Memories of Kazakhstan; the renowned son of Pangasinan, F. Sionil Jose

Published January 16, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia Jr.

PEACE-MAKER

PEACE-MAKER

Former Speaker of the House Jose C. De Venecia Jr.

We are glad that Kazakhstan is back to normalcy after almost two weeks of violent unrest.

The unprecedented massive street protests were so turbulent that Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had sought the help of the Moscow-led regional military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which dispatched peacekeeping forces to Kazakhstan.

The CSTO is composed of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia.

Kazakhstan is an oil- and gas-rich Central Asian country and the ninth largest country in the world. It is bordered on the north by Russia, on the east by China, and on the south by former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

As we discussed in our earlier column, we have fond memories of Kazakhstan as it has been a close partner of our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) in promoting peace, understanding, dialogue, and cooperation among countries and peoples in Asia and the international community through the network of political parties.

Kazakhstan’s ruling party, Nur Otan, led by then President Nursultan Nazarbayev, graciously hosted in the then capital Astana, renamed Nur-Sultan, the 10th standing committee meeting and the fifth general assembly of ICAPP in March and September, 2009, respectively.

We also had the privilege of addressing the 12th party congress of the Nur Otan in February 2011, the prestigious Astana Economic Forum in May 2011, and the global forum on “nuclear weapons-free world” in August 2012, on invitation by the governing Nur Otan Party and the Kazakhstan government.

We had an unforgettable experience of a lifetime when we traversed the then frozen Ural River on foot. We literally walked on water from Asia to Europe and back, accompanied by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed of Pakistan, our then foreign policy advisor Ed Castro, and Japanese journalist Kiyoshi Wakamiya. The Ural Riverflows through Kazakhstan and Russia and is one of the longest rivers in the world.

President Nazarbayev and the Kazakhstan government conferred this columnist in December 2011, the Dostyk (Friendship) Award, a state award given “to individuals for fruitful activity in the field of international and civil consensus in society and for merits and deeds in promoting peace, friendship, and cooperation between countries and peoples,” for which we will always be grateful.

We reiterate our hope that our next president and the next Congress will build on the political, economic, inter-party, and inter-parliamentary cooperation between the Philippines and Kazakhstan, as well as the other Central Asian countries.

*****

We join the Filipino people in mourning the passing of a celebrated literary giant and renowned son of Pangasinan, Francisco Sionil Jose.

The Philippines’ National Artist for Literature awardee in 2001, the native of Rosales town was also a recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in 1980, the Cultural Center of the Philippines Award for Literature in 1989, the Officer in French Order of Arts and Letters in 2014, and many other national and international decorations for his outstanding literary works and influence in our country and around the world.

We had a brief conversation with him in March 2019 when he spoke at the Rotary Club of Manila (RCM). Frankie, as he was fondly called, was passionate, profound and eloquent.

We told him that he was still full of energy even at the then age of 94, to which he retorted, “not from the waist down.” That was F. Sionil Jose, quick with punchlines but also full of anecdotes.

We are delighted that our son, Congressman Christopher de Venecia, a deputy majority leader and chairman of the House of Representatives committee on creative industry and performing arts, has authored a resolution in the Lower House, together with other congressmen, honoring the life and legacy of F. Sionil Jose, a pride of Pangasinan and indeed a great Filipino.

 
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