Internationally Famous Filipinos – Ishmael Bernal – The Director

Ishmael Bernal – Film, Stage and Television director

Ishmael Bernal

Watching a film behind the camera while calling the shots is truly a whole different experience than merely watching it on the big screen. And this is a feeling one Ishmael Bernal loved and devoted his entire career with.

Ishmael Bernal (Born in Manila on 30 September 1938) was a Filipino film, television, and stage director who also had some moments as actor and scriptwriter in several occasions. Ishmael was highly noted for his melodramas particularly with feminist and moral issues.

His 1985 film about the justification of abortion Hinugot sa Langit (with Maricel Soriano) and a fake visionary names Ela in Himala (with Nora Aunor) were often cited as two of the greatest Filipino films of all time.

By the way, the movie Himala won the 2008 CNN Asia Pacific Screen Awards for “Viewers Choice Award for Best Asia-Pacific Film of all Time”.


Hinugot Sa Langit” & “Himala”

Ishmael took his Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the University of the Philippines in 1962. After graduation he worked with Lamberto Avellana’s documentary outfit before proceeding to France where he earned his Licentiate in French Literature and Philosophy at the University of Aix-en-Provence.

He then received his Diploma in Film Directing in 1970 at the Film Insititue of India in Poona under the Colombo plan scholarship.

Movie Highlights:

  • Star Award – Movie Director of the Year (Pahiram ng isang umaga in 1989)
  • Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) Best Director Award (1983)
  • Metro Manila Film Festival – Best Director ( Himala in 1982)
  • Chicago International Film Festival – Bronze Hugo (Himala in 1982)
  • Gawad Urian Award – Best Direction (Dalawang pugad, isang ibon in 1977)
  • see complete list here.


As well as filming, Ishmael Bernal also loved the arts. He nurtured his passion for literature and theater by actively participating in the U.P. Dramatic Club, while finishing a college degree. He was also an avid fan of classical music including opera. During the 1960s, Bernal put up U.P.When It’s A Grey November In Your Soul, in Malate which became one of the favorite watering holes of Manila’s artists and intellectuals. Unfazed by its short live-success, Bernal put up Kasalo in Quezon City three decades later, which became the hang-out of students, journalists, poets, bands, theater and film artists.

Last March 13, 2009, the U.P. Economics Society conducted an Art Exhibition of Pinoy Pop Cultures featuring the works of Ishmael Bernal entitled “We Are Juan“.

I see him as a man who delivers his messages of awareness through his work, and for that I am proud of him.

A brilliant Filipino. A creative being. A with a vision. Ishmael Bernal.