Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults Ed Cecilia Brainard

Edited by Cecilia Brainard (PALH 2003, 283 pages)
ISBN 0971945807 (sc) $21.95

Book Review by Booklist, April 15, 2003, v 99 p 1462 (1)

In this fine short-story collection, 29 Filipino American writers explore the universal challenges of adolescence from the unique perspectives of teens in the Philippines or in the U.S. Organized into five sections--Family, Angst, Friendship, Love, and Home--all the stories are about growing up and what the introduction calls "growing into Filipino-ness, growing with Filipinos, and growing in or growing away from the Philippines." The stories are introduced by the authors, who illustrate the teenage experience as they remember it or as they wish to explain it to the reader--whether the focus is the death of a grandparent, budding sexuality, or going to the mall. The cultural flavor aspect never overwhelms the stories, and readers will be drawn to the particulars as well as the universal concerns of family, friends, love, and leaving home. While the stories are fairly easy to read, teens might be intimidated by the dense book design and small type. Take the time to help them overcome this. The stories are delightful! ~ Review by Frances Bradburn

Book Review by School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up-These 29 short stories offer a highly textured portrait of Filipino youth and an excellent sampling of creative writing. Thematically arranged, most of the pieces have been written since the turn of the 21st century. Each story is introduced by a thumbnail sketch of the author and a paragraph or two about some element of Filipino culture or history that is relevant to the story. Authors include those born and continuing to live in the Philippines, emigres, and American-born Filipinos. Tough but relevant topics addressed include a gay youth's affection for his supportive mother, the role of religious didacticism in the formation of a childhood perception, consumer culture as it is experienced by modern teens in Manila, and coping with bullies of all ages and stations in life. While the introduction seems more appropriate to graduate school than high school students, and the layout and book design are not attractive, there is much here to merit consideration. There are more Filipinos living in the U.S. than most people realize, but finding literature reflective of their experiences is difficult. The high caliber and broad but wholly accessible range of this collection, however, makes this title a solid purchase for multiple reasons. ~ Review by Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA

Book Review by MELUS (Multi-Ethnics Literature) Spring 2004

Growing up is not easy. Adolescence is fraught with misunderstandings, loneliness, feelings of exile, and bad haircuts. In an anthology edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, authors explore numerous facets of this time of life. This alone does not make the collection unique; what does, however, is that all the protagonists in these stories are Filipino or Filipino American. What comes through is that being an adolescent is awful, no matter where or who you are, because adolescence is about awakenings: learning things that one did not want to know and rejecting things one thought one did know.

The anthology is divided into five sections, each with a theme: family, angst, friendship, love, home. While this imposes a kind of order and structure on the stories, it seems unnecessary. What makes the collection compelling is what Rocio Davis calls in the introduction the "multifariousness of the Filipino experience" (ix), and it is this variety which cannot be contained within the five themes. As one reads the stories, one forgets (as one should) that these stories are examples of the theme. Instead the voice of each protagonist and narrator comes through individually, speaking a new idea each time. For example, two stories from the section titled "Family" begin with first sentences describing grandmothers. Paula Angeles starts her story "Lola Sim's Handkerchief" with this: "When my Lola Sim, my mother's mother, died after my sixteenth birthday, no one wanted to open her armoire"(3); while Veronica Montes begins her story "Lolo's Bride," with this: "After my grandmother died, Lolo Ting spent three months blinking" (13). These stories could have repeated each other like bad echoes, but instead they describe two completely different kinds of grief. Angeles' story describes a girl's regret about the relationship with her grandmother: "my teenage years with my grandmother echoed with the volleys of words in our continuous argument game" (4). In contrast, Montes' story is almost humorous in describing a girl watching her mother's on-going self-delusion about her grandfather's new "maid"--in actuality, a much younger wife. So while these stories may be categorized together because of the common feature of the Lola, or grandmother, they are very different from each other. That difference enables the anthology to escape a dull homogeneity.

The anthology's "multifariousness" is heard not only in the voices of the characters but also in the subject of the stories. M. Evelina Galang's "Her Wild American Self" is about a Filipino-American girl in love with her own cousin; Joel Barraquiel Tan writes about a gay man's friendship with his mother, who upon learning her son was gay, responds: "Okay! Good...." (125); Oscar Penaranda in "Day of the Butterfly" writes about migrant workers in the orchards of California. Penaranda's narrator offers an apt description of the experience of reading the anthology itself. As the storyteller, but not the witness to the events of the story, the narrator admits to and describes the challenges of his job. "I had to piece things together, use liberties to fill in gaps, iron out seeming contradictions, and restrain the implausible, to make palatable, to make sense out of the whole fiasco that was the roadside showdown on freeway Interstate 80, about 40 miles northeast of San Francisco where we were all from. And even then it was still open for several interpretations" (89). Here too, the reader of these stories must iron out contradictions. How is it, for instance, that Filipinos can have so many commonalities, and yet be so distinct from each other? Is it plausible that an old man can marry a young woman and pass her off as his maid to his family? Then, how can immigrating for a better life in America turn out to be such a disaster? The challenge of reading and writing Filipino literature is what makes this anthology exciting.

Growing up Filipino is a valuable addition to Asian American literature. One feature of the anthology's title, however, may be misleading. The subtitle "stories for young adults" may direct potential readers away from the anthology, readers who assume (erroneously, perhaps) that the stories are simplistic or are themselves adolescent. They are not. The writing, the characters, and the stories are sophisticated and are appropriate for adult readers as well as young adult readers. ~ Review by Pearl Ratunil, University of Illinois at Chicago

Article by Linda Kintanar-Alburo, "DIYANDI" Freeman Magazine, July 2003
"A Book Launching in UCLA"
Before returning to Cebu, I enjoyed a three-week break during which I gained eight pounds from a series of Filipino parties. Aside from those, there were more educational activities I attended. One of these was a book-launching at a bookstore that carried Asian and Asian-American books.

Baby Manguerra-Brainard had just finished editing a pioneering collection called Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults and it was for its launching last May that

I went to UCLA. The book has twenty-nine short stories, some partly autobiographical, taking up from 3 to 13 pages each. Although all of the twenty-nine writers focused on a

significant adolescent experience in a bildungsroman form of narrative, they are of three sorts: the Filipinos in the Philippines (including well-known names like Jimmy Abad, Krip Yuson, Jing Hidalgo, Tony Tan, and Gilda Fernando), Philippine-born emigres (again including the well-known like Linda Casper, Bert Florentino, Marianne Villanueva, Oscar Penaranda, and Mar Puatu), and Fil-Ams (familiar like Vince Gotera, Evelina Santos, Connie Maraan who's at DLSU; and new ones like Veronica Santos, Edgar Poma, and Brian Roley).

Among the contributors are three Cebuanos: Baby Brainard herself, co-WILA Ruby Enario-Carlino and USC alumnus Alex Dean Bru. Baby and Alex were at the launching, but Ruby couldn't make the trip from Virginia.

Despite its title, the book is also for adults. Its five sections on Family, Angst, Friendship, Love and Home carry us through the different ways that a young Filipino (or Filipino-American) negotiates life. Understandably, many of the stories by the emigres look backward nostalgically, like Paula Angeles' "Lola Sim's Handkerchief" which tells us of a young girl's recollection of going to the market with her lola back home and cooking sinigang for the family (I asked her if they cooked sinigang with carrots like she describes in the story and she said yes, or perhaps she forgot?).

Personally, I find the book an enjoyable read not only for the stories with their gamut of emotions accompanying "first" experiences (love and kissing, physical violence, deceit, encounter with the NPA, gay club, seeing agta and santilmo, camp life, tuli, losing a favorite toy, etc.). The brief notes before each story that inform the unfamiliar reader (apparently for an American audience) are gems. Take the note to Paula Angeles' story on "Lively Philippine Markets", which ends: "For safekeeping, old-fashioned Filipinas will tie their money in a handkerchief and pin this small bundle inside their blouses next to their bosoms." 

But interesting to us would be those notes by the Fil-Ams: For example, Veronica Montes writes, to introduce the story "Lolo's Bride," of the Filipino American family: "At my Lolo and Lola's small home in Daly City, California, certain things could be counted on: an abundance of food (naturally), a visitor or two from the Philippines, the fact that you would be forced against your will to sing in front of everyone, and---best of all---an ongoing undercurrent of drama provided by the strong, sometimes overwhelming personalities of certain women in my family." There's also "Filipinos in America" for Brian Roley's "American Son Epilogue": "Few Americans know that the Philippines used to be a U.S. colony; I was never taught about our common history in high school, though we spent two weeks on British Colonialism in India."

As to the Cebuano pieces, Baby's uses the patintero game as metaphor (as in a poem by Cora Almerino's) for the love pursuit. Ruby's is more painful because of treachery on the part of a man who takes advantage of the loneliness of the narrator's Aunt Julia, who is dying. Alex' "The Spirits of Kanlanti" says farewell to the foreigner parish priest, an important personage in a small town in Leyte whose life story has most probably inspired the young narrator's decision to become a priest himself.
When it gets here, do grab a copy! ~ Article by Linda Kintanar-Alburo is Director, Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos, where she teaches literature, folklore and research. She was in the US as Fulbright Senior Research Fellow from February to May 2003.

Article by Alfred A. Yuson in Philippine Star, Lifestyle Feature, April 28, 2003
"Growing Up & Writing Pinoy"

A Filipino Authors’ Night was held last Tuesday at Boston College in Massachusetts, featuring a literary reading and discussion to launch the anthology Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults, edited by Cecile Manguerra Brainard, and published by the Philippine American Literary House (PALH) early this year.

Linda Ty-Casper, author of over a dozen novels and short story collections, including the acclaimed Ten Thousand Seeds, led the speakers, together with New York-based playwright and former Peso Books publisher Alberto Florentino. Joining them were Fil-Am novelists Grace Talusan and Ricco Villanueva Siasoco. A Tufts professor, Talusan is the recipient of a
2002 Massachusetts Cultural Council artist grant. Siasoco teaches at Boston College.

The exemplary American writer-professor and Filipinist critic Dr. Leonard Casper, who has written so much and so creditably on Philippine literature, was there, too, lending his distinctive presence and acuity.

Only a fortnight ago we received a copy of a talk by Linda on how the history of Philippine-American relations, starting with the war some American archivists still try to label as an insurrection, has not seemed to provide material for literature among American writers. And how it has taken Filipino researchers and writers, like herself, to delve into the narrative truths offered by that conflict.

In a brief digression here’s sharing excerpts from that piece, titled “History’s Memory: Literature’s Memory,” which really ought to be presented in full sometime in a local publication:

“Literature is celebratory in a different sense from history. Rather than showing military and political victories, coming from a different perspective, it celebrates victories of the human spirit, man’s nobility. Not monochromatic, it presents the many conflicts by showing how people faced upheavals, what they became because of the way they lived through
wars and revolutions; confronting themselves.

“… The problematic human being -- with all the complexities, contradictions, uncertainties -- faced with ultimate questions: that is what literature is about. Because literature is about life, and life is sacred, literature could be a sacred text for us, for all of us.”

A day after, we picked up from the flips e-group a couple of accounts on how the reading went. Very successfully, according to Ricco Siasoco, the 31-year-old Fil-Am writer whose story in the collection, “Deaf Mute,” is a powerful rendition anent the dilemmas faced by young, would-be balibayans who ask themselves: “How do we ‘return’ to a place we’ve never seen, much less experienced?”

Ricco offered to meet the septuagenarian yet eternal neoteny specialist Bert Florentino, who came off a 4.5-hour bus ride from the Big Apple.
Hosted the ever-genial memoirist Manong Bert, too, and took him all around the city, inclusive of the hallowed portals of Harvard U. Such that Bert’s
own account includes the fresh claim that “he entered Harvard.”

Recounts Ricco: “It was wonderful to host Bert, Linda, and Grace in Boston last night ... The evening was a success! The Philippine Society was instrumental in drawing a crowd; they made the readers feel welcome with a nice dinner at a Thai restaurant … Bert kept telling me that he was enjoying himself because the food in his senior residence is so bland,
then digging into the fried spring rolls.

“Most of the Filipino students at BC — I’d say 20 or so in attendance — bought a copy of the anthology. How I stressed the importance of supporting Fil-Am literature, and the need to support Fil-Am writing by BUYING FIL-AM BOOKS… I invited friends and students in my writing classes to attend, so over-all there was probably an audience of 50 or so. After
Linda read her story ‘In Place of Trees,’ I heard an audible gasp from the crowd… (S)everal students complimented me afterward on Grace’s riveting voice… I read the first page of Brian’s (Brian Ascalon Roley) epilogue to ‘American Son’ and then the first scene of my own story.

“A really nice evening. Linda and Bert, of course, were gracious and inspiring. The presence of such renowned writers was reiterated by the club's student president Joey, who said, ‘You don't know how inspiring it is for us to have you here.’”

Well, indeed it proved so nice and heartwarming for Bert that his intended stay of a few hours in Boston stretched on to 24 hours, inclusive of an overnight caucus at Ricco’s place, until he was seen off by his hosts at the Greyhound station the day after.

Last Saturday, clear across the American continent, in Berkeley, California, Growing Up Filipino… was launched at Eastwind Books of Berkeley. Some of the West Coast-based contributors to the landmark anthology made themselves available: Marianne Villanueva, Edgar Poma, Veronica Montes, Oscar Peñaranda and Brian Ascalon Roley.

Villanueva recently co-edited the anthology of Filipina writings, Going Home To A Landscape, due out by autumn from Calyx Books. Her first book was Ginseng & Other Tales From Manila.

The short stories of San Francisco native Veronica Montes can be found in the anthology Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America, also edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (Anvil, 1997), and in the forthcoming anthology co-edited by Villanueva.

Edgar Poma is a San Francisco-based writer of fiction, plays and poetry about Filipinos in California and Hawaii. He has received a California Arts Council Grant.

Our bosom buddy Oscar Peñaranda has been an educator since 1969, and is one of the founders of Pilipino American Studies at San Francisco State University. He writes poetry, fiction, plays and essays.

Brian Ascalon Roley is the author of American Son (W.W. Norton, 2002), a first novel that made it to the New York Times Notable Book of the Year list, and was a finalist in the prestigious 2002 Kiriyama Prize for books dwelling on the Pacific Rim. Again, only a few days ago, we received word that this book won the Association for Asian American Studies 2003 Prose Award. Congrats to Brian!

Soon we hope to hear as well on what must have been another joyous get-together in Berkeley among our Fil-Am writer-friends. And this Friday, May 2, at 6 p.m., another reading and signing session to promote the book will be held with the same cast, this time at ARKIPELAGO: The Filipino Bookstore, on Mission Street in San Francisco.

Of the 29 contributors to the anthology, ten are Philippine-based writers, namely Gémino H. Abad, Libay Linsangan Cantor, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Rogelio Cruz, Wanggo Gallaga, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Connie Jan Maraan, Marily Ysip Orosa, Anthony L. Tan, and this writer. Thirty-year-old Erwin Cabucos, from North Cotabato, now writes from Sydney, Australia. The rest are in the U.S. Those we haven’t named yet (Editor Brainard also contributes a wonderful story, “The Last Moon-Game of Summer”) are Paula Angeles, Alex Dean Bru, Ruby Enario Carlino, M. Evelina Galang, Vince Gotera, Mar V. Puatu, Ruth T. Sarreal and Joel Barraquiel Tan.

We are particularly pleased that contributions have come from young, upcoming local writers whose work we’re familiar with. These are our godson Wanggo’s “Th Purpose of Malls” and our one-time ADMU student Roger Cruz’s “Flooded.”

Brainard sounded the call for contributions last year, and we were among those who responded. We don’t think it has been a full year since that e-mail posting, but with the help of Vince Gotera -- a poet, editor and literature professor at the University of Northern Iowa, as well as the founder and maintainer of the flips e-group -- Brainard and her PAWWA (Philippine America Women Writers and Artists) colleague Susan Montepio, who designed the book, soon had it rolling off the press. (We believe Marily Orosa’s Makati outfit Studio 5 had a hand in the cover design.)

Such are the wondrous benefits of Internet collaboration among Fil-Am and “Fil-Fil” writers and editors who find themselves in various cities, including those “back home.” Conceiving, collating, editing, designing and publishing anthologies has become so much easier with the help of cybernetic channels of communication. And it is one other manifestation that there exists no divide at all between us, nor between our materials, themes and concerns.

As Rocio G. Davis writes in her percipient Introduction, “The collection represents the scope and diversity –- and, importantly, suggests renewed possibilities and an auspicious future –- for Filipino/America writing today.”

She comments further: “Moreover, to publish writing by Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the same volume stresses the continuity of Filipino writing in English, and the emergence of mutually enhancing forms of discerning and articulating the Filipino experience. “… The stories in Brainard’s anthology are not only about ‘growing up,’ but also importantly engage the process of ‘growing into’ Filipino-ness, ‘growing with’ Filipinos, and ‘growing in’ or ‘growing away’ from the Philippines…

“In diverse ways, the stories in this collection dialogue with Ricardo M. de Ungria’s sentiments in his poem ‘Room for Time Passing’ (written when De Ungria was pursuing his MFA in St.Louis; now he’s Chancellor of UP in Mindanao): “Whichever side of the ocean I’m on/ completeness will seek me and the world exceed/ the surprises I spring on it with these same words.’”

Until copies of the book make their way here on a commercial basis, it may be ordered online at or by email at, by phone at (510) 548-2350 and by fax at (510) 548-3697.

Preliminary reviews of the collection have hailed Brainard’s effort. Roger N. Buckley, Professor of History and Director of the Asian American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, wrote:

"Editor Cecilia Manguerra Brainard has collected a dazzling and impressive array of 29 stories about the saga of what it means to be young and Filipino. The authors make the experiences of ordinary young people come alive for us.

"But don't be taken in by the simplicity of the title. This volume is indeed about magic, mysteries, sadness, time, family, fear, and happiness of young adult Filipinos. In exploring these arenas the authors, each a born storyteller and philosopher, collectively capture the natural and social tapestry of the Philippines and Filipino culture and those forces that influence it. Their use of the language with all its idioms, narrative intervals and cadences leaves no doubt about the complexities of the historical, social, cultural, gender and racial terrain of modern
Filipino culture.

"Despite the book's sub-title, this is also a book for adults. They too will profit from what is a truthful, passionate, hopeful -- and ultimately -- a very wise book.

"Kudos to Brainard and the other writers for this important contribution to Filipino/Filipino-American history and culture. This is a powerfully achieved and memorable book by authors who know their craft, and who also have a profound understanding and love for the Philippines and things Filipino."

We can only concur with Prof. Buckley’s kind words.

Congratulations to Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Susan Montepio, and PALH for this inevitably seminal collection.

Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults and Growing Up Filipino: More Stories for Young Adults are featured in National Geographic's 2020 Summer Reading List 

The following libraries have Growing Up Filipino:

Growing Up Filipino is part of the History/Social Science Literature List compiled by the Santa Clara County Office of Education - click here for the entire list <>

Growing Up Filipino is in the Multicultural List of, a service of School Library Journal Click here to get to the site <>

Growing Up Filipino is in the collection of following libraries and more:

East Lansing Public Library (, Michigan, 950 Abbott Road, East Lansing, Michigan,

Juneau Public Libraries, 292 Marine Way, Juneau, Alaska 99801; (907) 586 - 5249

City of Lavergne Library, 5063 Murfreesboro Road, Lavergne, TN 37086; (615) 793-7303

Los Angeles Public Library, check the various branches, or try Central Library 630 W. 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90071; (213) 228-7000

Mission College Library 3000 Mission College Boulevard Santa Clara, CA 95054-1897; (408) 988-2200

The National Library for the Blind and Handicapped (NLS), 1291 Taylor Street, NW, Washington, DC 20011, Toll-Free: 1-888-NLS-READ; (1-888-657-7323) to connect to a local library

Pasadena Public Library, Central Library, 285 E. Walnut St, Pasadena, CA 91109; (626) 744-4066

Plymouth District Library, 223 S. Main Street, Plymouth, MI, 48170-1687; (734) 453-0750

San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102; (415) 557-4400 ·

Seattle Central Library, 1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98104

Skyline College Library, 3300 College Drive, San Bruno CA 94066-1698; (650) 738-4100

Calgary Public Library, check the various branches, or the Central Library 616 Macleod Trail SE, T2G 2M2, (403) 260-2600

Edmunton Public Library, check the various branches, or try Stanley A. Milner Library (Downtown), 7 Sir Winston Churchill Square, T5J 2V4, Canada, (780)-496-7000

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