'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]
"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
"[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."