by Luisa A. Igloria
Review of Song of the Babaylan: Living Voices, Medicines, Spiritualities of Philippine Ritualist-Oralist Healers by Grace Nono (Institute of Spirituality in Asia, 2013)
In the “Invocations” chapter of her newest book, Song of the Babaylan: Living Voices, Medicines, Spiritualities of Philippine Ritualist-Oralist Healers (Institute of Spirituality in Asia), singer, scholar, and grassroots cultural worker Grace Nono recollects an episode of illness in childhood. As she lies in an upstairs bedroom of her parents’ home in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, she hears her father calling her name outside in the yard. She writes, “Several times he called, but not to me; he seemed to be addressing the wide, open night sky.” Later, her father tells her that he was calling to her soul to return to her body and restore her to health. It is quietly striking that this anecdote is found so close to the book’s beginning “Methodology” section— for what it accomplishes in an immediate way is the grounding of the text and its curator within a network of relationships where “research” cannot ever be divorced from lived reality and vice versa, where one’s sense of rational reality cannot ever be divorced from a sense of the unknown, the mystical, from dream or spirit.