Rev. Fr. Miguel Bernad, S.J., literary critic, and an academic of long standing at the Philippine Ateneo de Manila University and Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, died at 91 last March 15 in Cagayan de Oro City.
In 1961, Fr. Bernad published his literary "organon" Bamboo and Greenwood Tree. Words he said then still ring true today:
"We must treat Filipino litrature as it is: with humility, but also with respect. We must not call it great, for it is not; we must not treat it patronizingly, for it deserves respectful treatment...it is an inchoate literature, but within a modest compass, it has its masterpieces."
As a critic, he spelled out his dictum when he used preponderantly his theological approach to measure the achievement of prose writers like Manuel Arguilla, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Nick Joaquin, and Gregorio Brillantes. Consistent in his moral-philosophical approach in literary criticism, he broadened his criticism with insights into man's literature as work for the "greater glory of God." In Philippine literary circles, his was a "brave approach" -- religion being almost non-existent in the island Republic's extant literary themes.
Born in Ozamiz City, in Mindanao, Fr. Bernad taught English literature, was a columnist at the Philippine Star, and was the first editor of the Ateneo's prestigious quarterly journal Philippine Studies, and Xavier's scholarly journal "Kinaadnan." An indefatigable man of letters, he said he considered his priesthood, however, as his one great achievement.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.