“The conflict in Mindanao cannot be resolved with a gun,” says F. Sionil, National Artist for Literature (2001), to students and teachers who attended his first-ever public lecture in Ateneo de Zamboanga last Feburary 20, this year.
The said event, sponsored by the Languages Department of AdZU in coordination with the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts, gave participants an opportunity to examine the interwoven relationship between literature and peace efforts in Mindanao. The gathering of writers sought to blaze a trail for local writers who are called to write for their people – their history, their culture, their sufferings and aspirations.
“Our history was written by the victors. We must write it the way we know it, and feel it… And the other thing is, it (history) is changing. History has been written by the elites. (Now) it has to be written by the masa. That’s what I tried to do in Poon. A lot of our historians are concerned about figures and dates, they’re not concerned about responses. What I want to see is history written by the Mangyans, Tausugs… history written from their own point of view. That way we understand them better,” Sionil expressed emphatically.
In his day-long conversation with the writer-participants from all over Zamboanga, Sionil touched the need for unity in this country, the process by which ego has fractured the political system, and the place of literature in chronicling the story of a nation.
Jose founded the Philippine Center of PEN, an international organization of poets, playwrights, essayists, and novelists. His five-novel Rosales saga consisting of The Pretenders, Tree, My Brother My Executioner, Mass, and Poon had been published in the United States and translated in various languages in Asia and Europe.