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Strobel – Keynote Speech on KAPWA at FANHS

January 30, 2015 in Decolonization and Filipino Identity, Events and Conference, Filipino Psychology, Kapwa and Other Indigenous and Filipino Values, Uncategorized by Mary Hernandez

Now available!  Listen to Leny Strobel’s keynote speech on KAPWA at the Filipino American National Historical Society by clicking on the audio file below.

Join us also at the upcoming symposium on Bridging indigenous and Christian traditions of Spirituality by clicking here

The Road Ahead for the Indigenous Peoples

November 26, 2014 in Babaylan and Community Healing, Decolonization and Filipino Identity, Events and Conference, In the News, Indigenous Education, Modern Practices, Organization Updates, Reflections and Commentaries by Jen Maramba

by Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta in UP Forum

For countless years, indigenous peoples (IPs) have lived on the fringes of society, barely mentioned even in the footnotes of history texts. The IPs, if given any attention at all, are often viewed as collateral damage in the march to economic development, as members of a somewhat lesser race of humans, and at best, icons of a romanticized past regularly trotted out and paraded during cultural celebrations. This is the case for many of the 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries around the world.

“[IPs around the world] share common problems—the non-recognition of their rights to their territories and human rights violations—but in different degrees,” said Marissa Cabato of the Philippine Program for the Indigenous People’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development under the Baguio City-based indigenous peoples organization Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education).

Tebtebba ( was one of the participants in the Rio+20 International Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Self-Determination and Sustainable Development held on June 19, 2012 at Rio De Janeiro, participated in by IP organizations, traditional and spirituals leaders and indigenous peoples from seven regions of the world. “During those partner-meetings, representatives from different countries came together and discussed their situations, so we saw that the issues [the IPs] are confronting are not all that different from one another.”

Progress has been made in all areas of development with regard to the world’s indigenous peoples since the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations was designated in 1982 to promote and protect the human rights and basic freedoms of indigenous peoples. This led to the drafting of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 1995 and its eventual approval on September 13, 2007. However, Cabato acknowledges that the issue of the non-recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights remains as pressing as ever, even into the second decade of the 21st century.

To read more, click here.


by admin

Historical Markers on Filipino Women’s Sexuality During Spanish Colonial Times

September 24, 2011 in Books, Talks, Papers, CDs, Websites, Decolonization and Filipino Identity by admin

Historical Markers on Filipino Women’s Sexuality During Spanish Colonial Times

By Gloria Esguerra Melencio

The intention of this research paper is to compile data about the Filipino women’s activities, rituals and customs related to sexuality and mark its historical markers along the way from the 16th up to 17th centuries.

The paper asks the following questions: What did the Spanish colonizers find out when they first saw the women? How did the Spanish colonizers view the Filipino women through time? What were the Filipino women’s activities, rituals and customs that pertain to sexuality? How did they express their sexual desires? Why were polygamy, concubinage and abortion practiced ? How did the Spanish colonizers wield the Christian Doctrine to conquer the so-called Evils that plague the Filipino women? What was the perception of the Filipino women of the Spanish colonizers?

Why sexuality? Why Historical Markers?

First, the researcher chooses the sexuality aspect of women as a topic because most of the materials gathered about womanhod focus on chastity, modesty, virginity, relationship with men and everything related to her being a woman that involves conception, childbearing, giving birth or failing to give birth. Sexuality here as the Webster’s Dictionary defines is the “possession of the structural and functional differentia of sex.”

Second, the researcher sees putting historical markers on the important events related to women’s sexuality using the historical process of Spanish colonization as a backdrop while putting forth forward the social issues that have arisen as past and present-day problems.

Third, the researcher categorizes the historical markers as nodal points in the meeting of two different peoples and cultures – the paganistic native Filipinos and the Christian Hispanics – and discovers along the way a metamorphosed culture where can be threshed out specific issues of Filipino women related to sexuality. The periodization, as the researcher discerns, is fluid. It means the event or symbolical object had begun or surfaced when the Spanish colonizers set foot on the islands in the 16th century and continued until the 17th century. Or may have been continuing up until the present time.

Further study on the periods that are marked as nodal points in women’s sexuality is a must in the future because it will provide explanations and clarifications as to what had transpired in the past that led the way to where the women are now in history.

Full Link posted 17 September 2009 on Philippine History and provided to the Babaylan Files by Letecia Layson

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Curing Colonial Stupor, A booklist

September 3, 2011 in Books, Talks, Papers, CDs, Websites, Decolonization and Filipino Identity, Modern Practices by admin

Why is decolonization and indigenization important to Filipinos today? One of the reasons is that it helps Filipinos become more integrated in their own cultural identity. It also helps them become strengthened as a collective of people who are of the archipelago called the Philippines or whose ancestry hails from there. Why do Filipinos have some sort of cultural identity crisis? Maybe this can help you find answers:

Here is the intro to a booklist called Curing Colonial Stupor, at

When an imperial power comes and colonizes indigenous people, takes away their culture and language and teaches native people to become eurocentric and to look down upon their own kind… a human sickness sets in that is called colonial mentality. This is a systemic and traumatic kind of educational and programming of minds. It is a set of dysfunctional human beings, with a superiority complex, teaching with brutal methods, another set of human beings how to have an inferiority complex and how to be innately dysfunctional as a human being.

This dysfunction, this colonial mentality and colonizers mentality can be cured.

How to find healing?

First, get very angry. The first book listed here will help you do that and is called The Forbidden Book for a reason. Who among the U.S. imperial forces want the little people, among those they colonized and in their own country, to understand the demented thinking they have that justifies their colonization of people who seek their own independence and ways of life?

Next, figure out that this whole Life thing and how people think is all a Game of sorts. The illusions that people project upon us, that we agree to uphold can be shattered.

Next, find ways to rid yourself of programmed thinking that you unconsciously began to subscribe to throughout your life. Aha! That’s the catch—it takes years to deprogram. But a personal practice of meditation and self-reflection can help you achieve that.

Return to your roots.

Unsubscribe from belief systems that were constructed to benefit one people and take away from another.

Find healing, wholeness, Clarity.

This booklist includes titles such as:

  • Forbidden Book, by Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, Helen Toribio 
  • Waking Up In Time: Finding Inner Peace In Times of Accelerating Change by Peter Russell
  • Coming Full Circle, by Leny Strobel
  • If Life is a Game These are the Rules by Chérie Carter-Scott
  • How to See Yourself as You Really Are… by by Dalai Lama

See the amazon booklist on “Curing colonial stupor” here

by admin

shine mentality, a cure for crab mentality by Perla Daly

February 27, 2011 in Decolonization and Filipino Identity by admin

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

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

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

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

Read more of the blogpost on

by admin

An Encounter with the Babaylan By Rhea Claire E. Madarang

December 30, 2010 in Books, Talks, Papers, CDs, Websites, Decolonization and Filipino Identity, Events and Conference by admin

Sr. Mary John Mananzan was a keynote speaker at the FAWN 2005 Conference in New York City. The conference was constructed upon the 5 babaylan leadership archetypes of Warrior, Teacher, Healer, Visionary and Priestess. Sr Mary John’s keynote was how the power roles of the babaylan are a deep part of her work and own journey. 

At the recent Bahay Nakpil booklaunch of the Babaylan book, here’s a young writer reflecting on the event:

An Encounter with the Babaylan
By Rhea Claire E. Madarang, November 2010
Warrior, teacher, healer and visionary. This was how Sr. Mary John Mananzan described the babaylan, the historical figure whom before then I only knew through my history schoolbooks as a healer and priestess in Filipino indigenous communities during the pre-colonial era.
Mananzan, a contemporary babaylan herself, spoke these words with a quiet force. I listened, together with a rapt audience of around 40. They were also attendees of the book launch of “Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous” on that warm Monday afternoon at Bahay Nakpil, Quiapo, Manila. Writers of the book, all with deep involvement with the babaylan tradition, and people significant to the creation of the book were speaking in turns.
Warrior, teacher, healer and visionary? I felt overwhelmed by the immensity of the power and significance of the babaylans in pre-Spanish Philippines.
Prof. Fe Mangahas corroborated the power of the babaylan in her sharing, saying that in indigenous communities back then, there were three significant roles – the datu, panday and the babaylan. The datu was the ruler and the panday ensured the livelihood of the people through farming for example – both roles addressed material concerns, while the babaylan was solely in charge of the spiritual realm and also had influence on the material concerns such as determination of the best time for farming.
But the power of the babaylan is not only possessed by women, as I had thought – and as many others had thought, I believe. It is also wielded by men. According to Katrin de Guia, one of the book writers, some northern provinces have men performing the roles of the babaylan. To the Ifugaos, this is the mumbaki.
With every speaker’s words, I felt my awe and respect for the babaylan grow, but I was most jolted by Mananzan’s sharing, for she shared how, in these modern times, she took on the roles of warrior, teacher, healer and visionary in her work for women’s empowerment and social transformation.   
The babaylan is thus not just a powerful historical figure but a very real and present power anyone can access at any moment. As Teresita Obusan, another of the book’s authors, put it: “The spirit of the babaylan never dies.” It is always there, available to everyone.
Upon realizing this, I felt the faintest stirring in my body of – dare I say it? – the babaylan spirit. Is there not a babaylan in me – in all of us? I wrote down this realization in one of the pieces of paper given to us for reflection after the speakers’ sharings.
At the end of the book launch, professor and modern babaylan Grace Odal, performed a babaylan ritual dance, scattering rose petals, lighting incense and singing along the way. In a white flowing dress and with flowers crowning her head, her movements were both graceful – as befitting her name – and forceful.
Slowly, she led almost all of us to dance along with her and urged us to make any movement that came naturally to us. We danced moving in a circle, as though in a trance, but still conscious. The air was electric, charged with the energy of this ancient ritual performed in the present.
After that I had no doubt as to the reality and power of the babaylan spirit. And through that experience I believe I’ve glimpsed the babaylan in me too.

(Thank you for sharing, Claire! And may you continue to be inspired and empowered by the babaylans of our history, our lives today and our country’s future.)

by admin

Filipino Tattoos Ancient to Modern by Lane Wilcken

December 30, 2010 in Books, Talks, Papers, CDs, Websites, Decolonization and Filipino Identity, Kapwa and Other Indigenous and Filipino Values by admin

Lane Wilcken became one of the Co-Directors of CFBS recently and his book, Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern, just came out. 

I just wrote and posted a book review for Lane’s book. Lane has worked on and written this book with the utmost passion for his Philippine roots, and with love and respect for his family and ancestry. He writes in the true spirit of Pakikipagkapwa—Sacred Interconnection with all Life. 

Congrats and thank you, Lane. 

Get more information on his book and read my review at

by admin

Feminism Ala Babaylan

December 16, 2010 in Books, Talks, Papers, CDs, Websites, Decolonization and Filipino Identity, Feminine Divine by admin

Manila Bulletin, Sept 20, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – It is hard to believe that modern Filipinas whose ancestors suffered two waves of colonial rule — Spain in the 16th century and the United States in the early 19th century — have a tradition of feminism that dates back to pre-Hispanic Philippines. Yes, every modern Filipina should know that she owes her freedom and strong-mindedness in part to a more than 500-year old tradition of intentional, forceful, and positive feminism, longer than the history of women’s liberation in the West.

The babaylans, an empowered class of women who reigned prior to the arrival of the Spanish colonials in the 1521, were healers, advisers of men, intercessors between material and spiritual worlds, inspirers of arts and crafts, and believers of a holistic world view, according to the scholarly writings of Dr. Fe Buenaventura Mangahas and Professor Jenny Romero Llaguno, co-editors of the 192-page Centennial Crossings, Readings on Babaylan Feminism in the Philippines, published by the C & E Publishing Inc. in 2006.

Identifying with the babaylans nowadays, appreciating what they went through when their men were defeated by colonial rule — how these women hid, survived, and preserved their culture during the colonial era — will give feminists in the Philippines a more solid historical ground to stand on in their advocacies on freedom and responsibility.

Majority of Filipinas would not have found it necessary to strut in the 70s and in the 80s like their bra-burning sisters from the West who eventually became anti-male and anti-family. At the time, feminism, coupled with romanticism and rebelliousness, claimed a major role in attracting young female intellectuals in universities to join the Maoist red flag. Later, many of them were dismayed to find out that macho culture was not only present but remained strong in the underground movement. Well, the season of tears is over and it’s not too late to get affirmation from an older past, sisters, asserts Mangahas, former chair of the Social Sciences Department of St. Scholastica College and now a full time book writer on history and Philippine feminism.”I have been studying the babaylans since the 80s,” she recalls.

In a joint project with historian Dr. Zeus Salazar in 2000, Mangahas remembers reconstructing the Philippine prehistoric socio-political structure in the pamayanan (kingdom) as containing four types of leaders: the datu (king); the sundalo (warrior); the panday (technologist) and the babaylan. “In 2005, I coined the word babaylan feminism because many believed then that we did not have an indigenous tradition of feminism,” says Mangahas. This was more than 30 years after she, too, almost succumbed to the belief that Western feminism presented the right model for emerging, liberal Filipinas. For Mangahas and Llaguno, modern-day feminists can use babaylan as an adjective to identify Philippine feminism. In a sense, the babaylan-spirit is like a cross to ward off the Draculas of the past and the neurosis of colonialism which have burdened us with disturbing questions about identity.

Knowing the babaylan spirit, the authors say, can help Philippine feminists understand why, despite their conscious drive for freedom, they continue to love men without guilt and nurture families unconditionally.

What was the inherent nature of the old babaylans? “Because of the babaylans, we can say that we (Filipinas) were the avatars of Asia. In pre-historic time, we never had patriarchy or matriarchy. Gender ties were egalitarian,” says Mangahas. The division of labor between men and women then was not a curse, but a form of harmony. In a country that was often visited by volcanic eruptions and typhoons, men and women shared the dangers equally and protected their progeny.

This magical order was disrupted. “When the Spaniards in the 1500s co-opted the datus, the babaylans resisted fiercely. Then, they creatively adopted Christianity in order to survive; they became pasyon chanters. They functioned as a priesthood — natural Christians who balanced both the connection between the material and non material world,” explains Mangahas. “When the babaylans became rivals of the Spanish priests, the latter called them bruha or witches who allegedly dabbled in black magic. They were demonized. But I think the babaylans had true access to the good spirits,” she adds.”It was a good thing that the priests who came to the Philippines also studied our languages and cultural practices, which they adapted to propagate Christianity. That also helped in the preservation of our culture (including the babaylans),” says Mangahas.”Our Western sisters too must have had it (the babaylan spirit), in the past, but their patriarchy became too strong and their society too rationalistic that they were forced to undertake a radical form of feminism,” she explains.

Asked about the reactions of Filipino men to the book, she says, “The Filipino men who have read the book were in awe. They never imagined there was a time in the past when Filipina women were empowered, who were part of a power system, and had an egalitarian relationship with men.”

“We speculate that the spirit of the babaylan still exists up to the present time. You see women who behave that way,” Llaguno says. For Mangahas and Llaguno, reclaiming (intellectually) the indigenous dignity of Filipina women in the past is, ironically, the only way to give a deeper dimension and unique meaning to the freedom being sought by post-modern Filipinas. Their other mission, they add, is to end the negative view perpetrated by the Spanish priests about the babaylans.

The book, composed of 15 articles written by contemporary women who were inspired by the babaylan spirit, was a project that began in 2005, recalls Llaguno, also the book’s copy-editor. A lecture on the book, including a re-launch, was held before members of the Diliman Book Club at Restaurant of Choice, University of the Philippines Alumni Association building on September 11.

COPYRIGHT 2010 Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp.
COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning

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Baybayin and Decolonization

August 23, 2009 in Creative Expressions, Performances, Art, Poetry, Decolonization and Filipino Identity, Events and Conference, Feminine Divine, Kapwa and Other Indigenous and Filipino Values by admin

In my blog Baybayin Alive, I encourage people to explore an indigenous way of thinking in order to understand the deeper meanings of the Baybayin Symbols. You can read that post at Holistic Approach: Returning to Ancestral Thinking.

Here is my latest post:

Fertility Symbols, Feminine Principle and BA

In summary it talks about the BA baybayin symbols…
both of which are yonni symbols or fertility symbols.
I also talk about the fertility symbols of the  lingling-o and the dinumug
lingling-o on left and dinumug on right
(Source: Kipas Gallery –
The lingling-o is a common ancient artifact symbolizing fertility found around Southeast Asia and the Philippines(ca. 500 B.C.–100 A.D.); dinumug is a fertility symbol and symbol of prosperity and love found in the Ifugao, Bontoc and other Cordillera regions of the northern Philippines.
This particular post at Baybayin Alive goes on to talk about how the fertility symbol shape could very well be the imagery from which the BA baybayin symbol (clefted version) evolved from.

by admin

Conversations – Signs and Symptoms of Decolonized Filipinas in the US

July 10, 2009 in Babaylan and Community Healing, Decolonization and Filipino Identity, Definitions by admin

Signs and Symptoms of Decolonized Filipinas in the US
by Leny Strobel

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 US is a product of this history. The narration of US 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 Fil Am community need to be reframed away from the model of assimilation into US society. The assimilationist model has long been debunked as an unviable and an unsustainable one.

8. A decolonized Filipina in the US 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?

9. A decolonized Filipina understands the uses of history in order to be an effective and powerful woman in the US context. If NVM Gonzalez is correct in saying, “To be a good American, you must be a good Filipina first,” how does a US-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 not just the US perspective.

Link accessed 7/19/2009, backdated for archive purposes.