MANILA—The National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose has passed away on Thursday evening, January 6, 2022 at the age of 97.
The sad news was confirmed by the Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists) in an official statement on Facebook.
PEN, which was founded by Jose, said that the National Artist died at the Makati Medical Center where he was confined and was scheduled to undergo an angioplasty.
Part of PEN’s statement said: “National Artist for Literature and Philippine PEN founder F. Sionil Jose has passed away.
“Jose died Thursday evening at the Makati Medical Center where he was supposed to undergo an angioplasty Friday Jan. 7, according to his wife, Tessie Jovellanos Jose.
“Tessie said Jose apparently died in his sleep. He was declared dead at 9:30 p.m.
“Jose turned 97 only last Dec. 3.”
Few hours before his death, he was able to post on Facebook, which now serves as the last words of the National Artist:
“Thank you brave heart.
“There are times when as an agnostic I doubt the presence of an almighty and loving God. But dear brave heart you are here to disprove this illusion, to do away with the conclusion that if you doubt Him, you kill Him. I cannot kill you dear heart; you have to do that yourself.
“For 97 years you have been constantly working patiently pumping much more efficiently and longer than most machines. Of course, I know that a book lasts long too, as the libraries have shown, books that have lived more than 300 years.
“Now, that I am here in waiting for an angioplasty, I hope that you will survive it and I with it, so that I will be able to continue what I have been doing with so much energy that only you have been able to give.
“Thank you dear brave heart and dear Lord for this most precious gift.”
Because of his body of work, Jose was named National Artist for Literature on April 20, 2001 by former President Glorai Macapagal Arroyo.
Some of his masterpieces are short stories like The God Stealer (1959), Waywaya (1979), and Arbol de Fuego (1980); a novel titled Mass (1981); and the essay A Scenario for Philippine Resistance (1979), which all won the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.
He was also bestowed the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts in1980.
His statements on the ABS-CBN shutdown and Maria Ressa
Jose became controversial during the past year due to his opinion on important issues related to media, particularly the shutting down of ABS-CBN and giving Maria Ressa the Nobel Peace Prize award.
On his Facebook account on May 8, 2020, the National Artist stressed that ABS-CBN’s shutdown was not a loss.
This was after three days after the National Telecommunications Commission ordered ABS CBN to stop its broadcast operations. Its 25-year old franchise expired on May 4, 2020.
According to Jose: “I’ll not mourn the passing of ABS-CBN. The Filipinos do not really need ABS-CBN. It does not produce food or goods.”
Part of his statement about the giant network: “It has certainly entertained millions but it did not diminish poverty.
“Its demise, I dare say, is even good for Philippine democracy if it also means the dismantling of the Lopez empire… The Lopez family is a leading member of the oligarchy—far more powerful than any of the oligarchs, then and now.”
Then on his Facebook post on October 9, 2021, he belittled the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa, Rappler’s co-founder.
Jose said: “Maria Ressa does not deserve the Nobel.
I will be damned for stating this. Sourgrapes, etc. because I was in the listing of possible Nobel literary prize winners as published in international media.
“I have criticized Duterte but not on press freedom. The Philippine press is alive and well not because of Maria Ressa. No writer is in jail. There is no censorship.”
He added: “Now, let us look at Maria Ressa’s credentials. The most important is she worked with CNN.
“I haven’t read anything memorable by her. She had developed important connections as this award has shown and was able to get foreign support for Rappler.
“Duterte was not serious with Maria Ressa, else he could have nailed her like he did with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Senator Leila de Lima…
“Those Nobel judges were taken for a ride by western media hype.”
Along with this, he defended and acquitted the Duterte administration on the closing of ABS-CBN.
He stated: “Duterte hasn’t closed a single newspaper or radio station. The closure of ABS-CBN was made by Congress which did not renew the ABS-CBN franchise.
“Sure, he influenced Congress but the real issue against ABS-CBN as I have pointed out is not press freedom but money, politics, power and its abuse by the Lopezes who own the TV network.”
Because of these statements, siding on the Duterte government, he was hailed by President Rodrigo
Duterte’s followers but was bashed by critics.