The Good Die Young: National Artist F Sionil Jose’s Life and Legacy

Remembering the life and Legacy of National Artist for Literature F Sionil Jose.

“The good die young,” said National Artist for Literature F Sionil Jose when asked about the secret to his longevity during his 90th birthday. That was 7 years ago.

Mr. Jose, the author of more than a dozen socially engaged novels and countless short stories passed away on Thursday, January 6, 2022. He died at Makati Medical Center, where he had been waiting for an angioplasty.

Humble Beginnings

When you were a kid, you might’ve seen or heard of ‘Manong Frankie,’ or even read some of his works. Well, F Sionil Jose was a Filipino writer who was one of the most widely read in the English language. 

He was born in Rosales, Pangasinan, the setting of many of his stories, and started writing in grade school. According to himself, one of the greatest influences on his works was his mother. 

But did you know that before he became a National Artist for Literature, Manong Frankie also faced numerous failures and rejections?

Newspaper editors always rejected him when he was starting out. Obviously, this didn’t stop him from doing what he wanted.

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Literary Giant

F Sionil Jose went on to write countless novels and short stories, and won various literary awards, including the Pablo Neruda centennial award. 

Among the most remarkable were his ‘Rosales Saga’ novels, a five-novel series that spans three centuries of Philippine history in Rosales, Pangasinan. Particularly his most famous novel, ‘The Pretenders’, which is the story of one man’s alienation from his poor background and the decadence of his wife’s wealthy family.

Mr. Jose’s works also garnered awards that include:

  • Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature
  • Manila Award for Literature
  • Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts 

Moreover, Manong Frankie was awarded a National Artist of the Philippines for Literature in 2001.

He’s known for his novels and short stories that depict the social underpinnings of class struggles and colonialism in Filipino society.

In relation to that fact, his English-written works have been translated into 28 languages. These include Korean, Indonesian, Czech, Russian, Latvian, Ukrainian, and Dutch.

Manong Frankie also founded the Philippine branch of PEN, an international organization for writers. He also owned a bookshop called ‘Solidaridad,’ located in Padre Faura Street in Ermita, Manila.

He had quite a career, didn’t he? 

Jose went down in history as one of the most prolific writers of our time. He once expressed that he sees potential in the youth today, and wishes for them to get involved in life.

Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from our beloved National Artist. Rest in peace, Manong Frankie!

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