Salvador “Badong” Bernal, the late father of theater design in the Philippines, will “take the stage” once again at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) this July.
The retrospective BADONG: Salvador Bernal Designs the Stage exhibit will open on July 19, and will practically occupy the entire third level of the CCP until October 27.
Scale models of the National Artist for Theater Design’s famed stage designs—including Pilipinas Circa, Realizing Rama, Lapu-Lapu, among others—will be housed inside the Bulwagan Juan Luna (Main Gallery).
Meanwhile, the Pasilyo Guillermo Tolentino and Pasilyo Juan Luna—a.k.a. the third floor gallery hallways—will feature sketches of costume studies and some actual pieces from the old productions.
FATHER OF THEATER DESIGN IN THE PHILIPPINES. CCP vice president and artistic director Chris Millado told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) during the press preview held last July 9, “This has been in the making for almost two years.
“We were supposed to do this last year, but because we needed more time to gather the materials, to get the budget right, and so on, we decided to move it.
“So, almost two years in the making ito, and of course, we have the best, like Nick Tiongson and Gino Gonzales [to curate].”
Former CCP artistic director Nicanor “Nick” Tiongson (pictured below, left) authored the book titled Salvador F. Bernal: Designing the Stage, which chronicled the works of his good friend, who passed away in 2011 due to cardiac arrest brought about by a diabetic condition.
His co-curator for this exhibit is production designer Gino Gonzales (pictured below, right), who was Bernal’s protégé and, according to Millado, “knows Badong’s works in and out.”
Millado adds, “The whole objective of this project is to start to stimulate the interest again in set designs and technical theater.
“In fact, this is the start of the revival of the Production Design Center, which is headed by Eric, to become the center for technical theater and design training in the Philippines.”
Eric is Ricardo Cruz, current head of the CCP Production Design and Technical Services Division, which was formally established in 1993 with Badong at the helm.
“Hopefully with the interest stimulated by Badong’s amazing body of work, we’ll begin to revive big interest especially from the various schools of design, which has been blossoming in different parts of Manila in the Philippines, in the work specifically of [set] design,” continued Millado.
THE THEATER EXPERIENCE. For three months, the Bulwagan Juan Luna will be transformed into a giant black box that would serve as a backdrop for the scale models.
Gino Gonzales says about the exhibit's concept, “We’re trying to simulate the theater experience.
“Di ba sa theater it’s always dark, just the stage [is lit] and the rest is black? So, we’re trying to capture that in the gallery.
“Kasi, kunwari opera, hindi magwo-work sa… kunwari [well-lit] environment na very busy; so kailangan madilim, tahimik.”
Many of the scale models featured in the exhibit were actually used during the developmental stages of the productions.
Gino says, “A lot of them were from the CCP Production Design Center, which Badong established, so we were able to keep them in boxes, so that was not too difficult.
“The diffuclt part was borrowing the costumes…”
THE SHOWBIZ CONNECTION. Aside from being a theater designer, Badong was also known as a talented couturier.
Showbiz fans from the ‘80s and ‘90s may recall his name often being mentioned by stars on TV.
Badong has made gowns for many celebrities, including Regine Velasquez and Pops Fernandez; as well as political and high-society figures, like Ilocos Norte congresswoman Imelda Marcos.
Badong was a known expert in creating Filipino dresses, like the traje de mestiza and the terno, with intricate beadwork and miniscule details, which were also reflected in some of his costume designs for the theater.
Gino says, “Mainly the theater companies, the CCP and other companies that made the production, had kept some of the costumes.
“Kasi the ones that were kept usually were, di ba, the ones who got married… the bridal gowns.
“And then, those who did concerts, like sila Pops and Martin had kept their Badong Bernal. Also Regine.
“But the costumes, no, kasi they’re always recycled, so it was difficult to pull them back together from the way they were.
“Sometimes we had to reconstruct the costumes based on photographs.”
With or without the actual pieces, however, gallery guests can still enjoy viewing Badong’s costume sketches, which he did for his character studies.
For more information on the exhibit, contact the CCP Visual Arts and Museum Division at 832-1125 loc. 1504/1505 or 832-3702. Guided group tour bookings may be arranged with the CCP Marketing Department at 832-1125 loc. 1804. Admission to the Main Gallery exhibit is Php 100.