Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Skokie Illinois Public Library Features Cecilia Brainard, Monday March 7, 7-8:30 p.m.

The author, Cecilia Brainard, will give a talk at the Skokie, Illinois Public Library Petty Auditorium on:

Monday, March 7, 7- 8:30 p.m.. The event is free and open to the general public. Please register for the Skokie Public Library event at or call 847-673-3733.

Cecilia will also be giving talks on:

Monday, March 710:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Niles West High School Auditorium, 5701 Oakton St., Skokie, Il,
7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. - at Skokie Public Library

Tuesday, March 810:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Niles North High School Auditorium, 9800 Lawler Ave, Skokie, Il.

These talks are part Coming together in Skokie ( which is featuring Cecilia's novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept and the anthology, Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Garden Pictures from the Philippines and Vietnam

Top to bottom:
Ruins, Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Lotus flowers, near Mekong Delta,Vietnam
On the way to the Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Bonzai taken in Park in Saigon, Vietnam
Couple posing during Tet, Park in Saigon, Vietnam
Dragon Fruit plant, Park in Saigon, Vietnam
Tet Altar, Saigon, Vietnam
Dragon plant, Saigon, Vietnam
Garden, Buddhist Temple, Dalat, Vietnam
Garden, Buddhist Temple, Dalat, Vietnam
Rose Garden, Dalat, Vietnam
Montagnard Coffee Farm, Dalat, Vietnam
The Crazy House, Dalat, Vietnam
Antonio's Restaurant, Tagaytay, Philippines
 Sonya's Garden. Tagaytay, Philippines

Read also
From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City 
Chapter from Magdalena,  - Winning Hearts and Mind
Chapter from Magdalena - Talking About the Woman in Cholon

This is all for now,

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Articles re Coming Together in Skokie

Trib Local Skokie, Philippine Focus of Skokie Cultural Activities <> <>

Niles Township High Schools <>

Pinoy: The Filipino American Newspaper <>

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chapter from "Magdalena", a Novel by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

I'm reprinting here a chapter from my second novel, Magdalena. This one has to do with the Vietnam War, and since I've just returned from a visit to Vietnam, I've been thinking about this war. I took the picture of the abandoned helicopter at the War Memorial Museum in Saigon Magdalena will soon be available at Kindle,

Winning Hearts and Minds (1967)
by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
Copyright by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard 

During a visit to Nakhon Panom Air Base in Thailand, Colonel March Adams heard that Major Ron O’Connor had been shot down during a strike near the Plain of Jars, in Laos. When he returned to Mactan Air Force Base, which he commanded, he told his men about O’Connor, how he had been a member of the reputed 602nd Special Operations Squadron, which was primarily a search-and-rescue (SAR) outfit, responsible for all of Laos and parts of Cambodia. Known as the Sandy Mission, the 602nd also conducted strikes in Northern Laos and made sorties against the Vietcong enemy truck and troop convoys along Ho Chi Minh Trail; but they were famous for their rescue efforts. O’Connor and his wingman, Captain Jose Cass, had been on a rescue mission to save a gunned-down pilot when the enemy got their plane. The pilot whom they had tried to save in the first place, survived; but Major O’Connor “bought the farm,” as the colonel called it.

He said this matter-of-factly. This was his second war, and he had learned to look at war in terms of wins and losses, as if it were a giant chess game with pawns and horses sacrificed for the more important chess pieces.
His men, however, were young, and they assumed a somber tone. “I knew Ron,” someone said, “he’s got a wife and two kids.”

Another spoke: “Once I went with Ron to Francois Restaurant. He had heard that Francois was the best French restaurant in Vietnam. Only problem was, Francois was in VC territory. No problem, Ron said, the VC left Francois’ clients alone. So one Friday, a group of us went, three jeeps, and guys holding machine guns all the way through VC territory to Francois. We picked a table that backed up against a wall and guys continued taking turns with the machine guns throughout the entire meal. We ate and had a lot of laughs. Oh, man, I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Thinking to console them, the colonel added, “His commanding officer recommended he be listed as MIA (missing in action) instead of KIA-NBR (killed in action, no body recovered) so his widow will continue collecting twenty grand a year. If he’s KIA-NBR, she’ll get a lump-sum settlement and less than half the continued compensation.”

The airmen proceeded to talk about their preferred listing if something did happen to them in Southeast Asia. Some men agreed that MIA was a better deal for their families; others thought the psychological anguish would be torture on them. The overall tone of the conversation turned so grim that all of them jumped at the suggestion to go to St. Moritz Bar.

The owner of the bar was an expatriate German named Karl, a loud, effusive man, whose life centered on his bar. “We have some new girls,” Karl said with a thick German accent. He gestured toward the stage in the center of the bar where half a dozen Go-Go girls were dancing. “Some clubs have goldfish, I have beautiful girls.” He sat beside the colonel and ordered a bottle of Scotch for the Americans. “Look at that. Just look at that, their bikinis are no larger than postage stamps,” he said with a wink.

The airmen laughed and hooted. The colonel relaxed, glad that the fiery memory of O’Connor was receding from his men’s minds.

“They come to me, begging for work,” Karl continued. “I take good care of them. Why, some of them have married my clients! Last month, a dancer stopped by with her New Yorker husband — and a three-carat diamond ring. Not too bad for someone from a barrio. I am the one who picks them, each and everyone of them. I go to small barrios; I pick the prettiest. Sometimes I pick some ugly ones, like that one over there who looks like King Kong. Believe it or not, some men like ugly girls. But this girl with the ring, she was beautiful. And obedient. What else can a man want? Her husband must be very happy.” He slapped his thigh and guffawed.

The colonel glanced at the smiling dancers who were furiously gyrating; and for some reason, he remembered his wife, two children, and their Golden Retriever back in Charleston, South Carolina. It had been five months since he met his wife in Honolulu for a brief R&R; and he wondered how she was.

“So, Colonel, how is your war coming along? News is always about Vietnam. Last week there was a picture in Time of a village burning. And inside, a story about more American bombings. The North, the South, they don’t get along. It is a mess, ja? Well, here in St. Moritz, everybody get along. Have more whiskey, Colonel.”

Before the colonel could answer, the German left. The colonel was relieved. The German’s accent grated on his nerves, bringing back memories of an earlier war.
The whiskey loosened the knots in his shoulders. He closed his eyes and pictured the airy houses in Charleston. He imagined himself walking along the city walls, looking across the sea at Fort Sumter. He recalled his grade school teacher, Miss Hill, a passionate Southerner, proudly relate the story of how Charlestonians had bombarded the fort, thus starting the Civil War. As a little boy, he used to recreate famous battles like the Battle of Gettysburg, using small toy metal soldiers. He wondered what happened to the toy soldiers. The last time he had seen them, they were in a box in his mother’s attic.

A girl spoke, startling him. “Maybe you find it one day.”

He raised an eyebrow at the girl who had sat beside him.

“What you are looking for,” she continued. “A while ago, you said, ‘I need to find them.’”

Embarrassed that he had voiced his foolish thoughts, he said, “It was nothing.”
“Do you want more Scotch? Sir says to take care of you.” She pointed at the German who was now at the other end of the room.

“I’m sorry, I have to leave.”

“If you go, he’ll think I’m no good. He’s watching me because I’m new here. I’m a singer. I started work last Wednesday. Were you here last week?” she asked.

The colonel shook his head. “No, I was in Pleiku.”

“What’s ‘Pleiku’? A beach or something?”

“No, not a beach.”

“Here in Philippines? Or someplace else?”

“In Vietnam,” he said, irritated at her persistence.

“Ah, yes, Vietnam. Is there fighting in Pleiku?”

“It’s a place in Vietnam, that’s all.” He didn’t add that driving toward Pleiku, he had seen graves on either side of the highway. Markers, as far as the eyes could see, 150,000 of them, an endless stretch of worn, gray-white markers. An ocean of grave markers. Thousands of these were graves of French soldiers who had died at Dien Bien Phu. For the rest of his life, he would never forget the sight of those markers.

“You have to be happy like others. Sir likes everyone happy. Want to dance?” She gestured toward the pulsating dance floor.

The colonel shook his head.

She hesitated, but said: “Maybe you want a good time? Bar-fee is twenty dollars, but the boss says to go with you, no problem. He wants you to have a good time. He likes Americans here. Lots of dollars. I can give you a good time. Two hours, three hours, even four, forget the sad times; be happy. But not all night. I go home before morning.”

She was wearing tight black pants and a sparkly red top. Although her lips were bright red, her face looked young, like a fourteen-year-old playing grownup. Her hand was resting near his, and her skin looked soft. For a moment, the colonel imagined the feel of human skin against his, and how comforting that would be; and he was tempted. No one would care; and his wife wouldn’t know. He could take her to the hotel down the street; they could be together for a couple of hours. He would feel her body, taste her lips, find release; he would forget O’Connor, Pleiku, the war. One-hundred-twenty-minutes, that was all; and there the matter would end.

But quickly lust gave way to anger at his weakness; and later, anger at the corruptness in Asia, how women like their politicians sold themselves, just like that. Here there was a price for everything. And here, in this far-off, God-forsaken place, men like O’Connor were dying. What for? What were they sacrificing their lives for? If he died, would he have died for his country, or for Asia? And what in hell were they doing in Asia in the first place, a place he didn’t even like, peopled by people he couldn’t even understand; peopled by people who didn’t even like Americans? What was it all about? Americans would bleed to death as the French had in Dien Bien Phu until it fell in 1954. That was the fate of Americans in Vietnam. This war was a waste of time, a waste of money, a waste of American lives.
He got up, ramrod, and headed for the door.

Unfazed, the girl shouted after him, “I’ll tell sir you have a wife back home.”

Saturday, the colonel did a double-take when Captain Nathan Spencer reminded him about his afternoon schedule.

“A child care what?” the colonel shouted.

“Its inauguration, sir. A child care center, in Ubec. You’d okayed giving them old medical and dental equipment, Colonel, and the women had invited you to give a talk. You said yes.”

“I don’t care about the equipment; they’ve had it. But what is this about a talk? I’m here to fight a war, not to give goddamn lectures.”

“You accepted their invitation, Colonel, sir. You agreed it may be a good way to win the hearts and minds of the people. I understand the center is for children of prostitutes, Colonel, and apparently a lot of the kids are half-Americans. The women organizing the event wanted to make sure you’re aware the archbishop and mayor will be speaking along with you, Colonel.”

“The church and state will be there, so by gum, the US government must be represented.”

“Something like that, Colonel.”

“Well, then, you come along, Captain.”

Before serving in Asia, Colonel Adams had been part of the mission at the North American Air Defense Command in Colorado and he had taught part-time at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs where he had met Captain Nathan Spencer and struck a friendship with him. He liked the young man and gave him what he considered fatherly advice.

On the way to the city, the captain said, “I can’t help wondering, Colonel, about the poverty here. I understand there are a lot of resources, gold, silver, copper; the land is rich. I’ve flown over acres and acres of green rice paddies; clearly the land is fertile. Yet I’ve heard babies die from disease and hunger. It’s fascinating, Colonel, the contrast between the beauty and poverty here. I can’t figure it out.”

“Corruption, Spencer. There’s corruption in every level of society. You can’t get anything done without paying someone. We’re doing our best for them, trying to establish a democracy in these countries, but sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it.”
“And there’s the question of democracy, Colonel. I’ve read the Vietnamese government is repressive. And we’re supporting them, Sir. I should be simply doing my job, I know that Colonel; but I saw that picture in Time, a Vietnamese village, sir, in flames, with a child bleeding, and other people around. And Colonel, well, when we’re up in the air, we don’t see the faces of these people. The navigator locates the target; the bombardier pushes the button; and we return to the base. I guess what I’m saying Colonel, was that it felt strange to see that picture, to realize we were responsible for all that.”

“Let me give you sound advice, Captain. Don’t do drugs; avoid the women; do your job in the best way you can, and you’ll get out of here alive.” It had sounded so simple; surely Ron O’Connor had followed that advice, but Ron was dead. The colonel wondered what else was needed to survive this war.

Erlinda Sabados and Josie Martinez, president and vice-president respectively of the Catholic Women of the Virgin Mary Most Pure, greeted the men. “Colonel Adams, Captain Spencer,” Erlinda began in a sing-song voice, “how nice of you to join us. We are happy, so very happy that you are here with us.” She was a large woman, a spinster, in her mid-fifties.

“So happy, Colonel,” said Josie who was a younger, smaller version of Erlinda (Erlinda’s shadow, Ubecans called her).

“You have fifteen minutes, Colonel. You come after Archbishop Montalban and the mayor. You’re with two very important figures in Ubec, so you see Colonel, how much we consider American support an honor.” Erlinda stood on tiptoe and draped a sampaguita lei over Colonel Adam’s neck and another over Captain Spencer’s neck.

“An honor,” Josie echoed.

“Some GROs will be present Colonel. The women. The mothers of the unfortunate children. Out of delicadeza, we call them GROs,” Erlinda whispered.

“Guest Relation Officers,” explained Josie.

“Even before Kaugma-an was finished, twenty children signed up, Colonel. Somehow, the GROs heard about the center and begged that we take their children in. Because they are out all night, they sleep in the daytime, leaving the children totally unattended. No Catholic training whatsoever, none. Those poor children grow up like heathens. A place like this is a haven to them. The GROs have been particularly busy, Colonel, as you know. Since you Americans expanded your base, there are quite a lot of soldiers around our city.

“I’ll be frank, Colonel, when I first introduced the idea of a child care center, there was great resistance from members. They accused me of avoiding the real issue, prostitution. They insisted prostitution is immoral, corrupt, not to mention unhealthy; and that prostitution needs to be stopped once and for all. I agreed with them; but the question was how to stop prostitution. How do you stop the oldest profession? Do you have the answer, Colonel? I didn’t. We thought that since GROs were in the business for money, we could start a training center to teach them some other trade — sewing perhaps, or cooking, or some other small cottage industry. The idea was shot down by a GRO herself who said it would take a week of stitching rag-dolls to earn what she made in one night as a prostitute. And of course your base, these Americans on R&R with their dollars to spend — well, it was an issue of economics, pure and simple, and eventually the others supported my proposed child care center project, hoping to save these children since we can do nothing more for the mothers.”

This was a matter that the colonel had never even remotely considered, and he became curious. He asked if the center’s name, Kaugma-an, meant anything; and he nodded approvingly when Erlinda said it meant tomorrow. He observed the three rooms that served as classrooms, the kitchen, the nursery, and the clinic with the American equipment. He was glad that he had had the wisdom to give them the old equipment.
The women led them to some chairs near the podium in one of the larger classrooms, and they left to test the mike and gather everyone for the program.

The mayor and archbishop, who were already seated, were discussing the Catholic Women.

“These women are the backbone of Ubec society,” the archbishop expounded. “Good and pure. They do not let their wealth get in their way. They see everything in clear perspective. They fixed up the old Spanish fort; now they are taking care of these unfortunate children. They use their own money; they beg, they borrow, they virtually steal, to get these worthy projects done. But they get them done. God bless them.”

The mayor spoke: “Your Imminence, let’s not forget the city donated the building. It’s old, that’s true, but it’s rent-free. And of course Your Excellency, our good American friends here have donated medical and dental equipment. You cannot imagine, Colonel, how very much appreciated these things are. The doctors, all volunteers by the way, had nothing more than stethoscopes — I exaggerate — but seriously, they had little else. But now, they have these fancy American equipment, why these are better than the equipment at Ubec General Hospital.”

The colonel felt embarrassed; he had simply been junking the equipment. Helping these children, these people, had been the last thing in his mind.

Erlinda and Josie returned with soft drinks and plates of food, which they set in a low table in front of the men, and then Erlinda started the program.

She spoke for a long time, and the solitary electric fan could not dispel the heat that sprang from the cement floor. The colonel took his handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his brow. He glanced at his watch, and noted that it was already mid-afternoon. Tomorrow, he would have to fly to Vietnam for a meeting with General Westmoreland. The program plodded along.

Erlinda introduced another member of the Catholic Women, who in turn introduced a priest, who in turn introduced Archbishop Montalban. The archbishop congratulated the Catholic Women on the completion of the child care center; he praised their vision in responding to “what was happening in Ubec in the face of the expansion of the nearby military facility.” He touched, very delicately, on the unfortunate reality that GROs could not afford to acquire respectable jobs; and he talked at great length about the children of these women, the innocent children, who fortunately would be in a proper Catholic environment within this child care center.
Erlinda returned to introduce the mayor who kicked off his talk by reading an excerpt from “The Hound of Heaven.” Nobody got the connection between the poem and the center, but the mayor was an eloquent orator, and he segued nicely into a detailed account of how the Catholic Women had asked him for the city’s support, how delighted he had been that he could provide assistance, and he assured everyone he would continue to help them as long as he remained in office.

It was the colonel’s turn. Erlinda introduced him. Colonel Adams had planned on speaking for no more than five minutes. He surprised himself when words flowed. He side-stepped the issue of prostitution and the question of the children’s paternity and started to talk about how pleased the American people were to provide assistance to Filipinos and other Asians. He found himself elaborating on how Americans wanted nothing better than to win the hearts and minds of the people. When he sat down, he thought he had sounded more like a USAID officer than an Air Force Colonel. He felt embarrassed.

There were more speeches from various officers of the Catholic Women, from the doctors who volunteered at the clinic, from the woman who made lunches and snacks, from the restaurateur who donated food, and then, to the colonel’s great surprise, a familiar-looking woman took the mike. It was the singer at St. Moritz Bar. The memory flustered him. He hoped she would not recognize him. Her eyes paused ever slightly at the Colonel, but her face showed no sign of recognition. “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am a singer,” she began, “I sing at night, at St. Moritz. Some people say it is a bad place, but they pay and I am able to buy food and clothes for my child. I have a little boy. At night he is with my mother, but in the daytime, he comes here. He can now make the Sign of the Cross; and he can say ‘Jesus.’ One day he will have a better life than me; and it will be because of you. Kaugma-an — Tomorrow — he will do better than me. Thank you. Now I will sing.”
She sang a plaintive rendition of “We Shall Overcome” followed by a rowdier “Boots Were Made for Walking.” A ripple of tension swept through the audience when the singer marched provocatively around the room, but vanished when the archbishop himself cocked his head to one side, and started snapping his fingers in time to the music.

Later, the singer brought the children to the middle of the room. The older children giggled and pushed one another. The younger children clung to the woman’s legs. The colonel wondered which one was her son. When they were in position, the woman whispered something to the children that made them smile and relax. Eyes riveted on them, she lifted a finger and led the children to sing a playful Ubecan song about a local fisherman, Filemon, catching a tambasakan fish. After, they sang a couple of medleys that involved audience participation.

There was a final dance number by the younger members of the Catholic Women who did a bamboo dance. Clad in colorful native costume, they hopped and glided over bamboo poles that were rhythmically banged together; and finally the program ended.
Colonel Adams and Captain Spencer got up and said goodbye to the mayor and the archbishop, who suddenly exclaimed to people’s bewilderment, “Yes, Sinatra! The daughter sang the song!”

Erlinda and Josie escorted them to the main door. There, waiting by the side was the singer, with a little boy in her arms.

“Sir,” she called, addressing the colonel, to the surprise of everyone. They paused. “This is my son,” she continued.

The colonel looked at the child.

“I come home to him every night, after work. Every night without fail,” the singer said.

“He’s a nice-looking boy.”

“Do you think so? Sometimes he is naughty.” “A strong will, that is all. He has strong jaws. A strong will is good.”

“I want him to do better than me.”

“I believe he will. He’ll do all right.”

The singer beamed. “Thank you, sir. Goodbye.”

The colonel nodded and he and the captain continued to the doorway. They said goodbye to Erlinda and Josie who appeared puzzled at the exchange.

When they were in their car, the captain said, “That was a good speech, Colonel.”
“I overdid it, Captain. I’m a soldier, not anything else.”

“Oh, no, Colonel, I believe your speech won their hearts and minds.”

The colonel looked out the window and saw shanties along the road and piles of garbage. Young children, no older than the bigger children at the child care center, were rummaging through the garbage. Sticks in their hands, they poked through incredible filth to find empty bottles and newspapers, little treasures which they could later sell. He must have seen them before; but this was the first time the colonel noticed these children. How peculiar Asia was, he thought, with all its different facets.

He paused and said, “And I’m afraid, Captain, they have won ours.”


tags: Philippine, literature, fiction, writer, author, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When the Rainbow Goddess Wept -Discussions

DISCUSSION OF WHEN THE RAINBOW GODDESS WEPT (by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, University of Michigan Press)

Thursday, February 17
7:30 to 9:00pm
Skokie Public Library Book Discussion Room
Registration is required

Thursday, February 24
12:30 to 1:30pm
District 219 Administrative Office
7700 Gross Point Road, Skokie

Thursday, February 24
1:00 to 2:00pm
Oakton Community College Skokie Campus, Room C111

Wednesday, March 2
12:00noon to 1:00pm
Oakton Community College Des Plaines Campus, Library (Lower Level)

Thursday, March 10
7:15 to 8:00am
Niles West High School IRC

Tuesday, March 15
3:45 to 5:00pm
Niles North High School IRC

Summary of When the Rainbow Goddess Wept:When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard.
University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Michigan: 1999

"We had all experienced a story
that needed to be told, that needed
never to be forgotten." (216)

When the Rainbow Goddess Wept is this story - the story of not only Yvonne
Macaraig and her family during WWII; but also the larger story of the
Filipino people and their wartime bravery - all seen through the young eyes
of Yvonne. Before the war, Yvonne's life was ideal. Her cousin Esperanza
was also her best friend; the family cook, Laydan, told her the most amazing
stories about Filipino warrior women, and she adored her father, an engineering
professor. This ideal life is soon torn asunder when the Japanese
invade the Philippines and Yvonne and her family flee to the relative safety
of the countryside. Yvonne is devastated when her whole family does not
stay together, as her aunt, cousin, and grandfather stay behind in Ubec.
Yvonne and her family retreat further and further into the countryside as
they try desperately to stay at least one step ahead of the Japanese. Yvonne,
in order to deal with the wartime horrors that surround her, clings to Laydan
and those stories she tells from Filipino folklore about the warrior women.
These stories give Yvonne the courage she needs to face the losses that war
brings to her family and to her country. Yvonne, like the Philippines itself,
emerges stronger for her trials in this unique coming of age story.

Discussion Questions:When the Rainbow Goddess Wept
1. What is the effect of the story being told from the perspective of a
child? How would it be different if an adult served as the narrator?
2. Why do the traditional legends and stories mean so much to
3. What is the role of women in Filipino society at this time? How do
the main female characters fulfill and defy societal expectations?
4. What parts do religion, superstitions and faith play in the lives of
the Filipinos in the story?
5. How would you describe the various characters’ attitudes toward
America and Americans? Do these opinions change as the war
6. In what ways were Yvonne’s and her family’s wartime experience
similar to what others in different countries experienced during
WWII? In what ways was the Filipinos’ experience during the war
7. How are Yvonne and her family changed by the war? How is the
8. Does the book leave the reader with a sense of hope, despite all the
hardships that the characters had to endure?
9. Why did the author choose the myth of the Rainbow Goddess for
the title of her book?
10. Why is it important for a culture to preserve its legends and
traditional stories?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Those from Chicago - You're Invited to Coming Together in Skokie

You're Invited to Coming together in Skokie which is featuring my novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept and Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults.

I will be in Skokie, Il to speak about When the Rainbow Goddess Wept and my experiences both in the Philippines and America on the following days. The events are open to the general public. Register for Skokie Public Library events at or call 847-673-3733
Monday, March 7
10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Niles West High School Auditorium, 5701 Oakton St., Skokie
7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. - at Skokie Public Library

Tuesday, March 8
10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Niles North High School Auditorium, 9800 Lawler Ave, Skokie

Since January there have been book discussions of When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, and here I'll mention:
Thursday, February 24, 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. - District 219 Adminstrative Office, 7700 Gross Point Road, Skokie;
Thursday, February 24, 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. - Oakton Community College, Skokie Campus, Room c111

Wednesday, March 2, 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. - Oakton Community College, Des Plaines Campus, Library, Lower Level

Thursday, March 10, 7:15 a.m. - 8 a.m. - Niles West High School, IRC

Tuesday, March 15, 3:45 p.m. - 5 p.m. - Niles North High School, IRC

Growing Up Filipino is also discussed on March 1 (Tues) - 6:30 p.m., Niles Township Schools ELL Parent Center; and on March 3 (Thurs) - 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. District 219 Administrative Offices

There are Philippine and Philippine-American related art exhibits, movies, and events on going, contact 847-673-3733 or visit this site>

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pictures of Pasig River

Here are some pictures of the cleaned-up Pasig River. Note the children playing in the river, in one picture.

Follow-Up: Cleaning Up Cebu's Creeks & Rivers

While I was in Cebu recently, I saw this sign hanging on the historic bridge on Logarta Street in Old Historic Cebu. The sign says: No Dumping of Garbage at This Area. Multa: P500.00 - P1,000.00 or 6 Months Imprisonment.

The Logarta Bridge is the same bridge where I had seen a foreigner stare with horror at the filth floating in the creek below two years ago. I was delighted that the Barangay Captain and Council have taken measures to stop the dumping of garbage into this creek.

Coincidentally, after the fluvial parade of the recent Sinulog, there were a number of articles that discussed the garbage that filled the sea and caused the malfunctioning of some motorboats. That filth that appeared in the sea most likely came from creeks and rivers. In a sense, it is good that people unfamiliar with the pollution of Cebu's rivers and creeks now know how bad the situation is.

It is commendable that the Barangay Captain and Council of the district where the Logarta Bridge is located should put up the No Dumping of Garbage Sign.

It is my hope that the other barangays and local governments will put up similar signs to prevent pollution of Cebu's rivers and creeks.

Likewise, streets should be kept clean, and perhaps local barangays can place garbage containers along the streets and encourage people to throw their garbage in them.

And while we're at it, how about some beautification of the sidewalks of Historic Cebu? After all, quite a lot of tourists who bring in money to the city visit Old Cebu.

And to go further, how about the city government offer residents of Old Historic Cebu a tax break for painting and fixing up their places? That should encourage some people to slap on some paint on buildings that currently look dilapidated.

Government officials must keep in mind that tourists bring in a lot of revenue and tourists want a place to be safe and clean, among other things.

I'm posting below the link to my February 2009 article about the pollution of Cebu's rivers and creeks.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Town & Country Philippine Edition - Article "Up Close and Personal with the Bongo" by Cecilia Brainard

Up Close and Personal with the Bongo
published in Town & Country, Philippine Edition, January 2011;

On a safari in Kenya, a party of tourists is treated to the beautiful – and rare – sight of an endangered species of antelope.

By Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

“Sometimes species do spring up in areas where they are least expected. I sighted and photographed a caracal in the Aberdare many years ago and this stunned many conservation biologists as caracals are savanna-dwelling species, yet the Aberdare is a montane forest.” —Dr. Charles Musyoki, senior research scientist of Kenya Wildlife Service.

It was winter in Kenya and there was enough chill that morning in Amboseli to make me and Lauren, my husband, throw on our light jackets. We opened the doors of our patio, hoping to see Mount Kilimanjaro. All we saw was the outline of the great mountain in a hazy shroud with two faint streaks of white ice at its peak. We made our way to the dining hall where we met up with our traveling companions, our old friends John and Elizabeth Allen.

That morning in July, we happily reviewed what we had seen in Kenya so far. In Nairobi we visited the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, the Giraffe Manor and the Karen Blixen Museum. In Amboseli we saw wildlife writer and conservationist Cynthia Moss in a van following a family of thirty elephants. We witnessed two hyenas shrieking from across the road and rushing toward each other to do their elaborate greeting. One evening we saw a hippo rise out of the lake and get up on land to feed – it still had clumps of wet leaves clinging to his head and body. We had other lucky sightings -- of giraffes, gazelles, waterbucks, birds of all kinds, all unusual and exciting for us who had seen these animals only in zoos. We didn’t know it then, but no game drive sighting would surpass the one we would witness later that same morning.

Our driver guide, Ben Juma, did his best to avoid the enormous potholes on the dirt road as we headed to the Aberdares. Ben had worked for fifteen years as a driver and guide and was professional, personable and very knowledgeable about all animals.

We were a kilometer away from the main road when Ben suddenly stepped on the brakes. It was around 9:30 A.M. Some forty feet ahead of us, something stirred on our right. Ben, who had excellent eyesight, could spot animals before any of us could. He said, “There are antelopes.”

We were in a Nissan van with a pop-up top. We watched one antelope walk in front of us, followed by three more. Everything happened quickly. They crossed the road from our right to the left, disappearing into the brush. Ben usually identified and gave information about the animals, but this time he said, “It’s a-a-a…” Quickly, even while the antelopes were still making their way through the brush, he reached for his field guide and flipped the pages.
I watched the animals in the brush. One of them looked back at us, while the rest of the herd went deeper into the brush. Like his companions, this antelope was huge and sported an attractive, bright red-brown coat. I saw his head, somewhat thick neck and horns that curved over his head in the shape of a lyre. He stared for what seemed like a long time, his head appearing ghostly in the midst of the brush. I wanted to take a picture but all of us had put away our cameras, thinking we were done with game drives for the time being.

Meanwhile, Ben held up his field guide which was opened to a page with pictures of antelopes. “Which one?” One of them had the same reddish-brown coat and shape I had just glimpsed, and simultaneously John pointed at the same animal, saying, “That one, with the stripes!” Ben nodded. “Bongo,” he said, then added, “No one will ever believe me.”

Ben told us the bongo was a rare animal, but we were nonchalant; we thought the sighting was just another lucky break. We didn’t know anything about the bongo.

Ben and John discussed the stripes they had seen on the sides of the animals; all of us talked about their vivid red-brown coats, their horns and enormous size. Their movements were cautious but not skittish. We rechecked the field guide book; only the mountain bongo matched what we had seen.

We arrived at the Aberdares National Park in the afternoon, hoping to see many animals at The Ark game lodge. We had to go to the Aberdare Country Club, and from there take a forty-minute bus ride to lush mountain terrain. The driver talked about the animals in the Aberdares. When he mentioned the bongo, we quickly said, “We saw bongos this morning.”

“In Amboseli?” He had an amused smile.
“Oh, yes,” we said, and proceeded to tell our story.
“Did your driver see this?” he asked.
“Oh yes,” we replied. His smile vanished.

At the lodge the director immediately asked us about the bongo sighting. He spent a good deal of time educating us about the critically endangered animal—meaning, there are more of the species in captivity than in the wild. The bongo can be found in the wild in only four places: Mount Kenya National Park, Mau Forest, Eburru Forest and the Aberdare National Park. There are only 500 bongos left in the world and most of them in zoos. In Kenya only 103 are in the wild and sixty-eight are in semi-captive facilities. The Aberdare Salient had electrified fences all around to keep poachers and loggers out. In April 2000, to protect the bongo population, two hundred lions were removed from the Aberdares Conservation Area.

The lodge director did not say so, but what he inferred was that it was simply unbelievable that our group had seen four bongos in Amboseli. Still, even though he could discount what the four of us tourists said, he couldn’t fully disregard what our driver and guide had to say.

After an uneventful night at The Ark, we returned to the Aberdare National Park. The director and another man also made their way there to interview Ben about the bongo sighting. They talked for a long time. They knew Ben knew his antelopes and there was no way he would have mistaken some other antelope for a bongo.

During our drive to Samburu, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) called several times. They asked Ben and us about the bongo sighting. They wanted pictures or video of the bongo, which we did not have. They said they would send scientists to comb the area where we had seen the animals.

Call it serendipity, but on the same day the KWS called, the National Bongo Task Force met in Nyeri, Kenya, to discuss, among other things, the genetic testing on the bongos in semi-captivity as a prelude to their release to the wild. In the 1960s Wildlife Conservationists partnered with the Kenya Wildlife Department and American scientists to develop a plan to capture a small group of bongos and send them to American zoos to ensure their survival should they become extinct in Kenya. Between 1966 and 1975, thirty-six bongos were captured in the Aberdares and sent to U.S. zoos. The bongo did well in captivity, and by the end of 2001, 323 individuals were in the captive group.

KWS senior research scientist Dr. Charles Musyoki told us that in 2004, a breeding group of eighteen bongos were repatriated to the Mount Kenya Game Ranch. Eleven of them died. Ten from the original U.S. herd managed to breed. The current bongo captive population stands at sixty-eight (in Mount Kenya Game Ranch and Nanyuki).

While the plan is to reintroduce the offspring of the repatriated bongos to the wild, none of the captive bongos have yet been released into the wild. Last July, the task force members agreed that genetic issues need to be addressed by further analysis of wild and captive bongos. It was decided that some bongos would be released to fenced sanctuaries to prevent mixing with wild stock.

After our fourteen-day safari, I contacted Dr. Musyoki to ask what had been done in response to our sighting. He said their scientists were still surveying the area. He explained that poaching, habitat loss, disease and genetic factors had been contributing to the shrinking of the bongo population since the early 1900s. I was sad to learn that these elegant, non-aggressive animals were being killed for their horns and pelt.

The bongo has been selected as the flagship species for one of the world’s richest forest ecosystems. Its diminishing population reflects the destruction of the forest ecosystem. With the focus on the conservation of the bongo, it is hoped that other species that share its habitat or are vulnerable to the same threats may also be improved.

The last place we visited in Kenya was the Nairobi National Museum which is famous for its collection of five- to –ten-million-year-old hominid skulls. While my companions studied these artifacts, I went to another room which displayed mounted heads of a hartebeest, greater kudu and bongo. My eyes zeroed in on the bongo; this one looked like the head of the Amboseli bongo that had stared out at me from the brush—the same snout, markings, horns and ears sticking out just so. The Amboseli bongo had a brighter coat and the horns may have been shorter, but it was the same animal.

The sight of that mounted head brought me back to the moment when I saw that first bongo step out on the dirt road, followed by three more -- huge, horned, elegant animals with startling red-brown coats. One stood guard and stared at us, while the three vanished into the brush, and finally the fourth one turned and disappeared as well.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Trip to the Philippines & Vietnam - 1

I just got back from a trip to the Philippines and Vietnam and I'll be posting pictures in my blog in the next weeks. The visit to these places were great. More, later.
Top picture: picture taken during the taping of Amazing Cebu TV show, with Gavin Bagares (to my left) interviewing me and Stephen Azanar (to my right, with director and crew;
Next: l-r: John Silva, me, and Hilary Walling, having lunch at La Tienda in Bel Air after John gave us a wonderful private tour of the American Cemetery;
Third from top: l-r: Cecilia, Pat, Lauren, and Doug Noble having drinks at the famous Caravelle Hotel;
Fourth from top: Cecilia in front of Dragon made of flowers in Saigon park; the people were celebrating Tet;
Fifth: Cecilia and Lauren in the beautiful city of Hoi An, which used to be a major port until the river silted up;
Sixth from top: Cecilia at the Cham temple of My Son;
Bottom: Lauren and Cecilia in Saigon airport waiting for a Vietnam Air Lines flight to Hanoi (which turned out to be very, very cold - we had to fish out our jackets when we arrived! The hotel was caught off guard and didn't have adequate heat; our group had to ask for space heaters and extra blankets.)