For the past nights, I’ve been in and out of dreams, the mind barely remembering details, but the imprint on one’s consciousness so finely etched that one simply knows of a different traveling, of a different realm. The Babaylan event last Sunday, Nov 22, in L.A. at Tribal Cafe has been like a dream, softly flowing, almost magical, and yet at the same time, impelling and transfixing in the images and meanings created.

There we were, sharing our various expressions of music, dance, poetry, story, visual and healing arts; artists and audience engaged in this beautiful ritual of coming together for a purpose. We were all defining and honoring the Philippine indigenous healer, not only those who were figures from the past or practicing in the present. We were most of all, honoring the healer within us, acknowledging it at first with a tentative smile, and then later, the acknowledgment fully emerging as joy filled laughter and resounding applause. In that moment, we have all realized and felt the truth of our indigenous roots, and now in celebration, were ready to embrace its full expression within ourselves, and with one another!

Danny Espiritu, the L.A. Deputy Consul General and Vice Consul Charmaine Chua, expressed their appreciation when they cited L.A.’s usual endless social events but none more deep and meaningful than the one on the babaylan. Danny reiterated that the time has come for us to rediscover ourselves and our inner essence through expressing and strengthening our indigenous culture. He also strongly encouraged the continuation of similar presentations and stated his willingness to support the babaylan cause.

It was an evening that capped weeks of preparation, an event whose structure was formed not simply by positioning people and time frames together, but more from intuitive listening of what guiding signs emerged and the subtle messages they whispered. Mostly, we listened while we helped one another and watched ourselves flow like rivers, merging, just in Lizae’s closing ritual harp music, as sacred waters of the great ocean. It was an incredible flowing, individually and collectively, as thread after thread of artistic and healing expressions from different sources wove themselves together and the wondrous tapestry of a babaylan event unfolded.

As time moved towards the event, so did people. Some came in, others went out. Leny flew out to Florida to be with her family; Lizae flew in from Frisco and met a new harp friend; Virgil drove away in meditation and weeks after, drove back again in full commitment; Vedel in the meantime danced with the babaylan mandala, while Mila contemplated on it some more; Venus and Frances cheered from Hawaii, Bernie danced her way from south to north, Tita brought stunning visual amulets and son Jose; Mandala admonished his tongue, Lilibeth plunged into pandan tea, Virgie crooned while she cooked Bicol Express dishes, Ben strummed his heart strings, Rudy serenaded and read people, Charmaine came and left with Michael, Aqui waged her brave battles on stage, Ric floated with his wonderful notes and Bibiana came toothless but told the Bernardo Carpio legend anyway, and with gusto!

There were more people than usual at Joshua’s Tribal Cafe that evening. First they trickled in and then during the next moments after 5 pm when the program started, they made it into a full house! So full was it that one cozily sat shoulder to shoulder with another, while I had to do the indigenous incantation “tabi, tabi po (please pardon my passing)” just to navigate from one point of the cafe to the next. Towards the end, after announcements on the babaylan website and the forthcoming April 2010 Babaylan Conference were made, and appeals for generous donations delivered, a number of books from Linda Nietes were excitedly being plucked, a number of people stated interest in registering and attending the conference, and donation funds were gathered (cash and checks) .

Already, buoyed by the waves of inspiration and encouragement from everyone, the next babaylan event in L.A. is beckoning on the horizon of early 2010. New artists who came and attended have expressed their anticipation in sharing, while the initial group of Vedel, Lizae, Mila, Tita (?) and Virgil have their wings ready to fly again. In the meantime, our inner ears and subtle senses are once more starting to glean messages that will guide us into the exact time and place of that moment and the people who will animate it with their arts and healing energies. The babaylan mandala is like the deepoceanocean that invites the strong and pure hearted to continue their journey of merging with its sacred waters. Shall we enjoy the dive once more?

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