F. Sionil José

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F. Sionil José
F. Sionil Jose.jpg
Francisco Sionil José
Born Francisco Sionil José
(1924-12-03) December 3, 1924 (age 91)
Rosales, Pangasinan, Philippine Islands
Pen name F. Sionil José
Occupation Filipino novelist, writer, journalist
Nationality Philippines Filipino
Ethnicity Ilocano
Alma mater University of Santo Tomas (dropped out)
Period 1962 – present
Genre Fiction
Literary movement Philippine literature in English
Notable works The "Rosales Saga" Novels (1962–1984)
Notable awards Pablo Neruda Centennial Award
National Artist for Literature, Philippines
Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres
First Prize, Palanca Memorial Award for Novel in English
Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts
City of Manila Award for Literature

Literature portal

Francisco Sionil José (born 3 December 1924) is one of the most widely read Filipino writers in the English language.[1][2] His novels and short stories depict the social underpinnings of class struggles and colonialism in Filipino society.[3][4] José's works—written in English—have been translated into 22 languages, including Korean, Indonesian, Czech, Russian, Latvian, Ukrainian and Dutch.[5][6]

Personal life[edit]

Early life[edit]

F. Sionil José Bust monument (Rosales, Pangasinan Presidencia).
The Inscription in the Monument (February 23, 2007).

José was born in Rosales, Pangasinan, the setting of many of his stories. He spent his childhood in Barrio Cabugawan, Rosales, where he first began to write. José is of Ilocano descent whose family had migrated to Pangasinan before his birth. Fleeing poverty, his forefathers traveled from Ilocos towards Cagayan Valley through the Santa Fe Trail. Like many migrant families, they brought their lifetime possessions with them, including uprooted molave posts of their old houses and their alsong, a stone mortar for pounding rice.[1][2][3][4]

One of the greatest influences to José was his industrious mother who went out of her way to get him the books he loved to read, while making sure her family did not go hungry despite poverty and landlessness. José started writing in grade school, at the time he started reading. In the fifth grade, one of José’s teachers opened the school library to her students, which is how José managed to read the novels of José Rizal, Willa Cather’s My Antonia, Faulkner and Steinbeck. Reading about Basilio and Crispin in Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere made the young José cry, because injustice was not an alien thing to him. When José was five years old, his grandfather who was a soldier during the Philippine revolution, had once tearfully showed him the land their family had once tilled but was taken away by rich mestizo landlords who knew how to work the system against illiterates like his grandfather.[1][2][3][4]

Writing career[edit]

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.[1][2] 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.[3][4]

José Rizal's life and writings profoundly influenced José's work. The five volume Rosales Saga, in particular, employs and interrogates themes and characters from Rizal's work. [7] 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.[1][2][3][4]

"Authors like myself choose the city as a setting for their fiction because the city itself illustrates the progress or the sophistication that a particular country has achieved. Or, on the other hand, it might also reflect the kind of decay, both social and perhaps moral, that has come upon a particular people."

— F. Sionil José, BBC.com, 30 July 2003[1]

Sionil José also owns Solidaridad Bookshop, which is on Padre Faura Street in Ermita, Manila. The bookshop offers mostly hard-to-find books and Filipiniana reading materials. It is said to be one of the favorite haunts of many local writers.[1][2][3][4]

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.[8]


Rosales Saga novels[edit]

A five-novel series that spans three centuries of Philippine history, translated into 22 languages

Original novels containing the Rosales Saga[edit]

Other novels[edit]


Short story collections[edit]

Children's books[edit]

  • The Molave and The Orchid (November 2004)


  • Questions (1988)

Essays and non-fiction[edit]

  • In Search of the Word (De La Salle University Press, March 15, 1998) ISBN 971-555-264-1 and ISBN 978-971-555-264-6
  • We Filipinos: Our Moral Malaise, Our Heroic Heritage
  • Soba, Senbei and Shibuya: A Memoir of Post-War Japan ISBN 971-8845-31-3 and ISBN 978-971-8845-31-8
  • Heroes in the Attic, Termites in the Sala: Why We are Poor (2005)
  • This I Believe: Gleanings from a Life in Literature (2006)
  • Literature and Liberation (co-author) (1988)

In translation[edit]

In anthologies[edit]

  • Tong (a short story from Brown River, White Ocean: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Philippine Literature in English by Luis Francia, Rutgers University Press, August 1993) ISBN 0-8135-1999-3 and ISBN 978-0-8135-1999-9

In film documentaries[edit]

  • Francisco Sionil José – A Filipino Odyssey by Art Makosinski (Documentary, in color, 28min, 16mm. Winner of the Golden Shortie for Best Documentary at the 1996 Victoria Film and Video Festival)[9]


  • 2004: Pablo Neruda Centennial Award
  • 2001: The Order of Sacred Treasure (Kun Santo Zuiho Sho)
  • 2001: National Artist for Literature, Philippines[10]
  • 2000: Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres
  • 1999: Cultural Center of the Philippines Centennial Award
  • 1989: Cultural Center of the Philippines Award (Gawad para sa Sining) for Literature
  • 1988: Outstanding Fulbrighters Award for Literature
  • 1981: First Prize, Palanca Memorial Award for Novel in English
  • 1980: Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts
  • 1979: City of Manila Award for Literature

Books about F. Sionil José[edit]

  • Frankie Sionil José: A Tribute by Edwin Thuboo (editor) (Times Academic Press, Singapore, January 2005) ISBN 981-210-425-9 and ISBN 978-981-210-425-0
  • Conversations with F. Sionil José by Miguel A. Bernard (editor) (Vera-Reyes Publishing Inc., Philippines, 304 pages, 1991
  • The Ilocos: A Philippine Discovery by James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly magazine, Volume 267, No. 5, May 1991
  • F. Sionil José and His Fiction by Alfredo T. Morales (Vera-Reyes Publishing Inc., Philippines, 129 pages)
  • Die Rosales Saga von Francisco Sionil José. Postkoloniale Diskurse in der Romanfolge eines Philippinischen Autors by Hergen Albus (SEACOM Edition, Berlin, 2009)
  • Post-colonial Discourses in Francisco Sionil José's Rosales Saga: Post-colonial Theory vs. Philippine Reality in the Works of a Philippine Autor by Hergen Albus (Südwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften, 14. November 2012)


"...the foremost Filipino novelist in English... his novels deserve a much wider readership than the Philippines can offer. His major work, the Rosales saga, can be read as an allegory for the Filipino in search of an identity..."

— Ian Buruma, The New York Review of Books[11]

"Sionil José writes English prose with a passion that, at its best moments, transcends the immediate scene. (He) is a masterful short story writer..."

— Christine Chapman, International Herald Tribune, Paris[11]

"...America has no counterpart to José – no one who is simultaneously a prolific novelist, a social and political organizer, and a small scale entrepreneur...José's identity has equipped him to be fully sensitive to the nation's miseries without succumbing, like many of his characters to corruption or despair...

— James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly[11]

"...The reader of his well crafted stories will learn more about the Philippines, its people and its concerns than from any journalistic account or from a holiday trip there. José's books takes us to the heart of the Filipino mind and soul, to the strengths and weaknesses of its men, women, and culture.

— Lynne Bundesen, Los Angeles Times[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Jose, F. Sionil (30 July 2003). "Sense of the City: Manila". BBC News. Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Author Spotlight: F. Sionil Jose". Random House. Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Macansantos, Priscilla S. (25 April 2007). "A Hometown as Literature for F. Sionil José". Global Nation. Inquirer.net. Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Yabes, Leopoldo Y. and Judson Knight. "Francisco Sionil Jose Biography". Contemporary Novelists, Vol. 16. Jrank.org. Retrieved 16 June 2007. 
  5. ^ Garcia, Cathy Rose. (27 April 2007). "Author F. Sionil Jose’s Insight on Philippines". Arts & Living. The Korea Times. Retrieved 19 December 2008. 
  6. ^ Garcia, Cathy Rose. (27 April 2007). "Author F. Sionil Jose’s Insight on Philippines". BookAsia.org (Korean website). Retrieved 19 December 2008. 
  7. ^ Scalice, Joseph (17 December 2004). "Articulating Revolution: Rizal in F. Sionil José's Rosales Saga". Retrieved 19 December 2006. 
  8. ^ José, F. Sionil (11 September 2011). "Why we are shallow". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  9. ^ Makosinski, Art (1996). "Francisco Sionil José – A Filipino Odyssey". ME.UVIC.ca. Retrieved 16 June 2007. 
  10. ^ "Culture Profile: F. Sionil José". About Culture and Arts. National Commission for Culture and Arts. 2002. Retrieved 16 June 2007. 
  11. ^ a b c d Makosinski, Art. "About Francisco Sionil José". Engr.Uvic.ca. Retrieved 16 June 2007. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]