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Aug 31 2020

Obituary: Gilda Cordero-Fernando (1930–2020)

by Stephanie Siu

Filipino cultural icon GILDA CORDERO-FERNANDO passed away last Thursday. Image via Facebook.

Filipino writer, fashion designer, artist, producer, and cultural icon Gilda Cordero-Fernando passed away on August 27 in Manila, at the age of 90. Her death was announced in a Facebook post by her son Mol Fernando, who did not disclose details of her passing. 

While Cordero-Fernando is renowned for her literary accomplishments, with her lyrical style praised for its unique and witty elements, she was also an advocate of Filipino culture. She was passionately involved with various art sectors by the later years of her career, enjoying portraiture painting, curatorial work, as well as the production of theater plays and fashion shows. 

Born in Manila, she graduated in 1951 from St. Theresa’s College before studying for a master’s degree in English literature at Ateneo de Manila University. She received recognition for her short stories as early as the late 1950s. Some of her best known fictional works include titles such as The Butcher, The Baker, and the Candlestick Maker (1962) and A Wilderness of Sweets (1973). The later published Story Collection (1994) compiled pieces from both her earlier books. 

In the 1970s, she ventured into non-fiction, producing volumes such as Streets of Manila (1977), Being Filipino (1981) and Philippine Food and Life (1992), in which she explores various aspects of Filipino history, culture, and society. These books were published under her own publishing house, GCF Books, founded in 1978. In 2000, she produced Luna: An Aswang Romance, a Palanca Award winning theater production combining melodrama, fashion, and literature.  

Cordero-Fernando was the recipient of the 1994 Gawad Award for literature and publishing from the Cultural Center of the Philippines for her cultural contributions. In 2014, she was conferred the esteemed Palanca Awards Gawad Dangal ng Lahi. 

As a visual artist, Cordero-Fernando exhibited her portrait paintings at Silverlens SLab space 2009 and 2011, and at Silverlens gallery in 2014.

In his Facebook post, Mol Fernando wrote that “we will miss her dearly and love her always,” also adding that “there will be no need for funeral services” as Cordero-Fernando held her own wake in 2012. In her article written that year, titled “Dance me to the end of love,” she wrote about her wake, describing it as a “happy time” and encapsulating the experience with a quote from her friend Techi Velasquez, saying that “If only people knew what fun old age is, how could they dread it?”

Stephanie Siu is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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