Thursday, August 2, 2018

Book Review of Cecilia Brainard's Growing Up Filipino by Linda Kintanar-Alburo

“DIYANDI” Freeman Magazine, for July 2003

"A Book-Launching in UCLA"

by Linda Kintanar-Alburo

Before returning to Cebu, I enjoyed a three-week break during which I gained eight pounds from a series of Filipino parties. Aside from those, there were more educational activities I attended. One of these was a book-launching at a bookstore that carried Asian and Asian-American books.

Baby Manguerra-Brainard had just finished editing a pioneering collection called Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults and it was for its launching last May that

I went to UCLA. The book has twenty-nine short stories, some partly autobiographical, taking up from 3 to 13 pages each. Although all of the twenty-nine writers focused on a

significant adolescent experience in a bildungsroman form of narrative, they are of three sorts: the Filipinos in the Philippines (including well-known names like Jimmy Abad, Krip Yuson, Jing Hidalgo, Tony Tan, and Gilda Fernando), Philippine-born emigres (again including the well-known like Linda Casper, Bert Florentino, Marianne Villanueva, Oscar Penaranda, and Mar Puatu), and Fil-Ams (familiar like Vince Gotera, Evelina Santos, Connie Maraan who's at DLSU; and new ones like Veronica Santos, Edgar Poma, and Brian Roley).

Among the contributors are three Cebuanos: Baby Brainard herself, co-WILA Ruby Enario-Carlino and USC alumnus Alex Dean Bru. Baby and Alex were at the launching, but Ruby couldn't make the trip from Virginia.

Despite its title, the book is also for adults. Its five sections on Family, Angst, Friendship, Love and Home carry us through the different ways that a young Filipino (or Filipino-American) negotiates life. Understandably, many of the stories by the emigres look backward nostalgically, like Paula Angeles' "Lola Sim's Handkerchief" which tells us of a young girl's recollection of going to the market with her lola back home and cooking sinigang for the family (I asked her if they cooked sinigang with carrots like she describes in the story and she said yes, or perhaps she forgot?).

Personally, I find the book an enjoyable read not only for the stories with their gamut of emotions accompanying "first" experiences (love and kissing, physical violence, deceit, encounter with the NPA, gay club, seeing agta and santilmo, camp life, tuli, losing a favorite toy, etc.). The brief notes before each story that inform the unfamiliar reader (apparently for an American audience) are gems. Take the note to Paula Angeles' story on "Lively Philippine Markets", which ends: "For safekeeping, old-fashioned Filipinas will tie their money in a handkerchief and pin this small bundle inside their blouses next to their bosoms."

But interesting to us would be those notes by the Fil-Ams: For example, Veronica Montes writes, to introduce the story "Lolo's Bride," of the Filipino American family: "At my Lolo and Lola's small home in Daly City, California, certain things could be counted on: an abundance of food (naturally), a visitor or two from the Philippines, the fact that you would be forced against your will to sing in front of everyone, and---best of all---an ongoing undercurrent of drama provided by the strong, sometimes overwhelming personalities of certain women in my family." There's also "Filipinos in America" for Brian Roley's "American Son Epilogue": "Few Americans know that the Philippines used to be a U.S. colony; I was never taught about our common history in high school, though we spent two weeks on British Colonialism in India."

As to the Cebuano pieces, Baby's uses the patintero game as metaphor (as in a poem by Cora Almerino's) for the love pursuit. Ruby's is more painful because of treachery on the part of a man who takes advantage of the loneliness of the narrator's Aunt Julia, who is dying. Alex' "The Spirits of Kanlanti" says farewell to the foreigner parish priest, an important personage in a small town in Leyte whose life story has most probably inspired the young narrator's decision to become a priest himself.

When it gets here, do grab a copy!


Writer’s Bio: Linda Kintanar-Alburo is Director, Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos, where she teaches literature, folklore and research. She was in the US as Fulbright Senior Research Fellow from February to May 2003.

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