Thursday, May 16, 2019

Creative Writing Tool: Guided Visualization - by Cecilia Brainard

This is one of the Visualization exercises I use in my Creative Writing Class. I'll be using this in a workshop this Saturday and thought some readers might be able to use it:

Guided Visualization
The Secret Cave

Begin your visualization with a deep breath, the kind you have learned that is easy and restful. Use the count of five as your rhythm as you inhale…and hold…and exhale again.
Take another deep breath –
Perhaps one more.

Let all of your concentration be on your feet and on any areas of tension in them. Breathe naturally, and as you inhale, imagine you are drawing all the tension from your feet up through your body into your lungs. Hold the mental image of that tension. And now, slowly, imagine that you are exhaling all of that tension out through your mouth. You will feel as if you are literally blowing away the tension, exhaling all the destructive tightness out of your body.

Now I’d like you to imagine that you are walking alone in the woods. The trees are lush and beautiful.

Can you see them? (Or sense their presence)
Imagine the colors…bring them clearly into focus in your mind’s eye;
Listen to the sounds…
Notice the smell of the trees…
How does the air feel against your skin?

There is a narrow stream running nearby. Enjoy the sound of rushing water for a moment. Enjoy its sounds and observes how it breaks against the rocks before you find a safe place to cross to the other side.

Now take a new path, one that leads to the mountain trail.
Follow the trial that leads you higher into the mountains…
And higher…until your legs feel the strain…until you don’t
want to climb anymore.

Stop and look around you. Find the cave that almost hidden by the rocks. Know that you will not be harmed inside the cave and that you will find something of great importance there.

As you walk into the cave, the air feels cool against your skin.
Wait a moment; let your eyes grow accustomed to the dim light.
The walls of the cave are rough and damp.
Reach out and feel the dampness.
Notice the sound of a distant waterfall somewhere deep
within the cave.

There is a soft, golden light coming from a high opening; you can see the next room-like cavern. Walk into the next room and explore the cave.

As you move into a still deeper part of the cave, a fire glows from one side of the cavern and you can see that Someone is seated beside it on a large, flat rock. You have encountered Someone with great wisdom and insight, Someone who can reveal to you the answers to important questions, and whom you have every reason to trust. This person has known you for a very long time.

Ask this very special person any question that is important to you. Remember or note down the question that you asked.

What was the answer you received?

Stay in this cave for a few more moments, relishing the presence of this special person. You may ask Him more questions if you wish. Or just rest with Him.

(Wait a few seconds)

Now it is time to explore even deeper regions of the cave. There is nothing here that will be harmful to you and the discoveries you make will enrich your understanding of yourself.

Follow this special person into the next chamber. There you find a large oval room where the walls are smooth and soft sand lies beneath your feet. A narrow channel of water runs through the room. The water is four-feet deep and, at its widest point, the water spreads to a width of twelve feet.

A boat awaits for you in the water; it is small and securely built. The loving person helps you onto the boat for a journey that will take you to a place of vivid memories. There maybe something you want to say to this person before you leave; if so, take a moment to write it in your notebook.

And what is it that you perhaps felt but did not bring yourself to say?

What does this loving person say to you before you go?

Was there anything that you wished had been said to you that was not said? If so, write or remember what you wanted to hear.

And listen while this loving person says those words to you now.

If you have great difficulty saying goodbye, you can ask this wise and loving person to go with you on your journey.
The boat is powered in a unique way: it moves forward or backward as you direct it with your thoughts. When you are comfortably settled in the boat, direct the boat forward and notice how easily it moves through the water – slowly and safely –The automatic pilot guides your boat through the water while you watch the changing scene around you.

Notice that there are frescoes on the walls of the cave. These paintings are vast mural depicting times in your life when you felt good about yourself and the decisions you were making. They show how capable and talented you really are.

Direct your thoughts to pull the boat close to the edge of the water so you can look more closely at the pictures. Notice how confident and happy you seem in the drawings. Some of the pictures show “small moments,” intimate times with a friend. Other drawings recall more public experiences.

Remember or write in your notebook what you see in the paintings on the wall.

When you are ready, direct the boat forward and drift down the narrow river, watching scenes from earlier years until you find one that particularly appeals to you. Remember or write what you see.

Direct the boat to stop and wait for you while you step onto the shore and walk to the wall of the cave to observe the scene more carefully.

Imagine yourself walking right into that scene, becoming one of the characters, the central character. As you step into the picture, it will carry you backwards into that time and that place, and your memory will recall everything that you want to remember about that time of your life.

Relive all that was good and nourishing about that time and release any disturbing feelings if they should arise. Relive the feelings of success. And now describe in writing what you feel and what you see.

Carry that feeling of success as you step back into the boat. Direct the boat to take you through the cavern, where you see scenery more beautiful than you have ever seen before. Let the river carry you all the way to the place of departure, into the sunlight, to a familiar place where you step onto the shore. If you had invited the Special Person with you on your journey through the cave, you may now say goodbye to Him and thank Him. Know that He is always there for you.

Now, by the power of your thoughts, send yourself back to the here and now.

There is no rush, but when you are ready, I’d like you to write about anything that now comes to you.

Tags: writing, creative writing, visualization, creativity, right brain

Interview of Cecilia Brainard by Students and Campus Bulletin

(I'm reposting some older posts because Google's changes make them difficult to find. This was originally posted in 2007 - Cecilia)

Interview of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, by Students and Campus Bulletin in the Philippines, 2007


Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award-winning author and editor of 12 books, including the internationally- acclaimed novel, "When the Rainbow Goddess Wept," "Magdalena," Acapulco at Sunset and Other Stories," Philippine Woman in America," and "Woman With Horns and Other Stories" She edited "Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults," "Fiction by Filipinos in America," "Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America," and "Journey of 100 Years: Reflections on the Centennial of Philippine Independence." The book, "Cecilia's Diary 1962-1968" was released in August 2003. The anthology, "Behind the Walls: Life of Convent Girls," which she co-edited,was released in 2005.

Her work has been translated into Finnish, and many of her stories and articles have been widely anthologized. Brainard has received a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction, a Body Arts Fund Award, and a Special Recognition Award for her work dealing with Asian American youths, as well as a certificate of recognition from the California State Senate, 21 st District.

She has been also awarded by the Filipino and Filipino American communities she has served. In 1998, she received the Outstanding Individual Award from her birth city, Cebu, Philippines. 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. In this interview, Ms. Brainard shares her expertise on the one subject she's passionate about: writing.

Students and Campus Bulletin (SCB): Are there any good and bad reasons for being a writer?

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (CMB): The bad reasons are for fame, money, immortality, and revenge. The good reasons are because you have no choice but to write; for self-expression, to keep sane, to create something beautiful out of something painful or unpleasant; to educate others and ultimately to educate yourself.

SCB: What are the common misconception about writers and writing?

CMB:The common misconceptions about writers are: They are (or will be) rich and famous; that they are good and therefore not subject to being criticized by someone who isn't a writer; that they are right/correct about what they write about.

SCB: What are the biggest writing fears and how does one get over them?

CMB: These are the biggest writing fears: that one's work is terrible, embarrassing, and awful. How does one get over them? A writer has to accept that the first (or second or even third) draft will generally not be perfect. Anne Lammott in her book, Bird by Bird, calls this the "Shitty First Draft." So what the writer should do is write this "shitty first draft" afterwards, look at it and see what is in that draft that's worth developing, and take it from there. Very rarely is a first draft ready for publication. At times, first drafts may even need to be discarded. Sometimes, there is a kernel there, a seed, a line or two, or paragraph, or maybe more, that sparkles and can be developed.

SCB: What is considered "basic etiquette" for writers?

CMB: Writers live with many unwritten rules, for instance, in terms of giving feedback to someone else's work - a writer should always start by mentioning the strengths of the piece, before mentioning the weaknesses. Another unwritten rule is to mention sources for material you quote or refer to in your own writing. In other matters, if a writer happens to be in a panel for instance, the writer should make sure he/she is not taking more time than others in answering the questions. Perhaps all of the above can be summarized by saying a basic etiquette for writers is to try always to be generous and thoughtful to other writers.

SCB: How does one live with writing rejection?

CMB: Rejection is so much a part of a writers life and a beginning writer needs to understand early on that there are many reasons why a piece is rejected, aside from the quality of the work. It's possible that the editor does not have the space in the magazine or journal. It's possible that the editor has just published a similar piece recently, etc. However, having said this, I will say that if my work is rejected over and over, I will stop sending it out and scrutinize it once again, seriously asking myself if there is indeed something wrong with the piece. If my conclusion is that the piece is publishable, I will continue sending it out.

SCB: How does one respond to comments, criticisms and reviews?

CMB: First you need to realize that critiquing or feedback of your work is necessary. A writer can only do so much, and then he/she loses objectivity. Having others read your work can help you a lot. Think of it as having someone hold up a mirror to your work, allowing you to see the flaws as well as the strengths. If you are in a workshop, and your work is being critiqued, keep quiet, take notes, don't protest or explain. Sit quietly, listen carefully, jot down what is said about your work, and after, and only after, should you ask questions to those giving feedback. Ask specific questions. Don't challenge the critics. And lastly, thank the critics because they have taken the time and effort to read your work and thought things through. Even if they said things that were not positive, thank them anyway. It is the gracious thing to do. Anything can be rewritten. Besides you the writer do not have to act on everything told you; you are the author and should make the final decisions.

YCB: How does one spot and ignore bad writing advice?

CMB: Good writing advice is usually specific, for instance, the dialogue was confusing, or there was a lot of repetition. Bad writing advice is broad, mean, and is given not to help the writer, but to make the critic sound smart. In many cases, I like to attend writing workshops so that more than one or two people read the work. If five or say nine people read it, I can better gauge my work from their comments. For instance if more than one half say the dialogue is not strong, then, I will look carefully at the dialogue. There are also some people whom I trust and whose comments I respect. Further, I can feel in my gut when someone says something about my work and it resonates inside, then I have to pay attention to what was said.

YCB: What would you advise beginning writers on the craft?

CMB: 1) Keep a journal and write, write, write;

2) Read a lot, and read the type of pieces that are similar to what you want to write (articles or stories or poems);

3) Don't compare yourself with the others. It will do you no good to fret because some of your contemporaries are getting published or getting awards. You have your own struggle, your own stories to write.

4) Take classes or join workshops so you have a structure.

Tags: Philippine Literature, #CeciliaBrainard 


(I'm reposting some earlier blog entries because Google had changes making it difficult to access these blogs. - Cecilia)

This account will come in several blog entries. As I continue to gather information, I'll be posting it here. This account is true, but I will not be using real names. I am sharing this story because it is a unique one.

Around 7 years ago, I heard from a World War II American veteran. It was December when he first sent an email to my business, expressing interest in an antique necklace. It was a gift for a Filipina who had been his fiancee back in 1947-49. They had been in love and were supposed to get married, but something happened and they broke up. They both went on to marry other people, and have families. But somehow, via internet, John (not his true name) learned that Ligaya (not her true name either) was now living in the U.S. Her family had liked him as a young man, and her family members in the U.S. reconnected with him. In fact when John learned that Ligaya's relative was hospitalized, he went to see the person - and saw once again Ligaya.

Now in their 70s, they found they still cared for each other. But since they had their own families, they did not want to hurt any one and did nothing about their feelings, beyond a few friendly phone calls. I post here his recent emails to me:

My name is John _____and in December 2000 I bought a necklace
from you for a lady that I was engaged to in 1947-1949 in
Paranaque. The information you gave me was that you
found it in Vigan, Northern Philippines. The lady's name
was Ligaya ______. It was a
beautiful necklace and she loved it. I don't know if you
asked or I just volunteered our story but to quote your
response, you said "I love your love story". I do not
know how much of our story I told you but I often think
I would like to write the story but am not a skilled writer.
I just feel sad that when we are both gone, no one will
remember our story. I guess her sister will but she is
also getting old.

She (and I) are now 79 years of age. She had a birthday
September __ and mine was December __.

She is not in the best of health (on medicines and oxygen).
but well enough that we converse by phone several
times a month.
I located Ligaya and I
began communicating again in 1999 and wrote a "poem"
(I think I later mailed them to her
but am not sure). I know they sadden me when I
read them but do not know if they are good, corny
terrible, morbid or what. As for our story being
forgotten; I do not think I care if people remember
it; I just do not think (had to stop and dry my eyes!)
something as sad and beautiful as our (or anyone
else's) story should just vanish when we "pass on"
although I imagine there are thousands that have.

You are welcome to put us on your blog and I trust
you not to put anything that would cause Ligaya
any sadness if someone that knew her figured out
who it was on your blog. I do not think you would
remember it as I told it 7 years ago so let me know
if you need me to email kind of an outline or something
of the story. Every time I think or write about it
the tears come even after all these years. Naturally
some her relatives know all about
it but Ligaya worries about her grandchildren or
my children or Grandchildren knowing that we
communicate. Also we are both married and, even
though I do not think there is anything wrong with
us keeping in touch, since the feeling involved are
so deep, I guess there is a slight feeling of guilt
even though there is actually no wrong-doing.

I had better end this email before it becomes a

Here is one of the (cannot think of a descriptive word)
that I had. I sometimes think that if I was rich and no
longer married I would, as a kind of memorial, love
to have a beautiful log home with acres or a "small"
sturdy castle with about an acre of the yard as a
formal garden with marble "statues" modeled from
the few pictures I have had since the late 1940s
of Ligaya and I in the formal garden. Not much of
a description but hope you get the picture.

Sorry I ramble on and on but there is a lot bottled
up inside.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness


Tags: #lovestory #WorldWarII #WWII #WorldWarTwo #veteran

Cooking with Cecilia: Binagoongang Baboy - Pork with Bagoong

I'll be fixing Binagoongang Baboy for some friends.

What, you may ask, is that?

It sounds terrible, but it's really good. It brings back memories of down-home meals in the homes we grew up in. It's not healthy - it has pork and is saltier than heck because of the shrimp fry. It's not anything one should eat often, but once in a while, why not? Here are the ingredients and directions, although I have noted alterations below.


Binagoongang Baboy
1 kilo pork loin, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 cup vinegar (spicy preferred but not required)
1/2 cup bagoong, or for the Ilonggos, ginamus
6 cloves of garlic, crushed and then minced
6-10 peppercorns, crushed
2 bay leaves

Marinate the pork cutes in the othe ingredients overnight in the refrigerator. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large frying pan. Saute the bay leaves to bring out the fragrance. Add the marinated pork along with the marinade. Cook over a medium heat until the pork is nice and tender (30-45 minute). Check the frying pan every so often to make sure the sauce isn't drying out. If it is, lower th eheat and add 1/3 c. of water and stir.
Serve with rice, tomatoes, and sliced cucumbers.

In fact, I've altered the above recipe. I'm using pork hocks. I found some sliced around 1 1/2 inch thick, in my Filipino market (Seafood City, on Vermont). After washing them, I placed them in a huge pot. I got a nice lemon from my little prolific lemon tree and squeezed lemon juice on the meat. I was watching the Food Channel once and saw this Caribbean woman squeezing fresh lemon on the chicken she was fixing, and she said a blessing as she did that. She talked about the lemon removing smells and cleaning the chicken well. Ever since I saw that, I squeeze lemon on any meat I fix and say a little prayer that God bless this food that my family and friends will be eating, and I actually say a thanksgiving to God for the poor animal that gave up its life for us.

I put water into the pot - I have no idea how much, around 2/3rd pot-full? It's just to simmer the pork in, to tenderize it. I added 1/2 cup vinegar. Then I sliced onions and threw that in. I threw in 3 bay leaves and some black pepper. I also crushed 3-4 cloves of garlic and threw that in. I had some loose oregano and tossed a pinch in. I have not salted this because once the pork is tender, I'll mix in the bagoong in the last minute. Using pork hock and boiling it releases a kind of gel that marries with the bagoong into a nice sauce.

What gives this taste is the bagoong, which is wickedly salty and tasty. Americans say the stuff smells and perhaps it does, but the scent makes my mouth water, from all the years of associating it with food.

I saw another recipe that uses tomatoes, and I suppose it wouldn't hurt to add tomatoes. In fact, I wish I had some tomatoes to throw in.

That, dear Readers, is Cecilia's way of cooking Binagoongang Baboy!

Tags: cooking, recipes, Filipino, food

Read also:
Fried Chicken Caribbean Style

 Chicken soup for my bad cold

Cooking with Cecilia: Pasta with Crab Roe or Aligue

Cooking with Cecilia: Lengua Estofada

Philippine Cooking: Spam, Eggs, and Rice Breakfast

Philippine Cooking: Ube Halaya

Hot Chocolate Drinks: Chocolate-Eh, Chocolate-Mexicano, Chocolate Filipino

Manila Times Book Review: Cecilia Brainard's novel, The Newspaper Widow

Book Review:
The Newspaper Widow: A cut above other whodunits
by Faye Valencia, May 12, 2019, The Manila Times

FOR the most part, crime fiction, also called the “whodunit,” is considered escapist entertainment. After all, it follows a formula. Crime — most often murder — serves as the centerpiece of the story, whose main character is usually a detective or expert of some sort who is guaranteed to catch the perpetrator. Consider: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant sleuth Sherlock Holmes closes every case, Stieg Larsson’s hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander never fails to dish out justice, and so on.

In her paper “Murder as Social Criticism,” professor Catherine Nickerson theorizes: “The world of the detective novel is a place of untimely death, cruelty, suspicion and betrayal. If detective fiction is a literature of escape, why would anyone want to be transported to such anxious locales? Perhaps, detective fiction produces its pleasurable effects by allowing us to feel that no matter how overwhelming our own situations seem, something much worse is happening to someone else.”

The Newspaper Widow (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House; 238 pages; 2017) by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard may be classified as crime fiction, but it doesn’t really follow the formula — and that, in this case, is a very good thing. The opening scene of Brainard’s murder mystery, set in the small town of Ubec in Cebu province, indicates that this isn’t your usual detective novel.

“In the summer of 1909, Ubec was overrun by rats. Rodents larger than cats scampered throughout the seaside city, fearless of man even during the daytime when the scorching sun shone down on them exposing their hideousness — their wiry brown fur, long snouts, and naked tails as long as their bodies,” it reads.

Brainard’s disturbingly vivid introduction serves as a warning that people are not always what they seem, and there are far worse things that could happen to a town than a rat infestation. In fact, the rodents were the reason for the discovery of Father Nicolas Zafra’s body. The novel’s title character, the quietly tenacious Ines Maceda, ends up covering the story for The Ubec Daily. The paper is something that Ines inherits from her late husband, the cerebral Pablo.

Ines becomes more involved in the investigation of the priest’s murder when her son Andres is identified as the main suspect. In her attempt to clear her son’s name, Ines knocks over a few cans of worms and what-not. Thankfully, Brainard does not resort to cheap tricks when it comes to the novel’s dark revelations.

“My original intention had been to write a mystery, but I rely too much on character and character development more than the plot, and so I present a novel that is more about Ines Maceda than it is about the mystery of the dead priest,” she explains.

In this sense, The Newspaper Widow follows crime fiction writer Raymond Chandler’s perspective on the genre. In his critical essay “The Simple Art of Murder,” Chandler asserts: “Murder, which is a frustration of the individual and hence a frustration of the race, may have and, in fact, has a good deal of sociological implication.”

The other quality that makes The Newspaper Widow stand out is that even the supporting characters are fully fleshed out. And they’re not just the basic personas, either. For instance, the one who becomes the title character’s unexpected best friend is a French expatriate named Melisande Moreau, who also happens to be the town’s most sought-after dress designer. Brainard gives Melisande the sauciest lines. In one scene, the Frenchwoman tells Ines: “I should go. I have to finish the mayor’s wife’s gown. She’s in the Maria Elena procession of the carnival. You know she is big-boned and it took me a while to come up with the right design, but finally I discovered that the accent has to be on her big bosom. She has beautiful breasts, so we have some cleavage, and we have to tell all eyes to look there…and not elsewhere.” Ultimately, it is Melisande who convinces Ines that she should think of The Ubec Daily as her own instead of just something that was left behind by her husband.

Then there’s a character named Juan dela Cruz, whose common name belies his extraordinary reality. Brainard writes: “People learned that Juan dela Cruz was the only son of the owner of Sandoval Rum and that father and son were like oil and water. His father had wanted Juan to go to business school, but Juan preferred fine arts and music. His father had pressured him to marry the daughter of his business partner, an unacceptable situation for Juan. Juan’s mother finally sold some of her jewelry to finance her son’s studies at the Reial Academia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi in Barcelona.”

Juan goes on to fall in love with a Spaniard named Esteban Magri. The couple live in Ubec and are well-respected members of the community. The only real problem they encounter is when Juan also becomes a suspect in Father Zafra’s murder.

Aside from its complex characters, The Newspaper Widow also contains a lot of historical detail. These include even the most disturbing things, such as instruments of torture. Brainard writes: “The garrote, an all-time Spanish favorite, was used for capital punishment during the Spanish time, and for a few years, the American military government availed of the garrote for executions.

“The principle behind garroting was simple: Crush the larynx while applying pressure to the victim’s back. All you needed was a chair with a back rest and a neck clamp which could be tightened by crank, wheel, or hand, thereby strangling the victim.”

The Newspaper Widow may not have a flashy detective as its protagonist, but it is definitely crime fiction that’s a cut above the usual whodunits. Thanks to Brainard’s elegant prose and insights, it’s also a social commentary that attempts to shine the light on the dark corners of organized religion. It does not demonize the Church, but it recognizes the fact that there are a few demons posing as angels within it.

Brainard’s masterpiece also reminds us that in life, things are not always resolved as neatly as we would like them to be. There’s a clear demarcation between good and bad, but there are also a lot of gray areas that we have to learn to navigate.

The Newspaper Widow costs P400 and is available in leading bookstores.

“The Newspaper Widow” by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard can be purchased by visiting the UST Bookstore or by clicking this link:

Tags: #Pinoy #Philippineliterature Philippine, Literature, novel, Mystery, Cebu

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Cooking with Cecilia: Paella


I have several recipes of paella. I'm sharing one of them.  Paella is a great dish to fix if you have company. All you need is salad and wine and you have a complete meal. Enjoy!

From Cecilia Brainard's Favorite Recipes


1/2 lb sausage
Olive Oil
1 chicken, cut up
1 1/2 lbs pork, cubed
1 large red pepper, in strips
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tomatoes, medium diced

1/4 tsp saffron
1 1/2 cup long grain rice
1 1/2 lbs shrimps
1 10 oz frozen peas
12 mussels or clams
salt to taste
4-6 cups chicken broth


Heat olive oil. Saute Onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Add pork and chicken and cook, stirring constantly, around 15 minutes. Add sausage, salt, pepper. Add rice, stirring until coated with oil. Mix with other ingredients. Add saffron to chicken broth. Slowly pour broth into the pan until the contents are covered. Arrange mussels, clams, shrimps, pepper on top. Simmer to cook rice. Add water if needed. When rice is almost cooked, sprinkle peas on top.

Tags: #recipe #food #Pinoy #Philippines #cooking #ceciliabrainard
Read also:

Fried Chicken Caribbean Style

 Chicken soup for my bad cold

Cooking with Cecilia: Pasta with Crab Roe or Aligue

Cooking with Cecilia: Lengua Estofado

Philippine Cooking: Spam, Eggs, and Rice Breakfast

Philippine Cooking: Ube Halaya

Hot Chocolate Drinks: Chocolate-Eh, Chocolate-Mexicano, Chocolate Filipino

Article Concepcion Cuenco Manguerra Cebu Carnival Queen

I came across this article and magazine cover (Sunstar Weekend 9/1/1996) featuring my mother, Concepcion Cuenco Manguerra. She was Cebu's 1931 Carnival Queen.

Please note I have an updated site - click below:

These site have information about Philippine Carnival Queens, updated by Cecilia Brainard in 2022. 

Cebu Carnival Queens Philippines from 1914-1941

tags: #Cebu #Philippines #Pinay #ceciliabrainard #ConcepcionCuenco #mother

Read also

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Cooking with Cecilia: Lengua Estofado

Cooking Lengua Estofado
by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

1 cup water
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp each: apple cider vinegar or white cooking wine, soy sauce, water
2 tsp salt

3 tbsp oil
5 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 minced onion
2 potatoes, quartered
2 cups julienned carrots
1/3 cup stuffed olives
1/3 cup button mushrooms, cut in halves
3 plantains, cut in halves and fried

- Place tongue in large pot of water and bring to boil; simmer until tongue is tender; prick tongue to test. By then the tough cover of the tongue will peel off easily.
- Marinate the tongue for 40 minutes or longer. In a large pot, heat the oil and brown the tongue. Remove the tongue, but leave the oil. Saute the garlic until golden brown. Add the onion and tomatoes and saute until soft. Put the tongue back in the pot. Pour in the marinade and prick the tongue to allow the liquid to penetrate.
- Remove the tongue and slice. Return the slices to the pot, add the potatoes and carrots and simmer until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the stuffed olives and mushrooms and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot. Garnish with fried plantains. (Serves 10)
From Cecilia Brainard's favorite recipes, recipe courtesy of Rose Cuisia Franco.


Today I am cooking tongue. I should say "Lengua" to make it sound more dignified, but it's tongue nonetheless - a huge cow's tongue around a foot long, still with the grizzly covering that needs to be peeled off. It's in boiling salted water right now, and later on I'll peel that outer skin off. That's the ugly looking part, with little pimply bumps, the sight of which can make a person reject eating tongue for life. But since I grew up eating Lengua Estofada and Lengua Escarlata and Lengua Con Setas, and no longer have the cook Menggay around, I have to do the dirty work. The sight of the ugly uncooked tongue doesn't bother me because when I look at it, I can imagine the cooked tongue on a platter, with velvety red-brown sauce covering it, some mushrooms, plantains, and onions, maybe carrots and sweet potatoes surrounding it. Very elegant. Mouthwatering.

I've learned to appreciate the ritualistic feeling of preparing the comfort foods of my youth. It feels healing, like I'm connecting to some part of myself that sometimes I forget is still there! The part that eats tongue!

I had a difficult time finding today's tongue. My Filipino market, Seafood City on Vermont, didn't have tongue; neither did Von's; and fortunately Albertson's in Santa Monica had tongue. The wonder of it is that it was inexpensive; it was only ten dollars for one cow's tongue. Think of it, one big cow gave up it's life so I can cook that tongue. I wouldn't give up my tongue for just ten dollars! But maybe it's cheap because many Americans do not eat tongue. I think only Deli's serve tongue, in sandwiches, and we have some friends who have distant memories of tongue being served in their homes, but they no longer serve them in their homes.

My American family does not eat tongue. That is an understatement. My American family abhors tongue. They are terrified of tongue. When they see the huge cow's tongue coiled in my huge cooking pot and they see strange foamy scum floating on top, they turn away in total disgust. "It's Ok," I say, "I'm throwing away that water. It's just to remove the outer skin."

I'll admit that when the children were young I used to tease them by holding the uncooked tongue in front of my mouth, so maybe that little joke has permanently damaged their relationship with beef tongue forever. I'd tried to convince them that it tastes just like beef, but just by looking at the slices of tongue, they could tell that the texture was different. I assured them it's tender, and tasty, and melts in their mouth. They were unconvinced. Once I cooked tongue along with some beef stewing meat; that is the two kinds of meat cooked in the same liquid/marinade - and they swore they could detect the taste of tongue on the beef and refused to eat the beef stew. So really, I stopped cooking beef tongue for the family. And there's no point going through all that work just so I can have my Lengua. But this weekend, I'll be seeing some Filipino friends, and like me, they were raised to appreciate such fine food as Lengua - so I'm cooking tongue for them - for us.

I'll serve this with some full-bodied red wine, and rice, because we eat rice with most everything, and rice will sop up all that delicious sauce.

That's the plan.

Tags: #recipe #food #Pinoy #Philippines #cooking #ceciliabrainard

Read also:
Fried Chicken Caribbean Style

 Chicken soup for my bad cold

Cooking with Cecilia: Pasta with Crab Roe or Aligue

Cooking with Cecilia: Lengua Estofada

Philippine Cooking: Spam, Eggs, and Rice Breakfast

Philippine Cooking: Ube Halaya

Hot Chocolate Drinks: Chocolate-Eh, Chocolate-Mexicano, Chocolate Filipino

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Cecilia Brainard's Pen and Wash of Old House in Cebu Philippines

Here is a Pen and Wash of my “Old House in Cebu” which I did in pencil and pen and ink earlier. This is my interpretation of the Villalon Mansion in Cebu City, Philippines.

Note that I have my personal site at:  

Tags: #CeciliaBrainard #sketch #art #penandwash #penandink #cebu #house #hauntedhouse #heritagehouse #antiquehouse #mansion #Philippines

Friday, May 3, 2019

Tyberius the Cat - RIP

To continue the story of my son's and his family's visit over Easter (with their dog Ellie), when they returned home, they found one of their two cats ill, and unfortunately poor Tyberius had to be put to sleep. They were all distraught, especially the children. To make them feel better, I did a drawing of Tyberius. I had wanted to put him in Pet Heaven, a mythical place that I have envisioned, and to which all my dead pets go to. I imagined all our pets who have passed on greeting Tyberius and asking him for an update of their family here on earth. My imagination was richer than my drawing ability, and so they just have a drawing of Tyberius, which I am sharing here. May Tyberius rest in peace in Pet Heaven. BTW, Tyberius was all black, but I could not render him all black in the drawing otherwise we would just see his eyeballs.

Please visit my other posts with sketches and writings.  Also note that I have a new personal website at

tags: #ceciliabrainard #Philippines #Cebu #art #pencil #drawing #sketch #cat #pet #kitten #rescuecat

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Pencil Drawing of Ellie the Dog

My son and family and dog were here for Easter and I sketched their dog Ellie. It took Ellie 3 or 4 days to warm up to me. She is a one-family dog and was always suspicious of me, especially when I was with the kids. And she would get hysterical whenever we ran into each other. Then finally as I drove them to the airport, Ellie leaned over to the driver's seat and nozzled me. She drew back, but drew near again and licked my ear. Ah, pets are so amusing. Here is a pencil drawing of Ellie. 

Please visit my other posts with sketches and writings.  Also note that I have a new personal website at

tags: #ceciliabrainard #Philippines #Cebu #art #pencil #drawing #sketch #dog #pet