Friday, October 29, 2004

Shamanism, Catholicism and Gender Relations in Colonial Philippines, 1521-1685. By Carolyn Brewer

This book is one in a series called: Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Product Details:

* Hardcover: 240 pages

* Publisher: Ashgate Publishing (September 1, 2004)

* ISBN: 075463437X

* Product Dimensions: 1.0 x 6.2 x 9.0 inches

* Shipping Information: View shipping rates and policies

* Sales Rank in Books: #2,497,139


In this study, Carolyn Brewer explores the cultural clash that ensued when Hispanic Catholicism and Filipino Animism came into contact in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In so doing, she demonstrates the connections between religion, ideology and power, the evidence mounting with cumulative force to support her argument. Brewer highlights references to women who fleetingly appear in records of Magellan's voyage, and sets the scene for the arrival of Legaspi and the colonial enterprise. She explores the way indigenous women were represented in various early modern sources and delves into the processes by which dichotomous notions of 'good' and 'bad' women were introduced by successive waves of Spanish friars. The focus of the narrative then shifts from women in general to the specific role of female shamans and the manner in which these women were revalued from the prestigious and wealthy baylan to the reviled and banished bruha or witch and their roles eventually usurped by Catholic priests. Brewer also explores the ways in which asog (men who dressed as women) were converted to Catholicism. Finally, using inquisition documents, Brewer presents a case study from the town of Bolinao in Zambales Province. She reconstructs indigenous gender relationships, in the process of being fractured by inquisitorial processes, in which high class Zambal men and boys collaborated with the Spaniards to banish the shaman women and eradicate their influence. A meticulously researched book, Shamanism, Catholicism and Gender Relations constitutes a sustained examination of how contact with Christianity re-shaped gender roles in the early modern Philippines.


List of Figures

List of Tables




I Contact and Conversion: The Reconstruction of The "Good" Woman

1 Magellan's Legacy

2 Contact and "Morals"
3 'Good' and 'Bad' Women: The Virgin and the Whore

4 Confession and Flagellation: The Creation of Self-Policing Converts

II Contact and the Baylan: The Elimination of the Animist Shaman

5 Contact, Conversion and the Baylan

6 Evil (and) Old Women

7 Transvetism and the 'Third Sex/Gender' Space

III Contact and the Inquisition: Regenerding and Resistance

8 The Archbishop, the Priest, the Holy Inquisition and Resistance in Zambales

9 Holy Confrontation: Religion and Gender in Bolinao, 1679-85



Notes on Sources

Selected Biography


Saturday, May 15, 2004

Technology and Activism

excerpt from wired magazine article "Pics Worth a Thousand Protests:

In some instances, the mere presence of a Witness video camera has been enough to ward off violence during confrontations with armed men. On the Philippine island of Mindanao, for example, indigenous activists say their equipment protected them against sugar company thugs trying to drive them off their land.

"In the Philippines, our partners report that the camera is a shield, reminding attackers and officials alike about the possibility of accountability for their actions," said Witness program manager Sam Gregory. "They also talk about the protective potential felt by exposed local groups in knowing that there is a global public who will view images they shoot, and who will act on their behalf."

For full article click here.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Paganism and Christianity

I started reading "The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth
and Spirit" by Patrica Monaghan and find early on in the book that the spiritual
experience of the Irish could be very similar to that of Filipinos who remain connected
with the Earth. Excerpt from pages 6-7: "The lore and love and specificity
associated with Irish places grow directly from Ireland's residual paganism.
'Scratch a bit at the thin topsoil of Irish Catholicism,' the saying goes,
'and you soon come to the solid bedrock of Irish paganism.' Ireland is still what
novelist Edna O'Brien calls a 'pagan place.' But that paganism does not conflict with
a devout Catholicism that embraces and absorbs it, in a way that can seem mysterious,
even heretical, elsewhere... The old ways were seamlessly
bonded to the new, so that ancient rituals continued, ancient divinities became saints,
ancient holy sites were maintained just as they had been for generations and generations."
From Baylan to Babaylan:

Carolyn Brewer did a lot of her research by reading Spanish chronicle documents. She believes that the term "babaylan" has been "appropriated" by Philippine women. This could have coincided with the women's movement there. I also have the book "Babaylanism in Negros" and will look for references in there...

here are excerpts from page 157 of her recent book "Holy Confrontation: Religion, Gender and Sexuality in the Philippines 1521-1685"

"The move from baylan to babaylan/a began appearing in Spanish documents sometime in the middle of the seventeenth century. Blumentritt, in his 1895 dictionary, suggested that it was the Spanish who duplicated the first syllable and added the "-a" suffix. He wrote, 'the Spaniards were in the habit of naming the priestesses babailanas.(20) However, while the '-a" suffix is definitely of Spanish origin, the reduplication of the first syllable conforms to Tagalog, Bikol and Visayan patterns rather than Spanish.(21) According to Lawrence Reid, 'the form "babaylan" certainly looks native Cebuano' rather than Spanish.(22)

Some scholars today, intent on rediscovering and reclaiming the ancient Animist priestess, are using either babaylan and/or the Tagalog catalonan.(23) In these modern reconstructions mag-anito is scarcely used. However, an interesting borrowing from the Visayan by Tagalog speaking women is occurring. These women, unconstrained by the disciplinary boundaries of academia, are invariably choosing to use the Visayan, babaylan, rather than catalonan from their own language. The reason for this has nothing to do with linguistic semantics, but rests instead with a form of folk entymology.(24) Intent on making apparent a link between woman, babae, and the priestly function of the babaylan, these women hybridize the two language groups --- babae from Tagalog and babaylan from Visayan. Even though there is no evidence linguistically to link babae/woman with babaylan, a process which Reid suggests 'is like saying there are cats in catsup,"(25) some women I met in the Philippines are not constrained by such discursive conventions. Their trangression allows them to conceptualize femaleness with the priestly function. For these women, sensitized to the way Roman Catholicism has consigned them, by their biology, to the silent side of the altar as far as formal teaching, authority and administration are concerned, babaylan represents a subversive, power-full, and inextricable entanglement of woman with religious leadership. (26)

(26) I first observed this subversive hegemonic process at St. Scholastica's Institute of Women's Studies, on 13 November 1994. At this time Filipinas, and other women from around the world had gathered to analyze critically the various structures that oppress them. My observations led me to suggest that, especially amongst women, there is a resurgence of interest in Animism and those who facilitated the ceremonies."

Friday, February 06, 2004

Book Recommendation:

Gendering the Spirit
Women and Religion and the Post-Colonial Response
Edited by Durre S. Ahmed

Zed Books
Due/Published July 2002, 208 pages, paper
ISBN 1842770276

Religion remains a powerful reality for countless human beings across a huge range of cultures and widely divergent systems of belief. This book discusses in detail the particular devotional subcultures that women have always created. Its authors draw their evidence and their inspiration form the Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, and Christian traditions of South and South East Asia, in particular.


Part I: Women and Religion: Alternative Perspectives
Introduction: The Last Frontier--Durre Ahmed
The Goddess-Woman Equation in Sakta Tantras--Madhu Khanna
Women in the Catholic Church--Sr. Mary John Mananzan
Women, Psychology, and Religion--Durre Ahmed
Part II: The Hidden Woman and the Feminine
The Forgotten Woman in Anuradhapura: "Her story Replaced by 'History'"--Hema Goonatilake
Mother Victoria Vera Piedad of Brookside, Pila, Laguna, Philippines: A Study of a Mutya Figure--Grace P. Odal
Suprema Isabel Suarez --Sr. Mary John Mananzan
Parallel Worlds of Madhubi MA, 'Nectar mother': A 20th Century Tantric Saint--Madhu Khanna
'Real' Men, Naked Women, and the Politics of Paradise: The Archetype of Lal Ded--Durre Ahmed
Part III: Perspectives on Violence
Righteous Violence and Nonviolence: An Inseparable Dyad of Hindu Tradition--Madhu Khanna
Theological Reflections on Violence Against Women: A Catholic Perspective--Sr. Mary John Mananzan
Violence and the Feminine in Islam: A Case Study of the Zikris--Durre Ahmed
from the back cover:

This book sis about the devotional subcultures which women have
always created. Its authors draw their evidence and inspiraiton from
the Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and Christian traditions of Asia, in

Here we find women as healers, goddesses, saints, gurus, nuns and
heretics. One thing these remarkable women all share is their
defiance of orthodoxy and fundamentalist interpretations oppressive
of women. Instead they have created religious alternatives which
appeal profoundly to huge numbers of women. Not that these
altenatives, as the authors who have written this book show, are
accepted by the mainly male religious establishment. Indeed women's
rejection of patriarchal interpretations of religion and their
creative revisioning of religion in their daily spiritual practice
can be very dangerous activity.

In addition to fascinating glimpses of little known aspects of the
feminine within the great religions, this book is also a reflection
of the newly emerging spirituality of women in Asia as they
experience and respond to the political and social injustices they

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Book Recommendation from Mary Grace Bertulfo:

BABAYLANISM IN NEGROS: 1896-1907 by Evelyn Tan Culamar (New Day
Publishers, 1986), which is academic in nature, covering the role of
babaylanism in Negros history.

And THE SOUL BOOK by Francisco R. Demetrio, Gilda Cordero-Fernando,
and Fernando N. Zialcita (GCF Books, 1991.), which is more artistic
and anthropological. There are some wonderful drawings by Roberto B.
Feleo that show Filipino mythology and spirituality; I think you'd
really dig that one.

Book Recommendations from Oona Paredes.

These ones focus on women. They are by
foreigners, which is not to say there isn't any good stuff by Filipinos. But
these guys are able to see things from a wider perspective, because it's not
so intimately personal to them.

1. "Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines". Cambridge University
Press, Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology 109 (1999), by Fenella
Cannell. (she's a Brit at SOAS in London).

2. "From Priestess to Priest: Catholic/Animist Conflict in the Philippines,
1521-1685." Ashgate Publications (2003). by Carolyn Brewer (she's Aussie). The
book is about Luzon.

3. "Holy Confrontation: Religion, Gender, and Sexuality in the Philippines,
1521-1685." (don't know the publisher, date is 2001). also by Carolyn Brewer.

** Have not read these Brewer books, but they came highly recommended from a
prof I really respect, Barbara Andaya (Aussie married to a Pinoy). Will read
them one day when I can get a hold of them.

Oona Thommes Paredes
Ph.D. Candidate, Social & Cultural Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-2402, USA


(Thanks, Oona---now your email has found its way here...)

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Thanks to Mary Grace Bertulfo, via Perla Daly:

BABAYLANISM IN NEGROS: 1896-1907 by Evelyn Tan Culamar (New Day Publishers, 1986), which is academic in nature, covering the role of babaylanism in Negros history.

And THE SOUL BOOK by Francisco R. Demetrio, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, and Fernando N. Zialcita (GCF Books, 1991.), which is more artistic and anthropological. There are some wonderful drawings by Roberto B. Feleo that show Filipino mythology and spirituality; I think you'd really dig that one.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Suggest web page to check out: Indigenous Religious Beliefs and Cosmology of the Filipino. Click this link.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Interfaith, International Conference on Sexuality - March 18-21, 2004

Thanks to Letecia Layson for this information:

The Pacific Asian and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry (PANAAWTM) is holding an INTERFAITH, INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SEXUALITY March 18-21, 2004 at Mills College, Oakland, CA, the first such conference from an Asian cultural perspective. Scholars and religious practitioners from Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity will speak.

Open to women scholars, religious practitioners, graduate students, seminarians and undergraduate students of any ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and nationality. There is money available for assistance with travel (up to $200 per person) and room and board at Mills. There is also assistance for room and board expenses for those in the Bay Area.

The conference opening panel:

"Religion, Sexuality, and Asian and Asian American Cultures: Embodying the Spirit in our Communities"
Panelists: Mehnaz Afridi, Carol Himaka, Kwok Pui Lan, Patricia Lin, Ruth Vanita.
Respondant: Mary Ann Tolbert

Free and open to the public and will take place at the Pacific School of Religion,
Bade Museum, 1798 Scenic Ave, Berkeley, Thursday, March 18 at 7 pm, Reception at 6:30.

The schedule with a list of speakers can be viewed at the website; click here. Special workshops on the conference theme, plus mentoring for those in religion Ph.D. programs.

Registration information can be found on-line. The on-line registration process can only be used with a credit card. Those needing financial assistance for travel and room should use hardcopies of the registration forms. Please urge those you think would be interested to attend.

Rita Nakashima Brock, Ph.D.

Visiting Scholar

Starr King School, Graduate Theological Union

260 Euclid Ave.

Oakland, CA 94610

Monday, January 26, 2004

Lynda Barry, cartoonist who is featured at also remembers the archetype of the aswang because of family stories passed down even while here in America. here is the link to a series of pictures. It's very funny.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Welcome to the babaylan files. We plan to post information here about babaylan knowledge, events, online sources, bibliographies, books and any relevant and related material. Come and visit often.