for saying that? And for someone in the media industry, who I supposed studied Literature (Philippine Literature for that matter) should know better than simply comparing two writers without basis. I would have appreciated it if he made a longer post or article citing his reasons for saying this. (maybe I should wait). I taught Literary Criticism and I am yet to read any authors/writers making such a drastic comparison between two writers. To say that one is better than the other is inappropriate especially in the field of creative writing, mass media, and the likes (maybe if there is anyone here who have read a published article saying that one author/writer is better than the other, please share the link in the comment section)

2. He said “Your books are hard to finish, your dialogue is stilted and unrealistic ”,  so what happened to his Literature classes if he found it so hard to finish his (Sionel’s) books? Or didn’t he realize maybe, F. Sionel Jose’s kind of writings does not suit the kind of reading materials he appreciates reading that’s why he is saying this? If yes, then that’s his own personal concern, why bring it up and take it against a great Literary figure? What happens to “we have our own personal reading preferences”? Why use it against Sionel Jose, simply because you do not agree with what he said?

3. Finally, he said “Even your columns contain little to no insight” so are you saying that the National Newspaper (also a pillar of the Philippine Newspaper industry for decades) publishing F. Sionel Jose’s columns was/is not making due diligence by publishing articles that do not make sense at all? I’d love to hear the thoughts of F. Sionel Jose’s publisher and editor on this. Because this statement for me sounds like the editor and the publisher were not doing their jobs for publishing columns of F. Sionel Jose that are “little to no insight”.

My takeaway on this is simple; we surely do not need to agree at all, we do not have the same point of view, and for some reason, we don’t like people taking up against our opinion and point of view; so no need to go ballistic and personal about things and issues that do not conform with our own. What happens to “what is good for you may not necessarily be good for me (and vice – versa)“. And maybe, just maybe, if we are a “prominent personality” with a number of followers and supporters, we should at least be careful with what we say and how we say it on social media. You attack people on the basis of the issues/opinions you both don’t agree upon, and not on a personal basis by destroying the other person. Who knows you could be planting the wrong seed to the minds and the hearts of young Filipino students studying Philippine Literature by saying “my opinion as a reader – I’ve read your books and I’ve read Maria’s books. She’s a much better writer. Your books are hard to finish. your dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. Even your columns contain little to no insight”. 

Again, if you don’t agree with the other person’s opinion/s then simply attack him for that. It’s easy to say “he is wrong”, or “what he said is baseless and untrue”, but to attack his works and writings that have been the source of inspiration and basis of contemporary Filipino writers and Literary enthusiasts, and we should not also forget the fact that most if not all of his works were used as part of our Academic curriculum in High School and even in College (and to which I’m sure many literary enthusiasts love, is something that you should actually consider not doing).

Attacking the works and writings of F. Sionel Jose is tantamount to questioning the credibility of our educational system.

F. Sionel Jose is our “National Artist for Literature” and surely the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), (and is conferred by the President of the Philippines upon recommendation by both institutions) did not award him with such high honor if his works and writings are, as written in that Facebook comment “your books are hard to finish. your dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. even your columns contain little to no insight“.

A disrespect not only to F. Sionel Jose, but to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), (and is conferred by the President of the Philippines upon recommendation by both institutions)

F. Sionel Jose

José attended the University of Santo Tomas after World War II, but dropped out and plunged into writing and journalism in Manila. In subsequent years, he edited various literary and journalistic publications, started a publishing house, and founded the Philippine branch of PEN, an international organization for writers. José received numerous awards for his work. The Pretenders is his most popular novel, which is the story of one man’s alienation from his poor background and the decadence of his wife’s wealthy family.

José Rizal‘s life and writings profoundly influenced José’s work. The five-volume Rosales Saga, in particular, employs and integrates themes and characters from Rizal’s work.  Throughout his career, José’s writings espouse social justice and change to better the lives of average Filipino families. He is one of the most critically acclaimed Filipino authors internationally, although much underrated in his own country because of his authentic Filipino English and his anti-elite views.

In his regular column, Hindsight, in The Philippine STAR, dated 12 September 2011, he wrote “Why we are shallow”, blaming the decline of Filipino intellectual and cultural standards on a variety of modern amenities, including media, the education system—particularly the loss of emphasis on classic literature and the study of Greek and Latin—and the abundance and immediacy of information on the Internet.

Awards

Five of José’s works have won the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature: his short stories The God Stealer in 1959, Waywaya in 1979, Arbol de Fuego (Firetree) in 1980, his novel Mass in 1981, and his essay A Scenario for Philippine Resistance in 1979.

Since the 1980s, various award-giving bodies have feted José with awards for his outstanding works and for being an outstanding Filipino in the field of literature. His first award was the 1979 City of Manila Award for Literature which was presented to him by Manila Mayor Ramon Bagatsing. The following year, he was given the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. Among his other awards during that period include the Outstanding Fulbrighters Award for Literature (1988) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines Award (Gawad para sa Sining) for Literature (1989).

By the turn of the century, José continued to receive recognition from several award-giving bodies. These include the Cultural Center of the Philippines Centennial Award in 1999, the prestigious Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 2000, and the Order of Sacred Treasure (Kun Santo Zuiho Sho) in 2001. In that same year, the Philippine government bestowed upon him the prestigious title of National Artist for Literature for his outstanding contributions to Philippine literature. In 2004, José has garnered the coveted Pablo Neruda Centennial Award in Chile. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._Sionil_)

Famous Quotes by F. Sionel Jose

“I write to please myself—of course, that is a given. But beyond this reach for pleasure, I know that I write for my countrymen, that they may be lifted from apathy and ignorance. I write because of a compulsion to make something out of the nothing that is my own life.”

“We write from life and call it literature, and literature lives because we are in it.”

“When you love someone, that love has no limit, no measure, because you know in your deepest being that when that love demands sacrifice, you will give it without question. You will not look for reasons, for justification – the act of giving, of sacrificing, is a natural compulsion, like breathing, and it will, in the end, surprise you because you did it without second thoughts.”

“No man stops caring as long as he breathes. As long as he has a mind and memory, he will care. This is what separates us from the animals. We have feelings.”

“Time will come that all that we love, we will eventually lose, and all that we hate we will eventually face.”

“You will find that our enemies are our own kin. It is they who betray us. So learn this most important lesson-in the end, our worst enemy is ourselves”

“We compromise ourselves the day we are born. If we are looking for the original sin, there it is- our incapacity to live honestly with ourselves because we are human, because we are shackled by custom, by obligations and we accept compromise only in the light of our conscience, answerable as we are only to ourselves.”

19 Comments

  1. wow Mich you sure packed a punch here, hotly political calling out this guy doing the comparison and bad mouthing!

    Nice to learn about a historic Filipino writer who you obviously have great respect for. And no doubt he’s not on social media to respond to this chaps carry on …

    take care precious!

    Like

    1. Thank you so much Kate..such a disappointment for attacking the works of a great Literary figure. If he simply disagrees with what F. Sionel Jose said, then he probably would earn my greatest respect. And i have to thank you too for initiating this in WP. I will have to write more of this. The world needs to recognize these Filipino novelists and poets..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. absolutely I would love more bloggers to take this on Mich … most of these great poets were elderly and frail or often deceased well before internet happened so their work is not always easily available in a google search …

        Like

  2. Well, I’m not really into his squabbles with other personalities – but I agree with his remarks that the Philippines is the odd one out in Southeast Asia. Geographically in Southeast Asia, but culturally in Latin America.

    Like

    1. Thank you so Monch, we sure don’t need to agree with one another, but at least we let others speak their minds…and never silence them or attack them simply because he is not your friend (as in this case)..

      Thank you i appreciate you dropping by..i hope you are well…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A passionate defense of your literary hero. Very commendable. I agree that we all can have different opinions and can disagree with each other but with courtesy.

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    1. Thank you so much Gina…it would mean a lot if we can all just simply respect each other’s opinion rather than attacking the one’s whose views and opinions do not conform with us..thank you my friend..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Of late it has become the norm to think that there can only be one “best”. In the past it would be lauded that there were 2 (or five or twenty-five) writers that had been awarded such honors. Can’t we like more than one author? More than one athlete? More than one actor/actress or musician? The discussion went from opinion to personal attack in a nanosecond… so very sad. I was unaware of the history and influence of F. Sionel Jose. Now I’m going to have to see if I can find some of his work in our library!

    Like

    1. Thank you so much Val for sharing your thoughts on this. Yes, i agree that in the world of “creatives” to point out one best is so difficult much more to compare one from the other, but the least we can do is respect each other’s creativity and opinion even if it does not suit ours.

      And thank you, i hope you so some really useful works fo Sionel Jose..

      Like

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