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Pro Bernal, Anti Bio By Jorge Arago When Ishmael Bernal died in 1996, his coffin had to wait an hour or so, unattended, back of the domed chapel of the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Over a decade earlier, he had repaired with a heavy heart to a funeral parlor to assess his grandmother’s embalmment and for a full minute was paralyzed at the sight of a cadaver and cerements that bore no resemblance to anything he had seen before. It was grist for Bernal’s mill where all his friends worked at one point or another, as part of a chorus of laughter.A mutual friend of ours who happened by found the setting incongruous and fairly hilarious. It turned out that his clan’s dear departed matriarch had been dispatched by mistake to Cagayan Valley. His coffin would be moved later in the day to the UP Film Center where it would lie in state for a week. It had enough room for bereaved benefactors and wards and comrades in Pasolini’s mishaps and politics.
Born in Manila on 30 September 1938, Bernal was the son of Elena Bernal and Pacifico Ledesma.
He received his Diploma in Film Directing in 1970 at the Film Insititue of India in Poona under the Colombo plan scholarship.
An active pariticipant in the struggle for artist's rights and welfare, Bernal was also a board member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines and the Directors Guild of the Philippines, Inc. He was also an avid fan of classical music including opera.
His sturdy filmography is mainly clustered around the themes and problems that inevitably encrust the "social" as the core of personal malaise.
Bernal considered himself a feminist director and admitted that it was part of his interest to tackle issues affecting women.
A significant part of his work is stories about and for women.