Fernando Bernardo’s soul
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas () - July 3, 2004 - 12:00am
Last year I wrote about a book on little known heroes in Philippine history written by Dr. Fernando A. Bernardo. Soon after that I learned that the learned agricultural scientist had come out with another worthy project – a book of 35 poems with 30 paintings by the author himself. This collection of poems, entitled "The Silent Voice of Your Soul," is a reflection on the human condition – or, as the author puts it, "from birth to death and beyond."

The poems speak about life, birthing, adolescents, the family; about human passions – love, anger and bitterness, depredations, revenge and solitude.

On birth, which the author calls "a contract with the wind," he writes: "Birth comes like the dawning of day/A spirit of life, constantly heralding the break of day/insuppressible, continuously surging like the ocean waves incessantly rolling like the silent wind ever blowing."

On loving, he writes: "Love finds you if you are worthy/The unworthy seeks nothing but happiness/ a search for pure happiness in vain/ for love enthrones you, but enslaves you. /It gives you happiness/ even as it causes you pain./ It makes you dream and soar in the sky even as it clips your wings/It induces you to dance even as it prunes your limbs."

On solitude: "Solitude is paradise/and paradise is solitude . . . Smell and kiss the flowers/Listen as the birds sing/Enter and explore the deep woods/Feel the warmth of the sun/Catch the rain in your hands/Hold the dewdrops on your palm/And enjoy the beauty of the world, and wonder!/All this wealth in nature makes for a paradise."

The poems ask the reader to reflect on the beauty and challenges of life, of the grandeur of the environment, and on the peace that comes with living life purposively. Running through the length of this volume is Bernardo’s acknowledgment of the greatness of his Creator. In "The Many Journeys of Your Soul," he writes: "God, the ever loving and forgiving/Condemns no one forever/He gives a hundred and one chances to sinners/To achieve spiritual perfection/For the goal, the goal divine of spiritual purity/To be at Home in oneness with all and the Almighty."

Curiously, Bernardo’s illustrations are of nude men and women. For three reasons, the painter writes in the foreword. "First, the human body in the nude is so natural and truthful. Truth in the character of man and woman is partly revealed by the body, muscles, and bone structure. Second, each poem and corresponding drawing portray man and woman without national boundaries. There should be no national bias in poems about humanity. Human beings in this book cannot be clothed in western clothes, nor in Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, South American, Hawaiian, or Arabian attires. Lastly, the human body is most beautiful. Why should we not bare the human body with pride, and appreciate its natural beauty? After all, God made man in His image."

The collection, as well as that on heroes, came to being after Dr. Bernardo retired from work as deputy director general for international programs of the International Rice Research Institute. Prior to that he held many positions, among them that of president of the Visayas State College of Agriculture, and the Philippines Association of State Colleges and Universities, and director, of SEARCA. He received the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award in Genetics in 1966, the Rizal Pro Patria Award for educational administration in 1980; was Most Outstanding Agricultural Educator of 1978, received the PANTAS Award for Research Administration in 1982, and Most Distinguished UPLB Alumnus Award in 1986.

He has actually produced a first volume of poems. As to how he got to write this second collection, he relates that after retirement from IRRI, solitude was his constant companion: "It was a time of freedom from the world concerns of rice science – a time of tranquility and sweet serenity. . . In constant deep solitude, I sought truth from the depths of my heart and soul, and heard silent messages from my inner being." The result: 35 poems from birth to death and beyond, and 30 of his own drawings later converted into paintings.
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E-mail: dominimt2000@yahoo.com

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