How did I ever come across F. Sionil Jose’s works? Towards the end of my stay in the Philippines as a JICA expert for a Japanese government project, one of my counterparts gave me a book of eleven short stories (all written in English) about the Philippines. I have already written an essay (submitted on June 27, 2012) on one of his short stories entitled Waywaya, which is about pre-Hispanic society. So, this is my second attempt to introduce Jose’s works.
This time, I have selected a contemporary short story, Progress , which depicted social injustice and moral corruption that fell upon a middle-aged woman. She was working at a regional office of a certain ministry for 20 years, was married with children, lived modestly, and had gone to Manila to process her application for promotion. She experienced office harassment by her colleagues who opened their top drawers and explicitly or implicitly asked for money. One of the most powerful men in the ministry went even further.
The story reflected the times when Marcos was in power. The title of the story, Progress, seemed to be ironic: on the surface, the government pursued infrastructure development for the people’s benefit, but underneath, corrupted practices were observed, if not augmented.
So, what about now? All gone? I’m afraid that isn't the case, simply because the wicked side of human nature will pop up whenever one’s conscience and discipline are eroded for whatever reason.
San Agustin Church in the old Intramuros area, Manila
Children swimming near the city of Balanga, which faces Manila Bay.