The Halo-Halo Review is pleased to interview authors in the aftermath of their books' releases. This issue's featured authors include Leny Mendoza Strobel:
Which book(s) would you like to discuss?
Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous edited by Leny Mendoza Strobel (Center for Babaylan Studies)
Back from the Crocodile’s Belly: Philippine Babaylan Studies and the Struggle for Indigenous Memory edited by S. Lily Mendoza and Leny Mendoza Strobel (Center for Babaylan Studies)
When were they released?
Babaylan: 2013 (second edition)
What has been the response/what has surprised you most about the response?
Although these two books were released a few years ago, they are finding a new audience among young readers; most of them, I’m guessing, are US-born Filipina/x Americans first or second or third generation. The Center for Babaylan Studies has been, during Covid, able to launch a Decolonization School and Kultivating Kapwa podcast and these offerings are engaging many young ones who are asking questions about cultural and ethnic identity, indigenous perspectives, decolonization and re-indigenization. I am also surprised that we have growing readerships in Canada and Europe. I think that these two books are filling in the blanks that academic discourses do not often attend to. Questions of integration—of body, mind, and spirit—that draws from Filipino indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices are made relevant.
Please share something not obvious or known about the books.
Both books were ‘born’ out of my desire and quest to codify Filipino indigenous and cultural knowledge about the Babaylan tradition and other related indigenous knowledge systems. I knew in my heart and spirit that what lies underneath our accommodations to modern perspectives and practices is our indigenous consciousness that has been silenced but not annihilated. The writers/contributors to both books offer the beautiful testimonies to this belief.
What are you working on right now?
The Firestorms (2017, 2020) and Covid have driven an inward migration towards the vast space of the Heart. I am paying attention to climate chaos, global upheavals, and emerging responses from the margins and decolonizing and decolonize spaces. I have been focusing on BE-ing local and small and learning how to dwell in Place. Because of this, I have not been writing a lot. I’ve been doodling as my meditation. So recently, Eileen Tabios has encouraged me and Maileen Hamto to collaborate on doing a “doodle and story” project where Maileen renders personal interpretations of my doodles. We’ll see.
Leny Mendoza Strobel is Kapampangan (Philippines) and is now a settler on Wappo and Pomo lands. She is Professor Emerita of American Multicultural Studies/Sonoma State University. She’s a founding Elder at the Center for Babaylan Studies. She is tending chickens and garden with Cal.