Francisco Sionil Jose was born on Dec. 3, 1924, in Rosales, a small town in Pangasinan, a province northeast of Manila. Rosales, which served as the setting for much of his fiction, was home to many poor farmers, like his parents, who had migrated south from the province of Ilocos Norte. He always considered himself an Ilocano and spoke that language fluently.
After high school, he studied liberal arts at Santo Tomas University in Manila, where he edited the school newspaper, The Varsitarian, before dropping out to embark on a literary life.
It was at Santo Tomas that he met his future wife, Maria Teresa Jovellanos, known as Tessie, when she was a 17-year-old student. She was by his side for the rest of his life, his muse, counselor and protector. Together they had seven children.
She survives him, as do five of their children, Antonio, Eddie, Eugene, Nikko Jose and Evelina Jose Cichy; 11 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
“We were really poor,” Mr. Jose said once, recalling his childhood. “When there was no kerosene I’d go read under the lamppost until 10 p.m., when my mother would tell me to go home.”
But she also encouraged him to read, going out of her way to find him books. “She made me everything I am,” he said.
His reading complemented his upbringing among poor farmers, experiences that produced the dominant themes of his work.