Cecilia Manguera Brainard, Filipino-American author of nine books, was a special guest of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies, on February 9, 2016 as part of its International Writers and Scholars Series. The event—billed as “Some Words with the Wild Woman”—was held at the Tanghalang Teresita Quirino, G/F Benavides Bldg., in collaboration with the UST Department of Literature and the UST Publishing House.
Brainard’s informal talk touched on what drew her to writing; what keeps her writing; why she decided to set many of her stories—and her internationally-acclaimed novel When the Rainbow Wept—in fictional “Ubec;” how she combines history with legend, myth and magic in her stories; her years as a colegiala in St. Theresa’s College, Cebu; her blog; the messages she receives on Facebook, including video clips of scenes from her stories which students have presented as short plays for their classes.
She told the audience that, because she had been repeatedly warned about traffic in the Sampaloc area, she arrived in UST too early, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it gave her time to visit the UST Central Library—where, to her gratification, she was warmly welcomed even if she did not have an appointment, and allowed to visit the Rare Books Section. She also took a leisurely stroll in the campus by herself, and visited the UST Chapel.
The members of the audience, who were mostly members of the Literature faculty, and Literature majors, were familiar with her work, particularly her short stories, some of which are included in their textbooks. Even the Resident Fellows of the UST CCWLS, her hosts for the afternoon, came armed with their copies of some of Brainard’s many books, in order to have them autographed. Brainard’s Philippine publisher, Anvil Publishing (represented by Marketing head Gwenn Galvez), brought many of her titles. After her talk, there was a long line of both teachers and students waiting to have their copies of Brainard books signed.
Chuckberry Pascual, PhD, UST CCWLS Resident Fellow, was the program’s emcee. The invocation was led by Ms. Ma. Ailil V. Alvarez, Deputy Director of the UST Publishing House and also a UST CCWLS Resident Fellow.
UST CCWLS Director Prof. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, PhD delivered the opening remarks, during which she mentioned the increase in the number of Filipino writers—and particularly Filipino women writers—now receiving international recognition, compared to when she first began teaching Philippine Literature in English. The guest speaker was introduced by Prof. Joyce Arriola, Chair of UST’s Department of Literature, and a UST CCWLS Resident Fellow, who did a short but insightful postcolonial reading of Brainard’s position in Philippine letters.
The open forum was moderated by Assoc. Prof. John Jack G. Wigley, PhD, Director of the UST Publishing House, and a UST CCWLS Resident Fellow. Closing remarks were delivered by Prof. Augusto Antonio A. Aguila, PhD Executive Secretary of the Office of the UST Rector, also a UST CCWLS Resident Fellow. The event was coordinated by UST CCWLS Resident Fellow Dawn Marie Nicole Marfil with the help of Assoc. Prof. Wigley and Assoc. Prof. Ralph Semino Galán, UST CCWLS Assistant Director.
Brainard is the author of nine books (including the novel mentioned above, which was first published by New Day as Song of Yvonne): a second novel Magdalena, the short story collections Acapulco at Sunset and Other Stories, Vigan and Other Stories, and the early collection Woman with Horns and Other Stories. She has also published an essay collection Philippine Woman in America. Among the books she has edited are Growing Up Filipino I and II, Fiction by Filipinos in America, Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America, which have international editions, and Magnificat: Mama Mary’s Pilgrim Sites. She has also co-edited six books, including Journey of 100 Years: Reflections on the Centennial of Philippine Independence, Behind the Walls: Life of Convent Girls, Ala Carte: Food and Fiction, and Finding God: True Stories of Spiritual Encounters.
Among the awards Brainard has received are a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction, a Brody Arts Fund Award, and a Special Recognition Award for her work dealing with Asian American youths. Her novel Magdalena inspired a play Gabriela’s Monologue, which was produced in 2011 by the Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco.
She travels extensively, lecturing and performing in different universities and organizations all over the world, but her most frequent destination is her home country, which she visits twice a year. She has submitted Magdalena to the UST Publishing House for a possible Philippine edition, as well as a new novel; and is now awaiting word about whether they have been accepted from UST Publishing House Director Assoc. Prof. Wigley. Brainard teaches Creative Writing at the Writers Program at UCLA-Extension.