Over the weekend of May 15, Letecia Layson attended the RCG-I Gathering of Priestesses and Goddess Women in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. There Leticia presented a workshop titled workshop “Babaylan – Past, Present and Future”. The Center asked Letecia to share her experiences there. Part 1 of this article is her open letter to the Babaylan Yahoo group. Part 2 sets the context of her presentation. Part 3 is the resources she provided to workshop participants.
Here is some information to supplement what I shared about USA’s historical role in colonialism and in the shaping of what is now the Philippines: Information on US Territories
Two authors who have books on the History of US that you might not have gotten in school:
Words of Power
As is the case of many cultures who have been colonized the original peoples of the land, indigenous people, are identified by 135+ distinct languages. Babaylan is the Visayan word, there were/are many words used in other tribes/languages. Common to these languages is only one pronoun. “..no gender pronouns or suffixes to denote sex.” Carolyn Brewer, Holy Confrontation. Taking into account the varied creation stories a common theme is the co-creation of female and male. The most widely known creation story comes from the Visayan Islands of Magandas, the female (Beauty) and Malakas, the male (Strength). In the story, the human female and male emerge from a bamboo plant that was split. Regardless of which comes out first (in different versions of the story), Malakas bows to Maganda (as in strength bows to beauty) and they walk of hand in hand. The qualities of Strength and Beauty are cultivated in both males and females rather than gender assigning these attributes. You can read a version of the story here.
Ways of Knowing Tacit/Explicit
“Ancestral traditions are based on tacit modes of knowing. Examples are dreading body gestures, interpreting metaphors, deriving signs from complexities in nature. All these are aptitudes of this ancient way of understanding. Other skills are dreams interpretations, visualizations, trance techniques and more. Intergral to a lifestyle that is born from Filipino personhood, such pre-rational cognitive talents are universal and are found in every other corner of the world.”
“Tacit knowing is assumed to be the older way of human understanding because it works with the primary processes of sensing, intuiting and feeling (pakiramdam) . Its function is to find order, closure and consistency in an overwhelmingly complex world.”
“Explicit knowing evolved much later in our brains. Called the secondary process, it is seen to regulate the linear “either-or” operations at work when we make rational decisions. Its function is to regonize contrasts and to differentiate parts. This is also referred to as the “discovery process.”
“Filipino person hood, after all, can be expected to differ from personality, because it is grounded in the tacit knowing (pakirmandam) rather than explicit knowing.”
Note: Pakiramdam is “shared inner perception”
Quotes from KAPWA – the Self in the Other by Katrin de Guia
To facilitate the decolnization process and reference Filipinos back to their own her/history and culture Virgilio Enriquez developed Filipino Psychology or Sikolohiyang Plipino in 1975 . It is rooted in the experience, ideas and cultural orientation of Filipino http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Philippine_ Psychology A core value is KAPWA translated as ‘the self in the other’, the shared self or togetherness. Katrina de Guia has written a book entitled KAPWA – the Self in the Other (eds note: http://ugnayan.110mb.com/public_html/cnv%20stories/Indigenous%20Values.html – this link disabled as of 6/15/09).
This book includes Filipino culture bearers and by their livingness demonstrate and illustrate a living psychology of the people, not bound by western filters. The female and male are equally honored. The culture is about the children, unlike western culture that is focused on the adult male. One can see this reflected in the way Catholic Religion has adapted to the culture with Santo Nino and the strong female influence as in Suprema Isabel Suarez that Sr Mary John Mananzan writes about in her book Women, Religion and Spirituality in Asia. You can find some information out about Suprema Isabel Suarez [here] and [here]. According to Mananzan, the Ciudad Mistica De Dios was founded by Maria Bernarda Balitaan born in 1876. Her birth was considered to be the dawn of the Age of the Mother. An article is availabe for more info.
Filipino Community Portrait “..names for various Filipino ethnolinguistic groups and geographical locations are derived from bodies of water…This water-based culture, coupled with a sacred view of the mountains, constituded the material basis of the beliefs, costoms and traditions of the ancestors of the Filipino.”
The Filipino Women;Before and After the Spanish Conquest of the Philippines (booklet) by Sr Mary John Mananzan
The Woman Question in the Philippines (booklet) by Sr Mary John Mananzan
Celebrating 100 years of feminism in the Philippines Sr Mary John Mananzan, Mother Superior of Saint Scolastica’s College hosted a celebration and Babaylan Symposium with Agnes N. Miciat-Cacayan as the keynote speaker. Her presentation “Babaylan: She Dances in Wholeness can be accessed here. Dance as trance, dance as prayer, dance as healing are central to the work of the Babaylan. Agnes is the author of “The Shaman Woman’s Dream – How can we worship god without the forest?”
“Leadership is a sacred duty—not an act of self-aggrandizement . Let me put that in another way— the most essential role of leadership is for survival, but the most sacred role of leadership is service.”
“The Babaylan performed 4 main power roles in pre-hispanic Philippine village communities which were: Leader, Counselor, Healer, and Sage.
All those roles carried with it the qualities of community caretakers and bearers of wisdom.
Each role had a particular strength and spiritual principle that differentiated it from another.
The Leader embodied courage, making a stand and giving direction to a community. He or she was a leader and at times of conflict, a Warrior.”
The Four Fold Way by Angeles Arrien reflect these primary babaylan roles.
I quoted from Marianita (Girlie) Villariba’s article “Babaylan Women as Guide to a Life of Justice and Peace”
“Who is the Babaylan
Who is a babaylan? The babaylans, predominantly women, were mystical women who wielded social and spiritual power in pre-colonial Philippine society before the coming of the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century.
In his research on pre-colonial women, anthropologist Dr. Zeus Salazar described the babaylan as a specialist in the fields of culture, religion, medicine and all kinds of theoretical knowledge about the phenomenon of nature.
How did babaylans become babaylans?
Women had dreams and experienced life-altering events that led them to become babaylans of their specific communities. The traditional path in babaylan formation was to be called by a mystical source or to inherit the role from an elder babaylan. The sacred call would come in a dream or the person would experience a life-threatening illness, be healed by prayers and then experience a change of consciousness, or what is called sinasapian (a spirit possessing the self). But this possession is just a signal. What is important is the continuing transformation which gave the babaylan the ability to widen her circles of concern and learn her multiple functions in society.
In this writers interaction with members of Lumad communities in Mindanao, especially the Matigsalom, she learned that the practice of choosing a babaylan is a lifelong process. Any woman or man who could identify and solve the problems of the community can be chosen a babaylan. She had to demonstrate her leadership in solving its problems as they arise and mature. In other Lumad communities, a woman or man must be able to wield a sword or a weapon in defense of the community. Once proven as a warrior, she would develop further her role as a babaylan. The education of a babaylan is lifelong and she becomes a full fledged babaylan when she understands and embodies the multiple functions of priestess, healer, sage and seer. That is why babaylans are already in their maturing years when they assume the mantle of babaylanism. “
From the womb of Mebuyan (Mebuyan is an Earth Goddess) by Vivian Nobles, Agnes N Miclat-Cacayan, Sr Esperanza Clapano, Geejay Arriola
Contemporary Babaylan Movement International
The University of the Philippines Babaylan is the leading gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (lgbt) students’ support group in all campuses of the State University, at the same time maintaining national and international linkages and presence.
Babaylan Denmark is an initiative of Philippine women’s groups and women’s desks in Europe, The Philippine Women’s Network in Europe, came about as a result of the first Europewide conference of Filipinas held in Spain (Barcelona) on 23-26 September 1992. It was in response to a long felt need of Filipinas living and working in Europe to link together and forge unity to improve their situation, address specific issues affecting their lives as Filipinas, needing effective and liberating support for each other.
Babaylan – The Philippine Women’s Network in Europe is an initiative of Philippine women’s groups and women’s desks in Europe. A result of the first Conference of Filipinas in Europe held in Barcelona on September 23-26, 1992, it is a response to a long felt need of Filipinas living and working in Europe to link together and forge unity to improve their situation, address specific issues affecting women. It seeks to develop an effective and liberating support system for Filipinas.
Contemporary Babaylan Movement and Arts in the USA
I am including additional information mentioned in the course of the content linking/bridging to other cultures:
Korean Shamanism Links
Invoking a Spirit of Peace
Shamans: The Next Generation
Gukmu (eds note: this site is in Korean.)
Dancing on Knives: An Introduction to the Politics of Sexuality and Gender in Korean Shamanism
Filipino Bookshop Resources:
Philippine Expressions Bookshop – The Mail Order Bookshop dedicated to Filipino Americans in search of their roots.
2114 Trudie Drive
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275-2006, USA
Tel (310) 514-9139 FAX (310) 514-3485
e.mail: linda_nietes@ sbcglobal. net
We blazed the trail in promoting Philippine books in America. 2008 marks our 24th year of service to the Filipino American community. Thank you for your support. Mabuhay! Linda Nietes, a cultural activist, also owned Casalinda, the first all-Filipina bookshop in the Philippines, (Metro Manila,1972- 1983) and has provided a home for Philippine writings on both sides of the Pacific.
ARKIPELAGO Philippine Books
953 Mission Street, San Francisco, Ca. 94103 U.S.A.
I think I covered all the material presented in the workshop. In closing I would like to invite you to visit The Center for Babaylan Studies to find out about a conference I am helping to organize in 2010. And be sure to stay in touch with the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology and their conference in 2010.
I look forward to our next connect. If I have left anything out, please remind me. I do not think all the women who were at the workshop wrote their email addresses down for me (due to me going a bit overtime). If you might pass this post on to them, I would be most grateful.
Love and Gratitude, Letecia
Republished with permission and gratitude. Links accessed 6/15/09.