Friday, March 27, 2020

Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Ann Quirino's Beef Nilaga Short Ribs & Vegetables Stew

My Guest Blogger is Elizabeth Ann Quirino who shares with us one of her recipes, a favorite Filipino comfort food, Nilagang Baka - Beef Nilaga Short Ribs and Vegetables Stew.

Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino, based in New Jersey, is a journalist, and a multi-award-winner of the Plaridel Writing Awards and has been a recipient of the Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Awards. She is the author of three cookbooks Instant Filipino Recipes: My Mother’s Traditional Philippine Food in a Multicooker Pot; My Mother’s Philippine Recipes and How To Cook Philippine Desserts, Cakes and Snacks. She has co-edited the history book Statesman and Survivor: Elpidio Quirino, 6th President of the Philippines; and illustrated/created the food coloring book Color and Cook. All her books are sold on Amazon. She is a correspondent for Positively Filipino online magazine; and blogs about Filipino home cooking on her site

Betty Ann, as she is fondly called, was born in the Philippines and raised in Tarlac province where her way of life was molded early on by her parents’ farming and agricultural business. From the time she was a little girl, Betty Ann learned how to cook traditional Philippine dishes from her mother and has transformed these culinary skills to modern day Filipino cooking in her American kitchen. Betty Ann is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP-New York); the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance; the Association of Culinary Historians of the Philippines. She is also on the board of advisers of the President Elpidio Quirino Foundation.


Nilagang Baka - Beef Nilaga Short Ribs and Vegetables Stew:
Instant Pot + Stove-top

By Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Guest Blogger: Diona Filipino Poetry by Ralph Semino Galán

Ralpah Semino Galán

I am happy to feature Ralph Semino Galán as my Guest Blogger. He shares with us his work on a unique form of Filipino poetry called "diona" which has been labeled Pinoy Haiku. The poems are in Tagalog and are about coronavirus. This is part of his larger writing project on the subject matter. ~ Cecilia Brainard

Ralph Semino Galán, poet, literary and cultural critic, translator and editor, is the Assistant Director of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies. He is an Associate Professor of Literature, the Humanities and Creative Writing in the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters and the UST Graduate School. He has a B.A. in English (Major in Literature), magna cum laude, from the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, and an M.A. in English Studies (Major in Creative Writing) from UP Diliman. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Literature in the UST Graduate School. His poems in English and Filipino have won prizes in the national poetry contests. His works, both creative and critical, have been published in numerous national and international literary anthologies and critical journals.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Guest Blogger: Poetry by Elmer Omar Pizo

In this difficult time of Coronavirus, I am happy to feature poetry by Elmer Omar Pizo, a Filipino who now resides in Hawaii. May his poetry contribute to the healing that we need during this uncertain time. Thank you Elmer for being my guest blogger. ~ Cecilia Brainard



Rice birds

on the ground
in front of your house---
every now and then,
matched by their heads
up and down---
looking for scraps
from Grazia
and her month-old puppies' breakfast
of fried rice
and fish pinangat.

the overcast sky's clearing up.
From time to time,
as they continue
in their search for bits
of food---
but sweet, pleasing chirps
escape from their beaks.

In my silence,
they fill my half-deaf ears
with joy so difficult
for me
to explain,
to resist.



in every practical sense,

believe me,
cannot live
by scraps alone.

They need to pick up

tiny stones
to crush and grind
the seeds
they have packed inside
their gizzards
before they can get
the nourishment
by their tiny bodies.”

In Memory of Alejandra Corpus Bascos,
Nee Piso of Villasis, Pangasinan, the Philippines
and Anaheim, California, USA
February 27, 1934 - June 8, 2021

elmer omar bascos pizo
old ewa, ewa beach, hawai’i

BIO of Elmer Omar Pizo

He came from a family of farmers, teachers, soldiers, and religious leaders in the Ilocos, La Union and Pangasinan, the Philippines. He entered the Anglican St. Andrew's Theological Seminary after high school. On his second year in the seminary, he left of Benguet State University where he earned a B.S. Agriculture Science degree in 1981.

He raised eggplants, goats, chickens, and ducks in Pangasinan for a time before he taught Poultry Production at a National High School in a neighboring town. Not long after, he went to Saudi Arabia to work as a Greenhouse Agriculturist. Problems cropped up when their monthly salaries and working conditions were not met. He led the fight for what was due him and his co-workers. He was hauled to the Kalabooz, whipped every Friday for more than three months, then sent back home as an undesirable worker.

A resident of Ewa Beach for the last 22 years, he now works as a handyman after working as an Outreach Worker for the Hawaii Department of Health's Tuberculosis Program and as an Inspector for its Vector Control Program for almost 16 years.

He was a Poetry Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center in February 2006. Prior to this, he was also a Poetry Fellow at the 2000 Silliman National Writers Workshop in the Philippines.

His poems have been published (print and online) in the US and in the Philippines, including Bamboo Ridge Press, Hawaii Review, Maganda Magazine, Tayo Literary Magazine, Crate Literary Magazine, Mutual Publishing, PAWA, Inc., Likhaan Online University of the Philippines-Diliman Creative Writing Center, Our Own Voice Online Literary Journal, and Philippine Free Press.

His debut collection of poems, Leaving Our Shadows Behind Us, was released by the Bamboo Ridge Press, Hawai’i’s most respected literary journal, in April of 2019.

This is also published in Cecilia's blog in her official website:

pictures courtesy of Elmer Omar Pizo and wikimedia

Tags: Philippines, Filipino, poetry, poet, poems, Hawaii, Filipino American

The Quiet Voice

Now and then I will hear in my heart a tiny voice that is not my own. The voice, the thoughts it creates, come and go quickly, in my mind.

The quiet voice came the other night. We sent you many warnings: white bison and other albino animals, but you continued poisoning the bees and destroying the mighty Amazon. You hunted elephants, rhinos, pangolins, and other rare and beautiful creatures. Ripped up the earth. Sullied the waters. Polluted the air. We sent you hurricanes, supertyphoons, earthquakes. We warned you with SARs MERS, Ebola, and now Coronavirus -- all these to let you know that you are going down the path of total destruction.

#Covid19 #Coronavirus #Sars #Mers #ebola

Friday, March 20, 2020

Mary Is With Us: Our Lady of Lourdes, France

During this difficult time of Coronavirus, I will be sharing excerpts from the book, Magnificat: Mama Mary’s Pilgrim Sites, a collection of 24 testimonies by people whose lives were changed by Mama Mary. I hope that these articles remind us that Mary is with us during this difficult time. May you find solace in these personal testimonials. ~ Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, editor of Magnificat.


Our Lady of Lourdes

FRANCE – The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

In 1858 the Virgin Mary appeared to sickly 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous at a wooded grotto near the Gave River. In 1872 the neo-Golthic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was built above the grotto, which itself is a lovely shrine. Since then, many more places of worship were built, including the Rosary Basilica and the underground Basilica of St. Pius X. Not to be missed: the sanctuary's nightly candlelight procession led by a statute of the Virgin Mary carried by white-robed priests. Holy spring water said to have healing effects flow from rows of spigots near the shrine and pilgrims come to bathe in its waters.



Brian Ascalon Roley

The Little Boy

WHEN IT became clear that my little boy could not walk unassisted, my mother began to suggest that we bring him to Lourdes for a cure.

“I don’t know,” my wife said, when I related to her the idea. “Europe’s hilly and the streets and buildings are old. It isn’t so easy to travel with a disabled child.”

“My mother and father would help. I’d carry him.”

“And you believe in that stuff?”

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Mary Is With Us: The Maryam Monastery of Lake Tana, Tigray, Ethiopia

During this difficult time of Coronavirus, I will be sharing excerpts from the book, Magnificat: Mama Mary’s Pilgrim Sites, a collection of 24 testimonies by people whose lives were changed by Mama Mary. I hope that these articles remind us that Mary is with us during this difficult time. May you find solace in these personal testimonials. ~ Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, editor of Magnificat.

ETHIOPIA – The Maryam Monastery of Lake Tana, Tigray

The following article presents an extant and almost unheard of story of Joseph, Mary, and the Child Jesus, except in the African Christian country of Ethiopia. The Holy Family returned to Nazareth but it took them awhile to travel back. They stayed in the premises of Lake Tana, Tigray province of Ethiopia, where a body of apocryphal gospel stories document the miracles associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary raising Jesus from infancy to early childhood. Ancient trade routes show Tigray, Ethiopia as the natural crossing point for traders on their way to the land of Israel by way of the narrow straits of Aden and then following the south-north trade routes to Jordan and thence to Galilee. The effect of participating on this one-of-a-lifetime pilgrimage is a real revelation!


Penélope V. Flores


THE BIBLE doesn’t tell me anything. Why do we have such a lacunae of materials concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus? Why do we get only a Bible picture of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on the Flight to Egypt? And after that, the next Bible incidence we hear is an almost adult 13-year-old Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple discussing theology among the learned priests. What happened during the infancy years up to his being a teen? The big black hole seems to have swallowed Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus in his infancy and childhood days.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Mary Is With Us: Our Lady of St. Maryam Dearit, Keren, Eritrea

During this difficult time of Coronavirus, I will be sharing excerpts from the book, Magnificat: Mama Mary’s Pilgrim Sites, a collection of 24 testimonies by people whose lives were changed by Mama Mary.  I hope that these articles remind us that Mary is with us during this difficult time. May you find solace in these personal testimonials.  ~ Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, editor of Magnificat.


St. Maryam Dearit

ERITREA – Shrine of St. Maryam Dearit, Keren

Eritrea’s Christian population is composed mainly of Orthodox and Catholics. Italian influence is evident in the churches of the latter, especially at the Asmara Cathedral where a replica of a miraculous painting of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii continues to attract visitors.

Mother Mary is deeply revered here and it is common practice to add “Mariam” to Eritrean surnames. An example is Gebremariam, which means “servant of the Virgin Mary.”

Christians and Muslims often make pilgrimages to the city of Keren, where a miraculous bronze statue of our Lady is enshrined inside the trunk of a huge Baobab tree.


Aimee Gaboya Ortega-Lucero

TRAVEL became an opportunity when I worked for the United Nations and I did just that -- reaching no less than the “ends of the earth.” This prerequisite, among others, motivated me to join peacekeeping missions when my desk job at its New York Headquarters, as well as my personal life, became stale and confining.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Mama Mary Is With Us: Our Lady of Medjugorje

During this difficult time of Coronavirus, I will be sharing excerpts from the book, Magnificat: Mama Mary's Pilgrim Sites, a collection of 24 testimonies by people whose lives were changed by Mama Mary.  I hope that these articles remind us that Mary is with us during this difficult time. May you find solace in these personal testimonials.  ~ Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, editor of Magnificat.

Our Lady of Medjugorje


Medjugorje is a town located in western Bosnia and Herzegovina, close to the border of Croatia. "Our Lady of Medjugorje" is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary who pilgrims believe has been appearing to Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic, Ivan Dragicevic, Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo, Ivanka Ivankovic-Elez, Jakov Colo, and Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti since June 24, 1981. In March 2010, the Holy See announced that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was forming an investigative commission, composed of bishops, theologians, and other experts, under the leadership of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's former Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome. Medjugorje has become one of the most popular Marian pilgrimage sites in the world and has turned into Europe's third most important religious place, where more than 1 million people visit each year.


Linda Yamamoto

I HAVE been to several Marian pilgrimages such as Fatima in Portugal, Lourdes in France, and Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina. All of them were life-changing experiences and were very significant in my spiritual journey to a closer relationship with Jesus and Mary.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Aloy Polintan Reviews Magnificat: Mama Mary's Pilgrim Sites (edited by Cecilia Brainard)

Book Review by Aloy Polintan

Book: Magnificat: Mama Mary's Pilgrim Sites

Collected and Edited by Cecila Manguerra Brainard

Anvil, 2012, softcover, 168 pages, ISBN 9789712727115
Available in Amazon Kindle

This book collects 24 Marian devotees’ accounts of their experiences in Marian pilgrim sites. The sites are found in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, India, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United States, and there are eight Pilgrim sites in the Philippines. The book includes short write-ups of other international pilgrim sites and some Catholic Prayers. The book has an Imprimatur issued by Archbishop Tagle of Manila.

Flash Book Review No. 95 by Aloy Polintan (twitter: @PolintanAloy)
"And whatever form Mother Mary chooses to make herself known to me, be it as visible as an apparition or a subtle whisper, I knew I would receive her presence with wonder and gratitude."

This collection of personal essays on encounters with Mama Mary in Marian pilgrim sites around the world, culled and curated by critically acclaimed writer and editor Cecilia Brainard, brings us into a journey of bewilderment and adoration, having us amazed at how people of different ages, professions and cultures responded to the invitation to ask for Mary's intercession in their lives' aspirations and circumstances, as well as drawing us back and forth to recognizing how miracles attributed to Her can change our perspectives, and thus deepen our faith.

We are brought to various sites with one driving force: to make Mary known to us. And this book is special because Filipino writers based in the Philippines and those assigned to jobs abroad or those who chose to live permanently overseas come together for a purpose: to find a home, more so in these most unhomely of times.

"I have come to appreciate the resilience of immigrants who have come before me, undaunted by the challenges of a homeland, armed with little more than faith, yet secure in the knowledge that God would become manifest wherever their journeys end."

Each essay is laid out with nothing but the assurance that the Holy Spirit is at work in the writer's life and his or her writings. We get a glimpse of the contributors' private lives, particularly the periods in their earthly journeys when journeying of the spirit was much needed and have always been at hand. After the trial, there was triumph. After sharpenings, there was transformation. After sicknesses and deaths, there was hope energizing those left and bereft. And all of these testaments were rendered with ardor, research, gracefulness and conviction.

"The psychological change in me is not only spiritual, but also richly emotional, creative and transformative."

These days when hope for healing is bordering on paranoia and restlessness, may this book, published by Anvil in 2012, serve not just a pinch, but a grip to a path "worthy of belief".

Bio: Aloy Polintan is the Senior High School Department Coordinator at the Divina Pastora College in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, Philippines

More informaton about Magnificat: Mama Mary's Pilgrim Sites:

Contributors are: Lucy Adao McGinley, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Angelita Caluag Cruz, Maria Ciocon, Celeste, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Millicent Dypiangco, Ma. Milagros T. Dumdum, Penelope V. Flores, Almira Astudillo Gilles, Ma. Teresita Herrera-Tan, Fe Aida Lacsamana-Reyes, Jaime C. Laya, Guia Lim, Linda Nietes-Little, Ma. Teresa Z. Lopez, Aimee Gaboya Ortega Lucero, Lynley Salome R. Ocampo, Ma. Cristina Padilla-Sendin, Marsha C. Paras, Rev. Dr. Sebastian Periannan, Brian Ascalon Roley, Julia H. Wolski, and Linda Yamamoto.

Praise for Magnificat
“This is another outstanding book by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard. Profoundly Marian and beautifully written by the contributors as these are their personal experiences! To our fellow devotees and would-be devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary, you will surely fall in love with Magnificat: Mama Mary’s Pilgrim Sites and love Our Blessed Mother even more.” (Bishop Leopoldo C. Jaucian, SVD, DD, Bishop of Bangued, Philippines)

“The devotion to Mama Mary is strong in the hearts of every Filipino.” (Father James B. Reuter, SJ)

“The Magnificat has always been a testament to God’s paradoxical dealings with his people. This book assembles a tableau of witnesses to how a fleeting visit with Mary can turn into a life-changing introduction to her Son. Through their stories the author offers their readers the distinct possibility of setting the stage for a personal, if vicarious, epiphany.” (Father Dionisio M. Miranda, SVD, President, University of San Carlos in Cebu)

“Running as a leitmotif in all the essays in this book is the writers’ palpable love for Mama Mary. Each writer has undergone a change in his or her life or outlook following a visit to a Marian site. Some may have experienced a “miracle,” or felt consoled and renewed; others a deepening of spirituality, or an epiphany, an insight into the divine. Although we know that Jesus is the only Way to the Father, it is our belief in the power of Mary’s intercession to her Son, borne out of the Bible’s Cana story, that makes us all turn to Her, whom Her divine Son will never refuse. Kudos to Cecilia Manguerra Brainard for putting together an engaging collection of stories that magnify the humble handmaid of the Lord.” (Erlinda E. Panlilio, Writer and Editor)

Tags: book review, Marian, Mama Mary, Catholic, religion, Christianity, anthology

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Takuya Matsuda Interviews Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Interview of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard by Takuya Matsuda

Focusing on her novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept

Takuya Matsuda is a PhD Candidate, Teaching Fellow

at the English Department of the University of North Texas

This Interview was done in March 2020 by email

TM (Takuya Matsuda): My name is Tak Matsuda, and I’m a PhD candidate in English at the University of North Texas. I’m from Japan and working on my dissertation that discusses ethnic American writers’ literary writings on the Second World War in the Pacific. I read your novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, and was impressed with your portrait of the war and the history of the Philippines in the novel.

I’m writing this because I felt curious that you seemed to use the term of “Filipinos in America,” instead of “Filipino/a Americans,” in several occasions. In one interview, you said, “Many are still bickering about who the true Filipino American is. At some point, some said only those born in the US were the real Filipino Americans. Of course the immigrants ignore this definition.” I wonder if, when you said this, you had in mind the history of US colonization of the Philippines and the post-WWII neocolonial presence of the US in the Philippines. I think that many other Asian immigrants and their descents in the US, say Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, accept the terms of "Chinese/Japanese/Korean Americans,” as categories determined by nationality. But this is so perhaps because their experience is very different from Filipinos’/as’ experience both at home and in the US.

I would be tremendously grateful if you could elaborate on your remark in the above interview. Again, thank you for writing the great WWII novel.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Artist Tina Borja on Brainard's Book of Sketches

I am sharing a letter from my artist friend, Tina Borja Heiter about my recent book, Magical Years: Memories & Sketches, a book that collects sketches inspired by my childhood in Cebu.

Tina was my classmate at Maryknoll College and she is is now a resident of Switzerland where she exhibits her art at the Galerie am Schanzenbgraben . Tina holds a degree in Foreign Service majoring in Political Science and History, thus her keen interest in politics. Tina has a website at

I am grateful to Tina, an accomplished artist, for her kind comments about my work. ~ Cecilia Manguerra Brainard


Dear Cecilia,

I love your new book – Magical Years: Memories & Sketches.

I am impressed with your sketches and the way you wove them around the little childhood stories or snippets of your life as a child in her growing up years. As a provinciana, I can relate very much to your experiences as shown in your sketches.

My grandparents had a gazebo, not by the beach but in their garden (I inherited the house and garden) where they held court and served merienda in the afternoon when my parents and other family members who worked for my grandparents gave their reports of the day. They brought their children and so we cousins played in the big garden surrounded with manzanita trees and flowering gumamela (hibiscus) bushes. When the manzanita trees were season, we would climb them against our parents’ wishes, to pick the sweet little cherries (the fruit as we called them). There were geese roaming around tended by a young servant trying to keep them away from us.

My Mom always kept a pig in the back yard too, to be fattened up for a special occasion. We had cats and pet dogs although I did not like them really, but the boys did. We used to play patentero in the streets with the neighboring kids when the sun went down. I played jackstone with my girlfriends, and I was allowed to play with one doll at a time – not a collection of Barbie dolls or toy gadgets the kids have now.

The girl playing the piano could be me. I remember during my first recital, my mother missed my performance because she could not get away from the office early enough. You know what, the piano teacher, a nun, made me play again for my mother, so unfortunately, the audience had to listen to my music twice. If not for your book, many other recollections of my own “magical years” would have been lost because of the hectic lives we have today. I appreciate and thank you for that.

If I were a grandmother, I would give this book to every grandchild of mine so they would know about our “Magical Years” as soon as they learn to read. This is a more sophisticated and modern book compared to what we used to read as our primer: Pepe and Pilar. Let the young people learn that the lives of their grandparents or perhaps their parents as children were much simpler then, but we were happy and contented.

Your sketches are excellent! I almost can’t believe how quickly you have arrived as an artist when you were only toying with the idea the last time I was here -- although Baby C. and I realized how good you were getting to be then.

For me, it was worth the cost of the book not only as a friend and a fan of your novels, but because your Magical Years is really special.

I am always so proud of you,

Tina (Borja Heiter)


MAGICAL YEARS: MEMORIES & SKETCHES by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
(PALH 2020), 37 pages, book size is 8 x 8, hardbound
ISBN 9780971945890
Special Limited Edition -Each book is signed and numbered by the artist/author
43 Sketches in reed and pen and ink by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, (hb) $45.00
Contact for a copy.

Amazon also has copies:

More links re Magical Years: 

tags: sketches, reed drawing, Philippines, Cebu, art