By Nora Vasconcelos
When I first read about the Philippinean author Francisco Sionil Josè, he was described as a poet, as well as a novel writer.
As I wanted to learn more about the history and literature of the Philippines, I got Dusk, a novel by Sionil which marks the begining of what’s being called ‘The Rosales Saga’, a series of five books that tell the story of that nation, since the late years of the 19th century up to the 1970’s.
Once I started reading it, I understood why the author had been referred as poet, and it was because of the way he transformed common phrases into poetry.
Along with the soft rhythm of its words, all the landscapes of the country and the scenes of the book are describe in such a subtle way, that the turning of the pages goes on and on, almost in an imperceptible progression.
But not only the use of the language is magnificent, the historical aspects are delivered in an enchanting way, that it’s difficult to put down this novel that tells the story of Istak, an Ilocano young man who sees his whole life turned upside down due to the sudden journey that his whole town is forced to take until they reach the south of the Pangasinan area, were -a bit farther of Rosales- the new town of Cabugawan is established.
However, writing this book wasn’t easy for Sionil. As he says, he had the first draft ready in a month and then it took him over 30 years to have the book ready, as he continued researching the facts and kept on revising his manuscript.
This is why, even though Dusk shows the beginning of the historical saga, it was indeed, the last one to be published.
The other books that complete the Rosales series -written between 1962 and 1984- are Tree; My Brother, My Executioner; The Pretenders, and Mass. All of them, show different aspects of the history of the Philippines, with the Rosales town as a common link among them.