Thursday, February 25, 2021

#CopingwithCovid Cecilia Brainard Interviews #CebuLitFest Producer Hendri Go


Writer Cecilia Brainard Interviews Hendri Go about how he has been coping with the Covid Pandemic in Cebu, Philippines. Hendri Go is the producer/CEO of #CebuLitFest & #littleboyproductions . He talks about the pandemic rates in Cebu, how he has had to adjust his lifestyle and work goals. #CebuLitFest #Cebuliteraryfestival #littleboyprods #littleboyproductions #CopyingWithCovid

Read also:

Coronavirus: The Beginning, by Cecilia Brainard
How Filipinos Are Coping With Covid, Part One (Cecilia Brainard, Positively Filipino)
How Filipinos Are Coping With Covid, Part Two (C. Brainard, PF
How Filipinos Are Coping With Covid-19, Part Three (C.Brainard, PF)

Covid-19: An Encounter with a Bee During Quarantine

Interviews follow:
Lia Feraren, Germany
Teresa Concepcion, Canada
 Ofelia Gelvezon Tequi, France
Reine Marie Bonnie Melvin, France
New Zealand: Jay Montilla & Monika Tawngdee
Linda Ty-Casper, Massachusetts, USA
Barbara Ann Jacala, San Diego, CAUSA
Brian Ascalon Roley, Ohio, USA
Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino, USA
Interview of Cecilia Brainard by 95.9 Star FM Bacolod (DJ Billie), USA

Interviews of Filipino Americans #CopingWithCovid

Live Interview of #CebuLitFest Producer Hendri Go by Cecilia Brainard

All of the above links are part of the Philippine Covid Archive of Filipinas Heritage Library.

tags: #coronavirus #covid19 #covid #Filipinos #copingwithcovid #Paris #France #Europe #FilipinoFrench #FrenchFilipino #FilipinoAmerican #Bacolod #Philippines  Philippine literature, Cebuano literature, Cebu theater, Cebu playwright, Philippine theater

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Growing Up Filipino Stories for Young Adults - hardcover


The popular young adult anthology, GROWING UP FILIPINO: STORIES FOR YOUNG ADULTS, is now available in hardcover and with a new cover. For a little while it is available for $28 in Amazon. The price will go up on 2/26/21.

"Emerging and established award-winning writers are the authors of this fine collection of 29 stories about what it means to be young and Filipino in the Philippines and in the United States. … This impressive array captures the complexities of both the Filipino culture and history and the realities of the lives of young adults no matter what their ethnic affiliation. ~ Bookbird Journal International. Children’s Literature, IBBY

“These 29 short stories offer a highly textured portrait of Filipino youth and an excellent sampling of creative writing … Authors include those born and continuing to live in the Philippines, emigres, and American-born Filipinos … There are more Filipinos living in the U.S. than most people realize, but finding literature reflective of their experiences is difficult. The high caliber and broad but wholly accessible range of this collection, however, makes this title a solid purchase for multiple reasons.” ~ School Library Journal


tags: Philippines Filipino Philippine Filipino-America young adult YA Coming of age teen coming-of-age books book

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

2 Collections of Short Stories by Filipino and FilAm authors

Cecilia Brainard talks about PALH's US reissues of two collections of short stories by Filipino and Filipino American writers: FICTION BY FILIPINOS IN AMERICA and CONTEMPORARY FICTION BY FILIPINOS IN AMERICA.  -click below

 Tags: Philippine books, Philippines fiction, Filipino American books

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Growing Up Filipino Stories for Young Adults - Now in Hardcover and New Cover

The  collection of stories, GROWING UP FILIPINO: STORIES FOR YOUNG ADULTS,  now has a hardcover edition (ISBN 9781953716002). The softcover edition has a new cover. 


GROWING UP FILIPINO was the first publication of PALH (Philippine American Literary House). Written by established and emerging writers, the book delves into universal but at the same time personal themes of how it is to grow up Filipino.  The book has received received critical acclaim. 

Finalist for the Philippine National Book Award, this collection of stories along with the follow-up book GROWNG UP FILIPINO: MORE STORIES FOR YOUNG ADULTS continues to be read and used by educators. Last summer, the National Geographic included both books in its Summer Reading list.


Here are some book review excerpts of the book: 

School Library Journal: 
"These 29 short stories offer a highly textured portrait of Filipino youth and an excellent sampling of creative writing. Thematically arranged, most of the pieces have been written since the turn of the 21st century. Each story is introduced by a thumbnail sketch of the author and a paragraph or two about some element that is relevant to the story ... The high caliber and broad but wholly accessible range of this collection, however, makes this title a solid purchase for multiple reasons." 

Bookbird Journal International Children's Literature (Glenna Sloan): 
"Emerging and established award-winning writers are the authors of this fine collection of 29 stories about what it means to be Filipino in the Philippines and in the United States ... This impressive array captures the complexities of both the Filipino culture and history and the realities of the lives of young adults no matter what their ethnic affiliation." 

"In this fine short-story collection, 29 Filipino American writers explore the universal challenges of adolescence from the unique perspectives of teens in the Philippines or in the U.S. Organized into five sections -- Family, Angst, Friendship, Love, and Home -- all the stories are about growing up and what the introduction calls "growing into Filipino-ness, growing with Filipinos, and growing in or growing away from the Philippines ... The cultural flavor aspect never overwhelms the stories, and readers will be drawn to the particulars as well as the universal concerns of family, friends, love, and leaving home."' 

Bookseller can order the book from Ingram and readers can easily find this book in Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other booksellers. 

For more information, please visit:

tags: young adult literature, young adult fiction, teen literature, YA fiction, YA short stories

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Panel Discussion with Filipino American Women Writers - March 8, 2021, Philippine Embassy Event



Invitation: The Philippine Embassy of the United States is hosting "A Panel Discussion with Filipino-American Women Writers" that will be held on 8 March 2021, International Women's Day, 5-6PM EST via Zoom and Facebook Live.

The moderator is Aileen Cassinetto, and the panelists are:  Cecilia Brainard, Migs Bravo Dutt, Luisa Igloria, and Gayle Romansanta. 


To receive the zoom link, please register at


For information, #WomenMakeChange is the Philippines' official hashtag for the national celebration of Women's Month. 


Note: 5-6 pm EST on March 8 is 2-3 PT March 8 and is  6 am Philippine time on March 9



Tags: Philippine literature, Filipino American literature, Filipino American writers, Filipina writers

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Brainard's novel, MAGDALENA, Reissued with Illustrations

PALH (Philippine American Literary House) announces the release of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, novel MAGDALENA, with illustrations by the author. The book is available from Amazon for $17.95:< >. 

Previously published by Plain View Press (2003) and available in the Philippines (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House 2016), this 2021 US edition by PALH of MAGDALENA includes illustrations by the author.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Panel Discussion of Filipino/FilAm Women Writers hosted by the Philippine Embassy



Save the date: March 8, 2pm PST / 5pm EST #WomenMakeChange #womenwriters
The Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, USA is hosting its first ever panel discussion with Filipino/Filipino American women writers in honor of International Women’s Day.
Moderator is Aileen Cassinetto; panelists: Cecilia Brainard, Migs Bravo Dutt, Luisa A. Igloria, Gayle Romasanta.

#womenMake change


Tags: FilAm writers, Filipino American women writers, Pinay writers

Tuesday, February 2, 2021



PALH (Philippine American Literary House) announces the release of the US edition of the collection of short stories, CONTEMPORARY FICTION BY FILIPINOS IN AMERICA, edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard. The book is available from Amazon for $17.95

This book is part of PALH’s efforts to reissue in the United States important literary books published in the Philippines, and which have been difficult to find in the US. The release of CONTEMPORARY FICTION BY FILIPINOS IN AMERICA follows an earlier release of another anthology, FICTION BY FILIPINOS IN AMERICA. Both books are considered valuable literary resources, and are available in Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

First published in the Philippines in 1998, this 2021 US edition of CONTEMPORARY FICTION BY FILIPINOS IN AMERICA hopes to accommodate librarians, professors, teachers, and students. This collection is considered a valuable literary resource.

The anthology collects 26 short stories by Filipino and Philippine American writers, including (in no particular order): Fatima Lim-Wilson, Mila Faraon Heubeck, Eileen Tabios, John L. Silva, Veronica Montes, Cecilia Brainard, Lilia V. Villanueva, Mar V. Puatu, Vince Gotera, Oscar PeƱaranda, Luis Cabalquinto, F. Delor Angeles, Melissa R. Aranzamendez, Eulalio Yerro Ibarra, Nadine Sarreal, Jay Ruben Dayrit, Ligaya Victoria Fruto, Edgar Poma, Marianne Villanueva, Linda Ty-Casper, Paulino Lim, Jr., Greg Sarris, Less Respecio Colomby, N.V.M. Gonzalez, and Alma Jill Dizon.

Harold Augenbraum praised the book for MANOA, saying:

By pulling these personal, fictional quests together, the reader indeed comes away with a varied portrait of Filipinos in America, not the expression of dark causality present in the earlier generations of writers, such as Bulosan and Santos—those fantastic conjurors of Filipino American literature—but of people cautiously settling into what they hope will be a comfortable position … So many of these stories convey loneliness, disconnectedness, and an inability to form lasting attachments … This collection abounds with such tension … Brainard has done a fine job of bringing many little-known writers – and the edginess of Filipinos in America – to the fore. ”

For more information, please contact or

Tags: Philippines books, Philippine literature, Philippine short stories, Philippine American literature

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Philippine American Literary House books Kindle Promos


Promo for the following PALH (Philippine American Literary House) titles:  

Awaiting Trespass by Linda Ty Casper -

A River, One Woman Deep: Stories by Linda Ty-Casper -

Wings of Stone by Linda Ty-Casper -

Please, San Antonio! & Melisande in Paris, two novellas by Eve La Salle Caram and Cecilia Brainard -

The Newspaper Widow, novel by Cecilia Brainard -

Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America, ed Cecilia Brainard -

Fiction by Filipinos in America, ed Cecilia Brainard -

tags: Philippines books fiction stories Filipino Filipino American literature

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Pastel Art by Cecilia - San Miguel Allende


I'm keeping focused on creative things while waiting for the Inauguration. Both are pastels of a plant in my yard and sunset in San Miguel Allende.  

tags: #pastelart #pasteldrawing #sanmiguelallende #inauguration

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year from Cecilia Brainard



From, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

tags: New Year, New Year 2021, #HappyNewYear 



Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Paulino Lim Jr.'s Review of THE NEWSPAPER WIDOW, novel by Cecilia Brainard



Book Review of THE NEWSPAPER WIDOW, novel by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

University of San Tomas Publishing House, 2017, softcover, 238 pages, ISBN 9780715068116

"The Fictional Technique of Cecilia Brainard's The Newspaper Widow"

By Paulino Lim, Jr. 

The author states that her original intention was to write a mystery about a priest found dead in a creek, but the character portrayal overshadowed the plot, elevating the novel above a page-turning whodunit. Still, the  murder hooks the reader, and is rewarded with a satisfying conclusion.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas and a Brighter New Year to All


I'm wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a brighter New Year! Be safe, don't gather with others this holiday seas, so we can gather next year.  Here are some Christmas pictures:  


Thursday, December 17, 2020



Be Safe this Christmas


Please don't gather this Christmas and New Year.  Next year, we can do that.  Stay home, keep safe.  The vaccine is at hand now. Just be patients.

Happy holidays,

From, Cecilia Brainard


tags: #Christmas #holidays #covid19 #keepsafe

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Cecilia Brainard's FUNDAMENTALS OF CREATIVE WRITING, Free for Educational Purposes


Reminder to teachers, students, others:
For educational purposes, Cecilia Brainard decided to make her book, Fundamentals of Creative Writing available for free in Wattpad.

“Cecilia Manguerra Brainard’s Fundamentals of Creative Writing is a marvelous textbook that combines useful technical advice on craft with beautiful practical examples in her own stories. Brainard’s treatments of writerly voice and left brain/right brain theory as it connects to writing are among the best available in today’s writing textbooks. Her story examples cover a variety of story types, techniques, points of view, and historical as well as contemporary topics and themes. This book will indeed help writing students write strong stories and improve their craft. Brava, Ms. Brainard.” (Vince Gotera, Writer, Editor of North American Review, Professor of Creative Writing, University Northern Iowa)

Tags: writing, how to write, creative writing, creative nonfiction, writing workshop, writing teachers, writing students, how-to-write, personal essays

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Covers of When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard


This cover study of When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, first novel of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard was not used.  Here's the cover that Dutton/Penguin used. Both were designed by the famous Philippine artist, Pacita Abad.  

And here are the covers used in the editions by the University of Michigan Press and the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House respectively.

tags: Philippines books, Philippines fiction; Philippine novel, Philippine literature 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Cecilia Brainard Reviews Laurel Flores Fantauzzo's Novel MY HEART UNDERWATER




Please read Cecilia Brainard's book review of Laurel Flores Fantauzzo's MY HEART UNDERWATER in Positively Filipino:
"The novel My Heart Underwater by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo is about a 17-year-old Filipino American girl who is sent to the Philippines following a scandal. There, she is able to thread together the world of her parents with her own Southern California experience, and in so doing find healing.
The book follows three storylines: the gender issue of Corazon Tagubio; her father’s accident; and her exile to the Philippines.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Pearl Harbor Day & Cecilia Brainard's World War Two Novel



Today is Pearl Harbor Day. Ten hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Manila.
I'm posting in my blog the first chapter of my novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, which is about the coming of age of a young girl in the Philippines during World War II.

Tags: World War Two, World War II, Pacific War, WWII, WW2, Philippines books, Philippines fiction, War novel

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Betty Ann Quirino Writes about Cecilia Brainard's Books and Shrimp Wonton Soup


Betty Ann Quirino reviews Cecilia Brainard short story collections, Woman with Horns and Other Stories & Acapulco at Sunset and Other Stories:

The recipe for Shrimp Wonton Soup needed clear soup broth, which was to simmer for “three to four hours till fragrant”. I could cook this stove-top or I can make the broth in the Instant Pot, I said to myself. I chose the former so that I had a reason to sit quietly, tune out, and devour the books by Filipino American author Cecilia Manguerra Brainard.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Herminia Menez Coben Reviews Cecilia Brainard Short Story Collections




Review by Dr. Herminia Menez Coben

The Halo-Halo Review, Nov. 24, 2020

WOMAN WITH HORNS AND OTHER STORIES by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

(PALH 2020, New Day 1987) 



(PALH 2020, Anvil 1995)


In her debut collection of short stories, WOMAN WITH HORNS, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard launches her mythical Ubec (Cebu) – a historic, cosmopolitan and vibrant city – the setting of many of her short stories, as well as her most recent novel, THE NEWSPAPER WIDOW.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Philippine & FilAm Books and Kindle by PALH (Philippine American Literary House)


Many of PALH's titles are on Sale in Amazon. 

Following are the paperback and Kindle titles with order links.  

Published books by PALH (Philippine American Literary House)

Acapulco at Sunset and Other Stories by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard -

Benedicta Takes Wing and Other Stories by Veronica Montes

Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard - forthcoming

Fiction by Filipinos in America edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard -

Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard -

Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard -

Please, San Antonio! & Melisande in Paris (novellas) by Eve La Salle Caram & Cecilia Manguerra Brainard -

A River, One-Woman Deep: Stories by Linda Ty-Casper –

Woman with Horns and Other Stories by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard -

Kindle Titles by PALH (Philippine American Literary House)

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Historical Fiction Guest Blogger Caroline Kennedy


My Guest Blogger is Caroline Kennedy, who shares with us the first part of a historical novel-in-progress. British-born Caroline has worn many hats as journalist, radio producer, actor, director, TV presenter, and author. She was a humanitarian aid worker in Bosnia and Croatia during the war from 1992-95. She co-authored, How the English Establishment Framed Stephen Ward. She was former president of The Little Theater Group of Costa Rica. 

Thanks for being my Guest Blogger, Caroline Kennedy!


Excerpt from Diamonds, Pearls and Spice

Historical Fiction Novel by Caroline Kennedy

copyright 2020 by Caroline Kennedy, all rights reserved.

Prologue: Diamonds

The government of Spain, distracted by the Seven Year War in Europe, had begun to ignore its far-flung colony of the Philippines. This was due, in most part, to the challenges involved in administering such a distant country. But it was also due to the fact that the Spanish religious orders in Manila, preferring to remain autonomous, refused to subordinate to the King’s colonial government in Manila, the Royal Audiencia.

In 1759, taking advantage of the retirement of the Governor-General of Manila, Pedro Manuel de Arandia, and the late arrival of his replacement from Spain, the Archbishop of the Philippines, Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra, nominated himself Governor General.

Under constant threat by the Portuguese, Dutch and British forces to wrest the lucrative trade in silks, gold and ceramics with local Chinese merchants in Manila and the pearl and spices trade with the Sultan in Sulu, the new Governor-General, with no knowledge of commercial trade, military affairs or diplomacy was forced to fight off foreign assaults using untrained soldiers and sailors from the local Filipino and Chinese communities.

Following first the Portuguese and then the Dutch into India, the British, through the Honorable The East India Company, an ever-expanding band of self-governing, semi-autonomous merchants, traders and mercenaries, were assimilating vast areas of the sub-continent under their control and protection. Exploiting the local tyrannies, the avaricious squabbles over territory and the natural animosities between the local princes, rulers and nawabs, the British stepped in, took sides and were able to reap huge profits. Many personal fortunes were won and lost in the various battles for the control of this immense and bountiful land.

Fired by tales of Eastern romance and exoticism and seduced by promises of unimaginable opulence, property and power, young men left England to stake their claims to India’s abundant riches. Once there they would gamble, trade or fight in the service of bestial princes in exchange for staggering fortunes, virgin lands or some of the world’s most precious gems.

If they did not die ignominiously in battle or succumb to the prevalent and often fatal diseases of smallpox, typhoid, cholera or blackwater fever, many returned home exceedingly wealthy men. With their newly-acquired fortunes they bought lands, titles and political patronage in England, founding family dynasties, political appointments and guaranteeing secure and comfortable incomes for their descendants.

Yet others, and there were many of these too, lost their fortunes, not once but several times, their sense of adventure and intrigue crushed beyond hope and, too mortally ashamed to return home, died in penury, unmourned, unnoticed and forgotten in the squalour, privation and poverty of the other India.

But, always on the sidelines, the French too in their own stronghold of Pondicherry, had their designs to increase their own domains and a share in the untold wealth of India. Biding their time they periodically involved the British East India Company troops in local engagements and skirmishes while all the time testing the strengths and weaknesses of the British defences. By the middle of the 18th century the East India Company’s principal settlements and trading posts had been seriously threatened and were in danger of being totally annihilated and their lucrative trade destroyed by the superior French forces.

Complacency, over-confidence and an indifference born of arrogance had allowed the British cities, forts and garrisons to fall easy prey to the detested French. Calcutta, Arcot, Vellore, Areny, St Thome and Madras, once the most treasured jewels in the Company’s crown, had fallen in swift succession and with considerable loss of life, to the relentless imperialistic ambitions of the French governor of Pondicherry.

In the face of this remorseless onslaught the once-proud British East India Company was left helpless, hopeless and floundering, its profits having been dissipated by the increasing need to protect its swelling interests and territories to the neglect and detriment of its trade. Too late the British realized that while their horizons had been expanding over the sub-continent of India their markets had been on the decline in Europe. Faced with devastating defeats on all fronts they eventually found themselves beating a hasty and dishonorable retreat.

But help was to come from two very unlikely sources.

Even the triumphant French could not have predicted that one of their English prisoners-of-war who marched humiliatingly stripped and bound in their victory parade through the streets of Pondicherry would, with a small but courageous band of just a few hundred starving and demoralized men, rise up successfully against them.

British face, honour, reputation and dreams of a future empire in India, were about to be restored by the spirit, vigor and audacity of one inspired young East India Company clerk, Robert Clive.

And, while Robert Clive was being feted by Governor George Pigot in Fort St George Madras for repelling the odious French and restoring British pride, possessions and fortunes in India, a stowaway, a lad of no more than sixteen years of age, clambered unseen out of the cargo hold of an East Indian Merchantman anchored offshore.

Weak, emaciated and blinking from weeks crouched in the unlit bowels of the ship, the boy stood unsteadily on deck, massaging the temporary paralysis in his limbs and filling his lungs with the humid, salty air. Unaware that his childhood had now abruptly ended and that he would never again see the familiar Scottish highlands of his recent memories, Christopher Courtney gazed out over the green, rippling water of the Indian Ocean towards the unfamiliar shoreline of Fort St George. Unknown to him his life, a life that became every bit as noteworthy as Robert Clive’s, was just beginning.

Chapter 1

Jolo, Sulu Archipelago, Philippine Islands, 15 April 1753

My head bowed I paused for a moment to compose myself. Then, with eyes closed, teeth clenched and muscles tensed against pain, I drew the ornate, double-bladed dagger slowly and deliberately across my forearm.

“For God, for King and for the East India Company!”

I tried to pronounce the words calmly and defiantly, silently willing my voice not to betray any hint of the fear that had seized my mind, freezing the very words on my lips.

By my own design I had returned here, to these remote Philippine islands, far from my native Scottish hills where I was born twenty-one years ago. And whatever terrible fate might befall me now I was resolved to confront it as befitting a British gentleman. And, in so doing, fail neither my benefactor Governor-General Sir George Pigot in Madras nor my King in England. For, although lacking in any love for King and country when I fled, as a stowaway, on board an East India Merchantman bound for Madras five years past, my service in the employ of Governor Pigot, had finally instilled in me an uncharacteristic sense of national pride and identity.

Keeping my head bowed but opening my eyes, I passed the bloodied weapon to the resplendently-attired native seated on the raised bamboo dais above me. I then watched, mesmerized, as a trickle of blood traced the dagger’s short path down my arm, eventually spilling in crimson droplets onto my grey breeches.

As the raw, unmistakable smell of freshly-spilled blood filled the dank air, the other smells that pervaded the fetid room appeared fleetingly to subside. For, it seemed to me, that every odour on God’s earth was here in the house of this Moro Sultan, wafting up through the generous cracks in the wide, red narra floorplanks on which I sat cross-legged, a virtual prisoner among the Sultan’s Council of Ministers. The putrid stench of rotting debris, stale urine and pigs excrement and the pungent, salty smell of the lapu-lapu fish drying on the roof in the last sultry rays of the tropical sun, vied with the sweet aroma of burning copra oil and the delicate, redolent fragrances of the evening ylang-ylang, sampaguita and frangipani blossoms.

Momentarily forgetting that speaking without permission of the Sultan was strictly forbidden, I raised my head to address my faithful Sepoy servant, Corporal Comshaw, hovering protectively at my side.

“How did I do, Comshaw?”

The old Indian hesitated, uncertain whether to risk incurring the Sultan’s displeasure.

“Well, Comshaw?” I insisted.

The Corporal’s pockmarked face, ravaged by a recent and particularly virulent bout of smallpox, cracked into a wide, toothless grin.

“If you don’t mind me saying, Sahib,” he whispered, “the sentiment was right but the order was wrong!”

I studied Comshaw quizzically. For almost five years we had served together, both in Madras and in these islands. We had fought together alongside Governor Robert Clive and Governor Pigot in the Siege of Arcot and, at all times, the old warrior had demonstrated unquestionable loyalty, fearlessness and strength. I had grown to like the faithful old soldier, even respect him, but rarely have I understood him. By way of explanation, the wise old man pointed a grimy finger to the East India Company colours on his ragged, peaked cap.

“The Company always comes first, Sahib, isn’t that what Governor Pigot taught us?” adding more deferentially, “with all due respect to his gracious Britannic Majesty, of course!”

Despite the intense pain from my self-inflicted wound, I even managed to smile before once again turning my attention to the conceited figure of the Moro Sultan above me.

The dark, brooding gaze of Alim-ud-din, Honourer of the Faith, Light of the Universe, Most Highly Venerated and a dozen other titles besides, seemed temporarily preoccupied as he twirled the double-edged kris dexterously in his jeweled and perfectly manicured fingers. Contemptuously spitting aside the remnants of a dark red betel nut, he brought the dagger towards his mouth. Slowly turning the gold-studded ivory handle in his palm he started to lick my blood from the slim, wavy blade – swilling it around in his mouth with his tongue much as a wine-taster would savour a good wine, before allowing it to trickle down his throat. I watched, feeling both alarmed and sickened, as the small wiry man wiped his lips lasciviously, arching his carefully-plucked eyebrows at me as he did so.

Raising his left arm and stripping back the finely-woven sleeve of his gold brocade jacket, the Sultan pierced the smooth, hairless skin of his inner arm just above his elbow. As the punctured vein spewed blood, he proudly held up his arm for all to see. Seated respectfully at his feet his motley court of warrior attendants, regal ministers, paid retainers and prisoner slaves who owed their exalted position or abject existence to his patronage and whim, nodded their turbaned heads approvingly.

The Sultan beckoned disdainfully to me, urging me to step up towards the dais. Being careful not to appear taller than the diminutive Sultan, a sign or disrespect punishable by death, I obeyed.

Had I been right to trust these people, I wondered. To judge by their looks, they were certainly a bloodthirsty bunch. I fervently wished at that moment that I was back in the comparative safe and civilized confines of the Company headquarters in Fort St George, Madras.

Before I had left India Governor Pigot, had warned me not to risk my life again among these little known savages.

“There are plenty of cautionary tales,” Governor Pigot had warned me, “about eager young adventurers offering their services to distant and despotic rulers who might, on the one hand, offer fortunes beyond man’s most extravagant dreams but, on the other, punish by torture and death the unforgivable crimes of failure and disrespect.”

“But in this case, Sir,” I argued, “the stakes for the Company are so high, the omens so good and the promise of reward so great that I feel compelled to take the ultimate gamble.”

Governor Pigot had given me his blessing. “If you succeed, Christopher,” he had replied, “then a high position for you in the Company is assured.”

“I am resolved, Sir,” I replied.

“I’m sure they think nothing of killing a man,” Pigot had continued, still attempting to discourage me, “particularly a white man. And then drinking his blood and eating his intestines. They believe it makes them stronger, you see! “

I smiled. I knew the Governor’s fears were based more on an inherent mistrust of any native than from any real knowledge of the Moro ruler and his people. In fact all the Governor General did know of this wild, untamed tribe was based on Company reports furnished by me from my previous visits to Sulu over the past few years.

But I told him again I had made up my mind. And nothing he could say would change it, whatever the consequences, whatever the dangers, whatever the deprivations and whatever the future might hold for me.

The Governor patted me on the back. “Then go, young man. But just be warned, that although Sultan Alim-ud-din is, by all accounts, a fair man, the rest of the Suluans are duplicitous bastards – capable of unspeakable cruelty and quite prepared to murder their best friends should it benefit them. So look after yourself well, take no foolish chances and God speed! Long live the Company and the King!”

I had, of course, during my earlier brief visits to these islands, heard many stories of innocent men, being kidnapped for slaves, tortured or sacrificed in odious native rituals while trying to win the trust, wealth or conversion of these murderous local tribes. These victims were mainly local Spanish government officers, captured French and Dutch pirates or over-zealous Catholic priests who had crossed the Suluans in one way or another. None had been shown mercy.

And now here I was with only my one trusted Sepoy servant with me to witness this blood ceremony. What if both of us were killed?

But I was a realist and, as such, it was obvious to me that I had gone too far now to turn back. I also recognized that as a representative of the East India Company I could not afford to lose face with these natives or show any indication of the sense of foreboding that coursed through my whole being. My austere upbringing in a proud but impoverished Highland clan had long ago taught me that loss of face and signs of fear were both evidence of weakness. And any display of weakness on my part right now might unnecessarily risk my life and jeopardize my plans for the Company to wrest the lucrative East Indies spice trade away from the detestable Dutch.

I realized too, with a mixture of pride and alarm, that if I came through this blood ceremony unharmed I would very likely be the first foreigner since the Spanish conquistador, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, to have sealed a blood pact with a chief of this vain, unconquered Sulu race.

Following Legazpi’s arrival in 1565 the Spanish colonial government in Manila had tried and failed to subdue them many times, as had the Dutch and the French since. For this reason alone, as an Englishman, I was determined to succeed.

Kneeling respectfully at the Sultan’s knee, I resolutely gripped Sultan Alim-ud-din’s bleeding arm. Clasping his small bony hand in mine, I rubbed the Sultan’s forearm against my own, the two wounds momentarily grazing each other and the two bloods mingling.

God be merciful, it is done, I thought.

Facing me directly for the first time, our eyes meeting fleetingly, Alim-ud-din’s arrogant chiseled features, framed by a gaudy gold silk turban, softened into a smile, revealing a set of carefully filed and blackened teeth edged in gold. Fascinated by my courage, the Sultan reached out to touch me, stroking the skin of my neck with his dark bony fingers. And then, as though tenderly undressing a woman, the Sultan carefully unfastened my shirt down to my waist and, slowly, peeled it back over my shoulders, exposing my naked flesh beneath.

I swiftly came to the realization that all was not yet over. The hardest part of the ritual was yet to come. I glanced helplessly towards my long-suffering Indian companion. But even faithful Comshaw was powerless to come to my rescue. The Indian’s clothes had been removed and his arms expertly tied behind his back to prevent him escaping. The old man could only watch forlornly and in silent indignation as a fearsome Sulu warrior stood guard over him and, with the broad leaf-shaped blade of his barong knife, idly toyed with the Sepoy’s shriveled genitals, threatening to remove them altogether if the Indian soldier made one false move.

Without warning Alim-ud-din released a grisly, bloodcurdling scream, its echo splintering through the bamboo rafters of the palm-thatched roof and shattering the unearthly calm of the parched tropical evening. Before I had time to react, the Sultan had seized me forcefully by the shoulders, roughly pulling me forward to meet the shaved iron tip of his lance that he thrust into my chest, savagely piercing me below the nipple. At that precise moment, with the Sultan’s scream resounding in my ears and the raging pain engulfing me, I imagined my very soul passing from my desecrated body. For one fleeting moment I knew I was going to die, here in this remote, uncompromising land among a perfidious, unfriendly and ferocious people whose Sultan combined a sophisticated knowledge of the Q‘ran with a primitive skill in torture and whose friendship and total trust I now realized I could never dare hope to win.

It was this thought that pulled me to my senses. Instead of crumbling in agony at the Sultan’s feet which, as a cowardly foreigner, I was expected to do, I straightened myself up to my full height, arching my shoulders back, jutting my chin out and thrusting my torn and bloodied breast, still transfixed by the crude native lance, defiantly forward.

This display of arrogance obviously pleased Alim-ud-din. He clapped his hands in almost childish delight. Then, with deft and precise movements of his manicured fingers, he delicately extracted the weapon from the wound in my chest, avoiding inflicting further damage to my torn skin. Then, grabbing my raw flesh between his fingers and thumb, he expertly directed the erupting spurt of blood into a jewel-encrusted goblet held aloft by one of his slaves.

Triumphantly clutching the cup and raising it above his head with both hands, the Sultan commanded Rajah Laut, his Chief Minister, to pierce his own breast in a similar fashion. As the primitive spear penetrated Alim-ud-din’s hairless chest below the heart he never once flinched but sat, haughty and resolute, on a thick nest of silken cushions, bravely refusing to display any outward emotion or pain.

Respectfully Rajah Laut pinched the bleeding hole as the Sultan lowered the goblet beneath it to catch the escaping flow of his own blood. Careful not to spill the contents the Chief Minister removed the cup from the Sultan’s grasp and proceeded to mix the two bloods together, stirring them rhythmically with a stick.

Filling the entire room, the Sultan’s band of slaves, Ministers and bodyguards, until then silent witnesses to the ritual, rose as one to their feet. Then, uttering unintelligible, demented cries and brandishing their lances, they threatened Comshaw and myself with cabalistic gestures and atavistic guttural shrieks.

Snatching the cup back from Rajaj Laut, Alim-ud-din raised it to his lips and drank lustily from it, reminding me of the resident priest in the small English church of St Mary’s at Fort St George, consuming the remainder of the communion wine.

Filled with foreboding I knew instinctively I was not to be spared this final indignity. And, rather than be regarded as a coward or a reluctant participant, I eagerly reached forward waiting for the Sultan to offer me the golden goblet. Lifting it to my mouth, I threw my head back and poured the warm, rich stream of blood down my throat. May God forgive me, I thought. Governor Pigot had been right all along. I was now no better than any one of these barbarous infidels.

Alim-ud-din muttered some words of approval to me. A truce had been declared, a pact had been sealed and, may God have mercy on me, I was now his blood brother, willing to respect him as an equal, willing to fight for him against his enemies and, above all, willing to die in his name. The Sultan bent down to embrace me, holding me so close that I was sure I could feel the older man’s warm, wet breast grazing my cheek.

The Sulu bodyguards, bolder now, mounted the dais and encircled us. Their fanatic chant, reaching a wild and menacing crescendo, drowned out the droning of the nocturnal cicadas and the intermittent growls of the howler monkeys claiming their nightly domain amid the feathery fronds of the coconut palms. Through an opening I could make out a dense column of giant fruit bats as they rose out of the surrounding trees like a sudden black whirlwind scattering across the night sky in search of their evening feeding grounds.

Abruptly Alim-ud-din moved to subdue his unruly men, raising his wiry arms in a gesture of subjugation and, one by one, they dutifully fell silent, meekly bowing low and laying their wooden shields in a pile at the Sultan’s bejeweled feet. Filled with curiosity they leant forward to examine me, stroking my loose, sun-bleached hair, caressing my cheeks and poking their fingers into my eyes. Cautiously they tasted the fresh blood on my arm and breast, lewdly licking their betel-stained lips approvingly as they did so. Coyly they pressed up against me, rubbing my shoulders, squeezing my muscles and running their inquisitive fingers playfully over my buttocks and down my thighs. Tense and nervous, I stood my ground. I knew better than to react against this treatment, although my natural instinct bade me to do so. I had no wish to offend my new brother, the Sultan Alim-ud-din.

Releasing his grip the Sultan drew my face gently towards his and, almost tenderly, kissed me on both cheeks. Then, breaking the silence, in correct but archaic English, the Sultan Alim-ud-din, Honourer of the Faith, welcomed his new blood brother, proclaiming me “Datu”, a Royal rank traditionally reserved only for the Sultan’s male relatives.

“We all do entreat to make an agreement with you, Datu Courtney, that there be no discontent betwixt us even from this time for evermore to the end of the world. Thus pleasing us, Datu Courtney, you will remain our brother in perpetual harmony and devotion.”

 ~end of excerpt~

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