My Friend, Francisco Sionil Jose
edited: Thursday, December 19, 2013
By Arsenio C Jesena
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2013
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a birthday letter to a dear friend...
MY FRIEND, FRANCISCO SIONIL JOSE
You are eighty-nine years old today.
I am seventy-three. Looking back at my life, I am very glad your daughter Jette introduced us about forty-two long years ago. I was a young priest, a young Jesuit priest, in that year 1971— just before Martial Law.
Frankie, you are and have been one of the persons I have admired most in my whole life. And I admire you and I respect you so much because of many reasons. It is not just because you are a world-famous international literary celebrity, and a Philippine National Artist for Literature and a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Literature, Journalism, and Creative Communication Arts.
Not just because your many writings have been translated to twenty-four—different languages, and you have been honored by so many countries, like France and Japan. I admire and respect you above all because you are a man, a person, a Filipino of TREMENDOUS LOVE AND PASSION FOR THE MOST IMPORTANT CAUSES AND ADVOCACIES ON THIS EARTH.
1. You love THE POOR. Since you yourself emerged from the cruel clutches of poverty and injustice, your heart, your whole being is instinctively and totally for the poor, the ignorant, the helpless, the oppressed. You love the poor.
2. You love THE TRUTH. You see right through the lies, the fallacies of hypocrites and liars, of individuals and groups. You love the truth.
3. You love INTEGRITY. You were never for sale. How many times were you offered money and position and power to support something unworthy, or wrong. But you never succumbed. You love integrity.
4. You love OUR YOUTH. You love our youth, the hope of the fatherland. The deprived, hungry farm boy in Barrio Cabugawan in Rosales, Pangasinan. Hungry above all for knowledge and freedom and beauty and truth—Francisco Sionil Jose. And you wish the same satiety for all. Yes you love the truth.
5. You love FREEDOM. You love independence, especially of thought and personal conviction. You were never a blind unthinking parrot nearly repeating a theology or an ideology or business or political party line. You were always independent. And this independence, this authenticity made you survive the many fearful, threatening typhoons and earthquakes in your eventful eighty-nine years. You love freedom.
6. You love HARD WORK. Frankie, considering your output, your prodigious output in literature, and journalism, and propaganda work for justice, you must have been always the same hardworking man in Ermita as you had been the hardworking struggling farmboy in Barrio Cabugawan in Rosales Pangasinan.
7. You love FRIENDS. How many hundreds of thousands of men and women have visited Solidaridad bookshop in Padre Faura? How many geniuses and intellectuals and priests and activists and subversives have sat down with you and enjoyed a cup of coffee just chatting about all things and everything? Yes you love your friends—you love every person.
8. You love YOUR FAMILY. In our forty-two years of friendship I’ve always noticed your great love for your family, especially for your beloved wife Tessie Jovellanos. Tessie was always there to be your companion, your co-worker, your motive, your inspiration, and your love. And your children were always there believing in you trusting in you, and proud of you. You were very close to all of them. Yes you truly love your family.
THE IDEAL FILIPINO
Frankie, I think maybe in your eighty-nine years you were always searching for and helping to create the authentic IDEAL FILIPINO, a modern-day Jose Rizal, a total person with dignity and self-respect, enjoying the fullness of life, standing proud and true before God and nature and the entire world.
And I do not know if you have ever succeeded in finding or forming such a person—the ideal Filipino.
But I am sure that when I and we discover FRANCISCO SIONIL JOSE, we will be very close indeed to finally discovering our IDEAL FILIPINO!
Thank you Frankie for being my brother and my friend!
ARSENIO JJ JESENA, SJ