Sunday, December 30, 2007

RECAP 2007

Here's a brief overview of some of the things I did in 2007:
January - February - Took care of business in the Philippines; played tourist in the Philippines with Lauren, Allens, and Doug

April - Went on a Panama Cruise; participated in the LA Festival of Books at UCLA with Loren Woodsen
May - taught a writing class, UCLA Extension; participated in the Aerospace Asian American event; was interviewed by Janelle So in Channel 18
June - participated in a literary reading at UCLA Extension; was guest speaker at dinner of the Filipino American group in Lancaster

June-July - visited the Philippines to take care of business; launched A La Carte Food & Fiction
August - taught an online Writing Class for the first time

September - participated in a UCLA-Extension's Writer's Faire and the West Hollywood Book Festival; visited San Miguel Allende and Guadalajara in Mexico

October - Went to New York and on a cruise to New England and Canada
October-November - taught a writing class, UCLA Extension

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I have a few more things to say about the Benazir Bhutto assassination:

1. The incident reminds me of what happened to Ninoy Aquino. Aquino had been in exile in the United States and had been encouraged by the United States to return to the Philippines in 1983. He barely got off the plane when he was shot dead in Manila International Airport's tarmack. The military or police immediately killed his assailant, and the Marcos government had a lot of stories about Ninoy's assassination. Not too long after, the government of Ferdinand Marcos, that had enjoyed quite a lengthy dictatorship, toppled.

2. American foreign policy - I cannot understand how the United States can talk about installing democracy in other countries such as Pakistan, when all it is doing is installing dictators. Haven't we seen the United States prop up dictators like Diem, the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos - all in the name of democracy? The American people must understand that when the United States props up these dictatorial governments, there is no freedom in those countries. None. Zilch. Nada.

In this sense the United States foreign policy is screwed up. The U.S. is so eager to support "friendly" governments where it has interests, and in so doing creates despots that oppress their people. This is not democracy.

This was what the U.S. has done in Pakistan - after 9/11, it pumped a lot of money into supporting Pervez Musharraf with the understanding that he'd fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda. According to a recent CNN documentary, Musharraf has made deals with the Taliban and Al Qaeda not to attack Pakistan military, which has made certain places in Pakistan nesting grounds of these militant groups.

Musharraf has suspended judges in Pakistan, and reportedly had placed Benazir in house arrest. He definitely did not provide adequate protection to her, and now there is some Pakistani government story that Bhutto had died from banging her head on the lever of her vehicle.

I've seen this kind of obsfucation - muddle the story so as to confuse the people, so that they fail to see what is important.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A La Carte Food & Fiction wins Gourmand Award

I missed the original email from, but Marily Orosa and Felice Sta. Maria informed me that the anthology which Marily and I co-edited, A La Carte: Food & Fiction, won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award 2007,in the category Best Food Literature Book. Apparently the book is a winner in the Philippines, and will be competing with other countries' winners.

Here's the official letter from Gourmand:
Gourmand World Cookbook Award 2007
You are the winner in your country PhilippinesYou qualify for the next "Gourmand Best in the World Competition"


A La Carte: Food & Fiction
Edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Marily Y. Orosa
25 Authors
Illustrations by Ice de Leon
ISBN: 978 9712718770
Anvil Publisher

In the category: Best Food Literature Book

The winners will appear in the website on January 8, 2008.

The following is more information about the award:


In 2007, over 6000 books were received from 107 countries. All books compete within their own country, sometimes separated by languages, to correspond to the book trade established markets.

The deadline for receiving books was November 15. Entry is free, there are no fees. Anyone may send books to compete, the author(s), the publisher, the readers.
The winners receive personnally their notification at the end of 2007. The lists of winners are posted on internet in January 2008.

Given the number of books in the competition, it is an honour to win. Winning books get more visibility in the market place and may get higher sales, often with new print runs.

The selection process tries to focus on books that have international potential. Winners books get international attention: translations and international rights deals may be negotiated.

Winners use self adhesive tickets to announce visibly their award to the public. They issue press releases in their local and international markets. There is much promotion of the awards on internet sites, publishers catalogues, in the next books, and in authors biographies.

The Gourmand Yearbook 2006 and 2007 give much cookbook and wine book trade information which cannot be found elsewhere = market information, trends, lists of Gourmand winning books with comments on the books.

The Yearbook is distributed at the international book fairs that Gourmand attends, and it is the catalogue of the exhibitions, which follow the Yearbook classification of the winners. The Yearbook is also sold by major cookbook stores around the world, and directly by Gourmand.

Last year winning books had the following exhibitions, free for the winners:

- April : Beijing Gourmand Awards, Dragon Springs Exhibition
Visitors: trade professionals from 36 countries plus many Chinese.

- October: Frankfurt Book Fair.
Gourmand Cookbook Stand of 130 m2.

- 2007-2008: Beijing International Book City
Permanent One Year Exhibition.
The Gourmand stand is one of the 10 biggest among the 48 foreigners present.

In the coming year 2008 there is the same exhibition plan, with a major presence at the major book fairs, such as the London International Book Fair, April 14-16: our Gourmand Cookbook Corner will be even bigger than in Frankfurt, with the exhibition, chefs demonstrations, and a Champagne Bar.

Winners qualify for the “Best in the World” competition.
The results of that competition will be announced at the Gourmand yearly awards show in May 2008. The location will be communicated directly to you, and all information will be on internet in January 2008.

For more information, including the Gourmand history and the future schedule see:


I was shocked to learn that Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan was assassinated. A couple of months ago, shortly after her return to Pakistan, there had already been an assassination attempt. (In fact,there had been numerous assassination attempts on her life, for which she blamed the Al Queda.) Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had not been happy with Bhutto's return, and the world now turns to look at him regarding this assassination.

Bhutto comes from an ill-starred political family: her father was hanged in jail; one brother poisoned in France, and another shot by the police.

I feel sad at the turmoil going on in Pakistan and in Burma and other places in the world.

I am appalled that despots are able to silence opposition, and seem to get way with it. I want to believe in Justice, and I know that Justice does not know "time" as we humans do, but I get impatient when I see oppression, injustice, abuse of human rights continue, and perpetrators getting away with such deeds.


The answer, dear Readers, is that I lost!!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


The question, dear Readers, is will Precious win or lose at the race track today??????

Stay tuned later, dear Readers, stay tuned!

(In the style of Marianne Villanueva's blog - thanks Marianne - you don't even have the foggiest idea do you that I'm imitating this style???)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Here's a memory about Jacob's Crackers. In the Philippines, when I was growing up, the best crackers one could get were English crackers called "Jacob's" - except we called it Ha-cob. The brand had been around since my mother was a young girl attending boarding school. She used to talk about her father visiting her and bringing her "Hacob." The tin can of Hacob was distinctive: rectangular, with a blue-gray design and sprays of wheat. What a surprise I had when I went to my Filipino market on Vermont (Seafood City)and saw what I initially thought was Hacob! My heart stopped; a surge of memories flooded through me!

Well, it wasn't Hacob; the box, the design had clearly been copied. I bought a can - I couldn't resist - the memory of Hacob was too strong in me. Frankly I have no memory now of how Hacob crackers tasted. This Chinese version was all right - indeed they were flaky and light, and anyway, I just had to get a glimpse of the tin can to get the surge of memory from the past and that was enough.

Friday, December 21, 2007


OK - it's Christmas time, so I'm seeing a number of old friends. Today I had lunch with Joselyn Geaga Rosenthal. Years ago, Joselyn and I were members of the Epic group that used to meet at UCLA; we discussed ancient Philippine epics. It was as a member of this Epic Group that I started retelling the epics, which I later wove into my first novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept.

Joselyn and I also share some friends in the Philippines; she had gone to STC Baguio, and attended one semester at Maryknoll Quezon City; I attended STC San Marcelino and Maryknoll Quezon City. She knew Perla Dumundun, Brenda Nuval, and other Maryknollers who had been my classmates.

We ate at the Bahay Kubo on Temple Street, and afterwards, she gave me a tour of Historic Filipinotown. For some reason I missed the story of the designation of Historic Filipinotown. Twenty years ago, the Filipino American community had already been already talking about this. There had been a lot of bickering, factions quarreling over which area should be given this name, and community groups split over issues. Some people wanted Carson or some other place to be Filipinotown, because there are more Filipino living there. The other ethnic groups in the area (now designated Historic Filipinotown) resisted the proposal. And on and on , until finally, with politicians on the right side, the designation was made. The area now designated is the same place that the Filipinos back in the 1920s congregated in. The famous writer, Carlos Bulosan, had used Temple Street as the setting of some of his stories.

Joselyn said that she was so excited when this happened that she invested in property on Temple Street. She lives in the area, and as she put it, why not make the commitment? The building she owns has three rental spaces; one is being developed, one is occupied by a 99 cent store; the other, she turned into an Art Gallery named Remy's on Temple (2126 W. Temple, Echo Park, tel: 213-484-2884), which is run by her son Jonathan Yap. The Gallery also sells some books and hosts book signings. Joselyn showed me the garden behind her building, and pointed out what she'd done to landscape the area - she has sampaguita, duhat, avocado, macopa, bandera espanola and other tropical plants.

Joselyn pointed out the banners on the street light poles, saying "Historic Filipinotown." She showed me the antique Filipino designs on some pedestrian's lanes in the area (one right on Hoover and Temple). She also pointed out the mural depicting the Filipino American pioneers.

It was refreshing to see Joselyn's excitement and commitment to Filipinotown in Los Angeles. It reminded me actually of my own enthusiasm about Old Cebu, and the attempts of some of my new friends there to get Old Cebu designated as a historic district. It's like this: even though the place is still gentrifying; we can already imagine the possibilities, and it's the vision that drives us. Joselyn refers to the work she is doing in her building as "playing" - an interesting term which I also use when I fix up the building I own in Old Cebu. When Joselyn speaks about Filipinotown, I know she can "see" something in her head.

I know I do when I think of Old Cebu - the area near the Cathedral, and Santo Nino Basilica - I see this place cleaned up; I see it spruced up so it looks like a Spanish Colonial place. I know this will take years to happen - but I'm willing to join those who have taken the first steps toward this vision - (I mean the Aboitiz's who developed Casa Gorordo; I mean Val Sandiego who put lots of money into fixing up his old house across the Fire Station, and who stages elaborate events several times a year in the Parian; I mean those responsible for building the Cathedral Museum; I am also referring to those who put up the historic signs in the area, and to others who have invested time and energy into Old Cebu.

Here's wishing Joselyn and her kindred spirits - lovers of old heritage sites - the best! (The pictures below show one street banner with "Historic Filipinotown" on it; the mural showing pioneer Filipino Americans (Helen Brown and Remy Geaga, among the figures), and the ancient Filipino design on the pedestrian's lane.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I took these pictures in Central America. The two photos were taken in Antiqua, Guatemala.

tags: travel, photographs, pictures, Central America


I had lunch with my friend Susan Montepio. Susan and I go way back. We were co-founders of PAWWA (Philippine American Women Writers and Artists); we were partners of PALH (Philippine American Literary House); we were involved in 4 books projects: Seven Stories From Seven Sisters; The Beginning and Other Asian Folktales; Journey of 100 Years; and Growing Up Filipino. It was good to see her and to hear that she and her family are fine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Here's an interesting email correspondence re my grand-aunt Remedios Cuenco Borromeo:
The only girl in the Cuenco family is Remedios Cuenco Borromeo, she is the only sister of your (grand)father. Although she was not that famous she was gifted in her own right. She was an accomplished pianist and acclaimed writer. She also wrote so many stories in the Veritas. You failed to mention her in your letter to your mother. By the way I am your relative living in Chicago, Illinois. Please acknowledge her existence. She was very dear to me.
from: Angelica Borromeo
Thank you for writing. I have been wanting information about Tiya Edyong. I heard she was a "storyteller." Do you have more info? - her date of birth, name of her husband, number of children, schooling, when she died. And if you can send me copies of her writings, I would be THRILLED. And info re her grandchildren too.

I visited her when I was young and by that time she was half paralyzed, but she always had a sense of humor. (She was the sister of my grandfather Mariano J. Cuenco ) - I remember she said something like, "It's a good thing many of their silbings died, otherwise the Philippines would be in a revolution because of the Cuencos" - she was referring to their volatile nature.

Yes, I would LOVE to write about her, but please give me info.

I did not mean to leave her out in the Cuenco site - I just had little information and pictures about her. I was always interested about her, especially when I heard she was a writer. Pls. do send info, her writings, maybe pics, info. thanks!!!!

My mother was Iton Cuenco; in case you knew her. I was the youngest in the family. I've always been interested in family stuff.
From: Cecilia Brainard
I have to talk to my sister Titus. She has some info. I was young when Lola died. I will get in touch with you as soon as I get some more info. I have old pictures of her with husband and my dad Peping. Thank you so much for your interest.
From: Angelica Borromeo
I remember Tiyo Peping! And I am sure we met each other when we were children in Cebu. I remember Mitos - is she your sister?
I have another questions - I remember Tiya Edyong, but the old photo I have showing the Cuenco siblings have her name down as Dolores. Was she Dolores? Or Remedios?

Pls. send me info. I gather what I can about the Cuenco genealogy. You will also find some more info not just in the Cuenco site, but also in my blog - also some Old Cebu historical info. My current friends in Cebu are historic Old Cebu enthusiasts.

Your Dad and my grandfather were first cousins.

Let me know what you find out!
From: Cecilia (I was known as BAby)

As soon as I have more information about Remedios Cuenco Borromeo, I'll update the Cuenco site, but in the meantime, do visit:

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Some pictures: Top shows Christmas 2005 in Pasadena; next is Dylan Christmas 2005; then some cool pictures of Robert, Luke and Dylan

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lauren Brainard Pictures when he was 11

Lauren ran into some old Pasadena friends who gave him a couple of old pictures. The pictures show Lauren and other Pasadena boys, all around 11 - 12 years old. Lauren is the one with the striped shirt showing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Here are some reviews of movies I've seen, rated 1-5 stars, five being the best.

No Country for Old Men - **** - A lot of violence, tension, and action, and it has the quirky quality typical of the Coen Brothers' productions. Entertaining.

Enchanted - **** - Actress Amy Adams carries this delightful movie that merges animation and realty. The movie has charm and is a great family movie.

The Darjeeling Limited - ***+ - Quirky movie about three brothers on a train journey in India to find their mother. The brothers are charming. There's a lot of talking and subtlety. This is a character film, not an action one.

Love in Time of Cholera - **+ - The movie reviews for this movie were terrible so that I had zero expectations. Prepared for the worst, the movie rose to a higher level than expected. The language and acting were stilted. (English spoken in a Spanish accent, and poorly done.) This movie could be seen as the story of a relentless stalker who doesn't give up. But the movie took me away to Colombia, with green, lush, tropical sceneries.

Michael Clayton - *** - George Clooney does a good job in this movie about a lawyer who is the fixer in his law firm. But I have a confession to make, I saw this weeks ago, and enjoyed it after I saw it, but the movie quickly faded in my memory. Hmmmm - either the movie doesn't have enough uniqueness, or my memory isn't that good any more.

Atonement - **+ - The book is infinitely better. Buy this novel by Ian McEwen, and skip the movie. The book is far richer than the movie. The girl character, Briony Tallis, weaves her own reality from scenes she sees, ruins some lives, and later on makes herself a god by writing a happy ending for the people she's destroyed.

The Golden Compass - **+ - This is an unsatisfying movie, that is cluttered with numerous characters and episodes and ends with a cliffhanger. Sometimes movies just ought to have the good guy and the bad guy spelled out clearly.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Check out this website:

About Us
We're Jeepney Books! We're a company with PASSION and COMMITMENT...about learning LANGUAGE...embracing CULTURE...and understanding DIVERSITY.

Our Mission
To provide a variety of quality educational products to those who are interested in learning the Filipino language and culture.

Our Vision
The on-line destination for Filipino language and cultural resources.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


I found these pictures of Kiki our cat - no, let me correct that, we are Kiki's humans. The pictures here show her strolling in the back yard and relaxing with the television clicker in her paws. (The guy watching TV with her is one of her humans.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Here's the lineup of contributors to the second volume of Growing Up Fiipino that I'm currently editing. I'm still waiting for a few more writers to send in their work.

Amalia Bueno, Leslieann Hobayan, Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Paulino Lim,
Dean Francis Alfar, Marianne Villanueva, Jonathan Jimena Siason, Veronica Montes, Edgar Poma, Tony Robles, Kannika Claudine Pena, Erwin Cabucos, Aileen Suzura, Jaime L. An Lim, Elsa Orejudos Valdimiano, Dolores De Manuel, Maria Victoria Beltran, M. G. Bertulfo, Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor, Katrina Ramos Atienza, Oscar Penaranda, Geronimo G. Tagatac.

Great stories in this anthology! Will keep you posted!

Monday, December 3, 2007


In Carcar, Cebu, there is a monument honoring the revolutionary known as Leon Kilat (Lightning Lion), whose real name was Pantaleon Villegas. My maternal grandmother, Filomena Alesna, was from Carcar, and so growing up we used to visit Carcar. The white monument of a man on a horse became part of Carcar's landmarks, along with St. Catherine's church and school, and the rotunda in the middle of the highway.

My mother used to point out the old house where Leon Kilat had been assassinated, but the story was always vague. What I understood was that Leon Kilat had been a revolutionary and he was assassinated by one of his men.

My history teachers and books weren't much help either, primarily because Philippine history was taught from a Tagalog-centric point of view. We were taught that Andres Bonifacio founded the Katipunan, which had serious battles with the Spaniards in 1896. The Katipunan sent Leon Kilat to Cebu to work with the Cebuano revolutionaries. This happened in the summer of 1898.

Leon Kilat was born in Bacong, Negros Oriental, and he had worked in Cebu and in a circus in Manila where he met a Katipunero. He was said to have possessed an anting-anting (talisman) and had magical powers. He was a Visayan but not a Cebuano. In San Nicolas, Cebu, he was tentatively accepted by the Cebuano revolutionaries, ancestors of numerous Cebuanos - Noel, Alcoseba, Barcenilla, Alfafar, Abellana, Gundoy, Cui, and others.

An earlier battle with the Spaniards was successful and the Spaniards had to retreat to Fort San Pedro. But the Spaniards quickly dispatched a ship to Cebu. When the revolutionaries heard about the Spanish ship, they retreated to Carcar.

On April 7, 1898 (Holy Thursday), Leon Kilat was in Carcar. His plan was to attack the Spaniards on Easter Sunday in Carcar. Leon Kilat was treated as an honored guest and he stayed in the house of Tiyoy Barcenilla. Upon Leon Kilat's request, a tailor took his measurements because Leon Kilat wanted a new uniform to wear the next day. A feast was prepared in the Barcenilla House for Leon Kilat and guests.

What Leon Kilat did not know was that one of the men, Florencio Noel, had met the Spanish friar, Father Francisco Blanco. Father Blanco had reportedly told Noel that the only way Carcar would escape Spanish retaliation was if Leon Kilat would be killed.

So, on the night of Holy Thursday, goat, chicken, pork were served to the men at the Barcenilla House, and afterwards, the men drank coffee and Ginebra (gin) in the living room. Meantime, the Carcar men who had decided to do away with Leon Kilat, became ill at ease, and they whispered among one another, and in fact, Apolinario Alcuitas shouted in Cebuano, "Brothers, I am informing all of you that tonight, I will slaughter a horse."

All of this apparently went unnoticed by Leon Kilat, or perhaps he had too much Ginebra, because he didn't flee. He went to bed, in the room near the stairs of the Barcenilla House. Vicente Barcenilla chatted with Leon Kilat in his room; he goes down in history as the last person to have seen him alive.

Then sometime during the night, several men entered Leon Kilat's room. One of them used Kilat's own rifle butt to smash his skull. And then the men stabbed Kilat. It was a collective deed, but Apolinario Alcuitas' name goes down in history as the assassin.

After insuring Leon Kilat was dead, the group brought his corpse to the center of town to display it. It was 5 a.m. Good Friday, April 9, 1898.

So, generally, historical accounts stop right there. One can assume that the Spaniards did indeed spare Carcar after they regained power. But Spanish power was shortlived because on May 1, 1898, Admiral Dewey launched the Battle of Manila Bay.

American intervention in Spanish Philippine politics quickly put an end to Spanish rule.

Post Script: My grandmother, Filomena Alesna, was most likely related to Florencio Noel. But Cebu is like that. If you trace far back enough, everyone is related. If you think about it, politically speaking, in any revolution, people are never quite sure which side to take. There are those who want the status quo; and there are those who want change.

Friday, November 30, 2007


It's raining now and for some reason I'm remembering our trip to Amsterdam. We stayed in a studio apartment on the Dam Square. The location was great: we were on the top floor and from our window we could look straight across at the Royal Palace and below us was the square. The only hitch was that the building didn't have an elevator, which meant we had to drag our suitcases up six floors, and when we went out, we had to make sure we had everything we needed for the day. There was no going up and down to get the bottle of water you forgot.

I thought Amsterdam was wild. I don't know how other places in Holland are, but Amsterdam had a hippie-San-Francisco-in-the-70s feel. Maybe it was the pot and sex that were easily available. Clearly there were many young tourists who were in Amsterdam for those things. The older tourists like us took the canal boat tours, and went to the museums (Anne Frank's House, Rijsk, Van Gogh, and Remembrant's House). And because it's part of the tourist thing to do, we walked to their Redlight District, which was near the Dam Square.

I've seen some blatant sex-for-sale in Manila, but nothing like that in Amsterdam. Prostitution there had always been around - isn't it the oldest profession after all? - and it became legalized in 2000. The women display themselves in rooms, more like cubicles, with glass windows. The area had a lot of red lights flashing, and loud dancing music, and cigarettes, and men stumbing about drunk, and a strange creepy kind of energy. It was Lauren who couldn't stand being there and quickly steered me away from the place. But I saw enough. There the women were, in these little tiny rooms, standing, dancing, performing to the passersbys, hoping to get some business. There were older women, young women, pretty ones, ugly ones. Some of them didn't even look like prostitute-material.

I felt sad for them and wondered if they'd get AIDs, or pass this on to countless men. And I wondered what prostitutes do when they become too old for this kind of work. And I wondered if they didn't get bored doing this every day. And what if the guy was a real weirdo? And what if...?

The saddest sight was a pretty Eurasian young woman; we guessed she was Dutch and Indonesian. She looked any where from 19-27, with long black hair, petite and stunning. She was dressed in something scanty, I forget now, all I recall was that she had a very nice figure. There was some music she was dancing to, and she was really quite graceful and attractive, and she was moving in a kind of classy way, doing her thing, advertising herself, and quickly some man entered her small room, and the drapes were drawn close.

I felt very sad for her, felt she could have been a model or an actress with such good looks, felt she could have done something more with herself. And I wondered what makes women settle for that kind of life.

There was something about the rain today that made me think of her again, and I hope she's all right.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


And now dear Readers, I have to confess that I have to go on a serious diet. All the Chile en Nogada (green chile, with white walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds!)in San Miguel Allende, the crab cake sandwiches in Philadelphia, the pasta in New York, the breakfast buffets in the cruise ship, the buttery escargot in Quebec, all of that and more, have tipped over my weighing scale to such shameful numbers - we're not even going to talk about how many pounds I have to lose. But lose I must, because dear Readers, Precious must take care of herself! She just had a birthday, remember? She is no longer a young chick. When she was younger, she used to worry about her weight so she would look good; well now, she is worried about her weight for more serious reasons - things like cholesterol, heart - and yes, Precious must continue to look presentable. Her jewelry has been increasing in size, in direct proportion to her weight, and this must stop, dear Readers, or else her ears will rip from the weight of the earrings she has been wearing.

But seriously, dear Readers, Sunday, Precious went shopping for healthy food like cottage cheese and yogurt, fruit, vegetables, and also those canned diet drinks. She has a plan. First of all, she will give up chocolate cake, lollipops, sodas including diet sodas, butter, chocolate Espanola, gorgonzola cheese, carbs, sugar, and fat. She has allowed herself to eat all the fruit and vegetables that she wants. Otherwise, dear Readers, Precious might starve to death! So, here's her plan: diet drink in the morning; very light lunch; and a meal in the evening. Precious knows that it's not such a good idea to eat the big meal at night, but that's the time she and her husband eat together, so that's how it is.

Monday was the first day of her diet. She had the diet drink for breakfast and cottage cheese for lunch, and she had a cannibal hamburger sandwich (hamburger pattie with lettuce and onions). Precious felt self-righteous.

Tuesday, Precious had her diet drink before leaving for UCLA to teach her Writer's Sketchbook class, which runs from 10-1. Precious noticed that she was somewhat stupid in class. She seemed distracted, and then later she felt jittery. Precious felt anxious and mildly depressed; her mind kept "chattering" negative things. This was followed by a splitting headache, which lasted until nighttime.

To find out what was going on, Precious googled dieting and headaches - and can you imagine that headaches are actually a side effect of dieting? Precious was taken aback. She thought maybe she preferred the feeling of well-being when she eats all she wants . . . the feeling of euphoria when she sips her thick chocolate Espanola, when she pops in one of those succulent escargot in her mouth.

When she went to bed, still with the God-awful headache, she swore the dieting would have to go if she'd developed insomnia (another complaint from dieters). Fortunately, Precious sawed it off last night.

Which brings us to today. Diet drink in the morning, and later she and her husband had a picnic lunch at the Serra Retreat in Malibu; they had bought deli food. Oh, dear Readers, what she had was not diet food at all! Oh, no, not at all! It was meatloaf, with pasta, some vegetables (which she hardly touched) and Greek salad (which was awful and which she didn't eat either). So, she had: meatloaf, pasta, and a sourdough roll. She tried to add up the calories but the figure climbed so high, she had difficulty adding. To make up for that pig-out Precious had her 170-calorie diet shake for dinner.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

Dear Readers - the question is: can Precious stick to her diet? How long can she stay away from all the wonderful comfort food? Can she refuse all that rich Christmas food, cookies - all carbs and sugar and oil?

Stay tuned, dear Readers, stay tuned.

(Special thanks to Marianne Villanueva whose blog style Precious imitated.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I found these pictures of nuns. They are so cute. They remind me of the time Lauren and I were in Rome, near the Santa Maria de Magiorre. After seeing the church, we hung around the plaza outside. Then suddenly we saw four Carmelite nuns, dressed in long brown robes; they looked like the type that practised perpetual silence, the ones that used to be locked up forever. There they were, striding together, a cluster of brown, heading toward a gelato parlor. It was summer and there was a line of people impatient for their gelato. The nuns waited, patiently and quietly. There was no talking, no giggling. They could have been standing in a confessional line. I watched from outside and didn't know what they ordered, but when they left the parlor, one of them was carrying a huge tub of ice cream, and they strode back decidedly, from where they had come.

I imagine it was someone's birthday and Mother Superior had sent the group of four out to buy a treat.

Monday, November 26, 2007


My friend Elizabeth Allen and I went to the San Diego Natural History Museum to see the exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls are 2,000 year old texts found in caves near the Dead Sea in Israel. In 1947, a Bedouin goatherder who was near a cave threw a rock into the cave. He heard clay shatter. He threw another rock and heard the same thing. When he investigated, he discovered the scrolls in clay jars with lids. He contacted an antique dealer in Bethlehem, who was able to contact some religious people, then later academic people. The Israeli government eventually bought back the scrolls that had been sold and now have possession of most of them.

Most of the scrolls are made of leather with writing on them that depict biblical text, songs, hymns, even a legal document. There are scrolls in parchment and in copper. The copper scroll lists an inventory of some 200 tons of gold, silver, and religious garments hidden in areas around Judea. The parchment scroll is a lease agreement.

The caves where the scrolls were found are near a place called Qumram, where a religious group the Essenes, had once lived, worked and worshipped. The Essenes copied the scrolls and when the Romans invaded Qumran in 68 CE or AD, they hid them in the caves where they lay for 2,000 years.

I could go on and on about what we saw, and there was a lot. The exhibit was rich. There were huge photos of Jerusalem, olive orchards, Dead Sea, and other sites in Israel. There was a 30-minute movie presentation about Qumran. There was a section that showed pictures and artifacts of how the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered and brought to light to the world.

A friend of Elizabeth had seen this same Dead Sea Scroll exhibit in Jerusalem, but she said the exhibit in San Diego is better.

I loved the antiquity! I find it interesting to consider that 2,000 years ago people were writing, reading, praying to a One God. Sometimes we think that we, in the here and now, are more superior than ancient people and it boggles our mind when we see proof of how learned, how sophisticated they had been. It makes me realize what a tiny speck we are in the entire history of mankind. It makes me realize that there are more similarities than differences in the life style of man throughout the ages.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


My sister-in-law Kim is making the turkey; I've got 2 legs of lamb (boneless) roasting. They each weigh approx. 4.65 lbs. I bought these at Costco last week and froze them; they're from Australia (and suddenly I have a vision of two 3-legged sheep hobbling about in Australia).

I took them out of the freezer last night - rock solid. I left them on the kitchen sink and by the morning they were thawed. I planned on roasting at 325 degrees for around 2 1/2 hours - less, if it looks done. The meat continues to cook, you see, after you pull it out.

I cut off the wrapper but left the stretchy string that holds the meat together so each roast holds its shape. I crushed an entire garlic with around 20 cloves. I inserted garlic through the stretchy string to the inside parts of the roast. I rubbed some salt on the roast - not too much because salt is drying. Then I rubbed black pepper as well. I cut some fresh rosemary sprigs and rubbed the meat with rosemary. I scrunched this rosemary and inserted inside the meat. I placed the two roasts on a roasting pan.

I used to have a thermometer, which never worked. I don't have one. So I'm keeping track of time - in around 2 hours, I'll check the meat. I'm going to pull this out when pink.

The string will be cut and discarded. The rosemary sprig will also be discarded; but I have fresh ones to use as decoration around the serving platter. The meat will be cut and served with mint jelly and all the other Thanksgiving trimmings: mashed potatoes, gravy, etc.

The garlic tones down the gamey quality of lamb, and so does the sweet mint jelly. The rosemary also cuts the gaminess and throws off a lovely scent.

Once the meat is removed from the enamel pan, I will use the pan drippings for the gravy. But first, if the drippings are very fatty, I will pour off the excess fat, being careful not to pour away the brown drippings, which is the good stuff. I will place the pan over low heat, pour in Shirah or whatever red wine is around - around a cup? - and then I will mix some Mochiko rice flour in a cup of water, stir until mixed. I will pour this mixture into the drippings with wine, and stir, scrape, until the gravy thickens. If needed I'll add salt and pepper to the gravy.

I didn't do it this time, but one can include with the meat, some potatoes so that the whole thing roasts together - the meat and pan-fried potatoes.

Lamb meat is dark with a rich, heavy flavor which goes well with red wine.

Bon A Petit!

from Chef Cecilia

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

OOO - LA - LA, ANOTHER BIRTHDAY! Some Jokes to Make you Smile

Here's a birthday card that I got that made me laugh:

Here's an excerpt from Louie Nacorda's email that mentions St. Cecilia, my patron saint:
The church is different from where her incorrupt body (all of 1,300 years!)
was found in its "just died" condition. The body was dug out from one of
the tombs inside the catacombs of St. Callistus. It was removed to a more
fitting church inside the walls of old Rome but the spot where she was
found was given a life-size carara marble statue of how she looked when she
was found. A Christian to the end, her fingers were all pointed to form the
roman numeral 3, one index finger one the right and the index and middle
finger on the left. It was said that she died slowly after her throat was
slit. Being noble, the executioner did not have the courage to cut off her
head so she laid down bleeding to death, her face wrapped with a cloth. As
of her last living testimony to the Holy Trinity, she used one finger to
signify the Oneness of God, and the two other fingers to signify the Three
Divine Persons in One God. And she was only 15 years old.

All of a sudden, the St. Cecilia that I find rather pedestrian because I
would see her glorified framed stampa where she is playing the organ and
with a chorus of three angels singing behind her, atop every piano in
middle class houses of my youth. Now, after knowing how she died and how
her incorrupt body was preserved by God, St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr,
has become so real, so marvelous and so beautiful to me. You should foster
devotion to her because not only is she your namesake and patroness but she
is also the patroness of sacred art, specially music, and you are an artist
albeit in literature. Art lang gihapon.

My friend, Med Villanueva, sent these:


(On September 17, 1994, Alabama's Heather Whitestone was selected as Miss America 1995.)
Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?
Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever,"
--Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest.

"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff."
--Mariah Carey

"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life,"
-- Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for federal anti-smoking campaign .

"I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body,"
--Winston Bennett, University of Kentucky basketball forward.

"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,"
--Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, DC. ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

"That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm just the one to do it,"
--A congressional candidate in Texas.

"Half this game is ninety percent mental."
--Philadelphia Phillies manager, Danny Ozark


"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."
--Al Gore, Vice President

"I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix."
-- Dan Quayle

"We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need ?"
--Lee Iacocca

"The word "genius" isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

--Joe Theisman, NFL football quarterback & sports analyst.

"We don't necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people."
-- Colonel Gerald Wellman, ROTC Instrutor.

"Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances."
--Department of Social Services, Greenville, South Carolina
"Traditionally, most of Australia's imports come from overseas."
--Keppel Enderbery

"If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there'll be a record."
--Mark S. Fowler, FCC Chairman

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Thanks to Cebu writer (and dear friend) Chinggay Utzurrum, who sent some news clippings and pictures of my last visit to Cebu in June-July 2007. She writes:

"Greetings from Cebu. Hope this short note finds you in good shape and enjoying Autumn.

We're all fine here - WILA - Women in Literary Arts - (under Erma Cuizon) celebrated an anniversary recently, which I wasn't able to attend unfortunately. It was a blast, kono.

Enclosed are some clippings (one is dated 2003 - sorry about this antique piece) but I know you'll want this for your file.

Also one during your very enjoyable book launching (of A La Carte, Food & Fictin), and a photo.

Keep well and stay in touch.

Regards to Lauren and the boys.



I've known Chinggay De Veyra Utzurrum since St. Theresa's Cebu years. She was and remains lovely, bright, energetic, and social. Once we shared a room in Iloilo City where we went for the Dinagyan Festival. You don't really know a person until you've traveled with them! Ching was the most considerate travelmate one could have. In the room, which we shared, she was very conscious about when to turn lights on and off, so as not to disturb me. She was always considerate about the use of the bathroom, which she left this in impeccable condition. My mother described Ching as "muy educada!" She is indeed a first class lady!

(Photo seated l-r: Cecilia, Susan Evangelista
Standing l-r: Chinggay Utzurrum, Jun Dumdum
Above 2 news articles (Sunstar Cebu)are about the June Book Launching of A La Carte, Food & Fiction in Cebu City, Philippines - some of those in the news photos are: Inday Blanco, Erma Cuizon, Susan Evangelista, Karina Bolasco, Carlos Cortes; the whole page news article shows photos of: Helen Misa, Lucy Franco, Bambi Beltran, Ester Tapia, Gingging and Jun Dumdum; Jason Verallo, Louie Nacorda, Gavin Bagares, Radel Paredes, Dr. Juliet Basa, Haide Acuna, Mae Manacap, Mayette Tabada, Josefa Gorordo Y Revilles, Terry Manguerra, Tanya, Jojo, Chessy, Marty Manguerra, and Patti Aberasturi.)
Bottom news article (The Freeman) is about Dr. Linda Alburo's trip to the U.S.; we had the chance to see each other in California at a book launching)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007