He is known for his widely anthologized short story "How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife," the main story in the collection "How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife and Other Short Stories" which won first prize in the Commonwealth Literary Contest in 1940.
His stories "Midsummer" and "Heat" was published in the Tondo, Manila by the Prairie Schooner.
Most of Arguilla's stories depict scenes in Barrio Nagrebcan, Bauang, La Union where he was born. His bond with his birthplace, forged by his dealings with the peasant folk of Ilocos, remained strong even after he moved to Manila where he studied at the University of the Philippines where he finished BS Education in 1933 and where he became a member and later the president of the U.P. Writer's Club and editor of the university's Literary Apprentice.
He married Lydia Villanueva, another talented writer in English, and they lived in Ermita, Manila. Here, F. Sionil José, another seminal Filipino writer in English, recalls often seeing him in the National Library, which was then in the basement of what is now the National Museum. "you couldn't miss him", Jose describes Arguilla, "because he had this black patch on his cheek, a birthmark or an overgrown mole. He was writing then those famous short stories and essays which I admired." 
He became a creative writing teacher at the University of Manila and later worked at the Bureau of Public Welfare as managing editor of the bureau's publication Welfare Advocate until 1943. He was later appointed to the Board of Censors. He secretly organized a guerrilla intelligence unit against the Japanese.
In one account, he was later transferred to the grounds of Manila Chinese Cemetery, along with him are guerrilla leaders such as Captain Joseph Rhett Barker II (1915-1944), along with more than 10 men. They were then asked to dig their own graves and after which immediately, they were one by one, beheaded using Japanese Katanas (commonly called Shin Gunto). His remains as well as the others have never been recovered, as they were dumped in one unmarked grave.
- Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Volume 3, Filipiniana Publications, Quezon City, 1986
- Filipino Writers in English by Florentino B. Valeros and Estrellita V. Gruenberg, New Day Publishers, Quezon City, 1987
- "Maysa a Ruknoy ken ni Manuel E. Arguilla," RIMAT Magazine, Quezon City, October 2004
- Manuel Arguilla Bio of Manuel Arguilla found in PinoyLit.webmanila.com
- Full text: Morning in Nagrebcan by Manuel Arguilla
- Analysis of Midsummer on Lit React