About Me

(About me - in progress)

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard was born in 1947 after World War II in Cebu, Philippines, the fourth surviving child of Mariano Flores Manguerra and Concepcion Cuenco Manguerra. Her father, a civil engineer, came from Sta. Rosa, Laguna, in Luzon. Her mother, a successful business woman and realtor, belonged to a political family of Cebu.

Cecilia grew up in the port city of Cebu, a sock-shaped island in Central Philippines, a place that retains its Spanish-Colonial influences, and which inspired Cecilia to create her mythical setting called “Ubec” (Cebu backwards).  Her setting echoes the real Santo Nino Church, triangular Spanish fort, and old buildings and streets of the real Cebu. Many of her fictional characters have been inspired by people from Cebu. Her three novels -- When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, and The Newspaper Widow are set (even if partially) in Ubec. Likewise, Ubec appears in her three short story collections -- Woman in Horns and Other Stories, Acapulco at Sunset and Other Stories, and Vigan and Other Stories.

She attended St. Theresa’s College in Cebu and in Manila where she finished high school. She earned her BA in Communications Arts from Maryknoll College. She migrated to the United States to do graduate work in Film Making at UCLA. She did not, however, pursue her film studies ended because she discovered that movie making is an expensive medium, highly collaborative, and did not suit her more individualistic personality. She also married a former Peace Corps Volunteer to Leyte (Lauren R. Brainard), and for several years Cecilia focused her energies on taking care of her family (husband and three sons).

When her husband noticed that Cecilia wrote in her journal almost every night, he gifted her with an IBM electric typewriter (then a new and expensive item) and Cecilia took her writing more seriously. She arranged to write a bi-monthly column with Philippine American News, personal essays, which she later compiled in a book called Philippine Woman in America. She also took writing classes at the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension, where she learned the craft and business of creative writing. She started to write short stories and got them published.

A chance meeting with Filipino American writer Bienvenido N. Santos opened another door for her, when he introduced her to his Philippine publisher, Mrs. Gloria Rodriguez, who went on to publish several books by Cecilia Brainard -- collection of short stories (Woman with Horns and Other Stories), first novel (Song of Yvonne), collection of essays (Philippine Woman in America), and her first edited collection of short stories (Fiction by Filipinos in America).

Her novel, Song of Yvonne, which is a coming of age story of a young girl named Yvonne during World War II, was picked up by E.P. Dutton/Penguin of New York under the title When the Rainbow Goddess Wept and published it in hard cover and soft cover editions (1994, 1995). In 1999, the University of Michigan Press published When the Rainbow Goddess Wept; and it remains in publication to date. A Turkish edition of this novel was published – Goffusagi Tanricasi Agladigunda -- by Bilge Kultur Sanat and translated by Fusun Talay in 2001. This first novel has been a popular topic for academic papers, as is her second novel.

Her second novel, Magdalena, which is written in the fragmented style, is about three Filipino women whose lives have been affected by three wars in the Philippines – Philippine-American War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. This second novel lacked the wider commercial possibilities of her World War II novel and was ignored by the major New York publishers. However, Susan Bright, a Texas poet and publisher of Plain View Press, fell in love with it and published it in 2002. A favorite among feminists, poets, and academics, Magdalena was reprinted by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House for a Philippine audience in 2016.

In 2017, her third novel, The Newspaper Widow, was published by Jack Wigley of the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. This literary mystery was inspired by Cecilia’s great-grandmother who was reportedly the first woman publisher of the Philippines. An early draft of the novel was shortlisted in the Cirilo Bautista Prize for the Novel in the Philippines.

Responding to the needs of her Filipino and Filipino American communities, Cecilia collected and edited story and nonfiction collections, including Fiction by Filipinos in America, Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America, Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults, and Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults.

Many of the books that Cecilia wrote or edited have/are used in classrooms.

Cecilia has also taught at the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension, UCLA, USC, and the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA).

She has performed in literary arts venues such as Shakespeare and Company in Paris, Culture Rapide in Paris, Beyond Baroque, PEN events both in the US and the Philippines, as well as and in Philippine and US universities and literary events

She was an Executive Board Member of the writers’ group PEN and she represented PEN USA West in International meetings in Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela. She served as an officer in such groups as the Midnight Special Cultural Center, PAAWWW (Pacific Asian American Women Writers West), and the Arts & Letters at the Cal State University, LA.

She co-founded PAWWA (Philippine American Women Writers and Artists) a support group that received funding by the California Arts Council. She founded and runs PALH (Philippine American Literary House) a small publishing house of fine Philippine American books.

For her work, Cecilia has received many awards, including a California Arts Council Fellowship, a Broday Arts Fund Fellowship, an Outstanding Individual Award from her birth city of Cebu, an Amazing Alumuni Achiever’s Award from Maryknoll College, ... (to be continued)