‘Rest now, Frankie’: Tributes pour in for late National Artist F. Sionil Jose

January 7, 2022 - 4:34 PM
F. Sionil Jose
National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose (Image from People Asia)

Fellow writers and various organizations paid tribute to National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose who passed away on Thursday evening.

Jose, considered the most prolific Philippine novelist in English, died at 97 years old.

In a report by The Varsitarian, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas, Jose’s wife Tessie stated that the renowned writer died in his sleep at the Makati Medical Center. He was supposed to undergo angioplasty there.

Jose was a recipient of several prestigious awards local and overseas for his works.

Local recognitions include the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature which he earned five times as well as the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Arts in 1980.

In 2001, he was named a National Artist for Literature.

Outside the country, Jose was conferred third class of Japan’s Order of Sacred Treasure in 2001 and the Pablo Neruda Centennial Award in 2004.

Aside from his awards, Jose also founded the Philippine PEN (Poets and Playwrights, Essayists and Novelists) in 1957.

The Philippine PEN is the local chapter of the International PEN, a federation of writers that promotes freedom of expression.

Jose was also an entrepreneur.

He was the owner of an old bookshop in Ermita, Manila called the Solidaridad Bookshop and Publishing House which opened in 1964.

He also ran an art gallery called Solidaridad Galleries in Manila that housed the exhibits of art trailblazers such as National Artist for the Visual Arts J. Elizalde Navarro.

The celebrated writer earned his Litt. B. Journalism from UST where he served as the editor-in-chief of The Varsitarian from 1948 to 1949.

During the early years of Martial Law, Jose was blacklisted and forbidden to travel because of his opposition against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

Tributes and memories

Prolific writers, especially those he had taught before, took to social media to express their grief for Jose’s passing.

Lualhati Bautista shared that Jose, who they have known as “Frankie,” had been her friend for 40 years.

“I just heard the news. F. Sionil Jose is no more. Given naman na ‘yon, he might go any time because, after all, he is 97. If it’s any consolation, at least he is said to have died in his sleep, quietly and painlessly,” Bautista said.

“Pero ang sakit pa rin sa loob. I am grieving. Frankie remained my friend through all the 40 years we have known him and Tess. I love him and Tess. They are family. Rest now, Frankie. Yakap, Tess. Mahigpit na yakap,” she added.

Joel Pablo Salud, on the other hand shared a photo of a gift he received from Jose back when the latter invited him to the Solidaridad bookshop in 2014.

Salud also expressed how much the token meant for him especially during trying times.

Jose Wendell Capili paid tribute to Jose by sharing the latter’s biography on the book “Migrations and Mediations: The Emergence of Southeast Asian Diaspora Writers in Australia” which was published in 2016.

Medical anthropologist and columnist Gideon Lasco also shared fond memories with Jose who also became the former’s mentor back then.

Lasco attached an old photo of the award-winning novelist he took of him in Japan in 2008.

Palanca awardees Jerry Gracio and Angelo Suarez, on the other hand, recalled Jose’s controversial political views during his twilight years.

“Ang nakakalungkot, maaalala natin si F. Sionil Jose di dahil sa kanyang mga nobela, kundi sa pagkampi niya kay Duterte, pagpabor sa pagsasara ng ABS-CBN, at iba pang blunders sa mga huling sandali ng kanyang buhay,” Gracio said.

“If only F. Sionil Jose could meet the thousands killed by this fascist regime in the afterlife. Good night, Manong. May our memory of your class stand be clearer than our memory of your fiction,” Suarez said.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Book Development Board issued separate statements on Facebook honoring Jose.

They thanked him for his contributions to Philippine literature and culture.