Professor Sison shares inspiration for political autobiography
Q: Where did the idea for this book originate? At what point in time did you feel most compelled to begin working on a political biography/autobiography?
A: For a long time, since the early 1990s, many colleagues and friends had urged me to write a biography related to the struggles of the Filipino people and humankind. They were interested in what I would say about the revolutionary movement in the Philippines and the world after the big events of 1989-1991. I was eager to write the book but I was too busy about so many things. But in 2001 I thought that it was high time to do the book with a co-writer, someone as knowledgeable and skilled a writer as Ninotchka Rosca. At the founding of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle in The Netherlands in 2001, we firmed up the decision to co-write the book.
Q: Describe the process of telling both your own life story as well as the "life story" of the Philippines at the same time? Do you believe the two parallel one another?
A: I would consider my life story linked to and intertwined with the struggles of the Filipino people for national and social liberation against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes, from the time that I became enlightened with revolutionary ideas and began to be active in the youth movement in conjunction with the movement of the workers and peasants. Eventually I became directly integrated with the struggles of the toiling masses. To tell my life story is to reflect the struggles that I was involved in and to describe their social context.
Q: Why did you decide to work with an American publisher? How did you come into contact with Open Hand Publishing?
A: I thought that it was good to work with an American publisher in order to reach the people of the country whose imperial power dominates the Philippines and so much of the world. It is worthwhile to seek the understanding, solidarity and support of US citizens. I came into contact with Open Hand Publishing after surveying the field of progressive American publishing firms.
Q: Have you had any complications in working with an American publisher and your listing on the US terrorist list? What is your view or attitude in response?
A: The complications come from the US government. It has unjustly listed me as a “terrorist” and has frozen half of the advance royalty payment from Open Hand. It is utterly preposterous that I am given such a label because there is absolutely no criminal charge of any kind against me anywhere in the world. The real terrorist is culpable for killing 1.5 million Filipinos in the Philippine history. Currently, it occupies Iraq and has killed more than 200,000 Iraqis in order to seize oil resources.
Q: In deciding to work with an American publisher, were you trying to primarily appeal to an American audience? What would you like for the American reader to take from this book?
A: We expected that the United States audience would buy most of the copies produced in the US. In that sense, the appeal is primarily to the American audience. However, Open Hand has made arrangements for the publication of the book elsewhere in the world. US citizens should recognize how much oppression and exploitation the US has imposed on the Filipino people. The two peoples should stand together and fight against monopoly capitalism as a common adversary.
Q: How do you feel about the average US citizen's knowledge of the political climate in the Philippines? What do you believe could draw the American public's attention to the presence of US troops in the Philippines, as well as social injustices prevalent in the country?
A: The average US citizen’s knowledge of the situation and political climate in the Philippines is very limited because the US educational system and mass media controlled by the monopoly bourgeoisie use a lot of outright lies, disinformation and prejudices to obscure the facts and the truth. The Filipinos in the US and their American friends should work hard to wage educational and information campaigns about the Philippines. They should promote the book as an educational material. Of course, the attention of the American people could also be drawn by the rising revolutionary resistance of the Filipino people to US domination and military intervention.
Q: How did you come to collaborate with Ninotchka Rosca for the book? Have you worked with her prior to this book project?
A: My wife Julie and I know her as an excellent writer and as a friend since the sixties. She has the advantage of having a good stock of information about me and the Philippines and being able to ask questions frankly from her own critical viewpoint as well as from her awareness of a wide range of other significant viewpoints. Soon after I was released from military detention in 1986, she was commissioned by a major American magazine to do an extensive interview with me. We had that encounter in 1986 before the book project.
Q: In working with Ms. Rosca, an outstanding international women's rights activist, on the book, did you find that you have similar goals for publishing and promoting the book?
A: Yes, of course. I presume that we have basically similar goals even as we may have additional or further goals. Each of us has separate ways of pursuing general and specific concerns. For instance, I consider her more focused than me on women’s rights.
Q: Do you feel this book is a potential vehicle/tool for social change in any areas of the world? Have you had any personal experience thus far with readers who have been moved by the book?
A: The book is based on the rich and abundant experience of the revolutionary forces and people in the Philippines. Thus, it can be a source of learning and can be a tool for social change for other peoples, especially those in semicolonial and semifeudal conditions. I have met comrades and friends from other countries saying that they have been moved by the book and have learned something from it.
Q: What is the most current political context in which you believe this book falls?
A: The book describes the worsening crisis of the ruling system of big compradors and landlords subservient to US imperialism and points to the necessity of the Filipino people’s revolutionary movement for national liberation and democracy.
Q: What is the focus of your concerns right now? What are you spending most of your time on these days?
A: I am the newly-elected Chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle. Thus, I spend so much time looking at developments on a global scale. These involve imperialist plunder and war on one side and the growing resistance of the people. I am the chairman of the International Network of Philippines Studies and the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. These positions require me to look at Philippine affairs daily. But I also find time for music projects, one involves the production of a CD album of my poems sung in various genres of pop music and another CD album sung by a soprano, accompanied by a virtuoso pianist.