Sunday, May 31, 2009

Conversations: Reclaiming the Southeast Asian Goddess

Reclaiming the Southeast Asian Goddess: Examples from Contemporary Art by Women
By Flaudette May V. Datuin
Image & Gender, vol. 6, 2006, pp.105-119


In this essay, I will invoke – as a form of strategic essentialism - the figure of the Southeast Asian goddess and the babaylan, the ancient priestess as theme, metaphor and signifier for women’s life-giving, nurturing and healing powers. By reclaiming the legacy of the Southeast Asian goddess, I will present the emerging outlines of a Southeast Asian feminist framework revolving around embodied spirituality – a concept where the body is construed as an anatomical, spiritual, social and psychic space grounded on fluidity and wholeness, instead of hierarchy and dualities. In the process, I will argue that while most women artists in Southeast Asia are not consciously and overtly “feminist,” they nonetheless point to the contours of emerging feminisms in Southeast Asia, and perhaps, in Asia. These “feminisms” cannot be defined solely on the basis of individual autonomy, hinged on sexual and body-centered liberation (as in radical feminism); or on “equal rights” in an untransformed social structure (as in liberal feminism).Drawing from my ongoing study and engagement with women artists in the visual arts of Southeast Asia, I will present examples of how selected Philippine, Indonesian and Thai women artists articulate and embody the Southeast Asian goddess figure through their lives and their works.

Submitted by: Mary Ann Ubaldo and Lorial Crowder
Full text accessed 5/31/2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bahala Meditations: Renewal of Filipino Spiritual Practice

Perla Ramos Paredes Daly writes:

In the Jewish Tradition it is Yahweh. In English it is God. In Spanish it is Dios. In Islam it is Allah. In Christian tradition it is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the mystery of the Holy Trinity. In pagan traditions it is Goddess or Great Mother. For the American Natives it is wording that translates to Great Spirit. Left-brainer, atheists may not believe in any god but they may believe in a Cosmic Intelligence that underlies the laws of physics and atomic existence in space and time.

And for the Filipino the Great Divine is called Bathala or Bahala. Even before the coming of the West the natives of the Philippine islands have had a spirituality and awareness of the Nameless-Many-Named-I-Am. By coming to rediscover the use of Bahala, so many more Filipinos today, cut-off and unaware of their spiritual roots, can come to discover and know that ancient traditions of the Philippine Islands have always carried Universal Wisdom...

Perla provides the meditations and contemplations online, noting:

There are three sets of exercises here.

1) Contemplation over the baybayin symbols that form the word Bahala.
2) Finding renewed meaning in saying Bahala Na
3) Saying Bahala or Bahala Na as a prayer/meditation entry point or as a spiritual chant.

Sites accessed 5/28/09

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Bathala Project

Finally after years in raising consciousness about our Filipino Spirituality, Bathala enters into the Fil-Am hip hop generation through the inspired Bathala Meditations. The magikal connection of Baybayin, our Ancient Philippine Script, and Bathala is finally understood!

bathala nawa!

For more information, go to The Bathala Project

Submitted by: Mary Ann Ubaldo

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book and CD Review: The Shared Voice by Grace Nono

The Shared Voice: Chanted and Spoken Narratives from the Philippines by Grace Nono
Anvil Publishing. ISSN:97127-20437 (2008)

Leny asked: Letecia - Can you please write a review of the book from your perspective as a second generation, daughter of Manong?

Letecia responded: I am so use to just having my own epiphany in the wee early morning hours.  Often words don't form in my brain, much less sentences.  I just sense something is different inside of energy release, a veil lifted, a 'knowing' revealed.  The odd thing is that the 'knowing' is not just mine, Letecia's, it seems to an echo of what simply is, has been, always was and never was not.  The 'knowing' is not something that was 'spoken' to me in a literal sense, perhaps only hinted at, or l observed it (whatever it is) and it lived in my presence. You know when you are looking at a picture and suddenly you see the white space between the pixels of colored dots...I feel myself sort of 'shake it off' and zoom out again to see the picture ever more clearly.  Sometimes words are spoken in my head, phrases or a story takes shape as images flash by.

I felt something had shifted in me after reading 'The Shared Voice,’ it happened in my sleep....Like Magic!  Really I am not sure what happened, or why, but I have a sense of 'rightness' in the world.  LOL and perhaps if we were in a room sharing stories and thoughts about the book, more words would flow freely in the dialogue which allows for the connectedness, reflection, warm smiles and laughter.  Writing is essentially a monologue and I am not so sure what I have to say is interesting or important, or will even make sense to someone else.  And if I fix my thoughts into print (either on paper or on a screen) it feels a bit rigid....the words reflect a moment in time....not what is happening as my fingers are tying the letters to this sentence.... they are reflections of the past.....always trying to catch up to the present moment.

And even with all that being said....I wonder if 'tacit knowledge' is asserting itself rising from ancestral waters and has me qualifying my words as 'not very important' to deflect anyone from noticing 'the words of power that I speak'   I learned of a concept called Buyag when I was in PAWWA (Philippine American Women Writers and Artists accessed 5/26/09)

"Buyag" or "Pwera/Purya Buyag" is an expression that is meant to ward off "Evil Eye" when you praise or take notice aloud of someone, especially a baby. Old folks believe so and there is no harm if the younger generation say it too... " Yahoo Answers (accessed 5/26/09)

I realized then and even today, how Buyag or Pwera/Purya Buyag whispers in my blood.  I don't even really know how to pronounce the words, so I look forward to someone calling me up and speaking it into a voice mail for me (smile), or send me a video message on Seesmic.

See what I mean...the deflect away from my own shared thoughts...for now, I have quieted the voice some by getting a piece of garlic and setting it on my altar (if I had a pocket in what I am wearing, the garlic would be in it!)...

For those of you who want the short version 'TWO THUMBS UP', 5 out of 5 stars.  'The Shared Voice: chanted and spoken narratives from the Philippines' by Grace Nono is a Divine Find. 

I am listening to the CD as I type to you.  Nono's book provides a bridge from the past to the future of a Filipino Spirituality that lives - a living tradition.  One that is represented not only by the primary oralist, but also by the secondary oralists and each of us who identify as Filipino and Spiritual - beyond organized religion and inclusive.

Grace is a good storyteller.  As I read, I felt the conversational tone of her writing open my mind and heart - stretching me open to my own paradoxical nature of living in two worlds - the natural world and a constructed world.  I read to myself out loud, letting the sounds of the words work like incantations, not holding tightly to my own pre-conceived ideas about what Filipina/os are like, or who I am being....just allowing and listening.   I would read some and then listen to the CD.

Even the academic models, the history and statistics flowed like nectar.  If you asked me now what was said I would have to pull out the book to quote it....and I am not sure if there was anything specific that touched me other than the wholeness of the presentation.  Hmm, I guess if I looked at it like a faceted jewel, one of the facets that etched in my brain is Table 1. Oralist and Literate: A Comparison on page 22.  I am making a copy of it and posting it on my wall as a reminder of my own dynamic flow between these two systems and ways of being. 

I am not one or the other, I am an AND/AND, a both, not an either or.  Even now I laugh at myself knowing that in future days I will use this table to support my desire to 'not write' to continue to 'be-speak the world into being.'

I felt properly introduced to these 10 elders, to know their place, their families, their people and I realize how limited the introductions are here in the USA - your name, what you do, where you live.  Here in the USA, it is your intimates that you share the information about your ancestral place, your people, etc.  What rich and vital traditions each of these 10 elders come from.  For the secondary oralists, those that bridge the ancient/future lineages, they are my She-ros and He-ros.  They find ways to live a continuum... NOW, NOW, NOW the past is now, the future is now, the present is now, if this is making any sense.

Almost 20 years ago when I started my training in the Dianic Tradition, we were asked to research a goddess from our ethnic background.  During the next 5 weeks, I was to spend time with Her, using whatever written information I could find and if there was not much - to meditate with Her, Her symbols or any means to listen to what She might have to share with me personally and if there was something She wanted to share with the women of the class.  In the last class I invoked Her, using the skill set we learned in class and to aspect Her (let Her speak through me) so that the women in the circle might be able to meet Her.  It was through this process, the invocation of Gamaogamao* and time spent with her that stepping forward on my spiritual path of service as a Dianic is forever entwined with my ancestral spirituality. 

Grace's book provided a deeper context from which I could understand my own spiritual calling - from the ancestors and the elements.  As a daughter of a Manong and a Filipina war bride, I was not raised speaking either language of my parents or Tagalog - only English.  I think the ancestors had to speak to me elementally - through nature and through many other earth-based traditions that are rooted in the lands they originated from.  It is only now, and in the last 20 years, that FilAm's like me have had access to information about our culture and traditions in English.  I used to think my experience was unique, and as my mother use to remind me, to keep quiet about it (she was after all a good Catholic).  I feel fortunate to be living in a time where information is shared and I can see that I am not unique, but one of the many displaced Filipinas who have managed to stay steady and listen.

I have honed my lens/worldview as a feminist - radical at that.  The good news is the mentors and teachers encouraged me to do my own research, be in the center of my own life and comfortable in my own skin as a woman.  The Shared Voice has added to the context of who I am in the world - how I am in service to my communities and has me questioning, if I was raised in the Philippines and had access to elders of these living traditions would I have made my way to their mountain tops or to their remote villages in the same way I have found elders here in the USA? 

I’d like to think so, but I will never know what could have been.  I only know what is and what might be...I feel fortunate to have found this virtual circle - each of you who are on this list has contributed to the bridging and integration of my spirit calling and how it out-pictured itself in me as a Priestess in European-based Goddess Traditions.  On this list our conversations, book suggestions, gatherings, etc., have helped me to own the gifts that are from my/our ancestral pool of wisdom.  All the formal training, reading, references in the Goddess traditions I am ordained in are from other lands, not even from the land from which I was born (USA).  They are from the lands of the colonizers, reaching back into their roots, to their ancestors, to the roots of their religions, consciousness, medicine, philosophy, science, literature, art - all the way back to the neolithic.

The Shared Voice reminds me....we are all connected to lands, ancestors and nature.  Living Traditions need to include the her/history and all the diversity and richness we represent.  The Shared Voice helps me to feel even more at home in my own dance - in my own body by giving voice to what I did not know needed to be spoken.

In closing, I add my voice in gratitude and blessings of a work well done.  I am changed by the work in subtle ways....which will bubble up through my own words, works, songs, dance and stories....

Thanks Leny for asking.  Thanks Baylan for getting a copy of the book to me....and Thanks Grace for writing and sharing your words, images and song.

PS. Do I need to be worried about Buyag or Pwera/Purya Buyag ? (smile)

*From "The Colourful Mandaya: Ethnic Tribe of Davao Oriental" by Ursla Cinco Valderrama, pg 30. The making of a Balyan: "Gamaogamao is believed to be the goddess of water..."

Review submitted by: Letecia Layson.

Editor’s note: This post appeared originally on the Yahoo listserve group “Babaylan” on May 9, 2009 and has been edited slightly to correct spelling/capitalization errors and smooth paragraph transitions. Every effort was made, however, to maintain the conversational quality of the post. The editor apologizes for any subtle changes in meaning as a result.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mysteries of faith abound in Mt. Banahaw

DOLORES, Quezon – For some people, leaving their comfortable life to take the road to Mount Banahaw is God’s “calling.” A renewal in the mystic mountain, they say, is a product of their greatest challenges.

Banahaw remains a haven for people in search of spirituality. “Whether it’s Catholic, Born Again or whatever group, these are just branches of only one tree that leads to Him,” said Bernard Forbile, 50.

Forbile is a missionary of the Kapatiran ng Sampung Utos, a “brotherhood” of Ten Commandments devotees founded in the 1980s. The other groups are the Tatlong Persona sa Kinabuhayan, Rosa Mystica and the Rizalistas.

“You will not be saved by your group, but by your faith,” Forbile says.


During the Lenten season, over a thousand devotees from Manila, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon flock to Banahaw as early as Biyernes de Dolores (Friday before Palm Sunday).

Many caves or stations have become shrines or dalanginan based on the local belief that these natural rock formations are sacred because of “unexplainable” markings.

For instance, a shrine called Jerusalem has a child’s footprint, believed to be that of the Sto. NiƱo. In the “Presentahan” (Presentation), an apparent open book resembling a bible is found.

A footprint of Mary is said to be seen at the De la Paz Shrine, that of Jesus in the Kinabuhayan Shrine, and a Marian image in the cave ceiling of what is now called the Ina ng Awa (Mother of Mercy) shrine.

Popular destinations are the Durungawan, Tres Marias and Labindalawang Sakit, and streams called the Santo Jacob, Sta. Lucia and Tatlong Klaseng Tubig, which are all said to heal people of illnesses.


The belief in the markings, the devotees say, originated from the Katipuneros in the 1890s, who hid from the Spaniards in Banahaw and became hermits.

Similarly, amulets, locally called “kabal,” such as medallions are emblems of faith in Banahaw.

According to Forbile, elders believe that the kabal is “given its soul” by burying it under the roots of citric trees, such as “kamias” or “sampaloc,” in May.

Elders offer prayers to it for one whole year before they dig up the medallion.

Bernard was a wealthy businessman in Baguio City before his vegetable delivery business flopped in 1994 and criminal charges of estafa were filed against him.

His adopted son also fell sick and no doctor could cure him.

“I lost hope. But I was told that whatever was taken away from me would come back double,” he says.

Desperate, he joined different religions until he read about Banahaw. He decided to visit the place one Holy Wednesday.

“One station called Sta. Lucia is similar to my wife’s name and beside it is San Bernardo, similar to mine,” he relates his bewilderment.
After the visit, a friend informed him by phone that their business was revived.

In 1997, Forbile moved his family to Banahaw where they put up a small sari-sari store. He manned the Kapatiran chapel where devotees hold their functions.

Forbile remembers seeing a ray of bright horizontal light passing through a wooden cross while he was on a nine-day mission up the mountain.

On another occasion, he saw bright lights in the sky changing into multiple colors.

His son, who was cured when they took him to Banahaw, would speak in different languages they could not understand.
Miracles and apparitions, Forbile says, are hard to prove as “you usually experience them when you are alone. There are no witnesses.”

“If you really believe, you will see,” he says.

For Forbile, his faith is not restricted to the Kapatiran.

“I am still searching for the truth. Ang kabal ko ay si Ama (The Father is my amulet),” he says, adding that the only mission he has is “to do what is right, without expecting anything in return.”

Divine government

Forbile’s transformation was nearly similar to those of other missionaries. One, who refused to identify himself, said his calling was to “discover Banahaw’s mysteries.”

He had a “prophetic dream” of the mountain, he said, when he was young boy. He proved that the dream was real only years later, he said, when he actually came to the mountain.

He says he had been dreaming of silhouettes in very bright light, which he believes to be God, and hearing voices telling him “someday you will live in Banahaw.”

“It was a painful transition,” he says of the collapse of his automotive business and his shift to rural life, farming and growing chickens for a living.

He began his “spiritual penetration” in Banahaw in 1999.
“My life changed. I disobeyed before, I would not dare disobey Him again,” he says.

Through 10 years of studying religious tenets in Banahaw, he rediscovered the prophecy of the “divine government.”
The prophecy – that the country’s economy would crumble under the government of a female leader – was heard way back in the ‘70s, he says.
Moreover, he says, a war between Filipinos would ensue and following that would come the divine government.

“Mula sa labong na kawayan, sisibol ang gintong watawat na matatanaw sa buong daigdig (at) magiging hangganan ng lahat ng pananampalataya (From the bamboo shoot will rise a gold flag that can be seen all over the world and eternally to believers),” he recites the prophecy.

He says it alluded to the Apocalypse written in the Book of Revelations.

“It would begin here in the Philippines, here in Banahaw,” says 70-year-old Avelina Responde, a devotee of Ina ng Awa. “It is not written on paper. We need no lawyers or senators.”

She says the divine government “is the consciousness of the people with divine hearts. When the Ten Commandments govern us all, only then can we have unity and let God live in our hearts.”

By Maricar Cinco
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 01:29:00 04/16/2009, accessed 4/24/2009

Contributed by Mary Ann Ubaldo

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Conversations: Misuse of Semantics, Key to Miscues in Philippine Studies

Conversations highlight papers written about indigenous thought, babaylans, and/or include babaylan concepts.

In this essay Azurin, an anthropologist, looks at the language games and their uses/misuses in academic theorizing.

by Arnold Molina Azurin
Research Fellow, Center for Integrative and Development Studies
University of the Philippines System


The master semantic artist William Shakespeare mesmerized his theater patrons and audience with such unforgettable witticisms like “A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet” and “If to say is as easy as to do, chapels would have been churches…” In all probability his drama actors must have delivered such enticing quips in a more vibrant manner, or my memory may have skipped a word or two. But either possibility is irrelevant to the point I wish to raise with a sense of alarm. Which is the fact that quite a few Filipino researchers engaged in cultural studies have been too mesmerized by their
semantic gambits even without the evocative profundity of Shakespeare’s style and cultural savvy.

To sharpen this point, let me underscore that this indulgence in semantic mumbojumbo is being given an aura of authenticity because it deploys native words from Philippine languages, as well as a gloss of scientific veracity by citing as one of its props
“comparative linguistics”. And nobody is expected to raise the question or the ticklish issue if it were truly comparative linguistics being harnessed when a litany of cognates found among Philippine languages – idy(ang) in Batanes, ili among Ilocanos and a portion of Igorot areas, ilihan in Bicol, iligan in north Mindanao, and ilihan in Agusan
which commonly refer to an old prime settlement or a fortified sanctuary is supposedly the basic evidence for the existence of an “estadong etniko” (a prehistoric ethnic state) across this archipelago.

Complete text found at: 9th Philippine Linguistics Congress (25-27 January 2006) Organized by the Department of Linguistics, University of the Philippines . Accessed May 21, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Babaylan Conference 2010 Trailer

Babaylan Conference of 2010
April 17 – 18, 2010 at the
Sonoma State University, CA

For more information please visit our website:

The fiscal agent for Center for babaylan Studies Conference 2010 is:
International Humanities Center

Organizers of 2010 Conference:
Leny Strobel, Project Director
Perla Daly, Letecia Layson, Baylan Megino, Project Co-Directors.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Center for Babaylan Studies Facebook Group Launched

The Center for Babaylan Studies has opened a group on Facebook, the popular social networking website.

Nearly 200 Facebook members have joined to date, with more adding every day. Members are informed of developments of the 2010 Babaylan Conference on April 17 – 18, 2010 at Sonoma State University, CA and share their experiences with babaylans and babaylan studies.


We are passionate about the significance of the babaylan in our communities and world today and would like you to join us in bringing about this very unique and special gathering through your efforts and presence.

We believe in the power of the Indigenous Soul and the Indigenous World View, as embodied by primary/land-based babaylans in the Philippines and contemporary babaylan/culture-bearers in the Philippines and in the diaspora, to provide a narrative that restores a sense of wholeness, beauty, and integrity to our pagka-Pilipino.

In a world that aches for peace, justice, and healing from the violent effects of colonial and imperial histories, our Babaylan and our indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSP) offer a path to re-membering and remembering the sacredness, strength, beauty, and the creativity of our Filipino Loob.

Facebook users can find the group under Organizations - Community Organizations.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Conversations: The Concept of Power Among the Lumad

Conversations highlight papers written about indigenous thought, babaylans, and/or include babaylan concepts.

The Concept of Power Among the Lumad: Mindanao's Largest Indigenous Community
by Elena Clariza

While most studies on the conflict in Mindanao have been framed within the Muslim-Christian dichotomy, few studies have been done on the Lumad, the largest grouping of indigenous Filipinos. This paper is not about the causes of the Mindanao conflict. Several scholars such as Thomas Mckenna and Patricio N. Abinales have already produced such works. Instead, I deal with the Lumad’s perception of power. I argue that their concept of power is formed by their intimate relationship with a violent and harsh physical environment.

My purpose in writing this paper is to provide more information about the Lumad as a collective group. By using their idea of power, I hope to answer the following question: Will the Lumad ever form a united armed resistance against the Philippine government?

This paper is divided into two sections. The first section will introduce the Lumad. It will cover the origin of their name, composition, and traditional domains. The second section will discuss power while incorporating ideas from Benedict Anderson’s Idea of Power in Javanese Culture, Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution, and Tony Day’s, Fluid Iron, among others.

Complete Text found at: Professor Vina Lanzona, History 656 (May 12, 2005). Accessed online May 21, 2009.