Born one year after the Philippines gained its independence, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard was surrounded from the start with a sense of her country’s having been born at almost the same time as herself. After centuries of Spanish colonialism, more than four decades of American control, and four years of Japanese occupation, finally, in 1946, Filipinos were free to determine their own future. The Americans had helped prepare for this moment through elective models and had fought side by side with Filipinos during the war, and the Americans were vital to the difficult postwar reconstruction, but Brainard grew up well aware of her fellow Filipinos’ own proud contributions toward establishment of an independent Philippines. The street on which she lived in Cebu was called Guerrillero Street in honor of her father, a guerrilla and then a civil engineer involved in rebuilding shattered Philippine cities. Many of the anecdotes in her first novel, Song of Yvonne, came from tales of war remembered by her family.
As a result, even when Brainard left home for graduate studies at the University of California at Los Angeles in the late 1960’s, she brought with her an identity as a Filipina. She married a former member of the Peace Corps, Lauren Brainard, who had served on Leyte, an island close to Cebu. In California, she worked on documentary film scripts and public relations from 1969 to 1981. Then she began the newspaper columns later collected in Philippine Woman in America, which describe the enrichment and frustration felt by Philippine Americans who are straddling two cultures. Conscious of her own Americanization and anxious to provide her three sons with cultural choices, she formed Philippine American Women Writers and Artists, an organization intent on publishing remembered legends and scenes from the contributors’ childhoods. Brainard’s organization was intended to provide a continuum of presence from varied pasts to a shared future. Such dedication to the “memory of a people” is in the ancient Philippine tradition of the female babaylan, or priestess.