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Notes and Reflections from the CFBS Retreat, Jan 14-16, 2011, Santa Rosa, CA | Center for Babaylan Studies
Attending: Leny Strobel, Perla Daly, Letecia Layson, Lorial Crowder, Mila Coger, Lane Wilcken, Virgil Apostol, Lizae Reyes, Gina Honda, Karen Pennrich, Lily Mendoza, Tera Maxwell, Venus Herbito, Frances Santiago, Titania Bucholdt
Last night of the retreat. The lake was as still as a mirror.

Wednesday, January  12: Letecia and Lily arrived on this day and am glad they got here early because they helped me with the food preparation for the weekend. They chopped, peeled, sliced, diced vegetables while we got a head start on storytelling. Letecia also created the altar as we prepared the space. We set our intentions.

Friday, January 14: Perla arrived from Austin; Lorial from New York. Tera (Minnesota) arrived with Malena (9mos) in Santa Rosa where her mother lives. Lane arrived at Sonoma County Airport where he was met by Karen. Venus, Virgil, Mila and Gina arrived from Los Angeles; Frances from Maryland. Lizae picked up Perla and Lorial from BART station near her home.
Lizae, Perla, Lorial, Venus, Frances, Mila, Gina had lunch at Café Gratitude in Berkeley and they all celebrated the graduation of Frances (MA in Indigenous Mind). Mila, who has defended her dissertation proposal and is now on her way to do the research was also feted.
I mention the places where everyone came from because I am still in awe at everyone’s resolve to come and be with one another. Our home was happy to be the container for the vibrant energy of beautiful souls. Cal and I felt honored.
Opening Ritual: I was washing dishes when Mila, Gina, and Frances came up from behind and started the summons: Intan, Leny! Intan, Leny!  and proceeded to summon everyone to the living room. Mila then gave each one a scarf and then we tied our scarves together and formed a circle and then Mila gave us instructions on welcoming and honoring each other.  This was a wonderful way for everyone to greet and honor each other individually. Already, there were misty eyes and laughter.
Afterwards, Letecia led us in reflection about Sacred Time and Sacred Ritual. We all made a commitment to the structure of the weekend’s program as agreed upon so that there would be no need to have a timekeeper. We posted our weekend schedule and weekend menu on the door of the pantry for everyone to see. For me, Letecia’s words can be summed up thus: Remember what CFBS stands for, what we have committed to and then show up. Her words are much more profound than these, of course.
Saturday, January 15: Everyone was on time! I mixed the vegetables with the bihon for our no-cook pansit lunch baon; made hummus, and then laid out our breakfast of lox and bagels, cream cheese, fruits. Tea with calamansi and ginger and honey; coffee, orange juice.  By 8:30 we were rolling out the door and headed to Sonoma State U.
At SSU, after our brief opening Kapwa Jam with bamboo instruments brought by Titania (thank you!), we began the day with “framing our Big Story” as a way of clarifying what we mean by Filipino Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP); identifying the various discourses under IKSP including, of course, the Babaylan discourse. We emphasized the significance of understanding how the stories we tell ourselves are often shaped by powerful historical narratives and ideologies, and, therefore, the decolonization and indigenization processes are critical to the vision and work of CFBS.
Lily continued the morning session by talking about the indigenization movement in the Philippines – its history of emergence and the strands (Sikolohiyang Pilipino, Pilipinolohiya, Pantayong Pananaw), key persons, and its relevance to CFBS. Furthermore, in linking IKSP to the global concerns (environmental, social justice, capitalist exploitation, etc), she used the example of Detroit (as a post-industrial city) where the local movement is towards “Grow our Food; Grow our Stories; Grow our Beauty.”  She further noted how wonderful it is not to feel the need to have a divide between cognitive ways of knowing and the more “embodied ways of knowing.” At CFBS the community process allows one to experience a more integrative  mode of knowing where indigenous consciousness and ancient ways of being are not only studied and theorized but  actually re-learned and practiced as living traditions.
Saturday afternoon: Mila, Lane, Perla, and Letty presented their modules.  Mila’s workshop is designed for her presentation to undergrads in Southern CA. Her interactive activities got us invigorated and creative. Lane presented his outline presentation on Filipino tattoos and their spiritual symbolism; Perla presented the “Babaylan Power Roles” which she has developed and has had online presence and she is now ready to take them on the road. Letty presented her outline of a presentation she will be making at a Matriarchal Studies conference in Switzerland this summer. Her plan is to talk about decolonization as a spiritual path to liberation using Babaylan discourse to present her main ideas.
Saturday evening: Lane shared about the power of storytelling and why and how we need to learn how to read the metaphors in our creation myths, folklore, and legends.  I was reminded that the ancestors want to speak to and guide us and we have to pay attention when they manifest their presence.  For our bedtime meditation, Lizae played the harp. When Lizae plays, the energy settles down and puts us in deep reverie…that place where words are absent and inadequate. In the silence of our collective calm, Spirit dwells. A beautiful ending to a full day’s work.
January 16, Sunday morning: After a breakfast of crème brulee French toast and  vegetarian sausage, fruit, and tea and coffee, we settled in the living room and Karen led us in a grounding meditation followed by Perla’s invitation for us to enter dreamspace and await the revelation and inspiration from our deep well of Memory. To some of us it was a time of cathartic release of long held grief, tears flowing to wash us clean. Venus said it best: all of your tears are making me really…joyful!  After journaling our dreams, we began to talk about how we might manifest some of these dreams through the work of CfBS.  Even as we are still keeping these plans under wraps, we are excited to birth them this year and into 2012.
In the afternoon, Virgil led us in an Ablon workshop teaching us some ways of relieving tension and stress in our bodies. As we tried the poses and Virgil corrected us, more raucous laughter ensued as we realized that some of the poses looked more like prostrations to a deity and it so happened that Virgil was standing in the middle of the circle. Laughter, of course, being therapeutic as well.
Sunday at sunset: We said goodbye to Gina and Mila who had to leave for LA. Then the rest of us went to Howarth Park’s Lake Ralphine to do our closing ritual. Lane was led by the ancestors to offer an atang/offering on a boat that would carry our food offering, our symbolic offerings of “letting go”. As Letecia led us in our final recalling and recapping activity, we were all facing the serene lake and watched and listened to the birds and ducks as we listened to each other’s voice. Lane then lowered the atang boat onto the water and as he did, a flock of Canada geese circled above from left to right – an auspicious sign that the ancestors have received our offering.  We walked back to our cars in silence and serenity. I am thankful for rituals that return us to this primordial sense of belonging to the Earth and to each other.
Greetings & blessings from the ancestors.(Photo by Karen Pennrich)

As Perla puts it: The weekend could not have ended any sweeter than when the geese passed us twice overhead in the air, spiraling over the Atang ritual, indicating that our ancestors were pleased with our questing to feel and release their pain, to connect with them and to help our Kapwa rediscover them also.

Sunday night: Our first post-retreat event: Intimate book launch with Lane and Virgil. We felt privileged to be the first book launch audience as this gave us a chance to know both of them not just as authors but as kindred spirits. Lots of laughter as we feted and blessed the books’ journey with cake and toasts.
Post-retreat events: Om Shan Tea, Filipino Community Center of Sonoma County, BAyanihan Community Center/Arkipelago Books. The Grace Nono performance was cancelled due to an emergency situation.
Postscript: For over a week, I savored the presence of each of you in our home. A few days before everyone arrived, I had an epiphany (which I shared with you during the retreat) and during this week, this epiphany became more and more real and helped me appreciate Lane’s metaphor of being tattooed in your heart. It also made me realize that what we at CFBS can and will offer to our communities is the communal experience of our Filipino indigenous spirituality as it is made to bloom through our individual and collective processes of decolonization and indigenization. Over the weekend, we sharpened our intellect, we nourished our bodies with good food, we cherished and learned from our child-like spirit of play and creativity, we grieved together, we created rituals together, we danced, we honored and thanked each other. In doing all of these things, we were also palpably being guided by our ancestors.  It is as if all of our tacit knowing became explicit as we created together the container for its manifestation.
I am now out of words and will end with this:  PADAYON! Onward….