National Artist for Film Ishmael Bernal may have long been gone but his story remains as ABS-CBN Publishing and Friends of Bernal have published the “Pro Bernal, Anti Bio,” an uncensored memoir that refuses to be a tribute with the late director’s own personal writings as well as accounts from his friend Jorge Arago and pop historian Angela Stuart-Santiago.
The book features the meaningful life of the multi-awarded filmmaker who died in 1996, his works and struggles, the showbiz system that he adored and hated equally, the political landscape during his time, his activism and homosexuality.
According to “Pro Bernal, Anti Bio” project director and producer Katrina Stuart-Santiago, Ishmael talked candidly about his journey in the book. “What it became is really Bernal speaking for the first time about the kind of life that he lived – as a cultural worker, as a filmmaker, as an activist, and primarily as the icon that we all know him now,” she said during the screening of documentary film “Ishma” held recently in Trinoma during the Cinema One Originals Festival.
It was in 1992 when Ishmael first started writing a journal for what he envisioned as a biography that would tell-all. His biographer was constant collaborator Jorge, who named the manual “Pro Bernal, Anti Bio” and with whom would be left taped conversations, photographs, and clippings upon his death.
Angela later worked with the materials left behind for the book when Jorge died in 2011. With new research and additional interviews, the final product is a memoir unlike any other in the Philippines and especially unlike any we have seen from or about a National Artist.
The female co-author brings in a cast of characters of actors, scholars, colleagues, and peers who speak from the margins of the book, while Ishmael and Jorge tell this personal-political history in their own words, with an intellect and spirit ahead of its time.
Ishmael was one of the great filmmakers in the history of the Philippine cinema. Among his works are “Nunal Sa Tubig” (1976), “City After Dark (Manila By Night)” (1980), “Himala” (1982), “Relasyon” (1982), and “Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga” (1989).
The book launch and signing was held recently at Victorino’s restaurant, attended by veteran actors, filmmakers, and friends of the authors.
Be amazed with Ishmael life’s journey and learnings. Grab a copy of “Pro Bernal, Anti Bio,” available soon in leading bookstores.