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BOOK REVIEW
'Jose Maria Sison: At Home in the World'
By Ninotchka Rosca
Open Hand Publishing, 2004

Book launch chitchat
By Josefa Therese L. Cagoco
August 27, 2004

This artcile can be viewed in http://bworldonline.com/weekender/stayin/stayin2.html

"Jose Maria Sison: At Home in The World, Portrait of a Revolutionary, Conversations with Ninotchka Rosca"'s full-packed launching on Tuesday night at Balai Kalinaw in the UP Diliman campus was, to say the least, highly charged, highly political, lively and interesting until the end.

After all, this book is touted as one of the most interesting, controversial, and important contemporary Filipino works. Author and acclaimed Filipino novelist and journalist Ninotchka Rosca said as much of this collaborative effort between her and Jose Maria Sison.

"This book involves two controversial names," she said, "and I'm glad that one of those names is a woman's name."
New York-based Ninotchka Rosca is also the author of five other books, including the novel "Twice Blessed" for which she won the American Book Award for Literature, and some 400 articles.

"What drew me to this project," said Ms. Rosca, "is that professor Sison is always interesting. As the old Chinese saying goes, 'interesting times and Jose Maria Sison go together',"
Slated for an earlier release, the book's publication was postponed after the United States tagged as terrorists the reestablished Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which Joma Sison founded in 1968, and its military arm, the New People's Army (NPA).

As a consequence of the terrorist tag, which he and the party condemn, the passport-less Jose Ma. Sison has, among other things, lost the benefits given to a political refugee in the Netherlands. Initial royalties of the book have also been denied them. In addition, the Patriot Act of the US which punishes persons who contact "terrorists," and which activist and feminist Ms. Rosca called "a fascist law," was another difficulty the author had to deal with in the course of continuing the conversations with Mr. Sison.

"I had 349 different lawyers who gave me 349 different opinions," said Ms. Rosca.

She and publisher Richard A. Koritz went ahead with the book while IBON Foundation took charge of local publication.
"This is a book that should have been written and published and launched a long time ago," said former senator Loren Legarda, a primary negotiator for the release of previous NPA prisoners. "He is a man I greatly admire, I greatly respect, a man whom I wish in my lifetime could come home to his beloved country."

Ms. Rosca said that someone asked her whether Joma Sison is still relevant. "Ang sagot ko [My answer was] 'Are our thoughts relevant?'"

"While the views of Luis Taruc and the Lava brothers have become historical curiosities," said UP president Francisco Nemenzo, "Joma's ideas retain the contemporary elegance because the movement he founded continues to play a significant role in our political life and his writings continue to be a source of inspiration."

Mr. Nemenzo emphasized that he was supporting the book in his "personal capacity," meaning minus the formal endorsement of his office.

"At Home in the World" can be taken in different ways said Ms. Rosca -- as a study manual of the socioeconomic conditions of the country, a "sustained polemic on systems of oppression," or a "summary of reasons why someone like Jose Maria Sison, who has no class interest at stake, was convinced at a very young age of its [social revolution] correctness."

"I was truly moved by the way she [Ms. Rosca] treated Joma as a revolutionary," remarked nationalist and multi-awarded writer Bienvenido Lumbera. "She was able to see him as a total person. Sa pamamagitan ng librong ito [Through this book], the figure of Joma will be better seen by people who are at the periphery of the movement, even those outside the movement. [The] insights that one can find in this book will go a long way towards breeding a healthy attitude towards Joma as a political leader."

Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator in the National Democratic Front-Government of the Philippines (NDF-GRP) peace talks, also mentioned the significance of "At Home in the World."
"Lalong patitingkarin ang conciousness ng sambayanan sa role ni kasamang Joma Sison sa pambansang demokratikong pakikibaka ng sambayanang Pilipino, at 'yung kaniyang papel na napakahalaga din hindi lang sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan, pati na sa peace negotiations [the consciousness of people is heightened of Joma Sison's role in the nation's struggle for national democracy as well as his role in the peace negotiations].

"Kaya 'yung terrorist listing ay napaka-unjust, unfair, at violation ng kanyang democratic rights, kaya dapat tanggalin itong terrorist listing. At dapat tumindig ang GRP, ang gobyerno ni Macapagal Arroyo, para sa karapatan ng sambayanang Pilipino sa national sovereignty at saka sa inherent right and competence nila to judge on Philippine events [That's why the terrorist tag given him has to be removed because it is unjust, unfair, and is a violation of his democratic rights. The GRP, Macapagal Arroyo's government, should stand up for the Filipino people's right to national sovereignty and their inherent right and competence to judge on Philippine events]," added Mr. Jalandoni.

He noted that the formal peace talks have been postponed to give the government more time to comply with the agreement signed in Oslo regarding Joma Sison and the CPP-NPA's inclusion in the US terrorist listing, the release of political prisoners, and the reparation to victims of human rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship.

"What makes this book important is it challenges US interference in Philippine society," said IBON Foundation executive director Antonio Tujan. "The terrorist tag on Jose Maria Sison and the NDF defines the interference of the US not only on the peace talks but on the internal affairs of this country. The Filipino people recognizes the NDF, by many as a revolutionary force or at least by most as a rebel force that has a genuine agenda for reform which they may not necessarily agree with."

As the book's local publisher, Mr. Tujan said that so far they have not met any difficulty. "We have been told that the authorities have been monitoring the launches but we haven't felt any form of repression or pressure, none at all. We don't think they [Malacañang] will attack. I will give Malacañang credit.

"What could happen is that there might be some pressure on the bookstores not to distribute it," from what Mr. Tujan referred to as "secret hands."

"[W]e publish books that are meant to incite people to think, that allow people to hone their skills in analyzing and understanding society and in that sense, this book about Joma Sison, [who] is one of the most politically influential people of our time, is very important to us," commented Mr. Tujan.
While the significance of "At Home in the World" has been repeteadly pointed out, on a personal level Ms. Rosca said this book shows "a deep and abiding affection of two people for this land and this nation."

 

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