Sunday, June 30, 2013

Manila Without Verna, short story by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

I'm leaving for Manila tomorrow and so my mind is full of Manila-thoughts. Here's a short story I wrote that's set in Manila, and which is part of my short story collection, Acapulco At Sunset and Other Stories (Kindle, Nook, Anvil). The story is fiction.

by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

AFTER a quarter of a century of living in America, I have turned into some kind of bird, a sparrow perhaps, returning to where I come from, once a year. One of the so-called "balikbayans" (which some people say with a sneer). Indeed we have become strange creatures, we balikbayans, not quite Filipino, not quite American. And still I do my annual trek, as if searching for something, what exactly I do not know, cannot pinpoint why exactly I return. I say it's to visit my mother. I say it's to visit my roots. But it's something else, something vital to my soul. Is it something from my past? Perhaps. So much of the present is linked to the past. Therefore this year, like the year before, and the year before that, I shut down my studio, say goodbye to my agent, and endure the 25-some hour flight from New York to Manila. And this year, I say the weather isn't too bad although Manila is getting smoggy. And my mother says it's the lahar, it has been such since Mt. Pinatubo exploded in 1991, the lahar, diverting rivers, drowning towns, filling the air with blackness that we inhale, that my mother inhales and which sends her and many others in Manila into coughing spells. Bronchitis and asthma, ordinary day-to-day illnesses, this is Manila now unlike the Manila that I knew in the 60s, long stretches of fields between Malate and Quezon City, stretches of nothingness, a canopy of blue sky, now there are houses and buildings, and traffic that can try a saint. Manila.

My school friends still remember me. Tess, especially, who was my best friend in high school, and who has remained a special friend always. "You must come to dinner. It's for the February celebrants," she insists. In their middle-age, my Theresian classmates have bonded and hold monthly dinners for their birthday celebrants. "It'll be at the clubhouse at my apartment. And we'll have a program, poetry reading! Bring your favorite poem to share. And you must tell us about your recent show. I heard it was a success."

Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Typical Day in Cebu (or is that Ubec?), Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

It's around 8 a.m. Sunday morning in Cebu, and I've assigned myself the impossible task of describing my typical day here.  I'm not sure I can do this because when I'm here there's usually something going on like the Fiesta last week.  Last week for instance, I had house guests, Susan Brooks and Elaine Sweet, and I brought them around to see the tourist sites of Old Cebu. Aside from that there were the fiesta activities, the triduum prayers at the chapel, followed by some camaraderie. For three nights in a row, we were up until 2 a.m., talking and drinking margaritas.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lunch With F. Sionil Jose, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
Published in Zee Lifestyle, June 2013

         After almost two decades of not seeing him, I saw F. Sionil
Jose in Cebu at the performance of Progress, a musicale based on his
short story. Frankie, a familiar name I use because my writing mentor,
Lina Espina Moore called him thus, remembered me.  In the late 1980s,
Lina had brought me to the Solidaridad bookshop owned by Frankie and
his wife, Tessie. Lina introduced me to them and arranged for the
launch of my first short story collection in their bookshop.

         Frankie was an established writer then; but in 2013, he had
risen even higher.  Since 2001, he held the highly coveted title of
National Artist for Literature in the Philippines.  He had been
awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1980, the Pablo Neruda Centennial
Award in 2004, numerous Palanca Awards, among many other awards.  F.
Sionil Jose is now a household name, and young people pack auditoriums
to hear him speak.  He is one of the most widely-read Filipino writers
in the English language; his novels Dusk, Don Vicente and The Samsons
enjoy the wide distribution provided by the New York publisher, Modern
Library a subsidiary of Random House. He has published other novels,
novellas, short story collections, essay collections, plays, and
children's books.  His writings have been translated into 22

         “Come for lunch,” he said when I told him I'd be in Manila.
And so in late January, I was in a taxi stuck in Manila's terrible
traffic. I did not have his contact information, and I texted a friend
to call Solidaridad and inform Frankie I would be late. My friend
replied: Don't be too late; he's irascible.

         I started to feel intimidated. Would I get scolded for being
late and wasting his time?

         I was ten minutes late and thankfully, Tessie Jose told me
they had just arrived. The Joses travel daily from their home in
Quezon City to their bookshop in Ermita, arriving mid-day, and they
return at around nine or ten at night when the traffic has subsided.
Tessie gave me a tour of Solidaridad; apparently there had been a fire
several years ago and Solidaridad had to be rebuilt. A lot of books
were destroyed. Frankie would later relate how no one picked up the
damaged books which they put outside on the sidewalk for people to

         Tessie and I waited for Frankie to finish his work – everyday
he is quite busy, writing still another novel, editing manuscripts,
dealing with publishers who want foreign rights or electronic rights.
He is also involved with PEN Manila Chapter and the bookshop.

         No one mentioned by tardiness; and he was not irascible or
intimidating. As he and Tessie led the way to the restaurant, he
pointed out the high-rise buildings sprouting up in Ermita. Look at
this change, he seemed to say; but he is not a man who is afraid of
change because when I later asked him what he thought of e-books, he
simply stated, “What is there to say, it’s here.”

               We had lunch in the same Indian Restaurant where Lina,
Frankie and ate at years ago.  Frankie and Tessie ordered our food
while I pulled out my notebook and informed Frankie that I'd ask him a
few questions for an article.

          His story is that of a poor boy who makes good. Francisco
Sionil Jose was born in 1924 to a poor family that failed to file the
necessary legal documents to claim the farm they had been tilling. His
mother, who had been abandoned by her husband for another woman, had
to raise three children. Until he got involved with editing and
writing, Frankie did manual labor, raising hogs or working as a farm
laborer or doing household chores. Fortunately along the way, he had
teachers who encouraged him to read and to write. By the time he
attended Santo Tomas University, he was writing and doing editorial
work. He married a supportive woman; he worked; his writings were
published; he opened his bookshop; he himself became a publisher; he
received grants, awards; he made important connections; he founded the
Manila PEN Chapter; he was called a CIA spy (the charges were
dropped). Through it all, F. Sionil did his best to work for justice
for the rural poor.

This single-mindedness was what made him tell him he didn’t consider
himself successful at all. He talked about what he wanted to happen to
the Philippines, and that was to have justice, meaning each Filipino
would have three meals a day, education, a roof over their heads,
medical care.  He concluded that this has not happened, that there are
many poor people eating one meal a day, and that there is grave
injustice. The measure of his success, he said, is to know that
because of his writings, a little bit of justice is now available; he
said he has not been successful.

                “I am frustrated,” he said, “the older I get, the angrier I become.”
I asked him – Do you believe in God?

         He said he is a baptized Catholic; he had a Thomasian
education; he has many Jesuit friends. But he considers himself an
agnostic. “I am not happy with organized religion,” he said. “It is
too huge.”  Later, he would add, via email: “…I am very religious but
not pious. I rarely go to church and if I do at all, it is when the
church is empty so I can pray by myself and listen to my own prayers.”
He enjoyed describing his typical day. He wakes up at around 1 a.m. to
work until around 5 a.m. He has breakfast, then he takes an hour nap.
He and Tessie go to Solidaridad, arriving there at around 11 a.m. He
works; they have lunch at noon. He works, then rests for a couple of
hours in the afternoon. He and Tessie eat outside; they walk to the
Robinson's or Mall of Asia. They attend social events. At around 9 pm
they return home. They are in bed by around 10 pm or later.

                There was nothing irascible about the Frankie I met that day.
While he talked I noticed how he reached out to touch the arm of
Tessie, his partner since 1949. “Sweetheart,” he called her. And
later, as we walked back to Solidaridad, the two of them walked side
by side, helping each other as they negotiated the irregular sidewalk.
And as far as I was concerned, he and Tessie extended to me such
warmth and love; I was sorry to say goodbye to them.

 I felt gratified when a week later, I received an email from Frankie:

             “When you come back, do drop by again, this time, around
6 pm so we can have a longer chat... Mabuhay ka!”


Read also
Life in Parian Now
Cebu's 1730 Jesuit House 
The Secret Hall of Angels 
A Story of Hope
Finding Jose Rizal in Cebu
Lola Remedios and her Sayas
Lunch with F. Sionil Jose

 tags: Philippines, literature, novelist, writer, author, fiction writer, Filipino, Frankie Jose, Cecilia Brainard

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I feel I've been doing a lot of lazing-around lately!
(Antique photo courtesy of Pearl of the Orient)

tags: photographs, Philippines, Filipina, travel, women

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Creative Writing Workshop Organized by Peace Corps Volunteer, Susan Brooks

Susan Brooks, a Peace Corps Volunteer, assigned in Bago, Negros, organized a five-day Creative Writing Workshop last May for the students of Ramon Torres National High School in Bago, Negros, Philippines.

She invited me to participate in the Writing Conference part of the Workshop, which I did via Skype. (It was the first time I used Skype!) Please read the news clippings below; the Workshop offered quite a lot to the students and should make an excellent model for other teachers.

Thanks again to Susan and the other organizers for including me. The students sent me thank you notes and I'll quote a few:

* "Thank you so much for sharing an inspirational message for us. I really reached many highs from you. May you continue to teach others about writing. God bless" - Jean Clarisse A. Ignacio

* "There might be nothing, but sometimes there is something on a draft." Thank you for inspiring us despite your schedules and being nice...I hope that someday I'll be like you, successful but still, a writer..." - Jirah Joy R. Gicana

*You are a very amazing author! And thank you for those things you shared to us. Your ideas and thoughts, experiences, and your stories in life. May God bless you and guide you always!" - France Anne J. Robaton

*Thank you so much Ms. Cecilia for sharing your time with us. You really did an amazing work. You keep inspiring us! God bless and take care! :) - Angel Veronque Cantoriag

*"Good day, Ma'am. I am so happy that you have share(d) with (us) your precious time. Thank you for sharing with us the essential factors on how to become a more creative writer. Thank you for welcoming us. I hope that we can see and speak to you again. Thanks so much and God bless." Lovelie Prisciven G. Beduyo

From Sunstar Bacolod & From the Visayas Daily Star

Photo l-r: Susan Brooks, Cecilia Brainard, Elaine Sweet (taken in Cebu, June 23, 2013)

 Read also Interview of American Peace Corps Volunteer -- Susan Brooks

tags: writing, Philippine literature, Peace Corps Volunteer, Bago, Negros, creative writing, Filipino writers, Philippine authors, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Jose Dalisay, Susan Brooks

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH FRANCE, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

My love affair with France 

I am unashamed when I say that during this visit I fell in love with the French. They were the warmest they had ever been, I thought. They were cordial, they were kind, they were charming, they were funny.

The first time I visited France many years ago, I disliked it. This was back in the 1970s and I was travelling with my sister-in-law. We had travelled from London via the Dover-Calais ferry and then by train to Paris. From the train I bought soda for us and right away was given incorrect change by the very first Frenchman I ever dealt business with. In Paris, we were also given incorrect change in restaurants and were repeatedly overcharged by taxis. At that time, the French only spoke French even to tourists and it didn’t matter a whit if you didn’t speak a word of French: they were not going to try and communicate in another language.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Historic downtown Parian Cebu fiesta

Here are some pictures of the Fiesta celebration of historic downtown Cebu's Parian during the feast of its patron, St. John the Baptist. Mass was held at the Parian chapel, with three priests officiating.  The traditional procession around the neighborhood followed. It seemed to me that this time there were very many people who joined the procession or who watched from their homes.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Heat is On! Fiesta in Pari-an, Cebu

The heat is on in the Pari-an in Cebu.  Fiesta today, of San Juan Batista - Mass in the Pari-an chapel at 5:30 p.m., followed by a procession.

Last night Val Sandiego's Dance troupe put on a fabulous show.  Peace Corps Volunteers Susan Brooks and Elaine Sweet found themselves onstage along with the dancers.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fiesta sa Parian, Cebu with PCV guests Susan Brooks and Elaine Sweet

Above pictures show Parian Cebu's special guests, Peace Corp Volunteers Susan Brooks and Elaine Sweet with Yap-Sandiego Museum owner,Val Sandiego. 
Below, Susan and Elaine visit a private gallery with heritage folks.

Check back dear Readers. More pictures will be posted.
Sunday, June 23, Val's Dance Troupe will perform at the Parian Plaza, at around 8-9 pm.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rooftop Room in the Dona Filomena Building, Cebu City, Cebu

The rooftop room prepared for two Peace Corps Volunteers: Elaine Sweet and Susan Brooks

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Random Picture taken in India - by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Random Picture taken in India - by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

I asked about the colored horns and our guide said it's something like putting accessories in your car.

Tags: India, travel, animals

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Philippine Pre-hispanic Gold Jewelry - photos by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Philippine Pre-hispanic Gold Jewelry - photos by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
I took these pictures at the Banco Central vault

And here's a link to an earlier article "Pre-Colonial Gold in Cebu"  which I wrote last October 2012:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day Today !

Happy Father's Day Today!

tags: family, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Father's Day! - photo of Mariano Flores Manguerra

Father's Day coming up. This is a picture of my father, Mariano Flores Manguerra, when he was a young man.

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers!

Visit my Facebook account -

tags: family, fathers, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Hobbit House in Ermita, Philippines - photo by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

The Hobbit House Bar in Ermita was reportedly founded by a former American Peace Corps Volunteer, Jim Turner, a Tolkien fan. It's run as a co-op so staff are all part-owners.  Most, if not all the staff members are "little people." As you drive up outside, they wave you into a parking place -- or at least they used to in the original location on Mabini Street.  I have to admit that there's an edge in the place, but the "little people" are at ease with themselves and the world, and while the strangeness remains, there's a sense of adventure in the place as well.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Many Faces of Mexico, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, The Freeman, June 2, 2013

The Many Faces of Mexico, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
Published in The Freeman and, June 2, 2013

The one thing to keep in mind if you visit Mexico is that the country is very large, with varied geography and with many different climate zones. Visiting the coast, for instance, can be a very different experience from going to the high mountains. One cannot generalize about what Mexico and Mexicans look like because the people and culture have a lot of ethnic intermingling.

Because it was a Spanish colony from 1519-1821, the Spanish influence is apparent. This is one of the aspects of Mexico that I find familiar, perhaps given the fact that the Philippines was a colony of Spain from 1521-1898. To a large extent, the Spaniards homogenized their colonies so that colonial towns in Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, among others, and far-flung Philippines share similarities in architecture, culture, food, and religion. Huge stone Baroque churches can be found in colonial places. People have Spanish family names. In many of these colonial towns, the siesta custom is still in place. And people share an exuberant love for life expressed in fiestas and processions, promenading in the park, and family gatherings.

Perhaps it is the feeling that I know Mexico that draws me to her, and through the years, I’ve visited various cities and towns in Mexico. All of these places have offered a common denominator, that is the Spanish influence, but there have always been differences, so one can never say that Puerto Vallarta is like San Miguel de Allende.

My husband and I have visited sea resorts along the Baja coast: Ensenada, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, among others; and they are good vacation places that provide sun, sea, food, and fun. People can fish, surf, snorkel, scuba dive, or just sit on the beach to relax. They are popular tourist places, which have four-or-five-star hotels and excellent restaurants. Shopping is great in these places. One can buy Mexican dresses and blouses, sandals, silver jewelry, and many other handicrafts. They sell beautiful stained glass, tile work, statues, clay and ceramic planters and fountains, all of which are unfortunately heavy, although one can always have them shipped.

Gigantes at Wedding in San Miguel de Allende - photo by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard


Gigantes at Wedding in San Miguel de Allende - photo by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Here is an article on Mexico - The Many Faces of Mexico

tags: travel, Mexico, wedding, festival. gigantes

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rare Filipiniana (Philippine) Books available -

Rare Filipiniana (Philippine) books are Available from (Philippine American Literary House)


Visit pages 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, in

The listings include original editions of: Cloman's Myself and a Few Moros; Cole's Philippine Folk Tales; Conger's An Ohio Woman in the Philippines; Crouter's Forbidden Diary: A Record of Wartime Internment 1944-45; Cummins' The Travels and Controversies of Friar Domingo Navarrette 1618-86; Dauncey's An Englishwoman in the Philippines; De La Costa's The Jesuits in the Philippines; De Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas; Fee's A Woman's Impressions of the Philippines; Gironier's Twenty Years in the Philippines; Foreman's The Philippine Islands; Jouglet's The Lost City: Filipino Fact and Fancy; Tennyson's Fighting in the Philippines;  Kimball's A Woman's Journey Through the Philippines; Steven's Yesterdays in the Philippines; and many more

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Another Treasure from France - Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse

Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse 

This is another "treasure" I bought in France, which cannot be bought in the US - Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse.

This is 142 proof liqueur that comes in a 100 ml litter bottle encased in a wooden container, made by the Carthusian monks in France. The Elixir is considered medicinal, which is why it's not allowed in the US; it doesn't meet USDA standards. There's another reason given as to why it's not allowed in the US, and that's because the recipe is secret and the monks reportedly don't want the recipe stolen.

I love the history of this liquor.

In 1606, an artillery marshal to King Henry IV gave the Carthusian monks the recipe of this Elixir of Long Life. The formula includes 130 herbs, flowers, and secret ingredients combined in a wine alcohol base. The monks made the liqueur as medicine. Two liqueurs spun off this original recipe; the Green Chartreuse and the Yellow Chartreuse, but the original recipe remains as the Elixir Vegetal.

The recipe is reportedly not written down, and three monks know portions of the formula; they must work together to create the liqueur.

The traditional way of taking the Elixir is to use a dropper and put a few drops on a sugar cube. This is given to people who are sick, including babies.  I bought a few bottles in Paris for almost 14 euro each; but in Lyon it was less than 10 euro each.  The cashier in Lyon said her grandmother takes the Elixir daily.

I failed to ask how old her grandmother is.;article;40;uk.html

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Treasure from Beaune - San Pasqual, Patron Saint of the Kitchen

My Treasure from Beaune - San Pasqual, Patron Saint of the Kitchen

I'd seen a wood carving of San Pasqual in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and regretted not buying it.  When I saw a stone statue of him in Beaune, France, I had to buy it.  He now sits in my kitchen as guardian. (The image is smiling but sometimes I wonder if he frowns at my cooking!)

San Pasqual (or Paschal) Baylon is a saint of the Catholic Church. He was born in Torrehermosa, in Aragon, Spain. He was a shepherd, then he joined the Reformed Franciscan Order as a lay brother often serving as a cook or doorkeeper. He lived a life of poverty and prayer.

He is considered the patron saint of cooks and kitchens, thus his image is a favorite in Mexican kitchens. San Pasqual is said to watch over the kitchen fire.

tags: travel, food, cooking, saints, Catholic, Patron saint of kitchens, San Paschal, San Pasqual

P.S. The Cook is a Writer - San Pasqual watch over her cooking!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Another Example of a Clean Creek - Philippines Are You Listening?

Another Example of a Clean Creek - Philippines Are You Listening?

My readers know that I'm an advocate for clean rivers and creeks in the Philippines.  Here is an article I wrote about Cleaning up the Rivers of Cebu:

And here are pictures of a creek in Beaune, France (the Wine Capital of Burgundy, France). This creek is clean and has always been clean.  The local women washed clothes in the covered area on the righthand side. There is a trough with clean creek water for the washer women. It's practical and beautiful at the same time.

Philippines - let's clean up our creeks and rivers!

tags: travel, France, creeks, rivers, Beaune

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Machu Picchu Again - Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

I would like to see Machu Picchu in Peru again!

tags: travel, Peru, Machu Picchu, Cecilia Brainard, vacation

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco and Spain's Generalissimo Franco


I found this old picture of my grand-uncle, Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco of Jaro, Iloilo with General Francisco Franco of Spain. Jose Ma. Cuenco was the older brother of my maternal grandfather, Senator Mariano Cuenco. I'm guessing this black and white photo was taken in the 1960s but it could have been in the 1950s as well.  They both had age then.

Here's a link with more information about Franco

Read also
The Bachelors and Femina Days of Cebu - Memorabilia photos
Old Photographs and Memories 
The Schools I attended, Part 1, St.Theresa's College
The Schools I attended, Part 2, UP & Maryknoll
The Schools I attended, Part 3, UCLA

Saying Goodbye to Papa
Where the Daydreaming Came From 
Death of a Carnival Queen

All for now,
Cecilia Brainard
tags: history, Spain, Philippines, Francisco Franco

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pictures of Beautiful Fountains - by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Pictures of Beautiful Fountains, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

I must love water fountains because I have a lot of pictures of them, from all over the world.

tags: travel, architecture, fountains, gardens

Monday, June 3, 2013

ARCHITECTURE: Beautiful Old Houses in the Philippines

 The architecture in the Philippines is quite interesting.  Influences from the Malay, Chinese, Spaniards, Americans, and other peoples who occupied this archipelago are apparent. 

"The late national hero for architecture, Leandro Locsin once said, that Philippine Architecture is an elusive thing, because while it makes full use of modern technology, it is a residue of the different overlays of foreign influences left in the Philippines over the centuries: the early Malay culture and vestiges of earlier Hindu influences, the more than 300 years of Spanish domination, the almost 50 years of American rule, the Arab and Chinese influences through commerce and trade over the centuries. What resulted may have been a hybrid, a totally new configuration which may include a remembrance of the past, but transformed or framed in terms of its significance today."

You'll find old buildings/homes in Intramuros, Manila, Vigan, Cebu, Iloilo, and in many other places. 

Here are some pictures of old buildings and houses in the Philippines. You can get a larger picture by clicking on the image.  

Enjoy. Despite the tragedy of super typhoon Haiyan, Beauty is still in this archipelago. And Filipinos are very sociable. (The Italians of Asia, as my husband says.) They also speak English, a boon to tourists.

Some of the pictures were taken by me, and some are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Read Also

All for now,
Cecilia Brainard
tags: travel, Philippines, architecture, garden, home, old, antique