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.