Thursday, June 30, 2011

Feedback to Honorable Mike Rama, Mayor of Cebu

(Feedback to Honorable Mike Rama, Mayor of Cebu)
by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

I have been tempted to write a letter to the Mayor, Mike Rama, but I didn’t want to get entangled with the technicalities of how one should address the Mayor – should that be Honorable Mike Rama, or Mayor Mike Rama, or Mr. Mike Rama? Everyone calls him Mike Rama, and I’ve met him a couple of times, and he’s a very personable guy who’ll sing at the first request. So I decided to blog my feedback to him.

What I want to say to him is this: Thank you for your beautification program that’s going on in Historic Cebu. I live in Old Cebu and I see street cleaners cleaning twice a day – note that’s twice a day. Many of the roads have been re-asphalted. If I’m not mistaken, the river with the historic bridge with a plaque is being dredged. At least it looked that way. And here I note that while a heavy rain was going on, this river flowed, meaning the water is moving and not adding to the flooded streets.

Those of us involved in heritage work in Cebu have always known Mike Rama supported the development of Historic Cebu. Now that he’s mayor, he’s “walking his talk.”

Thank you, Mr. Mayor, or Honorable Mayor, or Mike!

Now I’d like to suggest a few things related to the cleanup beautification program:

1. How about putting out garbage cans so the public can stop throwing trash on the roads and sidewalk? I realize real cans may get stolen, but how about using those gigantic containers made of recycled tire rubber? I believe I saw something like this in the Metro Manila area.

2. How about having some clean public bathrooms, where people can pay a few pesos to use the facilities, and put some of our own people to work by minding those toilets. I saw this in Eastern Europe where they had public bathrooms minded by old women, who kept the bathrooms scrupulously clean, and one had to pay a bit to use the facilities.

3. To encourage building owners in the historic district to participate in this beautification program, how about the local government offer some tax breaks for those who paint their homes or fix up their places?

4. How about we educate some of these building owners in the historic district of Cebu that the days of warehouses and boarders are at a wane and that it’s time to look at improving their buildings with the idea that the area is historic and that tourists visit it?

5. How about the government implement laws against illegal unlicensed structures, hanging over or right next to or even over rivers and creeks? As you know, Mr. Mayor, for the first time, our Fuente Osmena has experienced flooding. Cebu needs clear channels for water to flow to the sea, otherwise the very people living on the banks of these rivers and creeks will be seriously jeopardized when there is flooding, as what happened recently in Davao. They should be relocated and the waterways dredged and cleaned. It is a necessity for the good of all. I’m also speaking about waterways that have been completely built over, in the Tinago area. I also understand some big department stores in the Colon area have built over waterways, using these as part of their properties. Flood water now simply does not have a channel to flow through and thus flows throughout the city. Disaster and tragedy wait ready to happen if these are unattended to. (I’m not even talking about aesthetics and the health hazards of having human waste dumped straight into our rivers.)

6. The irregular sidewalks will kill tourists; so the City should probably do something about these. Maybe I’m asking too much, but how about looking at a section and focusing on that, as they did in Vigan, where they developed just a few streets until the idea caught on? How about the part where tourists do a walking tour – let’s fix up the sidewalks there!

Mr. Mayor, Honorable Mayor, Mike, am I dreaming, or is it a real possibility that the historic district can be beautiful, and that Cebuanos can one day soon be genuinely proud to show off this place to the numerous tourists that come see it anyway?

How many tourists do we get during the sinulog – millions, am I right? And those tourists will spend money in Cebu, and hotels, restaurants, taxis, stores, everyone is going to benefit from the visitors.

Truly, from the bottom of heart, thank you for your beautification

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Parian Fiesta Night with the Divettes (Cebu)

I would have missed their performance if they hadn’t stood in front of the Yap-Sandiego House, in their hot pants and skimpy outfits, faces glowing with paint, and looking flashy, happy, and flirtatious. “Good evening, Ma'am,” they said as our group of ladies walked by. “Good evening,” we answered, then I thought to ask, “Are you performing tonight?” I had known that Val Sandiego hosted a fiesta performance in the Parian Plaza late fiesta night. I’d always missed it, not knowing what to expect, and had left fiesta celebrations with the stream of the well-heeled folks who’d eaten their fill and were ready to hit the sack.

“Yes, we are, 9:30,” one replied, eyelashes batting

“I’ll be back,” I said.

So at 9:30 I did return and sat in the Parian outdoor plaza near the Heritage Monument. Was I in for a treat!

First, I must make it clear that the evening performance was not all by cross-dresser performers. There were other singers, rap dancers, young dancers doing cool steps, even a fire dance number; but the performances of the Divettes (as in small Divas) made me laugh harder than I have in a long time.

I’d only seen one live performance of men dressed as women on stage, and that was in in San Francisco where one of the performers was a Filipino who was pretty it was impossible to imagine that he was a he.

Fiesta night in Parian showcased a number of cross-dressing divas, including: Cassandra Madrigal, Alvin (the comedian), Baby Sue (Lloyd in the daytime and Q-rator of the Yap-Sandiego House, Mamaru (Roger in the daytime, Ruth when she was younger, and now Mamru), and four others whose names I didn’t catch.

These women --- er, men, did an excellent job rendering Chicago’s He Had It Coming, and a number from La Cage Folles. They were for the most part, so pretty it was mind-boggling to think they were men in drag. Cassandra Madrigal had the loveliest face, long flowing hair, hips, belly button showing, voice, soft and feminine. The story I later heard is that Cassandra’s boyfriend had left his wife for him/her. Whatever. That night Cassandra had several dance numbers, numerous changes of clothes that made the women in the audience drool at how lovely his/her gowns were.

I don’t know if Cassandra was part of the Divettes, but there was a group of five in daring outfits who did the Chicago, La Cage a Folles numbers, and more. While the guys were doing their dance and mime (the music), Alvin did comic antics that sent people into uncontrollable laughter. Or maybe it was me laughing uncontrollably. I didn’t know slapstick could be so funny. Alvin is as thin as a tapeworm, and he could do things with his body and his face, so that physically he just looked funny. His mouth, for instance was painted white, which stood out when he made incredible faces.

Val Sandiego was emcee (aside from diretor and producer) was hilarious. He had so much energy directing the audience to clap, and saying borderline vulgar stuff that sent us rollicking with laughter. Mamaru, alias Ruth, alias Roger, was called on stage to do a fire dance, and Val Sandiego went something like (in Cebuano but I’m doing this in English): Ladies and Gentlemen, look at Mamaru, 65 years old and he can still dance, lower, lower, Mamaru, look at that, 65 years old, children, he’s as old as your grandparents. Etc.

And about the chubby lady fire dancer, “Look at that body, ladies and gentlemen, that’s from dancing." The young woman continued smiling and twirling her sticks with balls of fire.

I sat there at 9:30 and when I left at midnight, the show was still on.

Now, ladies and gentlemen of Cebu, next year,June 24, at night, I’m certain there will a free performance in the Parian plaza once again. So here’s what you should do: watch the 7 o’clock religious procession, eat dinner at CafĂ© Elyssa, then find a seat on the benches facing the stage near the fire station and chapel. You’ll be safe, you’ll have fun. And the performance is all free, courtesy of Val Sandiego, owner of the Pride of Parian the Yap-Sandiego House. All you have to do is laugh and clap.

(I'll post a few pictures of the fiesta later on, so check back in late July.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Allen Gaborro's Book Review of VIGAN AND OTHER STORIES, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

REVIEW by: Allen Gaborro

TITLE: Vigan and Other Stories

AUTHOR: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

PUBLISHER: ANVIL (Philippines)

Short story anthology

In “Vigan and Other Stories”, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard sets in motion a sundry compendium of cultural and historical narratives that are vibrant, dynamic, fanciful, nostalgic, and melancholic. Such narratives have become a staple of Brainard’s works. Leaping decades and continents, the narratives in what is her third collection of short stories are noted for their compelling characters and choice themes. Having mentioned just a few of the impressive virtues of “Vigan”, the one that stands out the most is how the work brings home for Filipinos a past and present idea of their collective self-identity.

Arguably a Filipina version of Virginia Woolf or, perhaps just as accurately, Isabelle Allende, Brainard’s fictional publications are marked by a balance between the public and the private, the individual and the collective, and the local and the universal. Set around the intermingling and intertwining of all these designations, “Vigan”, like her other works, was conceived by the author above all as, according to Oscar Campomanes, “an investment in the cultural development of the ancestral homeland.”

Cobbling together an enthralling ensemble of characters, Brainard sews together a heartfelt and intimate tapestry of an anthology that comes upon the reader with an exceptional perception of the human condition, especially as it pertains to women and to Filipinos. Combined with Brainard’s supple and introspective prose, “Vigan” merits comparison with other wonderful and engaging Asian American short story anthologies.

In her collection, Brainard dreams up situations, ideas, and characters that are framed by her own personal life as well as by her creative initiative. Perfectly balancing her personal reminiscences and her poetic license, Brainard’s stories become a matter of the heart, the human emotions, and of the challenges that fate has in store for people.

“Vigan” is also a historiographic piece, meaning to say that the anthology is very much a product of the author’s historical consciousness and treatment of the history that she has embedded her book in. In her story “The Artist”, Brainard, with her distinctively pensive literary voice, takes us back to the Philippines under Spanish colonial rule. Historical names and terms from this period like the Galleon Trade, Legazpi, Magellan, the Parian—or Chinese neighborhood of Manila—make cameo appearances in the story. But however brief these appearances are, they still give the plot of “The Artist” historical weight.

The very title of her book and its namesake story reaffirms Brainard’s undying fidelity to Philippine history and expansive respect for the past. “Vigan” the story is a sort of reconstruction of the author’s previous stays in the city which is located in the northern province of Ilocos Sur. Situated on South China Sea, Vigan maintains a prominent history as a major colonial-era trading post. For the purposes of Brainard’s story, the city serves as the backdrop for her story about a young girl dealing with the death of her father and with the tragic experiences of her “bad luck” mother.

With “Vigan” as an anthology, the reader comes into possession of psychologically-impacting stories that are greatly influenced by conflicted yet benevolent personalities and perspectives. Included in Brainard’s literary equation for her characters are the positives of love and renewal, the subtle reverberations of a sublime soul-searching, and a reserved spirituality that is concealed below the surface but which can nevertheless emerge just enough for the reader to draw the conclusion that some divine force in the book is being alluded to.

What reader would not be enriched in the heart and in the mind by a literary sensibility as reflective and exquisite as Brainard’s is in “Vigan”? People will certainly appreciate a good read when they see it, and the upshot of this review is that “Vigan” is exactly that: a good read. Not only that, it is a read that presents an opportunity for taking a contemplative sojourn into the Filipino historical, cultural, and social landscape on which Cecilia Manguerra Brainard’s stories rest.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cecilia Brainard Conducts Creative Writing Workshop, July 9, in Manla

Hi, I'll be conducting a Creative Writing Workshop in Mankati, July 9, from 10-12 in Powerbooks, Greenbelt 4.


Dear Sir/Madam:

Greetings from Anvil Publishing and Powerbooks! We wish to invite your Language and Literature teachers and your most gifted student writers to a workshop on CREATIVE WRITING by award-winning novelist and editor CECILIA MANGUERRA BRAINARD on July 9 from 10 am to 12nn at Powerbooks Greenbelt 4.

The workshop covers the following;

Setting and Scene

Character development

Conflict development


Plot development

Point of View


Style, Theme, Tone

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award-winning author of eight books, including the internationally-acclaimed novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, Vigan and Other Stories, Acapulco at Sunset and Other Stories, Philippine Woman in America, Woman With Horns and Other Stories, Cecilia's Diary 1962-1968, and Fundamentals of Creative Writing.

She edited four books: Growing Up Filipino I and II, Fiction by Filipinos in America, Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America. Cecilia co-edited six books, including Journey of 100 Years: Reflections on the Centennial of Philippine Independence; Behind the Walls: Life of Convent GirlsAla Carte: Food and Fiction, and Finding God: True Stories of Spiritual Encounters. She has also written a novel with four other women entitled, Angelica's Daughters, a Dugtungan Novel.

Her work has been translated into Finnish and Turkish; and many of her stories and articles have been widely anthologized.

Cecilia has received a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction, a Brody Arts Fund Award, a Special Recognition Award for her work dealing with Asian American youths, as well as a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate, 21st District. She has also been awarded by the Filipino and Filipino American communities she has served. She received the prestigious Filipinas Magazine Arts Award, and the Outstanding Individual Award from her birth city, Cebu, Philippines. She has received several travel grants in the Philippines, from the USIS (United States Information Service).

She has lectured and performed in worldwide literary arts organizations and universities, including UCLA, USC, University of Connecticut, University of the Philippines, PEN, Beyond Baroque, Shakespeare & Company in Paris, and many others. She teaches creative writing at the Writers Program at UCLA-Extension.

She is married to Lauren R. Brainard, a former Peace Corp Volunteer to Leyte, Philippines; they have three sons.

For reservations and inquiries, please call the ANVIL PUBLISHING marketing department tel. nos. 477-4752, 477-4755 to 57 loc. 807 or sign up at any customer service counter of any branch of POWERBOOKS.

Her website is

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Hi, Ronald Lim's article includes my question to Jose Rizal:

What would you ask Rizal?
June 18, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — Jose Rizal excelled at many things, but nowhere is he more well known here and around the world than for being the writer of the “Noli Me Tangere” and the “El Filibusterismo”.

The “Noli” and the “Fili” not only stoked the fires of Filipino patriotism during the 19th century, but they have also stood the test of time and have proven themselves to be exceptional novels worthy to be ranked alongside the other great works of the world. Rizal’s works have no doubt inspired many a young Filipino to pick up their pens and write.

In celebration of the upcoming 150th celebration of Jose Rizal's birth, the Students and Campuses Bulletin has asked some of the country's top writers what they would ask the national hero if he were still around today.

Politics, maybe? “Ang itatanong ko kay Rizal ay kung kakandidato ka ba sa pagka-presidente, senador, o congressman? At kung kakandidato ka, gusto mo bang kasama sa ticket si Manny Pacquiao? Para sa akin, unang-una, tanong iyon para ma-determine natin kung tama 'yung ating mataas na pagpapahalaga sa politics at politicians. Tama ba ang paraan ng pagtingin natin sa mga pulitiko. Si Pacquiao nga eh kakandidato daw for President. 'Yun ang gusto kong malaman. Kung tunay siyang hinahangaan ng taongbayan, maaring makapagsalita siya tungkol sa uri ng ating mataas na pagpapahalaga sa politics at sa uri ng politics na meron tayo dito.

Ang ikalawa kong tanong, pahihintulutan ba niyang komiks ang ipangturo sa Noli at Fili sa high school at sa kolehiyo?” — National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario

Where do you get the energy? “If I were to ask a question addressed to Rizal, it would be this: How were you able to do all those things--study, organize Filipinos abroad, research prehispanic Philippines relentlessly, write the novels, befriend Spaniards, put up a school--in so short a time?” — Romulo P. Baquiran, Jr., editor of “Laglag-Panty, Laglag-Brief” and “Tahong/Talong”

What are you hiding? “The question I will ask is also one of the things I tell people. He left us 25 volumes of material. But those are the things he wanted us to see. There are things he didn't write. There are letters and diaries he destroyed. Why did you destroy that and why?” — Ambeth Ocampo, historian and former chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines

Peace or revolution? “Knowing what happened to the Philippines after your death, which would have been more effective in achieving independence from Spain - non-violence as Gandhi used, or a bloody revolution?

Jose Rizal did not join the revolution; he sought reforms from the Spanish government. Would the Spanish government have given reforms if the Filipinos had not fought? Would non-violent means as Gandhi used, have worked? Or would the Spanish government have simply crushed and oppressed the Filipinos further if they tried to get reforms peacefully?” — Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, co-author of “Angelica's Daughters”

Are we free from the church? “Pepe, what can you actually do so that the Church is truly separate from the state in all matters of state governance? Why this question? Remember he didn't like the Spanish friars then for being the real governors of the country during colonial times, and so that may be his continued sentiment today.” — Herbert Sancianco, author of “Sales Promotions: Best Practices”

A modern Noli? “I have a few questions for Jose Rizal:
1. Do the many books and other materials on you do you justice? Are they faithful to your life and all that you hold dear? Which titles do you recommend we all read?
2. Considering how you have always regarded the youth as the hope of the fatherland, what is the most important advice you'd give today's youth?
3. Seeing the state of affairs in the country today, what 2011 version of the Noli would you write?
4. What are you most pleased about the Philippines today?
5. How do you feel that the Philippine Board on Books for Young People has pegged the annual celebration of the National Children's Book Day on the 3rd Tuesday in July, when Trubner's Oriental Record in London first published your 'Monkey and the Turtle'?” — Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz, author and National Book Award winner

What's cooking? “What foods did you eat on a daily basis with your meager allowance during your stay in Europe? If you had more money at your disposal then, how would you have spent it, upgraded your lodging or spent more on food?” — Claude Tayag, author of “Food Tour” and “Linamnam”

What's the best translation? “Which English and Filipino translations of your novels best capture the aesthetic effect you wanted to achieve?” — Jonathan Malicsi, University of the Philippines professor and author of the “English Linguistics Project”

What about your big brother? “Why did you agree to everything your brother Paciano planned for your education and mission? Did you agree because you also believed in it totally or because it was expected of you? It is clear that if your brother Paciano wasn¹t there to support you on both an emotional, financial and moral basis, you may not have been able to study abroad and do the mission you had to fulfill for our country. I wonder if there was every a moment or time that you doubted what your brother Paciano had requested of you and the pact you both agreed on.” — Jeannie E. Javelosa, writer and curator of the Rizalizing the Future Exhibit at the Yuchengco Museum

Are you gay? “Your flitting from girlfriend to girlfriend, was that to camouflage a homo streak? Why I'd ask him that is explained by my observation that most men I know who leave a trail of broken hearts of women are actually, well, insecure about their manhood and they have to prove this to themselves over and over through conquest, and then dumping, so they could be assured na lalaki nga sila.” — Babeth Lolarga, editor of “Baguio We Know” and “Baguio Calligraphy”

Any advice for expats? “What advice would you give Filipino expatriates today about loving one's country from across the seas? Who better can speak about the concept of patriotism away from home better than Rizal?” — Gemma Nemenzo, managing editor of the online FilAm magazine Filipina

Friday, June 17, 2011

Writers Program of UCLA Extension - Eve La Salle Caram and Cecilia Brainard

A Lovely Message from Linda Venis:

Hi Ladies,

I thought you’d get a kick out of seeing your cute photo together at the Publication Party!

Linda Venis, PhD
Director, Department of the Artsrogra
Program Director, Writers' Pm


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reflections on Cebu - part 1

It's four in the morning, and I'm jetlagged, so forgive these ramblings.

I took Cathay Pacific to get from LAX to Cebu. I have to say that Cathay is better than most airlines, which does not mean I always fly Cathay because sometimes other airlines are cheaper, such as Korean, Asiana, or Eva. But when the fare is almost the same,I'll opt for Cathay.On the one hand Cathay's service is better, but on the other hand, there's a layover in Hongkong. Philippine Airlines is the only airline that flies direct from LAX to the Philippines (the plane gasses up in Honolulu for 40 minutes).

Having given Cathay praise, I'm going to add that they seem to have stopped giving amenities kits to all their passengers, and following other airlines have limited their baggage allowance from 70 lbs to 50 lbs for the 2 checkin bags allowed in international travel. I heard a number of passengers grumbling that they had to pay $100 per bag for exceeding the 50 lb weight allowance.

(Here I feel like digressing and say that airlines have been taking advantage and making money off passenger bags. American airlines for instance have been bringing in a lot of revenue by charging for checkin bags. Another airline, Philippine-based this time, learned quickly that they can make lots of money by charging for "excess weight" - (in caps) CEBU PACIFIC AIR is nickel-and-diming their passengers on luggage. My guest Hilary Walling and I had the most unpleasant experience of taking Cebu Pacific Air last January from Manila to Cebu and ending up paying quite a lot for our "excess baggage." It didn't matter that we'd come from international travel (with 2 huge checkin bags). Highway robbery. Shame on you Cebu Pacific Air and the other airlines for this extortion.)

But back to my trip on board Cathay. I killed the 14-hour flight from LAX to Hong Kong by watching movies (enjoyed the Spanish film Biutiful even thought it was depressing), reading the autobiography of John Paul II, and snoozing when I could. (My husband says I'm one of these lucky people who can sleep in airplanes; the poor man can't.)

The layover in Hong Kong was almost three hours, and I had expected a miserable wait in Hong Kong, but in fact, the three hours flew quickly. You have to find your right terminal, you and your handcarry have to be screened again, and Hong Kong has free wi-fi, so the wait isn't too bad. The trip from Hong Kong to Cebu is only 2 1/2 hours, so that's a piece of cake. You settle down, they feed you, and you're there.

I prefer arriving in Cebu rather than Manila because the Cebu airport is less crowded, more low-key. Manila arrivals, domestic or international, are a bit harrowing - people jostling for their bags, fighting over taxis. It probably helps that I can speak Cebuano, because people seem to warm up when I speak to them in Cebuano. I took a Yellow Taxi this time. I usually take a regular metered taxi. You could, if you don't know any better, hire a private car that charges twice as much. The Yellow Taxi's fare is just a bit more than the regular taxi, but still considerably less than the private car. (This is if you're thinking in Pesos; if you're thinking in dollars, it's no big deal if you pay $20 versus $10, as long as you get to your destination safely.)

Driving from the Mactan airport to my place in the historic district of Cebu, I could see that little had changed since my last visit. Cebu doesn't have zoning, so you see big houses next to shacks, factories and restaurants in the midst of residences. The funny thing is that Cebuanos fail to see this haphazard layout, and talk of Uptown versus Downtown, meaning Uptown is supposedly more hoity-toity than Downtown. To my eyes, there is no Uptown versus Downtown because except for the exclusive gated communities, all of Cebu City is a mixed bag.

Which leads me to talk about my place in Cebu. I inherited from my mother a piece of property with a three-story building in Old Cebu, which in olden days had been a prime piece of property, but which went down after World War II, when the "Uptown" started to develop. The historic district,which is near the Cathedral, Santo Nino Basilica, Fort San Pedro, City Hall became blighted. Houses were turned into boarding houses or warehouses. That's the fate of the Limbunfeng Building right next to the Yap-Sandiego House, and before Jimmy Sy took it upon himself to develop the Old Jesuit House on Zulueta, the 18th century structure was part of the Ho Tong warehouse. There are many more undiscovered jewels in historic Cebu, buried underneath warehouses and such.

My property in Old Cebu was acquired by my maternal grandmother in the early 1900s, the American Period, meaning the Philippines was no longer a colony of Spain but was now owned by the United States. I don't know what structure my grandmother had built here during that time, but when my mother inherited this from her, there had been a two or three story house, which I believe was used as a boarding house. There are a number of schools around. The streets of Old Cebu are prone to flooding, as did my mother's place, and finally in the 1990s, she had the old structure torn down and she built a three-story deco-style building. I think it was my mothers' way of honoring her mother and she named the building "Dona Filomena" after Filomena Alesna Cuenco, her mother.

Nice as the building was (it was designed by well-known Architect Abella) my mother had difficulties finding good tenants, because the neighborhood was filled with warehouses and crumbling houses and shacks. Her tenants didn't maintain the place properly.

When I got the place, the tenant was a security agency that had trashed the place so badly. They kept goats and chickens in the garage area, had men sleeping in the garage area, and the men were relieving themselves in corners, including the rooftop area - it was a total disaster and discouraged me so much I wept the first time I saw the place.

But here's the thing: I knew that this was part of historic Cebu, and I understood the potential of historic Cebu. Even though the local government had not developed tourism in Old Cebu, tourists went ahead anyway and visited Magellan's Cross and the Fort and the numerous other historic landmarks.

Maybe I'm sentimental, but knowing that this land had belonged to my mother and grandmother, gave me the courage to develop the building. I've painted it, added wrought iron gates and window grills, refurbished the place when finally the security agency left (owing me money), fixed up the wood parquet floors that my mother had put in, and so on. A lot of work, a lot of money, but like magic, the building came to life, taking on a kind of Spanish Colonial persona with it's yellow and brick-red paint and verdigris grills. I've also been blessed with the people living in it now, quiet, religious people (including a priest), who love the history of the place, who are proud to be here, and who maintain the place beautifully.

I oftentimes feel that my mother and grandmother help me run the Dona Filomena Building. Last year the famous feng shui expert,Tony Suvega, was brought here by a potential tenant and he "saw" a woman sitting on a plantation chair. He described my mother accurately. He made it clear her spirit was not earthbound but was just visiting. He also went on to say the place was "masuerte" or very lucky. His client took the unit and is still here, thriving, I'm happy to say.

Before I end this early morning ramblings, I might add that I have one studio unit available, and I'm looking for the right person to rent it to. There's a site with pictures at The site describes it as a vacation place,but I don't have a manager, so I've decided to rent it out, furnished or unfurnished. Email me at

I can see this as the perfect place for a Branch Office in Cebu, which the manager can use as both office and residence. I can imagine a Visiting Professor staying here as well - it's right smack in historic Cebu, near Museums, the historic sites, and two major universities, plus other schools. I love the area myself and find it most convenient to live here. I can hop on a taxi to get to Ayala or SM malls in 15 minutes; I can walk to two churches; and the place...the place reeks of history.

(more whenever jetlag strikes...)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Homage to Concepcion Cuenco Manguerra

Re Concepcion Cuenco Manguerra

I heard from my mother's friend in Facebook, and I'm reprinting here our conversation. Vincent honors my mother; thank you, Vincent!

  Vincent Carlos: Gavin, si Cecilia Manguerra Brainard ba anak ni siya ni the late Dona Conception Manguerra? Just wanna know cause naka puyo man ko sa apartment ni Dona Iton during my college days at La Salle. Just extend my regards to her and her family...ok you take care...God bless you always... 

  Gavin Bagares: Yes, she's the daughter, I'll tell Baby, my regards cousin:  
Gavin Bagares: Baby, my cousin Vincent Ruberton Carlos is in the US, too, maybe you can see each other one day? 
  Cecilia Brainard: Hi, Vincent, yes, Mama was Concepcion Cuenco Manguerra - and yes, she opened up our place in Malate to many, I'm glad you knew her. She was one of kind. I have some pictures of her in my site. I'll Friend you and you can see. 

  Vincent Carlos: Tita Cecilia, musta na? Imo Mama and my mother were very close to each other when both of them were still alive here in this world. When I graduated from high school in 1991, my mother was looking for an apartment for me to live in Manila when I was about to study at De La Salle University and your beloved Mama offered her studio apartment to us in a very cheap price. Oh, your Mama was very kind to us because if it was not for her I would not be able to study at La Salle because to live in Manila was very expensive. My late mother used to see her most often in Cebu for ballroom dancing and your beloved Mama was very happy to be with her. They were the best of friends. When your Mama was in Manila we talked a lot about everything under the sun and she had a very good sense in business. She was a successful businesswoman and she taught me common sense in business and in life. I had fond memories of your beloved Mama and I remember her always in my prayers. Your brother, Uncle Jess, was also the best friend of my late father. They were schoolmates at the University of the Philippines in Diliman in the 1960s. My mother, Patricia Ruberton, died of heart attack while my father, George Carlos, died of pneumonia since he had a stroke for 5 years and both of them died in the hospital. Dona Iton, as she was fondly called, was an icon of the Cuenco and Manguerra family. She was a living legend of your clan in Cebu. I will be very happy if you include me in your friends list and if you could show me some pictures of your beloved Mama. I would be truly grateful to you and your family. Ok this is all for now and I hope we could communicate to each other most often through facebook. Thank you again for including me as your take care and may God bless you always... 

  Cecilia Brainard: Hi, Vincent, I knew your Mom, Patty Carlos. I was sad to hear she passed away. I made a memorial site for Mama. I'm happy to hear what you said about Mama, etc. 

  Vincent Carlos: Tita Cecilia, yes, your beloved Mama and my beloved Mother were really the best of friends when they were still alive. Your Mama was very supportive of my Mother and when my mother had projects for the poor your Mama was always on her side. Back in the 1990s, my Mother was the president of Cebu Travel and Tours Association and she also owned her own travel company. My mother had a debutantes ball for charity for the St Martin de Porres school of hearing and mentally impaired children. My mother asked your beloved Mama to be the Queen Mother and immediately she accepted her invitation without any hesitation. As a matter of fact, your beloved Mama donated P200,000 to the Charity ball which my Mother installed. I cannot forget how closed they were when they were still alive. Your beloved Mama loved ballroom dancing and parties and she also loves to travel. When she calls my mother for ballroom they were always together. She loves my mother so much and she treats her as if she is her daughter. In Manila, when your beloved Mama was there we talk a lot of things under the sun. Either business or in life. Your beloved Mama had a good sense in business, she was very keen in making a living. Your beloved Mama was a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman. Yup both my mom and your Mama were constant ballrom companions in Cebu and she was always very happy to be with my mom. Your beloved Mama had a heart for the poor and charitable in nature. I know by now she is with God her loving Father in heaven. Ok Tita Cecilia, thank you for including me as your friend. Hope to talk to you again in facebook. Ok this is all for now and you take care...God bless you always and regards to your family...

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Reading by Cecilia Brainard at the Publication Party, Writers Program, UCLA X, 2011 -

Hi, I did a reading from my recent book, VIGAN AND OTHER STORIES - enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More on "Coming Together in Skokie"

I just received this from Jelly Carandang. Thanks, Jelly!

A Great Honor for the Philippines and Its People
By: Jelly R. Carandang

Year 2011 started brightly for Filipinos and Filipino Americans, not only in Skokie, but all over the world.

This year, the Coming Together in Skokie Committee honors the Philippines and Its People, by sponsoring six-week long activities, consisting of artistic, cultural, & historical presentations, book readings & discussions, games, food demonstrations & tasting, movie, etc. Angeles “Jelly” Carandang, Chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, Illinois Chapter, and a member of the Skokie Plan Commission, and Skokie Park District Commissioner Jerry B. Clarito were tapped as coordinators who called upon other members of the Filipino American community to share insights about the Philippines and its people.

The committee was formed to acknowledge the rich diversity in the Village of Skokie and spearheaded the project as an opportunity to promote literacy and build knowledge, awareness, and appreciation for the many cultures around us. The founding members consist of a group of high profile women representing various Skokie Institutions. They are Skokie First Lady, Susan Van Dusen, Niles Township High Schools Superintendent, Nanciann Gatta, Skokie Public Library Director, Carolyn Anthony, Niles Township Indian American Organization President, Usha Kamaria, and owner/manager of Holiday Inn Northshore/Skokie, Sheila Gilani. It is the committee’s goal to do an in depth exploration of a different culture each year through reading and discussing a common book, and enjoying a host of other exciting activities.

The first project was in early 2010 when the Asian Indian community was showcased, with Ms. Vineeta Vijayarghavan, author of the novel Motherland (book selected for discussion), as special guest. Other Skokie institutions joined as co-sponsors. They are the Oakton Community College and the Skokie Hospital. It was a stunning success with more than 3,000 people attending 32 events held over a period of 6 weeks.

In addition to the Skokie Institutions mentioned earlier, other village groups joined as co-sponsors of the 2nd Coming Together in Skokie, showcasing the Philippines and Its People. Among them are the Skokie Park District, Niles Township ELL Center and Skokie’s elementary and middle schools. The Center for Teaching through Children’s Books at the National-Louis College also provided assistance.

“When the Rainbow Goddess Wept” by Filipino American author, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard from California, was the featured book, with “Growing Up Filipino”, her compilation of several short stories for adults and young adults, as an additional option. This year, the committee also selected other books written by Filipino and Filipino American authors for the serious adults and the younger readers. They are: Marketing Dreams, Manufacturing Heroes by Dr. Anna Guevarra a, Tall Story by Candy Gourlay (for Grades 5-8), Willie Wins by Almira Astudillo Gilles (for Grades 1-3) and Lakas and the Manilatown Fish:Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatown by Anthony D. Robles (for ages 5-8).

Kick Off
The Kick Off was held Friday, January 28, 2011 at the Niles West H.S. Auditorium, 5701 Oakton St., in Skokie. Before the show, committee members, performers, volunteers and their families & guests enjoyed the variety of native foods served at the private reception. Food for purchase was also available for the general public.

The program started at 7:00pm. After brief remarks from Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen and Deputy Consul General Orontes Castro, a video presentation with statements and comments from committee members was shown. It was followed by a video presentation courtesy of the Department of Tourism in Chicago, showing the wonderful sceneries and activities visitors to our country could enjoy. The musical portion of the program was started by an all male acapella group, Echo Effect, from Niles West High School, followed by a cultural/musical play entitled “The Legend of the Philippine Islands”. The cast of characters consisted of selected members of the Hataw Pinoy Chicago, under Emil & Alpha Nicolasin and the Sama-Sama Project, under Baron Cabalona & Lou Maningas, with the support of the young dancers from the FilAm Club of St. Peter’s and Niles North High School FilAm club. As the program finale, members of the committee were called on stage to be recognized and each one proudly wore the modern and traditional Filipino costumes, made for them by Victor Miller of Fashion in Fashion. It was indeed an honor to see the elite members of Skokie mainstream society, led by Skokie Mayor and his first lady, wearing our native costumes.

In addition to the mayor and the deputy consul general, among the dignitaries who joined the over 400 audience, were District 17 Representative Daniel Biss, Village Trustees Donald Perille and Pramod Shah, Plan Commission Chair Paul Luke, Tourism Director Vernie Morales & Family, Trade & Investment Officer Glenn Penaranda, Cultural Officer Berth Salvador, Skokie Theatre Director Al Curtis, Skokie Lions Past Presidents Walter Holden and Krishna Goyal, Artist Susan Alforque Silvano & husband Tony, Artist Fred de Asis, and of course the following committee members: Skokie first lady, Susan Van Dusen, Niles Township school district superintendent Nanciann Gatta and the following district 219 officers: Anne Roloff, Dale Vogler, Sherry Baehr, Rosamin Bhanpuri, Jim Sczcepaniak, John Leintz, Ryan McTague, Kaine Osburn, Paul O’Malley, & Pete Marcelo, Skokie Public Library Director Carolyn Anthony and staff members, Skokie Park District Commissioner, Jerry Clarito with wife Flor, Niles Township Indian American Organization President Usha Kamaria with husband Omprakash, Niles Township ELL Parent Center Director, Corrie Wallace & children.

The following volunteered their time and resources to insure the success of the event: Nando & Petty de Leon from Tuy Club USA, Adeline Fajardo, Ruben Salazar & Steve from the Philippine American Cultural Foundation, Ely & Evelyn Natividad from the Philippine Week Committee, Rod Ranola & Odette Ramos from the FilAm Prayer Group of St. Isaac Jogues, Vic Ricolcol of Adeline’s Food & Catering Services, Victor Miller and her models: Ping Estrada, Veronica Labiano, Ellen Maguad & Larraine Corpuz, and family members & friends: Nelson Chua, Chit Chua, Jack Alix, Happy & Tina Jimenez, Nina Hornung, Homer Saclayan and of course, the parents of the young performers.

Book Readings & Discussions
The general public and students got the opportunity to listen and inter-act with author Cecilia Manguerra Brainard during a series of book discussions scheduled at the library, at the district 219 administrative office, and Niles North & Niles West High Schools. She flew from California to be a part of the wonderful celebration. The culinary students of both high schools also treated the author and other invited guests to wonderful Filipino Dishes, complete with yummy desserts, after the presentations at their respective auditoriums. Mayor Van Dusen & wife Susan attended the reception at Niles West, while Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim attended the one at Niles North with Consular Officer Berth Salvador.

Ms. Almira Astudillo-Gilles did a book reading with demonstrations at the Niles Township Parent ELL Center and East Prairie Elementary School.

The library became the venue for discussions of books written by Dr. Anna Guevarra, Candy Gourlay and Anthony Robles.

Food Demonstrations & Tasting:
For Valentine’s Day treat, the library hosted a demonstration of native sweets, inviting Pastry Chef, Jack Alix who prepared Sans Rival and Alpha Nicolasin, who prepared polvoron. The over 60 attendees enjoyed both desserts.

Art Exhibits/Workshops
During the 6 weeks celebration, art works of renowned FilAm artists were on display at the Skokie Public Library. The following made Filipinos proud with their creations, which became testaments to our artistic talents: Fred De Asis, Paul C. Balan, Susan Alforque Silvano, and Jun Jun Sta. Ana.

Artist Fred De Asis also presented a workshop on the “Kut Kut”, the lost ancient art technique. He also introduced the “Baybayin”, an ancient writing system used during the pre-colonial years in the Philippines.

People’s Power Day
To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, commonly known as People’s Power Day, the Skokie Park District hosted a brief re-enactment held at the Oakton Community Center. Some native games followed, which were participated in and were enjoyed by the young and not so young alike. Dignitaries present were Mayor George Van Dusen with wife Susan & grandson Anthony, and Philippine Consul General Leo Herrera Lim and wife Fides and some village trustees.

Vox 3 vocal collective, a group of diverse musicians presented “Island Magic” celebrating the Filipino Vocal Music at the Petty Auditorium of the Skokie Public Library. The songs range from the Kundiman, a romantic song in Tagalog, to the Balitaw, a sort of dance-dialogue, the traditional cradle songs, and other folk materials. The group’s artistic director, Brian von Rueden said during an interview: “When we’re approached about assembling a recital of Filipino music, our programming coordinators were initially stumped. But it has been a pleasure discovering the charm and depth of these pieces. Many of the songs are unabashedly romantic, with heart fully on sleeve, but also quite well crafted”. As one of about 20 FilAms in the audience of about 150, I felt extremely proud. The performers include soprano Angela Zawada, mezzo-soprano Catie Huggins, tenor Joaquim Luis, baritone Brian von Rueden, and pianist Saori Chiba.

Niles North & Niles West High School Activities
Not to be left out in the celebration of the Philippines and its people, the members of the Filipino Clubs at both Niles North & Niles West High Schools planned several activities. At Niles North, they had the Filipino Cultural Breakfast, Movie showing, Karaoke-Filipino Style, Games & Dances, in addition to the book discussions. At Niles West, they celebrated Filipino Day with dances, exhibits, fruit carving demonstration, and Filipino Martial Arts presentation, also in addition to book discussions.

Oakton Community College – Filipino Festival
For their part in the celebration, Oakton Community College presented musical performances, games and a fashion show, and treated guests to wonderful Filipino finger foods. The performers were all excellent, a lot better than some contestants of the American Idol.

Post Event Evaluation
At the first committee meeting following the event, we got an overall successful rating from the members. It was estimated that over 3,000 people attended the various events. Special mention goes to the Officers and Staff of the Philippine Consulate General Office in Chicago, under the leadership of Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim, for their tireless support through their generous donations and presence at all the main the events during the 6 week celebration. The plaque of appreciation and book they respectively presented to Village Mayor George Van Dusen and Skokie Library Director Carolyn Anthony during the Kick Off, were very pleasant surprises and much appreciated. Gerry Alcantara’s Fil Am TV Asian American Hall of Fame, provided another pleasant surprise when the committee founders were recognized for their promotion and support of diversity. The plaque of recognition was accepted by School Superintendent Nanciann Gatta, Mayor George Van Dusen and First Lady Susan Van Dusen at the awards Ceremony held last May 14 at the Hilton Rosemont Hotel in O’Hare.

Being recognized by the leading governmental institutions in the Village of Skokie, not only brings honor and pride to the Filipinos and Filipino Americans in Skokie, but throughout the world. The Coming Together in Skokie is the latest among the various initiatives that made the Village a model for creating peace and harmony in the community.

Invitation to future Village Events:
I would like to extend an open invitation to Filipinos and Filipino Americans in Skokie and surrounding suburbs to join us at the Skokie July 4th Parade. Please send email to: for details.