Arts & Leisure

Praise pours for National Artist Salvador ‘Badong’ Bernal, 66

Posted on October 28, 2011

ACCOLADES POURED in for National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador "Badong" Bernal who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 66.

Necrological services will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29, 9 a.m., at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). His remains will be laid to rest at the family mausoleum at Eternal Gardens in Dagupan City, Pangasinan, on Nov. 2.

"We are saddened by news that National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal passed away in the afternoon of Oct. 26, 2011. We join our countrymen in mourning the death of one of our cultural pillars, and extend our deepest sympathies to his family and the entire artistic community," said a statement released by Malacañang.

"Beyond his impressive career as an artist, he made it his mission, as a teacher, to pass on his knowledge to those who will have to stand in his place in the coming generations. He did his part to ensure that Philippine Art will continue to be dynamic and relevant, even as the torch is passed from old masters like him to emerging talents in the nation’s artistic landscape," the statement continued.

"[The death of] Salvador Bernal is a great loss to Philippine Arts as he has contributed greatly to the growth of theater design in the country," said the The National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

"Badong redefined scenic design in the Philippines and was a teacher and mentor to our current crop of designers," said CCP Vice-President and Artistic Director Chris Millado in a statement released by the CCP.

"He was responsible for creating the beautiful sets and costumes that defined the aesthetics of the various ballet, theater and musical productions at the CCP and other venues," Mr. Millado continued. "He will be greatly missed as a theater artist, mentor and friend."

Considered the Father of Philippine Theater Design, Salvador Floro Bernal produced a brilliant body of works which enriched Filipino original works in theater, dance and music. Since 1969, he designed more than 300 productions for drama, musicals, operas and concerts such as those for Musical Theater Philippines and Opera Guild of the Philippines. He designed period costumes for movies like Oro, Plata, Mata and Gumising Ka, Maruja and for TV commercials and calendars. Bernal was known for using indigenous and locally available materials for stage such as bamboo, abaca fabric, hemp twice raw, rattan chain links, and styrofoams in productions such as Rajah Sulayman, Abaniko, La Traviata, Tomaneg at Aniway and Pagkahaba-haba man ng Prusisyon sa Simbahan din ang Tuloy (Much Ado About Nothing).

Bernal created the CCP Production Design Center and organized PATDAT (Philippine Association of Theatre Designers and Technicians) in 1995. As president of PATDAT, which is also the Philippine Center of OISTAT (Organisation Internationale des Scenographes, Techniciens et Architectes du Theatre), Bernal introduced Philippine theater design to the world.

His last CCP production was the musical version of Banaag at Sikat with Tanghalang Pilipino. Before his death, Bernal was working on the design of King Lear with PETA to be directed by longtime friend and collaborator Felix "Nonon" Padilla.

Bernal was born in Dagupan on Jan. 7, 1945, the fifth child of a dentist and a clothes designer. He studied at Sta. Theresa’s College in Baguio and the Dagupan City High School, and went on to finish a bachelor of science in philosophy at the Ateneo de Manila University in 1966.

After teaching literature in Ateneo and setting up the Tanghalang Ateneo theater group, in 1970 he went on to pursue graduate studies in Theater Arts at Northwestern University in Illinois, earning a masters of fine arts in theater arts, major in scenic design.

When he returned he taught both literature and stage design at Ateneo but left teaching in 1974 to go full time into stage design.

Bernal was conferred the National Artist Award in 2003.