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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

Sacred Journey exhibit by John Paul “Lakan” Olivares’

February 28, 2011 in Creative Expressions, Performances, Art, Poetry, Events and Conference by admin

For those of you in Manila, please view John Paul “Lakan” Olivares’ Sacred Journey exhibit of stunning, contemplative, mind-bending, soul-baring drawings… Prof. Olivares shares drawings that reflect his spiritual journey during his 11-year hiatus. 

February 28 – March 14, 2011
Galerie Y, 4th FLR SM Megamall Artwalk

Cocktails will be on March 4, 2011, 6:00PM, Galerie Y. 

Click link for more details

You might be able to get a glimpse of some of his works online here:

by admin


February 16, 2011 in Babaylan and Community Healing, Events and Conference by admin

February 2011

The banigs or hand woven mats said it all. It was Thursday evening, January 27, 2011 and as I spread them out and looked at them, they looked back, crumpled, dirty and forlorn. I carried them, laid them on the tub and tried to scrub them clean. But as the soap and water were flowing, so flowed my tears. The banigs have been in the building basement far too long and have become moldy and badly stained from the rains. How could I have allowed this to happen? As the keeper, I have been remiss in my duty. Now, how could I ever unfold the intricate weavings and the vibrant colors that tell of my people’s tales? They who have lovingly woven these mats in the caves, where the right temperature and amount of moisture helped bring out the best colors, the soft but resilient strands? How was I to help launch Virgil and Lane’s books without the magic of the mats’ stories? I cried, blamed myself, blamed my husband, blamed myself again and cried some more.

The tears were forgotten when the books were launched two days later, on Saturday, Jan 29, at the Silver Lake Center. Three banigs were not so bad after all and were put up on the walls of the center, accompanied by a happy array of indigenous cloth from the Cordillera and Mindanao. The splash of tribal colors and images brightened the center and were reflected on the faces of those who attended. The community came joyfully together to celebrate the books’ L.A. debut. Music, dance, performance and talks flowed and filled everyone. The joy spilled over until the early hours of the morning, when we of CFBS and FilAm Arts celebrated some more – with songs, stories and games, in Roque’s home.

On Sunday, Jan. 30th, the well in my eyes spilled tears again. I heard the news of violent clashes in Egypt and the total communication blackout. My daughter was there, working as an RN and I could not reach her; there was no telephone, no internet, no Skype, nothing. It was just a few days ago that I was looking at her Facebook, how it beamed with pictures of her visit to the pyramids, her childhood dream realized at last. A week after that tour, the Sphinx seemed to have awakened and brought total chaos to the country. It was the most frustrating and stressful time, having to face this dark and ominous wall of silence in Egypt, worried sick about a daughter’s safety. I could not sleep and was glued to the TV and my laptop for news updates. I called the Dept of Foreign Affairs in Manila. Someone said the officials were still assessing the situation. I kept calling them the following days for updates, but no reassurance came. I was on a thin wire, suspended indefinitely, precariously, and the only release were my tears.

Worn out with anxiety, I remembered the last mid-January weekend retreat in Sta. Rosa, the playing like children in Sonoma, the comfort of Leny’s kitchen and couch. I remembered the warmth of bodies and hearts, all 15 of us, settled like birds in a nest, treasuring the home we found in one another. I remembered the sheer bliss of rediscovering deep friendship, the sweetness of laughter shared as a family, the passionate play of being community. We were, as Perla so aptly described it, a bowl. We contained each other, our laughter and our tears, our smiles and even our fears, our bodies, our spirits. We were a bowl yes, but at the same time, we were also a boat on the river, flowing with our dreams, rowing to the rhythm of our vision – for service to our Kapwa – rowing towards liberation, always moving towards freedom.

But what of freedom, a part of me asked, when at any given moment one is clutched by fear and anxiety that grinds unceasingly, unmercifully? If we are to look at the big picture, are we not mere pawns of those in highest authority, those who wield imperial powers and have the resources of the world at their feet, unmindful of the groveling majority, and the wanton destruction of environment and humanity? Is our rowing at CFBS merely a pathetic simulation of movement that cannot get us anywhere anyway? What of the bowl or the boat?

I checked myself and recalled that this time is the same February of our People Power Revolution in EDSA, ignited 25 years ago in 1986. It was this same bloodless revolution that inspired others to bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989, and now, the same people’s revolution that is sweeping Egypt into an unprecedented era of change in 2011.

Buoyed by these thoughts, I again confront the same fears that have shadowed me as a child, even as an adult, assailed by my own and my people’s colonial mentality and the internal oppression that made me feel how painful it was to be “The Other.” I see you, and I accept you as part of me, I tell my fears. But now, I am someone else, I add with conviction.

I am of the same spirit as my ancestors, indestructible and free. It is this same indomitable spirit that connects me to the eternal strand woven into all of creation, animated by its divine Source, regardless of time, matter and space. I am the container of the past, the present and the future. I am part of the tree of transcendence. I live with its roots embracing the earth, I am one with its branches merging with the sky. And together with the rest of my Kapwa, we shall unravel the promise of freedom, whether fighting for it in the streets of EDSA or Egypt, or realizing it in the deepest frontiers of the inner self, and in the realms beyond.

I cry with joy for this life which is a banig of exquisite weavings, of amazing dancing images, imbued with nature’s textures and fragrances, and astounding rainbow hues. I am grateful to be sharing the banig of life with my CFBS family and community, whose nurturing support sustains, and yes, contains as it moves, our personal and collective dreams.

Mabuhay tayo kailanman!

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

Honoring Our Ancestors

October 12, 2010 in Events and Conference, Movies by admin

New CFBS video/footnotes

by admin

A Healing at Salmon Creek by Lissa Romero

April 22, 2010 in Babaylan and Community Healing, Events and Conference, Modern Practices by admin

We must’ve looked a sight to the residents of sleepy Salmon Creek, off Highway 1 past Bodega Bay. A motley crew of thirty-odd participants of the Babaylan Conference that had just taken place at Sonoma University, we had come to the quiet beach with Babaylan Reyna Yolanda and five other members of her group to join in a ritual for healing the earth. Malongs of every size and color peppered the sandy landscape as we piled out of our cars parked on the narrow road leading to the beach.

Along the way, most of us took off our shoes. Despite the cold wind, the sand felt warm and comforting under our feet. As we made our way over the dune, I beheld the sea—not calm and pretty like those touted in tropical vacation brochures, but wild, roiling, dangerous and majestic. Spray filled the air as the waves crashed onto the hardy brown sand. It was like being on the edge of a whirlpool, the movement of the water expansive, erratic and unpredictable. One was drawn to the sight of the endless sea, yet mindful about keeping a distance. Also, this was the Pacific Ocean. The water was numbingly cold.

It was my first time to participate in a ritual of this sort, that is, not one of those prescribed by my Catholic upbringing. I suspect this was true for most of us present. And except for Reyna Yolanda and the spirits she seemed to be listening to, no one really knew what was about to happen. I knew at the start that I was about to experience something special, but had no idea that by the end of it, the event will have profoundly changed the very core of my being and my understanding of what it means “to be in the world”.

She began by tracing a sacred space on the ground, an “altar” upon which she and her helpers arranged the fruits and flowers we had brought with us. She walked back and forth swiftly, following the requests being whispered to her by Spirit, and we all patiently watched and followed her subsequent orders like obedient children. She led us in a series of actions whose order I can no longer remember: writing on the ground; running, jumping or walking; tracing circles in the air with a sprig of flowers held in the right hand. We seemed to be outside of Time, completely focused in the moment, the sun hidden behind a thick layer of clouds that covered the entire sky above us. And slowly, with each completed action, Nature seemed to be responding to us. Seagulls, at first in pairs and small groups, began to fly over us from a northern to a southerly direction, from the right side of the beach to the left. They flew right above us, zooming to within ten to fifteen feet above our heads. Our breaths caught, for we all instinctively understood the symbolism of this act: Nature was hearing us, and She was pleased.

I had no expectations at all in coming to the beach to participate in this ritual. I was in “beginner’s mind”, my cognitive self stretched like a blank, white canvas. So what happened at this point in the ritual was completely unexpected. She asked all of us to form a straight line facing the sea, facing west. She told us to offer our own personal petitions to Bathala, to the wind that swirled around us. We all, as though rehearsed, raised both hands up into the air, our faces held skyward as we silently offered our prayers. I asked for the regeneration of life on earth, for the healing of its parts that may have been badly or even irretrievably damaged. I asked that humans may care for the earth, not in this business-like, politically correct manner, but in a deeper way. Just as I was trying to define in my mind what I meant by a “deeper way”, I heard Reyna Yolanda singing out to the sea in spirit language. As I heard her sacred communication, something began to move within me. I looked at Reyna Yolanda’s figure, clad in a green satin dress, miniscule against the backdrop of the wild sea. And I began to feel a Presence speak inside my bones, my muscles, my heart and mind: “I am a part of you, as you are a part of me. We are not separate. Your being is intertwined with mine in ways that twist and turn and dig and reach. I am not Other. You are my Beloved, and I am Yours.”

I began to cry. In the grip of such truth whose veracity I felt deep in my bones, something collapsed inside me, not walls, but a belief that had been sold to me, to all of us, as truth: that Nature is something outside of us that we must care for just because it’s a vital part of the planet we live on; that we call or label her “Mother Earth” in a metaphorical sense; that we segregate our trash or engage in other “green” actions in the perfunctory way that we make our morning coffee or pay our bills; that the health of our planet is intrinsically linked to ours as a fact of nature, a function of nature, rather than the essence of our relationship with it.

These beliefs but scratch the surface of what may pass as “reality” or “truth”, and to continue to hold on to them would be to deprive one’s self of the truth of being and reason for existing. It would be akin to living a lie, in the same way I pretended as a child to believe in Santa Claus long after I discovered the truth so I could keep getting the presents. In such a self-serving deception, we deprive ourselves of life-transforming epiphany—the truth of who we are.

Then Reyna Yolanda asked us to crouch down, put our palms flat on the ground and start drumming. As I drummed the wet sand, I could feel Nature rise up to meet me. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” I told her, for the first time as Beloved to another (although there really is no “Other”) Beloved. I felt her saying, “I bask in Your love. I need Your love. When You love me, I begin to heal. I am not Some Thing You need to fix. I am One who also needs to be loved.” The tears that flowed out of my eyes seemed to be drawn straight from my heart. I love you, I love you, I love you. Never again will I forget my Mother, for She is my Kapwa, too.

As if in response, the sun broke through a crack in the clouds. Nature received our offering of love into her heart, and we basked in her warmth.

One action after another. We were doing a series of mini-rituals to complete a whole one. In doing them, I began to understand the importance of ritual as a way to experience the intrinsic sacredness of All That Is. At one point, in the middle of one ritual, we all saw a large, white plastic drum, half filled with water, bobbing slowly towards us from the water. At first it was upright, almost as tall as a man, before it fell on its side and was dragged up to the shore upon Reyna Yolanda’s orders. Was it a mirage? A mass illusion conjured up by the skipped meal and unusual circumstances? It was like we were in the middle of a dream, playing roles in an allegorical tale instead of merely being its passive audience.

The phenomenon of the floating white drum was laden with meaning, Reyna Yolanda explained. “That drum represents our intentions, floating in the sea of hopes and dreams,” she said in Tagalog. “By bringing it onto the shore, we have pulled it in to safety. We have made it possible for the success of our petition to become reality.”

When we finally left the beach, we were euphoric and peaceful. Long goodbyes were said, as some of us would be heading home to wherever we had traveled from: Oakland, Stockton, Los Angeles, Toronto. When I checked the car’s dashboard clock, I was shocked to see that three hours had elapsed since we arrived at the beach. I thought we had just been there an hour. I chuckled at the memory of sci-fi movie episodes that had portrayed similar phenomena. Had Time folded, or did we simply step outside of its confines temporarily, somehow? I suppose that the mysteries of this Universe will unlock slowly, one at a time, dimension by dimension, truth by truth. For now, this is more than enough to ponder on…

I honor and thank the shamans and babaylans of this world, who with courage and perseverance undertake the task of bridging all worlds, bringing healing and helping evolve consciousness. Thank you. Maraming salamat po.

Posted with permission from the author.

by admin

Song of the Babaylan

April 21, 2010 in Creative Expressions, Performances, Art, Poetry, Events and Conference by admin

(Lyrics and melody by Lissa G. Romero)

I have been waiting for you
Outside of time
In the forest of your dreams

You have heard my voice on the wind
Calling you back home
To the warmth of my embrace

I have heard the beating of your heart
Yearning for a love
Deeper than the sea

I am in the silence of your Soul
Hear my love come home
Like waves on your shore

When you meet the Other in your Self
Feel your heart unfold
To take in the Sun

Let this Love break the walls within
And pour into the world
The balm that heals all wounds

I have heard the beating of your heart
Yearning for a love
Deeper than the sea

I am in the silence of your Soul
Hear my love come home
Like waves on your shore

by admin

Gather with us at the Babaylan Conference This April. Plan Now!

January 16, 2010 in Events and Conference by admin

1st International Babaylan Conference, 2010
April 17 – 18, 2010 at the
Sonoma State University, CA

We would like you to join us in bringing about this very unique and special gathering through your efforts and presence. Info on getting to conference and on lodging here now!

by admin

about the Babaylan Rising, Dec. 5 2009 Event

December 6, 2009 in Events and Conference by admin

date Sun, Dec 6, 2009 at 4:19 AM
subject Re: Babaylan Rising event

Dear all –
It is past 1am and am still awake because of the warm and exhuberant energy of the evening. Tonight we raised [funds for CFBS] — thanks to Felicia, Jennifer, Marisza, Holly, Baylan, Lizae, Trixie and San Jose State U students, Ingrid, Mylene, Jodie, Mel Orpilla and Sam, your partners, friends, and family. Thanks, too, to the donors of the auction items: Perla’s mandala, Jennifer and her artist friends, Christine Balza, Holly, Dustin/Sloat Garden Ctr, and many more. Consul Ver also came briefly and shared the support of the Philippine Consulate for the conference – thanks to Baylan for this connection. Thanks also to the Filipino vegan caterer – No Worries — for the delicious pancit and the other donors of our vegetarian spread.

I finally got to see the beautiful Dugso ritual. Baylan, Holly, Ingrid, and Jennifer — Bai Liza will be proud of you! The water ritual by Lizae with the singing bowl is beautiful and the invocation of the seven elements was very moving. Together with the beautiful altar set up in the Talaandig tradition and with Bai Liza’s permission — it all came together. I felt the energy pulsing through. I love how we came back to the altar at the end to partake of the brown and white rice. And what was in that holy water — it is aromatic and sweet!

Felicia and Jodie – thank you for your poetry. I know your Dad is happy to hear your words of gold, Felicia. Jodie — am glad you are getting your spoken word out; the dance next time…move those hips. Felicia – we are so proud of Sebastian who relished his bird-man role. That was a brief but good and creative presentation of the creation myth and what made it really special is the participation of the youth – Sebastian, Trixie and her partner (sorry, i’m blanking on his name). Smart props!

Mel – it was good to point out that the warrior in the indigenous community worked alongside the babaylan in protecting the community. Thanks for showing off the tattoos, too, and sparring with Sam. Thank you for sharing the work that you do with youth as they seek indigenous ways of reconnecting to their roots.

Thank you to everyone who made bids on the silent auction items and those who won and came home with the goods. Perla, the beautiful mandala went to Luis, Jen’s partner. The kalamansi tree went home with Lizae, the antique baskets went home with Marisza. I came home with Jen’s “Peacock” line of beauty products that she made herself. Oh, there are so many other items that I would tell you more about later. (Or you could tell us your story of the evening, too. Please do!)

On this night there were so many events going on around the Bay Area and I thank all those who chose to spend the night with us. We didn’t get a full list of attendees, pls help me compile the list by sending us the names of those who were present because you invited them.

Each one of you inspires me.I never thought I would live to see this day …a beloved community of babaylan-inspired women and men, young and old, gay and straight, long-haired, short-haired — coming together to honor our babaylan ancestors, reclaiming our indigenous spirituality, and sharing this with our community and beyond. We bear and bare the beautiful fruit of our decolonizing process as we reach out to our families and friends and tell them about the necessity of decolonization. Together we manifest our gifts of Kapwa, Pakikiramdam, Loob through our deepening connection to our inner selves and each other.

I am looking forward to the holy days/holidays with gratitude and appreciation for all of you, for all of us. We’ve only been together a few months and already I feel like I have been adopted into a clan of the wise and compassionate. May our tribe increase.

It’s past 2am and I will write more tomorrow and I look forward to your sharing. Please post photos on facebook.

Love to you,