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The New Filipino: A talk on Jose Rizal by National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose

Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, a man whose undying love for his country and persevering faith in his countrymen earned him the recognition as “the greatest Filipino who ever lived,” once remarked that a useless life is a life not consecrated to a great ideal. Such a life was comparable to that of a stone upon a field, wasted, without becoming part of any edifice. True to his words, the life he led exemplified the very patriotism, compassion and courage he so tirelessly proclaimed to the masses and fearlessly wrote about in his brilliant works of literature.

In his novel, “El Filibusterismo,” Rizal appealed to the next generation of Filipinos:

“Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their land? ...Where are you, youth, who will embody in yourselves the vigor of life that has felt our veins, the purity of ideas that has been contaminated in our brains, the fire of enthusiasm that has been quenched in our hearts! We await you, O youth! Come, for we await you!”

Fast forward to the 21st century. With more and more Filipinos working and living abroad, the Filipino diaspora has truly become global. Filipinos have encountered and continue to encounter unprecedented challenges and realities of living outside their homeland. Nevertheless, the call to know one’s roots, to consecrate one’s life to a noble cause, and to live for the sake of others – as echoed by Rizal - continues to challenge the next generation of Filipinos, whether they be in the Philippines or living overseas.

It is undeniable that Rizal’s legacy has inspired the birth of patriots and intellectuals of the next century - a new group of individuals who would dedicate their lives to reigniting the spirit of the Filipinos to rise up, pursue excellence, and fight for the sake of their country and their people.

Amongst those inspired to embrace this call was a man by the name of F. Sionil Jose.

Considered a national treasure of the Philippines, F. Sionil Jose is one of the most prolific and widely read Filipino authors in the English language. TIME Magazine proclaimed Mr. Jose as "One of the [Philippines] most distinguished men of letters...." Amongst the overwhelming amount of national and international accolades he has received over the past fifty years, Mr. Jose has been awarded Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts in 1980. In 2001, Mr. Jose was also bestowed with the highest possible award given by the Philippine government to a writer – the National Artist Award.

Mr. Jose’s writings have been translated into 28 languages including Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, Danish, Japanese, French, Dutch, and German, not to mention Philippine languages such as Ilocano and Tagalog. To give us an idea of the prominence of Mr. Jose literary repertoire, the Rosales Saga, a series composed of five interconnected novels that espouses social justice and reflects on the moral malaise of the Filipino people, has been praised as a modern Filipino national epic.

Mr. Jose was once asked to impart a message to the overseas Filipinos around the world. His response:

“I would ask them to not forget they are Filipinos. The reality is, when people achieve certain levels of success and prominence in society, they tend to forget who they are and where they came from.”

This coming October 18, 2014, the Filipino-American community of San Francisco will have the great privilege and honor to share and discuss with Mr. Jose himself as Anglahi presents: “The New Filipino: A talk on Jose Rizal by National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose.”

Certainly it is not everyday that we get to engage in dialogue with a national artist! Join us as we learn from a man who has witnessed the history of the Philippines unfold before his very eyes and dreams not only to disturb the apathetic attitude of the Filipino people but more importantly, inspire them to lift up their race and be a blessing to those around them.

Mr. Jose once noted that the Filipino people must overcome a much more dangerous enemy than circumstances of external poverty: a poverty of the spirit.

We are poor because we are lazy.
We are poor because are great show-offs.
We are poor because our nationalism is inward looking.
We are poor because we have lost our ethical moorings.

But we have a real and insidious enemy that we must vanquish, and this enemy is worse than the intransigence of any foreign power. We are our own enemy. And we must have the courage, the will, to change ourselves.

We hope that what we learn from Mr. Jose can encourage us to open our eyes to the imperfections of our homeland, persevere in addressing them, and aspire excellence for the sake of lifting up the Filipino people.

© 2014 AngLahi, USA