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)...as 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


  1. I read and reread Katrin de Guia's Kapwa book over the summer of 2007 and it changed me!

  2. Uniting OFW with stories by Filipinas for Filipinas. Pinay Abroad dot com. Filipinas Abroad looking to make friends and meet other Filipinas. We are proud, intelligent, hardworking, talented people and together we are strong.