National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose dies at 97

Photo grabbed from F Sionil Jose’s Facebook account

National Artist for Literature and one of the most celebrated novelists in the Philippines, F. Sionil Jose, died on Thursday evening at the age of 97.

Jose was declared dead at 9:30 pm at the Makati Medical Center, the Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists), a literary group he founded, announced on Facebook.

He died in his sleep and was supposed to undergo angioplasty on Friday, Jan. 7, according to his wife Tessie Jovellana Jose.

“It is with sadness that I announce the death of Manong Frankie Sionil Jose,” University of Santo Tomas (UST) journalism professor Lito Zulueta also confirmed his death through a Twitter post.

Jose’s works had always been focused on social justice for the plight of underprivileged Filipinos. He was best known for his five-novel masterpiece, the “Rosales Saga,” which consisted of the novels “The Pretenders,” “Tree,” “My Brother,” “My Executioner,” “Mass,” and “Po-on.”

Along with these were his Carlos Palanca Memorial Award-winning short stories “The God Stealer,” “Waywaya,” “Arbol de Fuego,” and his essay “A Scenario for Philippine Resistance.”

Due to the international appeal of his authored pieces, they have been translated into various languages, including Russian, Latvian, Ukrainian, Dutch, and Bahasa Indonesia. 

He was bestowed the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) Centennial Honors for Arts in 1999, the Outstanding Fulbrighters Award for Literature in 1998, and the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts in 1980. 

Jose studied at UST and took up liberal arts in the original campus in Intramuros. Literary icon Paz Latorena and Fr. Juan Labrador, O.P, who was dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, were some of his teachers. 

He first joined the Varsitarian, the University’s student paper, as an assistant literary editor, and later became the editor-in-chief from 1948 to 1949. F

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