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Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Icon Of Philippine Culture, Has Passed Away

A writer, publisher, producer, painter, and fashion designer, she consistently nurtured young and emerging talents in Philippine art and culture

On the morning of August 27, renowned writer and artist Gilda Cordero-Fernando passed away. An icon of Philippine culture and art, the celebrated literary maven lived a full and vibrant life, with a prolific and colorful career spanning decades. Her son, Mol Fernando, took to Facebook to share the sad news. 


Born in Manila on June 4, 1930, Gilda had her beginnings as a short story writer, winning Palancas and contributing regularly to publications like the Philippines Free Press. Her most well-known short, A Wilderness of Sweets is oft-anthologized and is hailed to be one of the best Filipino short stories of the 20th century. Gilda herself is considered to be one of the finest and most acclaimed writers in Philippine literature. 


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But she’s more than just a writer, or a fictionist: she is the ultimate icon of Philippine culture and burgis society, establishing GCF Books in 1978, which published “a series of well-thumbed volumes of Philippine cultural history,” as per the Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings. She also took a deep-dive into theater, producing fashion shows and plays, and had exhibited her paintings from 2005 to 2009. 


In the Gilda Cordero Fernando Sampler, published in 2009, her longtime friend and colleague Mariel N. Francisco described her to be a “whirlwind of creative energy,” and that “creating her art fills all her waking hours—which these days have abandoned the circadian rhythm and simply go with the ceaseless flow of her inspirations.” 


Lorna Kalaw-Tirol once wrote, “[Gilda] dislikes dwelling on compliments, this woman who long ago gave me a very definite idea of the kind of woman I would like to grow into in my middle age.” With Gilda’s passing comes a void in Philippine art and culture, shaped and molded by minds—and, most of all, hearts—like hers. Thankfully, she had touched the lives of countless artists, young and old, to keep her legacy going. 


Lead photos from the Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings