Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Schools I Attended - Part 3, UCLA

The Schools I Attended -Part 3, UCLA

Click here for Part 1, St. Theresa's College
Click here for Part 2, UP & Maryknoll

My mother, who was widowed at the age of 47, had the vision of sending her four children abroad after college, to round out our education. The oldest daughter and only son were sent to the US; the second daughter went to Spain; and since I was going to be a film maker, I had to be near Hollywood.

So at age 21, I got on an airplane and headed first for Hong Kong, then Honolulu, where I hooked up with two other Filipinas. Together we went to San Francisco, then on to Los Angeles. With their help, I made it to the UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles) campus.

UCLA  was huge and sprawling, with a student population of around 40,000. I arrived in the spring and the campus was gorgeous. The huge trees, shrubs and flowers were lush and blooming; the old part of the campus had handsome buildings made of brick; the newer buildings were also nice. There were a couple of provocative modern fountains. On the Westwood Village end was the medical center and med school, and scattered all around were buildings for geology, business administration, law, liberal arts, and so on – a city in itself.

I lived first in a boarding house and later in a shared apartment. It took me 20 minutes to walk to the Film department.

I might have guessed that if I didn’t thrive at the UP (University of the Philippines) that I wouldn’t either at UCLA. I could barely find my classrooms, couldn’t make heads nor tails out of school documents and packets. The Film Department per se was relatively small and somewhat new and teachers were not academics but people who had actual film making background. If I had focused I could have finished my degree in film making. But once again, I got side tracked, this time by the Peace Corps Volunteer (read How I Learned to Make Leche Flan [or How I Met my Husband]) whom I married to the chagrin of my mother who had my life’s script laid out  - return to the Philippines, get married, have children, lead the life of a society matron.  (I should mention here that my husband and I have been married for decades, so marrying him wasn’t a whim.)
My husband and I lived for a while in San Francisco while he finished his law degree, and afterwards, we returned to Southern California so I could complete my studies.  By this time however I started weighing the realities of being a woman film maker in California. It was very difficult to break into that industry, especially as a woman.  In many ways the Philippines was more open to women breaking glass ceilings; women just needed the credentials to becoming engineers, doctors, or film makers.  The United States had a harder glass ceiling to break; and this was not just my observation because women were rallying for change at that time (for equal opportunities as men, equal pay, and so on).
I didn't continue with film making. All I needed was a second film project, but I made up excuses of how expensive the second project would cost, etc. etc.  I spent my time taking care of the family, and at some point I worked part time. This served the needs of my family.  However, I continued writing in my journal/diary and my husband used to see me scribbling in my notebook. One Christmas, he gave me an electric typewriter (yes, it was long ago!). This encouraged me to write some more, and to make arrangements to write a regular newspaper column. Aside from writing nonfiction, I found myself writing fiction. Without proper training I managed to get a couple of short stories published, but I realized they were not that well done and I could do better.
This was when I returned to dear UCLA, this time to take writing classes in the Writers Program of UCLA Extension. I might add the Writers Program is one of the best in the United States, and it has produced many awarded writers, scriptwriters, media folks. 

In the same campus that had intimidated me as a young woman, I learned the craft and business of creative writing. Bit by bit I got more stories published, then later I had a collection of short stories published, then a novel, and more books. I also edited books. Eventually I would teach at the Writers Program and in UCLA proper as well as become an Adjunct Professor at USC (University of Southern California) (and as a UCLA graduate my husband never was fond of USC, famously known as the rival of UCLA!)

Thanks for reading my blog, and see you again,

Top - my mother, Concepcion Cuenco Manguerra and me - a picture taken near the tail end of her life
Next - UCLA Campus, an old building
Next - A group of Filipino American writers l-r: Vince Gotera, Virginia Cerenio , N.V.M. Gonzalez, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, William Oandasan
For more pictures of Filipino American writers, click here
Next two pictures - a couple of covers of my books
Next - Cecilia with Bienvenido N. Santos
Next - Cecilia with Lina Espina Moore
Bottom picture - Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, photo by Jeanie MacDonald

tags: Philippines, literature, writing, novels, fiction, writers, authors, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Filipina, UCLA Writers Program, Cebu, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Bienvenido N. Santos, Lina Espina Moore

No comments: