About Me

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard was born 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. Her mother, who belonged to a political family of Cebu, was a successful business woman and realtor.

Cecilia grew up in the port city of Cebu in Central Philippines, a place that retains its Spanish-Colonial influences, inspiring Cecilia to create her mythical setting called “Ubec” which echoes the real Santo NiƱo Church, triangular Spanish fort, and old buildings and streets of the real Cebu. Her three novels -- When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, and The Newspaper Widow are set (even partially) in Ubec. Ubec also 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 and 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. When she discovered that movie making is a highly collaborative medium, she turned to writing which suited her individualistic personality better.

It was her husband, a former Peace Corps Volunteer to Leyte (Lauren R. Brainard) who, upon noting that Cecilia wrote in her journal every night, gifted her with a then-innovative electric typewriter. This encouraged Cecilia to take 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 enrolled in writing classes at the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension, where she learned the craft and business of creative writing. While taking care of her family (husband and three sons) Cecilia pursued her writing and had more of her works 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 published by E.P. Dutton/Penguin of New York under the title When the Rainbow Goddess Wept in hard cover and soft cover editions (1994, 1995). In 1999, the University of Michigan Press published When the Rainbow Goddess Wept; it remains in print. A Turkish edition of this novel was published – Goffusagi Tanricasi Agladigunda -- by Bilge Kultur Sanat and translated by Fusun Talay in 2001.

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 poet and publisher of Plain View Press in Texas 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 in the Philippines 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 fiction 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.
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 lectured and performed in literary arts venues such as Shakespeare and Company in Paris, Culture Rapide in Paris, Beyond Baroque, PEN, Coming Together in Skokie Illinois, Second Literary Symposium in Jackson Tennessee, Filipino American International Book Festivals, Cebu Literary Festivals, and many Philippine and US universities.

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.

Cecilia 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. She is an active member of the Philippine and Philippine American literary communities.

For her work, Cecilia has received many awards, including a California Arts Council Fellowship, a Brody Arts Fund Fellowship, an Outstanding Individual Award from Cebu, an Amazing Alumuni Achiever’s Award from Maryknoll College, several travel grants from the USIS, a City of Los Angeles Cultural Grant, a Special Recognition Award from the Los Angeles Board of Education for her work dealing with Asian American youths, and many more.

She continues her literary work and also travels regularly to the Philippines and other parts of the world when she can.