While working as a journalist in Manila, he moonlighted writing short stories and eventually novels. In the late fifties Jose founded the Philippine branch of PEN, an international organization of poets, playwrights, and novelists. In 1965 he started his own publishing house SOLIDARIDAD, and a year later he began publishing the remarkable Solidarity, a journal of current affairs, ideas, and arts, still going strong today. Jose wrote in English rather than in his national language Tagalog, or his native language Illocano.
In 1962 he published his first novel The Pretenders. Today his publications include ten novels, five books of short stories, and a book of verse. His works are available in 24 languages and some have recently been published in North America by Random House. He has been awarded numerous fellowships and awards, most notable being the 1980 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts, the most prestigious award of its kind in Asia.
Jose lives and works in Manila where with his wife Teresita and a faithful staff he still runs the Solidardad Publishing House and the Solidarity Bookstore, still considered the best little bookstore in Asia. On occassion he leaves Manila for Japan, US, or Europe, where he finds the peace to write or teach.Random House has recently published Three Filipino Women, Sins, Dusk (Po-on), and Don Vincente (My Brother My Executioner, and Tree) in North America. The last two are in the Modern Library Editions, with the remaining of the five volume Rosales saga to follow.
In June of 2001, Jose was awarded the prestigious title of Philippine's National Artist for Literature in an official ceremony at Malacañang.
In March 2002's issue of the Discovery magazine, Jose's book Ermita was rated as one of the top ten English-language novels set in Southeast Asia, along side Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," Graham Greene's "The Quiet American," James Clavell's "King Rat."and others.