Monday, September 28, 2009

About Movies and Books...

Movies I've seen recently:
~ Bright Star - I enjoyed this Jane Campion movie even though I acknowledge the movie had a plodding quality, and it has Campion's signature anglophile point of view. The movie documents the romance of John Keats and Fanny Browne. It made me want to reread the poetry of John Keats - oh how we loved his poetry along with Shelley's and Byron's when we were in high school.

~ Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - I saw this kid movie with my grandchild Dylan. He enjoyed it more than I did. The film is based on a 1978 book about an inventor who creates a machine that causes clouds to drop - not rain - but all sorts of food. Dylan chuckled through the movie; I dozed off in some parts.

Book I'm reading: The Virgin Suicides, a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides - I highly recommend this and the other novel, Middlesex by Eugenides.

Book I'll be reading next: Michael Genelin's second crime novel, Dark Dreams, published by Soho. Michael's first novel is Siren of the Waters. Both novels have the same protagonist, Jana Matinova. Get your copy from or from any bookstore. Great mystery novels.

Michael was kind enough to write in the Preface of Dark Dreams, "My gratitude to Cecilia Brainard, Lauren Brainard, and John Allen for their continuing friendship and their aid in strengthening my resolve, and my work as a novelist."

Thank you Michael, for the acknowledgement!

Picture l-r: Dylan and Luke

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Read on, and google: Manila typhoon Ondoy

Friday, September 25, 2009


Here are some pictures of Cebu's 1730 Jesuit House. Owners Jimmy and Margarita Sy have now turned this historic place into a museum. The 1730 Jesuit House is located in the Parian, Cebu City, on Zulueta Street near Mabini. The Jesuit House may be the oldest documented house in the Philippines and is an important historic site.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Honey Jarque Loop has written in the Food and Leisure section of The Philippine Star, Sept.24, 2009, an article about the Cebu book launch of FINDING GOD. Read on past the launch of the Pelaez biography.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Introduction to Fiction Writing, 9 Week Class UCLA

I'm teaching an Introduction to Fiction Writing at the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension, beginning September 30 and ending December 16, 2009. Contact 310-825-9416 if you're interested.

Course Description:

It has been said that all of us have locked inside at least one good story to tell. This course is designed to tap into that story--and others--in a positive atmosphere. Through lectures on craft, short writing exercises, assignments, and discussion of student work, apprentice fiction writers learn the nuts and bolts of fiction writing, such as plot, conflict, characterization, dialogue, narrative voice, and point-of-view. This course focuses on short fiction but includes principles that students use in X 462.71 Novel Writing I: Writing the First Novel. The course goal is to draft one short story or a chapter of a novel. This course is a prerequisite for students who are continuing in either the short- or long-fiction sequence.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Commentary on Finding God: True Stories of Spiritual Encounters, by Reme Grefalda

Anvil Anthology Highlights Spiritual Narratives
by Reme Grefalda

Publisher Anvil Philippines recently released Finding God, an anthology of spiritual encounters by Filipino writers compiled and edited by Cecilia Brainard (When the Rain Goddess Wept) and Marily Y. Orosa (Studio 5 Designs). The 18 selected essays have a common religious base rooted in the Christian faith from authors with diverse backgrounds, among them a former high ranking leader in the Philippine communist party, noted journalists and editors of magazines, recipients of literary awards, college professors, teachers, a research scientist, a biologist and one who describes herself as a "runaway bride." Seven are based in the Philippines; the rest, including Brainard, reside in the U.S.

In their preface to this book project (their third collaboration), the editors praise the courage of contributors in discussing their personal trajectories and private pain which led them to their awareness of God. Novelist, M. Evelina Galang (One Tribe) in faraway Iowa recounts the horror of watching the televised events in New York City on September 11. Susan Evangelista (Carlos Bulosan biographer) experienced an intense oneness with the world during a session in Zen meditation. Children’s literature writer, Tony Robles describes in Agapé, his early years in a Christian School where he was the lone Filipino. In City of Courtesy, Brian Ascalon Roley (American Son, A Novel) recalls in his letter to his son that “the center of [his] childhood religious life” was his lola. His return to his faith, his daily masses and prayers now reflect his grandmother’s rote piety, one which he arrogantly dismissed during his teenage years. But tantamount to his experience is Roley’s appreciation of his Mid-western church community in Cincinnati, so totally different from his Southern California roots.
Other contributors include Mila D. Aguilar, Evelyn Regner Seno, M. G. Bertulfo, Edgar Poma, Aileen Ibardaloza, Paulino Lim Jr., Raquel Villavicencio Balagtas, Marlinda Angbetic Tan, Liza B. Martinez, Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, C. Sophia Ibardaloza, Susan Evangelista, and Remé Grefalda.
Cancer, the all-pervading strike-down of the 21st century, brought lives of authors into focus much more than any one issue. Personal loss of loved ones, confrontation with crossroads and powerful conversion narratives lift this anthology from the level of “religious” reading to the seldom-found affirmation, the necessary community-on-the-page for those who experience periods of isolation with their peers as they follow through with their spiritual awakening. Always, questions percolate in the mind: Was it real? Delusion, maybe? Self induced?
Finding God: True Stories of Spiritual Encounters brings to the forefront the hidden issue shied away from by most Filipino writers. The publication addresses the need for affirmation by readers with similar encounters so laced with their Filipino identity, but who are protectively reticent about sharing experiences in discovering their own spiritual reality.

Finding God is available in the Philippines in National Bookstores and Powerbooks; and online from and Softcover, $19.95. For further information, contact or

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Evolution of the Dona Filomena Building, Cebu, Philippines

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lola Remedios and Her Sayas, published Zee Lifestyle August-September 2009

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
Published in Zee Lifestyle, Aug-Sept 2009

When I was small I used to listen to my mother (Concepcion Cuenco Manguerra) talk about her lola or grandmother, and there was another lola she spoke of, only this one was referred to as “lola sa tuhod.” It took me a long while to figure out that she was talking about her grandmother and great grandmother. The great grandmother she referred to was Juana Lopez who originally came from Naic, Cavite and who did business in Cebu and Leyte. Year ago, when I was gathering genealogical information about my family, an aunt sent me a brief description of Juana Lopez as someone “who loved to dance. “

This surprised me because pictures of her show an oval-faced serious woman with hair severely swept back. In the photos, Juana wears a saya and a camisa, and the black and white photos increase the severity of her looks. She may have been more flirtatious than her pictures suggest because she married a second time, to a Veloso in Leyte. She had children with that second marriage, but I’m guessing that her first child, Remedios, gave her headaches as only firstborns are capable of doing. Consider this: Remedios married my great grandfather when she was only 13. Even though women married early in the olden days, I’m almost certain that Juana was shocked when her daughter announced she’d be quitting her schooling at the Inmaculada to marry the school teacher and poet, Mariano Albao Cuenco. It seemed the marriage was a good one; Remedios bore over a dozen children, although only four survived to adulthood.

Remedios was the grandmother my mother spoke of with great awe. In fact, I believe that Remedios had been her role model, especially when my mother became a young widow. Listen to what my granduncle Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco of Jaro, Iloilo said about Remedios as a widow: “My good mother was a woman of strong determination, ready to overcome all obstacles. Besides she was business-minded. With these qualities she was able to relieve our poor condition. Little by little, she bought land on which she built several houses. The high rents of these houses were a great source of income to us.”

Following Remedios’ footsteps, my mother, after my father died, bought properties, built houses on them, and rented them out. She sent all four of us children to college and to graduate schools abroad.

Remedios was widowed at 39, with three sons, a daughter, and the family of her second son staying in her house. She not only invested in real estate, she also ran her husband’s publishing business, Imprenta Rosario, making her the first woman publisher of Cebu. She continued raising her children in the intellectual and religious atmosphere that she and her husband had created. She must have been proud of her children’s accomplishments: the oldest son became an archbishop; the second son became a senator; the third son, a representative; and the daughter a writer.
What astonishes me, is that not only was she excellent at juggling the publishing business, real estate business, and her family, Remedios took meticulous care of her looks. All her pictures show a slender woman, dressed in elaborate and elegant saya, camisa and panuelo.

In a photo taken in 1895, she is wearing an elaborately embroidered panuelo, and a chic black ribbon with a cameo or pendant; she is wearing large earrings. Her hair is pulled back in a bun, and no doubt she had a peineta in her hair, as was the custom of the days.

A photo taken a few years later shows her wearing a printed long skirt and a light colored filmy camisa and panuelo with lace edges. She wears interesting jewelry – necklace, earrings, ring.

In a picture taken around 1909, after she was widowed, we see her wearing an attractive skirt with stripes and the camisa and panuelo pick up the lively pattern.
And in a photo taken when she is an old woman surrounded by her children and one grandson, she is finely dressed in a saya that is richly embroidered. She wears rings, a bracelet and a necklace.
The photos are in black and white but the clothes were no doubt richer in color – indigo blue, emerald green, deep red, glowing yellow perhaps.

In her book, Life in Old Parian, Concepcion G. Briones, has fine descriptions of Remedios from the 1920s:

“I still retain in my mind’s eye the picture of Doña Remedios Lopez Cuenco — the Cuenco matriarch hurrying to her front door to welcome Msgr. Giuguilmo Piani, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, who, at that time, was to confer the Vicar-General title on her erudite son, Msgr. Jose Maria Cuenco, at the nearby Cathedral.
“Nyora Medyos wore a satin merino (navy-blue) saya, wide and bouffant, an elegant camisa, and a panuelo which was pinned on her bosom with a magnificent brooch of gold and pearls. Tucked inside the waist of her saya, on the left side, was the golden-chain or porta-abanico which, as the name implies, held her big silk fan. Jewelry? She had the most gorgeous ones, too. Old gold and pearls, rubies and diamonds worn at her throat, on her fingers or on her wrists…”

In another part of her book, Briones writes: “Nyora Medyos used to come very early, mornings, in sayas and kimono to the printing press — her long black curly hair falling down to her waist, freshly shampooed and fragrant with samuyao…”
This is an interesting and vivid description of Remedios with her flowing long hair. The sensual image belies the fact that she would be typesetting and working huge heavy presses that crashed and clanked — a man’s work, really. (My mother told me that the powerful machines shook their residence above.)

It should be understood that Remedios was an unusual woman — she was strong, intelligent, determined, driven, possessed with a devil-may-care attitude about what people thought of her hands smeared with ink from the printing press. She was the matriarch of a family that was demonstrating its leadership in politics as well as in the church, and she and her family displayed the trappings of importance: a home in fashionable Colon Street furnished with fine things; her sons studied abroad; and family members took the time to clothe themselves in fine silks, satins, piña, with embroidery and lace. Shoes matched. There were different sets of jewelry for daytime, nighttime, casual occasions, as well as rock-size diamonds for important events and for investment.

It was a different era then — a time of gentility, of gallantry, of romance, of elegance, a time when people sat on the azotea to catch the breeze, a time when neighbors dropped by for afternoon visits. We, who are used to our current-date city life, who rush about in our jeans and pants and T-shirts, no longer know this life.
Remedios did not remarry. She was an attractive, good-looking, dynamic woman, and there must have been men who were interested in her. But she devoted her life to her family and her businesses. Remedios died in 1945 at the age of 75.

Curiously, my own mother who was also fond of dancing and beautiful dresses never remarried either. She too devoted her life to her children and businesses. Even when she became old, my mother continued to dress elegantly, copying perhaps her role model, Remedios Lopez Cuenco. ~~~ end (copyright 2009 by Cecilia Brainard)
Read also
Life in Parian Now
Cebu's 1730 Jesuit House 
The Secret Hall of Angels 
A Story of Hope
Finding Jose Rizal in Cebu
Lola Remedios and her Sayas
Lunch with F. Sionil Jose
tags: Cebu, Sugbo, Philippines, travel, tourism, history, women, politics, Cuenco Family

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Dylan and Luke watching Saturday morning cartoons

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Rat in Cebu Laguna Garden Restaurant

I'm not trying to ruin the reputation of Laguna Garden Restaurant in Ayala Cebu because frankly the food is excellent there. But last August, when I had dinner there with some friends, a commotion broke out in one part of the restaurant. We stood up to investigate and saw a huge rat running around the rafters of the ceiling. Foreigners stood gaping at the sight. Filipinos whipped out their cell phones to take pictures. I had my camera with me... and well... I took a couple of pictures.

Lively discussion of this in my facebook account:

Lynley Ocampo: It's not only at that restaurant. Some months back, I saw a rat at my favorite coffee place also in Ayala.
Evelyn R. Bosh: OMG
Cecilia Brainard: So the rats live in Ayala. They have to do something about them, for health reasons.
Lynley Ocampo: Apparently.
Daisy Lorenzana Genaldo: frankly, i do not care if the food is excellent there ... one rat means filth ... and more rats in the hiding. there is no way i am ever eating there if we do go to cebu. thanks so much for the info.
Maria Terea Rodriguez-Laurente: OMG. I was there in August 13 evening same place.
Ederlindo Cojuanco II: You know where these rats are the kitchen! LOL
Ben Anthony Dicdican Cabacoy: was Master Splinter having dinner(-_-) LOL
Richard Yu: Nope. Its the secret ingredient for a super yummy recipe! Ilibre ko si Gloria sa resto na ito!
Frederick Ygnacio Jr.:We can ask what are the Pest Control Measures Ayala Center Cebu and Cebu Business Park Admin has undertaken as Ayala Terraces practically houses the series of reputable food chains in Cebu. We too regularly patronize the restaurants at Terraces.
As the current Vice-Pres. of Cebu Business Park Bdlg Administrators Association, Inc. maybe I can raise this pest control issue within the zone on our next meeting.

my opinion:
The restaurants are relatively new.... Read More
All food refuse and garbage are collected everyday.
This is an isolated case and obviously the Rat is not a resident in that restaurant. It's a stray Rat that found its way to the Terraces. Unfortunately for Laguna Garden the Rat choose to find refuge there. Mas humot cguro ila food. hahha Pastilan! Still, this has to be addressed. First stop, the SEWERS!
Cecilia Brainard: To Frederick Ygnacio Jr: Perhaps you can also discuss with the Powers-that-be to CLEAN UP CEBU'S RIVERS AND CREEKS. They are filthy - filled with garbage and God-knows-what, and all in plain view of tourists and Balikbayans. Rats, dirty rivers/creeks - these are health hazards just the same. Plus all this filth is not good for Cebu's tourism business.
Daisy Lorenzana Genaldo: AMEN!!!!
Paul Kekai Manansala: One key to cleaning up the rivers is to provide garbage collection and water and sewage lines in the squatter camps, or else relocate these people to low-cost, subsidized housing. Most people in these neighborhoods simply dump their garbage and sewage into the rivers and other waterways that they usually live right next to. They also bathe and wash their clothes in these same filthy waterways, which doesn't help either.
Eileen Martinez Apostol: Whether this is an isolated incident or not, i can just say that is an urgency best taken cared of. That said, their bouillabaise is worth trying! Really good last time I had it!
Cecilia Brainard: Pasig River has been pretty much cleaned up and it has a nice ferry system in place. Government officials had to make the decision to clean up the Pasig before it happened, and it took years. Cebu officials can do the same - just make up their minds to clean up Cebu's rivers and creeks, look for funds, ways to get this done. The people must be educated and invoved in the cleanup project as well. The revenue from tourism will pay for it. In fact, these rivers and creeks can be turned into tourism sites,with restaurants, walkways nearby, as in Bangkok,Amsterdam, Venice, Norway. I've written more extensively about cleaning up Cebu's rivers in my blog, (search for cleanup rivers Cebu)

BEST LECHE FLAN RECIPE with Vietnamese Touch

A few years ago I watched the cooking channel and saw a Vietnamese woman prepare leche flan. I've been using her recipe and love it. The flan turns out perfect, smooth and creamy, and not so heavy. Here's the recipe:

Leche Flan with Vietnamese Touch
4 eggs
1 cup condensed milk
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp vanilla
sugar to carmelize container
Mix eggs, milk, and vanilla. I carmelize sugar in a pan and spoon out brown sugar-liquid into the bottoms of pyrex containers. I put the mixture into the containers, around 2/3 or 3/4 full. I double boil for around 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

Let the pyrex containers cool. Run knife around the edges and loosen flan before flipping onto a serving plate, spoon carmelized sugar over the top. Delicious!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More Pictures Taken in the Philippines, August 2009

Gossiping in Makati, l-r: Marily Orosa, Cecilia Brainard, Maribel Paraz, Mila Santillan

Taken in Cebu at a dinner hosted by the Francos: l-r seated: Lucy Garcia, Terry Manguerra,Cecilia Brainard; l-r standing: Chinggay Utzurrum, guest, Diana Ledesma, Helen Misa

Taken in Edith Alcantara's condominium in the Fort, a gathering of some Maryknollers: l-r: Precy Florentino, Marily Orosa, Meldee Perez, Edith Alcantar, Cecilia Brainard, Milla Santillan, Maribel Paraz, Lyn Enriquez

l-r: Edith Alcantara, Lynn Enriquez, Marily Orosa, Cecilia Brainard, Maribel Paraz

Dinner in a Greek Restaurant in Greenbelt, Makati: l-r: Cecilia Brainard, Araceli Lorayes, Guia Lim, Tess Tan

With STC classmates: l-r: Joy Atienza, Darn Posa, Lilu Gimenez, Mila Santillan, Cecilia Brainard

In Tagaytay: l-r: Darn Posa, Mila Santillan, Cecilia Brainard, Joy Atienza

Lunch at Tootsies in Tagaytay, l-r: Mila Santillan, Cecilia Brainard, Darn Posa, Joy Atienza

Taken in Borussia's Northern Cebu l-r: Inday Blanco, Terry Manguerra holding Aya, Chona Bernad, Chuchi Mannchen, Cecilia Brainard