Cover image for Don Vicente : two novels
Don Vicente : two novels
José, F. Sionil (Francisco Sionil), 1924-
Uniform Title:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Modern Library, 1999.
Physical Description:
430 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"Modern Library paperback original"--T.p. verso.
Tree -- My brother, my executioner.
Added Title:
My brother, my executioner.
Format :


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Written in elegant and precise prose, Don Vicente contains two novels in F. Sionil José's classic Rosales Saga . The saga, begun in José's novel Dusk, traces the life of one family, and that of their rural town of Rosales, from the Philippine revolution against Spain through the arrival of the Americans to, ultimately, the Marcos dictatorship.
The first novel here, Tree , is told by the loving but uneasy son of a land overseer. It is the story of one young man's search for parental love and for his place in a society with rigid class structures. The tree of the title is a symbol of the hopes and dreams--too often dashed--of the Filipino people.
The second novel, My Brother, My Executioner , follows the misfortunes of two brothers, one the editor of a radical magazine who is tempted by the luxury of the city, the other an activist who is prepared to confront all of his enemies, real or imagined. The critic I. R. Cruz called it "a masterly symphony" of injustice, women, sex, and suicide.
Together in Don Vicente , they form the second volume of the five-novel Rosales Saga, an epic the Chicago Tribune has called "a masterpiece."

Author Notes

F. Sionil José was born in Rosales, Philippines on December 3, 1924. He was educated at the University of Santo Tomas. While working as a journalist in Manila, he wrote short stories and eventually novels in his spare time. In the late 1950s, he founded the Philippine branch of PEN. In 1965, he started his own publishing house Solidaridad and a year later started publishing the journal Solidarity.

His first novel, The Pretenders, was published in 1962. Since then he has written twelve novels, seven short story collections, a book of verse, and five books of essays. His other works include Three Filipino Women, Sins, Dusk, Don Vincente, Ermita, and Vibora! He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts in 1980 and the Pablo Neruda Centennial Award in 2004.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The publisher has chosen to combine two novels (Tree and My Brother, My Executioner) in this second volume of the reissued Rosales Saga by Filipino writer Jos‚. The two works, first published in Manila in 1924, are loosely held together by geographyÄboth take place in the PhilippinesÄand by the presence of Don Vincente Asperri, a rapacious feudal landlord. In the first, less interesting, section, a middle-aged man looks back on his youth as the son of the overseer for Don Vincente. Characters amble across the stage, tell their story or anecdote, then disappear: an old priest lives in abject poverty in order to save money for church renovations; a young man learns he cannot fight the establishment when he is betrayed by the very people he wants to help. The longer section deals with Luis Asperri, the illegitimate son of the "all-powerful, all-devouring" Don Vincente. Luis and his half-brother Victor (same mother, different fathers) choose opposing sides in a peasant uprising. Luis, though Don Vincente's heir, considers himself liberal. He writes poetry and edits a left-wing magazine, but in many ways he is as heartless as his father. At Don Vincente's insistence, in order to keep the family fortune intact, Luis marries a cousin instead of his city girlfriend, with tragic results all around. When the chips are down, he will not divest himself of his lands as his brother Victor, leader of the revolutionary Huks, demands. Jos‚Äfounding president of the Philippines PEN Center, bookseller, and editor and publisher of a literary journalÄfills the story with melodramatic events (a mad woman in an attic, a deformed baby) and with heavy-handed political rhetoric, perhaps better suited to essays. As a result, both narratives seem somewhat unsophisticated. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The second in the prominent Filipino author's five-volume "Rosales Saga" (following Dusk), this two-part novel covers Filipino history in the 1950s, focusing on the social inequality rooted in the plantation system. Jos‚ details the harmful effects for both the oppressed and their oppressors, chronicling the birth of an uprising to transform Filipino society. The unnamed son of a plantation manager narrates "Tree," the first part of the novel. He recalls awakening to his father's culpability in subjugating other Filipinos in his hometown. The father works for a more powerful landowner, Don Vicente, whose illegitimate son Luis gives voice to the second, definitely stronger part, "My Brother, My Executioner." Once a victim of the system, Luis goes to live with Don Vicente, reaping the benefits of his father's exploitation. He also suffers deeply when he must leave his family behind amidst harsh, impoverished living conditions. This intense work is recommended for most collections.ÄFaye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Tree   CHAPTER   1   This is a journey to the past--a hazardous trek through byways dim and forgotten--forgotten because that is how I choose to regard many things about this past. In moments of great lucidity, I see again people who--though they may no longer be around--are ever present still; I can almost hear their voices and reach out to touch them--my friends, cousins, uncles and aunts, and most of all, Father.   My doctor says it is good that I should remember, for in memory is my salvation. I should say, my curse. This, then, is a recollection as well, of sounds and smells, and if the telling is at times sketchy, it is because there are things I do not want to dwell upon--things that rile and disturb because they lash at me and crucify me in my weakness, in my knowledge of what was. So it was--as Father has said again and again--that the boy became a man.   I am a commuter, not between the city and the village, although I do this quite frequently; I am a commuter between what I am now and what I was and would like to be, and it is this commuting, at lightning speed, at the oddest hours, that has done havoc to me. My doctor flings at me clichés like "alienation," "guilt feelings," and all the urban jargon that has cluttered and at the same time compartmentalized our genteel, middle-class mores, but what ails me are not these. I can understand fully my longing to go back, to "return to the womb"--even the death wish that hounds me when I find it so difficult and enervating to rationalize a middle-aged life that has been built on a rubble of compromise and procrastination. It is this commuting, the tension and knowledge of its permanence, its rampage upon my consciousness, that must be borne, suffered, and vanquished, if I am to survive in this arid plateau called living.   At times it can be unbearable, and neither pills nor this writing can calm my mind; but then, I must go on--that is what the arteries and the gonads are for--so I hie back to this past wherefrom I can draw sustenance and the ability to see more clearly how it was and why it is. I was born and I grew up in a small town--any town. I suppose that from the very beginning, I have always been thus--a stranger to Rosales, even to the people who knew me--relatives, friends, tenants, and all those fettered beings who had to serve Father as he, too, had to serve someone bigger than himself. A stranger because that is how I feel now; the years have really numbed a host of memories--dew-washed mornings, the tolling of church bells, the precision and color of my own language.   Sometimes, when I go north to Baguio to recuperate, I stop by Rosales; it cannot be missed, for Carmen--perhaps the town's biggest barrio--sits at the crossroad before the long bridge that spans the Agno; turn right, through Tomana and its makeshift houses, along what is now an asphalted road, and drive on till a thin line of decrepit houses forms by the road. They are roofed with nipa and walled with buri leaves; then the houses multiply--wooden frames with rusting tin roofs, the marketplace, the main street and its stores. I sometimes stop here, walk the familiar streets--how narrow, how weed-choked they are. I pass the creek where I swam, and its banks are littered with garbage. The old cement schoolhouse still stands--how shabby it looks, surrounded by scraggly acacia. I go past broken-down bamboo fences, meet people who sometimes smile and greet me but move on. Many of them I do not recognize, but I know those faces and the stolid endurance imprinted in them.   My steps lead to the middle of the town, and there, by the side of the road, the balete tree stands--tall, leafy, majestic, and as huge as it has always been. Our house, at one end of the wide yard, is no longer there; it was dismantled long ago, shortly after Father's death, and so was the old brick wall. But the balete tree will perhaps be there for always. There are very few trees of this kind in this part of the province. It has taken decades, perhaps a century, for it to reach this spread and height, taller than the church, than any building in the town--its trunk so huge and veined with vines that six men with their hands joined could not embrace it.   All my life, it has always been to me what Father said it was meant to be--a shade. It was this to countless farmers who came to our yard with their bull carts loaded with grain, or with their problems that only Father could solve--debts that had not been paid and debts that were to be incurred because somebody was dying, somebody was getting married, somebody was born. It was shade from the sun and also from the rain when they who had come to ask Father's favor would get wet under its canopy rather than presume to enter the house.   No one could really say who planted the tree; it seemed ageless like the creek that courses through the town. Father's grandfather had told him he had seen it already crowned with fireflies at night, and though Father did not believe him, he respected the feelings of people, they who believe that this giant tree was endowed with a talisman, that it was more than a tree--it was a guardian over the land and our lives, immemorial like our griefs.   In time, therefore, when the harvest was good, there would be offerings at its base, rice cakes in tin plates, embedded with hard-boiled eggs and hand-rolled cigars between the big roots that cascaded down the trunk and looped into the earth. There were offerings, too, when someone got sick, for the farmers did not consult the town doctor--they relied first on the herbolario and sacristan, who recited Latin phrases and plastered the forehead and other afflicted parts of the body with nameless leaves, and then they brought their gifts to the balete tree and, in solemn tones, invoked the spirits--"Come now and accept this humble token of our respect--and please make our dear and loved one well again ..."   It had provided shade for politicians, for during election time meetings were held beneath it. In the light of kerosene lamps, the politicians would harangue whoever was there to listen, and they would shout their virtues and vilify their enemies. They would butcher a carabao or two, and with Father's amen, they would mount wooden planks beneath the tree, spread banana leaves on them, then feed the electorate. Here, too, no less than Quezon had met with the provincial leaders at the behest of Don Vicente, the wealthiest landlord in our part of the country and the man for whom Father worked. And there was the photograph in the living room for all to see--the great man in his drill de hilo suit, Don Vicente--plump and smug beside him--and Father at Quezon's right, looking frightened and stiff, and all around them the provincial great. Father had recounted it so often, how the train from Paniqui got in late and how a thousand waiting people had dispersed and Don Vicente would have been put to shame had not Father ridden in great haste out to Carmay and the other barrios, asking the people to return.   During the town fiesta--June 12 and 13--the feast day of San Antonio de Padua, it was shade again for the farmers who rested in the wide yard, unhitched their bull carts, and did their cooking there so that for two days they could watch the freak shows, the garish coronation night in the public market, and the comedia, in which brightly clothed farmers and their sons and daughters acted out and danced the ancient drama of the Christian and Moro wars.   Beyond the balete tree and the yard, down the incline of barren ground, is the river, marked on Tio Baldo's maps as the Totonoguen Creek, but because its waters were always swift during the rainy season, I always called it a river. When the rains started in June, continuing all through the early days of the planting season, its waters would be deep and muddy brown. As the rains intensified, within a matter of hours after the first downpour, we could see it rise in a rage of whirlpools, and it would carry the flotsam of the Cordilleras where it had started--the gnarled and twisted roots and branches of trees. Men would line the banks and the wooden bridge, and with wire loops at the end of long poles they would ensnare these gifts of the mountain for firewood. There were times when the river would rise so high it would flood portions of the town and even the bodega, which at this time would be quite empty of grain, for almost everything would have been sold by then to Chan Hai. Once it even swept away the wooden bridge, and for weeks the village of Cabugawan was isolated. The floods delighted us, for then we could float our wooden fishes in the ditches.   As the rains subsided and the fields turned green, the mud settled and the river acquired a clear, green hue. It would no longer be swift; it flowed with a rhythm, broken by small ripples in the shallows. It was at this time that we bathed in it and dove to its depths to discover what secrets it held. Now, too, the women took their washing to the banks; they would squat before wide tin basins and whack at clothes with wooden paddles. Where the banks were even and stony or sandy, they laid the clothes to bleach, for now the sun came out not only to help the washerwomen but to ripen the grain. It was also at this time of the year that, once more, Father could go down the riverbank and follow it down, down and beyond to the village of Cabugawan, to a place everyone in town knew; he usually went down at dusk, perhaps because at this time few people would see him, and he did not have to smile at those he met or wave his hand in greeting, for they all knew that at the end of the trail was his secret place.   Excerpted from Don Vicente: Two Novels by F. Sionil José All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.