In her talk Indigenous Filipino Values: A Foundation for a Culture of Non-Violence” prepared for the forum “Towards a Culture of Non-Violence,” Katrin de Guia defines several key concepts which underpin babaylan practices.


Kalayaan— freedom, liberty and independence is a sine qua non for Filipino personhood. To understand this ancestral Filipino (human) value is important for a culture of non-violence. Why? Because violence usually arises from the attempts of one person or group to control another person or group. But control runs counter to the kapwa orientations where the norm is voluntary giving, including and sharing; where problems are resolved through consensus building and mediating rather than through fist or force.

Emancipation may be the best word to describe what the Filipino value kalayaan is all about. Reynaldo Ileto, who studied the pre-Spanish Filipino writings, concluded that Filipino children enjoyed traditionally great freedom while growing up. Indulged by their parents, they were allowed to learn at their own speed, experiment with life as saling pusa, and slowly discover and mold who they really were as human beings (kapwa tao).

Basically it’s a fine thing, this training towards openness, creativity and freedom. However, the underlying assumption of such a training towards self-determination is that a child, who had been indulged by the whole clan, would grow up to be a tolerant, emancipated and open-minded adult. True— when the setting is the kapwa culture! However, without training in such things as respect, propriety, humility and compassion (kapwa), the liberties bestowed on a child can mold it into an irresponsible and permissive adult, someone ruled by outright selfishness. A pampered child, without the self-regulating mechanism of sensitivity towards others (pakiramdam) becomes spoiled rotten. This is what happened to many illustrado and mestizo kids, who were raised in an atmosphere of materialistic indulgence, paired with the imperialist values of ego-hood. John Lennon made a song about that “I – Me – Mine.” That is where today’s “unbridled greed” has its footing. Instead of the Shared Self, we face the Expanded Ego.

While the Shared Self is soft like water, the Expanded Ego is hard as stone. There is no long lasting impact when water meets water. But when stone meets stone you have a violent reaction. Something will break!

Katrin M. de Guia performed her pioneering research on the Filipino culture-bearer artists all over the country while earning her PhD in Filipino Psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino) at the Unversity of the Philippines. She will be a featured speaker at the Center for Babaylan Studies 2010 Conference

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