Monday, May 10, 2004

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."

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