Leny Mendoza Strobel introduces BABAYLAN: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous, edited by Leny Mendoza Strobel
(Center for Babaylan Studies, Santa Rosa, CA, 2010)
As I write this, Barack Obama has just won the election and amidst this awesome historical moment that renders me speechless, I could only muster this and wrote it in my journal:
“New Dawn!” – the headlines said. Obama carries all of our hopes and dreams for a new United States of America. I am so glad I read his Dreams from My Father especially the part where he returned to Kenya to make peace with his ancestors, to touch the ground of his soul’s roots, to meet his blood family, to find answers to his own questions about identity...
This is why this man is great. He is still indigenous deep in his core.
To touch the ground of our soul’s roots: in this spirit I dared to dream this book into your hands. This book began in earnest as an academic project. I wanted the study of our Filipino Babaylan tradition to be respected, legitimized, valorized, and privileged as an academic discourse. Following the (important and necessary) pressure to establish academic credibility for Filipino and Filipino American studies, my initial goal was to add to the short list of authoritative texts on the Babaylan tradition that scholars can quote in their work or cite in their footnotes. I would make visible, in a visual and print-oriented culture, the tacit and palpable presence of the Babaylan spirit and Babaylan-inspired practices in our communities both in the homeland and in the diaspora.
But the Babaylan had other plans.
What is a Filipina Babaylan? The Babaylan in Filipino indigenous tradition is a person who is gifted to heal the spirit and the body; the one who serves the community through her role as a folk therapist, wisdom-keeper and philosopher; the one who provides stability to the community’s social structure; the one who can access the spirit realms and other states of consciousness and traffic easily in and out of these worlds; the one who has vast knowledge of healing therapies1 (Magos, 1993).
The Babaylan intercedes for the community and individuals. She heals the body by recognizing the spirits that cause illness. Through shamanic rituals, she can call the lost or wandering soul back into the body. Through herbal medicine she heals the physical body. Having the ability to know and communicate with ancestral spirits and the spirit world, she becomes a transmitter of knowledge from the different worlds which then becomes a part of the collective cultural consciousness.
The majority of Babaylan are women, and when men take on the same role and functions (as they started doing during the Hispanic colonial period) they usually don women’s garments. One can surmise that this shift in outer wear might be symbolic of the privileged role of the Babaylan as a woman’s domain. However, it can also be argued that this privileging of the female gender in this instance can be contested by citing a Filipino creation story where the Creator splits a bamboo and creates simultaneously male and female. In this sense, according to Katrin de Guia, the man- Babaylan honors the mother goddess (Earth) when he approaches her and doing this develops his feminine side in order to balance his masculinity. Likewise, the woman-Babaylan would develop her masculine side to stabilize her tenderness and all-consuming compassion toward all life forms. That is why these women lived alone on the fringe of the villages, the heads of enemies on bamboo stakes, while the men, in ceremonial malongs,2 wore fragrant flowers in their hair. This derives from the bilateral egalitarian kinship system that is at the root of our indigenous cultures.
When the Spanish colonized the Philippines (1521-1898), the Babaylan was considered a threat to the colonial and Christianization project. Carolyn Brewer (2001) historicizes the “disappearance” of the Babaylan tradition and practices within the first 100 years of colonial conquest in her book, Holy Confrontations. This first century of Spanish conquest pushed the Babaylan tradition underground where it became submerged but remained a fertile ground for alternative forms of consciousness and was expressed in the practices of resistance against colonial oppression. It would re-emerge during the revolutionary war between Spain and the Philippines when many of the Babaylans led local revolts against the Spanish. Alicia Magos, in The Enduring Ma-Aram Tradition, writes of the continuing influence and presence of the tradition and how it thrives to this day through its nurturance by a vibrant oral practice: myths, legends, and folk beliefs which narrate the origin, structure, and cosmogony of the Filipino world and that holds together an integral vision of spirituality.
Babaylan: indigenous, shaman, healer, priestess, ritualist, herb doctor, village therapist, diviner, mediator between ordinary and non-ordinary realms of reality. S/he is known by other names in various tribes: Ma-aram, balian, balyan, mumbaki, dawac, catalonan, manogbulong, tambalan, and more. In many tribal communities’ governance structure that included the tribal chief or datu, the bayani/bagani (warrior), and the panday (crafts person), no decisions were ever made without consulting the Babaylan. These four pillars of a tribe held together the communal life of its members but the Babaylan seemed the most important and powerful and hence became the target of extermination as soon as colonizers arrived in the islands in the 15th century.
Today there are still primary Babaylans3 in indigenous communities in the Philippines. Outside of these land-based communities the Babaylan is now often disguised and donning a different dress and language; she walks among us like a shadow, revealing herself only to those whose souls cry out for her.
She is still with us. Re-membered. Re-claimed. The various kinds of appropriations of this tradition by Filipinos in the homeland and in the diaspora symbolize our attempts to draw on her power to give us back our sense of wholeness and Beauty and restore the harmony in the interconnected webs of Life in all its forms.
The Book Becomes a Journey
While I was preparing to write about the Babaylan tradition as an academic discourse, the Babaylan made other plans. My rational plans were interrupted by events in my life that made me reconsider and delay the project until it was ready to be born. I had to admit that I was venturing out into the little known territory of the Filipina Babaylan. Even though there is something that feels familiar deep in my bones and soul, an intuition that feels true and authentic, a powerful Energy that dares me to name it...name Her, I sensed that I had to go deeper and beyond the intellect to begin to get to know Her not just from an intellectual place but from deep within the body. I didn’t expect the wild ride in this sudden turn but I capitulated.
This book in your hands is a gift from Her, our Babaylan.
As I now look back on my 2005 reflections, I realize that the questions were already simmering then. Journal entry:
...Similarly, in my process of decolonization, which includes learning to de-Protestantize my colonial identity, I’ve had to contend with how white theology has disciplined my body via the elegant fiction of civilized manners; how my mind became addicted to cognitive certainty provided by eschatological promises of life after death; how my indigenous soul learned to silence itself, yet in its muteness continued to roil and boil in my subconscious, erupting later into a category 5 hurricane.
How? How do I retrieve my own memories of indigenous knowledge and indigenous spirituality when colonialism has robbed us of the language with which to speak of the knowledge we still feel in our bodies and in the depths of our Loob? When what we have is the language of the West and the language of a theology that is difficult to translate? When we aim to be understood by transnational and diasporic peoples whose engagement with the world is also determined by discourses not of their own making?
I’ve learned to ask questions. It seems it’s the best I can do: question the master narratives of modernity in order to strip them of their power to terrorize people like me.
... our spirits have need of nurtures, mythic and symbolic, rooted in the soils and souls of primal cultures so that we might have an amulet against pathological forgetting forced on us by modernity. I wonder if my own symbolic appropriation of the Babaylan – the indigenous Filipina shaman, healer, priestess, mediator, warrior – counts? I hope so. I pray so.
At the time I wrote the entry above, I was reflecting on James Perkinson’s (2005) writing about shamanism and hip-hop. His discussion on the shamanic qualities of hip hop culture helped me think about the power of the indigenous world view as a response to the sense of alienation and fragmentation of a postcolonial subject like me under modernity. In his work, Perkinson poetically articulates how hip hop’s “rhythmic virtuosity, mimetic intensity, and aural texture is akin to shape shifting—a reconfiguration of an ancient incantation of the universe...and becomes a gateway to the spirit world to don matter in a new way, perceiving and experiencing the permeability of bodies one to another resulting in an alternative consciousness”(Perkinson, 2005). In doing this archeological work on the function of hip hop as the revealer of the underside of modernity and what it represses and denies, Perkinson writes:
...something of the animation of human “being” in general and alive to its own impermanence and improbability is damnably and yet irresistibly revealed in this particular body of articulate aggression, gesturing under duress in a social topography of social desperation, refracted in a sensibility rooted in (West and Central) African exploration of percussive polyphony, intensified in histories of enslavement and enghettoization, inflected in griot4 traditions of rhyming narration, spread with digital amplification of trance and rhythms. Rap growls with an aliveness common to every human “awake” existence. It is no mystery why it sells in the suburbs. Ironically, it offers an intimation of wholeness. (132)
An intimation of wholeness...I have intuited this from my long sojourn in the United States. Coming from a Filipino sensibility, I could connect tacitly to the primordial evocations described by Perkinson. Filipinos, too, have their rhythms, polyphony, verbal virtuosity, our own versions of the griot, and this innate sense of aliveness amidst so much ambiguity and uncertainty, I told myself. I sensed that there was more to excavate and more to move beyond if I were to “connect the dots” clearly so that a map to wholeness that is uniquely Filipino can reveal itself. Having seen how Perkinson can poetically articulate the wisdom of his adopted culture, so too, am I drawn to our own Filipino ways of knowing.
The Filipino concepts of Kapwa, Damdam, and Loob (Enriquez, 1995) in Filipino indigenous psychology persistently insinuate themselves in my modern Westernized orientation and powerfully create resonances. Katrin de Guia calls this tacit knowing and in her book, Kapwa: The Self in the Other, (de Guia, 2005) she creatively and rigorously textualizes Kapwa psychology so that the tacit can be made more explicit and fecund. Similarly, David Abram (1996) writes in The Spell of the Sensuous about the alphabetized intellect: this intellect that has been trained to abstract so that language has become a substitute for the organic and sentient experience. I needed to deconstruct my alphabetized intellect and find a path to a sensate, embodied, and embedded indigenous consciousness.
To know the Babaylan is not just to know her cognitively but to know her in my body. I didn’t know that this was the path I was being called to follow. All I knew was that there were sign posts inviting me to do so.
The question came from the poet Eileen Tabios: Why haven’t you dealt with the topic of the body and sexuality in your work on decolonization? I shared this question aloud with a community of women who were all interested in the Babaylan tradition. The stories that I gather in this book reveal our own inner dialogues we have all held within and with our bodies (for perhaps millennia) as Filipina women conditioned under colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy – the key markers of modernity. We realized that for the first time, we were taking the risk of becoming vulnerable, telling each other our secrets so that we may enter into deeper communion with one another. We talked about what our bodies have gone through that could be understood as aspects of colonial and sexual trauma. For even though we had known intellectually that the pain of history is passed on down generationally, we had been distracted from having to deal with this until it could no longer be ignored. We talked about events in our lives that shaped the way we saw and experienced the world and yet these secrets remained, held deep inside our bodies. So we let our bodies speak. This book contains those body-stories.
I am a body-in-relation to other bodies. As we read our bodies as texts, we realize that our interpretations are subjected to a priori discourses about what it means to be a human being, male and female. As a Filipina scholar and a postcolonial subject, I have been influenced by academic discourses. Discourses on indigenous spirituality, eco-theology, radical feminism, postcolonial trauma and melancholia, postmodernism – are all cognitive frameworks that offer helpful analytical tools. But what I’m finding out is that my body has its own wisdom about where it wants to go and what language it wants to speak. If the psychic split of modern subjectivity5 is to be healed and made whole, then I must return to the place of beginnings: the body. This body has a History that it needs to unpack and reconstruct. If I want to return to the place of beginnings, I must re-trace my steps and work my way back to the wisdom of my body. This Filipina body.
I am not embarrassed to say that I cried many times as these dialogues evolved. As the stories unfolded, I realized that I was being asked to put my theory-loving mind on the backburner for now so that I may learn to listen through my body.
I see this as the potential of Babaylan-inspired work—the capacity to enlarge the container of our bodies, hearts, and souls so that we may hold our stories sacred, so that we may weave them into wholeness and release them back into the world as healing medicine.
Our words must emerge directly from the depths of our ongoing reciprocity with the world. Perception is participatory; it always involves at its most intimate level, the experience of active interplay, or coupling, between the perceiving body and that which it perceives. Prior to all our verbal reflections, at the level of spontaneous, sensual engagement with the world around us, we are all animists. There is a word for this: Synaesthesia: the fusion of the senses. Our primordial preconceptual experience is primarily and inherently synaesthetic (Abram, 1996, 60).
As an academic, over time I got used to the privileging of the thinking mind. I also acquired skills for managing classrooms and committee schedules. I learned techniques of (Buddhist) detachment that are useful for dealing with the heightened level of stress in my Ethnic Studies classrooms. The accumulation of stress and the repression required to thrive as a woman of color in a predominantly white academe could always be temporally assuaged by regular visits to a massage therapist or long walks around the park. But how long can female bodies, especially postcolonial bodies, survive this regimentation and repression?
I’ve known in my bones that I am an animist6 but I developed the habit of denying this in order to accommodate my civilized/modern self. I spent the first ten years of my academic life training my mind to wield theories and concepts about the decolonization process. I believe the books (Strobel, 2001 & 2005) I wrote about this process were useful in the beginning to name what many Filipino Americans experience but have not articulated fully. But I was still following a script prescribed by my modern upbringing: get educated, get a teaching job, write books, prove your worth, do something useful. The ego invested in such projects is difficult to disentangle from the worthiness of the work being done. The animist body kept up the pressure of subversion until it broke the dam of denial. I am more than my thinking mind. I am a body. I am a soul and spirit.
Deeper into the recesses of Memory....
After the death of my parents within three years of each other, psychic irruptions from the depths of the unconscious bubbled to the surface. I began to think more deeply of my parents’ lives and mine as being inscribed into the script of a colonial history. But the glimpses I had of their indigeneity and wholeness kept reminding me to go beyond History. Where does it lead but deeper into the recesses of Memory? It called on the inner child’s gift of imagination, innocence, love, joy, trust, and courage. What does the body remember about the inner child before she was civilized and trained to conform to modern manners? What does a woman remember about her body’s wisdom before she was subjected to the patriarchal gaze?7
A self-described urban Babaylan in Hawaii, Grace8, made this offering during our dialogue: ...
...to the degree that community leaders take on their own sexuality and embrace eros and the creative power within themselves and all other levels, they create an energetic field of possibility which gives permission for others to find, as Eve Ensler says, the “power moan” within themselves. And when we all “go there” in whatever way feels responsible and culturally appropriate for each of us, we can find Home deep, deep inside and we can be at Home as Pinays and Pinoys—in the world, wherever we are—alone or with others.
What is the connection between sexual trauma and colonial trauma? Why haven’t you dealt with the issue of sexuality within the process of decolonization? These questions intruded into my life and in sharing them with you, dear reader, I believe we are being asked to move this energy into our communities and then the universe as a force of purging, releasing, and healing.
The writer and mother, Rebecca Mabanglo Mayor9 shared this during our dialogue about the connection between colonial violence, the denial of its effects, and the residual memory that lives in the body:
And I think of the bodies of the Filipino comfort women and the bodies of those who fight to have their experiences acknowledged and recognized. How genocide is about taking away the bodies, taking away the evidence of violence, taking away the price paid for the riches of colonization. How the body remembers and if you take away the body, then there is no evidence of crime. But the body remembers, the body of the earth, the body of the blood, the body of the genetics, the body of social thought and social structure, and so there is no erasure, no sure erasure, only the bending of perspective, the revision of history.
I see now that these kinds of reflections call for a deepening of the decolonization process – not just as a conceptual framework but also as a Babaylan practice capable of healing the psychic split between body, mind, and soul. Taking this direction forward I needed to understand how the body carries primal wounding under modernity. This wounding – the splitting of the body from the mind and spirit is the byproduct of modernity rather than what is assumed to be the natural state of being human. If, according to scholars, the modern period spans only the last five hundred years, then it is worth considering a longer view of history. What came way before History? Do the people we call “indigenous” point us to the faint memory of what was before we became modern? Do the traces of folk stories, myths, proverbs, rituals, humor, and metaphors that are almost always about the body, hint at a way of seeing and of understanding reality as sacred, whole, and unmarked by sinfulness and violence (Rafael, 1993)?
In the last five hundred years, the period we call modern, Indian postcolonial scholar Ashis Nandy, (2002) writes:
...our cognitive sense has been challenged by our exposure to large-scale violence, our emotional and intuitive selves have been more numbed than challenged. I have come to suspect that this style of studying and talking about violence may have something to do with the West’s genocidal record outside the West during the last four hundred years. The extermination of millions is not easy to live with, it cries out for elaborate intellectualization and rationalization. Even the best-studied genocide, the European holocaust, bears the mark of that cultivated forgetfulness. (214)
It is almost shocking to read these words but something deep within me is grateful that my unspoken feelings are being acknowledged by others– that modern History’s violence needs to be seen for what it is: painful and in need of healing. To Nandy, our creativity is only partial because of this History. Creativity as atonement will remain partial until we can acknowledge the full range of violence in which the modern world is founded. I join his plea for all of us to break through our numbness and break out of the inner exile into which we have been driven so that we may imagine a different way of being in the world.
Perhaps in this new direction, we may see the beginning glimpses of the possibility of deep healing not just of the self, but of our communities and ultimately, our global family and the place where we belong – the Earth.
Thanks to David Abram (1996) for this insight on the importance of the indigenous world view:
Indigenous tribal peoples have no such ready recourse to an immaterial realm outside earthly nature. Our strictly human heavens and hells have only recently been abstracted from the realm that abounds in its own winged intelligences and cloven-hoofed powers. For almost all oral cultures, the enveloping and sensuous earth remains the dwelling place of both the living and the dead. The “body” – whether human or otherwise – is not yet a mechanical object in such cultures, but is a magical entity, the mind’s own sensuous aspect, and at death the body’s decomposition into soil, worms, and dust can only signify the gradual reintegration of one’s ancestors and elders into the living landscape, from which all, too, are born.
To Belong to the Land...
Filipino indigenous cultures and the concepts we borrow such as Kapwa and Loob are all primarily Land-based. University of the Philippines Humanities professor, Felipe de Leon, Jr. names Filipino culture as inherently shamanistic and animistic. The animist worldview asserts that all of creation is sacred. It is the role and function of the Babaylan to mediate between the world of the spirits and the human and non-human world and re-member for us the deep connectedness between worlds; thus suturing and healing the split in our psyche.
In the indigenous Filipino animist world view, the seven realms – the underground, the earth, the oceans, the sky, spirit realm of our anitos and ancestors, the planetary realm, and the cosmos – are realms that the Babaylan is able to access and mediate. These interconnected realms can be accessed and can animate us through our relationship with the Land as the place where our bodies live and breathe. For many of us in the diaspora, we already glimpse this through the symbolic or literal returns we make to the homeland. I suspect though that many of us have not fully fathomed the significance of such returns until we have understood what it means to be indigenous to a place...to belong to the Land.
As a frequent balikbayan,10 every return to my homeland is always an occasion to bridge the sense of disconnect between my desire to belong to the Land and the reality of my whereabouts. Once, in answer to the question: Leny, if you love the Philippines so much, why aren’t you here? I surprised myself by saying: I am an accident of history. I needed to leave in order to come home again. It is on these repeated sojourns that I eventually learned to develop a longer, deeper perspective of History that helped me restore a sense of belonging to the Land. The sense of belonging might be symbolic because my body is not in the Philippines. But in the sense that the Philippines is literally connected by oceans to my California, aren’t the two one? And if my body is also my mind and soul, do I not also live in the Philippines? It is only in asking these sort of questions that come from a modern geographical and political orientation, did it dawn on me that there are other ways of pondering these questions.11 It is not surprising that I was drawn to the indigenous world view by these questions. For a long time, I struggled with the possibility that I’m merely being nostalgic or romantic but I have found company on this path so I feel confident in being on this path.
The indigenous worldview critiques modernity by drawing our attention to a long view of history. Thomas Berry (2006), for example, writes about the “new creation story” of the universe dating back 14 billion years. Stanley Diamond (1981), in The Search of the Primitive, critiques civilization as built on conquest abroad and oppression at home. Daniel Quinn, in Ishmael (1995), traces the shift from nomadic hunting-gathering societies to agricultural societies to the industrial/scientific revolution over tens of thousands of years. Jeremy Narby (1999), in The Cosmic Serpent, tries to reconcile the wisdom and scientific knowledge of indigenous shamans with the language of modern science and concludes that the shamans and indigenous peoples’ knowledge was already “scientific” and didn’t need to undergo evolutionary process from being “archaic and primitive” to “scientific.” In his view it is the language between science and shamanism that needs translation. Such view of linear evolution of consciousness is suspect when placed under the lens of indigenism. Bioneers,12 an annual gathering of ecologists, native experts, and scientists, reach for indigenous experts and their expertise (while they still have the memory of what it takes to live sustainably on the land for thousands of years) in creating a knowledge base for “saving the planet”13 through a paradigm they call “biomimicry.” Derrick Jensen, in Listening to the Land (2004), interviews indigenous philosophers, scientists, ecologists, and feminists shares this in a compendium of knowledge on how to listen to the land – a gift that has been squandered by modern consciousness. In his memoir, A Language Older Than Words (2004), Jensen connects the childhood sexual violence visited upon him by his father to the violence of the culture that produced a violent father and to the violence of a civilization that produces violent cultures. How we survive, he writes, is by telling lies to ourselves and to each other; then our bodies carry this primordial wound in search of healing. There are more and more books like these being written about such civilizational wounds in search of healing.
Against the backdrop of this literature written by non-Filipinos that has resonated with me for years, I began to wonder if Filipino indigenous knowledge systems and practices have a contribution to make to the healing of wounded souls, wounded lands and places. Deep within me, a growing confidence in a “yes” answer began to grow. But first, I knew we needed to dig beneath the rubble of historical narratives mostly not of our own making.
Before I had access to Babaylan literature and before I was open to receive the wisdom of my own body, I relied on academic discourses to guide my own process. One of the texts that really spoke to me is Dismantling Privilege by Mary Elizabeth Hobgood (2000), a Christian ethicist.
According to Hobgood, modernity has severed our connections to the sacred body. To heal these severed connections, Mary Elizabeth Hobgood calls for an
...“ethical eroticism” that would support our need, as social beings, to connect sensually with ourselves, with the natural world, with human work, and with many others with whom we share passionate interdependence. An ethical eroticism would respect the gifts that the body can give to the spirit, would support our learning about, experimenting with, and developing a symbolic and physical language about our bodies as sources of communication, nurturant interaction, and passionate expression. As beings who emerged from the amniotic waters of the sea, we need visceral experience of water, earth, air, sky, forest, mountains, and other earth creatures for emotional balance and for a sense of basic well being.
An ethical eroticism would challenge the work ethic and the capitalist workplace. Most bodies at work are divorced from their erotic needs and become appendages of machines. Human instruments of profit making must be numbed to their desire for communion with others in order to sustain nonsensuous, non-gratifying, isolating labor (paraphrased from Chapter 3).
Capitalism, an abstract concept that became a material reality and turned bodies into working units or cogs in the machine, heightened the separation of the body from the mind and the soul. Eros or vital Life energy, was exiled into the space outside of work and into our bedrooms as our lives became compartmentalized and fragmented. Our modern lives, at a certain level, are numb to the real meaning of Eros. Instead what we have is an Eros imprisoned by the narrow definition of romance and sexuality centered on the genitals. In its broader definition, Eros is the intimate connection we can have with all of creation – the land, the animals, other human beings, mountains, trees, water, and the cosmos – and that the inability to experience this intimacy in our bodies speaks of the wound in need of healing. As one of my students put it succinctly: “In my mind, I am in love with Nature but I just don’t feel it in my body and emotions. What does it feel in the body when I say I love Nature? I don’t know.”
Falling in love with the Land – as a symbolic reimagining that returns us to our bodies – is what I started to think about as more and more I felt compelled to explore what it means to claim that I am an animist and an indigenous/indio-genius. I wrote the following journal entry after my father died in 2007:
A Small Piece of Land on Earth...and other “abstractions”
It suddenly hit me this morning: I no longer have any connection to my father’s piece of land. I signed a waiver before we returned to the U.S. that I am giving up my share to the siblings who are still in the Philippines. It is just a technicality, supposedly, to expedite the processing of his estate. But I feel devastated in a deep way.
My father’s only wish is for the land to remain in the family in perpetuity. His tenacious clinging to this desire is rooted deep in his soul, I believe, back to an ancient time when his family had vast tracts of land in Pampanga. He said that a long time ago the land around the town plaza where today the Methodist Church, a couple of banks, and a hotel stand, belonged to his family. Then family squabbles squandered it all.
When Ma and Tang bought the piece of land where the house I grew up in stands now, he promised himself that he will never let go of it again. He wanted each of his six children to have a small piece of land of their own and he managed to acquire small plots here and there. But as we started vanishing for another continent, he sold those plots one by one to relatives in need. Two remain; on one stands the family home and the other is a vacant lot in another town that no one has visited in decades. The last time I saw this piece of land was about 15 years ago and it was overgrown with cogon grass. Someone offered a million pesos for it but Dad said “no.” I know that he had always hoped for one of us to do something with it – build on it or farm it, maybe. No takers.
My hope is that the land will remain in the family.
I often think of that not-so-politically-correct film, Out of Africa. I had a farm in Africa, sighs its nostalgic heroine Karen Blixen.
Maybe it’s the Mozart effect or the Robert Redford effect, but there is something about that film that resonates with me about losses. Land lost. Love lost. Come to think of it, all imperial adventures are about the pursuit of Land. And all colonial trauma stems from the loss of Land. Loss of natural habitat. Loss of the wild and diversity. Now all tamed into submission. And we call it “development,” “progress,” “improvement,” “real estate property.” What is real about it?
As a beneficiary of such abstractions, I want to learn how to dismantle the unearned privileges that come with the capitalist system. I don’t know where to begin. I have the language but I do not have the Land.
How now do I love?
Could it be that in grieving for the loss of the land of my birth, it is my mother/the Great Mother I grieve for and reach out to? In seeing this clearly for the first time, I see my own primal wound, how I carried it over the decades into a form that has accommodated patriarchy and capitalism even while being a rebel against my colonial formation. Where sexuality and colonial formation come together for me is in this moment of recognition and acknowledgment of the sexual understructure of patriarchy and capitalism. My father, the patriarch, inherited this historical legacy and shaped his family according to its worldview.
I am the fourth of my father’s six children. If I had been born a boy, I would have been the youngest. He had planned for two boys and two girls. I must have subconsciously wished to recompense my father’s failed desire and so most of my life I wanted to please him in the way a son would have – by becoming rational, pragmatic, unemotional, and stoic. This phase lasted long and served me well until the underground psyche broke ground.
Untying the knot of colonial trauma...
To reclaim my own female body and power then means being able to recognize that so many of my desires and longings are remnants of that historical legacy that privileged patriarchy. This system is oppressive and yet creates dependency on the part of its female subjects. Hence, the desire for both freedom from and a yearning for recognition by the dominant patriarch. It was in discovering the work of Irigaray (1996; 2001; 2002; 1982) on male and female subjectivity that I recognized the delusion of patriarchy: how women came to define themselves through the patriarchy’s categories thus subsuming their identities to the male gaze. I spent the summer of ‘07 reading Irigaray and trying to understand her construction of female subjectivity in the Western context. Her own reconstructed concepts are very much informed by her own Buddhist practice because, she asserts, the West doesn’t have a well-developed language about Eros that is not centered on notions of romantic love and sexuality. In Buddhism, on the other hand, romantic love and sexuality is centered on the second chakra. If there are seven chakras14 and if each chakra has erotic aspects then that gives me a whole other framework for interpreting psychic interruptions/irruptions outside of Freudian categories.
Freud’s influence on the modern notions of romance and sexuality has shaped the western imagination and, therefore, what we have are our notions of love as obsession, ownership, reproduction, and the fusion of two into one – all of which reflect the end point of desire: male desire and female receptivity and never the other way around.
Much has been written about colonial desire and projections as symbolic of an inner psychic landscape where the shadow is unintegrated and potent. According to Freud’s oedipal complex, the unrequited love of the child’s erotic desire for his mother is held in the child’s body and then exiles this desire into the subconscious as the child grows to adulthood. Projections would result from these subconscious desires. Colonial conquests are projections of men in iron cages, Ron Takaki (2000) writes. The “iron cage” is similar to what CS Lewis (2001) refers to as “men without chests” – a reference to the psychic split in male subjects. It was Carl Jung that repudiated Freud’s theories and proposed that each person has masculine and feminine aspects that get repressed by societal demands. Thus, men learn to suppress their feminine side (anima) and women tend to suppress their masculine (animus) side. Repressions then become shadows that are externally projected to the opposite sex until the projections are withdrawn and integrated into the inner self.
The psychic split born of modernity’s requirements makes men without chests or men in iron cages -- mind over body; reason over emotion; knowledge over passion – and exiles the spirit into a separate realm. This separate realm becomes the space of the “Sacred Other” onto whom patriarchal values are projected and then hardened into a form of a (white) theology and takes on the mantle of authority and absolute certainty about what is “Truth.” The Truth subsumes women’s identities under this white theology.15 As the masculine gender was ascribed to God as the Sacred Other, thus was patriarchy deemed the steward and earthly authority over women, children, and all of creation.
This idea of the Sacred as an “Other” realm accessible only through the mediation of religious authorities and their rituals of salvation and redemption is what separates the modern consciousness from its earlier ancestor – the indigenous imagination and consciousness. Animist peoples have myths and creation stories that tell of their relationships with the ancestors and spirits, with mountains, the sky, sun, moon, oceans, animals, et al. Their sacred text is the Land/Earth. The sacred order of things remains in balance as long as they maintained their rituals of reciprocity or what Martin Prechtel (2001) calls “the feeding of the sacred.”16 Such rituals are expressed in the rich oral traditions and practices as in their epics and chants, body markings, dance, song, weavings, clothing, cooking – all of which requires the engagement of the body, mind, and spirit of every member of the community. Thus, their collective cultural consciousness is shaped.
University of the Philippines History professor Jaime Veneracion states that the reason the Philippines has such a hard time trying to reconcile the contradictions of Philippine history is due to the strength of the indigenous as expressed in the tenacity of the non- hierarchical bilateral kinship system. This egalitarian principle continues to subvert the imposition of modern social structures and values that began in the colonial period.17
I suspect that we modern Filipinos still have memories of this indigenous consciousness. We are not quite the split subjects of modernity. We are still whole and beautiful. To this day, some Palawan tribes have no word for war and conflict.18 So many of our indigenous peoples living on their ancestral domain still experience all of creation as shimmering with holy light because all of it is deemed sacred. As one wife of a datu expressed at a symposium: “Please allow us to express our Beauty. Do not suffocate us with your notions of development and modernizing us. We are not in need of your type of development.”19
For those of us farther removed from our indigenous communities, all we experience these days are glimpses of that wholeness and beauty. But it should be enough to compel us to broaden that glimpse into a panorama of sacred beauty and harmony. If we can find the path or create it anew, what challenges will we encounter along the way and what shall we do about them?
I used to be afraid of being called a romantic about indigeneity until I realized that those who are just as intensely romantic about modernity are never called thus. Isn’t it about time we expose our fatal romance with modernity’s worldview?
To know sacred time and space...
The above reflections began, for me, as a quest to experience this land-body connection. I wanted to explore what it feels like to have an emotional relationship with trees, with the ocean, with the mountains, with the sky. I longed for experiences unmediated by language and abstract concepts that often stand-in for the sensual experience. I wanted to know the sensation, emotion, and passion of the concept of sacred wholeness – this primordial energy that animates everything before the human mind started abstracting and creating categories, fragmentations that split the sacred from the secular, reason from emotion, body from the mind and soul, etc. NVM Gonzales20 named this wholeness as the state of the mythic person in sacred space and time.
Katrin de Guia describes the Babaylan as she who still knows sacred time and space and who remembers this with every cell of her body before she was interpellated by history. The Filipina, as a culture-bearer, has colonial history written in her body. Because of this colonial miseducation that centers Spanish and American influences, De Guia writes that what is hardly mentioned in Babaylan literature are the Buddhist and Muslim influences on the Filipino culture. These influences are hardly mentioned in English and Spanish texts. Yet if we consider that the Babaylan epitomizes the global animist, the Asian Buddhist, the Oriental Muslim, traditional European, modern American, and postmodern global culture – doesn’t this make the shamanic tradition of the Babaylan so unbelievably rich? It’s not even the layers that are important, but the retention of ancestral memory, despite all the layers, integrating matching elements due to the inherent “including” strength of the Kapwa culture. The Babaylan is recognized by her community as this embodiment of the power of Kapwa. This is what sets her apart. All would-be Babaylans are culture-bearers but not all culture-bearers are necessarily Babaylan (de Guia, personal communication, 2007).
I translate Kapwa and pakikipagkapwa-tao as “intersubjectivity” – a postmodern term that signifies the need to devolve from the “I”-centeredness of modern subjectivities to the ability to move in a universe of relations seamlessly, fluidly, passionately, with fecundity, respect, and non-possessiveness. To say “you are my Kapwa” to another human being is to evoke this quality of being. The Filipina Babaylan has always known and carried this in her body. Let her body awaken to this truth, dug up from the rubble of colonial history, dusted off and dressed up in the full naked regalia of her gloriousness and sensuousness without shame or guilt. Only love uttered in her own tongue. Say it. Write it.
An Ethiopian poet laureate Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin,21 was asked what it means for him to be an Ethiopian and what would he tell an American visitor about it. His response, in part, was:
...A simple human being, conscious of African civilization, African culture. Conscious of world civilization, world culture, of equality, of world brotherhood. I think that has been what the ancient history of Africa, the ancient history of Ethiopia has meant and means to us. So, as we go to America to learn, the Americans must also come here to learn. To humble themselves before the ancestors, not to be arrogant, that’s what Ethiopia means. You don’t begin knowing yourself halfway. You don’t start from Europe because Europe started from Africa. It started in Ethiopia and Egypt.
I would tell an American friend to go to Washington for the July 4 celebration and see Americans worshipping at the temple of the sun at the Washington Monument (which is a facsimile of the Aksum obelisks). It is my stone, my temple of the sun, and you are still worshipping my temple of the sun...now our mutual heritage.
Oh, how I would love to read this about us as Filipinos...our pride in what is ours and inviting others to worship in our own “temple of the sun.” What is this stone? If we see it, would we recognize it? Do we even know how to do a Filipino reading of the West? Or a Filipino reading of the Filipino? Can a Babaylan-inspired map show us how?
Stories. Questions within stories. This is the way the project took a turn. From theorizing and conceptualizing about the Babaylan, we unearthed sacred stories from our bodies’ Memory and offered them on the altar of the Babaylan.
A Path of good remembering...
Since the publication of Coming Full Circle in 2001 and A Book of Her Own in 2005 many readers tell me they have been deeply transformed by the books; that the books kept them company in their journey to recover or reclaim a Filipino identity; that they are grateful for these texts for finally making visible their own unspoken desire to come home to their Filipino selves. They are relieved to know that there is a map to guide them along their own unique journey. This excerpt from a letter is representative of what I have been blessed to receive:
I just finished chapter four of cfc. I might as well have underlined the whole chapter. I was sitting at a crowded bakery cafe yesterday morning, reading the chapter four summary, with tears streaming down my face. Thank you, Leny. Thank you for this book. I don’t have the words in english to tell you what your work means to me. I suspect that one day, I’ll be able to better express it in tagalog to you. I look forward to that day.
I was struck yesterday with the thought that your book can be seen as a “handbook” for decolonization. What has been most profound for me, however, is the timing of my life events (especially lately) paralleling the chapters/concepts in your book, as i read them. rather than receiving, solely, instruction on how to decolonize, I’ve found myself receiving, instead, deep affirmation and confirmation that I am on track with my process. It’s like i would be living my life and then something would come up with myself, or my husband, or my friends, or my sisters, or my parents, or my cousins, or anyone, and then I would read about it in your book.
It is as if I was already on this “painfully exquisite” path of re-membering and true emerging, and your book knew to find me because she knew that i would need help and encouragement and reassurance for me to continue. she knows it is a transformative journey, and that with the amazing transformation, comes the shedding of the familiar, the illusory “safety” of colonization. she knew that this shedding would cause ripples in my closest relationships. she knew precious few could or would, in the beginning, understand the significance and the importance of this journey. She knew that far more (the ones closest to my heart) would be confused and feel hurt. and, she knew that I would need encouragement to move forward anyway. because of you and your work, I have, and I do, and I will.
Allowing me to witness your journey, by sharing your experience, has granted me safer passage through mine. This is perhaps the deepest act of love that we can give one another as Filipinos, as women, as humans, as fellow sojourners. Thank you, Leny. Thank you. Salamat.
This book in your hands includes the stories of women, like Karen above, who dared to remember and write about the body’s trauma and the healing they found through the re-imagination and reclamation of their indigenous roots, and in particular, that of the Babaylan spirit. Also included are scholarly essays from women whose life journeys have led them eventually to name their experiences as Babaylan-inspired or to follow the Babaylan’s path.
This path is a path of good remembering. What is “good” remembering? It means to remember that which grieves us, for it is the grief of loss, suffering, cultural amnesia – that renews our desire to live differently.22 The Babaylan-inspired artist, Grace Nono,23 chose to obey her grief (“I got tired of mimicking jazz singers of the west.”) and it led her to the sacred chants of our Lumads. In turn, it led her to bring these chants to life in a different context so that they may live anew in the hearts of decolonizing Filipino Americans who are looking for water for their parched tongues and soul.
I, too, mastered this mimicry. Thankfully, my dreams of my grandmother and dreams of the ancient child needing care and nurture, dreams of the ones I loved and lost – keep subverting this mimicry.
Indigenous: katutubo. People whose memory of belonging is defined by their relationship to the Land or ancestral domain. The importance of place, of the land, is more important than abstract concepts like Time.24
Indio-genius: a word play on the indigenous introduced by Kidlat Tahimik. Filipino culture-bearers who may not be from land-based tribes, yet they live by the indigenous world view. A person who would be Indio-genius is animated by her sariling-duwende or inner muse or trickster. The Filipino artist or culture bearer who listens to her sariling duwende will be blessed and guided by her ancestral spirits which makes her wise and thoughtful about how to live sustainably on the fragile earth. Not easily swayed by a colonial mind-set, she guards her sariling duwende by limiting her exposure to the superficial trappings of modern life. An example of this is Kidlat Tahimik formerly known as Eric de Guia.25 As a western-educated postcolonial subject, he made a conscious decision in the 70s to eschew the modern worldview and embrace the indigenous worldview. As a Filipino culture-bearer and artist working with the indigenous peoples in the Cordilleras, he is an adopted tribal member of the Hapao tribe where he built a traditional Ifugao house and participates in the work of maintaining the rice terraces and the traditional arts and crafts of Cordillera folks.
I met many of these indio-genius culture bearers at the Kapwa 2 conference in Iloilo who carve independent niches all over the Philippines for their indigenous and indio- genius creative expressions. Appropriately enough, the theme of the conference was “The Importance of the Indigenous in an Age of Globalization.”
At this conference, the centerpiece was a symposium on the Schools of Living Traditions (SLT) represented by various indigenous leaders. Their presentations consisted of: 1) conceptual frameworks on the importance of sustaining their living traditions; 2) how they are navigating the challenges presented to their communities by development and modernizing efforts; 3) how they plan to negotiate change on their own terms; and 4) how they want to be supported by non-indigenous friends via solidarity work.
For example: Datu Migkatey Victorino Saway of the Talaandig in Mindanao in his presentation delineated the processes and institutions in place for transmitting indigenous knowledge among his people. The expected outcomes are explicit: to cultivate indigenous spirituality; sustain oral traditions of storytelling and chanting, dances and instruments; strengthen cultural identity and cultural values; emphasize unity and cooperation, self- confidence, pride, and common sense. This is how he summarizes the work of the SLT:
We cannot afford to let the cultures, which our forefathers preserved for us, die in our hands without passing it to the next generation. If we do we would commit the greatest crime by killing the heritage of our past which is the foundation of the future of our children’s generation.26
It is encouraging to learn about the work of culture-bearers and artists who are living the indigenous/indio-genius way of life. Because I’ve been away so long from the homeland, to rediscover the vibrancy of these subcultures is like water for a parched tongue. It is another thread in the tapestry I’ve been weaving. This one is more colorful and beautiful than other threads.
Indio-genius in the diaspora
How did I begin thinking about the indigenous perspective as a scaffolding framework for thinking about the Babaylan tradition? In Coming Full Circle (2001), I write about postcolonial discourse as resistance to dominating master narratives, developing double consciousness and critical tools of analysis for undoing our colonized minds. Yes, these are all intellectual entries in the transformation of consciousness. How do intellectual doors lead to the integration of body-soul-mind? Can the study of the Babaylan tradition offer an indigenous narrative that is more powerful than the postcolonial discourse?
At the Filipina American Women’s Network (FAWN) in 2005, a conference that focused on the Babaylan theme, I began to explore this integration in dialogue with conference organizer, Perla Daly.27 In her own work as a cyberactivist, she began to conceptualize the Babaylan spirit as the embodiment of certain archetypal qualities: Earth (teacher, generativity); Air (visionary, wisdom); Fire (activism); Water (healing, wholeness); Priestess (light, awareness). These are the qualities that people might seek in a Babaylan’s spirituality and her sense of leadership that brings them back to their pagka-Pilipino/Pilipinoness. Perla Daly credits the work of Angeles Arrien (1993) but she incorporates the Filipina aspects into the meditation guides she developed for those willing to learn from the Babaylan path. The Teacher, Warrior, Healer, Visionary, and Priestess roles anchor the Babaylan’s calling towards Sacred Pakikipagkapwa. Perla Daly summarizes these roles briefly based on her personal encounters with Babaylans.28
My first understanding of the Babaylan was from personal experience. I realized that the hilot is a Babaylan. He or she is the village healer or hilot (bone setter, massage therapy) and herbolario (herbalist). Our family had one or two favorites in the barrio.
A healer removes dis-ease and disease and brings about health and wholeness in the physical and emotional well-being of the community.
My second understanding of the Babaylan from personal experiences was of the seer or psychic truth teller. Most of these hilots I encountered also had the gift of third-sight. They peered at you as if looking through to your very soul, and they knew things about you, your past, your future, through the bumps and depressions of your skull, the shape of your bones, by reading cards or by just looking at you.
A visionary intuits and perceives truth and understanding and shares this with family and/or community, from which action is taken to move forward toward harmony and peace.
The teacher harvests knowledge and heritage, processes, nurtures, and develops knowledge and heritage and plants seeds for future generations to harvest. I met two women who embodied the teacher archetype outright. The first was Leny who was an associate professor who taught and was writing, publishing, and bringing about active community dialogue on the topic of decolonization. This discussion of decolonization was also a process of individual and community healing—so here was a very good example of a Teacher archetype doing work with essential healing--thus dual essences of teacher and healer within her work.
The other teacher was a young woman named Bing. She worked in the Ilocos mountains. Having learned the oral histories in song, she was taught by tribal storytellers throughout those hills. She traveled from village to village to learn and impart legends and poetry in song and music. She was an initiated and honored Babaylan, one of the youngest who was eager to receive the seeds of heritage from our elders and spread and plant them within the communities.
I was exploring the deeper meaning of feminism for a few years by this time and had already come to the realization that the feminist was embodied by a few archetypes, too. One of these is the Warrior archetype – the fiery, angry woman who demands justice and equality. So my third understanding of the Babaylan as a leader was the warrior. In Philippine culture we have these babaylan warriors named as the historical Gabriela Silang and the legendary Princess Urduja.
I realized that feminism and Babaylans were related somehow, and I was determined to figure out how. As I began to find my own voice and express it in online communties such as newfilipina.com and in online discussion groups, and as I witnessed other brave women and men find their voices to speak up on behalf of the exploited or the oppressed, I realized that the Babaylan spirit of the warrior is in us when we speak up and openly for justice and risk the consequences of the powers-that-be and society at large.
My understanding of Babaylan as a ritualist or priestess was given to me when I read both the books of Mary Lou Hardillo- Werninga29 and Eileen Tabios. They both defined Babaylan as women community healers, leaders, and priestesses.
The word priestess resonated with me and made me excited. It was a new discovery of roles that were actually possible for women in the past in my own people’s history. And possibly in the present, because it just so happened that I had become acquainted with my first Filipina priestess, Letecia, while in my first days of publishing Bagong Pinay. Letecia was ordained in three Goddess traditions, including the Temple of Isis and the Dianic Tradition. During her first formal training by elders, that included rituals and women’s mysteries, she reached into her ancestral roots, finding what she could in the ethnographic writings (thanks to Linda Nietes) and using the Mandaya tribal practices of the Baylan as a guide.
During this time, I was also doing personal, spiritual work. I was also looking for personal healing and growth. I began to do yoga, meditation, reiki energy healing, and I had begun to explore indigenous spirituality in shamanism---full moon drumming, dream journeying. It was very profound and healing for me.
At the FAWN conference, Sister Mary John Mananzan’s keynote speech30 was titled “The Babaylan in Me” -- a call to recognize that even in the present day Filipina women can integrate the spirit of the Babaylan into their lives. In her speech, she used Perla’s Babaylan archetypes to talk about the Babaylan’s roles in her life. Babaylan scholar Zeus Salazar,31 on the other hand, cautions that there are two kinds of Babaylan wanna-bes: the Babaylan para sa sarili (Babaylan for the self) and Babaylan para sa bayan (Babaylan for the nation). He warns that the Babaylan tradition can be co-opted by new age-type spirituality-seeking affluent, middle class Filipinas whose end goal is individual spiritual enlightenment. The real Babaylan, in his view, always has been the liberation of her people/nation from oppression (without and within) as a main goal. Another scholar of the Babaylan tradition, Fe Mangahas (2006), ties in the Babaylan practice to the feminist movement in the Philippines, not only in an attempt to draw out equivalences with western constructs but also to foreground the much older egalitarian Babaylan tradition.
In Hawaii, Grace Caligtan organized the “urban Babaylan” group in 2003. A small group of Filipino American women began to gather under the full moon in a sacred circle to share spiritual insights, intellectual understanding, body knowledge, Babaylan-inspired politics, and personal aspirations.
In California, Aimee Suzara wrote “Babaylan Rising” for the journal Call of Nature, published by Pusod,32 a Bay Area nongovernmental organization that was a hub for cultural and environmental work in the mid-90s and which has since relocated to the Philippines. This article was later published online and became widely referenced.
I believe that all of the above are some of the indio-genius attempts to re-imagine the Babaylan tradition and recover its potency to transform our modern lives.
In my own life, the death of my father may have been the event that triggered psychic irruptions that the radical feminist Haunani Kay Trask, (1986) calls Eros and what Barbara Tedlock, (2005) a shaman and anthropologist, calls Vital Energy. Eros, as life force, is energy that explodes into consciousness beyond the mind’s capacity to control or tame. Perhaps the death of a loved one is an experience that unlocks a door, a key given to us, giving us our power back to reclaim a subjectivity that doesn’t deny the body. Death made me reflect about my father’s history, most especially how he tried all his life to reconcile the contradictions of his body, mind, and soul amidst his rigid conditioning as a Protestant minister. A few months before he died, I wrote this letter to a friend:
Sometimes I wish someone would try to talk me back into the christian faith of the evangelical kind. I have good memories of a church-going childhood and my parents’ faith. But the last time I came home to visit my Dad, something else intruded from my unconscious.
He’s just had breakfast and is reading his devotional guide at the breakfast table. I am sitting with him. My Dad is 88 years old, he reads with a magnifying glass and when he wears his hearing aid, I could carry on a conversation with him. But this morning he is reciting bible verses in English and as I watch him I start to cry as these thoughts came up from nowhere: Is this what you have become? Mouthing words that were given to you by an outsider; what has this faith done to you, dad?
I shuddered at these thoughts. Then I tried to find their source.
My father is the epitome of a split psyche visited upon him by the violence of colonialism. He fell deeply into the pond of Methodism and it shaped his life (and thus, mine) forever. As a man of faith (he is a pastor), he is sought by others to preach, to officiate at baptisms, funerals, and everything in between. The community respects him and has awarded him with many certificates and medals of appreciation. He seems to live for these moments of recognition.
As a husband and father, he is emotionally distant. My mother was very lonely inside the marriage but as a good submissive wife, she took it all as rightful sacrifice. My mother has passed away. My Dad is now under the care of my youngest sister. She, too, struggles to connect emotionally with my Dad.
So that morning two years ago, as he recited bible verses to me, I cried because I sensed this primal wounding (that was also mine). Perhaps I’ve been reading too much about patriarchy, capitalist control, gender oppression, colonialism, etc. Perhaps it was my recent immersion in indigenous literature and indigenous spirituality that made me see this split more clearly. Perhaps it’s my pursuit of the works of Thomas Berry about cosmic spirituality and ecology.
Yet in that moment, as I watched my father, I knew what I didn’t want to become. I want to be whole and spend the rest of my life feeling whole.
I tried to recall the moments when I’d seen glimpses of my Dad’s wholeness - the self buried beneath all that Methodist severe discipline of the mind and body (especially the body). I’d seen it in his child-like delight in his garden and small aviary of lovebirds. I’d watched him play with the birds. He would reach into the cage and take one of the birds in his hand and stroke its feathers gently. In that moment he is one with the bird, he is an innocent child who has never known colonial violence.
In his garden he painstakingly pulls weeds on his arthritic knees. He stares at the intensity of the purple orchid; he is so proud of himself for coaxing this bloom. And this may not be environmentally sound but it makes me laugh -- he dares to paint the small boulders
in his garden walkway with stunning red, sunny orange, and lapiz lazuli blue. The boulders line the walkway and the bright colors guide his failing eyes but I am guessing that, again, he draws a deep eros pleasure from these colors. In the soft warm breeze of a Pampanga afternoon, he sits content on his rocking chair. I can almost sense his gentleness now...minus the grating kind of hardness when he is trying so hard to be holy and righteous.
On the pulpit, he emulates the fiery talk of a hell-fire-and- brimstone preacher. He quotes memorized bible verses and punctuates his homiletics with references to the United States or George Bush (all gathered from watching CNN International). He doesn’t think critically about this practice -- it is what he knows and has learned to mimic perfectly.
Sometimes I could get him to ponder his own contradictions by telling him about my work, or why I believe I’m a better christian now than when I was a churchgoer. He tells me how proud he is of me and that what I write about is good and necessary. And then he would lapse again into praise for John Wesley and George W. Bush.
Most of the time, I can find humor in this irony. My tears and what has brought them on can recede again into the background. But I can think of them now and then and think of everyone I know that struggles with such contradictions.
Yesterday as I prepared my goodbye email to my students this semester, I found a line from Ben Okri’s The Famished Road: “no injustice ever lasts, and no love ever dies...so keep the road open.” I wish the Empire would remember this.
After my father’s death, I found myself reading all of Linda Hogan’s writings. In her novel Power (1999), a young girl turns her back on the white world and goes to live with the old people, the Panther people, beyond the woods. I am drawn to stories like this because I am given permission to recall, without mockery, the world I left behind when I became modern and civilized. I wish to return, in whatever form I can, to that world, this time with much reverence and supplication for what that world can teach me still.
In The Woman Who Watches Over the World (2001), Hogan writes about the pain of History as it has visited native peoples including herself and all her relations. I was moved to write this as I read her story:
Re-reading Linda Hogan’s the woman who watches over the world.
How do we turn our pain into love?
The pain of history is written in our bodies.
How does the body begin to recognize the pain it carries from history?
What placebos have been offered to us to numb the pain?
I wonder at what point Linda Hogan realized that language can heal?
Our capacity for making poetry, for weaving words into magic
is like rain. is like a cool breeze. is like standing in a stream.
If I can make language that heals for the rest of my life,
It’s all I ask. All I need really.
Can your sariling duwende speak?
Lately, I’ve been privileged to know young powerful Pinays who are drawn to the intellectual vocation that is rooted in their passion for social justice. More importantly, they are drawn to something deeper. This deeper is hard to name and categorize so we call it Babaylan, loob, kapwa, indigenous/lumad, animist. Indio-genius. As we talk about fragmentation and decentered subjectivities under patriarchy and capitalism, or the effects of postcolonial trauma, war and militarization, sexual trauma, we find ourselves laughing at the limits of Foucouldian language. How much more facile it is to just say simply, as Fr. Alejo (2000) does: Create Energy out of the depths of your Loob! From your Loob you can relate to others from a place of security, self-worth, and empowerment that is not individualistic but rather from a sensitive sense of kapwa caring for each other. Be Indio-genius!
Decolonization is a spiritual path that leads us to find our sariling duwende, the indio- genius/indigenous within. It is finding a way out of the commodity fetishism of capitalism. Instead of allowing the master narratives of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy33 to push us into a defensive but useless corner of self-pity, anxiety, helplessness, and anger or to numb us into mindless consumption, there is here an invitation to a rapture of a larger kind. It is this that calls us out of our catatonic state of near-death modernity. Decolonization can be a form of shamanistic equipping or what W.E.D. Du Bois calls “second sight,” an initiation rite, a reworking of the alienating consumption in western scientific discourses into new forms of ritual practice that can give us an intimate home underneath the model of western surveillance (Perkinson, 2004).
To posit postcolonial and indigenous narratives as alternative frames of reference for understanding contemporary history is to question the presumption of modernity to define exclusively what it means to be human. Let us deepen our understanding of modernity by revealing it as a narrow and limited framework in the longer narrative of life on earth. The indigenous worldview, for example, points to the remarkable diversity of ways of being on the planet that saw forcible assimilation into the homogenizing logic of modernity with the shift in modes of social organization from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural settlers, to modern cities/nation states. Taken in this long view of time, indigenization scholars assert that there is a need to use memory and mythic recall in order to learn about those other sustainable ways of being on the planet. If we do, perhaps we might avert what ecologists see as the human species’ headlong fall into a civilizational collapse and perhaps even extinction.
Prof. Felipe de Leon Jr., Filipino indigenization scholar, says that the underlying Filipino personality is the figure of the Babaylan—she who embodies and represents the openness of the culture to the world outside. She represents the notion of kapwa (the self in the other) as the fluid, inclusive boundaries of her multiple social worlds. The seeming lack of preoccupation with control belies her ability to do so; her ability to traverse and mediate between worlds is her gift. Therefore, to think of the Babaylan tradition as the deep structure of Filipino subjectivity is to reference structures (psychic, epistemic, ontological even) that often cannot be captured by the language games of modernity. If we could listen to our soul’s hunger, it would tell us that we are much closer to indigenous peoples in our deeper feelings and instincts than we can imagine. This is not surprising because the basic constitution of human life at its deepest core has remained unchanged despite surface changes in its material conditions. The very thing that gave rise to ancient rituals is still present in us once we get over the idea of alphabetizing or explaining them. How this structure of subjectivity, notwithstanding its long submergence into the subconscious by centuries of colonization, continues to manifest in Filipinos’ everyday transaction of their social world constitutes a fascinating subject of study. This “very thing” is constituted by tacit knowing and often is resistant to being languaged, and what get referenced are the practices of the body and its aesthetic performances and utterances. This is what the culture-bearer/indio-genius tries to articulate.
The more I realize that the wisdom that brings wholeness comes from the spirit world and is brought closer to me through the Babaylan spirit, the clearer it becomes to me how, when I was growing up, we were taught to dismiss these powers as superstitious, irrational, even demonic or evil. Even though folks I grew up with continued to seek the intervention of hilots (chiropractors/bone setters, massage therapists) and faith healers, our connection to the spirit world was severed by rationality and reductive thinking brought to us courtesy of a colonial education. The sacred realm was assigned to an external Sacred Other, given an anthropomorphic identity as primarily male (and white, too), and thus became separate and different from the body of the Land/Earth and our physical bodies. This is how religions became institutionalized, and our souls became properties of the church subject to redemption and salvation. Over time, our lives became fragmented into secular and sacred, circulated and recycled within the capitalist system of production and profit. As daily life and all of creation was dis-enchanted and we became enamored with the objectivity of science without spirit, we began our descent into a kind of virulent amnesia.
This amnesia reduced everything to matter, observable only by the five senses. This disenchantment of what was once considered a sacred whole, led then ultimately to the world view that all can be exploited, commodified, and objectified. To split our consciousness between sacred and secular is violent and traumatic. Desacralization is the logical end point of denial of the sacredness of the whole. In an attempt to recover this sacred wholeness for me, I thought long and hard about the religion I inherited from my parents.
Indigenous religious consciousness
The Christian faith of my parents and ancestors is my inheritance. But what happens when the faith of our elders in the God that they worship is transformed in us? We admire and respect our parents for their belief in a Christian god but how do we continue to learn from their faith and devotion as we discover and learn a different story about God? How can we look back at this inheritance and continue to mine it for glimpses of the indigenous? For surely, their lives hinted at this delicate navigation for balance and grounding. As Filipino indigenous theologian Melba Maggay (1999) would say, perhaps we were never really converted to Christianity; what happened was a mere exchange of forms. We traded our brown anitos for images of the Christian faith; but underneath this exchange, the indigenous remained potent.34
I find that it is possible to reconceptualize God as the sacred presence in the universe. God as a mystical reality. If we recognize God and the different names that people around the planet have given to their mystical experiences, it is easier to accept our religious pluralism and will be able to honor and celebrate our diversity. Religion, after all, is the human attempt to create a story out of our various experiences of the sacred. God that is present in matter and in all species, and in the cosmos. How do we live out this faith that doesn’t project the sacred into solely an anthropomorphic image of God? Or if we continue to keep our inherited faith, is there room for inclusion and expansion of meanings outside of its theological formation?
As Filipinas we are not prone to dichotomies and compartments. The walls we build are always see-through and slender to allow for the moments of possible encounter between us and those who consider us their “other.” For us, there is no Other. This is the fragility of our condition and the Babaylan’s dilemma – how do we resist the dichotomies imposed by a modern consciousness. How should we deal with the consequences of colonial constructions? Our History is fraught with unfinished wars and we must take our place in the frontlines with all the gifts that the Babaylan offers: of healing, visioning, warriorship, teaching, priestessing. We can invite ourselves into the circle of Fire where these become embers that we must walk across barefooted and welcome the shock of pain that eventually gives way to pleasure and healing.
According to Martin Prechtel (2001) shamans are sometimes considered healers or doctors, but really they are people who deal with the tears and holes we create in the net of life, the damage that we all cause in our search for survival. In a sense, all of us — even the most untechnological, spiritual, and benign peoples — are constantly wrecking the world. The question is: how do we respond to that destruction? If we respond as we do in modern culture, by ignoring the spiritual debt that we create just by living, then that debt will come back to bite us, hard. But there are other ways to respond. One is to try to repay that debt by giving gifts of beauty and praise to the sacred, to the invisible world that gives us life. Shamans deal with the problems that arise when we forget the relationship that exists between us and the other world that feeds us, or when, for whatever reason, we don’t feed the other world in return.
Moreover, Prechtel writes that all of this may sound strange to modern, industrialized people, but for the majority of human history, shamans have simply been a part of ordinary life. They exist all over the world. It seems strange to Westerners now because they have systematically devalued the other world and no longer deal with it as part of their everyday lives. The role of the shaman is to guide people through the process of proper grief once they realize that their grief is really a longing for wholeness. Our inability to grieve properly, according to Prechtel, is often expressed by the violence of the culture. It is violent because it no longer remembers how to heal; the violence generates forgetting because people no longer know the path to wholeness. They have destroyed this path in the name of becoming civilized and modern.
The shaman/Babaylan helps people remember, re-member, and heal.
Our Babaylans and Babaylan-inspired kapwa are still with us. In land-based tribal communities in the Philippines, they perform their roles as they have done for thousands of years. Karl Gaspar (2004) calls them “organic mystics.”35 In the diaspora, he calls them “mystics in exile.” Among Filipinos in the homeland and in the diaspora, decolonizing Filipinos claim the Babaylan spirit as an inheritance that is available to all who wish to follow an indigenous spiritual path.
The Babaylan is Calling...
During the period of writing about the decolonization process, the concept of “Babaylan” hadn’t yet fully intruded in my consciousness although I had been aware of the texts on the subject. In 2005 a core group of us in cyberspace started wondering what the emergence of this term and other indigenous symbols and signs in the community meant (baybayin tattoos, balagtasan/verbal jousts, kali and other martial arts, Joey Ayala’s music, Babaylan conferences, etc). Perla Daly started the invitational Babaylan listserve and the Babaylan files blog as a place to open up the dialogue.
I also started to read both academic and popular texts on shamanism and indigenism. This was also a time when I started to feel that the boundaries of my own academic discipline (Ethnic Studies) was bursting at the seams and could no longer contain the full range of emerging interconnected themes in my consciousness.
My study of global capitalism and its effects on the global South (especially in my Philippines), readings on peak oil, resource wars, global climate change, limits of modernity - made me reflect on how these intersect with Ethnic Studies paradigms of race, class, sex and gender, religious, and linguistic oppressions.36 Several authors became critical to my own thinking: Charles Mills’ The Racial Contract (1999), Vine Deloria, Jr.’s God is Red (1994) and The World We Used to Live In (2004), Winona La Duke’s Recovering the Sacred (2005), David Stannard’s American Holocaust (1993), Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (2005) to name just a few.
A Book of Her Own: Words and Images to Honor the Babaylan (2005) was the first consciously Babaylan-inspired collaborative heart-work that I did with Perla Daly and other feminist artists from the Philippines. When the book was launched at University of the Philippines’ Balay Kalinaw, the sponsoring organization -- Institute for the Studies of Asian Art and Culture (ISAAC) -- made me realize that a book has a larger life than its pages. What moved me about this occasion is that in the midst of a political crisis and people’s busyness with their daily lives, people took time on a Friday afternoon to commune together, to welcome a balikbayan and her book into their lives, to re-acquaint ourselves with the Babaylan spirit and her history. Story-telling, poetry reading, analysis and synthesis, music, dance, chant, the gift of flowers, and food -- fed our hearts and souls, strengthened our ties (local and transnational), and rekindled our desire to continue journeying together towards the path of creating Beauty, speaking the Truth to power, working for social justice, and walking softly on the Earth.
Since then I have longed for ways of thinking and writing that represent this embodied knowledge or the sutured split between body and soul. I have been telling myself that I want to break out of the prison of Modernity. Usually, when I consciously desire something, I don’t really know where this desire leads; the unconscious starts to work its way into some answers.37 I always start with books. Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, the documentary The End of Suburbia: The Peaking of Oil and the End of the American Dream,38 and Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005) all point to the possibility of civilizational collapse as a consequence of a modern paradigm that privileges a particular narrative about the nature of reality that ignores the limits imposed by the Earth’s capacity to support this narrative. This narrative is based on a scientific world view and Enlightenment values that continue to shape today’s master narratives – whether it’s the god of global free trade, god of commodities and fetishes, the god of individualism and right to happiness, the god of hybridity and homeless cosmopolitanism – we are drowning. There are documentaries and books now about the inevitable extinction of the human species fueled by this (flawed) modern consciousness that believes the Earth was made for humankind to control.39
Given these dark future scenarios, I needed to find a way of synthesizing the knowledge with an intuitive sense that I felt. This feeling says: It will be okay. I trust this feeling and I just needed to find other souls who have already found the language to express this “okay- ness.” Thus, I found the books of Martin Prechtel.40 In them I find lessons on how to remember our indigenous souls. He is a half-white, half Native American who became a shaman and village elder in a Mayan village in Guatemala but eventually had to flee during the civil war in the 80s and found himself back in the U.S.. His shaman teacher instructed him to bring the healing bundles with him to the U.S. “to keep the world alive.” He didn’t know at first how he could survive in the U.S., much less become a shaman among peoples who have destroyed indigenous cultures. But he did and still does. I draw inspiration and encouragement from the works of people like him who believe in the power of the indigenous.41 To uncover the indigenous in our souls is the work of decolonization. But even as we decolonize, it is not enough; it is merely a beginning. The work must continue to deepen until the body, mind, and soul become one. I propose that this integration is not a quick slippage into a “universal human” although this is one of its dimensions. As N.V.M. Gonzalez told me many times: You cannot be a good American until you become a good Filipino first. I believe this.
Many of the readers of Coming Full Circle tell me that prior to finding this text, they were already familiar with texts on feminism, women’s spirituality, indigenous consciousness, ecopsychology, and sex and gender issues – but since most of the texts are written by non-Filipinos, there is still an empty space that needs to be filled with something that is “Filipino.” This is my attempt to fill in that empty space.
The understanding of the master narratives of modernity that shape our ideas can facilitate the clarity of what it means to return to the indigenous. Here are a few of those key concepts and my own summary of how they’ve helped me think through my own positions. Each of these terms deserves a much larger treatment, needless to say.
Naming is an important process of setting ourselves free from the captivity of master narratives. If we are to eventually find ways of speaking and making meaning out of our tacit knowledge about our own indigenous resources, it is important to first understand how certain powerful modern concepts shape the way we think about our experiences.
Below I list some of the key concepts that have been useful to me.
Modern Era: This time frame spans about 500 years. 1492 is usually considered as marker of the beginning of the global modern period. Other markers include: the rise of the scientific and industrial revolutions in the West leading up to imperial adventures and conquest. If this were the only framework that we reference when we think of ourselves (in the past or present) and our place in the world, then it’s tempting to buy into the idea that we must become modern. “Modern” has become akin to the desirability, even necessity, of western rationality, technological advancement, scientific progress, etc. That is why we talk about the linear progression of “dark ages” to “age of enlightenment” and the “era of democracy and freedom.” This is the western imagination’s construction of reality that has become naturalized and universalized.
But look around. There exists now a global body of knowledge that asserts that this is the great delusion of modernity and that it has already begun to show its cracks. The U.S. as the last empire standing is scrambling to hold on and will do all it can whatever means necessary to remain so. Many are hoping that the newly-elected President Obama will be more in tune with the need for the U.S. to take its place as a member of the family of nations rather than continuing to assert the imperial hegemony of the U.S. as the sole superpower and leader.
In this modern perspective, what is often invisible and unheard is the groundswell of resistance from the South (of the North/South divide) and the East (of the East/West divide). This movement consists of the global decolonization movements, anti-corporate globalization movements, and survival strategies of resistance of indigenous peoples sometimes referred to as the Fourth World. Within the U.S. there are subcultures and countercultural movements - ecological, feminist, voluntary simplicity movement to name a few -- who now discern that the dark shadow of modernity is catching up with our everyday lives. We cannot continue to delude ourselves that the solution is only one more innovative product away, or one more coal plant or nuclear plant to build, or one more war to wage. There is enough scientific evidence that the carrying capacity of the planet has reached its limits.
However, as this dark shadow looms, there is a little glimmer of light that comes from a very distant memory that says: once upon time, we were whole; it’s all good. Our psyches were not split, our sense of self wasn’t fragmented. Everyone and everything was our relative. There was no Other. We are each other’s Kapwa. We knew how to live sustainably on the Land and its resources. We had conflicts but not wars that took over each other domains. The cycles of birth, death, and rebirth are accepted as natural. Modern cultures, on the other hand, have developed sophisticated ways of denying death.
So these days I often find myself imagining the world in different ways; reminding myself that Modernity is going to be a blip in the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, as the cliché goes. I do this for the sake of appreciating interspecies diversity (cultural, biological, linguistic) and making sure that I do my part in making sure this diversity survives and thrives. I do this by teaching my students how to recognize binary/dualistic thinking as a marker of the modern mind. They also need to understand that how we come to view Reality is often a product of social processes and struggles with power that are born out of linear time-based paradigms42 that were abstracted and universalized into a program of full spectrum domination of the planet. Vine Deloria, Jr. explores time-based paradigms in God is Red (1994) and I have used his framework to write about time versus place-based paradigms from a Filipina perspective in my writing.43
The Filipino notion of time is mythical, nonlinear, celebratory -- the convergence of the past and the future into an eternal present, where everything occurs all at once, clues us in on why the Filipino index of happiness is high; why we find humor in the most dire situations, why we suffer long. This is also why our critics castigate us and try to whip us into more disciplined habits, only to be continually frustrated.44
This way of seeing and being is not easy. I feel conflicted many times. I am aware of my inevitable complicity with the empire because I live in its belly. But at least I could choose alternative positions that I can defend and live with.
Patriarchy: As a marker of modernity, the dominance of the masculine gender led to the feminization of Asia during the age of conquest.45 The “age of reason” gave rise to a social contract46 that subsumed women and children and placed them under the “protection” of the reasonable patriarch. As this social contract became racialized, white love as a social construct came to symbolize the gift of the colonizer to the colonized, which in turn hides the violence of colonial conquest.47 Under colonial terms, the patriarch/colonial master came to view the colonies as feminine and childlike and in need of nurturing and protection but in doing so prevents their growing up into full subjectivity outside of his patriarchal gaze.
Colonialism and white supremacy: The racialized social contract legitimized and rationalized the conquest of lands and peoples as a moral obligation of those who have achieved full humanity to those who are yet to become fully human. White supremacy was deployed for the first time in the modern era via constructs of the biological hierarchies of race. This science-based racism, even though debunked a long time ago, continues to reverberate in the present time. In this post-civil rights era, the relative successes of the movement served to silence its more radical agenda of social justice.48 In certain Filipino American communities where there is a palpable decolonizing movement, a generation that understands the process of racial formation in the U.S. is also at the forefront of developing counternarratives and strategies. Often these are generations of college students who begin to get a critical education in Ethnic Studies programs across the country.49 Confrontation with their immigrant parents and their conservative tendencies towards assimilation (rather than resistance) is a fecund area for dialogue.
Decolonization: This post-WW2 worldwide movement among the former colonies of Europe and in the Philippines as the only formal colony of the U.S., and the indigenization movement within these formerly colonized nations continue to address sovereignty versus dependency issues. (Isbister, 2003) In the age of corporate globalization, the global South leads the resistance against the continued plunder of the earth’s resources under modernity’s relentless pursuit of profit and affluence. Decolonization movements within post-colonial nations are now aligned with other global movements – labor, women’s rights, human rights, environmental justice, civil rights, anti-poverty, to name a few. All these movements are nodes in a multi-dimensional, multi-nodal, decentralized and nonhierarchical global democratic movement. (Hardt and Negri, 2004) That this doesn’t get media-coverage in corporate media should not be a surprise.
Subjectivity: This academic term refers to the power of language and discourse to shape our ideas about identities. Language, in its broadest sense, is what makes meaning. We are subjected to discourse. To a large extent the language of History that we’ve learned is not indigenous to us and therefore, is in need of unpacking. The indigenization movement in the Philippines refers to this unpacking as “indigenization from within” and is exemplified by the popularized Pantayong Pananaw in Sikolohiyang Pilipino (a “from us, for us, by us” perspective).
This concept is used by both postcolonial and postmodern discourses and when attached to the politics of identity, it becomes a debate between “essentialist” and “non-essentialist” positions. In her important work on translating theory across differing contexts, S. Lily Mendoza’s work (2002/2005) in Between the Homeland and the Diaspora: Theorizing Filipino and Filipino American Identities, uses the Filipino and Filipino American lens to challenge the dominant academic discourses that act as gatekeepers of knowledge.
Below are the Filipino indigenous concepts that helped me strengthen my resolve to keep affirming Filipino indigenous knowledge and systems and practices.
Kapwa, Loob and Damdam: In Sikolohiyang Pilipino, Kapwa (shared identity), Loob (shared humanity) and Damdam (shared inner perception) are core concepts that characterize Filipino personhood. Kapwa refers to the idea of “I and the Other are One” – suggesting the inclusive, open, welcoming nature of Kapwa. According to Felipe de Leon, Jr., in Philippine culture, there is an
underlying belief in the shared identity of human beings. Individual existence is only apparent and relative for we all exist within a cosmic matrix of being at the deepest center of which is a creative living principle or energic process. This implies a unity of creation -- oneness of inner and outer reality, of noumena and phenomena – that is essentially an Asian concept yet distinctly Filipino in its recognition of the vital principle, especially in people.50
Pakikiramdam (shared inner perception): is the affect component; it is the ability to empathize with one’s kapwa. This is a well-developed tacit sensing of context, content, and emotion when dealing with one’s kapwa. The desire to maintain balance and harmony in one’s universe of relations. It is the basic perceptual mode of knowing.
Loob as core concept has the power to shape our reality, to unite, link, and connect us to each other. According to Alejo’s book, Tao Po! Tuloy!: Isang Landas ng Pag-unawa sa Loob ng Tao (1990), Loob can have the same meaning as in the Greek word Aletheia (truth revealed), Chinese Tao (the Way), or Japanese Zen (the unnameable). Alejo says these are not esoteric or mystical words; we experience these words and are not beyond comprehension. Loob is our “perennial philosophy.”
I translate into English the basic elements of Loob below according to Fr. Alejo:
Abot-Malay (consciousness): being conscious to a whole world of meaning, thus attaining wisdom. Consciousness that is open and interconnected. The opposite of this consciousness is alienation (tiwalag sa loob), which obliterates our efforts at becoming fully human. There is a loss of self. In losing the self, one becomes a mere object. Breaking through this alienation can happen through acquiring knowledge, through conversation with others, through reflection and relating with others. But this is not enough until we know what it feels to be deeply convicted within the soul.
The second element in our Loob is:
Abot-Dama (deep empathy): Knowledge is not enough, it is also important to understand the feelings/emotions of everyone and everything around me. The deeper our experience of Loob, the more we know and feel our interconnectedness with each other and with the world and with the Creator. When we value our relationship with the world, with our fellow human beings, and with God, our Loob experiences its depth and breadth where meaning and purpose is given to these interrelationships. In our Loob, we come to consciousness, we come to empathy and depth of feeling; we come to a sense of self and a sense of home in the world; we come to joy, we come to God. In what ways do we re-create these relationships?
The third element of our Loob is:
Abot-Kaya (will to act). Sa abot-kaya tumutugon ako sa anyaya ng lawak at lalim, maaring sa paglalakbay o sa pagsisid, o sa pagbuo ng pasiya. (My Loob invites me to respond/act on its invitation to experience its breadth and depth that I may resolve to act accordingly). In the midst of national crisis and pain, in the scattering of ashes, comes a song of hope and freedom which comes from our Loob. In spite of everything, in the midst of everything. And as we hope (and sing), we are creating a world that gives meaning, power and strength to our everyday struggles -- so that we may endure. This also gives us strength to fight in order to fulfill our vision. Everyday we see this in many sites, in the quiet and firm conviction of teachers, of parents, of scholars, and laborers who labor for the sake of a truth that comes from their Loob.
Discourses in indigenous psychology, philosophy, and spirituality enable us to understand contemporary Babaylan practices. When I started wrestling with the idea whether it is possible to decolonize for the sake of pagbabalikloob51 and becoming fully human, I was at first doubtful if this was even possible, if there was a path to follow, or mentors along the way. Now I know that all we need to do is to ask the question. The questions will reveal the answers to us guided by the protection and wisdom of our ancestral spirits. Among ancestors, I count not only my familial ancestors, but our collective anitos, and for an academic like me, my academic ancestors.
So although we now find ourselves as modern folks, there are those of us -- Filipinos in the homeland and in the diaspora -- who are reclaiming the Babaylan heritage because She is calling to us. She has been courting us all along waiting for us to hear her siren song, waiting for us to love her again. So that we may survive and thrive.
The beautiful writer Marjorie Evasco52 poignantly reminds us about this call:
Five hundred years after, women writers of this century try to trace their ancestors to as far back as they can remember or dare to dream, for like them they carry upon their arms the enchanted marks of words which may enable them to continue to hold up half the sky of legend and worship. But the re-tracing is arduous and fraught with peril. Not only is there the deadly silence of four hundred centuries to contend with; there is also the overwhelming patriarchal order which may threaten them into a more deadly silence.
What then is the task of women writers in search of their roots? Cut off from the awesome tree of history, do they quietly wither away with the grief of not being able to find their mothers, grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers? Or do they plant themselves into the rich soil of their womanhood and dream of growing, so that in their growing they will find their way into the depths of their story and connect with the great tap root of their ancient mothers?
Today’s writers, particularly women writers, carry the burden of articulating women’s experiences as they go through these processes of change, to enable more and more women, as well as men, to wrestle with the ghosts and monsters of their lives, whether these monsters and ghosts are in the past, the present, or the future. For women writers, the task to remember is also the task to dream. They must not only be able to find more Babaylanes in the past, the Leona Florentinos and Magdalena Jalandonis who wrestled bravely with the monster of silence and actualized their creative power. They must also enable more women in the future to use their strong, clear voices in order to affirm their womanhood and enrich the experiences of our shared humanity.
Hopefully, their own daughters, granddaughters, and great granddaughters of the 21st century will be able to live through holocausts and revolutions and read that their foremothers did their task well so that they too might write more freely as human beings and live more fully as women. The present women’s struggle to assert identity and to create a stronger sense of community shall have been for the survival of the very young writers who are now doing their first exercises at the Babaylan’s altars and worktables. They must be encouraged to go on and fulfill themselves. For the sacred clearing in the forest and the vision of pintadas could still be lost to women if they are not wakeful. If they remain mindful of the memory and faithful to the vision, it is possible that every time a young woman writer comes to join that circle of women chanting the rhythms of the fire, she will learn to re-affirm what earlier wise women demanded of themselves ages ago: to celebrate without guilt the gift for the healing words of power.
Babaylan-inspired practices are transformative and spiritually grounded in animist belief in Sacred Wholeness. Embracing wholeness would mean loving all of who and what we are, including our colonial history, and our task includes the work we must do on the ideological frontlines buttressed by our indigenous spiritual strength.
Why Babaylan in the 21st century?
In the late 90s, the word “Babaylan” began to appear in Filipino and Filipino American cultural productions and in various diasporic and transnational sites. The publication of Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina American Literature was published by Aunt Lute (2000). A Babaylan conference in Europe was held in Germany organized by women advocating for the rights of Overseas Filipino Workers. An entire issue of a Filipino American journal, Pusod: Call of Nature (2001), was devoted to the Babaylan and the essay by Aimee Suzara would become widely circulated among young Pinayistas. Eileen Tabios, publisher of Meritage Press, devotes a section on her website to “Babaylan Series.”53 An art exhibit at San Francisco State University was called Sino Ka? Ano Ka? Babaylan featuring Babaylan-inspired art by Filipino American artists.54 An invitational Babaylan listserve on yahoogroups was created by cyber-activist Perla Daly and myself to provide a forum for the discussion (academic and non-academic) of this tradition. Many of the members of this listserve talk about their connection to mentors in the Philippines like Virgilio Enriquez, Felipe de Leon, Jr., Zeus Salazar, Fe Mangahas, Teresita Obusan, and Sister Mary John Mananzan. Other members talk of their connection to healers in their families and clans and their heretofore, unacknowledged, unspoken experience of having known and lived alongside these powerful women and men.
Jean Gier and Perla Daly also set up a blog for Babaylan files which remains active.55 A consciously Babaylan-inspired Filipina American Women’s Network conference in 2005 was held in New York and brought together women from the Philippines and in the U.S.. In the same year, my book, A Book of Her Own: Words and Images to Honor the Babaylan, was published by Tiboli Press and was launched both in the U.S. and in the Philippines at the University of the Philippines’ Bahay Kalinaw. A Babaylan conference was held at St. Scholastica’s College in 2006 to coincide with the centennial celebration of the Feminist movement in the Philippines.
In April 2010, The first International Babaylan Conference/Gathering56 will be held at Sonoma State University. This two-day conference will feature keynote presenters Grace Nono, Katrin de Guia, and Virgil Apostol as well as presenters from various academic disciplines and culture-bearing practitioners.
The above are just a few of the sites where the “Babaylan” – as an indigenous Filipino concept, practice, and cultural production – has been appropriated by Filipinos in the homeland and in the diaspora. These observations led to my initial impulse to write a book about the significance and meaning of such acts of appropriation by Filipino Americans and what effects, if any, this has on the lives of individuals and the collective life of our Filipino consciousness.
The concentrated visibility of a Filipino American decolonization movement in the Bay Area, California has been documented both in scholarly publications, e.g. Coming Full Circle: The Process of Decolonization Among Post 1965 Filipino Americans (2001), Between the Homeland and the Diaspora (2002), Pinay Power (2005) and community media and local newspapers. I trace the history of this movement to one of its main influences: Sikolohiyang Pilipino/Filipino Indigenous Psychology for providing a conceptual framework for thinking about Filipino core values. The presence of Virgilio Enriquez in the Bay Area in the early 90s, N.V.M. Gonzalez, and the start of student cultural exchange programs between San Francisco State University (SFSU) and the University of the Philippines were early markers of the movement. Under the guidance of the works of Enriquez, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Fr. Albert Alejo, I published Coming Full Circle (CFC) and proposed a framework for decolonization process among post-1965 Filipino Americans. CFC is used as a text in Filipino American courses in the Bay Area and beyond. In Professor Dan Begonia’s Filipino American Psychology course at San Francisco State University (SFSU), it has been used continuously since 2001.
Younger Filipino American scholars have also begun to integrate the decolonization framework recommended in CFC in their own theorizing about Pinayism (Allyson Tintiangco Cubales) and Filipino American Education (Joan May Cordova, Patricia Halagao Espiritu).57 I have served on the thesis and dissertation committees of Filipino American graduate students across the U.S. who use the decolonization framework to theorize about the intersections between Catholicism, Filipino American cultural identity, and social justice. Artists and cultural activists also reference this work in creating counternarratives via art and rituals. Women are writing narratives of healing from sexual trauma and colonial trauma. Filipina Women’s Network’s Vagina Monologues-- the annual staging of this Ensler play is accompanied by a magazine that includes the writing of Filipina women about healing from sexual trauma, domestic violence, and childhood abuse.58
These are the signposts and markers of the Filipino American community’s attempt to find an alternative framework for understanding our location and position in the United States that is not assimilationist. Ethnic histories in the U.S. have always been rooted in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s that saw the emergence of Filipino American ethnic studies courses taught by community activists; construction of Asian American panethnic identity; emergence of panethnic Asian American institutions. During this period, the centrality of Manong narratives provided a pivot point for exploring new narratives that link the past with the present. Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and Asian American Studies (AAS) conferences, online listserves (flips, pagbabalikloob, Babaylan) became fertile grounds for contesting assimilationist paradigms as well as cultural nationalist paradigms. Henceforth, postcolonial, postmodern, feminist, diasporic, and transnational discourses would provide the underlying ideological framework for the community’s efforts at staking a territory on its own terms and for talking back to the Empire. Additionally, cyberspace provided the space for the interlinking of resources and dialogues at the local, national, transnational, and diasporic levels. The interstices became spaces for what Fr. Albert Alejo calls the creation of cultural energy.
The explosion of Filipino American cultural productions from the 1990s to the present in Northern California and beyond is further evidence of a decolonizing community engaged in conscious efforts to create new narratives, new cultural capital, new forms (Stage Presence, Bindlestiff, Kularts’ POMO, to name a few).59 In most of these productions, there is an attempt to meld Filipino indigenous concepts, symbols, and practices with Filipino American sensibilities. Examples: Mel Orpilla and Apat na Alon (Four Waves) is a group that integrates Filipino indigenous martial arts, body tattooing, and initiation rituals.60 Professional ethnic dance troupes like Barangay and Likhaan have broken through mainstream SF Ethnic Dance Festivals which entails a very competitive process of getting invited to participate in this annual fest. Yerba Buena Gardens, a mainstream venue for fostering popular and ethnic diversity as an integral part of community development, is the site of the summer festival Filipino American Pistahan,61 literary events, and theatre performances. The Manila Heritage Foundation62 is a multipurpose community center aiming to preserve Filipino American history and culture. The building that now serves low income seniors is the result of struggle for civil rights which began with the International Hotel evictions in the 1970s and the fight to restore justice to the elderly Filipino Americans who have lived in Manilatown for nearly five decades. Nearby, the Bayanihan Community Center63 is the epicenter of social justice activism for World War 2 veterans’ issues, community events, and Filipino American ethnotourism. Community strategist, MC Canlas, envisioned the integration of Filipino American markers within the San Francisco’s community development projects using Filipino indigenous concepts such as barangay, bayan, and bayanihan. His vision has resulted in “buy-ins” both from the San Francisco community and the Filipino American community. One of his more successful projects is the annual Filipino Christmas Lantern festival in San Francisco wherein he brought the famous indigenous giant Christmas lanterns of San Fernando, Pampanga to San Francisco as a cultural marker of Filipino American presence in a diasporic and transnational space.
Notable presence and empowerment can also be gleaned from the burgeoning of Filipino American church congregations as they took over previously white-dominated churches like St. Patrick’s in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, and numerous transplanted congregations from the Philippines like the Iglesia ni Kristo, El Shaddai, new Methodist congregations, and others.64
In the last decade, I watched this flowering of Filipino American cultural productions from my off-center location 50 miles north of San Francisco. Alongside this phenomenological meditation on what was happening in the Bay Area, I traveled across the U.S. and abroad as I was invited to talk about decolonization, racial healing and reconciliation, Philippine- U.S. relations and other related themes. I participated in a World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation on Religion and Violence in Geneva, Switzerland as a transnational and postcolonial representative of the Methodist Church.65 In 2006 and 2008, I and Miriam Hutchins of North Bay International Studies Project, brought a group of K-12 teachers to the Southern Philippines to develop curriculum materials on Fulbright Hays Group Grants.66 I consulted with North Bay International Studies Project to provide content and process on how to teach Filipino American history at the K-12 levels from a critical multicultural perspective. Additionally, I moderated pagbabalikloob listserve which, in its early inception and prior to the explosion of personal blogs, was a lively forum of discussion on decolonization issues. This listserve now contains valuable archival material for any would-be researcher on decolonization.
All this is simply to note that Filipino Indigenous Knowledge Systems, and Practices (IKSP) is a powerful resource for our communities in the homeland and in the diaspora. In an era of globalization, it is all the more important to maintain the indigenous and cultural practices that keep us unique and distinct. During a symposium on indigenous architecture at the Kapwa 2 conference in the Philippines, Prof. De Leon called attention to the unthinking tendency nowadays to import California-style or Mediterranean-style houses to signify one’s newly-minted social status and earnings as overseas workers. Often built in the not-yet-urban provinces, these houses stand out like eye sores in many a rural landscape. Prof. De Leon lamented the incongruity of government efforts to market the Philippines as a tourist destination without paying attention to the maintenance of architectural and cultural markers that would signify what is indigenous to the Philippines. On the other hand, the vibrant industries that showcase our indigenous arts and crafts constitute a fragile relationship between the market and the indigenous communities. The reality of environmental degradation that has led to the economic poverty of many indigenous communities is a difficult dance of challenge and negotiation. Still, if we must rely on our cultural and human capital as a way to balance modernity’s homogenizing tendencies, then it behooves us to work diligently in asking ourselves how to preserve the seeds of our survival.
At the 2007 Filipino Women’s Network’s event recognizing the “100 Most Influential Filipinas in the U.S.,”67 I was asked to share what I mean by decolonization and I came up with a brief template called “Signs and Symptoms of Decolonized Filipinas in the U.S.” I share them here to encapsulate the cognitive and psychic content of the decolonization process that is embodied by the women who share their stories in this book. Each one writes in her own voice, and in the language that locates her within a community. Often it could be a community of poets, of community and cultural advocacy, of artists and visionaries. All of them responded to the call to participate in this book project because their stories resonate with the transformative potential of Babaylan-inspired work. From our collective consciousness, I culled these “signs and symptoms” as a sort of mapping device for all who would journey on this path.
Signs and Symptons of Decolonized Filipinas in the U.S.
1. She understands European and American colonial history and its psychic and epistemic violence on herself and her people.
2. She understands that her presence in the U.S. is a product of this history. The narration of U.S. history as it relates to the Philippines should be understood as an imperial and colonial narrative in need of critique and revision.
3. She does archeological psychic work to uncover, discover, or reimagine, what her Filipina indigenous memory is trying to teach or reveal to her.
4. Filipino indigenous memory reveals intuitive knowledge about who she is as an indigenous woman. Indigenous Filipino theorizing includes language- based concepts like Kapwa, Loob, Damdamin, Diwa, Dangal, Paninindigan -- that gives a decolonized Filipina a narrative that anchors her identity and her life work in Filipino values.
5. She recognizes that the framework of indigeneity and decolonization can serve as a powerful critique of modernity and its discontents. After all, modernity is the newbie on the block (only 500 years old and yet has brought more havoc on the planet than anything before it).
6. A decolonized Filipina knows herself as a “self-in-relation” (kapwa) rather than the product of the western and liberal notion of the self as an “individual with free will” acting out of its self-interest.
7. A decolonized Filipina understands that the location and position of her Filipino American community need to be reframed away from the model of assimilation into U.S. society. The assimilationist model has long been debunked as a nonviable and an unsustainable one.
8. A decolonized Filipina in the U.S. understands that she lives on stolen land from indigenous peoples on this continent. What are the implications of such realization? What is the connection between the taking of the Philippines by colonizers and the taking of this continent from native peoples?
9. A decolonized Filipina understands the uses of history in order to be an effective and powerful woman in the U.S. context. If N.V.M. Gonzalez is correct in saying, “To be a good American, you must be a good Filipina first.” How does a U.S.-born Filipina begin to articulate what it means for her to be a good Filipina?
10. A decolonized Filipina has a global perspective that is informed by what the rest of the planet has to say and refuses to recycle the imperial narratives of the U.S.
Our Babaylan-Inspired Stories
In these narratives we draw knowledge about the Babaylan tradition through the historical research and personal archeological work of scholars like Sister Mary John Mananzan, Katrin de Guia, Ceres Pioquinto, Agnes Miclat Cacayan, Tera Maxwell, Teresita Obusan, and Venus Herbito. Their work adds to the body of literature on the Babaylan now available to us. As in any work that aims at transformation of consciousness, historical knowledge is a critical foundation. For how can we claim our Babaylan tradition if somehow her history eludes us? Along with historical narratives, the culture-bearing creative work of poets and artists and cultural advocates embody the spirit of the Babaylan in contemporary times. The contributions of Eileen Tabios, Karen Villanueva, Trisha Agbulos Cabeje, Michelle Bautista, Maiana Minahal, Marjorie Light, Chato Basa and Marianita Villariba articulate the different ways that the Babaylan spirit can be embodied. Through ways of being and becoming, through the work that we do to heal our communities by creating art or facilitating creative expressions or by doing political and social justice work, we pay homage to our Babaylan as our spiritual heritage.
The process of naming our Babaylan is our way of giving her flesh and bones through scholarly research, personal archeological work, and creative expressions.
Sister Mary John Mananzan’s story of how she came to embody the teacher, visionary, healer, warrior archetypes of the Babaylan over the course of her long vocation as a Benedictine nun within the Catholic church shows the possibilities of syncretism. To be a Catholic nun, academic, political activist, theologian, and a Zen practitioner points to the sacred wholeness that a Babaylan can embody. As Sister Mary John would say: The Babaylan in Me greets and honors the Babaylan in You.
Katrin de Guia’s contribution to this book strengthens the link between the practice and theory of Kapwa psychology and the Babaylan tradition. In her essay, her passion and conviction about the strength of Kapwa culture comes through as she describes the work of primary Babaylan-culture bearers like Minan Renita, Aureaus Solito, and Angel Velasco Shaw. She then locates the Babaylan-culture bearers’ practices within Kapwa psychology and shows us that the Babaylan embodies Kapwa as she remembers with every cell in her body the Filipino indigenous cultural markers that anchor her Babaylan work. The key word is tacit knowing – this knowledge that has always existed in sacred space and time and in our DNA cells, prior to the time of conquest and the great forgetting.
Agnes Miclat Cacayan’s interviews with primary Babaylans in Mindanao are the result of many decades of immersion in indigenous communities. The Babaylan portraits she shares with us in this book are a small portion of a much larger work on the Babaylan tradition that will be forthcoming. In the meantime, we are fortunate to have a glimpse of the wisdom and vision of the primary Babaylan women in their own words and images as well as their lamentations for the encroaching dangers visited upon their land and peoples by agents of modernity and progress.
Ceres Pioquinto gives us a lesson on how to do family archeology – how to dig up the family memories from the dustbin of history and make them come alive again and read with a new pair of eyes informed by a deconstructed history. The story of her Lola Sebia as a healer is re-membered in this narrative. Ceres writes that in the process of remembering and writing the story of her Lola as a Babaylan, her Lola’s spirit must have guided her throughout and lifted the dark night of the soul that she has been wrestling with. As a Filipina living in Germany, the pain of uprooting, linguistic and psychic dislocation is eased by embarking on this project of memory-making through the remembered stories of her family about Lola as Babaylan. She realizes that her Lola’s story contains the seeds of healing across time and space.
Tera Maxwell’s fascination with the Princess Urduja story leads her to consider how Urduja symbolically represents the Babaylan figure. She studies the work of two artists -- an artist in the Philippines, Alma Quinto, and the other in the United States, Johanna Poethig – as they appropriate the Urduja-as-Babaylan theme in their artwork. Thus, she gives us a reading of how Babaylan-inspired artists create works that address social issues that affect women and children and how Babaylan-inspired art can become a vessel of healing.
Venus Herbito pays attention to the power of dreams to lead and point us to the path that must be taken in order to make peace with ancestral grief – this grief that comes from our physical and spiritual separation from the land of our birth and belonging. In her story, she writes about how she carried this grief in her body and how she recognized that her family carried this grief as well as they became part of a Filipino diaspora. In pulling together the messages from her dreams and her intellectual forays into the science of the indigenous mind, she was able to create a family ritual that returned her parents to the homeland where they performed a ritual of mourning and healing on the land of the ancestors in Bicol and Cebu.
Teresita Obusan writes about journeying with the Babaylan starting with her visit to the sacred site of Mt. Banahaw and meeting the Babaylans of the Tatlong Persona Solo Dios, one of the many indigenous religious communities that make Mt. Banahaw their sanctuary. Through the practices of the Babaylans on Mt, Banahaw, she gives the reader a broadsweep of the Babaylan tradition as the spiritual heritage of Filipinos that is still in need of recognition by mainstream Filipino society.
Trisha Agbulos Cabeje takes the courageous step to write about a topic in our community that we don’t get to talk about much: sexuality, religion (Catholicism), and indigenous spirituality. In her quest to come to terms with the confusion of being American, Filipina, and Catholic, she embarked on a Women’s Spirituality graduate program. As she sought to deepen and connect women’s spirituality to her Filipino roots, the serendipity of events and reflections reconnected her to the spiritual strength of indigenous women while on a tribal tour to the Southern Philippines.
Karen Villanueva’s decolonization process led her to relocate to the Philippines to get even closer to her soul’s roots. Not content to explore decolonization as an identity project, she goes for the open road of discovery and in-depth journeying with nothing but the Babaylan’s call as her guide. Calling it her paglalakbay/journey to awakening, she finds that this path is both painful and difficult but ultimately blissful. Karen’s narrative asks us to consider: Do I have the courage to grieve and bleed in order to heal?
Michelle Bautista revisits the question of identity in her narrative. As a Filipina American who has pursued the elusive answer to the question: “What is a Filipino?” – she concludes with “I don’t know”; but don’t let this answer trick you into thinking that arriving at such an answer is simple. In fusion and fission, she takes up the word Kapwa and maps her journey to the self as a journey towards “the other.” What is this ineffable experience that refuses language so that all one could say is “I don’t know?” This is a koan for the reader.
Eileen Tabios is known in the poetry world as the famed “Chatelaine” – the keeper of keys. In one of the doors she unlocks, she discovers that there is a Man-nawac in her DNA through a story that her Mother told her only belatedly. For Eileen, to be a poet always includes being a cultural activist to promote decolonization and healing through Poetry. Indeed she has demonstrated this in her prodigious body of work. In this essay, she writes about the potential of Filipino poets to become Man-nawacs.
Marjorie Light documents the lively arts scene in Southern California where young Filipino American artists are consciously integrating indigenous elements in their aesthetics. The artists are valorizing the indigenous in their work while at the same time recognizing the need to create new languages and new forms. In this essay, Marjorie interviews the young artists and asks them what decolonization means to them and how it has affected the way they create art.
Maiana Minahal struggled with the invisibility of queer narratives in the Filipino American community that she could identify with so she created her own counternarratives. In her performance pieces, she transfigures Filipino legends and their strong women warriors into her own kind of heroine.
I include a brief interview dialogue here between Chato Basa in Italy and Girlie Villariba in the Philippines. Chato’s life deserves a book of its own. The excerpt we have here is a glimpse of the Babaylan in the diaspora – a story that begins with Chato’s childhood as a Mangyan child with dreams of getting an education in order to help her family rise from poverty. She went to Italy to work as a domestic helper but she soon found herself doing human rights and advocacy work for the disempowered plight of Filipina domestic workers in Italy. For this Babaylan warrior, her work received the highest honors conferred by the Italian government – The Cavalierri Award – conferred for the first time to a non-Italian.
As you read about the Babaylan-inspired reflections and experiences of women from the Philippines, in the U.S., and in Europe, may they resonate with your own stories. May their stories encourage you to find the stories in your own life that intimates wholeness and Beauty that is our heritage from our Babaylan.
May you be blessed by these stories. May you desire to discover the Babaylan in you. May your longing for your Filipino indigenous soul be filled.
1 Throughout this book I use “She” to refer to both male and female Babaylans.
2 A tube skirt worn by both men and women in the Philippines and most of Southeast Asia.
3 I use the term “primary” to refer to Babaylans rooted and practicing in land-based indigenous communities in the Philippines. Outside of these land-based communities, the Babaylan tradition is appropriated by those who believe that the spirit of the Babaylan can be invoked and asked to grace one’s life and being.
4 In African oral traditions, a storyteller is called a griot. 5 For an accessible treatment of this theme, see Daniel Quinn (1995) Ishmael: An Adventure
of the Mind and Spirit. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 6 Animism: belief shared by many indigenous peoples that everything in creation has a
soul. All is sacred. All is interconnected and interdependent. Sacred wholeness.
7 In Taoist literature, there is belief in a primordial energy of the universe. This primordial energy takes form when we are born (our post-natal form). History, social conditioning under modernity, can choke this primordial energy. Through meditative practices like qi gong, yoga, zen, or shamanic soul journeying, this primordial energy can be re-integrated into the body, mind and soul. See Daniel Reid (1998)A Complete Guide to Chi Gung: Harnessing the Power of the Universe. Denver, Co: Shambala Publications, Inc.
8 Grace Caligtan leads an urban Babaylan group in Hawaii. Email communication during the summer of 2007.
9 For the entire essay, read: Rebecca Mabanglo Mayor’s blog: http://wordbinder.blogspot.com/2007/07/eros-as-living-in-body.html
10 A balikbayan is one who returns to the Philippines to visit and reconnect with family, friends and with one’s cultural and ethnic heritage.
11 There are now many texts on this theme. For example, see Max Oelschlaeger (1991), The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology. New Haven, Ct: Yale University Press.
12 The Bioneers Conference is held at the Marin Civic Center in Northern California annually during October.
13 I put this in quotes because I am uncomfortable with the human-centered notion of taming Nature in order to make it conform to and fulfill human desires shaped by capitalist ideology. It is now very trendy in the U.S. to “go green” and “sustainable” but often the underlying world view (capitalism) is not challenged. There is an assumption that Americans need not sacrifice their affluent lifestyles and values; they just need to convert the technological and corporate understructure to “green.” This is very different from the animist view.
14 Seven chakras: see Daniel Reid, A Complete Guide to Chi-Gung.
15 See James Perkinson’s discussion of how white supremacy is the child of white theology in his book, White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 2004.
16 Martin Prechtel, The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun: Ecstasy and Time. Cambridge, MA: Yellow Moon Press. 2001. See also Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: Memoirs from the Living Heart of a Mayan Village. New York, NY: Tarcher. 1998.
17 Lecture to our Fulbright-Hays group, July 2008 at the University of the Philippines. 18 In Katrin de Guia’s Kapwa: The Self in the Other, see Aureus Solito’s story on p. 123-167.
19 During Fulbright dialogue with Indigenous leaders and students at Ateneo De Davao University, July 2008.
20 While National Artist for Literature N.V.M. Gonzalez lived in Northern California, he often was a guest at our Kapihans (coffee with talks) at our home in California attended by Bay Area scholars, students, and cultural advocates. We had many long conversations about being Filipino in the diaspora.
21 From http://www.ethiopians.com/tsegaye/. Retrieved September, 2007. Tsegaye’s play, Oda Oak Oracle, was performed at Sonoma State University in September 2007.
22 I credit Martin Prechtel for illuminating for me our need to learn how to grieve well in order to remember and heal historical and cultural amnesia.
23 Grace Nono’s website: http://www.gracenono.com/. Grace performed “Philippine Sacred Chants” to enthusiastic audiences in the US in 2008. See also Grace Nono’s new book, The Shared Voice: Chanted and Spoken Narratives from the Philippines published by Anvil Publishing and Fundacion Santiago, 2008.
24 See Vine de Loria’s discussion of Time versus Place orientation in God is Red: A Native View of Religion. Golden Co: Fulcrum Publishing. 1994. I also reflect on this in my essay, “Rethinking 100 Years of US-Philippine Relations or We’ve Had 100 years of American Tutelage and We’re Still Uncivilized,” in A Book of Her Own: Words and Images to Honor the Babaylan. San Francisco, CA: Tiboli Publishing and Distribution. 2005. Pp172-183.
25 Eric de Guia received his MBA from Wharton and was an economist for OECD in Europe before he decided to become a filmmaker. He later legally changed his name to Kidlat Tahimik. He is the father of Filipino independent filmmaking. This lecture on “indio-genius” was shared at the Kapwa conference held at the University of the Philippines Visayas, June 24-28, 2008.
26 From Datu Vic’s powerpoint presentation at the Kapwa Conference in Iloilo, Philippines, 2008.
27 Explore Perla Daly’s website: http://www.Babaylan.com (established 2003) and http://www.newfilipina.com/ (established 1998) See index for a complete list of her cyberactivism on behalf of pagbabalikloob and Filipina women
28 Email communication with Perla Daly and notes from the FAWN conference brochure.
29 Mary Lou Hardillo started Babaylan Europe. They hold regular Babaylan conferences at various European countries.
30 Sister Mary John Mananzan’s keynote speech is included in this anthology.
31 Interview with Zeus Salazar during the Summer of 2005 Babaylan research trip. A Babaylan historian, Zeus Salazar is the author of “Ang Babaylan sa Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas.” In Bagong Kasaysayan, Mga Bagong Paaral sa Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas.Quezon City: Palimbagan ng Lahi. Volume 4. 1999.
32 Aimee Suzara’s essay “Babaylan Rising” in the PUSOD Journal was widely circulated online for several years but is no longer available currently. PUSOD used to be based in Berkeley, CA and has now moved to the Philippines. See http://www.bwf.org/about.html
33 Bell hooks coined this term to show the intersections of race, class, and gender. See her videodocumentary: Cultural Criticism and Transformation. Produced by The Media Education Foundation. 1997.
34 Melba Maggay, Filipino Religious Consciousness. Monograph published by Institute for Studies in Asian Arts and Culture. 1999. See also PATMOS Issue 6.2 on Indigenous Religious Consciousness by Melba Maggay. Also published by ISACC.
35 Karl Gaspar, “To Hold God’s Face in One’s Hands” in The Other Side Magazine. March 2004. See also “The Face of the Filipino in the Diaspora,” in MindaNews (http://www.mindanews.com). April 29, 2007.
36 Charles Mills, The Racial Contract. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. 1997; Vine Deloria, Jr. God is Red: A Native View of Religion. Golden, Co: Fulcrum Publishing. 1994; ____. The World We Used to Live In: Remembering the Powers of Medicine Men. Golden, Co: Fulcrum Publishing. 2006.; Winona LaDuke, Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming. Cambridge, MA: South End Press. 2005; David Stannard, American Holocaust:The Conquest of the New World. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.1992.; Octavia Butler. The Parable of the Sower. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing. 2000. This eclectic choice of readings reflect my desire to find many threads with which to weave my thoughts. Tacitly, I wanted to understand how the global North and South are linked together by the abstract but immensely powerful ideology of capitalism and yet, like yin and yang, there is also a burgeoning movement to create counternarratives by resistance movements around the world. Finding these voices of resistance was important to me in being able to craft my own response from a Filipina location.
37 Octavia Butler, The Parable of the Sower. New York, NY: Aspect. 1995. Described as a novel of dystopia set in the near future (2024 - 2027), Butler portrays the failures of modernist values and at the same time tries to salvage some of its usable ideals portrayed by the young African American protagonist who leads a small band of believers in her own brand of religion.
38 This is produced by The Electric Wallpaper Co. 1996, in Canada and is directed by Gregory Greene. It features experts from the oil industry, and journalists who have investigated the peak oil phenomenon and its effects and consequences on the “American Dream” especially its suburbs.
39 For example, Werner Herzog’s documentary, Encounters at the End of the World (Discovery Films, 2007), features the “dreamers” who populate the Antarctic and yet in the end, questions their presence in this place. See also the poetry of Gary Snyder in Turtle Island. New York, NY: New Directions Publishing. 1975. Even popular programs like “Planet in Peril” on CNN all warn of the threats to human survival if we don’t change course. And of course, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth (Paramount Films and Participant Productions, 2007) provided the much needed wake-up call regarding global warming.
40 See http://www.floweringmountain.com/ for a list of books and the school, Bolad’s Kitchen.
41 See also Elena Avila, Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health, New York, NY: Tarcher/Putnam. 1999.
42 Time-based paradigms versus place-based paradigms are explored in Vine de Deloria’s God is Red.
43 In “Rethinking 100 years of Phil-U.S. Relations or 100 years of American tutelage and we are still uncivilized” in A Book of Her Own: Words and Images to Honor the Babaylan. 172-183.
44 Prof. Jun de Leon’s lecture at Kapwa2 conference, University of the Philippines-Visayas, Iloilo, Philippines. 2008.
45 For a discussion on how the West imagined Asia long before actual encounters see Gary Okihiro, Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture. Seattle, Wa: University of Washington Press. 1994.
46 See Charles Mills, The Racial Contract. Ithaca,NY: Cornell University Press. 1997. 47 See Vicente Rafael and Gilbert Joseph, White Love and Other Events in Philippine
History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2000. 48 See Barlow, Between Fear and Hope: Race and Globalization in the United States. Lanham,
Md: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997.
49 An example of this is the Pin@y Educational Partnership program at San Francisco State University under Professor Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales. The undergraduate students in these program create Filipino American curriculum and they teach in K-12 at various city schools. The emphasis is on “education as liberation.” There are other Fil Am student organizations across universities and colleges that focus their efforts on developing student leaders with a critical consciousness. See http://pepsf.org/aboutus.aspx.
50 NCCA and Humanities Prof, Felipe de Leon Jr., presentation during Kapwa conference 2008.
. 51 To return to a core sense of self as a Filipino is the work of decolonization.
. 52 Retrieved August 3, 2007: http://www.panitikan.com.ph/criticism/
53 See http://meritagepress.com/babaylan/?p=23
54 See http://gallery.sfsu.edu/babaylan/
55 See http://babaylanfiles.blogspot.com/.
56 See http://www.babaylan.net
57 Decolonization as framework for creating Filipino American multicultural curriculum for K-12 was the theme of the Kapwa Conference in June 2007 held at Sonoma State University as the 2006 post-Fulbright Hays Group Project culminating activity.
58 See http://www.filipinawomensnetwork.org/fwnsf
59 See Theodore S. Gonzalves. Stage Presence: Conversations with Filipino American Performing Artists. St. Helena: Ca: Meritage Press. 2007. Bindlestiff, Kularts, are epicenters of the Filipino American arts and culture scene in the Bay Area, Ca.
60 See http://www.apat-na-alon-tribe.com/2007_A.html and http://www.orpilla.com 61 See http://www.pistahan.net/about/index.html 62 See http://www.manilatown.org/ 63 See http://www.bayanihancc.org/
64 See Joaquin Jay Gonzalez, Filipino American Faith in Action: Immigration, Religion, and Civic Engagement. New York, NY: New York University Press. 2009. Also see: http://www.usfca.edu/TRIP/GonzalezManila.pdf
65 See http://www2.wcc-coe.org/pressreleasesen.nsf/index/Feat-04-36.html 66 See http://www.sonoma.edu/projects/nbisp/philippines/philmenu.html 67 See http://www.filipinawomensnetwork.org/fwn100-07
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