USA: Celebrating the written, spoken word

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Words and photos by Dionesio C. Grava
First posted in

I wrote in her blog Literally Yours: “Our authors help give expression to the soul and aspirations of the FilAm community. We should be grateful that they’re out there making efforts to secure a foothold in the literary world — a task that would have been doubly difficult were it not for Linda Nietes’ selfless service to her people in that regard.”

I was referring to an announcement about breaking bread and bonding with Pinay sisters expected to attend an event featuring lady authors who would say something about their books and sign them afterwards. But talk of a literary event involving our people in this part of the world more often than not it revolves on Ms. Nietes and her darling of a mail order Philippine Expressions Bookshop based in Rancho Palos Verdes “dedicated to Filipino Americans in search of their roots.”

It was a weekend lunch event at Pizza Per Tutti Pizzeria & Tratoria in Lankershim Blvd., San Fernando Valley. A cozy setting for dining out or otherwise avail of the convenience of online ordering, the ad says. There’s an open mike, too, and just a hint of entrepreneur Hilda Mauro’s Philippine heritage.

The announcement contained Ms. Nietes’ signature reminder about 2012 being the 28th year that they have blazed the trail in promoting Philippine books in America. Spotlighting the creative writers and thinkers in the community is an ongoing program of the bookshop to reach out to the FilAm community and to increase the visibility of Filipinos in mainstream America, it says.

Quite a stretch of time evidencing her passion for it. And quite an impact it must have on the community considering that as Clive Staples Lewis — the Irish novelist, poet, academic, essayist, medievalist, literary critic, lay theologian and Christian apologist — said, “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that
daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”

Owner Linda Nietes is “glad to be part of the cultural scene of the City of Los Angeles all these years. And we are happy to fulfill our Bookshop’s vision to provide a home for Philippine writings in North America. In 1972, when martial law was declared in the Philippines, we provided a home for Philippine writings when we opened Casalinda Bookshop in San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park, Makati.” Casalinda Bookshop was closed in 1984 when Nietes decided to migrate to the US. She settled in Westwood Village close to UCLA and reopened her business as Philippine Expressions Bookshop.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is one of the FilAm community’s more prolific writers and a staple in this kind of events. She has a new work to show and being from the same place as she, I consider “Out of Cebu: A Collection of Essays and Personal Prose” a welcome addition to things should I read sometime. The book collects 28 essays about the author’s Cebuano ties and her pride in her heritage, including colorful accounts about her mother’s family, the Cuencos, a prominent political family in Cebu. The book also includes writings about the author’s life and travels outside of Cebu.

She is the author of the novels “When the Rainbow Goddess Wept” and “Magdalena;” of “Acapulco at Sunset and Other Stories;” “Philippine Woman in America;” “Woman with Horns and Other Stories;” “Cecilia’s Diary, 1962-1968;” and “Fundamentals of Creative Writing.” She has edited four anthologies: “Growing Up Filipino, 1 & 2;” “Fiction by Filipinos in America;” and “Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America.” With Edmundo Litton, she co-edited “Journey of 100 Years:”

“Reflections on the Centennial of the Philippine Independence.” With Marily Orosa, she co-edited three anthologies: “Behind the Walls: Life of Convent Girls;” “A La Carte: Food and Fiction;” and “Finding God: True Stories of Spiritual Encounters.” With four other authors, she co-wrote “Angelica’s Daughters,” a Dugtungan novel.

Co-authors Ofelia V. Dirige and Aurora S. Cudal first published “Global Filipino Cuisine: Healthy Recipes in 2009” with the late Dr. Riz A. Oades. The revised, expanded edition contains 100 modified choices with nutrient analysis. This is a much-needed book for healthy eating in the community, it was said even as it also informed that proceeds from sales of this title will cover programs and services of the FilAm Wellness Center/Kalusugan Community Services, which is located at 1419 E 8th Street, National City, CA 91950 ( ;

Other authors who attended and signed their books were Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, “Forty Years of Writing in America;” Carina Monica Montoya (AKA Carina Forsythe), “Los Angeles’s Historic Filipinotown,” “Filipinos in Ho llywood” and “Let’s Cook Adobo!,” a juvenile cookbook; Roselyn Estepa Ibanez, co-author, “Filipinos in Carson and the South Bay;” Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier, “Seeking Thirst: A Novel” and “Autobiography of a Stranger;” and Myrna J. de la Paz, AKA Myrna Mulhern, “Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella.”

Another Philippine Expressions Book shop’s meet-and-greet event with FilAm authors is scheduled on Friday, April 20 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm at the Community Hall of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (1145 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA). It is Filipino American Authors Night to celebrate the printed and spoken word and to launch ten new works by Filipino American authors.

On the following two days, April 21 and 22, the LA Times Festival of Books will be back at USC Campus and sure as day follows night, Philippine Expressions Bookshop will be at one of the booths. Actually it will be Booth # 024, Ms. Nietes said and adding that our “presence means support for their creative talents and it will be a source of inspiration to them.” LA Times Festival of Books is a free event and open to the public.

It was learned that Expressions Bookshop has participated in the yearly Festival since 1997 starting with just a couple of FilAm authors. This year, a total of fifteen authors will be book signing at their booth. The authors come from different parts of the US – Ann Arbor in Michigan, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Washington; Tucson in Arizona, Washington DC. And one is coming all the way from Australia, Ms. Nietes said.

Featured authors at this year’s Authors Night include Ofelia V. Dirige, Aurora S. Cudal, Cecilia Gaerlan, Theodore S. Gonzalves, Greceila Jota, Paulino Lim, Jr., Carina Monica Montoya, Donna Miscolta, Ruben Nepales, Quirico S. Samonte and a guest author, Susan Vance. They will talk, read from their books, and sign them.



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