Sy Yinchow and the other José
SUNDRY STROKES - Rosalinda L. Orosa () - August 9, 2003 - 12:00am
Frankie and Tessie Sionil Jose have five sons and two daughters all of whom are accomplished professionals working in America. Recently, son Ephraim (Eddie) was welcomed with a basi-and-other-intoxicants party at Frankie’s Solidaridad Bookshop, headquarters and home to writers.

Eddie, an Asian Art conservator, was then on his way back to the US from Bhutan where he had arranged an exhibition of Bhutanese art for the Asian Art Museum in S.F. and other major American museums. Being a National Artist for Literature, Frankie can best describe Eddie’s career and the incredible patience and persistence his success demanded.

This illuminating account is from an article Frankie wrote for the JFMO Journal, Vol. 1, on RP-Japanese cultural exchange:

"One of my sons, Ephraim, spent twelve years in Japan to study art restoration. When he left, I told him that if there was only one thing he should learn from the Japanese, it was craftsmanship. To learn the highly specialized craft, he had to work with a family whose head is one of the leading restorers of Japanese art. This is the guild system and Ephraim was the first foreigner the family took under its wing.

"The atelier handled some of Japan’s national treasures, artwork usually on paper several hundred years old. The aging pictures and scrolls are restored painstakingly requiring days, even months of careful work. After his first year in the atelier, Ephraim became discouraged and wanted to go home. All he did was pick up the litter on the floor, clean and scrub brushes and that menial job assigned to apprentices. I told him to be patient for this was what the work was all about – begin from the very bottom. Then after three years, he came to Manila for a vacation and right at the airport, he excitedly told me that he already knew what craftsmanship was all about.

"One of the restorers had mounted a scroll – work which took several days to finish. The sensei (teacher) looked it over then told the restorer to do it all over again. Ephraim couldn’t understand why the tedious process had to be repeated. The sensei then showed him a tiny wrinkle at the bottom of the scroll.

"Today, Ephraim handles a lot of restoration work for major American and European museums at his Oakland (California) atelier where he employs five Japanese assistants. He had tried training Americans, some of them art students, but gave up when he found them too impatient with the work which requires great care and patience. This is what craftsmanship demands. I think that the folk crafts of Japan have a lot to do in the inculcation of craftsmanship in the young, through their games like paper folding (origami) and their sense of aesthetics. I tell young Filipinos visiting Japan for the first time not to miss the folk art museums."
* * *
The 83-year old Sy Yinchow has devoted the last 58 years of his life to writing, translating and editing. He was editor-in-chief of Manila New Day (1945), the Chiang Kai Shek Press (1946-48), the Great China Daily News (1949-72) and the United Daily News (1972 to the present).

He has served as founding president and president of several international literary or art associations. His major works, which are contained in more than 20 books, have been published in Manila, Taipei, Beijing and Hong Kong, and may be classified as creative writing, critical essays and translation – e.g., Anthology of World Poetry which contains 300 masterpieces by 120 great poets of 20 countries; Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which Chinese translation is used in college textbooks in Taiwan; Rizal’s My Last Farewell, which translation has been printed and reprinted in books and newspapers more than 50 times.

Sy has edited (in translation) Best Philippine Short Stories (1959, Manila), Alejandro Roces’s Of Cocks and Kites (retitled Something to Crow About), Philippines Best Short Stories (1973, Taipei), and Anthology of Chinese-Filipino Literature (1932-92, Manila).

An honorary fellow of Iowa International Writing Program, Sy has received several national and international awards from Manila and Taipei.

A columnist for the last 50 years, Sy writes almost daily for the newspapers he has been editing. He led the Philippine Cultural Mission to Taiwan in 1962, his party consisting of Filipino writers and artists – NVM Gonzalez, Nick Joaquin, Vicente Manansala, Ang Kiu Kok and Napoleon Abueva. Incredibly, he has collected 25 English translations, 11 Chinese versions and 50 other language translations of Rizal’s My Last Farewell.

In his own distinctive fashion, Sy has demonstrated the same inspiring persistence and patience in his career as writer, translator, editor – and collector – as Ephraim Jose has in his own career as art conservator.
Bazaar For A Cause
On October 5, a bazaar will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Isla Ballroom of Shangri-La Hotel, EDSA, for the benefit of the Rizal Memorial Foundation.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with