Christine Balza of Suku, New Sun Artistry is a ceramics artist based in San Francisco. Recently, Leny Strobel asked Christine about her connection with babaylan practices. This is an excerpt of her response.
Babaylan, Deeper Understanding
by Christine Balza
Leny asked: Do you feel an emotional connection to babaylan concepts such as kapwa, babaylan, baybayin, bathala?
I feel the knowledge and understanding of the concepts of Kapwa and Babaylan that is within me, but have not had an opportunity to articulate or express before. I see flash backs of memories of a relative or family friend practicing message, or “helot”. They focus a spiritual aspect, much like meditation or prayer, towards healing and cleansing the body and mind. I had been approached by the same Aunties’ and Titas’ declaring they feel a sense that I was somehow gifted with this power to “helot.” As a child, I took the comments and spent hours trying to understand and focus on this power. Having little understanding of these concepts left me with an energy that I couldn’t focus on. It seemed too far-fetched and eventually my Fil-Am understanding took a dominant perspective and I not only forgot about these notions, but I mocked it as well.
Moving forward in life’s experiences, marriage, four children and finding this familiar feeling in my art, I am developing a better understanding of the metaphysical and spirituality. Its relation to caring for my family came first. Eventually, it was finding a sense of self and how necessary it was to care for my needs in order to maintain a balance. It was art that fueled the renewable energy to keep a healthy cycle going. But my creations were not moving out of my realm, except as tokens and gifts to those I love. It was the first piece I made written in Baybayin that affected someone other than one that I love. A Mother’s Day gift to my sister that said “Ina’” made a street fair vendor ask her if I could make more in bulk; thus, leading to my learning aspects of my culture that has widening my perspective and understanding.
My understanding of Kapwa and Babaylan at its most basic and fundamental form is as a mother. The obvious role is to my four children. However, I can see how I have been developing and practicing far before I gave birth to my oldest daughter of 16. I had not put much thought into this role in relationships I’ve had throughout the years until lately.
The complete article can be found on the Suku, New Sun Artistry site. All links accessed 7/6/09.