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Who is Gabriel A. Bernardo?

Gabriel A. BernardoEvery year, the Institute of Library and Information Science presents the Gabriel A. Bernardo Memorial Lecture around March 14, the birthday of the person after whom the lecture is named. This year, the speaker will be USec Fortunato dela Peña of the Department of Science and Technology. For more information, check out UPLSAA Online.

But who exactly is Gabriel A. Bernardo? For those who are familiar with his name, all we ever really hear is that he is the doyen of Philippine librarianship. For those who've never heard of him, below are two articles that appeared in the Manila Times in 1962. The first was written by Alfredo Roces before Bernardo's death, while the second is an editorial—probably the source of the title "doyen"—published after his death on 5 December 1962. [Digression: When will another editorial be written about a Filipino librarian?]

Our Dean of Librarians
by Alfredo R. Roces
Manila Times, 27 November 1962

National Book Week should be the appropriate time to bring to public light a man, and more important, his contributions to Philippine library science. This man is little known outside of his circle of libraries, book lovers, students of UP and the Ateneo. In fact, we have never met him personally. But this man, Gabriel Bernardo, is considered the "dean of Filipino librarians" by all those who live in the field.

Bernardo is now about 71 years old. At present he is recovering from an operation, his ailment forcing an interruption of his teaching at the Ateneo where he was pinch-hitting for Fr. Horacio de la Costa's history and government class. Throughout his life he has expressed scholarly interest in books, Philippine and Indonesian folklure (sic), Tagalog, and culture in general. He has trained countless Filipino librarians and written many articles on various aspects of Philippine culture. He was librarian and professor emeritus at the UP. In 1957, he received a citation from the UP Library Science Alumni Association and library staff members as "Dean of Filipino Librarians, Educator, Bibliographer and Scholar."

During the American regime, Leonard Wood offered Bernardo the directorship of the National Library, but Bernardo turned it down because he could not be assured a free hand in weeding out incompetents. Till now the graying librarian is highly respected, but not popular for his highly principled and idealistic standards imposed on those under his influence. He has, for instance, many a time refused to recommend someone for a position whenever he felt that the candidate was unqualified. On the other hand, he has been known to work very hard to help someone obtain an opportunity whenever he was confident of the person's qualifications. In public libraries, where bureaucracy reigns, such uncompromising individuals are seldom popular.

In one school in the United States, where a Filipino pensionado was sent and had done so badly the school crossed out Filipinos from the list, Bernardo worked tirelessly among those he knew in the American community and wrote letters to the school officials in order to recommend someone he knew was deserving. The person was accepted and has at least vindicated Philippine scholarship in that school.

Bernardo helped organize the USIS library. He is working on a national bibliography, stung by the unchallenged cry of Retana: "Where are the people aspiring to be free, but need a foreigner to make its national bibliography?" He is a serious researcher and has done much for library work in this country and, consequently, for the seeds of culture.

We feel that humble, hard-working and dedicated men need some token of the public's esteem. In this era of public relations and image-building through press release, a man of Bernardo's achievement deserves some recognition. Roses to the dean of Filipino librarians on Book Week!

Professor Bernardo
Manila Times, 7 December 1962

An unassuming man, whose quiet manner belied his erudition, was one of the most beloved figures in the University of the Philippines in his time. He was Professor Gabriel A. Bernardo, doyen of Filipino librarians, who died the other day at the age of 71, poor of purse but rich in honors.

Known to all students as the UP librarian, Dr. Bernardo was actually an eminent bibliographer of Filipiniana and an internationally recognized authority of Philippine and Indonesian folklore. Upon his retirement from the state university five years ago, he devoted his remaining years to the completion of his lifetime project, the updating of Philippine bibliography where W.E. Retana, James Alexander Robertson and others had left it half a century ago.

A conscientious and devoted scholar, Dr. Bernardo was no less revered as an understanding and helpful friend of every student in quest of knowledge from the books and manuscripts in his care. He was a true man of learning, whom neither adversity nor academic renown could distract from his scholarly devotions.

These two articles were reprinted in Gabriel A. Bernardo: Librarian, Bibliographer and Scholar (Manila: Bibliographical Society of the Philippines, 1974), which was edited by Mauro Garcia and includes Bernardo's works (including a play!) and testimonials delivered in his honor.

Category: Librarians

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