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