Monday, February 28, 2011

Sacred Journey exhibit by John Paul "Lakan" Olivares'

For those of you in Manila, please view John Paul "Lakan" Olivares' Sacred Journey exhibit of stunning, contemplative, mind-bending, soul-baring drawings... Prof. Olivares shares drawings that reflect his spiritual journey during his 11-year hiatus. 

February 28 - March 14, 2011
Galerie Y, 4th FLR SM Megamall Artwalk

Cocktails will be on March 4, 2011, 6:00PM, Galerie Y. 

Click link for more details...

You might be able to get a glimpse of some of his works online here:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

shine mentality, a cure for crab mentality by Perla Daly

If the cure to colonial mentality is a mental and spiritual decolonization then the cure to crab mentality has to be what I now call Shine Mentality.

In 2002, I remember speakiing to a group of women in the Manila at a Wowee! Workshop on women's wisdom. When I told them that there is room in this world for everyone to shine because inside all women are fabulous---I got a lot of unbelieving looks. A lot of women around the world, even in the United States, the birthplace of the term liberated woman, don't believe that they've got fabulous-ness or the ability to shine within their own selves in the first place.

I know that most of those Filipino women, like me, were raised up to be quiet and demure---keep your legs closed and your thoughts to yourself....etc, etc. Little do most of us mahinhin/lady like Filipinas realize that some of these tenets of femininity have suppressed our full expression of who we are and have prevented us from pursuing our dreams. It's how we're raised and how our environments influence us that cause us to limit ourselves, and to want to limit others too, even bring them down.

We all need to discover for ourselves how we can live life to the fullest and to also discover how we can want others to live to their fullest potential too. What keeps people from "shining"? What causes people to want others to not shine or to bring down others with their crab mentality?

Read more of the blogpost on

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


February 2011

The banigs or hand woven mats said it all. It was Thursday evening, January 27, 2011 and as I spread them out and looked at them, they looked back, crumpled, dirty and forlorn. I carried them, laid them on the tub and tried to scrub them clean. But as the soap and water were flowing, so flowed my tears. The banigs have been in the building basement far too long and have become moldy and badly stained from the rains. How could I have allowed this to happen? As the keeper, I have been remiss in my duty. Now, how could I ever unfold the intricate weavings and the vibrant colors that tell of my people’s tales? They who have lovingly woven these mats in the caves, where the right temperature and amount of moisture helped bring out the best colors, the soft but resilient strands? How was I to help launch Virgil and Lane’s books without the magic of the mats’ stories? I cried, blamed myself, blamed my husband, blamed myself again and cried some more.

The tears were forgotten when the books were launched two days later, on Saturday, Jan 29, at the Silver Lake Center. Three banigs were not so bad after all and were put up on the walls of the center, accompanied by a happy array of indigenous cloth from the Cordillera and Mindanao. The splash of tribal colors and images brightened the center and were reflected on the faces of those who attended. The community came joyfully together to celebrate the books’ L.A. debut. Music, dance, performance and talks flowed and filled everyone. The joy spilled over until the early hours of the morning, when we of CFBS and FilAm Arts celebrated some more – with songs, stories and games, in Roque’s home.

On Sunday, Jan. 30th, the well in my eyes spilled tears again. I heard the news of violent clashes in Egypt and the total communication blackout. My daughter was there, working as an RN and I could not reach her; there was no telephone, no internet, no Skype, nothing. It was just a few days ago that I was looking at her Facebook, how it beamed with pictures of her visit to the pyramids, her childhood dream realized at last. A week after that tour, the Sphinx seemed to have awakened and brought total chaos to the country. It was the most frustrating and stressful time, having to face this dark and ominous wall of silence in Egypt, worried sick about a daughter’s safety. I could not sleep and was glued to the TV and my laptop for news updates. I called the Dept of Foreign Affairs in Manila. Someone said the officials were still assessing the situation. I kept calling them the following days for updates, but no reassurance came. I was on a thin wire, suspended indefinitely, precariously, and the only release were my tears.

Worn out with anxiety, I remembered the last mid-January weekend retreat in Sta. Rosa, the playing like children in Sonoma, the comfort of Leny’s kitchen and couch. I remembered the warmth of bodies and hearts, all 15 of us, settled like birds in a nest, treasuring the home we found in one another. I remembered the sheer bliss of rediscovering deep friendship, the sweetness of laughter shared as a family, the passionate play of being community. We were, as Perla so aptly described it, a bowl. We contained each other, our laughter and our tears, our smiles and even our fears, our bodies, our spirits. We were a bowl yes, but at the same time, we were also a boat on the river, flowing with our dreams, rowing to the rhythm of our vision - for service to our Kapwa - rowing towards liberation, always moving towards freedom.

But what of freedom, a part of me asked, when at any given moment one is clutched by fear and anxiety that grinds unceasingly, unmercifully? If we are to look at the big picture, are we not mere pawns of those in highest authority, those who wield imperial powers and have the resources of the world at their feet, unmindful of the groveling majority, and the wanton destruction of environment and humanity? Is our rowing at CFBS merely a pathetic simulation of movement that cannot get us anywhere anyway? What of the bowl or the boat?

I checked myself and recalled that this time is the same February of our People Power Revolution in EDSA, ignited 25 years ago in 1986. It was this same bloodless revolution that inspired others to bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989, and now, the same people’s revolution that is sweeping Egypt into an unprecedented era of change in 2011.

Buoyed by these thoughts, I again confront the same fears that have shadowed me as a child, even as an adult, assailed by my own and my people’s colonial mentality and the internal oppression that made me feel how painful it was to be “The Other.” I see you, and I accept you as part of me, I tell my fears. But now, I am someone else, I add with conviction.

I am of the same spirit as my ancestors, indestructible and free. It is this same indomitable spirit that connects me to the eternal strand woven into all of creation, animated by its divine Source, regardless of time, matter and space. I am the container of the past, the present and the future. I am part of the tree of transcendence. I live with its roots embracing the earth, I am one with its branches merging with the sky. And together with the rest of my Kapwa, we shall unravel the promise of freedom, whether fighting for it in the streets of EDSA or Egypt, or realizing it in the deepest frontiers of the inner self, and in the realms beyond.

I cry with joy for this life which is a banig of exquisite weavings, of amazing dancing images, imbued with nature’s textures and fragrances, and astounding rainbow hues. I am grateful to be sharing the banig of life with my CFBS family and community, whose nurturing support sustains, and yes, contains as it moves, our personal and collective dreams.

Mabuhay tayo kailanman!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Filipino Tattoos:Ancient to Modern reviewed by Leny Strobel

Filipino Tattoos:Ancient to Modern



I first took notice of young undergrads at UC Berkeley sporting baybayin tattoos in the mid-90s.  Elsewhere I wrote about these tattoos as signifying a desire to reconnect with one’s Filipino indigenous roots or ethnic/cultural heritage. I also wrote that perhaps some of the young folks were just riding a wave of popular culture: the modern primitive. As I perused photography books at bookstores and television spectacles about these modern primitives, I began to wonder about the meaning of such practices.

I thought that in these postmodern times when everything is in flux and identities are hybrid, fluid, cosmopolitan and even “homeless”, the body has become the last territory that a person can still have some control over or ownership. Perhaps, I thought, if our lives are so controlled and mediated by business corporations and the corporate media, the body is trying to assert its own authority. Since tattoos are still relatively marginalized in the dominant culture, those who choose to wear them are asserting their own resistance to dominating narratives. In my head, I kept on theorizing about postmodern practices of resistance to the fetishes of capitalism. But something shifted soon after.

In 1997, as I was recovering from a car accident, I asked a henna artist to draw a “tree of life” tattoo on the six-inch scar along along my right arm. A henna temporary tattoo lasts for about 4 -6 weeks. I got this tattoo the day before I enplaned to the Philippines to recover in my Mother’s arms. Naturally, when she saw my arm she squirmed and asked “what have you done?” – thinking that this was permanent.  

I loved this temporary tattoo; it was my way of marking my survival. My second life commenced with this gesture of marking my body, even if only temporarily. My mother was relieved that it was temporary. But I think for the rest of her life she wondered about this strange daughter’s surprises and musings.

Thus, today I sit with Lane Wilcken’s Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern and praising the book for filling in a lot of blanks for me about this ancient practice.
In this book, Lane provides in-depth and wide-ranging perspectives on the connections of Filipino tattoo designs with Polynesian/Pacific Islander myths and practices; what Filipino tattoos signified among specific tribal groups; designs or motifs derived from the animist worldviews of indigenous peoples; and how contemporary Filipino Americans are choosing to tattoo themselves with tribal symbols.

As we[1] attempt to articulate Filipino Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP), Lane adds to this body of knowledge with this book. How do we recuperate the relevance of these indigenous practices and why and what for? In this book, Lane documents the answers to all these questions. What comes through loud and clear for me is that these are living traditions. In indigenous communities where the belief that all is Sacred and animated by the spirits of our ancestors, these living traditions of marking the body with beauty is an extension of one’s relationship to the Sacred. Whether it is to signify the courage of the warrior, safe passage into the other life, or protection from malevolent spirits, or to beautify one’s body, or to signify kinship with other created beings, like thebuwaya/crocodile – these living traditions are kept alive and their symbolic meanings provide the power that is invoked by the chosen tattoo.

To choose to be tattooed is a decision not to be taken lightly. In their indigenous contexts, the community had a shared understanding of the rituals, the symbolic meanings of body adornment. Today, in the diaspora and in the absence of such communities, Lane writes about the meditation that is required before one chooses to be tattooed. As with Asian and Filipino practices like qi gong, acupuncture, kali – these practices require not only the acquisition of skill but the transformation of one’s world view, values, and lifestyle. It may mean a serious reckoning with colonial history, a conscious decolonization process, a shift in lifestyle choices, a shift in the way we eat or what we eat – all of which are part of the process of connecting to the timelessness and Sacredness of Life.

In this book, Lane’s connection to his great grandmother who was a mamangkit/spirit medium, and his grandmother who was a manghilot, is evident. As the receiver of this heritage he has devoted more than two decades of his life researching and documenting this Filipino living tradition. Using the earlier works of American and European anthropologists who documented Filipino tattooing, Lane is able to recontextualize these traditions in the Filipino indigenous world view.  To me, this is a critical intervention that is needed for us to fully appreciate these traditions outside of the colonial gaze and outside of the construction of “modern primitives.” In doing so, Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern, returns us to our nobility, beauty, wisdom, and…a sense of magic.

Synchronistically, I have been reading about the recovery of indigenous mind (Jurgen Kremer, 1997; 2003) for white folks and for those who have been subjected to colonialism and imperialism.  Kremer refers to the “original instructions” that are given to people and how these instructions need to be taken cared of through ceremony, ritual, dreams; it means to “live in the presence of the past for the future. The original instructions are from the past, we need to bring our present into them, so that creation emerges from the center of our cultures. They contain the information for sustainable living.”[2]

This is the gift of Lane Wilcken’s book; it is an offering and honoring of our Ancestors and their gifts to us. Whether you are Visayan, Ilokano, Gaddang, Kalinga, etc, male or female, modern, in the homeland or in the diaspora – you will find relevant information about your ancestors or about your Filipino history in this book. Even if you have not or will not consider getting a tattoo yourself, you can draw knowledge and wisdom about the ways of our ancestors from this book. You might learn to understand these cultural practices in terms of the validity of the indigenous worldview; for the value of honoring the past in order to honor the present; for valuing our ancestors and their legacy of Sacred Wholeness. You might learn to question the ways in which our ancestors’ practices were portrayed as primitive, barbaric, demonic, or heathen.  I only say “might” because the work of doing so – of questioning, reflecting, valuing – is a process of grieving what has been lost under colonization. It is a process of painful re-membering of the stories and practices we have traded in. But if there is even a glimpse of resonance, of magic, that rises to your awareness as you read the book and look at the photographs, pay attention to that whisper. It is your indigenous soul calling you Home.

For me, I specially like this passage: “A woman’s tattooing was an affirmation of her strength and inherent spiritual power, procreative endowment, and as a form of clothing, an enhancement of beauty and a proclamation of her status. Finally, the tattoos were a form of recognition that allowed the soul of a woman to pass into the afterlife and join the glorious chain of her ancestors.” (57).

[1] “We” here refers to the Center for Babaylan Studies whose mission is to provide a container for Filipino IKSP and articulate their relevance today for Filipinos in the homeland and in the diaspora. Visit
[2] Jurgen W. Kremer, “Recovering Indigenous Mind,” in Revision,  Vol. 19. No. 4, p.33. 1997.