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Mass, also known as Mass: A Novel, is a 1973 historical and political novel written by Filipino National Artist F. Sionil José. Together with The Pretenders, Mass is the completion of José’s The Rosales Saga, which is also known as the Rosales Novels. The literary message of Mass was "a society intent only on calculating a man's price is one that ultimately devalues all men".

The narrative of Mass pictured the Philippines during the years prior to and after the imposition of Martial Law in 1972, which occurred within the scope of the middle and the late periods of the twentieth century. It narrated about a movement advocating reform, the resulting struggle for human rights, students’ rights, tenants’ rights, and women’s rights, and mass protests that were manipulated by "fraudulent leaders". The uprising failed. One of the characters went back to Central Luzon to discover his origins in order to rebuild his life.

(from wikipedia.org)

256 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1973

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About the author

F. Sionil José

54 books360 followers
Francisco Sionil José was born in 1924 in Pangasinan province and attended the public school in his hometown. He attended the University of Santo Tomas after World War II and in 1949, started his career in writing. Since then, his fiction has been published internationally and translated into several languages including his native Ilokano. He has been involved with the international cultural organizations, notably International P.E.N., the world association of poets, playwrights, essayists and novelists whose Philippine Center he founded in 1958.

F. Sionil José, the Philippines' most widely translated author, is known best for his epic work, the Rosales saga - five novels encompassing a hundred years of Philippine history - a vivid documentary of Filipino life.

In 1980, Sionil José received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.

In 2001, Sionil José was named National Artist for Literature.

In 2004, Sionil José received the Pablo Neruda Centennial Award.

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5 stars
211 (44%)
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134 (28%)
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87 (18%)
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Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
April 6, 2013
Mass is the fifth and final book in "The Rosales Saga," that is considered as the masterpiece of F. Sionil José, a 90-y/o old highly respected, multi-awarded and illustrious writer here in the Philippines. He has been our long bet for the Nobel Prize for Literature. We hope that the Nobel committee will finally award the honor to a Southeast Asian.

After the first book in the saga, Dusk (5 stars), this is the second best. It almost got the same stars for me except that I will forever remember the appearance of the non-fictional (historical) characters such as Diego Silang, Apolinario Mabini, and Gen. Gregorio Del Pilar. It was my first time to actually read our Philippine heroes talking, moving and pouring out their thoughts in a fictional work especially in a serious work in English. Really, what a brilliant work of art.

However, each book in the saga is written differently. I thought that Jose wanted to showcase his different styles in writing so in the four succeeding books, there were no more non-fictional characters. Here in Mass for example, all characters are fictional but are too familiar to us that they can be the people that you read in the newspapers or bump into while walking down the road to work. In other words, they can be as non-fictional as you and I.

It tells the story of Pepe Samson, the great-great grandson of Eustaquio "Istak" Salvador/Samson in "Dusk/Po-On." Remember that in Book 1, Istak and Dalin have two sons, Antonio and Pedro? Antonio gets married and Tony Samson of Book 4 The Pretenders (4 stars) has a bastard son with Emy Samson his cousin. Because of they are cousins, Tony and Emy have to separate and Tony goes to Harvard to study as a history scholar. There he meets Carmen Villa and when they come back to the Manila, marry each other. So, the bastard son, Pepe grows up with only Emy and her younger sister Bettina Samson in Cabuwagan. After graduation from high school, Pepe goes to Manila and lives with his paternal aunt and uncle Betty and Bert in Antipolo St. in Tondo near the railway track where Tony Samson has committed suicide. That's not the summary of this book, Mass. Rather, that is just the link between Books 1 & 4 to this final book (Book 5).

Mass for me, is about a young provincial man trying to survive in the chaotic Manila in the 70's particularly during the First Quarter Storm (FQS) or the start of political protest against the US-Marcos Dictatorship. It is also about that young man's search for his place under the son considering that he is a bastard and has no distinct memory of his popular father. He has his father's love for words, charisma and intelligence but he has nothing for him but hate and contempt. His mother and aunt keep the stories about his father to themselves and he only comes to hear those stories when he is already in Manila.

The story is jam-packed with dramatic twists and turmoils both inside Pepe Samson's mind but also in this environment. It is almost at that level when it could become too many for comfort. Do you know the feeling when the plot becomes too convoluted that the whole thing becomes artificial or implausible? Pepe Samson has too much on his plate that he could have broken down and gone crazy or committed suicide like his father. However, it did not get into that because he was able to channel his anger on other devious character in the end. It was a cathartic finale that liberates all the bottled up angst and pain that Pepe Samson held in his heart since childhood.

Thank you so much to my reading buddy Ben who read this with me last weekend during the Holy Week break. It has always been fun to read a book with somebody and exchange views while reading. Especially if it is a great book like this one from our very own F. Sionil Jose, one of the Filipinos writers who are definitely of world-class caliber!
Profile Image for Janice Acosta.
15 reviews6 followers
July 14, 2012
There are no words to describe my love for the Rosales saga. I have read all five of them and this is my favorite among the saga.

The story was set in the time of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. There were times when I felt like I was reading about the lives of real people who fought against the tyranny.

It was so easy to fall in-love with the hero/anti-hero and I cried for him during some of the parts in the story when he could not do so.

I also learned so much about the Philippine movement and some flaws that he pointed out.

All in all, I was blown away when I read this book and I have a copy of it at home and even went as far as highlight some lines in it.

Praise for F. Sionil Jose!
Profile Image for Mew.
107 reviews
February 23, 2012
If you want to know somebody's thoughts on his own country, this is the book you need.
Profile Image for Ayban Gabriyel.
61 reviews59 followers
March 8, 2012
I expected so much from this book, I'm disappointed or maybe I was disappointed the way the story turned out to be or maybe I was boxed on the idea of other novels set in the same dark era;A nationalistic protagonist challenging a rotten system, being so idealistic as a youth.

Mass tells about a story of Pepe Samson, a native from Cabugawan, a young lad who has a laid back attitude, loves to eats and hates going to school but loves literature. He finds himself in a cluttered and densely populated city of Manila trying to get a degree but more than that he was trying to find his own identity. He hopes to enroll in a state university but he soon found out his money was not enough because he spent much of his money eating at restaurants and watching movies rather taking entrance exams on state universities, he later found himself in a diploma mill.

This was the last installment of the Rosales Saga which started in Rosales Pangasinan. Pepe was a descendant of Istak Samsom, who was was the protagonist in Po-on, the first novel in the Saga.

It was an unlikely character/protagonist for someone like F. Sionil to have, specially if you are a writer like him who likes to dealt and writes socially relevant stories and novels. But the story really turned out good.

March 15, 2013
Mass for me was kind of written out of a lot of hate. It's a dark novel but at the same time very enlightening. It revealed the masses' situation - where they're really at,their needs, their hurts, their problems, and the very root cause why they are poor. I like the book for that. However, how I wish there was not a lot of raunchy scenes in it. The story ended tragically and to me, it was like sure I've seen the real masses but in the end, it was just awful. I think what the novel lacks is hope. I remember what somebody said, "You cannot correct the wrong with another wrong." I still love F. Sionil Jose and his writing is just superb! Oh how he describes the scenes and everything is just flawless! It's beautiful!
Profile Image for Ma. Lalaine.
34 reviews13 followers
August 30, 2012
It is made of lyrical writing. F. Sionil Jose brings us to Manila. How it is living there from a provinciano perspective. How we Filipinos fail and how we can revolutionize on our own.
Profile Image for Janross Ayson.
5 reviews2 followers
April 5, 2017
F. Sionil Jose's 'Mass' is a book about the continuing introspection of thousands of Filipinos about their lives as persons and as Filipinos. about why we are poor and miserable, why do we fail as a nation, why do the Filipino masses endure misery and hopelessness, and lastly, how would you contribute in the Filipino people's continuing quest for mass nationalist awakening and social justice. A timely book for those who are undergoing a soul-searching about their important role in shaping this nation's history.
Profile Image for Joaquin Mejia.
81 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2017
In terms of chronology, "Mass" is the last book of F. Sionil Jose's "The Rosales Saga". "Mass" takes place in 1970's Philippines. That was an especially dark time in Philippine history. During the 1970's and the 1980's Ferdinand Marcos's dictatorship killed, tortured, and imprisoned thousands of good and innocent people.

The novel is about Pepe Samson, a youth from the barrio Cabugawan who goes to Tondo, Manila. He learns that Tondo is almost no different from Cabugawan because both places are filled with poverty. But it is in Tondo where he begins his activism. He later becomes friends with a Catholic priest called Father Jess, a student called Toto, and an activist university teacher called Professor Hortenso.

If "The Pretenders" is about Antonio Samson who becomes part of the class of very wealthy people, "Mass" is about his son, Pepe, who lives among the poor and hungry. While Antonio Samson seems to have become indifferent to the poor, Pepe knows and understands the poor because he lives with the poor in both Cabugawan and Tondo. Unlike his father, Pepe Samson remained poor.

"Mass" is about the activists and the poor people. They both want change. Activists want political, social, and economic change while the poor just want to change their lives with food and jobs. Even in the Philippines of today, we still have a lot of people like the characters depicted in the novel. Many people still don't have food and jobs and many people still want genuine change to happen.

Sometimes,the novel seems to say that that the poor don't want radical change, just food for their stomachs and jobs to work for. I don't know what to say about this. Like Crisostomo Ibarra in Jose Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere", I was not born and raised among the poor, so I don't know what they want. But I believe that without radical change, many Filipinos will remain poor and hungry.

"Mass" is a very good book. I liked the characters in the novel. It is easy to empathize with them because many of the characters are people who want a change for the better. I also found the setting fascinating. The book takes place in a slum during a time when Marcos's dictatorship was approaching. This is probably going to be my favorite book in "The Rosales Saga" next to Po-On.

I finally finished F.Sionil Jose's 'The Rosales Saga". If I read them all consecutively, maybe it would have felt like an epic journey through many decades of Philippine history. But I didn't. But it was still an epic journey.
Profile Image for Ai.
3 reviews
May 27, 2013
WRITTEN BY: F. Sionil Jose
GENRE: Historical/Political Novel

The novel written by F.Sionil Jose, a National Artist for Literature gives a twist in the politics and history. Pepe as his main character in the story is a mirror of a real Filipino. It happens prior to the imposition of the Martial Law.
The plot revolves to the story of Pepe who at first is living in his province at Cabugawan but after his ten-years of studying there, he moved to Antipolo where his uncle and auntie were residing. On his first few days, instead of saving money, he spends his money for not important things. So he ended up studying at a cheaper University where he encounter all of his associates in the brotherhood. Later on the in story he ended up being a drug pusher because of the boyfriend of his neighbor which happens to a friend of his girlfriend which is the housemaid of his uncle. He also discovered further in the story that his real father is his uncle Samson. After some time he quit being a drug pusher because he realizes the bad consequences awaits if he continue doing so. He came back to the brotherhood in Tondo where he encounter Father Jess and there in the church, he work as sacristan. And they later establish a rally with his brotherhood.
The story is somewhat realistic because it mirrors the happening in the Philippines where the story tells something about a movement advocating reform, the resulting struggle for human rights, students’ rights, tenants’ rights, and women’s rights, and mass protests that were manipulated by "fraudulent leaders". In Pepe’s story he encountered the group and so advocating the same mission. But in the story at the end he is also the one who end a crime that is going to happen.
The transition of the story as the author narrates gives us a view of the Philippines, the place and the characters. He never disappoint the reader’s expectation to the political novel.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for R..
Author 6 books10 followers
June 3, 2016
This book was a great read for anyone interesting in Filipino culture and history. It's fictional, but paints a very accurate picture of historical events (and imaginary, historical people?). The story focuses on several people from very diverse backgrounds who are working within and around the reform movement that brought about the Philippines as it is known today.
Profile Image for Michael Forester.
Author 9 books112 followers
August 23, 2017
When I visited the Philippines for three weeks in February-March 2017, I asked to see some examples of Filipino literature. I was directed first to Jose Rizal, which resulted in a profound and unforgettable personal encounter with this national hero-poet, of which I have written elsewhere. However, I was later given, as a leaving gift, the Rosales Saga by F Sionil Jose which I have been reading since my return home five months ago.

Jose is a difficult author to review literarily, particularly looking back over a distance of thirty years since the series was completed. I cannot say that I found these books to be of outstanding literary merit, being more plot than character driven and in a prose style that is engaging more than gripping. Nevertheless, I still hold the books, particularly 'Po-On' which starts the saga and 'Mass' which completes it, compelling because of their prime historical significance.

Here is the history, set down in a fictionalised, highly readable story, of the struggle of an exploited people. In 'Po-On', Jose draws us inexorably into the lives of a family, one of numberless families, yearning simply for the right to live, their traumas at the hands of an unforgiving natural environment, their suffering under the exploitation of a powerful church and powerful landowners. The experiences of later generations of the same family are explored in 'The Pretenders' and 'My Brother, My Executioner,' culminating in the violent revolution of 'Mass'.

And it is in 'Mass' that Jose finally confronts explicitly the core issue that lies at the centre of the multi-generational struggle he has traced through four volumes: the unremitting dedication of the powerful to the exploitation of the powerless. The cynical disregard for the consequences of the exploitation of the many by the few is admirably summed up by Jose's antagonist thus: "Let the scum fight for the crumbs. Ours is the cake... And we are not going to give this cake away... We are going to be here... for always. We know how to change, and that is why we will always be on top. But the change comes from us, dictated by us. Their perception... is dictated by their needs, and we will give those to them slowly, slowly. Never the pie, just the crumbs. Yes, we will talk about social justice, land reform. But we will not give these in cash or in kind. We have to keep them nailed to the plough, to the machine. And we will do it deliberately... And we will not give it up. Only the powerful understand... the impulses of power. And the powerful are the rich. Study your history books... Have they really abolished the elites in Moscow? In Peking? They will always be with us, like death and taxes."

So I look back over the thirty years since Jose was writing, for these have been the years of my own life. And I want to ask Jose a question, but for the fact that I already know what his answer would be. The question is 'What has changed since you set down this history?'

In Manila the substandard housing is being cleared, the population moved out for the inexorable march of the high rise building, the corporation, the dollar. And London is the same. And Los Angeles and Philadelphia and Toronto and Sidney are no different. So the eye answers the question saying that much has changed, much is better. But the heart, the heart cannot agree, for the heart is uneasy that the powerful are still the rich and, like death and taxes, always with us.

And therefore these books, and Mass in particular are recommended, particular to my many Filipino friends to whom I say, if you want to understand your own history, your origins, the struggle of your people, first read Jose Rizal. Then read F Sionil Jose. And do not let 'Mass' be the end of your history.

Michael Forester
Profile Image for Roberto D..
330 reviews3 followers
June 3, 2022
Book 21 out of 200 books
"Mass" by F. Sionil Jose

"Mass" tells the story of Jose "Pepe" Samson, the illegitimate child of Antonio Samson, the main protagonist of the previous novel "The Pretenders". This novel is by far, the bloodiest novel of all the Rosales novels as well as the *longest. This novel is set in the 1970s, during the martial era of the Philippines. This novel, alongside other novels of the series, was banned by the martial law regime for the said violence.

"Mass" was first published in the Year 1974, a year after "My Brother, My Executioner". It is the Author's third published work. "Mass" is the chronologically fifth and final novel of the Rosales novels. By far, as I remark once more, the bloodiest novel because of its "subversive" text.

Alright, so now I've wrapped up reviewing the entire Rosales novels. Now, I am here on my last book review for the series.

This review would feel difficult for me to review just like "My Brother, My Executioner" that is because it is reminiscent of our current times in the 2020s. Sionil Jose is indeed a prophet, because of his antics and other writings, we still, because of lacking self-awareness, are in the times he feared the most.

"Mass" tells the story of Jose "Pepe" Samson, the illegitimate child of Antonio Samson and Emy, Antonio Samson's cousin. Though solely raised by Emy because of the absence of his father being tangled by wealth, Pepe, as you've perused, is the product of his upbringing, a champion for the proletariat. He was the complete opposite of his father, who was a reluctant revolutionary who championed the rich instead, Pepe was the champion of the poor, that type like Vladimir Lenin would be.

The novel's title is "Mass", not the literal title that means to go to mass, to go to church, but "Mass"- as in its Filipino translation (at least by Lualhati Bautista) "Masa"- the Masses, the largest portion of Philippine society. And that's what this novel's about, 1. The fight of the masses against a bloody Dictatorship and 2. The longing of a single man's finding.

We see both the psychological and societal aspects of Sionil Jose's works merged into one in this book, actually like combining all the previous four Rosales novels into one. Pepe Samson, like his father, did have one thing in common- no matter what part of society they were in, they were too quick to give in to society's demands without actually thinking their decisions through!

We see Pepe Samson emerge from being an angry youth because of how society's treatment of the high-ups in glamour, to becoming a revolutionary within University, even writing for its newsletter, to doing odd jobs, well- as a drug dealer and a hooker, to finally, just like his great-grandfather was around 80 years before, escaping in cowardice.

Pepe's psychological aspects, which I interpret, to be the Ubermensch from Nietzsche's philosophy. As you read the first-person P.O.V. we see a man evolving. Much like how homo erectus evolve to homo sapiens that is because Pepe's thought evolves throughout the entire 256-paged (in my edition) novel. Pepe was a dimwit at the beginning, without any liking for the rich but why did he detest the rich is pretty much our reasons for disliking the rich, they're more well-read, well-travelled, well-mannered, and having more opportunities in life than most people from below.

But throughout the course of the entire Novel, we see Pepe specifically understanding why the rich are just better than most people. Well, he now specifically detested the rich because of how even the lower-downs see society. He believes that most of society see the rich as the product of "fate" or because it was of hard work that made them rich. Well, now Pepe detested the rich with a passion, not because he just saw random things.

Thus Pepe wanted the bourgeoisie in their knees by actually waging a revolution. But let us not forget his more intellectual aspects. Pepe was you could say a reader, he did (I honestly forgot what type of books the main character of this novel read and I honestly don't know if he actually read books) read Hugo, Balzac, Zola etc. But he felt that it wasn't really enough, he had to commit violent acts just to get his message straight.

That involves joining a revolution, which actually happens in this novel. Pepe Samson actually loses his friend (whose name I forgot) while the Military guns down protesters. Pepe actually studies in UP Diliman (or any other prestigious university in Manila, which I forgot the exact school).

The death of his friend actually fundamentally changes him because he too got to see more of the brutality of the Marcos Regime. Well, technically another Marcos Regime is brewing now that another Marcos is in the Malacañang palace.

Anyway, so reading this far into the book review, I could only feel for Pepe at this point. He is like a mirroring of his great-grandfather though in an indirect way. He constantly is avoiding the authorities, as his great grandfather was avoiding the authorities of his time too. He was a writer, his father was a diarist. Istak was under the tutelage of a preist, Pepe himself, though the poverty once was too, under the homage of a priest. He saw his friend die, his family. Istak saw his mother and father die. He witness the brutality of the authorities, for he fought for his freedom. Istak saw the brutality of the Spaniards, his female cousins raped, he fought for freedom. Yet, both their efforts were in vain.

Pepe may be labeled as a villain by many standards, including going on to kill his fellow man regardless of ideology, but I see him as a champion for the masses. Pepe Samson would be always the hero for me, much like Istak the idealist. In the end, pretty much does what his great-grandfather's family did in the first novel, escape in tumult, and partly, cowardice.

Anyway, this is the end of the book review. It felt a little hard to write this review because it mirrors my country's sorry state. The fact that activism is synonymous to being a communist here in the Philippines goes to show how blinded and biased really our society really is for the ones in destitute.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
65 reviews
October 17, 2012
One of the best books I've read.
Perhaps one of the best authors of my lifetime.
Words, nor tears, could not express how wonderful this book is.
Profile Image for Richard Marney.
491 reviews15 followers
September 13, 2021
A series of novels that do truly constitute a monumental saga of Filipino history and evolution of its society Everyone in the country and those outside who have an interest or (in my case) a special fondness for the country and it’s special people must read these five novels.

Let’s cross our fingers on a Nobel prize for this marvelous novelist!!
Profile Image for Mia.
14 reviews10 followers
February 17, 2016
Great book!!! I learned so much about my Philippine history and how history truly repeats itself. When I read this book, it was still so relevant to the life that the Filipinos are living today. Nothing much has evolved aside from the clothes we wear and the progressing technology. But in terms of attitude and the way we do things, is still somehow similar. People always think that it's better abroad, the same way it was shown in the book. Very interesting read! I really thought I would be bored of it but I was really wrong. Although I read the last book and haven't read the previous ones, i will be reading the previous ones soon. :)
Profile Image for Neil G..
13 reviews7 followers
May 26, 2015
"The Filipino elite us flawed because the individuals who comprise it, even though they come from diverse backgrounds, do not really see themselves as leaders of a nation. They see themselves as leaders of factions, of families, of cozy coteries. Their rhetoric will deny-even attack this assumption-but their deeds will bear their parochial, factional, and, therefore, anti-nationalistic loyalties."

Antonio Samson
Profile Image for Fiamma Aletta.
17 reviews1 follower
November 29, 2015
A required Lit reading turned into a lifetime love affair with F.Sionil Jose. Read the entire Rosales saga very soon after devouring this final chapter in the Samson travails. A glimpse at the dark chapter in the history of the Filipino nation, the Martial Law, richly embroidered with the humanity of the lead protagonist, Pepe Samson. Definitely, my first love in Fil Lit.
Profile Image for John Exos.
6 reviews7 followers
July 26, 2016
The last and longest of the 5 books. F. Sionil's way of describing the scenes bring your senses to as if you were there.
Profile Image for Ron.
357 reviews
June 15, 2017
Still, I like being here, transfixed on this plain, this vast limbo without rim called living.

But I will never be a politician. Though interested in people, I detest being friendly to those I have no vibes with, not because it takes so much effort, so much violence to me's self to attempt friendliness when there is nothing but indifference or contempt.

I have known that time is an enemy rather than a friend, a deceiver because it kills us into thinking it can solve everything, and therefore, nothing.

Manila - here I am at last; eager to wallow in your corrupt embrace and frink from your polluted veins.

Be kind as a whore is kind to a virgin man.

Recto! Rectum of Manila!

There are two ways of looking at our lives - either as fate or as conflict. Only hogs are fated because they cannot do anything except feed on the trough before they face the butcher's knife. but men are men - they can do something about the future. Our life is a conflict then.

We compromise ourselves the day we were born. If we are looking for the original sin, there it is - our incapacity to live honesty with ourselves because we are human, because we are shackled by custom, by obligations, and we accept compromise only in the light of our individual conscience, answerable as we are only to ourselves.

This is a world not of black and white but of greys, and it is really in this huge grey geography where we act out our fates.
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