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Honoring ancestry: a journey of oneness interweaving ancestral offerings | Center for Babaylan Studies
Brought to you by Unity of Berkeley, Center for Babaylan Studies, CIIS Alumni Sound Voice Music Healing Ensemble, March 12, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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