K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > Dusk

Dusk by F. Sionil José
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Aug 26, 11

it was amazing
bookshelves: about-philippines, epic, history, local, national-artist-of-the-philippines
Recommended to K.D. by: Philippine National Artist Award for Literature
Read from August 20 to 26, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Francisco Sionil Jose (born 1942) is the Philippines' bet for Nobel Prize for Literature. He is one of the widely known Filipino novelists using English. His contemporaries are now either dead or have stopped writing so their books are no longer sold at the mainstream bookstores in the country. However, the books of F. Sionil Jose still sell like hotcakes occupying the eye-level shelves and competing for space with those books of the much younger novelists.

Dusk (or "Po-on" whenever published in the Philippines) is the first book of F. Sionil Jose's The Rosales Saga. There are 5 books in the series but F. Sionil Jose says that each of the book can be read independently. They are all set mainly in Rosales, a town in Pangasinan, where F. Sionil was born and where he also grew up. The series is said to be an allegory for the Filipinos in search of their true identity.

Dusk tells the life of Eustaquio "Istak" Salvador or simply Istak Samson (he changes his surname when he and his family go to hiding) who works in the parish run by a Spanish friar during the late nineteenth century in Northern Philippines. The friar is good to young Istak and takes care of him like his own son: he teaches him how to pray, heal sickness, write and speak Spanish and Latin and how to assist during the Holy Mass. The friar goes old and so he thinks that Istak should be sent to Laoag seminary to become a priest. However, this is during the Spanish occupation and indios (that's how Spaniards call Filipinos during that time) are not allowed to become priests so Istak, now 21 y/o, has to go back to his family and help in his family's farm. Istak's father begs the new priest to send his son to the seminary and while they are arguing, Istak's father kills the priest. The story continues with the whole family escaping like fugitives and afraid of encountering mga tulisan (local terrorists), Spanish armies or even American soldiers (since at the later part of the story, Spain ceded Philippines to American by the virtue of 1989 Treaty of Paris).

The exodus of the family reminded me of John Steinbeck's Joad family in his opus The Grapes of Wrath because of the death, sickness and danger that lurked during the whole journey. The local setting with the people believing in spirits, superstitions mixed with Catholic practices reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Days of Solitude (Book 1 itself covers 20-30 years). They say that the series has its epic grandeur that one will feel after finishing all the 5 books that can remind one of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. At least for the first book, the prose is lucid and tells the story straight from his heart (he is a Filipino who comes from that part of the country). J. Sionil Jose's effort in researching the details covered in this book is astounding. The opening letter seems authentic and the language used throughout the novel is consistent and amusing.

My favorite part are the appearances of the two well-known and beloved figures in Philippine history. I will not tell you who are they as I have a feeling that F. Sionil Jose used them as a come-on for this first book (btw, my brother has told me that this is the only book worth reading in the series). Imagine those two characters talking and moving in your imagination while reading the book. At least for one of them, I have not seen a movie about his life and even a footage of his pictures on TV. I used to see him only on a peso bill (I forgot on what denomination).

Fantastic book.
21 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Dusk.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

08/20 page 22
6.0% "Well written. Nice start. I did not know that F. Sionil writes well!" 4 comments
08/21 page 32
9.0% "Bewildering story. Why did I pick this just now?"
08/24 page 68
19.0% "Ba-ic the father killed the priest. This is actually more moving than Fili."
08/26 page 267
76.0% "Will the cripple have a name instead of just "Apo"? Tama ba iniisip ko na "siya" yon?"
04/11 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Sandie (new)

Sandie K.D. This sounds godd!!

message 2: by Sandie (new)

Sandie Haha...i meant 'good'

message 3: by Apokripos (new)

Apokripos My favorite part are the appearances of the two well-known and beloved figures in Philippine history. I will not tell you who are they as I have a feeling that F. Sionil Jose used them as a come-on to this first book.

I know them. In hindsight, Jose did a Ken Follett here, incorporating real life person, in this case A.M., in his fiction. :)

K.D. Absolutely Thanks for the vote, Jzhun. Alan Hollinghurst did it too in The Line of Beauty with Margaret Thatcher.

There was a Disney cartoon-movie before with Bugs Bunny and some human characters.

message 5: by Apokripos (new)

Apokripos Si Roger Rabbit!
Yes, the film is a melding of animation and live-action movie.

K.D. Absolutely Yes, Roger Rabbit getting laid with Kim Basinger ha ha

message 7: by Teresa (new)

Teresa K.D. wrote: "Yes, Roger Rabbit getting laid with Kim Basinger ha ha"

I think you mean Kathleen Turner, K.D.

My favorite line of the movie is hers: "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

message 8: by Thea (new)

Thea Guanzon I'll be keeping an eye out for this. I need to read more stuff by Filipino authors. Thanks!

K.D. Absolutely T: Yeah, maybe. I'll look it up later.

Thea: Yes, please do. There are many local books by Filipino authors that are good.

message 10: by K.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

K.D. Absolutely T: Oh yes, you are right. Voice of Kathleen Turner. Maybe the face too.

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly I read this also, the first book in the series. After I read it, I was SO EXCITED. I found it very, very good. I said to myself this Pinoy author can write like the best of them. Yet when I read the 2nd book, then the 3rd book in the series, they were all a letdown. Tinamad na si Jose.

message 12: by K.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

K.D. Absolutely I will see (or read) for myself ha ha.

Maria Ella may i ask, when we did our site visit, what is the present name of Barrio Cabugawan? Nalimutan ko na sa pagod.

message 14: by K.D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

K.D. Absolutely Cabaloagan (Sur) at meron din Cabaloagan Norte. Pero naroon sa Sur ang lote ni F. Sionil na dating kinatitirikan ng bahay nila. Zone 2.

message 15: by Kai (new)

Kai Cabrera You mean 1898 right?

back to top