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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 (www.tebtebba.org) 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

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 amazon.com:

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

Towards a ‘Kapwa’ Theory of Art: Multiplicity in Integrative Contemporary Practices

August 9, 2011 in Kapwa and Other Indigenous and Filipino Values, Modern Practices by admin

Towards a ‘Kapwa’ Theory of Art: Multiplicity in Integrative Contemporary Practices
by Margarity Certeza Garcia
Presented at: Bahaus University Weimar
Masters in Public Arts and New Artistic Strategies
21 February 2011
Excerpt

(What)…is the large percentage of the population of the world who could be categorized as ‘Other,’ to do when attempting to enter the bastions of the art world, other then, at least for women who might be perceived as desirable, take off their clothes; as Guerilla Girls’ sardonically suggested in a series of poster placed in the New York City arts scene in the 1980s. That question, sans the mocking response, (which is both humorous and painful in its stark reality), forms the crux of this paper. What are additional ways for an artist from the non-dominant modality to position themselves and their work? What additional examples exist for coherent practice that acknowledge the multiple possibilities and hybrid and shifting positions of contemporary life? Where do I, as a hybrid Filipino Artist studying in Europe stand in relation to this debate? This essay neither intends to establish a definitive answer to these questions nor to privilege any artistic theory as a response to them. Instead, it represents an examination of the problem itself, followed by a brief expiration of the possibility of multiplicity using alternative theories.

Full text link provided by Leny Strobel

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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

Chanted Poem/Song by Mila Anguluan-Coger

September 26, 2009 in Babaylan and Community Healing, Creative Expressions, Performances, Art, Poetry, Events and Conference, Modern Practices by admin

YA PALLABBET | ANG PAGBABALIK LOOB | THE JOURNEY HOME
By Mila Anguluan-Coger, 09.18.09

Chanted Poem/Song at the Ritual Gathering of Sacred Music, Dance & Poetry
Saturday, September 19, 2009. Berkeley, CA

Intan intan… labbet tan intan
Intan intan… labbet tan intan
Halika na uwi na… halika na uwi na…

Kaam ta kunukunnay ya kwammu?
Bakit nyo po ginagawa ito?
Why do you do this, Lola? As a child I’d wonder
Why grandmother chanted to call me, even while beside her
After visiting strange places and it was time to go home
Why do you do this, I would repeat
And slowly, she’d look at me, and say gently
Whispering a secret known only to both of us
So that you won’t get lost, my child
So that you won’t go wandering too far
Too far that you’d never return again.

And then she’d chant and do it all over
Intan intan… labbet tan intan… Intan intan…. labbet tan intan
Imploring with her voice, singing softly with the wind, distinctly
Calling… for my fragmented selves in fragmented places
Come home… come home… time to come home…
Come to this body again… come to this mind…
Come to this heart… come back into this inner space
Come… all you wandering selves together
Come home… and be whole again.

And she’d take hold of my hand
Wrapping my tiny hand, enclosing it in hers
In her strong hand, her nurturing hand and
All at once I’d feel like it was the safest place to be
Despite the creeping darkness, despite the chilling night.

Other nights have come: nights of doom, nights of sorrow.
Many other places: places of torment, places of pain
Many lands traversed, many more to be traveled
Lands that are jagged, cruel, leering, eerie
Oceans that are frothing, seething, smearing
Places where our many selves go
Wandering into…peering into… swallowed into.

Lola, like other ancestors, was babaylan
She whose voice kept calling with the wind, dispelling despair
She whose pungent herbs curling in burning coals would flow into dreams
And deep sleep where soft smoke soothed the unseen pain
Healed the open wounds, brought together flesh and soul torn apart
So that healed, daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters
Sons and grandsons, sondaughters and daughtersons
Heir to her power of peace, silence, resilience, song, dance, touch
Animate once more the babaylan legacy of dispelling darkness
Healing pain, praying peace, chanting to all our little selves

Intan intan… labbet tan intan… intan intan… labbet tan intan
Come home… come home… time to come back home…
Come to this body again… come to this mind…
Come to this heart… come back into this inner space
Come… all you wandering selves together
Come home… and be whole again.

YA PALLABBET
ANG PAGBABALIK LOOB
THE JOURNEY HOME
By Mila Anguluan-Coger 091809

Intan intan… labbet tan intan
Intan intan… labbet tan intan
Halika na uwi na… halika na uwi na…

Kaam ta kunukunnay ya kwammu?
Bakit nyo po ginagawa ito?
Why do you do this, Lola? As a child I’d wonder
Why grandmother chanted to call me, even while beside her
After visiting strange places and it was time to go home
Why do you do this, I would repeat
And slowly, she’d look at me, and say gently
Whispering a secret known only to both of us
So that you won’t get lost, my child
So that you won’t go wandering too far
Too far that you’d never return again.

And then she’d chant and do it all over
Intan intan… labbet tan intan… Intan intan…. labbet tan intan
Imploring with her voice, singing softly with the wind, distinctly
Calling… for my fragmented selves in fragmented places
Come home… come home… time to come home…
Come to this body again… come to this mind…
Come to this heart… come back into this inner space
Come… all you wandering selves together
Come home… and be whole again.

And she’d take hold of my hand
Wrapping my tiny hand, enclosing it in hers
In her strong hand, her nurturing hand and
All at once I’d feel like it was the safest place to be
Despite the creeping darkness, despite the chilling night.

Other nights have come: nights of doom, nights of sorrow.
Many other places: places of torment, places of pain
Many lands traversed, many more to be traveled
Lands that are jagged, cruel, leering, eerie
Oceans that are frothing, seething, smearing
Places where our many selves go
Wandering into…peering into… swallowed into.

Lola, like other ancestors, was babaylan
She whose voice kept calling with the wind, dispelling despair
She whose pungent herbs curling in burning coals would flow into dreams
And deep sleep where soft smoke soothed the unseen pain
Healed the open wounds, brought together flesh and soul torn apart
So that healed, daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters
Sons and grandsons, sondaughters and daughtersons
Heir to her power of peace, silence, resilience, song, dance, touch
Animate once more the babaylan legacy of dispelling darkness
Healing pain, praying peace, chanting to all our little selves

Intan intan… labbet tan intan… intan intan… labbet tan intan
Come home… come home… time to come back home…
Come to this body again… come to this mind…
Come to this heart… come back into this inner space
Come… all you wandering selves together
Come home… and be whole again.

by admin

Babaylan Mandala

September 16, 2009 in Babaylan and Community Healing, Creative Expressions, Performances, Art, Poetry, Kapwa and Other Indigenous and Filipino Values, Modern Practices by admin

Babaylan Mandala I-I


Beginning over 400 years ago, the coming of Westerner colonizers shaped the identity of Filipinos. As the gold of our ancestors and the motherland were wrested away and loaded upon Spanish galleons to be delivered to the conquerors’ home across the seas, so too was the richness of Filipino identity and spirituality replaced with dysfunctional perceptions of the superiority of the Westerner’s race, religion and ways and the innate inferiority of the indios’. 

Filipinos today who awaken and stand strong in their identity, history, heritage and the center of their being(Loob), find their inner light, their inner gold. The Babaylan Mandalas and all their symbols of the 4 elements and baybayin scripts represent the reclaiming of the Filipinos’ Inner Gold… We know when the Babaylan Spirit rises within any one of us when She guides us to help our Kapwa find theirs. 

This art piece, on 29×29 sugar cane watercolor paper, is up for silent auction as part of a fundraiser for the Center for Babaylan Studies, Babaylan Rising, this December 5th in the Bay Area. 

These are also available for order on 18×18 watercolor paper. You can place your order at www.babaylan.net.

by admin

Portrait of the Filipino as Kidlat Tahimik

July 27, 2009 in Creative Expressions, Performances, Art, Poetry, Kapwa and Other Indigenous and Filipino Values, Modern Practices by admin

Kidlat Tahimik popularized the term “indio-genius” in reference to contemporary culture-bearer/artists whose creative expressions come from Filipino indigenous themes. He and Katrin de Guia (one of our conference keynoters) co-founded Heritage Arts and Academies, Inc (HAPI) and organized the KAPWA national/international conferences/gatherings of 2004 and 2008. Our Babaylan Conference/Gathering 2010 is modeled after these conferences.”

Portrait of the Filipino as Kidlat Tahimik
By A.Z. JOLICCO CUADRA
Manila Bulletin – July 19, 2009, 3:08pm

Excerpt:

Who does not know Kidlat Tahimik? Who is Kidlat Tahimik?

Kidlat Tahimik, to put him in the words of E.M.Forster, stands at a slight angle to the universe. We see him look at it askance, imbibe what his eye perceives, refine what he gets, in the cauldron of his poetic imaginative fire…

Choose a name he was to resound to, resonate with his own brand of Filipinism. Kidlat Tahimik, therefore. In those syllables contained in this name, rebound so spiritually strong with his character; always quick on the Go; here, there, everywhere and nowhere.

In himself, he knows the Buddhism of his heart, best to interact with his reverence for all living things; like his love of nature. Eric de Guia: Eric so Germanic meaning ruler; de Guia so Spanish meaning guide; so: Kidlat Tahimik It Is; this No nom de guerre. But true, as real as his flesh and blood. His truest identity and name will be part and parcel of his vision and art. Being Baguio-grown, he inclined himself to follow the cultures of the Igorots, Ifugaos (like reverencing in their cultural rituals aspects of nature). Adopted as Igorot bagani, he sired The Balik Bahag Movement; if the situation calls him, he dons the bahag without affectation, embarrassment, trepidation. He can look the Igorot brave.

The full article appears on the Manila Bulletin site.

Links accessed 7/27/09

by admin

Conversations – Landscape: Re-inventing the babaylan

July 23, 2009 in Babaylan and Community Healing, Conversations and Stories, Historic Context, Modern Practices by admin

Third in a series, posted in 2008 at Global Balita

Landscape
by Gemma Cruz Araneta

Re-inventing the babaylan

How did the babaylan cope with the onslaught of “cross and sword”? After the bloody revolts against their sworn enemies, the early Spanish missionaries; after burning churches and disfiguring Christian icons and after the painful betrayal of community members, the babaylans had to devise effective survival methods. They either fled to the mountains or adopted Christian ways to co-exist with the colonial order.

Mr. Adelbert Batica, a Filipino expat, sent his comments to my article “Silencing the babaylan.” He wrote: “The babaylan, as well as the symbols and images associated with them may have totally disappeared except where they have reappeared as modern-day healers and “hilot” who most often use oraciones as part of their healing practice. But, I would propose
that they were actually resurrected, “reinvented” if you may, under a Christian context.”

Indeed, there are several religious communities led by women like the “Ciudad Mistica de Dios”, at the foot of the sacred Mt. Banahaw that uses the Bible and Christian prayers as the basis of their own stylized rituals. Curiously, the “Ciudad Mistica de Dios” began with the “Iglesia Mistica Filipina” founded by Suprema Maria Bernarda in 1915. Mr. Batica observed: “The old ladies who act as prayer leaders at many religious devotionals including novenas (especially for the dead) seem to be carrying on the dynamic of the “babaylan”, although in this day and age instead of being armed with amulets she wears scapulars, religious medals, and usually carries a prayer book or “novenario” and a rosary.”

Complete text available on in the Global Balita archive.

Links accessed 7/19/2009

by admin

Artist Expressions: Suku, New Sun Artistry

July 7, 2009 in Creative Expressions, Performances, Art, Poetry, Kapwa and Other Indigenous and Filipino Values, Modern Practices by admin

Christine Balza of Suku, New Sun Artistry is a ceramics artist based in San Francisco. Recently, Leny Strobel asked Christine about her connection with babaylan practices. This is an excerpt of her response.

Babaylan, Deeper Understanding
by Christine Balza

Leny asked: Do you feel an emotional connection to babaylan concepts such as kapwa, babaylan, baybayin, bathala?

Christine writes:

Yes.

I feel the knowledge and understanding of the concepts of Kapwa and Babaylan that is within me, but have not had an opportunity to articulate or express before. I see flash backs of memories of a relative or family friend practicing message, or “helot”. They focus a spiritual aspect, much like meditation or prayer, towards healing and cleansing the body and mind. I had been approached by the same Aunties’ and Titas’ declaring they feel a sense that I was somehow gifted with this power to “helot.” As a child, I took the comments and spent hours trying to understand and focus on this power. Having little understanding of these concepts left me with an energy that I couldn’t focus on. It seemed too far-fetched and eventually my Fil-Am understanding took a dominant perspective and I not only forgot about these notions, but I mocked it as well.

Moving forward in life’s experiences, marriage, four children and finding this familiar feeling in my art, I am developing a better understanding of the metaphysical and spirituality. Its relation to caring for my family came first. Eventually, it was finding a sense of self and how necessary it was to care for my needs in order to maintain a balance. It was art that fueled the renewable energy to keep a healthy cycle going. But my creations were not moving out of my realm, except as tokens and gifts to those I love. It was the first piece I made written in Baybayin that affected someone other than one that I love. A Mother’s Day gift to my sister that said “Ina’” made a street fair vendor ask her if I could make more in bulk; thus, leading to my learning aspects of my culture that has widening my perspective and understanding.

My understanding of Kapwa and Babaylan at its most basic and fundamental form is as a mother. The obvious role is to my four children. However, I can see how I have been developing and practicing far before I gave birth to my oldest daughter of 16. I had not put much thought into this role in relationships I’ve had throughout the years until lately.

The complete article can be found on the Suku, New Sun Artistry site. All links accessed 7/6/09.

by admin

Modern Practices – Pagtatawid: Praying and Crossing Beyond

June 19, 2009 in Definitions, Kapwa and Other Indigenous and Filipino Values, Modern Practices by admin

Praying and Crossing Beyond (exerpt, August 28, 2007 post)
by M. Villariba in Living and Learning Together

Q : Did you learn the word “pagtatawid” from your mother or grandmother?

At first I learned the use of the word “pagtatawid”, which is literally means crossing from grassroots women in Bay, Laguna who described the role of parents and elders in guiding the young to make the journey from birth to womb, from infancy to adulthood, from life to death. Pagtatawid has three stages: guiding a baby, as a parent, to become a human being, “maging tao”; guiding a person to be a good person , “maging mabuting tao” and assisting the person to complete one’s journey on this life to the next life, paglalakbay tungo sa kabilang buhay.

Q: Do you practice pagtatawid ?

A: Yes, but it took all of 50 years to learn, understand and do it! I will describe recent experiences in pagtatawid with faith, hope and love.

My formation categories are informed by the roles of pre-colonial settlements, when the Philippines was not yet a state. These are the roles of Babaylan, Datu, Panday at Kawal-Bayani. [1] As my experiences deepened, I realized that the babaylan had to develop the attitudes and skills of a datu, panday and kawal-bayani especially when they had to practice pag-uugnay and pagtatawid.

Learning from my grandmother Maria and mother Flotilda how to prepare family and kin during birthing to dying was a key to my discovery of pagtatawid. Then I became a feminist in the early 70s with three of my classmates in Ateneo graduate school tutoring me on what it meant to be a woman, sensuous and erotic. I read all kinds of literature on philosophy, religion, sociology, history and observed rural and urban families. I took a special course on paranormal psychology and trained under Fr. Jaime Bulatao, SJ, in Ateneo. He showed me how exorcism was done.

Q: Did your feminism help in becoming a babaylan?

For three decades from the early 70’s to the 90’s, I worked on my feminism. I believed in developing the wholeness of women, the pagkatao (being human) at pagkababae (being woman ) and liberating women from oppressive power relations, the pagpapalaya. But the feminist discourse was largely informed by radical and liberal Western ideas and it took me time to discover the indigenous, nonpatriarchal paradigm of Filipinos – kapwa-tao, the concepts of loob at labas na tao.

The feminist debates I got involved with did not initially articulate spirituality. I was part of the nationalist movement and the discourse was mainly Marxist, Maoist, and secular. I could not articulate the sacred coherently because I did not belong to a community who could affirm and validate my spirituality, a community with an epistemological authority. It was only when I conducted regular women’s education in the early 80’s that I realized the time was ripe for women to be openly spiritual. I found friends like Sr. Mary John Mananzan, Sr. Lydia Lascano and Sr. Rosario Battung who shared mystical experiences . When I turned 50 years old in 2000, there was enough epistemological evidence to pursue “babaylanship.” Women in my solidarity circles were already conversant with babaylan work.

When Ed and I lived in Europe in the late 80s ,I started my journals so that I could distill the lessons.

I observed women and men who were migrant datu, panday, kawal and babaylan across races and ethnicities. I explored the approach of reading people as living books. I developed active meditation. I practised shibashi, chi qong and much recently, tetada kalimasada – eastern disciplines of cultivating inner energy.

Q: Can you elaborate ?

A: The practice of pag-uugnay/ pagtatawid (connecting and crossing) is a sacred task.

Pagtatawid starts with pag-uugnay because the babaylan must first be conscious of the Divine Presence. It demands mindfulness and considerable energy. It is like studying geography, learning navigation, and organizing enough resources to get to where another life is and returning safely. If one were to sail beyond this world, you need a sacred seaworthy boat, become a one-person crew with a mastery of the currents, a good sense of direction, passion and faith to complete the trip. It is the babaylan who does the connecting where she dances her way into a divine web and when the Divine Artist-Creator gives her a sacred line, she prepares and assists the person to reach the crossing.

[1] Zeus A.Salazar, Ang Babaylan sa Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, Bagong Kasaysayan, Blg., Unibersidad ng Pilipinas,1999.

Links accessed June 17, 2009.