Sunday, June 28, 2009

Definitions - Kalayaan (freedom)

In her talk Indigenous Filipino Values: A Foundation for a Culture of Non-Violence" prepared for the forum "Towards a Culture of Non-Violence," Katrin de Guia defines several key concepts which underpin babaylan practices.


Kalayaan— freedom, liberty and independence is a sine qua non for Filipino personhood. To understand this ancestral Filipino (human) value is important for a culture of non-violence. Why? Because violence usually arises from the attempts of one person or group to control another person or group. But control runs counter to the kapwa orientations where the norm is voluntary giving, including and sharing; where problems are resolved through consensus building and mediating rather than through fist or force.

Emancipation may be the best word to describe what the Filipino value kalayaan is all about. Reynaldo Ileto, who studied the pre-Spanish Filipino writings, concluded that Filipino children enjoyed traditionally great freedom while growing up. Indulged by their parents, they were allowed to learn at their own speed, experiment with life as saling pusa, and slowly discover and mold who they really were as human beings (kapwa tao).

Basically it’s a fine thing, this training towards openness, creativity and freedom. However, the underlying assumption of such a training towards self-determination is that a child, who had been indulged by the whole clan, would grow up to be a tolerant, emancipated and open-minded adult. True— when the setting is the kapwa culture! However, without training in such things as respect, propriety, humility and compassion (kapwa), the liberties bestowed on a child can mold it into an irresponsible and permissive adult, someone ruled by outright selfishness. A pampered child, without the self-regulating mechanism of sensitivity towards others (pakiramdam) becomes spoiled rotten. This is what happened to many illustrado and mestizo kids, who were raised in an atmosphere of materialistic indulgence, paired with the imperialist values of ego-hood. John Lennon made a song about that “I – Me – Mine.” That is where today’s “unbridled greed” has its footing. Instead of the Shared Self, we face the Expanded Ego.

While the Shared Self is soft like water, the Expanded Ego is hard as stone. There is no long lasting impact when water meets water. But when stone meets stone you have a violent reaction. Something will break!

Katrin M. de Guia performed her pioneering research on the Filipino culture-bearer artists all over the country while earning her PhD in Filipino Psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino) at the Unversity of the Philippines. She will be a featured speaker at the Center for Babaylan Studies 2010 Conference

Links accessed 6/24/09

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Definitions - Kagandahang-Loob (shared nobility)

In her talk Indigenous Filipino Values: A Foundation for a Culture of Non-Violence" prepared for the forum "Towards a Culture of Non-Violence," Katrin de Guia defines several key concepts which underpin babaylan practices.


The last core-value of the Filipino personhood is kagandahang-loob or “shared nobility.” The dictionary renders the term kagandahang-loob as a very general concept that emphasizes the beauty of something. It’s meaning is so broad that the notion stands for “anything good about something”. It is also translated as generosity. Kagandahang-loob acts like an anchor that grounds kapwa and pakiramdam in the enduring ancestral beliefs and convictions of Filipino IKSP. These are basically: God is good. Life is about learning, creating and sharing. It is good, even if there are hardships. Every sunrise brings a new day, a new horizon. There is always hope.

Kagandahang-loob, this “shared inner nobility” or “shared humanity” is a Filipino value that would nudge a person towards genuine acts of generosity; towards a nurturing that has its origin in genuine feeling for others-- empathy.

The Philippine historian Reynaldo Ileto pointed out how important the strife for a noble character was among the historical Filipino heroes.

He wrote that these bayanis reminded their followers that nobility had to be re-won every day. They also taught that it was ok to be rich, as long as the external signs of power were matched by an equally beautiful character.

How does nobility translate into every day activities? An unobtrusive kindness and caring? A sense of feeling responsibility for others? A compassion for all living beings? Are these characteristics important for cultivating a culture of non-violence? What do you think?

In summary, the three core-concepts of the value-structure of the Philippine personality theory are kapwa, pakiramdam and kagandahang-loob, interpreted as Shared Identity, Shared Inner Perception, and Shared Humanity. These values outline the profound humanistic inclination of the Filipino. And it is plain to see how such values are a seedbed for a culture of non-violence.

As for the other values of Enriquez’ Value System Of Philippine Psychology, we will skip most of them. But there is that one societal value kalayaan, which merits attention. This value stands for the untamed need of all living species to be free.

What are societal values? These are convictions that are deeply rooted in the ancestral heritage of a people. Such dispositions direct the personal values of an individual in profound and unquestioned ways.

Katrin M. de Guia performed her pioneering research on the Filipino culture-bearer artists all over the country while earning her PhD in Filipino Psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino) at the Unversity of the Philippines. She will be a featured speaker at the Center for Babaylan Studies 2010 Conference

Links accessed 6/24/2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Definitions - Pakiramdam (knowing though feeling)

In her talk Indigenous Filipino Values: A Foundation for a Culture of Non-Violence" prepared for the forum "Towards a Culture of Non-Violence," Katrin de Guia defines several key concepts which underpin babaylan practices.


Pakiramdam is often described as an all-important “shared inner perception” that compliments the “shared identity” of kapwa. It is an emotional a priori that goes with the Filipino personhood (as Enriquez called the Kapwa Personality). Pakiramdam operates behind all Filipino values. This steering emotion triggers the spontaneous voluntary actions that come with the sharing of the Self. It is the keen deep inner feeling that initiates all deeds.

Because of kapwa, this Pinoy feeling— pakikiramdam— is a participatory process, where emotions tend to be experienced mutually. Since most Pinoys can boast a “heightened awareness and sensitivity”, Enriquez’ student Rita Mataragnon declared pakiramdam a Filipino “emotional a-priori.” Filipinos are good in sensing cues (magaling makiramdam), she said and pointed out that both, the empathic “feeling for another,” or the talent of “sizing up each other” were active emotional processes that involved great attention to the subtleties non-verbal behavior.

Heightened sensitivity is a good survival tool in a society where not all social interactions are carried out with words. Here, only the carefully feeling out another can help one navigate the ambiguities of life’s encounters— like knowing when to join a group or how to blend in with people. Pakiramdam provides the tacit leads how to act appropriately in such situations and may well be regarded as the cognitive style of Filipinos— a unique social skill that is intrinsic to the Filipino personhood.

Katrin M. de Guia performed her pioneering research on the Filipino culture-bearer artists all over the country while earning her PhD in Filipino Psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino) at the Unversity of the Philippines. She will be a featured speaker at the Center for Babaylan Studies 2010 Conference

Links accessed 6/24/2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kapwa People

In her talk Indigenous Filipino Values: A Foundation for a Culture of Non-Violence" prepared for the forum "Towards a Culture of Non-Violence," Katrin de Guia defines several key concepts which underpin babaylan practices.


People, who practice kapwa in their life can be recognized by their genuine, people-centered orientation (magkatao), their service to others around them (matipon, matulungin), and by their commitment to their communities (pamathalaan). Among their barkada, they often are inspiring leaders and community organizers. As foot soldiers, they are the reliable ones, the ones who step forward to volunteer. They are quick to lend a hand and share their skills and knowledge freely (i.e. by teaching children, working with the urban poor, or facilitating community workshops on crafts, etc.) Their help usually comes with a big, gratis smile.

Community building and peace building is second nature to the people of such a bearing, as kapwa inspires them to facilitate at meetings, organize events and actively participate in civic affairs. How this kapwa works on a global scale can be seen in the people’s movements that unseated corrupt leaders— especially the People Power in 1986, which garnered for the Philippines the first-ever nomination of a whole country for the Peace Nobel Prize in 2000.But the same kapwa orientation also won the Philippine-Spanish War for Filipinos (even if it was followed by betrayal— the abuse of the trust that often invades the openness of kapwa.)

A notion of war may not fit into a forum on peace keeping and a Culture of Non Violence. But as historical figures like Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King or the Dalai Lama show—for the non-violent peace process you truly need the abilities to create networks, to build consent and to mobilize masses. And the kapwa orientation can come in mighty handy when you do that! Only if you manage to spread your peace ideas in a non-forceful manner (where you don’t buy or bully people, but where you motivate them with your good intentions and convictions) you will be effective in promoting a culture of non-violence. Then you are like running water hollowing out solid stone.

Back to kapwa: As the heart is central to the body, the shared Self nurtures the Filipino personality (or personhood.) But kapwa does not reside alone at the core. It manifests in pakiramdam, the pivotal interpersonal value that characterizes Filipino emotion. Enriquez named this emotional quality “shared perception.”

What is such a shared awareness all about? Pakiramdam matches the ocean-like expanse of kapwa with an equally large field of sensitive awareness.

Katrin M. de Guia performed her pioneering research on the Filipino culture-bearer artists all over the country while earning her PhD in Filipino Psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino) at the Unversity of the Philippines. She will be a featured speaker at the Center for Babaylan Studies 2010 Conference

Link accessed 6/24/2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Definitions - Pakikipag-Kapwa (Shared Identity)

In her talk Indigenous Filipino Values: A Foundation for a Culture of Non-Violence" prepared for the forum "Towards a Culture of Non-Violence," Katrin de Guia defines several key concepts which underpin babaylan practices.


The core value of Filipino personhood is kapwa. This idea of a “shared self” opens up the heart-doors of the I to include the Other. It bridges the deepest individual recess of a person with anyone outside him or herself, even total strangers. Here, it is not important if you are rich or poor, or status in society. “People are just people in spite of their age, clothes, diplomas, color or affiliations” said the Visayan artist Perry Argel.

Kapwa is the “unity of the one-of-us-and-the-other”, according to Virgilio Enriquez, who declared the concept as a Filipino core value. He upheld that kapwa implied moral and normative aspects that obliged a person to treat one another as fellow human being and therefore as equal. Such a position was “definitely inconsistent with exploitative human interactions,” he insited. But he also foresaw that this Filipino core value was threatened by spreading Western influences, when he wrote: “...once AKO starts thinking of himself as separate from KAPWA, the Filipino ‘self’ gets to be individuated as in the Western sense and, in effect, denies the status of KAPWA to the other.”

Today, most people who hear the word “kapwa” think of their neighbor. But standard Tagalog dictionaries like Vito Santos’ render kapwa as “fellow being” and “other person.” And older, Spanish dictionaries translate kapuwa as “both” and “the one and the other”, or “others.”

From all these, Enriquez concluded that the original Filipino idea of “others” was inclusive. He wrote: “The English “others” is actually used in opposition to the “self,” and implies the recognition of the self as a separate entity. In contrast, kapwa is a recognition of a shared identity, an inner self shared with others.”

He also said: “A person starts having a kapwa not so much because of a recognition of status given him by others but more so because of his awareness of shared identity. The ako (ego) and the iba-sa-akin (others) are one and the same in kapwa psychology.”

This Filipino linguistic unity of the self and the other is unique and unlike in most modern languages. Why? Because implied in such inclusiveness is the moral obligation to treat one another as equal fellow human beings. If we can do this— even starting in our own family or our circle of friends— we are on the way to practice peace. We are Kapwa People.

Katrin M. de Guia performed her pioneering research on the Filipino culture-bearer artists all over the country while earning her PhD in Filipino Psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino) at the Unversity of the Philippines. She will be a featured speaker at the Center for Babaylan Studies 2010 Conference

Link accessed 6/24/2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reviews: Kapwa - The Self in the Other by Katrin de Guia

Kapwa: The Self in the Other
Katrin de Guia, PhD

From Kathang-Pinay, the blog of Leny Strobel:

Friday, March 10, 2006
I hold in my hand the new book by Katrin de Guia, Kapwa: The Self in Others published by Anvil.

This book is dedicated to Ver Enriquez. He passed away in San Francisco, 1994. He was traveling from Manila enroute to U of Michigan to take up a teaching post there. He had been ill the months before but refused to submit to hospital procedures for diagnosis. By the time he arrived in SFO, he was too ill to continue on to Michigan; he was hospitalized and diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer and died a week later. We had a beautiful memorial for him before his remains were flown back to Mla. To many of us, he will always be an ancestral spirit who guides our lives towards decolonization and reaffirmation of our Filipino Loob.

I first heard about Katrin from Ver. He told stories about mentoring a German woman living in the Philippines as she worked through a ph.d. program in Sikolohiyang Pilipino. It is all a blur to me now what he might have said exactly about Katrin being in the program. He told me many more stories I couldn't put together until much later; he just told them as if I had been an audience to a saga going on at the University of the philippines - which I wasn't. I relished his trust though, for telling me.

Now I hold KAPWA in my hands -- and I see the impact of Sikolohiyang Pilipino -- it is a beautifully designed book: art work by Filipino culture-bearers; KAtrin's personal narrative interwoven with her scholarly exploration of Kapwa, Pakikiramdam, Loob, Dangal, Paninindigan -- as core cultural concepts; how these values are lived and made manifest in the art of Filipino culture-bearers. She features the work of Kidlat Tahimik, Roberto VIllanueva, Angel Shaw, Rene Aquitania, and others.

Mila, Katrin's friend who forwarded the book to me said: "this book will hold you even as you hold it." How true! This book is more than a text; it is an experience. Thank you, Katrin!

Saturday, March 11, 2006
I'm now 60 pages into KAPWA: The Self in Others. For a reader in the diaspora like me who has been away for almost 25 years and whose connections to the homeland is held tenuously by family, a few friends, and popular media (sporadically accessed), and one Philippine-based listserve, it is soul-nourishing to read about Filipinos like Roberto Villanueva -- an artist who used, exclusively, found indigenous materials, always involved the community's rituals and dreams, expressed the wholistic view of KAPWA. Katrin included photographs of Villanueva's art installations. As I meditate on these images, I am touched by the same Spirit that must have been Villanueva's inspiration as well. Still, these words are not enough to convey the experience.

Katrin says it well when she talks about "tacit understanding" as pakikiramdaman - that deep feeling that connects us, not just to other human beings, but to all that exists in nature - above, below and in all directions.

In light of the recent depressing news about the latest coup against GMA, this book reminds me/us that if only we look deep and close enough, we can still access the Filipino as a mythic man (NVM Gonzalez' term) a beacon of hope. Katrin writes: we are sick, but we aren't dying yet. Look to the Filipino artist-culture bearer for healing.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The beautiful soul, Katrin de Guia, sent this email and it's too precious not to share with you. She is responding to an email that I, as editor of a forthcoming book on the babaylan tradition, sent to the contributors re update on the book project.

From Katrin: What makes the babaylan tradition unique among the remaining shaman traditions?

Precisely the colonial experience! You mention 3 layers, Zeus Salazar mentions 4 affiliations of filipino psychology (which go- hand in glove- with what the babaylan knows, and not merely because the babaylan is a Pinay psychologist but also because as a Filipina culture-bearer that is her history). however, what is hardly mentioned is the Buddhist influence and the Muslim influence which overturned the Buddhist influence on the Filipino culture in at least half of the archipelago (akin to Indonesia). Maybe because the Buddhist and the Muslim heritage is not mentioned either in English or Spanish texts, it just fell under the rug. These patches of clothes in the dress of the babaylan are hardly mentioned and yet this very integration of global animist, Asian buddhist, oriental muslim, traditional European, modern American and postmodern global culture makes the shamanic tradition of the babaylan so unbelievably rich. Its not even the layers that are important, but the retention of ancestral memory despite all the layers, integrating the matching elements due to the inherent "including" strength of the kapwa culture.

That is what I tried to do telling stories about traditional babaylans in the mountains side by side with modern Pinays around the globe. They are babaylans because they keep remembering and connected to their archipelagic ancestors. Angel shaw is such a good example for this, in my eyes. (so are you, Leny, from what i made out of your book and all you other kindred spirits whom I yet have to meet)

Because the babaylan has never forgotten how it all began, (s)he hears the environment talk, like all the other shamans around the globe. (s)he hears mother nature and father wind. That is quite a feat after so many centuries and millennia. (S)he does not need to live in a forest without being artificial or self conscious about being a babaylan even in the city world.

There is that great love for life which comes with this obligation to serve. No shaman without that. But isnt it great that the babaylan can serve in so many ways-- telling her stories even by writing books or painting or making films, or healing as a nurse or doctor or yaya or a cook?

I believe this also plays into the question of diaspora. Here, where life is so fast, how much space and time can you realy devote to your ancestors without just repeating old rituals and their forms? Does your life express the ideals of the babaylan which are rooted in non-confessional spirituality? Do you dream and understand your dreams and become a self sufficient member of society who contributes something, whatever small to humanity each day, wherever you are? Do you know how to soul-travel and visit other worlds? Can you be a leader when asked to lead?

Such questions have to do with critical consciousness. It is the door through which the babaylan must step to claim her wings and humility keeps the feathers of these wings well oiled for flying across those oceans, forever finding a space for its own and its kin to survive.

Warm regards from a soggy mountain overseas.

Thank you, Katrin.

Katrin M. de Guia performed her pioneering research on the Filipino culture-bearer artists all over the country while earning her PhD in Filipino Psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino) at the Unversity of the Philippines. She will be a featured speaker at the Center for Babaylan Studies 2010 Conference

Links accessed 6/23/09

Friday, June 19, 2009

Modern Practices - Pagtatawid: Praying and Crossing Beyond

Praying and Crossing Beyond (exerpt, August 28, 2007 post)
by M. Villariba in Living and Learning Together

Q : Did you learn the word “pagtatawid” from your mother or grandmother?

At first I learned the use of the word “pagtatawid”, which is literally means crossing from grassroots women in Bay, Laguna who described the role of parents and elders in guiding the young to make the journey from birth to womb, from infancy to adulthood, from life to death. Pagtatawid has three stages: guiding a baby, as a parent, to become a human being, “maging tao”; guiding a person to be a good person , “maging mabuting tao” and assisting the person to complete one’s journey on this life to the next life, paglalakbay tungo sa kabilang buhay.

Q: Do you practice pagtatawid ?

A: Yes, but it took all of 50 years to learn, understand and do it! I will describe recent experiences in pagtatawid with faith, hope and love.

My formation categories are informed by the roles of pre-colonial settlements, when the Philippines was not yet a state. These are the roles of Babaylan, Datu, Panday at Kawal-Bayani. [1] As my experiences deepened, I realized that the babaylan had to develop the attitudes and skills of a datu, panday and kawal-bayani especially when they had to practice pag-uugnay and pagtatawid.

Learning from my grandmother Maria and mother Flotilda how to prepare family and kin during birthing to dying was a key to my discovery of pagtatawid. Then I became a feminist in the early 70s with three of my classmates in Ateneo graduate school tutoring me on what it meant to be a woman, sensuous and erotic. I read all kinds of literature on philosophy, religion, sociology, history and observed rural and urban families. I took a special course on paranormal psychology and trained under Fr. Jaime Bulatao, SJ, in Ateneo. He showed me how exorcism was done.

Q: Did your feminism help in becoming a babaylan?

For three decades from the early 70’s to the 90’s, I worked on my feminism. I believed in developing the wholeness of women, the pagkatao (being human) at pagkababae (being woman ) and liberating women from oppressive power relations, the pagpapalaya. But the feminist discourse was largely informed by radical and liberal Western ideas and it took me time to discover the indigenous, nonpatriarchal paradigm of Filipinos – kapwa-tao, the concepts of loob at labas na tao.

The feminist debates I got involved with did not initially articulate spirituality. I was part of the nationalist movement and the discourse was mainly Marxist, Maoist, and secular. I could not articulate the sacred coherently because I did not belong to a community who could affirm and validate my spirituality, a community with an epistemological authority. It was only when I conducted regular women’s education in the early 80’s that I realized the time was ripe for women to be openly spiritual. I found friends like Sr. Mary John Mananzan, Sr. Lydia Lascano and Sr. Rosario Battung who shared mystical experiences . When I turned 50 years old in 2000, there was enough epistemological evidence to pursue “babaylanship.” Women in my solidarity circles were already conversant with babaylan work.

When Ed and I lived in Europe in the late 80s ,I started my journals so that I could distill the lessons.

I observed women and men who were migrant datu, panday, kawal and babaylan across races and ethnicities. I explored the approach of reading people as living books. I developed active meditation. I practised shibashi, chi qong and much recently, tetada kalimasada – eastern disciplines of cultivating inner energy.

Q: Can you elaborate ?

A: The practice of pag-uugnay/ pagtatawid (connecting and crossing) is a sacred task.

Pagtatawid starts with pag-uugnay because the babaylan must first be conscious of the Divine Presence. It demands mindfulness and considerable energy. It is like studying geography, learning navigation, and organizing enough resources to get to where another life is and returning safely. If one were to sail beyond this world, you need a sacred seaworthy boat, become a one-person crew with a mastery of the currents, a good sense of direction, passion and faith to complete the trip. It is the babaylan who does the connecting where she dances her way into a divine web and when the Divine Artist-Creator gives her a sacred line, she prepares and assists the person to reach the crossing.

[1] Zeus A.Salazar, Ang Babaylan sa Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, Bagong Kasaysayan, Blg., Unibersidad ng Pilipinas,1999.

Links accessed June 17, 2009.

Ghost Stories

(Tera writes: I wanted to thank you Leny. I started out writing about imperial trauma and Urduja, but your invitation to be part of the babaylan anthology really pushed me to consider the babaylan figure. What started out as an intellectual exercise has really become part of my spiritual practice, of who I am... I have grown so much over the past year, and it is really shifted things for me and my family. I wanted to include a draft of something I'm writing that perhaps expresses this babaylan journey better (it's short).)

Ghost Stories (a draft) by Tera Maxwell

I grew up hearing ghost stories, the supernatural made natural in my otherwise conservative Mormon home. Home, rather a small rental, perched just outside the entrance to the Pensacola Naval Base, was inhabited by a ghost. A ghost is what made me cry when I was a baby. A baby, I cried whenever I was brought to that corner of our family room. Family room unsettled me, according to my dad.

My dad, otherwise skeptical, tells me, "One night, your mom and I were in bed, but I was awakened from sleep. Awakened from sleep when I hear your wail, I saw a shadow creep across the hall. Across the hall, it must be Cecilia, your nanny, I thought at first. First, I checked Cecilia's room, but she was sleeping. Sleeping, and not wanting to wake her, I picked you up and held you until you nestled to sleep again. Again, I checked the doors and windows of the house, but they were all locked. All locked up" he insisted, "I know that house was haunted."

Haunted by this story, intrigued by ghosts, I always ask about Cecilia. Cecilia is only mentioned in this ghost story:

"After your mom and I got married, she was given to us as a wedding present." A wedding present, I can't imagine my father used those words--always solicitous of others--, yet that was what I understood, that she was a wedding gift. Gift, servant, all the family that make your business their business when you marry a Filipina, it made my father very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable, he said, because "I didn't like a third adult in our home when we wanted to raise you ourselves, so after a year, we asked her to leave. "To leave? "Then what happened to her after that?" "After that, she went to live with some other relative..."

With some other relative, the story drifts off, and I never question this story about the nanny Cecilia, a ghost memory in her own right, only surfacing in this telling of other ghost stories. Stories fed my own childish fantasies about having a nanny, like the English upper-class novels I'd love to read as a kid. As a kid, I asked my grandmother about Cecilia, and she explained, "She was staying with us cleaning and cooking but when we were stationed in Brussels, Belgium (my grandfather served in the US Navy, that's how he came to the states) we couldn't take her with us because she had no visa. No visa, so I left her with your mom to help her with the baby. With the Baby and your mom only twenty, I felt bad I couldn't be there, so I left her Cecilia."

Cecilia now drifts across the margins of my scholarly research about imperial memories, all sorts of ghost stories.

Ghost stories are what my grandmother tells me about when she was a young girl growing in the province of Bataan, Philippines, so she tells me, when she was scaling up the mango trees next to her house, oh it made her tita, a spinster, so angry to see her climbing her mango trees and devouring her mangoes, her tita came out wailing a stick and scolding her to come down from there right now, but this time, she was dangling with her tomboy legs from the branches when she saw the ghost of her grandmother, Nanay, who had just recently died--my grandmother tells me, "I just looked at Nanay, and she waved at me, and she wasn't so frail anymore, but I was so surprised to see the ghost of my lola."

Now, I tell my own ghost stories. Ghosts visit me at night. Or sometimes, after the children go to school. I'm sipping green tea. I look up. They are the spirits of my ancestors. I rarely see them, only feel them. Sometimes, I taste their sorrow. Mamang's sorrow, for never showing my mother love. My grandmother was always critical, Mom says.

Now, I recognize and welcome these gifts. Before, I swallowed antedepressants or talktherapy. These spirits of my mothers and fathers. They visit to be acknowledged. I am ready for this work. A burden shifts. Joy scratches the back of my throat. I clear energetic beliefs passed through generations. Pebbles of regret ripple through one's posterity. Never releasing the anguish of losing a child. Tears sting my eyes. Deep breath. Or centuries of anger like vinegar tracing through my blood. Our property was seized. We used to be royalty. Unworthiness laces through our DNA. Spirits witness the struggles of their children. The cycle continues. They want to be released. It is time.

I close my eyes. I see images. I feel the flames of a fire. This man mourns a loss. Never mind, we let it go. Mamang's rape stifles my breast. I now feel her. My mother never understood. We clear the unspeakable together.

I am a babayalan, a Latter-Day-Saint babaylan. I bridge multiple worlds and oceans. Don't tell other Mormons, academics, or even friends. I am crossing a line. Soon, the line will move over. The earth is shifting too. I clean and clear out the energetic baggage. The burdens of my ancestors. I feel lighter. Laughter reigns more freely in my home. My mom is starting to walk in her own power. I am noticing joy. We breathe miracles each day.

I write this now. It's a memoir, or fiction? My grandmother knows. My mom, and my blond, blue-eyed (half) sister understand. And maybe, my babaylan sisters. For them, ghosts stories aren't so strange.

Submitted by Leny Strobel. Tera Maxwell retains all copyrights.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Conversations - Cultural Foundations: Kapwa and Bayan

Filipino Community Portrait (excerpt)
by MC Canlas

Cultural Foundations: Kapwa and Bayan

A fundamental Filipino cultural concept is kapwa, the unity of "self " and "others," a sense of "fellow being," a recognition of shared identity or inner self shared with others. "Anyone looking for a core concept that would help explain Filipino interpersonal behavior cannot help but be struck by the super ordinate concept of kapwa," wrote Filipino psychologist Virgilio Enriquez.

The Filipino immigrant is fond of asking a newly introduced Filipino, "Taga saan ka sa atin?" The question, literally "Where are you from in the Philippines?" is an essential part of Filipino identity formation. The usual response consists of one’s family name and the community he or she belongs to or identifies with. In my case, for example: "I am Canlas of San Fernando, Pampanga, but we moved to Quezon City when I was in my teens."

The question, posed without malice or sense of intrusion, elicits a response that facilitates discovery of a common bond, or ka. Kababayan, for example, are town mates (ka + bayan, or town) and kamag-anak (ka + mag-anak, or family) are relatives. Filipinos naturally seek out levels and degrees of connectivity to build kapwa and sociocultural affinity that contextualizes their interaction and establish rapport.

Again, in my case, for example, likely follow-up questions would be, "Are you related to the Canlas of Santo Tomas?" " Do you know the Calalangs in San Fernando?" "Was your family ever in Tondo, Manila? My mother’s mother is from there and she’s a Canlas," and so on. Chances are the person asking me will discover that our grandparents were cousins or our parents attended the same school, for example, and say: "Ah, it’s a small world, we’re related!"

This emphasis on place of origin dates back to long before Filipinos were even known as Filipinos, a time when our ways of life, culture, and identity were tied to settlement patterns and environment. Settlements tended to be located along rivers, lakeshores, and seacoasts, and even those in the hinterlands tended to parallel mountain streams. In fact, names for various Filipino ethnolinguistic groups and geographical locations are derived from bodies of water. For example, Tagalog means "native of the river"; Kapampangan are "people of the riverbank," Cebu comes from Sugbu, meaning "riverbank," and Lanao, Maranao, Maguindanao, and Mindanao all come from danao, "lake of flooded areas." This water-based culture, coupled with a sacred view of the mountains, constituted the material basis of the beliefs, customs, and traditions of the ancestors of Filipinos. The houses (bahay) were usually located near people’s source of livelihood, along the shore in coastal communities, and closer to the fields in the interior. People lived together in barangays of thirty to a hundred families, and social organizations developed around kinship and neighborhood connections.

Their sense of community, or bayan, is deeply rooted in extended family relationships and neighborhood bonds. The core traditions of family-based communities as expressed in their language and culture, leadership, and governance structures, and spiritual and social life have persisted for centuries despite colonialism, social upheaval, and natural disasters.

The connection between family and community is transparent in the lexicon. The term bayan is relative. Today, it may mean "motherland," Inang Bayan; "nation-state," Bayang Pilipinas; "town" or "municipality," Bayan ng San Roque; "town center," kabayanan; people or fellow citizen or belonging to the same ethno-linguistic group or region, kabayan or kababayan. The protector of the community is Bayani, while bayanihan, usually symbolized by a group of people carrying a house to another place, is a valued practice of cooperation, self-help, and mutual support among neighbors and extended families. Balikbayan is community and family renewing, either physically or spiritually to one’s homeland. Filipino returnees and tourists in the Philippines are called balikbayans.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In The News: Filipino Women Power

Originally published in Filipinas Magazine in the March 2009 issue, reprinted with permission from the author

Filipino Women Power
by Allen Gaborro (Filipinas Magazine, pg. 45-47)

It was with the arrival of European colonialism in the 16th century that the high ideal of an indigenous Filipina woman and its practice was uprooted alongside much of the pre-colonial culture and society that it had been embedded in for centuries. One of those feminine ideals was that of the “Babaylan” which is akin to something along the lines of a spiritual leader. Several definitions have been attributed to the term Babaylan. It is said to be the Visayan word for either “priestess,” “shaman,” “medicine man/woman,” “miracle-worker,” “mystic,” or for all of the above.

While both males and females could be babaylans, it was women who made up the majority of them during the pre-colonial period. Not relegated to being simply spiritual leaders, babaylans also assumed specialized roles in their respective pre-modern communities. Babaylans performed as healers, as receptacles of knowledge, as skilled practitioners in shamanistic traditions, and as native philosophers and therapists. Other duties ascribed to the babaylans included social mediation and spiritual mediumship.

What is perhaps most fascinating about the responsibilities of a babaylan is the amount of political influence and power they wielded. There is a considerable amount of historical evidence showing that babaylan women functioned as important counselors in their tribal communities. Babaylan women in addition, were valued as political and economic administrators in the service of the ruling tribal chiefs (datus). They also acted as communal custodians, oracles of wisdom, and as authoritative leaders of their people. In short, the babaylan were a pillar of social stability, or more precisely one of the four pillars—datu (chief), bagani (warrior), panday (native technologist), babaylan—of the barangay community. Indeed, they were what one writer termed as their community’s “central personality.”

In a sign of the more egalitarian ethos they lived in, the babaylan women were afforded comparable, if not entirely equal, status with men in their community’s social hierarchy. In some cases, they found themselves even more powerful and influential than their male counterparts. In fact, few decisions were reached without the consent of the babaylan.

While most babaylans were female, their male versions deserve some mention. It is said that the babaylan was the symbolic manifestation of both female and male power, an approximation of the yin and yang principle. Interestingly, babaylan men were believed to have worn feminine attire. This goes back to the idea that some babaylans were androgynous in nature and that they were endowed with the sexual properties of both genders.

The process of becoming a babaylan involved supernatural occurrences and paranormal states. According to babaylanic traditions, a person can begin developing into a babaylan by experiencing dreams that express a sacred summons, or a “rukut,” emanating from a mystical being. It should be pointed out that a person can become a babaylan by way of inheritance. A descendant can transmit a babaylanic tradition down to their successors.

Sometimes a sacred summons comes to a person in a trance. This trance resembles somewhat the phenomena of spiritual possession. If a person receives such a summons, they are deemed to be especially chosen by supernatural spirits to be a babaylan.

The chosen ones are then escorted by a “surog” or a spirit guide on a spiritual expedition. This journey will take them to a transcendental endpoint where they will be able to communicate with ancestral spirits. The completion of this unworldly journey, as it is indicated by the surmounting of the trance stage, signals the chosen one’s readiness for interaction with supernatural entities.

Under the auspices of an active babaylan, the newly-discovered babaylan is immersed in the essentials of babaylanic rituals and practices. Once the babaylan finishes their training, they receive amulets and other small ornaments (“pangalap”) which they use for a variety of ritualistic customs. Typically, these rituals entail ancestral spirit worship. Babaylanic rituals also have therapeutic powers that are utilized for the benefit of the sick. Ritualistic chanting is conducted by babaylans whenever a community is hit with an emergency or with trouble of some kind. The babaylanic rituals are intended to mollify the spiritual entities that are believed to be the origin of the difficulty.

Why is the memory of the babaylan so faint in the collective Filipino historical consciousness, given the leading positions that they held in pre-colonial society? Probably a key reason was the advent of Spanish colonialism in the Philippines in the 1500’s. The Spanish colonizers brought with them notions of masculine vanity, a dominant patriarchical paradigm, and a Catholic clergy that cast aspersions on the babaylan. This foreign clergy would supplant the babaylan and their rituals and instill Christian teachings and sacraments in their place.

It was not beyond the Spanish to use unadulterated violence in repressing the babaylan. In her publication, “A Book of Her Own: Words and Images to Honor the Babaylan,” Professor Leny Mendoza Strobel writes that, as recounted by historian Mila Guerrero, babaylan women were physically slaughtered with wanton cruelty. Their bodies were consequently, in Strobel’s words, mutilated as well: “as if to make sure [the babaylan] bodies never return, their bodies were chopped and fed to crocodiles.”

The Spanish legitimized their pogrom against the babaylan by invoking the preeminence of Christianity in the new colony. The babaylan and their philosophy were seen as an anathema to the colonizers’ religious beliefs and therefore had to be eradicated for the sake of the Christian faith. As part of that strategy, the Spanish friars demonized the babaylans as the “monstrous feminine.” Accompanying this perception was the friars’ claim that the babaylan were malignant enchantresses who were endowed with black magic powers.

The Spanish onslaught on the babaylan disrupted the generational inheritance of babaylanic knowledge and traditions from babaylanic mothers to their daughters. Attempts to revive that inheritance with the defeat of the Spanish and the dawn of American colonialism were futile for the most part as the babaylans were regarded as heretical by American Protestants in the Philippines as they were by the Spanish Catholic friars.

At present, the babaylan tradition is being rejuvenated as a Filipina expression of feminine power, independence, and wisdom. As Neferti Xina M. Tadiar writes in her essay “Filipinas ‘Living in a Time of War,’” contemporary Filipinas are reinventing “the role of the babaylan.” This role, Tadiar suggests, encapsulates the power that Filipinas exert. She means both the “the power over life” and “the power for life” that Filipinas utilize “in struggle” against social and political repression.

This 21st century version of the babaylan is a fresh take on the tradition, one that keeps its followers engaged in the pre-modern understanding of the sagacious babaylan female. This version at once, espouses a babaylanic spirit that characterizes modern-day Filipinas’ collective empowerment and resistance against historical subjugation and inequity.

Filipina intellectuals and activists have divided Filipina women into two definitive archetypes: the Maria Clara type and the babaylan. The Maria Clara type is identified with the image of the submissive, compliant Filipina. In contrast, the babaylan type constitutes the politically-conscious, autonomous, and enlightened Filipina female.

Professor Leny Mendoza Strobel, through her writings and scholarship, has emphasized the postcolonial bearing that has been attached to the babaylan. Strobel reprises the babaylan as a revolutionary force, as a symbol for tearing down the psychological edifice of colonial dispossession and domination that has plagued Filipinos. She writes that by invoking the babaylan name, Filipinos everywhere can draw on its “power to heal” and its “power to call the wandering, colonized soul, back into its own body and home.” Strobel also tells us that babaylanic traditions “provide us a language for talking back to the [American] empire that we now paradoxically belong to.”

The babaylan ideal has been modified over the course of Philippine history. And yet, even in its evolved state, how the babaylan heritage is understood still revolves around its pre-modern past. That compelling and significant past is very much alive today thanks in part to the restoration of the babaylan tradition.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Features: Back from the Goddess Gathering - Part 3

Over the weekend of May 15, Letecia Layson attended the RCG-I Gathering of Priestesses and Goddess Women in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. There Leticia presented a workshop titled workshop "Babaylan - Past, Present and Future". The Center asked Letecia to share her experiences there. Part 1 of this article is her open letter to the Babaylan Yahoo group. Part 2 sets the context of her presentation. Part 3 is the resources she provided to workshop participants.

Here is some information to supplement what I shared about USA's historical role in colonialism and in the shaping of what is now the Philippines: Information on US Territories

Two authors who have books on the History of US that you might not have gotten in school:

The US History UnCensored by Carolyn Baker
The Peoples' History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Words of Power

As is the case of many cultures who have been colonized the original peoples of the land, indigenous people, are identified by 135+ distinct languages. Babaylan is the Visayan word, there were/are many words used in other tribes/languages. Common to these languages is only one pronoun. " gender pronouns or suffixes to denote sex." Carolyn Brewer, Holy Confrontation. Taking into account the varied creation stories a common theme is the co-creation of female and male. The most widely known creation story comes from the Visayan Islands of Magandas, the female (Beauty) and Malakas, the male (Strength). In the story, the human female and male emerge from a bamboo plant that was split. Regardless of which comes out first (in different versions of the story), Malakas bows to Maganda (as in strength bows to beauty) and they walk of hand in hand. The qualities of Strength and Beauty are cultivated in both males and females rather than gender assigning these attributes. You can read a version of the story here.

Ways of Knowing Tacit/Explicit

"Ancestral traditions are based on tacit modes of knowing. Examples are dreading body gestures, interpreting metaphors, deriving signs from complexities in nature. All these are aptitudes of this ancient way of understanding. Other skills are dreams interpretations, visualizations, trance techniques and more. Intergral to a lifestyle that is born from Filipino personhood, such pre-rational cognitive talents are universal and are found in every other corner of the world."

"Tacit knowing is assumed to be the older way of human understanding because it works with the primary processes of sensing, intuiting and feeling (pakiramdam) . Its function is to find order, closure and consistency in an overwhelmingly complex world."

"Explicit knowing evolved much later in our brains. Called the secondary process, it is seen to regulate the linear "either-or" operations at work when we make rational decisions. Its function is to regonize contrasts and to differentiate parts. This is also referred to as the "discovery process."

"Filipino person hood, after all, can be expected to differ from personality, because it is grounded in the tacit knowing (pakirmandam) rather than explicit knowing."

Note: Pakiramdam is "shared inner perception"
Quotes from KAPWA - the Self in the Other by Katrin de Guia

To facilitate the decolnization process and reference Filipinos back to their own her/history and culture Virgilio Enriquez developed Filipino Psychology or Sikolohiyang Plipino in 1975 . It is rooted in the experience, ideas and cultural orientation of Filipino http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Philippine_ Psychology A core value is KAPWA translated as 'the self in the other', the shared self or togetherness. Katrina de Guia has written a book entitled KAPWA - the Self in the Other (eds note: - this link disabled as of 6/15/09).

This book includes Filipino culture bearers and by their livingness demonstrate and illustrate a living psychology of the people, not bound by western filters. The female and male are equally honored. The culture is about the children, unlike western culture that is focused on the adult male. One can see this reflected in the way Catholic Religion has adapted to the culture with Santo Nino and the strong female influence as in Suprema Isabel Suarez that Sr Mary John Mananzan writes about in her book Women, Religion and Spirituality in Asia. You can find some information out about Suprema Isabel Suarez [here] and [here]. According to Mananzan, the Ciudad Mistica De Dios was founded by Maria Bernarda Balitaan born in 1876. Her birth was considered to be the dawn of the Age of the Mother. An article is availabe for more info.

Filipino Community Portrait "..names for various Filipino ethnolinguistic groups and geographical locations are derived from bodies of water...This water-based culture, coupled with a sacred view of the mountains, constituded the material basis of the beliefs, costoms and traditions of the ancestors of the Filipino."

Holy Confrontation - Religion, Gender and Sexuality in the Philippines, 1521-1685 by Carolyn Brewer. Here is a review of the book and an article you can access on-line.

The Filipino Women;Before and After the Spanish Conquest of the Philippines (booklet) by Sr Mary John Mananzan
The Woman Question in the Philippines (booklet) by Sr Mary John Mananzan

Celebrating 100 years of feminism in the Philippines Sr Mary John Mananzan, Mother Superior of Saint Scolastica's College hosted a celebration and Babaylan Symposium with Agnes N. Miciat-Cacayan as the keynote speaker. Her presentation "Babaylan: She Dances in Wholeness can be accessed here. Dance as trance, dance as prayer, dance as healing are central to the work of the Babaylan. Agnes is the author of "The Shaman Woman's Dream - How can we worship god without the forest?"


Perla Daly writes at her website:

"Leadership is a sacred duty---not an act of self-aggrandizement . Let me put that in another way--- the most essential role of leadership is for survival, but the most sacred role of leadership is service."

"The Babaylan performed 4 main power roles in pre-hispanic Philippine village communities which were: Leader, Counselor, Healer, and Sage.

All those roles carried with it the qualities of community caretakers and bearers of wisdom.

Each role had a particular strength and spiritual principle that differentiated it from another.

The Leader embodied courage, making a stand and giving direction to a community. He or she was a leader and at times of conflict, a Warrior."

The Four Fold Way by Angeles Arrien reflect these primary babaylan roles.

I quoted from Marianita (Girlie) Villariba's article "Babaylan Women as Guide to a Life of Justice and Peace"

"Who is the Babaylan

Who is a babaylan? The babaylans, predominantly women, were mystical women who wielded social and spiritual power in pre-colonial Philippine society before the coming of the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century.

In his research on pre-colonial women, anthropologist Dr. Zeus Salazar described the babaylan as a specialist in the fields of culture, religion, medicine and all kinds of theoretical knowledge about the phenomenon of nature.

How did babaylans become babaylans?

Women had dreams and experienced life-altering events that led them to become babaylans of their specific communities. The traditional path in babaylan formation was to be called by a mystical source or to inherit the role from an elder babaylan. The sacred call would come in a dream or the person would experience a life-threatening illness, be healed by prayers and then experience a change of consciousness, or what is called sinasapian (a spirit possessing the self). But this possession is just a signal. What is important is the continuing transformation which gave the babaylan the ability to widen her circles of concern and learn her multiple functions in society.

In this writers interaction with members of Lumad communities in Mindanao, especially the Matigsalom, she learned that the practice of choosing a babaylan is a lifelong process. Any woman or man who could identify and solve the problems of the community can be chosen a babaylan. She had to demonstrate her leadership in solving its problems as they arise and mature. In other Lumad communities, a woman or man must be able to wield a sword or a weapon in defense of the community. Once proven as a warrior, she would develop further her role as a babaylan. The education of a babaylan is lifelong and she becomes a full fledged babaylan when she understands and embodies the multiple functions of priestess, healer, sage and seer. That is why babaylans are already in their maturing years when they assume the mantle of babaylanism. "

Filipino Goddesses

From the womb of Mebuyan (Mebuyan is an Earth Goddess) by Vivian Nobles, Agnes N Miclat-Cacayan, Sr Esperanza Clapano, Geejay Arriola

Reclaiming the Southeast Asian Goddess by Flaudette May V. Datuin

Contemporary Babaylan Movement International

The University of the Philippines Babaylan is the leading gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (lgbt) students' support group in all campuses of the State University, at the same time maintaining national and international linkages and presence.

Babaylan Denmark is an initiative of Philippine women's groups and women's desks in Europe, The Philippine Women's Network in Europe, came about as a result of the first Europewide conference of Filipinas held in Spain (Barcelona) on 23-26 September 1992. It was in response to a long felt need of Filipinas living and working in Europe to link together and forge unity to improve their situation, address specific issues affecting their lives as Filipinas, needing effective and liberating support for each other.

Babaylan - The Philippine Women's Network in Europe is an initiative of Philippine women's groups and women's desks in Europe. A result of the first Conference of Filipinas in Europe held in Barcelona on September 23-26, 1992, it is a response to a long felt need of Filipinas living and working in Europe to link together and forge unity to improve their situation, address specific issues affecting women. It seeks to develop an effective and liberating support system for Filipinas.

Contemporary Babaylan Movement and Arts in the USA

Evelie Delfino Sales Posch
Mary Ann Ubaldo. One of my favorite articles on the website is Mutya by Grace Odal.
Filipino Scripts

I am including additional information mentioned in the course of the content linking/bridging to other cultures:

Korean Shamanism Links
Kim Kumhwa
Invoking a Spirit of Peace
Shamans: The Next Generation
Gukmu (eds note: this site is in Korean.)
Dancing on Knives: An Introduction to the Politics of Sexuality and Gender in Korean Shamanism

Raindeer Ancestors - Elen of the Ways part 1 and part 2

Greenwood Tarot by Chesca Potter
Online Greenwood Tarot Handbook by Chesca Potter

Mabel Katz on Hooponopono
Self-Identity through Hooponopono, Mabel Katz

Filipino Bookshop Resources:
Philippine Expressions Bookshop - The Mail Order Bookshop dedicated to Filipino Americans in search of their roots.
2114 Trudie Drive
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275-2006, USA
Tel (310) 514-9139 FAX (310) 514-3485
e.mail: linda_nietes@ sbcglobal. net

We blazed the trail in promoting Philippine books in America. 2008 marks our 24th year of service to the Filipino American community. Thank you for your support. Mabuhay! Linda Nietes, a cultural activist, also owned Casalinda, the first all-Filipina bookshop in the Philippines, (Metro Manila,1972- 1983) and has provided a home for Philippine writings on both sides of the Pacific.

Arkipelago Books
ARKIPELAGO Philippine Books
953 Mission Street, San Francisco, Ca. 94103 U.S.A.
415/777-0108 Tel
415/777-0113 Fax

Besides I also use these online resources that compare pricing (both new and used) at FetchBook and BookFinder.

I think I covered all the material presented in the workshop. In closing I would like to invite you to visit The Center for Babaylan Studies to find out about a conference I am helping to organize in 2010. And be sure to stay in touch with the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology and their conference in 2010.

I look forward to our next connect. If I have left anything out, please remind me. I do not think all the women who were at the workshop wrote their email addresses down for me (due to me going a bit overtime). If you might pass this post on to them, I would be most grateful.

Love and Gratitude, Letecia

Republished with permission and gratitude. Links accessed 6/15/09.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Features: Back from the Goddess Gathering - Part 2

Over the weekend of May 15, Letecia Layson attended the RCG-I Gathering of Priestesses and Goddess Women in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. There Leticia presented a workshop titled workshop "Babaylan - Past, Present and Future". The Center asked Letecia to share her experiences there. Part 1 of this article is her open letter to the Babaylan Yahoo group. Part 2 sets the context of her presentation. Part 3 is the resources she provided to workshop participants.

Greetings from Southern CA!

Thank you for attending my workshop at the RCGI Priestess and Goddesswomen gathering. Congratulations to the congregation for 25 years of service to women and the community. Congratulations to the four new ordained Priestesses! I feel fortunate to be a witness to so much joy, fun, laughter, deep sharing and a time capsule to be opened at the 50th - wow!!

I appreciate the patience you had for the technical difficulty, though you briefly were able to hear the voice of Mendung Sabal, who died a few months ago.
Mendung Sabal is one of the 10 Filipino Oralists interviewed in The Shared Voice - Chanted and spoken narratives from the Philippines by Grace Nono At the end of the post I am including (see part 3) resources where you might be able to find books I listed, or invite your local library to order them and have them on hand. Maybe you will be able to get them by way of interlibrary loans. Here are a a few of Grace's videos (eds note: the first few seconds of the Balaleng Video has a sharp teleprompter tone. Please be patient and wait through it, the video is well worth it.)

The time we had together seemed too short and I hope I did not overwhelm you with information. This workshop is inspired by the work co-presented at past gatherings with Deb Trent "She of Many Colors" It was my hope and intention to honor Deb with is work, our ancestors, our teachers, the ancestors of the land, the elements and the elementals.

It was is important to set a context from which the babaylan tradition lives in - yes, a living tradition that managed to exist through the 333 years of colonization by Spain and the 50 years of the USA's presence in the Philippines. "Without looking back at the past, one cannot go forward into the future." -- Jose Rizal. The challenge I had presenting the material is in the relam of the Sacred, the past is now, the future is now and the present in now. "The Geography of Thought" by Richard Nisbett shares insights into how culture affects thinking processes - the differences of Eastern and Western thought. Here is a review of the book.

"The Shared Voice" by Grace Nono also provides some good references regarding the oralist and the literate styles, recognizing the secondary oralist as one who bridges the two styles using both systems. Note: the book comes with a CD that has recordings of those interviewed with their music/songs with English translations in the book. To quote Grace:

"It is an enormous challenge for oral traditions to thrive in the era of globalization that has followed centuries of colonization. The survival of these traditions requires conscious effort, fortitude, and commitment, not for one, ten or a hundred, but of all Filipinos who are reawakened to the oralist calling."

"May we, secondary oralists, develop the habit of regular self-examination as well as a general attitude of humility in the face of our own frailties, and in acknowledgement of the inexhaustible source of wisdom from which we can draw guidance, hope, and inspiration in the course of our journey."

I shared two poems that nested the major content of the workshop, Recipe for Cooking Fear and We Are Born With Gifts, written by Leny Mendoza Strobel from A Book of Her Own - Words, Images to Honor the Babaylan. You can find links at Leny's website for her blog. Leny's first book, Coming Full Circle - THE PROCESS OF DECOLONIZATION AMONG POST-1965 FILIPINO AMERICANS identifies the experience of many Filipino Americans. While my experience being born to a Manong who arrived on the mainland in 1926 at age 16 and a WWII War Bride, who arrived on the mainland on 1947 (just as the Philippines was given its independence at the end of WWII) had many similarities as described in Coming Full Circle, I was raised with traditional Filipino values in the home.

Two streams of western Goddess Traditions and Filipino Spirituality/ religion came together in the first series of classes I took at Circle of Aradia in Feminist Witchcraft in the Dianic Tradition. At the end of the first class we were asked to research a Goddess from our ethnic background and if that was not something that worked for us, research a Goddess that called to us. The Coulorful Mandaya: Ethnic Tribe of Davao Oriental by Ursula Cinc Valderrama. The book is an ethnographic study of the people (you can read a bit about them here). In the chapter "The making of Baylan (the same as a babaylan)" the rituals, chants, etc are included. Any woman of the tribe can be a baylan (providing they qualify), a priestess. The diwatas show their acceptance by possessing the baylan becoming a channel, oracle, healer, visionary, etc. During the ordination ceremony, the woman would need to invoke and make tributes to Gamaogamao, believed to be a water goddess.

I spent the next five weeks meditating on/with Gamaogamao as part of the workshop series. I was to ask if there was something that She wanted share with the women of the class and what She wanted me to tell the women about her. The last class we were required to invoke and aspect (speak as) our Goddess. I invoked and spoke as Gamaogamao in that last class forever linking my two spiritual streams.

Republished with permission and gratitude. Links accessed 6/15/09.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Performances: diwang ilaw: inner dance spoken word

diwang ilaw: inner dance spoken word @ grace exhibition space in brooklyn 2/6/09

diwang ilaw: inner dance spoken word @ grace exhibition space in brooklyn 2/6/09 from Philippe Garcesto on Vimeo.

Philippe Javier Garcesto is a NYC-based Filipino-American Multi-Disciplinary Artist who transforms and energizes each venue according to the essence of the performance piece. Leaving his homeland of Iloilo, the City of Love, at the tender age of 8 for the exotic suburbs of Maplewood, New Jersey his work is about balance between worlds. He walks a fine balance between two aspects of the brain hemispheres of intellect and intuition, science and spirituality, west and east. He often metamorphs into his alias Diwang Ilaw, which is translated as “Spirit of Light” in the Earth-rooted language of Tagalog, who is a holistic healer fusing the Babaylan techniques of Inner Dance with surgical lyrical barrages of Spoken Word Poetry. He summons the spirits of all humans living or dead, all creatures and plants, the Earth, and the Universe to flow through him to reawaken humanity to the collective power found within themselves as individual co-creators of our reality. He considers his art movement as Multi-Media Holistic Arts Activism designed to raise consciousness and awareness of the interconnectedness of all things and the Love that binds us all as One.

Submitted by Leny Strobel
Links accessed June 3, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

In The News: Bay Area Artists Revive Old Filipino Writing

Bay Area Artists Revive Old Filipino Writing

Sharon Chin reporting for CBS5, San Francisco

Some Bay Area residents are trying to revive an ancient writing system from The Philippines they say hasn't been used in centuries. It's a forgotten script that many in the Filipino community are only just discovering.

The language is called Baybayin, and Filipino-American artists are trying to keep it alive, to connect with their heritage. Babybayin migrated from the island of Java from a script called Kavi. But the script was replaced by the Western alphabet soon after the Spanish colonized The Philippines.

Our video report has more. Features artists Christian Cabuay and Christine Balza.

Submitted by Leny Strobel

Link accessed 6/8/09. Note that the feed was slow.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Kapwa Conference 09

Kapwa Conference 09
San Francisco State University
*** SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 2009 ***

WHAT IS KAPWA? Kapwa is a Filipin@ word that describes oneness, interconnectedness, holism, and symbiosis among living beings and the broader environment.

Kapwa Conference 09, organized by Pin@y Educational Partnerships and Fulbright-Hays Philippines Study Tour 2008, will focus on the work of educators to better serve the diverse nature of today’s student population – Filipin@ youth, people of color, and similarly marginalized persons to transcend the effects of colonization and go beyond the basics of identity politics, to develop survival strategies, foster healing, and to build bridges and nurture community.

Through lectures, panels, roundtables, symposia, workshops, exhibits and performances, we will specifically explore roles and perspectives at the intersections of the Global, Local, and Personal levels. Please visit the Presenters’ pages for Global, Local, and Personal to see the full range of topics, including critical pedagogy, arts integration, history, activism, gender and sexuality, and equity in education.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Features: Back from the Goddess Gathering - Part 1

Over the weekend of May 15, Letecia Layson attended the RCG-I Gathering of Priestesses and Goddess Women in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. There Letecia presented a workshop titled workshop "Babaylan - Past, Present and Future". The Center asked Letecia to share her experiences there. Part 1 of this article is her open letter to the Babaylan Yahoo group. Part 2 sets the context of her presentation. Part 3 is the resources she provided to workshop participants.

Dear all,

I think the workshop "Babaylan - Past, Present and Future" went well. The women seemed to get a lot out of it, some taking notes, tears, laughter, big ah-ha's The workshop was about 1.5 hrs Out of the 15 women in the workshop, five women (including me) who do not identify with European Roots/History - a woman from Mexican heritage, Korean - mixed blood, Native American - mixed blood and a woman from Puerto Rico. All women at the gathering are in agreement with The Affirmation of Women's Spirituality, are woman honoring, woman identified and generally focused on Goddess Centered, but not all from the same religions our spiritual traditions (meaning there were women who identified as witches, pagans, native american traditions, Mayan, buddhist, hindu, etc).

Before the gathering there was a Goddess Symposium which I was able to attend. The participants are part of the RCGI community. Kathryn Henderson presented a talk on "Working with Living Traditions with Respect". She interviewed Buddhist, Hindu, Voodoo, Yoruba and Native American spiritual leaders. She had a lovely one page handout with guidelines developed from the interviews, which was simple and direct. I referenced her work at the beginning of my workshop to remind women that there are unbroken lineages of babaylans in the Philippines. As a FilAM woman, I too must approach these lineages/teachings/ people with the proper respect, though my roots are also from similar cultures.

[In Part 2 of this post] the reference materials sent to the women of the workshop [appear] - and of course [I] invited them to come to the Babaylan Conference in 2010!

I had a simple 1 pg outline that I worked from, starting out with a welcome and a check-in. Women were asked to say three things, their name, the ethic or culture they identified with and their religion/spirituali ty. Once the check-ins were complete I spoke to the elements and the elementals, the ancestors the women just spoke of, the ancestors of the local land and invited them to be with us, to support us in the work we were about to begin.

I had a simple altar that included two pictures, one of my two sisters, mom and me, the other one was taken at the FAWN2005 gathering with some of you in it. I introduced you to the group and let them know this virtual circle has supported me on so many levels stepping forward in knowing more about the Babaylan. And then I read a poem from Leny's A Book Of Her Own, "Recipe for Cooking Fear." At the end I held up the garlic that was near me on the altar.

I quoted Jose Rizal "Without looking back at the past, one can not go forward into the future." In order for the women to appreciate who the babaylans are/were, I needed to set a context in her/history, language, the georgraphy of thought, tacit knowledge, oral and literate ways of transmitting, sharing and recording information by way of poems, images, crafts, dance, music, song, etc. I talked about the challenges that Filipina/o authors have writing in English about our culture and wondering where the audience is for the writing - yet still writers write and books are created.

I talked about decolonization and felt hearts breaking - open. Paraphrasing Grace Nono by telling them "there is not a single one of us in this circle who has not be touched by colonization, either by being colonized or as a colonizer," it is time to work together now to move forward for all the children. The women of color were relieved I spoke of these issues, especially the woman from Puerto Rico who shared briefly what it was like politically - how Puerto Rico not too long ago was able to have a sense of self government, but are still a colonial holding. She cried and I think felt relieved that she could share the difference and the frustration. She also shared how she was pained knowing her ancestors had almost killed an entire race, some of her other ancestors - having difficulty finding a place to speak about the internalized pain and confusion. She is the one who asked about Hooponopono (see links at the end of the post). A Hawaiian practice of forgiveness and healing. But I digress...

I told my story, of how I first came to know about babaylans - 18 years ago in my first classes on Dianic Witchcraft and read from The Coulorful Mandaya: Ethnic Tribe of Davao Oriental by Ursula Cinc Valderrama

While the outline I was working from had a progression, the items were presented based on the energetic in the room. How the women responded to what was being said and what else needed to be clarified, processed or referenced before moving on. So even now I am not clear on which went topic followed/flowed one after the other. I am pretty sure the unfolding into Babaylan was easy from here out....the past and the present linking in the readings from Perla's website article on Leadership, to Marianita (Girlie) Villariba's article "Babaylan Women as Guide to a Life of Justice and Peace", touching on creation stories, Filipino Psychology and Kapwa. I read from Agnes' Babaylan:She Dances to Wholeness' noting the intersecting realities of political and sacred, the dance of life and creation.

Examples of present rising of the Babaylan Spirit as in Babaylan UP, Denmark and Europe. Of Ann's work, Evelie's work, Geejay's work and the work of your circle.

I encouraged the women to reconnect with their own roots and make a commitment to step forward as herstory makers, women of spirit and women who work to ensure that all children are cared for in a good way. We did not have time do dance...though I closed with a second poem from Leny "We Are Born With Gifts."

They clapped, hugged me, thanked me and I was especially touched by the connection with the women of color. Lol, they were warned at the beginning of the workshop, they might not remember much of what was said....but they would leave here feeling better....and they did. Each woman seemed to have a sense of relatedness to each other and to the notion of Babaylan.

Hope this makes a bit of sense to you....

Thanks to Bec and Leny for encouraging me to share with the list. And thank everyone here. Your contributions to the list found their way in part of the weave of the magic I shared at the RCGI gathering. I excited about the upcoming conference. It is really amazing to see how the notion and spirit of the babaylan and babaylanism is touching people in a good way.

Love, Letecia

Republished with permission and gratitude. Links accessed 6/5/09.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Performances: MEBUYAN/The Mebuyan Peace Project

Mebuyan, a women-led music group based in Davao City, Philippines, is composed of Geejay Arriola (artistic director, percussionist), Gauss Obenza (music director, guitarist), Maree Contai (percussionist), Maan Chua (guitarist), Paolo Sisi (bassist), Chico Zambrano (drummer, percussionist), and Lolong Gonzaga (keyboardist), is a child of the Mebuyan Peace Project.

The group has released its first album entitled Mga Kuwentong Bata

The album features compositions by Geejay Arriola, Bayang Barrios, Gauss Obenza, Maree Contaoi, Maan Chua, Maia Tampoy, and Sheila Labos.

Mebuyan Peace Project is a group of 18 women arts and development workers based in Mindanao, Philippines. These women have worked individually or as members of other organizations in various peacemaking and theatremaking projects for at least 10 years.

On May 18 2001, the women of these music and theater groups gathered and gave birth to Mebuyan Peace Project—a theatre and musical storytelling group. The idea is to produce artistic performances that will respond to women's and children's concerns in relation to the issues of personal, domestic, community, regional, and global peace.

We also aim to help develop artists and peacebuilders through trainings and workshops in:

—creative writing
—child rights
—children's theatre
—improvisational theatre
—cultural action
—dance and movement
—environmental awareness
—gender in development
—global education
—music and voice
—music writing
—organizational development
—theatre (acting, directing, playwriting, production design, lights design)
—theatre in education
—visual arts

We also hope to encourage and popularize women's arts and theatre through storytelling, music, and theater performances, and to popularize women's and children's issues through workshops and performances.

Our mat is a world

where arts is the norm rather than a specialty.

where there are no sounds of war and greed, only sounds of music and laughter.

where men and women are given equal opportunities.

where every woman and child knows no hate nor fear.

where every home is the safest and most peaceful place on earth.

where arguments end in songs, not in fistfights.

where cultural diversity is celebrated, not wiped out.

Submitted by: Geejay Arriola
All links accessed date of this post.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Conversations: Land and Women - The Matrilineal Factor

Land and Women: The Matrilineal Factor
The cases of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
by Kristina E. Stege, Ruth Maetala, Anna Naupa & Joel Simo. Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Elise Huffer, Editor (2008)


“The women here are so sure of themselves… maybe it’s that we know for sure that we have land…Even if I don’t get land from my husband, I still have it from my mother and nothing can change that…”— (Palauan woman [no name given], cited in Margold and Bellorado, 197?)

This report brings together three studies on matrilineal land tenure carried out in the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. The respective authors, Kristina Stege, Anna Naupa and Joel Simo, and Ruth Maetala, conducted their research in at least two areas in each country – including one urban and one rural – with the overall objective of providing a better understanding of the current status of women in relation to land tenure, land management and
access to land in matrilineal areas.

This work is aimed at contributing a gendered perspective to the current regional focus on land issues and reform, particularly initiatives such as the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s Land Management and Conflict Minimization for Peace, Prosperity and Sustainable Development project (LMCM) and AusAID’s Pacific Land Program. It is also designed to provide updated, accessible
and locally derived information and recommendations for national land policy and legislative changes currently taking place in the three focal countries.

Submitted by Letecia Layson
Full text accessed 5/31/2009