Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An Encounter with the Babaylan By Rhea Claire E. Madarang

Sr. Mary John Mananzan was a keynote speaker at the FAWN 2005 Conference in New York City. The conference was constructed upon the 5 babaylan leadership archetypes of Warrior, Teacher, Healer, Visionary and Priestess. Sr Mary John's keynote was how the power roles of the babaylan are a deep part of her work and own journey. 

At the recent Bahay Nakpil booklaunch of the Babaylan book, here's a young writer reflecting on the event:

An Encounter with the Babaylan
By Rhea Claire E. Madarang, November 2010

Warrior, teacher, healer and visionary. This was how Sr. Mary John Mananzan described the babaylan, the historical figure whom before then I only knew through my history schoolbooks as a healer and priestess in Filipino indigenous communities during the pre-colonial era.

Mananzan, a contemporary babaylan herself, spoke these words with a quiet force. I listened, together with a rapt audience of around 40. They were also attendees of the book launch of “Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous” on that warm Monday afternoon at Bahay Nakpil, Quiapo, Manila. Writers of the book, all with deep involvement with the babaylan tradition, and people significant to the creation of the book were speaking in turns.

Warrior, teacher, healer and visionary? I felt overwhelmed by the immensity of the power and significance of the babaylans in pre-Spanish Philippines.

Prof. Fe Mangahas corroborated the power of the babaylan in her sharing, saying that in indigenous communities back then, there were three significant roles - the datu, panday and the babaylan. The datu was the ruler and the panday ensured the livelihood of the people through farming for example – both roles addressed material concerns, while the babaylan was solely in charge of the spiritual realm and also had influence on the material concerns such as determination of the best time for farming.

But the power of the babaylan is not only possessed by women, as I had thought – and as many others had thought, I believe. It is also wielded by men. According to Katrin de Guia, one of the book writers, some northern provinces have men performing the roles of the babaylan. To the Ifugaos, this is the mumbaki.

With every speaker’s words, I felt my awe and respect for the babaylan grow, but I was most jolted by Mananzan’s sharing, for she shared how, in these modern times, she took on the roles of warrior, teacher, healer and visionary in her work for women’s empowerment and social transformation.   

The babaylan is thus not just a powerful historical figure but a very real and present power anyone can access at any moment. As Teresita Obusan, another of the book’s authors, put it: “The spirit of the babaylan never dies.” It is always there, available to everyone.

Upon realizing this, I felt the faintest stirring in my body of – dare I say it? – the babaylan spirit. Is there not a babaylan in me – in all of us? I wrote down this realization in one of the pieces of paper given to us for reflection after the speakers’ sharings.

At the end of the book launch, professor and modern babaylan Grace Odal, performed a babaylan ritual dance, scattering rose petals, lighting incense and singing along the way. In a white flowing dress and with flowers crowning her head, her movements were both graceful – as befitting her name – and forceful.

Slowly, she led almost all of us to dance along with her and urged us to make any movement that came naturally to us. We danced moving in a circle, as though in a trance, but still conscious. The air was electric, charged with the energy of this ancient ritual performed in the present.

After that I had no doubt as to the reality and power of the babaylan spirit. And through that experience I believe I’ve glimpsed the babaylan in me too.

(Thank you for sharing, Claire! And may you continue to be inspired and empowered by the babaylans of our history, our lives today and our country's future.)

Filipino Tattoos Ancient to Modern by Lane Wilcken

Lane Wilcken became one of the Co-Directors of CFBS recently and his book, Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern, just came out. 

I just wrote and posted a book review for Lane's book. Lane has worked on and written this book with the utmost passion for his Philippine roots, and with love and respect for his family and ancestry. He writes in the true spirit of Pakikipagkapwa---Sacred Interconnection with all Life. 

Congrats and thank you, Lane. 

Get more information on his book and read my review at

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The masses and their messianic role

“ transformation cannot take place unless the ordinary people – the masses – take an active role in effecting such transformation at all levels”

Published Date: November 16, 2010
By Karl Gaspar
The masses and their messianic role thumbnail
Brother Karl Gaspar
In a Third World setting such as the Philippines, social transformation cannot take place unless the ordinary people – the masses – take an active role in effecting such transformation at all levels: individual, family, community, the nation-state and even at the cosmic level, given the reality of climate change today.

Change agents used to emphasize the need to highlight agency if society is to change from injustice to equality, dysfunctionality to unity, from slavery to emancipation of oppressed sectors. A change of heart leads to justice, peace, harmony and progress.

In time, there was a realization that, for all the Church did to change people’s hearts, the structures of society remain oppressive and disenfranchise those who are marginalized in a society dominated by the rich and powerful. Landless peasants, unemployed workers, indigenous peoples, subjugated women and others are still pushed to the margins.

Using tools of analysis that pinpointed the unjust structures of society, many change agents among pastoral workers concluded that there was need for the conscientization and organization of the poor and the oppressed. Transformation of peoples and the economic, political and social structures of the nation-state will come about only if there was a mobilization of the masses for their own liberation.

Organizing urban poor settlers, landless peasants, agricultural workers, indigenous peoples, women and even middle class citizens was the call of the moment during the tumultuous years of martial rule.

Then came People Power. New insights were gained in the course of the mobilization of the masses, some of whom were not part of the organizing work of civil society agents, including church pastoral workers. Ordinary Filipinos held on to religious icons and expressed a belief system that aspired to liberation from the evils of martial rule. With courage in their hearts mobilized from various sources, the masses were willing to risk their lives.

The book The Masses are Messiah: Contemplating the Filipino soul is the result of  two years’ research. To conduct interviews and focused group discussions, the author traveled all over the country asking two questions: Is there such a thing as Filipino spirituality? If there is, is this transformation-oriented?

The study concluded that, indeed, there is such a thing as Filipino spirituality and it is transformative at all levels: self, family, community, nation-state and cosmic. But it is at the level of the ordinary people – the masses – where this spirituality is best manifested. It is also there among those in the middle sectors especially those belonging to civil society organizations who are at the support of the struggling poor.

The roots of Filipino spirituality
The first part of the book’s title – The Masses are Messiah – is taken from a poem written by a young Filipino who was one of the first young people who resisted the Marcos dictatorship. Eman Lacaba, a poet and philosopher went to the best schools in Manila including the Ateneo de Manila University. Beyond the confines of traditional church structures, he sought the space where he could walk his talk, namely, to be on the side of the poor and the oppressed.

Hundreds of Filipinos would take the same path of resistance and martyrdom including priests, religious, Basic Ecclesial Communities, lay leaders and those at the forefront of the struggle. How did such deep commitment arise? What were the roots of their militancy that empowered them to overcome their fears and embrace a life that paralleled the one of THE Messiah?
The book traces these roots to the indigenous belief system of our ancestors in the pre-conquest era that serves as the bedrock of our spirituality as a people. It was one that linked us to the spirit world in terms of our aspirations for good health, prosperity and well-being. It highlighted the sacredness of all creation; all species on earth were part of a whole web of life. It focused on our needs of “this world”, rather than “the world out there”; it had a matriarchal angle and thus was gender-inclusive.

Thus for time immemorial, our people’s spirituality was attuned to the challenges of constant transformation. Ironically, the Hispanic Christianity that the Spanish friars introduced to the islands negated many of these elements which are now much more appreciated in the post-Vatican II Church. However, despite what the friars did, our ancestors held on to the core of their indigenous spirituality. That made possible the rise of the religious social movements in Central Luzon which Rey Ileto brought to our attention in his book – Pasyon and Revolution.

During those revolts, the masses’ spirituality helped them connect to what they could mobilize from within themselves as a messianic people and even as they linked to the Messiah manifested in various icons – the Sto. Nino, the Santo Entierro, the various angels and saints and even Mary with her various titles such as Mother of Perpetual Help.

The relevance of Filipino spirituality today
The Church in the Philippines – especially from the perspective of the institutional, hierarchical and clerical Church – today is again at the crossroads. On one hand, there are the moral issues that she traditionally considers very important including issues of the reproductive rights, abortion, divorce and the like.

However, in a society where secularization is beginning to have an impact, especially among the urban middle-class sectors and the media. The Church is painted as outdated and finds herself at loggerheads with those advocating for lesser control from such institutions. The youth also find themselves not caring about such moral injunctions.

On the other hand, many people expect the Church to take a strong moral stance on issues that have become very urgent, such as genuine land reform, workers’ rights, assistance to overseas Filipino workers, women’s subjugation, ancestral domain of indigenous peoples, militarization and human rights, mining and other ecological issues.

While there are Church people who have spoken strongly on these issues, many Catholics are disappointed that there is very little discussion of these issues. And where there is little talking the talk, there is even less walking of the talk.

At these crossroads, the Church needs to re-imagine and reconstitute the pastoral-missiological fields to identify the kind of engagements church workers should have so that they can truly witness to the Gospel and make a difference in the lives of the most abandoned who continue to be marginalized on the basis of their class, ethnicity, age, gender, culture and faith traditions.

Karl M. Gaspar CSsR is director of the Alphonsian Lay Formation Institute of the Redemptorists in the Cebu Province. He teaches at the St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute in Davao City and the St. Mary’s Theologate in Ozamis City.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Babaylan and Psychology

old 1970s article refers to baylan as Philippine shamans and shamans as psychologists:

page 57
...if we take the second sense, i.e., "The Shaman
In His Role or Function of Psychologist," it seems the task may be easier.
We simply presuppose that the shman is a psychologist, and then proceed
to describe how or when he functions as such. But even this is not quite
simple. There are other questions that crop up: First of all, "What is a
Shaman? Perhaps, for many, this is the first time the word is being
bandied about. Then what do you mean by the clause the shaman plays
the role of a psychologist? A theoretical psychologist? an experimental?
a clinical? a psychiatrist? a therapeutist? etc., etc.
page 58
The Hypothesis
The hypothesis is a complex one. It has more than one parts, and
the divisions of this paper will naturally follow after them.
First, the shaman is a psychologist (a) on account of his knowledge
of the mind, and of mental states and processes; or, which amounts to
the same thing, because of his knowledge of human nature; (b) because
he is a person especially sensitive to influences and forces that are extra-
sensory, or, because he is psychic, even a "mystic in the raw," as Eliade
would characterize him; and (c) because he was the psychiatrist in pre-
literate society, in that he practiced the healing of mental diseases.

page 64
The Initiation Proper: Departure
Shamanic initiation like any initiation on the primitive level con-
sists of at least three stages: departure, transition and incorporation.
Central to the idea of initiation is that of growth or maturity. This in
turn is based on an ancient belief which finds verification not only on the
personal but also on the collective and cosmic levels, that one must die in
order to live again. This is the law that lies at the base of all existence as
we know it in the world. The phenomenon of seizure or "an overpower-
ing mental crisis" which is characteristic of shamanic call documented all
over the world, is actually the beginning of the initiation, and can be
likened to the stage of departure from one's wonted and accustomed
way of life. It matters not whether this seizure comes spontaneously or
has been deliberately brought about. What is important is that it happens
at all. And still more important, that the shaman candidate is cured
of this mental illness, generally through his own efforts and that of the
spirits. The very name of the shaman in many Philippine tribes, namely,
baylan, balian, ballyan, which is rooted on the Sanskrit word ba-di mean-
ing "a fit of sudden and inexplicable trembling attributed by the peoples
of the Malay peninsula to supernatural agency" (Christie, Subanuns,
p. 2 n. 1) serves notice of this mental seizure as typical of this stage of
shamanic consecration.

page 63
The Call to Shamanism
The call to shamanism by the spirits could come in many ways:
directly, through a sudden fit of trembling and insanity or near insanity,
as in the case of the shamans among the early Bisayans (Eliade, Shaman-
ism, 33 ff ; Alzinas, Historia 122-23 ; 2 16-2 17) ; or during a long period
of sickness or depression, when, they claim, a diwata or anito or spirit
calls on them to become his friend, promising himself to be his familiar
spirit; or by a vision, as in the case of the Goldis and their ayamis, or
of a Subanun who, having been in the forest for a number of days, and
finding himself short of food, suddenly "saw" a diwata riding a boat,
who promised to become his guardian spirit. (Christie, Subanuns, p. 4).
Or through dreams, waking visions, or harrowing experiences like being
hit by lightning and coming through unscathed, or drowning and being
revived; or dying and eventually resuscitating; or physically disappearing
for three or more days and eventually being found either on top of a
tree, usually, a balete, or he is found sitting beneath it, or on tlie rafters
of a house, or in the basement or the cellar, with a stranger and far away
look, usually oblivious of the persons and things around him, and, in
many case with a strength beyond the normal.
The shaman candidate generally gets over this initial onslaught of
madness or psychosis. He gets cured, and then his initiation into the
ranks of shamans begins. (Note well: it is possibie, as in the case of
Eskimos & American Indians, for a man to voluntarily go off into the
desert or woods in search of a vision, and to experiense a call to shaman-
ism which is signalled often by the appearance of a spirit either in human
form or in animal form.)

You can find the full text here:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Feminism Ala Babaylan

Manila Bulletin, Sept 20, 2010

MANILA, Philippines - It is hard to believe that modern Filipinas whose ancestors suffered two waves of colonial rule -- Spain in the 16th century and the United States in the early 19th century -- have a tradition of feminism that dates back to pre-Hispanic Philippines. Yes, every modern Filipina should know that she owes her freedom and strong-mindedness in part to a more than 500-year old tradition of intentional, forceful, and positive feminism, longer than the history of women's liberation in the West.

The babaylans, an empowered class of women who reigned prior to the arrival of the Spanish colonials in the 1521, were healers, advisers of men, intercessors between material and spiritual worlds, inspirers of arts and crafts, and believers of a holistic world view, according to the scholarly writings of Dr. Fe Buenaventura Mangahas and Professor Jenny Romero Llaguno, co-editors of the 192-page Centennial Crossings, Readings on Babaylan Feminism in the Philippines, published by the C & E Publishing Inc. in 2006.

Identifying with the babaylans nowadays, appreciating what they went through when their men were defeated by colonial rule -- how these women hid, survived, and preserved their culture during the colonial era -- will give feminists in the Philippines a more solid historical ground to stand on in their advocacies on freedom and responsibility.

Majority of Filipinas would not have found it necessary to strut in the 70s and in the 80s like their bra-burning sisters from the West who eventually became anti-male and anti-family. At the time, feminism, coupled with romanticism and rebelliousness, claimed a major role in attracting young female intellectuals in universities to join the Maoist red flag. Later, many of them were dismayed to find out that macho culture was not only present but remained strong in the underground movement. Well, the season of tears is over and it's not too late to get affirmation from an older past, sisters, asserts Mangahas, former chair of the Social Sciences Department of St. Scholastica College and now a full time book writer on history and Philippine feminism."I have been studying the babaylans since the 80s," she recalls.

In a joint project with historian Dr. Zeus Salazar in 2000, Mangahas remembers reconstructing the Philippine prehistoric socio-political structure in the pamayanan (kingdom) as containing four types of leaders: the datu (king); the sundalo (warrior); the panday (technologist) and the babaylan. "In 2005, I coined the word babaylan feminism because many believed then that we did not have an indigenous tradition of feminism," says Mangahas. This was more than 30 years after she, too, almost succumbed to the belief that Western feminism presented the right model for emerging, liberal Filipinas. For Mangahas and Llaguno, modern-day feminists can use babaylan as an adjective to identify Philippine feminism. In a sense, the babaylan-spirit is like a cross to ward off the Draculas of the past and the neurosis of colonialism which have burdened us with disturbing questions about identity.

Knowing the babaylan spirit, the authors say, can help Philippine feminists understand why, despite their conscious drive for freedom, they continue to love men without guilt and nurture families unconditionally.

What was the inherent nature of the old babaylans? "Because of the babaylans, we can say that we (Filipinas) were the avatars of Asia. In pre-historic time, we never had patriarchy or matriarchy. Gender ties were egalitarian," says Mangahas. The division of labor between men and women then was not a curse, but a form of harmony. In a country that was often visited by volcanic eruptions and typhoons, men and women shared the dangers equally and protected their progeny.

This magical order was disrupted. "When the Spaniards in the 1500s co-opted the datus, the babaylans resisted fiercely. Then, they creatively adopted Christianity in order to survive; they became pasyon chanters. They functioned as a priesthood -- natural Christians who balanced both the connection between the material and non material world," explains Mangahas. "When the babaylans became rivals of the Spanish priests, the latter called them bruha or witches who allegedly dabbled in black magic. They were demonized. But I think the babaylans had true access to the good spirits," she adds."It was a good thing that the priests who came to the Philippines also studied our languages and cultural practices, which they adapted to propagate Christianity. That also helped in the preservation of our culture (including the babaylans)," says Mangahas."Our Western sisters too must have had it (the babaylan spirit), in the past, but their patriarchy became too strong and their society too rationalistic that they were forced to undertake a radical form of feminism," she explains.

Asked about the reactions of Filipino men to the book, she says, "The Filipino men who have read the book were in awe. They never imagined there was a time in the past when Filipina women were empowered, who were part of a power system, and had an egalitarian relationship with men."

"We speculate that the spirit of the babaylan still exists up to the present time. You see women who behave that way," Llaguno says. For Mangahas and Llaguno, reclaiming (intellectually) the indigenous dignity of Filipina women in the past is, ironically, the only way to give a deeper dimension and unique meaning to the freedom being sought by post-modern Filipinas. Their other mission, they add, is to end the negative view perpetrated by the Spanish priests about the babaylans.

The book, composed of 15 articles written by contemporary women who were inspired by the babaylan spirit, was a project that began in 2005, recalls Llaguno, also the book's copy-editor. A lecture on the book, including a re-launch, was held before members of the Diliman Book Club at Restaurant of Choice, University of the Philippines Alumni Association building on September 11.

COPYRIGHT 2010 Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp.
COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Relationality in the Filipinos... bayanihan spirit lives on! by Antonio Ingles

The Filipino indigenous construct reflective of the relational character or the relationality in the Filipino character refers to these two (2) Filipino values: (1) pakikipagkapwa (the principle of Filipino relationality) and (2) kapwa (the core of the Filipino personhood). The bayanihan spirit embodies these Filipino principle and core reflective of the ancient Filipinos who had been sailing together as one balangay/barangay (boat). It is an accompaniment where ancient Filipinos come alongside in a cosmic journey, moving forward and together towards life and beyond.

Solheim (2006) claims that barangay or balangay (meaning boat) was a word known by the first Spaniards to come to the Philippines. Pigafetta, meeting with the chief of Limaswa, found out that balangay was also used for the smallest political unit of Tagalog society (Solheim, 2006, p.7). According to Solheim (2006), an elderly informant on Itbayat of the Batanes Islands told Dr. Mangahas that one of the words for boat (vanua) also means homeland. Its cognate words vanua, banua, benoa, and fanua all denote the concept of village, port, town, house, land, country, cosmos, and even boat (Vitales, 2005 as cited in Solheim, 2006).

According to Abrera (2007) one important concept of this (spiritual) boat journey is abay, which refers to the boats traveling together. In Bikol, it means to travel with several boats as companions, in the Visayas, it refers to boats sailing together, and in Tagalog it signifies accompanying a person (p. 10).

In March 1964, Victor Decalan, Hans Kasten and volunteer workers from the United States Peace Corps came upon the “find of the century” in the Tabon Cave Complex (in Lipuun Point, Quezon, Palawan), a unique burial jar with a cover featuring a “ship-of-the-dead” [boat-of-the-dead] motif. It has henceforth been called the “Manunggul Jar”[1] and declared a Philippine National Treasure (Valdes, 2004, par. 16).

Chua (2007) declares that the Manunggul burial jar is unique in all respect, which dates back to the late Neolithic Period at around 710 B.C. (p. 1). This secondary burial jar is classified as funerary pottery. The form of the jar's body is full, reminiscent of the womb, and incised with curvilinear scroll designs like the waves of the sea. Its lid is adorned with the image of a small ship [boat] with two passengers (Braudis, 2005, p. 14). The two passengers each were wearing a headband, which until today is used for the preparation of the dead among some ethnic [indigenous] groups in the Philippines (Fox as cited in Braudis, 2005). Abrera (2007) argues that the concept of the abay (companion) explains why there are to be companions for the dead, who will help and serve him in the afterlife (p. 10). It is worthy of note that the boatman is the abay , who is steering rather than paddling the ship [boat], and the dead is the front figure, whose hands are folded across the chest, a widespread practice [in the Philippines] when arranging the corpse (Fox as cited in Braudis, p. 17). Thus, abay refers to the following: boats sailing together; a person who accompanies another in a journey; the soul of another that would accompany the dead to the afterlife (Abrera , 2007, p. 12).

Fox (as cited in Braudis, 2005) claims that vessel [jar] provides a clear example of a cultural link between the archaeological past and the ethnographic present. Jocano (1998) adds that our prehistoric past embodies the wisdom of our ancestors, i.e., their established pattern of thoughts, feelings, actions, and aspirations (1998, p. 21). Abrera (2007) further explains that the hero’s boat, Gadyong in the epic Sandayo of the Subanon of Zamboanga has its own mind, which explains why the boat atop the Manunggul burial jar has a face at the prow, where one can see the eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Likewise, the prow of the lipa or houseboats in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are called sampong (face). It reflects a belief that even inanimate objects, plants and animals have souls. Abrera (2007) also clarifies that since these objects have souls they can accompany the dead on her/his journey and be brought over to the afterlife. Thus, the dead of the ancient Filipinos is never alone on her/his journey.

Jocano (1998) appeals that we need to change our prehistoric perspective in the Philippines, in the face of new evidence to firmly establish our cultural roots and national identity as a people within Filipino grounds or ever appreciate the long historical development of our cultural heritage (p. 55). As Chua (2006) puts it, the Manunggul burial jar is a testament of our history and culture, an embodiment of our experience and aspirations as a people and how we must look at ourselves —Maka-Diyos, Maka-tao, Makakalikasan at Makabansa. It is also a vision for a new generation of Filipinos who will once more take the ancient balanghay as a people (pp. 3-4).

The Philippine bangka according to Abrera (2007) comes from the Austronesian baŋka which means boat, a term also found in Indonesia and the Melanesian islands such as Fiji and Samoa (p. 1). For Solheim (2006), this balangay (boat) or barangay is referred to as a smallest political unit, and vanua (another term for balangay) is referred to as homeland and even cosmos. Though Abrera (2007) used frequently the term bangka, she never missed mentioning balangays (boat) as she refers to the oldest ones that were discovered in Butuan (p. 9). For her the bangka [balangay] is a boat that transported souls to the afterlife and that same boat had a soul of its own (Abrera, 2007, p. 12).

To the writer’s mind, the ancient Filipinos are people sailing together as one balangay/barangay/bangka (boat), and that they accompany one another [in bayanihan spirit] in a cosmic (cosmos = vanua/bangka/balangay) journey of life and beyond (afterlife). Jocano (1998) insists that we have to go back to prehistoric times to know how our culture developed to appreciate our cultural heritage as a people and rekindle the Filipino diwa (spirit) [bayanihan spirit] to guide us along the pathways of the 21st century (p. 19). The writer borrows the words of Jose Rizal to remind us of the importance of prehistory to our nationhood: "Ang hindi lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan." [Free translation] "They who do not learn the lessons from the past cannot reach their intended destination" (as cited in Jocano, 1998, p. 22).

And what lessons were they? First, that today's relationality in the Filipino character is rooted in the prehistoric past, and second, it embodies the wisdom of our ancestors, thus the Filipinos' bayanihan spirit lives on.

Abrera, M. B. (2007). The soul boat and the boat-soul: An inquiry into the indigenous “soul”. Retrieved December 4, 2010, from ResearchSEA Asia's first research news portal:

Braudis, A. (2005). The Manunggul burial jar : prototype for a worldview. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Asian Social Institute, Manila.

Chua, M. (2007). Art as vessel of history. Emotional reflections on culture, nation and the manunggul Jar. Retrieved December 4, 2010, from Balanghay Pangkasaysayan:

Jocano, F. (1998). Filipino prehistory: Rediscovering precolonial heritage. Quezon City, Philippines : Punlad Research House.

Solheim, W. (2006). Origins of the Filipinos and their languages. Paper presented at the 9th Philippine Linguistics Congress. Retrieved December 3, 2010, from

Valdes, C. (2004). Archaeology in the philippines, the national museum and an emergent filipino nation. Retrieved December 4, 2010, from Wilhelm G. Solheim II Foundation for Philippine Archaeology, Inc.:

[1] The custom of Jar Burial, which ranges from Sri Lanka, to the Plain of Jars, in Laos, to Japan, also was practiced in the Tabon caves. A spectacular example of a secondary burial jar is owned by the National Museum, a National Treasure, with a jar lid topped with two figures, one the deceased, arms crossed, hands touching the shoulders, the other a steersman, both seated in a proa [boat], with only the mast missing from the piece. Secondary burial was practiced across all the islands of the Philippines during this period, with the bones reburied, some in the burial jars. Seventy-eight earthenware vessels were recovered from the Manunggul cave, Palawan, specifically for burial.

(Originally shared with CFBS at

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Babaylan/Catalonan knowledge in Filipino Psychology

Some excerpts from the book From Colonial to Liberation Psychology: The Philippine Experience. 
Virgilio G. Enriquez. De La Salle University Press. Manila.
Page ix

Integral to Filipino Psychology or Sikolohiyang Pilipino is Liberation Psychology or Sikolohiyang Malaya.
Page xi

At the core of the Philippine value system is the concept of kapwa.
Page 2

The fact remains that the history of psychology has to be rewritten indeed so as to reflect the different bodies of knowledge, formal or informal, found in Asia and the different cultures of the world. If this is not done, what one has is at best a history of psychology which ignores the traditional roots of psychological thought in Asia—a history of Western psychology with the word “Western” unsaid or unwritten. 
The development of psychological thought has a long history and many filiations in Asia and the rest of the world. The Philippines is no exception. To be sure, one finds psychology in the practice of the babaylan and catalonan in the Philippines but just the same, most academic departments of psychology in Philippine universities tended to ignore indigenous psychological thought and practice and instead adopted theories, methods and practices from their Western counterparts. It is only lately that more and more Filipino psychologists have come to appreciate the need to recognize the indigenous roots and contemporary social and behavioral manifestations of a “less civilized” psychology hand in hand with the awareness of the Western influence in the development of psychological thought in Asia. The value placed on modernity and development leads some to conclude that whatever is indigenous is uncivilized, making the word “indigenization” dirty. “Contextualization” as a label is thus preferred over “indigenization.”
Actually, the word “indigenization” is not as politically charged as it appears in many cases. “Contextualization” sounds neutral but it took the form of decolonization and

“indigenization” in Philippine psychology regardless of one’s dissatisfaction with the word. The Filipino word pagsasakatutubo captures the situation aptly even if pagsasakatutubo is a tongue twister for the American-trained Filipino scholar. The ultimate goal of pagsasakatutubo is a sikolohiyang malaya and mapagpalaya (i.e., a liberation psychology): malaya (literally, “free,” “independent,” and “liberated”) or unshackled by the massive American political, economic and cultural influence in Philippine life, society and psychology, and mapagpalaya (literally “liberating”) or responsive to internal Philippine social problems primarily rooted in the inequitable distribution of wealth and the Great Cultural Divide separating the Anglicized Filipinos from the masses.
Page 6

The psychological knowledge of the native Filipino traditionally held by the babaylan in the Visayas, the catalonan in Central Luzon, and the baglan in the Northern Philippines (Bailen 1967, Quiazon 1973), is an important basis of early Filipino psychology. The babaylan was the first Filipino psychologist. As a priestess she was also the guardian of Filipino sacred knowledge. In the early days she did not refer to herself as Filipino but nonetheless continued her practice as babaylan throught the centuries of identity evolution from Indio to Filipino. The dalangin (prayer) and bulong (whisper) of the catalonan and the other healers and priestesses from different ethnic groups in the Philippines are rich sources of early Filipino psychology. The use of anting-anting (amulets) and other psychological practices and beliefs of resistance movements such as the Pulajanes (Constantino 1975) are all rooted in early Filipino psychology.

Part and parcel of early Filipino psychology is the psychology found in ealy Philippine literature, be it oral or scribbled on bamboo: the salawikain (proverb) (Eugenio 1966), The bugtong (riddle), the kuwentong bayan (folk tales), the alamat (myth) and the epiko (epic).

The inherited customs of the Filipino serve as one of the funamental bases of Filipino psychology. Related to this is the rich field of ethnopsychology. Handed from generation to generation are the eliefs and practices on childcare (Absolo-Domingo 1961, Quisimbing 1964, Aldab-Lim 1966), Temporal 1968, Almendral 1969, Adea 1974, Lagmay 1974, Alonto 1975) and the intricate knowledge which governs interpersonal relationships (Gutierrez-Gonzales 1968, Almario 1972, Nuevo 1973). The Filipino psychologist cannot gain this knowledge in New York, Paris or Munich. It is best that the psychologist actually live in the barrio where he came from in order to learn and rediscover Filipino psychology.
Filipino psychology is the attachment of importance to the Filipino and his consciousness. The totality of the Filipino—both his material and spiritual aspects—are given emphasis. This perspective, labeled sikolohiyang Pilipino, motivates the social scientist to investigate the traditional beliefs of native Filipinos.

“A Palawan babaylan’s views of disease causation.” The U.P. Anbtrolophology Bulletin 3 (1), 6-9. Jerome Bailen. 1967

“Personal at pormal na konsultasyon hinggil sa perspektibo ng sikolohiya sa Pilipinas para sa kasaysayan” Serafin Quiazon, Jr. Kasama si A.V. Lagmay. Sulu Hotel, Lunso Quezon, Nobyembre 1973.

A History of the Philippines: From the Spanish Colonization to the Second World War. Renato Constantino. Monthly Review Press. New York. 1975.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Book Review: An Encyclopedia of Shamanism

Letecia writes:

Hey there, can't remember if this link was shared before. The books are actually now published in paperback and at about half the cost, not that I have my copies yet. It looks interesting. I have also including a few links at the bottom of the page, one the author's website, the last one is a link to Google books where you can take a look at the book.

For me it helps to contextualize Filipino Magical/Priestess/Oracle/Healers in relationship to the global view of first nations peoples commonly named "Shaman's" by researchers, academics and practitioners.



Shaman's Drum Reviews: An Encyclopedia of Shamanism

An Encyclopedia of Shamanism by Christina Pratt. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing, 2007. Biblio; index; notes; 8.5” x 11.25”, 616 pp.; two vols.; $200.00 (paperback).

Reviewed by Timothy White. Reprinted from Shaman's Drum, Number 75.

In An Encyclopedia of Shamanism, Christina Pratt has compiled a potentially useful—although rather expensive—reference tool that bears testimony to how far shamanology has come in the last few decades. Thirty years ago, shamanism was rarely discussed outside of collegiate anthropological circles. Today, we find this two-volume encyclopedia set offered by a mainstream academic press that specializes in educational books for young readers. Moreover, the set’s contents are rich enough to provide shamanic practitioners with some stimulating windows into the transformative worlds of both traditional and contemporary shamanisms. Unlike many cross-cultural overviews on shamanism, the essays and many of the entries in these volumes are enriched by the author’s personal background in several experiential shamanic traditions—including Michael Harner’s core shamanism, Malidoma Somé’s Dagara traditions, and some unidentified Ecuadorian, Nepalese, and Tibetan traditions. more

Related Links:

Last Mask Center for Shamanic Healing
Encyclopedia of Shamanism Vol. 1 by Christina Pratt
Encyclopedia of Shamanism Vol. 2 by Christina Pratt

Monday, June 07, 2010

Talaanding Seven Element Invocation

On the second day of the First International Babaylan Conference, Jennifer Navarro invoked the seven elements of the Talaanding tradition. The invocation is meant to recognize and honor the presence of the seven elements, and as Jennifer read the prayer, representatives from the conference brought symbols of each element to the Ancestor's Altar at the entrance of the main conference gathering space. Jennifer has graciously allowed us to reprint the invocation here.

Land - With each step we take we are supported by you. In your arms seeds of life are lovingly nourished.

Water - While in your embrace we are able to dive deep into meditation and reflection. Within your womb we are comforted by the whale's song.

Wood/Trees - Majestic and steadfast. We aspire to be in your likeness, strong roots anchored in the heart of Mother Earth, sturdy trunk that keeps us centered and strong, and beautiful branches and leaves that reach up and receive heaven's divine energy.

Sun -You are the Divine body that benevolently shares life energy. From your rays all living things grow and thrive.

Air - We are in constant communion with you. You are the breath of life. With each inhale and exhale we integrate your pure energy within our vessel.

Sound - It is upon your tones we ride and bring healing to the self. It is upon your vibrations we soar and become one with the divine.

Divine Spirit - You flow around us and within us. Hope, appreciation, love, bliss, joy, you are all of these things. It is through your eyes and your movements that beauty manifests.

It is Jennifer's hope that the words of the prayer reach those who resonate with it in their hearts. Thank you, Jennifer, for your generosity.

Posted by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor with Jennifer Navarro's permission.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Healing at Salmon Creek by Lissa Romero

We must've looked a sight to the residents of sleepy Salmon Creek, off Highway 1 past Bodega Bay. A motley crew of thirty-odd participants of the Babaylan Conference that had just taken place at Sonoma University, we had come to the quiet beach with Babaylan Reyna Yolanda and five other members of her group to join in a ritual for healing the earth. Malongs of every size and color peppered the sandy landscape as we piled out of our cars parked on the narrow road leading to the beach.

Along the way, most of us took off our shoes. Despite the cold wind, the sand felt warm and comforting under our feet. As we made our way over the dune, I beheld the sea—not calm and pretty like those touted in tropical vacation brochures, but wild, roiling, dangerous and majestic. Spray filled the air as the waves crashed onto the hardy brown sand. It was like being on the edge of a whirlpool, the movement of the water expansive, erratic and unpredictable. One was drawn to the sight of the endless sea, yet mindful about keeping a distance. Also, this was the Pacific Ocean. The water was numbingly cold.

It was my first time to participate in a ritual of this sort, that is, not one of those prescribed by my Catholic upbringing. I suspect this was true for most of us present. And except for Reyna Yolanda and the spirits she seemed to be listening to, no one really knew what was about to happen. I knew at the start that I was about to experience something special, but had no idea that by the end of it, the event will have profoundly changed the very core of my being and my understanding of what it means “to be in the world”.

She began by tracing a sacred space on the ground, an “altar” upon which she and her helpers arranged the fruits and flowers we had brought with us. She walked back and forth swiftly, following the requests being whispered to her by Spirit, and we all patiently watched and followed her subsequent orders like obedient children. She led us in a series of actions whose order I can no longer remember: writing on the ground; running, jumping or walking; tracing circles in the air with a sprig of flowers held in the right hand. We seemed to be outside of Time, completely focused in the moment, the sun hidden behind a thick layer of clouds that covered the entire sky above us. And slowly, with each completed action, Nature seemed to be responding to us. Seagulls, at first in pairs and small groups, began to fly over us from a northern to a southerly direction, from the right side of the beach to the left. They flew right above us, zooming to within ten to fifteen feet above our heads. Our breaths caught, for we all instinctively understood the symbolism of this act: Nature was hearing us, and She was pleased.

I had no expectations at all in coming to the beach to participate in this ritual. I was in “beginner’s mind”, my cognitive self stretched like a blank, white canvas. So what happened at this point in the ritual was completely unexpected. She asked all of us to form a straight line facing the sea, facing west. She told us to offer our own personal petitions to Bathala, to the wind that swirled around us. We all, as though rehearsed, raised both hands up into the air, our faces held skyward as we silently offered our prayers. I asked for the regeneration of life on earth, for the healing of its parts that may have been badly or even irretrievably damaged. I asked that humans may care for the earth, not in this business-like, politically correct manner, but in a deeper way. Just as I was trying to define in my mind what I meant by a “deeper way”, I heard Reyna Yolanda singing out to the sea in spirit language. As I heard her sacred communication, something began to move within me. I looked at Reyna Yolanda’s figure, clad in a green satin dress, miniscule against the backdrop of the wild sea. And I began to feel a Presence speak inside my bones, my muscles, my heart and mind: “I am a part of you, as you are a part of me. We are not separate. Your being is intertwined with mine in ways that twist and turn and dig and reach. I am not Other. You are my Beloved, and I am Yours.”

I began to cry. In the grip of such truth whose veracity I felt deep in my bones, something collapsed inside me, not walls, but a belief that had been sold to me, to all of us, as truth: that Nature is something outside of us that we must care for just because it’s a vital part of the planet we live on; that we call or label her “Mother Earth” in a metaphorical sense; that we segregate our trash or engage in other “green” actions in the perfunctory way that we make our morning coffee or pay our bills; that the health of our planet is intrinsically linked to ours as a fact of nature, a function of nature, rather than the essence of our relationship with it.

These beliefs but scratch the surface of what may pass as “reality” or “truth”, and to continue to hold on to them would be to deprive one’s self of the truth of being and reason for existing. It would be akin to living a lie, in the same way I pretended as a child to believe in Santa Claus long after I discovered the truth so I could keep getting the presents. In such a self-serving deception, we deprive ourselves of life-transforming epiphany—the truth of who we are.

Then Reyna Yolanda asked us to crouch down, put our palms flat on the ground and start drumming. As I drummed the wet sand, I could feel Nature rise up to meet me. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” I told her, for the first time as Beloved to another (although there really is no “Other”) Beloved. I felt her saying, “I bask in Your love. I need Your love. When You love me, I begin to heal. I am not Some Thing You need to fix. I am One who also needs to be loved.” The tears that flowed out of my eyes seemed to be drawn straight from my heart. I love you, I love you, I love you. Never again will I forget my Mother, for She is my Kapwa, too.

As if in response, the sun broke through a crack in the clouds. Nature received our offering of love into her heart, and we basked in her warmth.

One action after another. We were doing a series of mini-rituals to complete a whole one. In doing them, I began to understand the importance of ritual as a way to experience the intrinsic sacredness of All That Is. At one point, in the middle of one ritual, we all saw a large, white plastic drum, half filled with water, bobbing slowly towards us from the water. At first it was upright, almost as tall as a man, before it fell on its side and was dragged up to the shore upon Reyna Yolanda’s orders. Was it a mirage? A mass illusion conjured up by the skipped meal and unusual circumstances? It was like we were in the middle of a dream, playing roles in an allegorical tale instead of merely being its passive audience.

The phenomenon of the floating white drum was laden with meaning, Reyna Yolanda explained. “That drum represents our intentions, floating in the sea of hopes and dreams,” she said in Tagalog. “By bringing it onto the shore, we have pulled it in to safety. We have made it possible for the success of our petition to become reality.”

When we finally left the beach, we were euphoric and peaceful. Long goodbyes were said, as some of us would be heading home to wherever we had traveled from: Oakland, Stockton, Los Angeles, Toronto. When I checked the car’s dashboard clock, I was shocked to see that three hours had elapsed since we arrived at the beach. I thought we had just been there an hour. I chuckled at the memory of sci-fi movie episodes that had portrayed similar phenomena. Had Time folded, or did we simply step outside of its confines temporarily, somehow? I suppose that the mysteries of this Universe will unlock slowly, one at a time, dimension by dimension, truth by truth. For now, this is more than enough to ponder on…

I honor and thank the shamans and babaylans of this world, who with courage and perseverance undertake the task of bridging all worlds, bringing healing and helping evolve consciousness. Thank you. Maraming salamat po.

Posted with permission from the author.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Song of the Babaylan

(Lyrics and melody by Lissa G. Romero)

I have been waiting for you
Outside of time
In the forest of your dreams

You have heard my voice on the wind
Calling you back home
To the warmth of my embrace

I have heard the beating of your heart
Yearning for a love
Deeper than the sea

I am in the silence of your Soul
Hear my love come home
Like waves on your shore

When you meet the Other in your Self
Feel your heart unfold
To take in the Sun

Let this Love break the walls within
And pour into the world
The balm that heals all wounds

I have heard the beating of your heart
Yearning for a love
Deeper than the sea

I am in the silence of your Soul
Hear my love come home
Like waves on your shore

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Brought to you by Unity of Berkeley, Center for Babaylan Studies, CIIS Alumni Sound Voice Music Healing Ensemble, March 12, 2010

The Boro Boro gongs called us to gather. The Warsi ritual of purification invoked ancestral blessings. Offerings to the altar in the Talaandig tradition and the Dugso ritual ushered us into the evening's celebration of oneness.

Our feast: Tradicion Rondalla, Kulintang Dance Theatre, Kulintronica/Ron Quesada, Inner Dance by Jen Navarro with Lizae's harp composition, The Great Ocean, spoken word by Jodie Olympia, musical offerings by Mila and Vedel, Koronado Apunzen. A talk, "In the Spirit of our Ancestors", by Virgil Apostol.

True to the inclusive Kapwa spirit, we were joined by the Sound Voice Music Healing ensemble from the CA Institute of Integral Studies. They offered a Medicine Melody, a Japanese Medicine Melody, and Sounding the Oneness. Another member of the group, Jose Garvia Silva and our very own Lizae on the harp, offered De Repente California.

We were also blessed by the Pierre family from Haiti who shared a Haitian Dance and Chant and Yanvalou, rhythm for ritual dance from Benin. Romain Grouazel shared in his native tongue in Brittany the oldest poem titled Ar Rannou.

I can describe the program above, but I cannot do justice to the spirit of the evening with mere words. Perhaps it is enough to tell you a story?

A few years ago, she would never have danced in public. During street festivals in her hometown, her feet always pulled her in the direction of the drummers and dancers. She envied the women who took off their shoes and danced their joy; she wished to do the same but she didn't know these women -- they all seemed to be part of a group of drumming women -- it would have been awkward to join in.

In the year after the patriarch died, she found herself in the Philippines in the month of June. This time something inside let go. With the Cordillera gongs, she joined the circle and danced and danced. She was with her community and it was okay to dance.
A few weeks later, she was in Mindanao at Pamulaan College. The indigenous students began drumming as her group was saying goodbye. And again, the shoes came off and she danced.

The dance hasn't stopped. The dance wove its magic. More dancers came and brought along singers, poets, drummers,healers, creative souls, searching souls. They called their village - Center for Babaylan Studies. One day they said "we must enlarge this circle, let us organize a conference, a gathering."

Each of the women said they have heard the call of the ancestors, the call of the Indigenous. From New York, New Jersey, Texas, California, Philippines - they came. "I get it." "I have been waiting for this moment for a long time." "I cannot not do this." "I vow to do this work."

In January we held a retreat. After a meditation session, one of us saw a vision - a buwaya/crocodile was sitting on the table, she fipped her tail, she showed her ancient body. We remembered the story of the babaylans who were fed to the buwayas. The vision and dream about the buwaya visited different members of the group for days to come. They started calling it the Buwaya's path. What does the buwaya - she who ate the babaylans - want from us?

And why am I writing this as if you would understand the language that hides so many things; the language that is available to those who ask for doors to open to the gentle prodding of the Indigenous Soul.

Is it Real when someone writes after last night's event: "Oh the night was so healing for me. I feel I have renewed energy and vision, even how to utilize my energy appropriately so that I am able to make it through the day."

Are the tears from the deep well of joy, real? Is the energy we bring home with us real?

Yes, of course. It is to me and to those of us who didn't want to leave Unity Church last night.

But the dance continues. Next week, Katrin will join us. Then another ritual gathering in Los Angeles on March 27th. Then ta da! The Babaylan Conference on April 17-18, at Sonoma State University.

Are you being called and pulled in this direction? MAybe you are not sure. Maybe you are curious. Maybe you think we are nuts. Just the same, you feel something. Trust this feeling.

Last night, a woman said that she had to beg off from another appointment to make it to Unity. She said she was afraid of disappointing the white women in her group that meets on Fridays. But when she read my email telling her to follow her heart's desire, she called the women and asked for a raincheck. She was glad she came.

This third generation Filipino American didn't understand a word of Ilocano when Virgil was invoking the ancestors. She held her hand to her chest, teary-eyed. She remembers the sound of Ilocano spoken by her grandparents and parents. There is power in remembering.

If you tell her she is merely being nostalgic or is romanticizing the indigenous, she will probably punch you in the nose. Nah. Of course, she won't. But she might want to tell you a long story about how she came to this point in her life, this desire to reconnect with her forgotten and suppressed history. How it has started to change her life. Will you give her the time of day to listen?

There will be more stories like this that you will hear at the conference. I have to end this now. I have to open the mail with conference registrations. May one of them be yours.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gather with us at the Babaylan Conference This April. Plan Now!

1st International Babaylan Conference, 2010
April 17 – 18, 2010 at the
Sonoma State University, CA

We would like you to join us in bringing about this very unique and special gathering through your efforts and presence. Info on getting to conference and on lodging here now!