Arts and Culture

‘Thank you brave heart’: F. Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature and The STAR columnist, writes 30

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com
âThank you brave heartâ: F. Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature and The STAR columnist, writes 30
National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose holding one of the books he wrote.
F. Sionil Jose via Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — National Artist for Literature Francisco Sionil Jose died peacefully in his sleep last night while waiting for an angioplasty today at the Makati Medical Center. He was 97.

His family and the Philippine Center of International Poets, Essayists, Novelists (PEN), which Jose founded, confirmed in separate statements.

“Our father passed away peacefully this evening. Many years ago, he told us this is what he wants written about him: ‘He wrote stories and he believed in them’,” Jose’s family wrote in a brief announcement in his official Facebook page.

“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,” PEN said.



“Tessie said Jose apparently died in his sleep. He was declared dead at 9:30 p.m,” the organization added.

In a Facebook post before he passed away yesterday, Jose thanked the Lord and his heart in what seemed to be a farewell letter.

“Thank you brave heart,” he began.

“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.”

Jose marked his 97th birthday just last December 3. 



Born in 1924 in Rosales, Pangasinan, the setting of his many stories, Jose attended the college of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) after World War II, but dropped out to work as a writer, journalist and editor in various publications, including UST’s campus publication The Varsitarian and Philippines Graphic, together with his good friend and fellow National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin.

Like Joaquin, Jose was among the most widely read Filipino authors in English, with works that were translated into 28 languages. 

Five of his works won the country’s most prestigious writing award, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature:

  • “The God Stealer” short stories in 1959
  • “Waywaya” in 1979
  • “Arbol de Fuego (Firetree)” in 1980
  • Novel “Mass” in 1981
  • Essay “A Scenario for Philippine Resistance” in 1979.

In 1979, he received the Manila Award for Literature, which was followed by many more within his lifetime, including:

  • Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in 1980
  • Outstanding Fulbrighters Award for Literature (1988) 
  • Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Award (Gawad para sa Sining) for Literature (1989).
  • CCP Centennial Award in 1999
  • Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 2000
  • Order of Sacred Treasure (Kun Santo Zuiho Sho) in 2001
  • Pablo Neruda Centennial Award in Chile (2004)

For his outstanding contributions to Philippine literature, the government bestowed upon him the title National Artist for Literature in 2001.

Apart from his widely-acclaimed regular The STAR column “Hindsight,” Jose has been known to own his own printing press and Solidaridad Bookshop, which has become a landmark in Ermita, Manila, for offering Filipiniana and rare books.


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