Leny Mendoza Strobel is Professor of American Multicultural Studies at Sonoma State University. She is the author of Coming Full Circle: The Process of Decolonization Among Post-1965 Filipino Americans (Giraffe Books, 2001) and A Book of Her Own: Words and Images to Honor the Babaylan (Tiboli Press, 2005). She is the editor of Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous, published by Ateneo de Davao University Research and Publications Office, 2010. This book is a collection of scholarly essays on primary/land-based babaylans in the Philippines; Kapwa psychology and babaylan practice; babaylan-inspired practices by Filipinos in the diaspora; as well as personal narratives on decolonization as a spiritual path. With Lily Mendoza as co-editor, her latest publication is Back from the Crocodile’s Belly: Philippine Babaylan Studies and the Struggle for Indigenous Memory (CFBS 2013).
Personal statement: If decolonization has taught us anything, it’s this: part of our own healing is to no longer be the willing receptable of these projections from the colonizer. What then becomes of us when we are emptied of colonial projections? I was reminded by a very wise woman mentor from India that my colonized self is only a sliver in the totality of my Filipino self. Yet, temporarily, it was necessary for the process of decolonization to take up time and space in the psyche in order to purge these projections so that I can come home full circle to the largeness of my own indigenous self.
I use the term indigenous to refer to the self that has found its place, its home in the world. Emptied of projections of “inferiority,’ “third world,” “undeveloped,” “uncivilized,” “exotic and primitive,” and “modernizing,” it is the self capable of conjuring one’s place and growing roots through the work of imagination, re-framing history, and re-telling the Filipino story that centers our history of resistance, survival, and re-generation.” (A Book of Her Own, 182).
Our primary 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 calls them “organic mystics.” 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 Filipino spiritual path.” (excerpt from Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous).