Remembering the National Artist for Film

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Ishmael Bernal’ s Pagdating sa Dulo (1970), is the first completed film of National Artist Ishmael Bernal (30 September 1938 – 2 June 1996), and is likely the signal film that started the second golden age of Philipppine cinema. Bernal is known as the greatest Filipino poet of the cinema. He was director of many landmark Filipino films such as Nunal sa Tubig (1975), City After Dark (1980), Relasyon (1982), Himala (1982), and Hinugot sa Langit (1985). He was declared National Artist in 2001.

Bernal directed and wrote his first film, Pagdating Sa Dulo (At The Top), in 1971. The film captures and prefigures the many facets and realities of the Philippine movie industry. It can even be said that Pagdating sa Dulo is the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo of an entire industry, which Ishmael Bernal had once depicted, as even more powerful than the “entire Department of Education” for its lasting influence on the morals and tastes of the Filipino nation.

One critic observes that Bernal in the film captures it all: the decadence of the Martial Law regime, along with its perverse aspirations to art, having doomed the destinies of Filipinos.

From that time on, Bernal was established as an innovative and intelligent filmmaker who would not be content with conventional formulas of local film making.


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