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Tree belongs to Francisco Sionil Jose's largest body of work known as the Rosales novels. Like much of his fiction, it depicts man's continuing and often futile search for justice and a moral order.

This novel is a story of a boy growing up in a small Ilokano town, surrounded by friends below his social class, by relatives and doting servants who have served his family all their lives. It is also a story of oppression and compassion.

135 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1978

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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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Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
March 22, 2013
This is a story of a heartless selfish father whose life is examined through the eyes of his 18-y/o only child, the unnamed narrator. It covers the time when the narrator is still a young boy up to the time that he is a college student and he has to come back to his hometown to bury his father. The homecoming triggers the flurry of memories involving the people in his town, e.g., his father, uncles, aunts, cousins, teachers, servants, tenants and even his first love.

In the center of the town is a huge Balete (ficus) tree. This century-old tree becomes the silent witness to all the momentous events that transform the town, his family and even himself. The story is supposed to be the continuation of the Book 1 in the series, Dusk (5 stars). However, there is a gap in the story that left many unanswered questions even after reading the entire second book. For example, what happened to Don Jacinto (the rich man in Book 1) and how did Espiricion, his son become just the encargador (caretaker) of the equally rich man (Book 1) in Book 2? Why does Espiridion feel indebted to Don Vicente that the former does not want to displease even to slight the latter? I thought that the a short back story to bridge this gap could have made this Book 2 more interesting.

However, looks like the story is tailored as a metaphor in itself of the Balete tree. Each chapter or a couple of them tells a separate story of a person in the town with the boy seems to be learning the realities of life as he tells each story. Each person then becomes a vine of the Balete tree that when that vine touches the soil it shoots out its own roots and becomes part of the big trunk hiding the original trunk. That original trunk is the life of Espiricion and his cruelty and selfishness comes out only in the end

I really enjoyed reading this book. This is written in a totally different manner from that of Book 1. There are no historical or real characters here like Macario Sakay, Gen. Gregorio del Pilar and Apolinario Mabini. However, it is easier to relate to this book because we can still find some of these characters in us and in our friends or relatives. For me, this means that a work like this is destined to be a classic. A Filipino classic written in impeccable English that no other local writer can do. No one except the most likely Filipino candidate for Nobel Prize for Literature, F. Sionil Jose.

Thank you to Ben who read this book with me as my reading buddy. Thank you also to Jho, Jhzun, Ayban and Rise for explaining the book to us while Ben and I were discussing the book. Their inputs actually made me love the book more that I decided to increase the rating from 3 to 4 stars.

Thank you, Goodreads for bring us all to this website. Had you not been around I would not have met these book friends and I would not have encountered F. Sionil in my life.
Profile Image for Frankh.
845 reviews160 followers
March 30, 2015
"You are going to die," I told him.
"But I will die decently," he said, pausing. "Isn't that what we should live for?"
His question had a quality of coldness, of challenge.

Reading the first book, PO-ON , of the Rosales series last year by prolific Filipino writer and living legend F. Sionil Jose was a gruellingly reflective experience that awoken a dormant passion of the nationalistic sense within me that I never thought I ever had to begin with. I would go as far as to say that this should have been a required reading in schools all across my country, and it baffles me now that it's wasn't. Simply put, this series is an extraordinary piece of work that needs to be celebrated and read every day because of its relevant commentary in the Philippine society as a whole, using no other than the means of fiction to deliver across some of the most crucial and moving points regarding the state of our post-colonial country.

The Rosales saga is comprised of five books with stories told across history starting with the Spanish era down to the Martial Law years. Each story is interrelated or consequential of the one before it. The stories' shared setting is the Ilocos region, particularly the Rosales area. We follow the lives of a select family for every installment who lives in Rosales.

In Po-On, we have the story of the Salvador family as told by the eldest son Istak, narrating the events starting from the moment they were driven from their lands to seek out a new home after one of their own committed a crime, and then as they venture on in a trip so often beautifully and tragically reminiscent of the Biblical text, Exodus. The struggles of this ordinary family could have easily been our own as well, and it's with the characters of Istak and Dalin that Po-On weaves a tale so engrossing that even the most subtle details in their lives such as their vulnerabilities and sentimentalities become nearly sublime. It was just a remarkable story about a Filipino's ruthless quest for freedom and identity which still rings true even to this day.

"The balete tree--it was there for always, tall, leafy and majestic. In the beginning, it sprang from the earth as vines coiled around a sapling. The vines strangled the young tree they had embraced. They multiplied, fattened and grew, became the sturdy trunk, the branches spread out to catch the sun. And beneath this tree, nothing grows!"

Meanwhile, in Tree, the approach is vastly different from its predecessor. Now written in first-person narrative, this story is almost autobiographical if not for the fact that the narrator himself (who remains unnamed) was actually more focused on telling the stories of specific relatives, including their idiosyncrasies, most striking experiences and eventual end. This makes Tree more of an exploration of a social status than a personal one where the focal family are haciendero elites during the American era. They supervise the lands owned by the feudal mogul Don Vincente (who interestingly enough becomes the main character in the next book), as well as the lives of modest farmers who have no choice but to work these lands with barely enough compensation.

Chronologically designed to follow the tale of this unnamed narrator from childhood to college years, Tree is semi-autobiographical because of this, but readers never learn about the narrator as much as they learn about his family's way of life, and the servants with their children within his household and out there in the farmlands. What follows then are chapters specifically devoted to certain relatives (mostly his uncles) or childhood friends and their families who have worked tirelessly for him and his father all throughout their lives.

In the span of seventy pages or so, the narrator would recall circumstances in his childhood that would allow readers to develop their own insights and interpretations as to the harsh realities the people around him are striving to get through while he himself was living rather comfortably if not ignorantly as a rich haciendero's son.

As he grows older, the narrator has learned to understand the subtleties of the socio-political climate during those times, as well as the unending class struggle and corruption happening around him, but he was still ultimately powerless to do anything about them. In this sense, Tree is more intimately close to the way modern Filipinos react to the dire situations of the politics that dominate our lives these days, fully aware of the persistent effects and yet a great number of us would still rather choose to remain individually negligent in finding solutions to the nation's prevalent social diseases. Not because of apathy but more as a product of collective exhaustion because the corruption of the rich and the abuse of the poor has become too much of a convenient commonplace that we are no longer moved to act against this terrible status quo.

Tree only has a hundred and thirty-five pages which meant that it can be consumed within two days or so. With this brevity, the story itself is engaging in such a way that each chapter deliberately and seamlessly explores what it means to live in a world where people are suffering on different levels of oppression; that whether rich or poor, a family and the individual can suffer because of the overall inequality in the society they live in. Tree's metaphor of the balete tree found in the story further emphasizes this truth; a seemingly noble tree that is a centuries old can also be viewed as a parasitic entity that thrives in expense of the plants surrounding its breadth, much like those who live in luxury and comfort indirectly harms those who are less fortunate than they are.

Perhaps through this novel, F. Sionil Jose is making the argument that such a dog-eat-dog mentality will always be the natural state of things which allow only the strongest (if not ruthless) to survive, and now perhaps it's merely up to us as a nation whether or not to embrace this evolutionary state, or rebel against it and redefine our place.



Profile Image for Ayban Gabriyel.
61 reviews59 followers
February 10, 2012

Tree is the 2nd novel of F. Sionil Jose's most epic work commonly known as the Rosales Saga. Five novels that spans 100 years that depicts Philippine History and portraying Filipino lives.

The book tells a story of a young boy who grew up in a Hacienda up north with his father, relatives, servants and other people below his social class. His father was an "encargador" to a wealthy haciendero, Don Vicente. His father's task as an encargador is to manage and overview Don Vicente's land. As expected of F. Sionil this book has its share of social criticism. Oppression and social injustice bleeds in every chapter of this book. Souring farmer peasant to landlord relationship and land grabbing by cheating farmers in torrens title(reminds me of Amado Hernandez's "Langaw sa isang basong gatas").

He tells the story of his childhood and memories and stories of his friends. I like the story about his Tio Baldo and Old David. Can't remember the boy's(narrator) name, I don't think he even mention it in the book. What I know is, his grandfather was in the first novel of Rosales Saga, Po-on: Isang Nobela who later died pleasantly while asleep with him in this sequel.

This is a story of grief, failure and death and a tree. Balete tree. Where most of significant setting was plotted. Under the shade of this tree, Istak and his family once rest and shade, this is where Baldo hanged himself, the venue for almost all the important gatherings.

They say that Po-on was the only book worth reading in his 5 novel-saga. I have read the the first novel(Po-on) and this(Tree) to see for myself if its true and hope to finish the other 3 books this year. And I'll be honest, this was inferior to the first but I think this book is still worth reading. Four stars.

Profile Image for Rise.
298 reviews30 followers
February 13, 2013

The second part of the Rosales novels is a surprising departure in tone from the previous. In Tree, F. Sionil José allows the voice of a young first person narrator to do the telling. It is a narrative strategy that pays off with its intimate look at the early 20th century rural life in the Philippines under American rule. The narrator, an heir to a powerful landowner, reminisces about his childhood and his relations with the characters (his family's servants, laborers, and farm workers, all below his class standing) that left indelible memories to his young mind.

As the character portraits begin to accumulate, we come to know more and more not only about the narrator but about the life of his father as a broker for the landlord Don Vicente. The conflict between the landlord and the landless is set against the backdrop of colonial history and yet the the weight of history and politics is balanced by the moving personal stories of the working class characters. What I'm beginning to like about this series is the ethical dimension and the crisis of faith it assiduously portrays.

I continue, for instance, to hope that there is reward in virtue, that those who pursue it should do so because it pleases them. This then becomes a very personal form of ethics, or belief, premised on pleasure. It would require no high sounding motivation, no philosophical explanation for the self, and its desires are animal, basic—the desire for food, for fornication. If this be the case, then we could very well do away with the church, with all those institutions that pretend to hammer into the human being attributes that would make him inherit God's vestments if not His kingdom.

Profile Image for Josephine.
Author 4 books78 followers
December 1, 2013
Tree by F. Sionil José is a very short (only 135 pages) book and yet its story is complex. Told in the point of view of an unnamed boy, this story tells of how his life was growing up in a small town surrounded by peasants who had become part of his life one way or the other.

At a glance, this seemed to be a very simple story. But the truth is that it tells the readers just how ignorant most of our people are. And because they are ignorant, they are easily brainwashed, easily taken advantage of. But the most disgusting of it all, is that they are made to believe that they should be thankful and content in spite of it all.

Their vision is so limited they fail to see who their allies are – who are the ones who are truly helping them.

This is the tragic story of our people. This book was written 35 years ago but sadly it still rings true today.

In this book, we see the idealistic Tio Baldo - whose happiness meant that he be able to serve his people well. But in the end, he was alone in his ideals for even the people he wanted to help, had turned on him.

We see Martina and her father and their pain – her endless mantra – “we are not the thieves in this town.”

We see Hilda who, at such an early age, is already working for a living.

There were many others but of course there’s also the jaded Espiridion who went to work for Don Vicente in spite of his own wealth – just so he will be able to secure his own wealth – because he knew that if he didn’t, Don Vicente can and he will, take whatever catches his fancy.

Then there was the son – the narrator. He didn’t know what was going on, he was young then and no one would tell him anything! And so, when he finally understood what was happening, he became another Espiridion – jaded and at the same time – ridden with guilt.

I think that the purpose of the book really is to show what happened to the Filipino people after all those occupations -- the Spanish, American, and the Japanese occupations – how the people had lost their own identity in the process [just like the balete tree nilamon na ng vines yung tree mismo, na-strangle... yung vines yun na ang naging tree pero yung puno mismo, hindi na makita kasi natabunan na]. And how these events brought the worse and the best out of people. And how they were divided by their own steadfast beliefs and their respective conditions and situations in life.

People like Tio Baldo and Teresita and etc. will come and go, but another set of people with the same predicament will replace them... they are like the balete tree whose vines multiply as the days pass by. These ailing people grow by the number just like how the balete tree grow bigger each day.

And so, I think that that's what the Tree is all about. We were meant to see a glimpse of each of the character’s life only. For that mere glimpse is already enough to see that everyone is getting suffocated and was being strangled already by the system. And they will continue to be swallowed and get strangled because of their singularity – there was no unity at all.

Regarding Tio Baldo's suicide, it was the hopelessness that drove him to do that. We all know that Don Vicente is a mean person [and that's an understatement, wait until you read My Brother, My Executioner... what he did in Carmay (tama ba, Carmay ang lugar nila? Nalilito na ako hahaha) was nothing compared with what he did in Sipnget. But I am digressing, again hahaha!].

And then we have these people who "sell themselves because they don't have beliefs, only a price." The ones who took the bribe from Don Vicente... but what really did Tio Baldo in was the despair that his very own people didn't believe in him. That they thought that Tio Baldo did all these so he could take these people's money.

There’s no cure for ignorance. And a lot of our people are like that because they are uneducated and will continue to be, at this rate where our country only ever gets corrupt politicians as leaders, who are only interested in advancing themselves and not their people.

As for Espiridion (the father of the narrator) - part of him knew that Tio Baldo will be unsuccessful - that everything he was doing was futile. However, a tiny part of him wanted to hope and see that Tio Baldo will succeed... that was why he didn't persuade him much into changing his mind. And, in the end, what happened to Tio Baldo really did warp him. He had always believed that at the end of the day, we are all alone. No one will help you except yourself. After what happened to Tio Baldo, this belief was strengthened. Because, for Espiridion, you can help other people all you like, but when you are the one in despair - who would help you? No one... that is what he had seen all his life. That is Espiridion's reality.

It really didn’t help that he had seen how ignorant our people are – how uneducated. And he knew that that only added to the helplessness of our people, of the predicament that they are in. These knowledge and realizations had left him so jaded he had given up on trying to help and save the world or our country, for that matter (unlike Tio Baldo who chose to press on but this was because he was idealistic). He knew that until our people became more aware, more educated, helping them could only gain catastrophic results. This is because the people’s understanding of things is limited. And he knew nothing he’ll ever do can change this so he gave up. After all, he also had his own life and his family to tend to.

To understand this statement better, you have to read the book yourself.

Espiridion is not really a bad person - just that - disillusioned and jaded. Why did he send Tio Baldo to school if he's truly a mean person? It is because he saw that Tio Baldo had dreams and aspirations unlike the other people in their village - content with what they have and they didn't seem to have any goals in life. Tio Baldo, on the other hand, was different, and he saw that.

In the end, Tio Baldo's life ended tragically. His people failed to see that he himself was hurting. That he also needed to be consoled, comforted. He needed someone to tell him that everything will be fine. That what happened was just a stumbling block, that they will all stand up again and fight another day. But sadly, no one ever did. He was alone. He was shunned. He had no one. In the end, even the people he was trying to help had turned their backs on him.

I love this book because it tells our country’s realities. I hope that more people will be able to read this and be able to see what the book is really trying to say: start educating our people!

I have yet to read two books in the saga and many other books written by the author, but I know that out of all his works, that this is my most favorite. It tells a resounding truth (and a very painful one at that), one that every Pinoy must acknowledge and accept if we want to become a better country. <3
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Maan.
198 reviews7 followers
March 7, 2014
Book #16 for 2014: This is the second book of the Rosales Saga. This is also my second Jose. In contrast to Po-On, I had a hard time reading this book because I was greatly disturbed by the amount of cruelty inflicted by one of the main characters to his fellow Filipino. I had a hard time reading about a master being cruel to his servants. The idea of having servants also distressed me since in our house, we don’t have household help. In our house, we do our own chores, prepare our own food, wash our own clothes, and the like. And we were also taught by my parents to be courteous and respectful to service employees (janitors, waiters, etc). And so with each page where Espiridion had an easy time slapping or whipping his servants whenever he felt like it, I shuddered and cried inside. I wonder what happened (or who did what) to Espiridion? Why’s he like that? What or who made him cruel, abrasive, and untrusting (With reference to page 125)?

But maybe the reason why I had such a hard time reading the book is that Filipinos stepping on or maltreating fellow Filipinos just to get ahead in life is still the reality (maybe I knew this is the reality, maybe I was affected by having to read about it even during my down time when I was supposed to be engaged in leisurely reading). What F. Sionil Jose wrote about the master-servant dynamics, land grabbing, the rich getting richer and the poor barely getting by each day are things that we witness each day. It was a hard read for me but it was a great read, too. I have much respect for F. Sionil Jose for helping us not to forget.

Favorite Lines

I did not quite understand what it was all about so I tugged at Father’s hand. He did not mind me—he went his way. I did not attend Ludovico’s funeral, but Sepa who was fond of him did, and she described how Ludovico was brought to church without the pealing of bells, wrapped in an old buri mat and slung on a pole carried by his father and a farmer neighbor.

And only afterward did I understand why there was not even a wooden coffin for Ludovico, why the next harvest which might be bountiful would be meaningless. I remembered Ludovico’s mother—so tiny and thin and overworked, her wracking cough, her pale, tired face, and the ripening grain which she would neither harvest nor see. (p. 39)

I was still gazing at the delta darkening swiftly, when I heard Father cursing behind me. Turning around I saw him walk up to Old David; his hand rose then descended on the old man’s face, but Old David, holding on to the reins of the big chestnut horse and his own bony mare, stood motionless, unappalled before the hand—the bludgeon—that was shot up, then cut into his withered face once more. (p. 91)

He finally concluded: “God forbid that I will ever have ties with foreigners who ravaged this beautiful Philippines!” (p. 93)

At that time when no explanations were possible, I was hurtling back to those blurred yesteryears, to that conspicuous Rizal Day program long ago, when as the main speaker, he discoursed despicably on all foreigners, when on his election platform, he damned all Chinese. And now, in the privacy of his home—in his own room—were these strangers laughing with him as if they were his long-lost brothers. (p. 97)

“You are going to die.”
His head drooped. He eased himself down the pallet and paced the stone floor. “Yes, but I’ll die decently,” he said pausing. He leaned on his elbows and faced me. “Isn’t that what we should live for?” His questions had a quality of coldness, of challenge.
I swung down the pallet and beamed a ray across the black void to the open door. His letters were in my hand. I walked away without answering him, Angel, my servant, my friend. (p. 108)

“I’d rather stay here, Apo,” Old David said, his eyes pleading. “I was born here. I’ll die here.” (p. 115)

He dug out his gold watch from his waist-pocket. “You have plenty of time,” he said. “Now listen... You are young and you don’t know many things, but do remember this: you are alone in this earth. Alone. You must act for yourself and no other. Kindness is not appreciated any more, nor friendship. Think of yourself before you think of others. It’s a cruel world and you have to be hard and cruel, too. They will strangle you if you don’t strangle them first. Trust no one but your judgement—and even then don’t trust too much.” (p. 125)

Yet, much as I am sure of these, I also know that the present, this now, is yesterday and anything and everything that I find detestable are outgrowths of something equally detestable in this not so distant past.
I wish I could be honest and true, but truth as I see it is not something abstract, a pious generality—it is justice at work, righteous, demanding, disciplined, sincere and unswerving; otherwise, it is not, it cannot be truth at all.
But the past was not permanent nor the present—who was it who said you cannot cross the river twice? Motion, change, birth and death—these are the imperatives (what a horrible, heavy word!) of life. (p. 133)

I continue, for instance, to hope that there is reward in virtue, that those who pursue it should do so because it pleases them. This then becomes a very personal form of ethics, or belief, premised on pleasure. It would require no high sounding motivation, no philosophical explanation for the self, and it desires are animal, basic—the desire for food, for fornication. If this be the case, then we could very well do away with the church, with all those institutions that pretend to hammer into the human being attributes that would make him inherit God’s vestments if not His kingdom. (p. 134)

Alas, I cannot be this man, although sometimes I aspire to be like him. I am too much a creature of comfort, a victim of my past. Around me the largesse of corruption rises as titles of vaunted power, and I am often in the ranks of princes, smelling the perfume of their office. I glide in the dank, nocturnal caverns that are their mansions, and gorge on their sumptuous food, and I love it all, envy them even for the ease which they live without remorse, without regret even though they know (I suspect they do) that to get to this lofty status, they had to butcher—perhaps not with their own hands—their own hapless countrymen. (p. 134)

Who was Don Vicente, after all? I should not be angered then, when men in the highest places, sworn to serve this country as public servants end up as millionaires in Pobres Park, while using the people’s money in the name of beauty, the public good, and all those shallow shibboleths about discipline and nationalism that we have come to hear incessantly. I should not shudder anymore in disgust or contempt when the most powerful people in the land use the public coffers for their foreign shopping trips, or build ghastly fascist monuments in the name of culture of the Filipino spirit. I see artists—even those who cannot draw a hand or a face—pass themselves off as modernists and demand thousands of pesos for their work, which, of course, equally phony art patrons willingly give. And I remember Tio Marcelo—how he did not hesitate to paint calesas and, in his later years, even jeepneys, so that his work would be seen and used, and not me a miser’s gain in some living room to be viewed by people who may not know what art is. I hear politicians belching the same old clichés and I remember Tio Doro and how he spent his own money for his own candidacy and how he had bowed to the demands of change. When I see justice sold to the highest bidder I remember Tio Baldo and how he had lost. So honesty then and service are rewarded by banishment and people sell themselves without so much ado because they have no beliefs—only a price. (p. 134-135)
Profile Image for Daniel.
172 reviews143 followers
July 16, 2012
The first half of the book is strangely fragmented, more like a collection of short stories that often end very suddenly with a dramatic event. Maybe I just lack the background to really understand this book. I often felt like the stories confuse me more than show me anything new. I found the second half of the book much more interesting and liked the social criticism.
Profile Image for Roberto D..
330 reviews3 followers
June 1, 2022
Book 17 out of 200 books
"Tree" by F. Sionil Jose

"Tree" is the story of an unknown young Filipino boy, who was part of the *landed gentry in Philippine society shortly after the Second world war. This young boy saw the economic and income inequalities of his times through the eyes of farmers hoping for a better future but it was through the will of a single man, the Don Vicente Asperri, who later is a major character in "My Brother, My Executioner"- the third book of the five-book series. "Tree" is chronologically the second novel of this series.

This novel actually is my Favorite novel of the entire series. "Tree" was quite an easy read, not because it was just short 135-paged novel, but because the book was written so beautifully.

This book, as brooded from its title, centers around the Tree in Rosales, Pangasinan that is seen throughout the course of the five novels.

"Tree" explores the early life and contemporary times of an unknown boy who is from the higher ups of society, who happens to be the narrator of the story. The narrator as you could say, has and feels a lot of empathy for the workers and other people he sees on a daily basis. Here in this book, there are zookeepers, farmers, fishermen, swamp divers and other workers who work on laborious jobs in dire environments. And you have a boy who just lives on his title for being in the gentry class.

Keep in mind that this novel takes place during the Hukbalahap uprisings. This novel, together with "My Brother, My Executioner" actually were written on those bases. And what is more haunting is that most of the people, from the higher-ups to the lower-downs, seem to be just fine with the violence.

Though violence broods throughout the entire novel. The person who actually killed the town's mayor was the son of Istak, the main character of the first novel, thus leading on to bleaker events on the fourth novel, The Pretenders.

Anyways, this book is the most consequential of all the series because through a swift story, a lot happens which are blackened out that we, the readers, honestly don't know what has happened by the third and fourth, stretching to the fifth novels.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gina.
10 reviews1 follower
May 8, 2017
I haven't read Po-on (#1 of the Rosales Saga) but still managed to appreciate this book. The book is written in English but for the most part retains a Filipino-ness that I can relate to. Except for the odd phrase "Man. There's a man..." (at pages 130, 131 --I wonder if it translates something like the Tagalog greeting "Tao po"), the narrative flows naturally, comfortably and (to my delight) transported me to another place and time. I like how each chapter is a short story yet each contributes a piece (an impression) to the main account of a son's relationship with his father. Most of the characters are fleeting but developed well enough to be sympathetic or believable. The experiences of the boy/young man (the nameless narrator) and the formation of the father's image is the book's main concern. The picture of the father conveyed is without bitterness or anger, i.e. without judgement or so it seems to me. The book/narrator does not seem to say that the father is one or the other; i.e. benevolent/malevolent, just/unjust or kind/cruel. Instead, the father is simply and straightforwardly germane to or the product of his time and place. The narrator is in awe of the largeness and realistically confounded by the mystery and complexity of the image of the father (the tree) and there is no satisfying denouement provided for this. Perhaps the last chapter, which tries to convey the narrator's effort to bring all the pieces of the father together to bear upon his own self-understanding in relation to his changing world, is a failure but then maybe it's just humanly true. I'd like to read this again.
Profile Image for Pep.
61 reviews
March 26, 2023
Am really liking this series. It has a somber and introspective vibe; F. Sionil Jose really knows what it's like to be a depressed, wealthy, observant, isolated young man in the Philippines. The narrator is so eloquent and also jaded with life that I'd forget that his character is meant to be a teenager by the end of the book. It feels more like an old man recounting his vast life experiences, with the wisdom and nostalgia to match.

This book is more explicitly political than the first one, mainly examining the theme of social class. But it frames the issue nicely through the relationship of the protagonist and the different residents of Rosales, as well as his father. I liked the effort put into fleshing out and making even the minor characters and their encounters memorable, though it resulted in the book becoming quite episodic. It almost felt like a collection of related short stories or anecdotes rather than a novel.
Profile Image for Lemon.
53 reviews
June 2, 2020
I should have expected the ending won't be a happy one. This gives me 1984 feels. The injustice. The helplessness. It's been decades since this was written but still relevant to this day. What's funny is that it's like nothing has changed. Just like Rosales. You can see till now the inequality between the rich and the poor. Farmers work the hardest but are paid the least. The destiny of the poor for most is still the same. That's what makes it sad.

F. Sionil Jose's prose is just beautiful. It's my first time reading a book by a Filipino author in English. I wonder what would it feel if it's in Filipino. I feel like the poor would be more accurately presented if this was written in Filipino. It'll feel more personal. But I guess this is ought to read by the people like the MC. To realize for themselves that this is happening. Anw, good book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Skate Penny.
109 reviews
April 3, 2022
Tree seemed like it was an anthology of farewells, each chapter telling the story of how the narrator lost people. At least, for me, that's how I saw it. It was not written in the usual novel format where there would be a climax or a single conflict. But if I'd say there is a conflict of anything in the story that would be the poverty bestowed upon people by those who oppress.

It is beautiful in a way that it is truth. The ending, despite that it was not satisfying, was reality. This is how people die, live, and go on.

It is brilliant in that it was not sugarcoated nor did it try to believe only the good in people, but it also believed the honest nature we are inclined to.

Does the fruit fall far from the tree? There is not one answer to such a question, but this story has an opinion about it.
Profile Image for Dene Gomez.
7 reviews
March 5, 2023
One must look past the portentous words and phrases used extensively here to behold the magnificence Tree has created. It actually packs an impressively paced story.

I can't help but compare this to a book written by one of my favorite authors, Khaled Hosseini's And The Mountains Echoed, where each chapter has a different character to focus on. In this regard, Tree shines where ATME fumbles.

Tree has achieved the objective of this style, maintaining freshness every chapter, yet avoided veering too much away from the central figure, which ATME sadly committed.

I was totally invested in the story that I would want to know what happened next to the characters that are still alive. I hope they get to be mentioned, even sparsely, on the next Rosales Saga books.
Profile Image for Mario.
75 reviews2 followers
January 17, 2022
The words of the author speaking through the protagonist on page one about sums it up - the telling is sketchy. There's also an unfortunate departure from the historical themes of the first book. The references to political developments in the country are scanty. An account of American rule or episodes relating to the Commonwealth era were missing. And there were only maybe five pages devoted to the Japanese occupation and the Huks. Notwithstanding the bad writing and less ambitious scope of the narrative, I feel it's still an important read. Beggars can't be choosers, after all, and I'm just begging to see Filipinas through a literary lens.
Profile Image for Mabel.
281 reviews
April 27, 2022
"If only we know the things that are hidden in the hearts of others, the world wouldn't be such a sad place."

This is the story of a rich landowner's son in Rosales, Pangasinan, and the stories of the people around him, mostly belonging to lower social class. Set in 1930s to 1950s Philippines, this novel by F. Sionil Jose screams social justice, or the lack thereof.

"This is a journey to the past — a hazardous trek through byways dim and forgotten."

Oh, what a sad journey it was.
Profile Image for Irvin Sales.
47 reviews1 follower
March 16, 2023
I managed to read the whole book in half a day (maybe even less), not because ot is only 135 pages, but because of how good a story-teller F. Sionil Jose is.

It is the 2nd book of the popular Rosales Saga. Compared to Po-On, the story of Tree is a bit lighter yet teaches us about the injustices that is a reality in this world and how it affects both the oppressor and the oppressed.

On to the next one, My Brother, My Executioner.
Profile Image for Janross Ayson.
5 reviews2 followers
February 3, 2018
It is obvious that F. Sionil Jose's "Tree" is all about social injustice through the perspective of the young narrator (the son of a powerful land caretaker) who didn't do anything to remedy such injustices. We can get insights from that book regarding the irreconcilable contradictions between the rich and powerful on one hand, and the poor, the marginalized, and the weak on the other.
Profile Image for Kat.
114 reviews6 followers
June 7, 2017

A book that will definitely get a re-read from me. I think perhaps the first coming-of-age novel I've read that truly captures the feeling of seeing your privilege for the first time, or realizing how your comforts are taken from others.

Looking forward to reading more of the Rosales Saga!
Profile Image for Ashleigh.
56 reviews2 followers
November 12, 2019
I am reading Tree completely out of sync with other book in the Rosales novels. However... a great and very emotive read that really made me question my initial thoughts on the book. First read from F. Sionil Jose but it will be the first of many.
Profile Image for Helen Mary.
164 reviews15 followers
January 19, 2020
Wow! I feel like adding words to the book will just spoil the beauty of F Sionil Jose’s fiction. I loved this one better than Po-on, the first Rosales novel in this series. As one review had said, F Sionil Jose’s Rosales saga is a gift to Filipino culture and literary heritage.
Profile Image for Philip.
Author 8 books126 followers
August 30, 2020
Having just re-read Ngugi’s A Grain Of Wheat, I decided to visit Frankie Sionil José’s novel Tree. Ngugi described a struggle for freedom that succeeded. The perspective he chose was that of poor people caught up in events. Francisco Sionil José, on the other hand, describes the aftermath of a national struggle that failed, and from the point of view of the middle classes who may even have benefited from the USA’s initially opportunist snatch of victory from the nationalists. In the Philippines, the struggle was against Spain, and it was won. But then Spain collapsed and the USA intervened and a new war had to be won. From the point of view of Filipinos, perhaps it was lost. Four hundred years in a convent followed by fifty in Hollywood is how Filipinos often sum up their history. In its own way, Francisco Sionil José attempts a description of that history via his sequence of Rosales novels.

Tree covers the period from the 1930s to the 1950s, and follows the growth of its main character from a child to a freshman medical student. It describes the Philippines from Commonwealth to independence. Crucially, when the latter arrives, it is hardly celebrated. The social order has long since been cemented and our family in Rosales are on the landowners’ side. Independence brings the Huk rebellion and a dangerous challenge to their status.

Tree is a novel that is not strong on plot. It is almost possible to read its chapters as a series of short stories, portraits of the people and events that filled its narrator’s life. In concept, the Rosales novels have something – only something, I stress! – in common with Anthony Powell’s Dance To The Music Of Time. They bear witness, but only rarely interpret.

In the centre of Rosales, a small town in Pangasinan, north of Manila, is a large, old and rambling balete tree. It seems to be indestructible. Even when an American soldier with an excavator runs into it, the tree survives. The excavator is ruined – the hardware, not the person – and hangs around until locals cut it up for scrap. Now there’s a comment on the USA’s legacy in the Philippines.

Spain’s colonial legacy survives in the form of vocabulary, names of dishes and of people. What’s in a name? The answer is a culture – a landowner versus a peasant, a Catholic versus an Aglipayan, not to mention a new-fangled follower of Iglesia Ni Kristo. Tree, essentially, is an impressionistic picture of a small society. There are hints at conflict, suggestions of hopes unrealised, usually centred on lack of rights to land, to produce, to opportunity. In microcosm, Tree suggests what the Philippines might have been, but never achieved. Crucially, had it done so, its main character would probably never have the chance of entering medical school.

It is also important to note that beneath the balete tree nothing grows. Now most tropical earth stays blank when it is denied light. In Tree, F. Sionil José uses this image to suggest that, left to its own device, maybe the Philippines might have prospered – but then maybe not. After all, the tree was indigenous.

Tree is a novel replete with cultural experience mixed with personal reference. Its lack of linear plot has to be accepted and not criticised. It’s just not that kind of book. And, as with most things Filipino, there’s much more going on under the surface, despite the fact that under the tree there’s nothing but bare earth.
88 reviews1 follower
June 17, 2012
bahwa agama dijadikan dalih untuk melakukan kekerasan, itu sudah sering terdengar. tapi yang jarang terdengar adalah bagaimana cara masyarakat asli merespon baik agama maupun kekerasan itu.
sangat menarik membaca pergulatan batin sang tokoh yang awalnya berharap untuk menjadi pemimpin agama, namun takdir berkata lain. takdir yang membawanya untuk melihat agama yang selama ini dianutnya dalam sudut pandang yang berbeda. agama yang dikatakan sebagai pembawa damai, pada akhirnya justru -oknum- agama yang sama itulah yang melakukan kekerasan. pergulatan batin yang pada akhirnya sempat sampai pada kesadaran -apakah aku seorang yang tidak berTuhan- dan terjadilah pertempuran fisik maupun antara agama dan nasionalisme
8 reviews31 followers
September 27, 2015
To be honest, I would have liked the story more if it wasn't for that part where every other chapter endings, most, the character had to die for some reasons. I think it really depicts life but it would be better if it hadn't focus too much on that. Other than that, I liked how each setting is narrated. ^_^
Profile Image for Sheryl.
472 reviews43 followers
February 6, 2017
What I like most about reading the Rosales Saga (so far at least) is the rawness of the dilemma presented. How the rich, the middleclass and the poor are all victims of their fate. There is a human side to every story and even then it is not enough to understand what keeps us protecting the system that strangles us to death.

TFG Bingo Card 2016: Second book in a Series - 2/25
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Nina Lenciano.
110 reviews13 followers
September 29, 2014
This novel was written 40 (?) years ago but why do we still see some of the characters today?

This is an excellent work, every story left me with a heavy heart. *sighs*

Looking forward to read other works of promising Filipino authors.
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