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PHILIPPINES - Sep 27, 2002

ProGay helped launch an arts-training shelter for unemployed gays and lesbians, named after openly gay National Artist for film, Ishmael Bernal.

Representative Liza Maza of the Bayan Muna (People First) party, together with the president of the Progressive Organization of Gays (ProGay) Oscar Atadero, opened the community arts center as one of many projects for empowerment of the poor, made possible with Rep. Maza's Priority Development Assistance Fund.

The project was realized with the cooperation of the offices of Hon. City Mayor Reynaldo O. Malonzo, Councilor Nathanael Santiago and the city council.

By providing opportunities for art-oriented gay youth to discover their talents in theatre and painting, the Ishmael Bernal Community Center will contributesome alternative channels for gays other than loiteringin the streets and being exposed to negative socialinfluences such as substance abuse.

Bernal's nephew Bayani Santos Jr., publisher of the gay and lesbian newspaper ManilaOut, said his uncle's legacy of creating arts and culture for positive social change has become alive through the humble efforts of gay activists who are leading brave efforts to end discrimination and making the world a better place for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.

"Shortly before he died, he always wanted to makea movie focused on the situation of Filipino gays and transgender people. He was very proud to be out and gay,not apologizing for it, in fact, he made gay charactersthe strongest ones in his films," Santos said.

Santos urged government and private sectors to commit more funds and resources for education, sensitive health care services, better nutrition and protection of 8 million queer Filipinos.

Bernal, the movie, stage and television director, actorand scriptwriter, was born this month in 1938 and died on 2 June 1996 from heart failure. An active participant 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. He directed and wrote his first film, At The Top in 1971.

He later on created sophisticated comedies like Tisoy, Pabling, Working Girls I and Working Girls II; experimental films like Speck in the Water and Miracle; and contemporary dramas such as Wild Flower, You are Mine, The Affair and Pleasure. He won the Urian Critics Award for best director four times and the best screenplay for City After Dark, 1980.

Miracle, 1981, garnered nine major awards in the Metro Manila Film Festival and the bronze Hugo Award in the Chicago International Film Festival (1983). The Filipino Film Critics League chose Bernal as the Most Outstanding Filmmaker of the Decade 1971-1980.

He was also hailed as Director of the Decade by the Catholic Mass Media Awards. The Cultural Center of the Philippines presented him the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining for film in 1990.

For more information, visit the Center at 127 Macario Asistio Avenue, Caloocan.

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