Friday, December 31, 2010

Cecilia Brainard 2010 Retrospective in Pictures

From top to bottom:
January - Cebu Normal University
February - India
April - San Miguel Allende, Mexico, with Lauren, Doug, Hilary, and Myrna
April - LA, with Linda Nietes, and other Filipino American writers
May - LA Library, with Miguel Syjuco
June - (photo taken in Mission Santa Barbara, California)
June - Cebu, Philippines, taken at Yap-Sandiego House
August - France,with Lauren and Michael Genelin
August - Kenya
October - LA, Gawad Kalinga, with Carina Montoya
November - San Francisco, with teachers of Galileo High School
November - San Francisco, with Veronica Montes
November - San Francisco,with Theresian High School chums (STC San Marcelino)

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Coming Together in SkokieKnowledge. Awareness. Appreciation. events calendar
email announcements
Immerse yourself in the culture of the Philippines this winter as Coming Together in Skokie enters its second year. Each year, Coming Together in Skokie will highlight a different culture in our richly diverse community to build knowledge, awareness, and appreciation of our different backgrounds and to weave us all more closely into the vibrant tapestry that is Skokie. Here is a sneak preview–the complete schedule will be available in January. In the meantime, view the program book.
Reading together
Celebrating Filipino culture


Reading Together The backbone of Coming Together in Skokie is reading and discussing books that are rich in cultural aspects. This year, we are highlighting author Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, who will be visiting Skokie in March. Numerous book discussions of When the Rainbow Goddess Wept will take place in January and February at the Library and both high schools and will be open to the entire community. Copies of Growing Up Filipino, short stories edited by Brainard, will also be available. In order to bring younger readers into the celebration this year, three additional books will be highlighted at the Library and in several schools.

Celebrating Filipino Culture The kickoff celebration, which will include a fashion show, dance, music, food, and a special theatrical presentation, will be held at Niles West High School on Friday, January 28, beginning at 5:45pm. Mark your calendar now!

Numerous events will follow, taking place throughout February and early March at locations throughout Skokie. Brochures with all of the details will be available in January. In addition to book discussions, the Library is hosting exhibits of Filipino art, an art workshop, a concert, a dessert night, and more. The full calendar will be posted here soon. Plan to be part of Coming Together in Skokie!

Review of Eleanor Ty's The Politics of the Visible in Asian North American Narratives

Someone forwarded this to me. Eleanor Ty looks at various books, including When the Rainbow Goddess Wept (by Cecilia Brainard, University of Michigan Press):

"The obvious strength of Ty's work is the lucid insistence with which she evokes the invisible dimensions of Asian North Americanidentities,which is accompanied by a paradoxical recognition of the visible." - from a review of Eleanor Ty's The Politics of the Visible in Asian North American Narratives. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004

Voodoo Poems and Magic Prose by Angus Woodward

This was just forwarded to me; it mentions me.- cb

Voodoo Poems and Magic Prose (c) Angus Woodward

I don't have to tell you how uncertain our profession can be. Whether a writer has been heaped with praise or buried by rejection, we all know that our luck-- good or bad-- can change abruptly. We listen attentively to the stories of writers who toil in obscurity for years before lightning strikes; we also remember the names of writers who we thought had achieved fame, even canonization, but who are no longer read or even mentioned. We hear legends of great books being abandoned by publishers on the eve of publication, and tales of obscure small press titles achieving classic status through word-of-mouth. On a smaller scale, we watch literary magazines sprout and fade like dandelions. In my case, three separate magazines have accepted my stories, only to fold before my work reached print. In some ways we are like athletes, who with one lucky bounce or fortuitous gust can become legends, and who with one misstep can lose their careers to injury. But do writers react to such uncertainty the way many athletes have, with bizarre superstitious rituals, eating only fried chicken before writing, wearing lucky sweaters, wielding lucky pens?

Others have noticed, I am sure, that writers have a reputation for superstitiousness. It seems that every interviewer asks his or her subject about superstition or ritual-- often enough that any question about a writer's work habits sounds like a fishing trip. Perhaps it has something to do with the well-known tales of Hemingway insisting on writing standing up, with twenty sharpened pencils at the ready. George Plimpton reported in the late fifties that "Hemingway finds it difficult to talk about writing . . . he feels so strongly that such ideas should remain unexpressed, that to be asked questions on them `spooks' him." Plimpton also wrote that near the space where Hemingway worked there was "an odd assortment of mementos: a giraffe made of wood beads, a little cast iron turtle, tiny models of a locomotive, two jeeps and a Venetian gondola . . ." and that these were "tokens" which "[had] their value." Plimpton referred to these talismans again when he concluded that "Hemingway may admit superstitions of this sort, but he prefers not to talk about them, feeling that whatever value they may have can be talked away." In other words, Papa was superstitious about his superstitions. The image of Hemingway standing at the bureau, fingering fetishes and widening his eyes at the thought of discussing the writing process has lingered, influencing the public's perception of writers.

While Hemingway's oft-cited interview has done much to perpetuate writers' reputations for superstitiousness, many profiles and interviews of recent years have kept the myth alive. Dana Huebler, in a profile of Philippine writer Cecilia Manguerra Brainard for Poets and Writers, stated that "Having just completed the first draft of her second novel, Brainard is superstitious about discussing the details of the book, fearing it may `kill' the work." Without a verbatim quote from Brainard, it is difficult to know whether the writer sees herself as superstitious, but in any case Huebler touches on an issue that seems to be a litmus test of a writer's superstitiousness: commenting on work-in-progress. We are at our most uncertain when the work is incomplete and unproven, and questions about unfinished products bring writers' "spookiness" to light. Cynthia Ozick's response to a question about a novel in progress has a ring of superstition to it, for example: "I'd better say no more, or the Muse will wipe it out ... I have lost stories and many starts of novels before. Not always as punishment for `telling,' but more often as a result of something having gone cold and dead because of a hiatus." John Edgar Wideman refused to identify favorites among his books for his interviewer, saying "It's sort of like kids; even if you did have favorites, you wouldn't say that aloud because you might hurt the others' feelings." I've heard that fishermen's wives in traditional fishing communities are careful not to let the ocean hear them bid their husbands good-bye, for fear that it will take them away for good. Brainard, Ozick and Wideman are similarly reluctant to offend the spirits of inanimate objects, confirming their interrogators' suspicions.

But it is not only interviewers and profilers who perpetuate the notion that writers are superstitious. Many writers have admitted to being devoted to particular writing rituals, and ritual is closely associated with superstition. Even in the religious sense, ritual relies on repetition, as do superstitions: knocking wood every time a rosy prophecy is made, throwing a ball to the first baseman at the end of each inning. Maya Angelou told George Plimpton that she every time she writes, she lies "on a made-up bed with a bottle of sherry, a Roget's Thesaurus, yellow pads, an ashtray, and a Bible," in hotel rooms whose walls have been stripped bare of any decoration. Joan Didion was asked, "Do you have any writing rituals?" and responded by saying, "The most important is that I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I've done that day . . . Another thing I do, when I'm near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it." Derek Walcott, speaking for himself and all writers, associated ritual with religion (which some equate with superstition), when he said, "I don't know how many writers are willing to confess to their private preparatory rituals before they get down to putting something on paper. But I imagine that all artists and all writers in that moment before they begin their working day or working night have that area between beginning and preparation, and however brief it is, there is something about it votive and in a sense ritualistic."

Some writers explicitly deny their own superstitiousness, but reveal an assumption that other writers are superstitious. Elie Wiesel has said, "I am disciplined, hardworking. I have no superstitions," but added, ". . . Some writers need all kinds of idiosyncrasies. One took a wet cloth to the forehead; another had to get drunk; a third had to take drugs. Hemingway stood, another was sitting, another was lying." Robert Stone seems to know what the interviewer is fishing for-- and to have other writers in mind-- when he says, "There are no particular rituals connected with [the working environment] for me, like having a special cup of coffee or sharpening six pencils."

Other writers have commented publicly on their reluctance to discuss work in progress, but attribute their reticence to more practical concerns than those of Brainard, Ozick and Wideman. E.L. Doctorow was asked if he'd ever lost a story by discussing it before it was written, and replied, "Yes. When you're talking about a story you're writing it. You're sending it out into the air, it's finished, it's gone." I asked fiction and non-fiction writer Dinty W. Moore to comment on such practices. "To me, it is an explainable phenomenon," he wrote. "If you discuss the ending of a story with a friend, some of the urgency of finishing it on the page can be lost." Poet William Trowbridge is similarly pragmatic: "I'm reluctant to discuss a work in progress but only because I want to concentrate all my energy on writing rather than talking about it."

Doctorow, Moore and Trowbridge come across as more practical than superstitious, but it is as easy to associate their policies with superstition. There are as many superstitions involving "never" as there are involving "always," so that never discussing work-in-progress, whatever the reason, can be perceived as "just like" never walking under a ladder. People tend to associate any writing habit or rule with ritual, and to associate ritual with superstition. It is easy to forget or ignore the fact that some rituals are not superstitious, and that some habits are not rituals.

Virtually any writer, when asked by interviewers, emphasizes the importance of some aspect of the creative process, which adds fuel to the fire of superstitious reputation. Bernard Malamud put it very succinctly: "If [a writer] is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help." One's discipline may include six sharpened pencils, black fine-point Pilot pens, or a reluctance to "offend" one's books. While a writer may not perceive his or her attachment to such habits as irrational voodoo, others may.

It is perhaps more accurate to say that writers are attached to their tools, beliefs, rituals and methods in the same way that a horn player is dedicated to a particular trumpet, or a wood carver to certain familiar tools. Unaccustomed tools, instruments, surroundings or processes come between the writer and the poem or story, interfering with the symbiosis between the player and the music, the carver and the object, simply by being noticeable. Familiarity allows us to forget about the objects in our hands, so that we can get closer to the character, the music, the image. John Hersey has pointed out that "Disturbing the rituals surrounding writing may be very confusing, very difficult." It is reasonable to assume that Maya Angelou insists on bare walls to reduce distraction. William Trowbridge is certainly concerned with the elimination of distraction: "Because I started writing poems on legal paper, I continue to do so in order to keep the physical medium familiar and therefore non-distracting." Dinty Moore confesses that "I still can only write using an ancient version of a DOS-based software . . . the crude software with which I first began serious writing." This attachment to "what worked before" may seem irrational to others, and may seem to come out of fear that the "magic" will be lost. Irrationality and fear being components of superstition, it is no wonder that writers strike others-- and sometimes themselves-- as superstitious.
Although the superstitiousness of writers seems to be exaggerated, the result of misinterpretations of writers' comments on idiosyncratic processes, writers have good reason to be superstitious, due to the high level of uncertainty that plagues the profession. Charles Baxter could almost as easily have been talking about athletes as writers in saying, "So much good writing depends on talent and good luck that writers probably fear that their talent and their good luck will run out. Writers don't necessarily get better as they get older. Frequently they get worse. Superstition is the natural result of all this, as it would be in any occupation where the injury rate increases with age." Superstition often arises in response to doubt, whether it is the superstitions of a primitive tribe or of fishermen's wives. In our chaotic world, we gather some comfort from the idea that throwing salt over our shoulders may avert disaster, which we know may arrive quite suddenly. Poet Rodger Kamenetz theorizes that "Writers probably are superstitious because how their work is valued does not depend entirely on their efforts. . . Every writer is a speculator by definition-- most of us work on spec and every writer is a gambler and every gambler I know of is superstitious." Poet David Starkey seconds the notion when he laments that, "Even after ten years of sending things out, it still seems like such a crap shoot . . . ."

Many writers have been superstitious, which simply means that they view their dedication to certain work habits as superstitious, while others may explain their own rituals more rationally. Some are "spooked" by the idea of discussing work in progress; others simply refrain. It comes down to the fact that when we write, we face the uncertainty alone, with only our black ballpoints, our cast iron turtles, or our DOS-based software for company. Facing the blank page is strictly a solitary pursuit, and Samuel Johnson cautioned us to "Remember that the solitary mortal is certainly luxurious, probably superstitious, and possibly mad." Time will tell whether my decision to forsake Pilot and try my luck with 7mm Zebras was mad.

Works Cited Huebler, Dana. "An Interview with Cecilia Manguerra Brainard." Poets and Writers. March/April 1997: 96-105.
Oleander, Renee. "An Interview with John Edgar Wideman." AWP Chronicle 29:3 (December 1996): 1-8.
Plimpton, George, ed. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews. 2nd Series. New York: Viking, 1963. [Hemingway]
----------. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews. 5th Series. New York: Viking, 1981. [Didion]
----------. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews. 6th Series. New York: Viking, 1984. [Malamud]
----------. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews. 8th Series. New York: Viking, 1988.[Doctorow, Hersey, Ozick, Stone, Walcott, Wiesel]
----------. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews. 9th Series. New York: Penguin, 1992. [Angelou]

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cute YouTube Christmas Stories

I enjoyed these YouTube Christmas clips! Merry Christmas!

The Computer-Savvy Christmas Story

Facebook Christmas

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bishop Declares Marian Site in Wisconsin, On par Fatima, Lourdes

I was delighted to read in yesterday's Los Angeles Times that there is a church-recognized Marian site in the U.S. Here are relevant links:
Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help <>
The Bishop's Declaration

Information re Our Lady of Good Help

Article re Our Lady of Good Help Shrine

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A List of Filipino Writers by Ryan, Free Writing Center

Found this in the site of Free Writing Center, posted by Ryan; thank you for including me in your list.
A LIST OF FILIPINO WRITERSposted by Ryan,Nov. 17, 2010

In the English speaking world, many people don’t realize just how wonderful non-English speaking writers are. One of the communities that produce some of the most amazing writers is the Filipino community - so I’ve decided to offer this list of Filipino writers for our Filipino readers.

The following are a top list of Filipino writers, but at the bottom of this article you’ll also find a list of about thirty more that deserve mention.

Top 10 List of Filipino WritersIn a literary world dominated by English-speaking writers, it isn’t always easy to make your mark as a Filipino writer. However, the culture and heritage embodied by the carefully crafted words of some writers pay tribute to the creativity and writing skill of this community.

The following writers are a few of the best Filipino writers you’ll find. Whether you are Filipino or simply love the culture, make sure to check out these writers.

Manuel ArguillaManuel Arguilla was the author of the 1940 book of short stories titled How My Brother Leon Brought Home A Wife. It took first prize for short stories in the 1940 in the First Commonwealth Literary Contest. People that knew him said that he enjoyed doing his writing around one or two in the morning, when the stories came to him easily.

His stories reflect the heritage of his home town Barrio Nagrebcan, Bauang, La Union. Even though he moved away to Manila to earn his degree at the University of the Philippines in 1933, his heart remained back home.

Although his life seemed to revolve only around writing, teaching creative writing at the University and later editing Welfare Advocate for the Bureau of Public Welfare, there was a deeper aspect to Manuel. He expressed his political stance by putting together an intelligence unit to thwart the Japanese in WWII.

In October of 1944, he was captured by the Japanese army and brought to Fort Santiago, where he was tortured for information and then executed. He left behind his wife, Lydia Villaneuva, who happens to be another excellent Filipino writer.

Cecilia Manguerra BrainardCecilia is an award-winning female Filipino author with a significant writing career including eight novels. Born in Cebu, Philippines, she wrote When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, the novel she is best known for. Other books include Magdalena, three books of short stories, Philippine Woman in America, Cecilia’s Diary 1962-1968 and Fundamentals of Creative Writing.

She also collaborated with four other female authors on the novel Angelica’s Daughters.

She received plenty of awards for her work, including a Brody Arts Fund Award, a Special Recognition Award, a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate, the Filipinas Magazine Award for Arts and the Outstanding Individual Award from Cebu, Philippines where she grew up.

She continues to teach and lecture about creative writing, and lives with her husband and former Peace Corp volunteer Lauren Brainard, as well as their three sons, in Leyte, Philippines.

Angela Manalang GloriaTo branch out into other areas of creative writing, it’s only fair to cover Angela Manalang Gloria, a pianist and poet who, despite her tragic life, wrote notable lyrical poets - sonnets - as part of her love of music. You can find a partial collection of her poems in Poems (1940).

One reviewer commented that her poems are “sweeter and more tender [and more melodious] than Tarrosa’s”.

Born in Albay, from a young age she loved reading and music. She started playing the piano at a very young age. Schooled within the girls’ schools run by the religious orders of the region, she was always top of her class. Her life was an exploration of talents, from being a pianist, to attending pre-law school, and even painting and art. Everything about her portrayed a skilled creativity.

Eventually she served as a literary editor at Philippine Collegian, and while there she married editor-in-chief Celedonio Goria, who later became a lawyer. Her storybook life took a turn for the worse during her work as an editor at Herald Mid-Week Magazine, when she became ill. To make matters worse, her husband served in World War II and lost his life. Many say that the harsh realities of her life transformed her into a pragmatist - and at the close of her life she no longer contributed as a Filipino writer…instead she entered into business and became financially successful on her own.

Additional List of Filipino Writers
Marivi Soliven Blanco earned her Literature digree from Simons College in Boston, and her mass communications degree in the Philippines. She wrote The Unicorn, Chief Flower Girl and The Toad and the Princess to name a few. In 1992 she won second prize in the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature.

Norma Olizon-Chikiamco was a journalist and editor of Food Magazine, Sunday Globe, Metro and Celebrity Magazine. She won first prize in the 1995 Don Carlos Palance Memorial Awards for Literature.

Leoncio P. Deriada won the 1994 Don Carlos first prize for The Man Who Hated Birds, and wrote The Dog Eaters and Other Plays, Night Mares and The Week of Whales.

Lina B. Diaz de Rivera won 2nd prize in the 1996 Don Carlos Awards for The Gem. She had her masters in reading and doctorate in English, and wrote Ferry in the Sun, Goldon Galleon and English for High School.

Angelo Rodriguez Lacuesta won 3rd prize in the 1996 Don Carlos for The Daughter of the Wind. He had a debree in biology, and published work in various magazines and journals such as Likhaan Anthology of Poetry and Fiction, The Evening Paper, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Sunday Inquirer Magazine.

Twink Macaraig won first prize in the Don Carlos in 1994 for What is Serendipity? She was a news anchor in Singapore, and wrote The Ultimate, and the Absolutely Indispensable Guide to Food Delivery in Metro Manila. She is currently a news anchor for Asia Business News in Singapore.

Ino M. Manalo won third prize in the Don Carlos in 1993 for Little Bird, Little Fish, and the Two Elephants. He also wrote The Architect’s Design and Botong: Alay at Alaala.

As you can see, the list goes on and on. The Filipino community clearly added a great deal to the Literary advancement of the world, and continues to do so every day.

Ryan is a technology writer and investigative blogger. He has been working as an online writer for numerous clients for over 5 years, and now consults webmasters and blog owners about effective SEO optimization. Ryan has 53 post(s) at Free Writing Center

Holiday Gift Book List - reprinted from Barbara Jane Reyes/PAWA blog

I'm reprinting this from:

This holiday season, why not give the gift of literature? We will be posting reading lists and book buying suggestions from Filipino American authors here. This first one's from Eileen Tabios:

THE CHAINED HAY(NA)KU ANTHOLOGY Curated by Ivy Alvarez, John-Bloomberg Rissman, Ernesto Priego & Eileen Tabios. More info.

ARCHIPELAGO DUST by Karen Llagas (Meritage Press, 2010).


REQUIEM FOR THE ORCHARD by Oliver de la Paz (University of Akron Press, 2010).

TRAJE DE BODA by Aileen Ibardaloza (Meritage Press, 2010).

KALI'S BLADE by Michelle Bautista (Meritage Press, 2006).

THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems & New (1996-2010) by Eileen R. Tabios, Edited with an Introduction by Thomas Fink and Afterword by Joi Barrios (Marsh Hawk Press, 2010). I realize I'm citing my book but I really want to draw attention to Dr. Barrios' essay which is useful in terms of discussing Filipina women's poetry. Ordering info: Hardback and Paperback.

PRAU by Jean Vengua (Meritage Press, 2007).

THE TRANSLATOR'S DIARY by Jon Pineda (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2008). Semi-finalist in very competitive SF State Poetry Center Book Award contest that I judged.

POEMS OF THE BLACK OBJECT by Ronaldo Wilson (Futurepoem Books, 2009). Winner of 2010 AAWW Poetry Award that I judged with John Yau and Sesshu Foster.

DIWATA by Barbara Jane Reyes (BOA Editions, 2010).


Luis Francia: Holiday Gift Book List

The Beauty of Ghosts, by Luis H. Francia (Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2010). (Order at Philippine Expressions.)

Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Vol. 1 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).

Haywire: Flash Fictions, by Thaddeus Rutkowski (New York: Starcherone/Dzanc Books, 2010).

Poems of the Black Object, by Ronaldo Wilson (New York: Futurepoems Books, 2009).

Ilustrado, by Miguel Syjuco (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2010).

The Verso Book of Dissent: From Spartacus to the Shoe Thrower in Baghdad, edited by A. Hsiao & A. Lim (New York: Verso Books, 2010).
This list is from Karen Llagas:

Baker of Tarifa by Shadab Zeest Hashmi (Poetic Matrix Press, 2010).

Bulaklak sa Tubig: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig at Himagsik / Flowers on Water: Poems on Love and Revolt by Joi Barrios (bi-lingual, Tagalog-English; Anvil Publishing, 2010).

The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed, edited by Sixteen Rivers Press (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010).

Independence, by Sarah Lapido Manyika (Legend Press, 2008).

Crown of Dust, by Mary Volmer (Soho Press, 2010).

A Thousand Threads, by Steve Orlen (The Hollyridge Press Chapbook Series, 2009).

This list is from Veronica Montes:

What It Is (Drawn & Quarterly, 2008) and Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book (Drawn & Quarterly, 2010) by Lynda Barry. Writers and artists will be inspired by these two unorthodox “manuals” for the creative life. Written by hand and filled with Barry’s color-saturated collages, drawings, doodles, and whatnot, they're pretty much impossible to put down.

Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City, by Benito M. Vergara, Jr. (Temple University Press, 2009). Like thousands of Filipinos before me, and hundreds of thousands after me, I grew up in Daly City. This is a fascinating anthropological take on my hometown, written in a style that is somehow both academic and conversational. A must-have for the bookshelf of anyone with even a tangential interest in a landscape that holds special meaning for Filipinos.

A History of the Philippines from Indios Bravos to Filipinos by Luis Francia (Overlook Press, 2010). A history of the Philippines written by a poet/journalist? Who could resist such a fine book? Pick up two copies: one for yourself, and one to offer as a gift to someone who has been very, very good this year.

Imago by Joseph O. Legaspi (CavanKerry Press, 2007). I had the chance to hear Joseph read from the poems in Imago when he participated in the PAWA Reading Series earlier this year, and was instantly drawn to his work. He captures all the beauty and innocence of childhood, tempered by the inevitable intrusion(s) of death, violence, sex (the confusing parts, that is). So good.

Diwata by Barbara Jane Reyes (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010). Lush, lovely, inspired. These poems are filled with startling imagery, strong women, and story, story, story.

The Solemn Lantern Maker, by Merlinda Bobis (Delta, 2009). This novel begins just six days before Christmas with a mute boy trawling the streets selling his handmade paper lanterns. Add to this his best friend Elvis (who holds a terrible secret), an injured and missing American tourist, and a post-9/11 let’s-freak-everybody-out media frenzy, and what do you have? A really good story.

Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults, Cecilia Brainard, ed. (PALH Books, 2009). I would recommend this anthology even if I didn’t have a story in it. It’s one of those books I’d wished I’d had as a teenager and young adult, simply because it’s affirming to have our experiences transformed into a narrative on the page. You’ll find bits and pieces of yourself and yours in these stories, for sure.

I’d also like to recommend subscriptions to literary journals that seem to consistently support the work of Filipino writers. Bamboo Ridge Press, The Asian American Literary Review, and Manoa instantly come to mind.

Here's Vangie Buell's:

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee, by Marissa Moss, illustrated by Carl Angel (Tricycle Press, 2009).

Cora Cooks Pancit, by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant (Shen's Books, 2009).

Twenty Five Chickens and a Pig for a Bride: Growing up in an Filipino Immigrant Family, by Evangeline Canonizado Buell, illustrated by Carl Angel (T'Boli Publishing, 2006).

Images of America: Filipinos in the East Bay, by Evangeline Canonizado Buell, Evelyn Luluquisen, Ellie Luis, and Lillian Galledo (Arcadia Publishing, 2008).

Look for these books at Arkipelago Books and Eastwind Books of Berkeley.

Here are Oliver de la Paz's recommendations:

In Canaan, by Shane McCrae (Rescue Press, 2010).

Burnings, by Ocean Vuong (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2010).

Each Crumbling House, by Melody S. Gee (Perugia Press, 2010).

Sweet Grass, by Micah Ling (Sunnyoutside Press, 2010).
Here's Barbara Jane Reye's list:

Lola: A Ghost Story, by J. Torres and Elbert Or (Oni Press, 2010).

Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults, edited by Cecilia Brainard (PALH Books, 2010).

breaking poems (Cypher Books, 2008), and Born Palestinian, Born Black (UpSet Press, 2010), by Suheir Hammad.

A History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos (Overlook Press, 2010), and Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago (Kaya Press, 2001), by Luis Francia.

The Solemn Lantern Maker (Delta, 2009), and Banana Heart Summer (Delta, 2008), by Merlinda Bobis.

In the Company of Strangers, by Michelle Cruz Skinner (Bamboo Ridge Press, 2009).

The Salt-Wind, Ka Makani Pa'akai, by Brandy Nalani McDougall (Kuleana 'Oiwi Press, 2009).

Outlaw: The Collected Works of Miguel Piñero (Arte Publico Press, 2010).

The Gods We Worship Live Next Door, by Bino A. Realuyo (University of Utah Press, 2006).

from unincorporated territory [saina], by Craig Santos Perez (Omnidawn Press, 2010).

Up Jump the Boogie, by John Murillo (Cypher Books, 2010).

Migritude, by Shailja Patel (Kaya Press, 2010).

Also remember, you can shop online at Arkipelago Books and Eastwind Books of Berkeley.

Cecilia's List:
Lim, Paulino, Jr. REQUIEM FOR A REBEL PRIEST. New Day, 1996, First Edition, softcover, 225 pp., Paulino Lim is a professor of English at Cal State Long Beach.You can read his short story, Curacao Cure, in Our Own Voice (March 2002), Requiem for a Rebel Priest is his 3rd novel of a trilogy set during the Marcos and Aquino regimes follows the return of an ex-Jesuit to the Philippines when restless segments of the military were attempting to overthrow the Aquino government. You can find this and his other books in

Ty-Casper, Linda. DREAM EDEN. Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1996, First Edition, softcover, 460 pp.,
One of the most prolific Filipino American writers is Linda Ty Casper who has written over 15 books. She is one author who should be admired not only for her talent but for her grace. This novel by Linda Ty-Casper is a portrait of the Philippines just before the Peaceful Revolution of 1986 up to the last coup of 1989.

Ty-Casper, Linda. AWAITING TRESPASS. New Day, 1989, First Edition, softcover, 180 pp.,
New York Times Book Review says: "Linda Ty-Casper pulls no punches in this unusual novel, which she describes as "a pasión" - yet she wears silk gloves. With jobs so deft they avoid the didactic but sting mightily, she indicts everything, from the values of the well-to-do to martial law.."

Brainard, Cuizon, Evangelista, Montes, and Sarreal. ANGELICA'S DAUGHTERS, A DUGTUNGAN NOVEL. Anvil, 2010, First Edition, softcover, newsprint, 200 pp,
Angelica's Daughters is a collaborative novel by five established Filipina writers, called a "dugtungan." A dugtungan is a genre of Tagalog novel popular early in the 20th century, in which each writer creates a chapter and hands it off to the next, who writes another chapter without direction. The result, in this case, is an ensemble performance that contains something of the exhilaration of theatrical improv. One watches these accomplished authors inventively weave a historical romance, creating gripping heroines and turns of plot, crossing decades and national boundaries, tapping into cultural roots of the Philippines, Spain and America. Reading Angelica's Daughters is a gripping experience.~ Brian Ascalon Roley, Author of American Son (W.W. Norton)

Briones, Concepcion G. LIFE IN OLD PARIAN. Kaguiakan 2000, softcover, new, 99 pages.
I love this hard to find book about historic old Cebu, especially because the Parian district is undergoing gentrification. Concepcion Briones writes about growing up in the old Parian district of Cebu. She writes about the old families who lived there; she describes the houses and landmarks of the place; she records gossip of the time. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in Cebu.

Evangelista, Susan. GROWING INTO ASIA AND OTHER ESSAYS. UP Press, First Edition, softcover, 102 pp.
This is a collection of charming and insightful essays by Susan Evangelista who straddles many worlds. She hails from Michigan but is married to a Filipino. She has traveled to Japan, China, Thailand, Cambodia, and many other places. In this collection, she explores her life as an American in the Philippines, and reflects on the many other facets of her fascinating life. Evangelista taught writing and literature at the Ateneo de Manila.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Even though I was looking forward to the Neil Sedaka Concert at Disney Hall (December 7, 2010), I felt some nervousness. I wondered what he'd look like, and if he could still sing. A few years ago, my husband and I saw the Burt Bacharach concert at the famous Sydney Operahouse, and while we enjoyed the experience, we noticed that Burt was passing off a lot of the singing parts to his backup singers. Put simply, Burt could no longer sing well.

Those thoughts were running through my mind as I looked at the single grand piano on the stage - no full orchestra as Burt had - just a single piano. I wondered if Neil, at 71 years old, still had the voice.

When Neil Sedaka walked on to the stage,I am sure I was not alone in sizing him up. Thank God, he still looked like the Neil Sedaka of the 1960s. Okay,he looked older and he shuffled a bit but he still looked enough like that Neil of my youth.

He didn't say much - a short greeting, then he sat and played the piano and sang - and a wave of relief ran through me. The music was still good! More than good, great. The quality of his voice was still thankfully great. He seemed to avoid the high notes, but the voice itself was fine.

He started off with the old hits, giving bits of information about each song, and encouraging the audience to sing-along. The audience, clearly old fans, did just that, belting out 50 year old lyrics. And I have to admit, that so did I. Who would forget: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, The Diary, Oh Carol, Calendar Girl, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen?

These songs brought me right back to my teens when I used to plaster my ear against the radio to listen to those hits. We all had a crush on Neil Sedaka. I had 45pm records that I also played (yes, I was one of the 40 million who bought Oh Carol). I also bought those Song Hits booklets with the words of the songs, and croon away at night. (I can still remember the lyrics of Run Samson Run, Little Devil, and his other songs.)

Here's a couple of things that he did last night that I liked: he'd turn his head now and then so the audience behind and to his side could see him; and he'd get up after each song and acknowledge the clapping by sweeping his right hand, and nodding to the audience all around him. (While it wasn't exactly a theater-in-the-round,there were a few seats behind him and to his left side, who had his back most of the time.)

From the old songs, he went on to songs he'd composed after the Beatles showed up and he suddenly ceased being popular. The Hungry Years had a haunting, melancholic sound as opposed to the perky cheerful songs of the '60s. I read somewhere that during his "hungry years" it was Australia that continued to give him work. So did England,the English continued to support him even while Americans had dumped him for the English boys. Last night he mentioned that a musical based on his life, "Laughing in the Rain," will be presented in London this March.

Good for Neil! Really, it's wonderful that this man, who has been playing the piano and singing for over half a century is getting the attention that he's getting now. Look at his contemporaries, I hardly hear about them - Paul Anka, Fabian, Connie Francis, Pat Boone. But here Neil Sedaka is still giving concerts to full houses.

I enjoyed the songs. His early songs were delightful,not only because of the joyful melody but because of the associated memories. His latter songs were pleasant to listen to and they were effective in evoking emotion, but they were difficult to remember. They didn't have that "jingle" effect that some of the early popular ones had.

The audience loved his old songs and his new songs. They gave him a standing ovation at the end so he had to come back and play some more.

I was left with respect for a man who has been true to his art. This was what I got from last night's concert. When a man has such a gift from God, he needs to honor that gift whether or not he is popular; you just have to use the gift.

This was what Neil did. He had the gift from the start. Son of Turkish-Jewish immigrants, he grew up in Brooklyn. His second grade teacher in a choral class suggested to his parents that he take piano lessons. His mother took a part-time job in a department store for six months to pay for a second-hand upright piano. In 1947, he attended the Julliard School of Music on Saturdays. He was big in the 1950s and the early 1960s, but by the late 1960s was losing popularity in the US. But he kept at it and found his audience outside the US. It seems he kept his life together - one wife, children, no drugs. And now at 71 years old, he's still doing his thing. That's what I call a blessing straight from God.

Go Neil!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

ARTICLE RE BEHIND THE WALLS, Edited by Brainard & Orosa

THE COLEGIALA EXPERIENCEby Maria Clarissa Estuar (The Philippine Star), Dec. 5, 2010

MANILA, Philippines - Maria Clarissa Estuar, 34, is a scriptwriter for ABS-CBN. She is part of the creative teams behind the primetime soap opera Kristine and a soon-to-be-launched teen drama. She has seven Palanca awards to her name.

In a couple of weeks, a wedding will bring my high school barkada together for the first time in 13 years. We were sophomores when we gravitated towards each other at the exclusive school for girls where we were enrolled. E-mails and Facebook helped keep the friendship alive even though half of our group has settled in North America, and the other half has remained in the Philippines. I’ve been feeling understandably sentimental, so when I chanced upon the book Behind the Walls: Life of Convent Girls, I got myself a copy and started skimming it.

Behind the Walls is a collection of essays from women who went to convent schools from before World War II to the 1990s. I immediately skipped to the essay by Eunice Noelle Lucero after figuring out that she went to the same school on Leon Guinto just a few years after my friends and I graduated from there. The soundtrack to my barkada’s high school experience was New Kids on the Block while hers was Pearl Jam, but I discovered that not much had changed during her time. Our ancient Filipino teacher still terrorized girls on a daily basis. The typing teacher still made her students wear brown paper bags on their heads during touch-typing exercises. She wielded a small triangle that she hit to signal the class to start pounding on their typewriters’ keys. To help keep the pace, she played music from a portable cassette recorder and stomped her foot to the beat. I suddenly remembered somebody telling me that once, the typing teacher’s heel got stuck in a hole on the teacher’s platform. Apparently, she timed her efforts to pull herself free to the beat of the music.

Reading that piece was a nice start because it brought me down memory lane, but I wondered if I would enjoy the essays written by women who went to other schools. As students, we held biases against girls from our rival schools and old prejudices die hard, I suppose, but I promised myself I’d keep an open mind as I plowed through the other essays.

I was amused by what appeared to be a universal difficulty in following our schools’ dress codes. Several essayists mentioned how they waged battles on skirt lengths, the resentment they felt for being forbidden to wear colored (and not just neutral) hair accessories, and how they managed to experiment with makeup even though the nuns who ran their schools frowned upon the use of mere pressed powder. Our own blue and white uniforms caused us a fair amount of grief whenever our teachers caught us walking around with one jumper strap artfully dangling off one shoulder or when we were basically using our skirts as mops whenever we sat down on the floor and slid to our friends to gossip with them.

As Holy Ghost alumna Milagros Delgado Enage pointed out, colegialas have always been expected to live out the virtues of order, simplicity and modesty, but honestly, the indoctrination process wasn’t exactly painless.

For the record, I did not go to school with a bunch of well-behaved girls. For the most part, we behaved like high-spirited teens who refused to be caged in. “Boisterious” was how fellow Scholastican Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz described us.

Through the years, colegialas have tried to stretch the boundaries in different ways. Rosemarie Montañano related that back in the 1960s, she was on her way back to school with her fellow internas when they made an unplanned detour to pick guavas by the roadside even though they knew they’d be severely reprimanded. Maria Concepcion Abeleda-Beltran confessed to procuring a contraband copy of Lady Chatterly’s Lover, only to be disappointed by how badly written it was.

In a way, the good nuns who ran these schools contributed to the cultivation of this daring side of many colegialas. In keeping with their goal to provide a well-rounded education to their girls, many of these institutions had outreach programs that required students to go to depressed areas to teach catechism, distribute food and clothing, and be exposed to certain social realities for the first time in their lives.

Karina Africa Bolaso pointed out how ironic this was, for she was sent to a “harmless convent school” because her parents believed no harm could come to her there because it was a place where “fine, well-bred young gentlemen went to look for their future wives.” Little did her parents know that within a year, their precious daughter would be joining protest rallies and going to evacuation centers with the blessings of her school’s administration.

Many colegialas do look back and remember how their schools gave them the chance to get out of their gated communities sans parents and amahs for the first time in their lives, forcing them to be a little more independent. Bettina Rodriguez Olmedo asserted though that in her own experience, these outreach activities “were not sufficiently involving to be capable of bursting life’s lovely bubble for the average Theresian who was usually equipped with a pair of ‘blinders’… For her, life’s problems were magnified a hundredfold. Papa’s refusal to raise her allowance was a disaster. Having to wear the same dress at another party attended by the same circle of friends was a catastrophe. Failing to catch the eye of a heartthrob was a major tragedy.”

Lolita Delgado Fansler seemed to support this view, for she wrote, “Ours was a sheltered childhood. Separated or divorced parents didn’t inhabit our tiny world because parents never gossiped about troubled marriages in front of us. Going to non-Catholic schools in the United States — or even the University of the Philippines — for college was not something colegialas were supposed to do, lest we become atheists, communists, rebels, or fallen women.”

For the most part, my own colegiala experience was peppered with trivial concerns. At times, my barkada’s discussions revolved around the stone tables, and how they became our school’s most prestigious tambayan even though it meant eating lunch on top of bathroom tiles and constantly worrying about the very real threat of higad falling from the tree that provided shade to those tables.

Other times, we tried balancing chemical equations while I nagged my friends into helping me decide if I should risk asking my crush who had spiked hair to go to the prom with me, or if I should just settle for my best friend’s cousin. I think being in the school pergola with a panicky friend when the big earthquake struck in mid-1990 was the most traumatic event in my stint as a Kulasa.

A Theresian and a Maryknoller contributed essays to the book, which spoke about a particular aspect of colegiala life that doesn’t come up often. Despite the high tuition fees, some middle class girls do manage to enroll in these schools, and I was one of them. Even though we got to wear the same uniform and learned the same lessons, we didn’t experience convent school life in the same, exact way as our more affluent peers.

Alma Clutario-Patist related how a swimming party turned sour when her friend’s mother came home to find her there: “Casually, she asked me a few questions — what’s your name, where do you live? From her look of disinterest, I knew that that would be the last time I would be swimming in their pool. My family background did not come up to her family’s standards.”

In her own essay, Sonia Carreon admitted to being subjected to “verbal bullying” from one of her classmates. She wrote, “I never pretended to be rich nor even acted rich, but I guess my effort at trying to blend in was not working. Someone actually did not like me because I was poor and from the province. What had I done to make this girl hate me?”

Luckily, I didn’t go through anything as dramatic. It helped that I was surrounded by friends who also had parents who worked hard and pinched centavos just to pay our tuition. It made things a little easier, but I still remember feeling bad — no, ashamed — because I couldn’t afford those Marks and Spencers crocheted socks that almost everybody else was wearing. Actually, I probably could have extorted enough money from my parents to buy one pair, but it didn’t feel right to indulge myself when they sacrificed so much just so that I could continue studying in that rich girls’ school.

Years after this, I got my first paycheck and was tempted to use part of it to buy myself a pair of those socks even though I had no idea where I’d wear them because my days of wearing shiny Mary Janes were long gone. I was able to fend off the impulse though because by then, I had learned that it is possible not to define one’s self through designer labels. I’d like to think that because of this, I’ve made our school’s Benedictine nuns proud.

The preface of Behind the Walls posed this question: “Is being a colegiala today of as great significance as it was then?” Almost all of the essayists in this book asserted that they developed a taste for higher learning that probably wouldn’t have germinated in another environment. We learned to push ourselves, we became comfortable competing with others, partly because we didn’t have to worry about male peers watching us and thinking, “That’s not ladylike behavior at all.” Without realizing it, being driven to succeed was seared into our system little by little.

But most of all, the essayists and I appreciate our colegiala experience because this was when we established lifelong friendships. I met Pia, Hannah and Joy when we were silly school girls who spent an inordinate amount of time teasing our bangs into a tsunami shape while trying to breathe under a cloud of Aqua Net. We drank from one Coleman during breaks and suffered through trigonometry, arnis and carpentry classes together.

Our lives now are infinitely more complex, but I have a feeling when we see each other again, it would be as if we hadn’t been apart. It would be just like old times.

Edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard & Marily Y. Orosa
Anvil Publishing, softcover, 222 pages

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Introduction to VIGAN AND OTHER STORIES, a short story collection by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (Anvil, 2011)
by Oscar V. Campomanes

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Scenographer It gives me great pleasure to introduce this new anthology of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard’s fiction even as she really needs no introduction to a Philippine readership. As the young scholar Marge Rafols discovered in a recently completed study of Brainard’s institutional politics and creative work, Cecilia has consistently pursued a rather telling strategy, of which the publication by Anvil of this collection is only the latest example. Despite extended residence in the US for much of her adult life, and her considerable publishing success in that country, Cecilia has primarily oriented her writing to—and sought to circulate/publish it for the most part in—the Philippines, wanting Filipino readers to have first access to the fruits of her labors as a literary artist. Rafols reads this bifocality of Brainard’s career as an institutional politics on the writer’s part that addresses two major concerns: the constant need for diasporic storytellers like her to affirm and sustain a connection to and an investment in the cultural development of the ancestral homeland; and the endemic institutional invisibility or exclusion of Filipino Americans and migrants in the American cultural and political arenas (Rafols 2010). One, obviously, has everything to do with the other, and both can make sense, as Rafols amply demonstrates in her accomplished study, when construed in the context of the “special” (that is, neocolonial) relationship between the Philippines and the United States.

The cultural and political liminality in US society to which Filipino Americans and migrants had been historically and chronically doomed (a fate that is beginning, fortunately, to look up)—on account of the politics of self-disavowal of the American Empire which is now the object of a flourishing Filipino American postcolonial critique—might in some way explain the effet de retour of diasporic identity politics of the kind Brainard manifests. And the strategy to reorient one’s work as a writer to readers back ‘home’ without much care as to its potential for recognition from an American or international audience could perhaps mean, at one and the same time, an investment in Philippine literary culture, and an oblique but pragmatic realization of the nearly irremediable lot of Filipino American and migrant marginality in the colonizer’s context. One is then led to the unlikely wager that by contributing to homeland cultural development as the priority, the diasporic writer might effectively escape from the limiting and oppressive determinations of American institutional invisibility or paradoxically induce American establishment culture and institutions (still the arbiters of global literary visibility and celebrity) to take notice of one’s iconoclastic work or perspectives resulting from such a politics of location and self-displacement.

Whatever the actual results of such an institutional and publishing strategy in terms of critical and publishing coups in the United States, Cecilia’s ‘wager’ has been rewarded by an unusual number of local critical studies devoted to her writing, and the sustained interest expressed by Filipino academic students in her literary innovations, cultural activism, and personal identity politics. Apart from Rafols at Ateneo and others I know, University of Santo Tomas literature professor John Jack Wigley wrote his splendid MA thesis (2004) on the strategic and political gynocentrism of Woman with Horns and Other Stories, and the up-and-coming local literary critic of Filipino American literature, Frances Jane Abao of the University of the Philippines has rigorously located When the Rainbow Goddess Wept in an emergent tradition of the ‘ethnic bildungsroman’ (2001). By the late 1990s and early 2000s, other Filipino American and migrant writers like the poets Eileen Tabios and Ma. Luisa Igloria, the fictionist M. Evelina Galang, even Filipino diasporic writers from other global locations like Australia, Europe, and Japan, had begun to follow Cecilia’s lead and, at the very least, to count publication in the Philippines and access to a Filipino readership as an important component of their individual quests or career aspirations. The ‘return effect,’ in Brainard’s own case, saw not only the eventual republication of When the Rainbow Goddess by both an American trade publisher and university press after first being published as Song of Yvonne by New Day in Manila, but also a spate of critical studies of this novel and her other works by feminist and Asian American literary critics like Helena Grice, Dolores de Manuel, Guiyou Huang, C. Hua, Rocio Davis, Alicia Otano, S.T. Leonard, etc. in American learned journals, critical anthologies, and reference volumes.

What has been said of Carlos Bulosan’s village stories that “[they] are so simple as to seem effortless”—something similar having been said of N.V.M. Gonzalez by a crusty American critic that the latter’s stories are “so understated as to seem so artless”—may be said of Brainard’s fictions, generally, and of her stories in this collection, in particular. I qualify this seemingly left-handed assessment by citing a caveat made by the same critic of Bulosan’s village stories that, in fact, “such stories are the most difficult to write.” Cecilia’s style is even more spare or sparing, letting the words do the barest work possible of depicting action, description, or sequencing the events, for example. I’d call this style, which seems fairly unique to her (even when compared to that of old masters like Bulosan and Gonzalez), as scenographic, to borrow a term from cinema. In flash-fiction pieces like “The Dirty Kitchen,” “Flying a Kite,” and “The Che Guevarra Night,” this tendency and skill of staging fictional character, event, or setting as barely apprehensible scene/s—moving at a pace like that of briskly edited montage—is in most evidence. But the scenographic style also marks the stories that seem to form a cycle by their common setting of Ubec (Brainard’s noteworthy fictional inversion and immortalization of her beloved city of birth, Cebu), or are presented as separate pieces that can stand on their own, from their obvious provenance as chapters in an abortive novel (“Vigan,” “The Rice Field,” “Tia Octavia,” “The Last Moon-Game of Summer,” “Sagada” etc).

Like Manuel Puig’s cinematextual idiom in Kiss of the Spider Woman, Jessica Hagedorn’s filmic crosscuttings in Dogeaters, or M. Evelina Galang’s phototexts (as I call her ‘verbal pictures’) in One Tribe, but again less opulently so, Brainard’s fictional scenography seems calculated, by contrast, to allow for the emergence of what Walter Benjamin once predicted, marveling at the power of the cinematic, as a new habitus of perceiving and thinking, to which Benjamin gave the enigmatic appellation “the critic in a state of distraction” (1968 [1955]). This is another way of saying that Cecilia’s stories, by their narrative minimalism (they are so scenographic as to seem uneventful), ostensibly seem to create the ample space for a more active readerly collaboration that is not so much consciously thought out as reflexively elicited. Here I have in mind a story like “Romeo” which willfully violates the rule that first-person narration cannot be omniscient, suggesting that it can be scopic if the forgiving reader is willing to supply the missing angles of vision—a pretty defamiliarizing strategy of rendering fictional action as scene/s best exemplified and demonstrated by the clairvoyant narrator of “My Mother is Dying” or in the epistolary exchanges between immigrant mother Nelia and the Old World grandmother (‘Mama’) about the errant Filipino American daughter Mindy/Arminda in the delightful yet poignant story “Flip Gothic.” In short, Cecilia’s compositional aesthetic allows for that strange physics that the technology of cinematic vision and storytelling—one that penetrates and dissolves dimensional planes—enables, or makes eminently imaginable, according to Water Benjamin.

I would like to speculate that this scenographic style is very much in accord with what the late Southeast Asianist scholar Les Adler once determined to be Brainard’s historiographic politics of keeping the lives of her men and women characters—set as these are in both historical and contemporary milieux—“continually in the camera’s eye” (Adler 1996). Watch these stories unfold, do not simply read them, in other words. When watching them—like they were projected on the screen of one’s osmotic imagination—do so, as Walter Benjamin says, as if one is engulfed by the flood of scenic images (mindful in some way that they are strategically arranged or sequenced by the writer’s filmic and historiographic sensibility), and thus as if moved to connect them, if only half-consciously, to one’s subliminal image-repertoires of a history shared with so many others, which would otherwise remain fragmentary and unarticulated, but, in the hands of a skillful and unobtrusive verbal auteur like Brainard, now form some absorbing montage of seamless and crosscut continuity shots.

Works Cited
Abao, Jane Frances P. 2001. “Retelling the Stories, Rewriting the Bildungsroman: Cecilia Manguerra-Brainard’s When the Rainbow Goddess Wept.” Humanities Diliman (January-June).
Adler, Les. 1996. “Acapulco Sunset and Other Stories: A Review.” Pilipinas 26 (Spring).
Benjamin, Walter. 1968 [1955]. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In Reflections, transl. Harry Zohn and ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Harcourt Jovanovich Inc.
Rafols, Margarita. 2010. “Hide and Seek: Redefining ‘Filipino’ in Cecilia Manguerra-Brainard’s Fiction by Filipinos in America (1993) and Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America (1997).” BA Literature Thesis, Ateneo de Manila University
Wigley, John Jack. 2004. “Representations of the Female Body in Cecilia Manguerra-Brainard’s Fiction.” MA Literature Thesis, University of Santo Tomas.

PROFESSOR OSCAR V. CAMPOMANES teaches critical theory and literary/cultural studies in the Department of English, Ateneo de Manila University; and semiotics, media criticism, and culture theory in the Communication Program of the UST Graduate School. His recent essays regarding American empire critique, Filipino American postcoloniality and literary history, and cultural semiotics have appeared in such journals as PMLA, Japanese Journal of American Studies, and Philippine Studies; and the anthologies Positively No Filipinos Allowed (Temple 2006; Anvil 2008) and Vestiges of War (NYU Press/Anvil 2002). An anthology of his critical writings is currently under preparation for publication both in the Philippines and the United States

For copies of Vigan and Other Stories, contact ANVIL (
Vigan and Other Stories is available as a Kindle Edition at
In the US contact Philippine Expressions or PALHBOOKS.COM.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

VISITING COLONIAL MEXICO, Travel article Zee Lifestyle Nov 2010

by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
This article first appeared in Zee Lifestyle Magazine, November 2010
Grab a copy, if you can; they sell quickly.

When some friends rented a huge house in San Miguel de Allende and invited my husband and me to stay with them, we quickly said yes. We’d visited San Miguel once before and loved this picturesque Mexican colonial city. San Miguel de Allende’s pleasant weather, its splendid houses and gardens, its arts and language schools, its high residency of American and Canadians have made San Miguel de Allende a popular tourist spot.

San Miguel is located in a mountainous area of central Mexico 6,000 feet above sea level, north of Mexico City. The Centro or historic center sits in a basin and is surrounded by mountains. To get there my husband and I took a three-hour flight from Los Angeles, California to the city of Leon. From there we had another 90 minute ride on a shuttle, mostly over rolling hills populated by cows and mesquite trees. By 8:30 a.m. our driver dropped us in front of our place on #4 Murrillo Street, three blocks from the Centro. Doug, Myrna, and Hilary greeted us and showed us around the house. I love Spanish colonial houses and this one had a sunny inner-courtyard with flame-colored bougainvillea and blue-flowered plumbago climbing along the walls all the way to the rooftop deck. Each of the en suite bedrooms was on different levels with private patios brimming with colorful plants. The place was wonderful; company was good; we were ready for a memorable visit of San Miguel de Allende.

Because San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, all buildings in the Centro are built in the colonial style, meaning houses are built to the property line and gardens are found within the walls. Many doors are left open so passersby can catch a glimpse of tiled inner courtyards with tinkling fountains and glorious potted plants. The streets are narrow, winding, and made of irregular cobblestones and flagstones – quaint, but murder to the feet, so I was glad I had my Birkenstock sandals.

Doug, who knew the place quite well, took us on several walking tours, including one to the charming Juarez Park on the eastside of San Miguel, with children playing in the yard and lovers holding hands on the benches. Doug showed us the fabulous gardens of the Hotel Santa Monica as well as the Allende Institute, an arts and language school.

We meandered to the westside of San Miguel to the Biblioteca Publica (Mexico’s second largest English language library and where many Americans and Canadians hang out). The Biblioteca is run by the North American expats who sponsor exhibits, book sales, house tours, and other activities, most of which cater to other expats and tourists.

We lunched in Doug’s favorite Café San Agustin, which had a variety of American and Mexican dishes to offer, but I zeroed in on their chocolate drinks and churros. The café offered three kinds of chocolate drinks: Mexican, Spanish, and French, and during our five day stay in San Miguel I tried them all, concluding that the Spanish chocolate is closest to our Filipino chocolate – rich, thick, with a hint of bitterness. The Mexican and French chocolate drinks are too sweet and lack character, especially the French drink.

We spent a lot of time in San Miguel’s main square, El Jardin, referred to as the heart of the place, since this is where events happen – fireworks, dancing, music, eating, paseos, catching up with friends. Practically every night, some event went on at the Jardin, and every day fireworks could be heard. San Miguel celebrates many festivals: Semana Santa, Semana Celtica, Fiesta de San Antonio de Padua, Fiesta de SanMiguel Arcangel, Festival de Musica de Camara, Festival de Cortometraje, Festival Internacional de Jass, Fiesta de Navidad, and so on. During our visit there were festivities related to Emiliano Zapata, which included a march by laborers through the streets toward El Jardin.

Fronting the Jardin is the Parroquia or the Parish Church, which has become the symbol of San Miguel. The pink neo-Gothic church originally built in 1683 was rebuilt in 1880 by a man who based his design on French postcards of churches. It has been reviled and praised but one cannot deny its imposing presence in the center of town.

San Miguel has other churches (San Agustin, San Francisco, Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Good Health, Loreto Chapel, etc) most of them built in the 17th century. The churches are made of stone, well-preserved, and filled with antique Santoses. The façade of the San Francisco Church is of the unique Churrigueresque (Mexican Gothic) style, with elaborate carvings, a style we saw in the City of Guanajuato.

We visited Museo Casa de Don Ignacio Allende Y Unzaga, a two-story baroque style colonial house built in the 18th century; this was the birthplace of the Mexican hero Ignacio Allende who was one of the leaders of the Mexican revolutions against Spain. The museum has archeological artifacts and documents about the Mexican War of Independence. I liked it mostly for its solid stone architecture with inner courtyard.

One day, my husband and I went on a house tour (sponsored by the Biblioteca) and saw three fabulous houses owned by North American expats. One of the reasons expats choose to live in Mexico is that it’s cheaper to live there than in the US. However the presence of thousands of North Americans has driven property prices and all other prices up in San Miguel. Some boutiques and stores are expensive, but the Mercado de San Juan de Dios has bargains. San Miguel also has Tianguis where they sell fresh produce, food items, clothes, furniture and just about anything. You have to haggle.

San Miguel is known for their great restaurants. We had a wonderful dinner at the Bogambilia Restaurant where I had Chile en Nogadas, a classic Mexican dish made of stuffed poblano peppers, smothered with a creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. We ate in other restaurants and they were all fine, but perhaps the best meal we had was on our rooftop where we had pizza and margaritas and watched the sunset over the rooftops and church towers of San Miguel.


From San Miguel, we drove to Guanajuato, the capital city of the state with the same name. Guanajuato is rich in silver deposits, accounting for its early colonization by the Spaniards in 1548. One silver mine has been operating for over 400 years. Guanajuato is one of the Mexico’s top three silver mining districts, having produced an estimated 1.2 billion ounces of silver and 5-6 million ounces of gold. At their peak in the 1700s, the silver mines of Guanajuato were among the largest and richest in the world, accounting for impressive 17th century buildings and impressive churches in Guanajuato.

Also a World Heritage site, the city of Guanajuato is considered the most-beautifully preserved colonial city in Mexico. Called the center of culture and education, Guanajuato is dominated by the University of Guanajuato. While San Miguel has a strong North American presence; Guanajuato has students.

Guanajuato is built on a gorge, and houses cascade along the sides of this gorge down to the Centro which extends lengthwise and can be walked easily. Walking is recommended since cars have a difficult time negotiating the winding narrow colonial streets. The colonial houses in Guanajuato are painted bold primary colors of red, blue, yellow. The Parish Church that fronts the main square is golden-yellow with red-brown trim.

We stayed in the historic Hotel Posada Santa Fe, built in 1862, in front of the popular Jardin Union. Guanajuato has many Jardins; every other street has a plaza to give people a place to relax and get fresh air. When we checked into our hotel, we could hear Renaissance music floating from the Jardin. In the afternoon, mariachi groups walked around the Jardin offering their music for a tip. The band-stand in the center of the triangular Jardin also offered musical entertainment in the evening. The place teemed with people of all ages, walking, sitting, eating ice cream, or dining in the nearby cafes. One afternoon as we made our own paseo, we ran into a man selling lemon-filled donuts; people were buying from him. Throwing caution to the wind, we bought donuts and sat on a bench in a small park across the Cervantes Theater, and like the other folks munched on the delicious donuts. It was probably because of the ambiance of the place – the donuts were the best I ever had.

We visited the eclectic Quixote Iconographic Museum, which has all sorts of artifacts related to Don Quixote, from books to tapestries. For some reason, the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes is big in Guanajuato. In October, the city hosts the Cervantino International Arts Festival, and operas, ballets, orchestras, acrobats and so on perform in Guanajuato’s numerous venues: the Teatro Juarez, the Teatro Principal, the Teatro Cervantes, the State Auditorium, the Plaza San Roque, the Esplanade of the Alhondia, the Teatro de Minas, and many other venues. For a small city, the place does have a lot of museums and exhibition places. Tourists are warned to reserve hotel rooms months in advance because the city fills up with international visitors.

Even without the Cervantino festival, we had much to see and do in Guanajuato. We took a funicular up the steep hill to see the huge statue of El Pipila, which immortalizes Juan Jose Martinez, a hero of the Mexican revolution against Spain. From there we had a grand view of the city, multicolored houses spreading to our left and to our right and up the hills. We visited the childhood house of the Mexican artist, Diego Rivera, a three story structure with a small inner courtyard. We drove to the Church of Valenciana (built by the owner of the Valenciana mine) famous for its lavishly gold leafed altars. We visited the Granary (Alhondiga de Grandanitas), a historic fortress-like building which had been the setting the fire lit by El Pipila to allow revolutionaries to enter the granary and overrun the Royalists holed up inside. In retaliation, the Spanish officials hung the heads of the leaders of the revolution on the four corners outside the building – one of them was General Ignacio Allende from San Miguel.

While the sites were interesting, what my husband and I enjoyed most was walking and taking in the pleasant ambiance of the city. The youthful energy gave Guanajuato a sense of hope and vibrancy. In the daytime, the college students had a sense of purpose as they hurried down the streets to the university. In the late afternoon, they sat on the steps of the Juarez Theater to relax. The younger students sat on the monument of the main square, goofing off and flirting with one another. It was all very amusing. I was tempted to return one October to catch the Cervantino Festival.
Top, l-r: Doug Noble, Lauren Brainard, in the Cafe San Agustin;
Group photo in the Jardin, l-r: Doug Noble, Myrna Horton, Lauren Brainard, Ceiclia Brainard, and Hilary Walling;
Bottom, Lauren Brainard in front of Guanajuato's Basilica
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tags: travel, history, Mexico, Guanajuato, San Miguel Allende, vacation, Spanish Colonial, Spain