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Summary Report | Center for Babaylan Studies

Summary Report

Second International Babaylan Conference
September 27-29, 2013
Westminster Woods, Occidental, CA


2013 Babaylan ConferenceA big heartfelt SALAMAT! First, for the sacred land of the Pomo and Coast Miwok and the stewards of the ancient redwoods and the Dutch Creek that served as our Bowl/container for the weekend. Second, to our Ancestors who blessed the  Conference with the Spirit and Beauty of our Kapwa and Indigenous cultures. Thirdly, to all of us, for the Heart and Mind and Soul that enabled us to create community and taste the delicious wisdom and joy of our indie-genius selves. Thanks all around for the awe at the profundity of the wisdom and knowledge and skills that was shared over the weekend by our keynote speakers, workshop leaders, circle facilitators, and by each one of you thru your stories.

To each of our keynote speakers: 

SALAMAT, Greg Sarris, for welcoming us to your tribal land and for remembering the shared history of Pomo Indians and Filipinos in Sonoma County. Thank you for sharing the intersecting histories and stories of our peoples; for reminding us how important it is to keep our memory long and to forge ahead with our vision of a shared future to be “keepers of the Land” again. We will remember your challenge to us to keep telling our stories to each other – stories of how the Land carries us, feeds us, and sustains all the beings that share a community.

Kidlat Tahimik

Kidlat Tahimik

SALAMAT, Kidlat Tahimik, for your love affair with Enrique, Magellan’s slave, as the long-loved subject of one of your films. As if a fulfillment of a promise you made to Inhabyan, Ifugao Goddess of the Wind, your talk helped us blow away the cobwebs of our minds.  It blew away our ongoing (conscious and unconscious) fascination with imperial Hollywood and modernity’s consumption values that erode our indigenous creativity and imagination. Thank you for reminding us to remember the indie-genius in all of us – our sariling duwende who longs to tell stories.

SALAMAT, Grace Nono, for bringing us closer to the living Babaylans in our midst. You have created a bridge between those of us in the diaspora and the babaylans in their respective tribal communities. Through their chants, oral and aural narratives, rituals, mythic story-telling about spirit guides and ancestral wisdom, we are seeing the movement of indigenous religions;  from the margins to the center of the metropole where many of us are remembering and honoring the babaylan’s role in communities as healer, oralist, priest/priestess, folk therapist, and wisdom keeper.

Lane Wilcken

Lane Wilcken

SALAMAT, Lane Wilcken, for reminding us that we are kin to the peoples of the Pacific Islands. Thru the myth of Maui and Lumawig, we resonate with the story of Maui/Lumawig as the long-lost child fished out of the ocean and brought home to his mother and his people. Through your stories about the tattoos on our ancestors’ skin, we learn that the ancestors and spirit guides who provided the navigating compass for our ancestors’ daily lives are also available to us.  This wisdom is essential as we seek to find our way back to our roots so that our present lives may stand more solidly grounded in the same original instructions.

SALAMAT, Kanakan Balintagos, for sharing the power of film to tell a Palaw’an myth that touches the deepest parts of our Memory. We are grateful for the Palaw’an indigenous culture that carries you and for the tungkul/shaman kings who instructed you in the indigenous ways of your people. We are grateful for your mother’s courageous spirit and determination to keep the myths and stories alive in you even before she knew that you would someday be the hunter of beautiful truths through your filmmaking. Manunga Banar.

2013 Babaylan ConferenceSALAMAT, Mamerto Tindongan, for your Baki (sacred chant) as you created the Ifugao ancestral altar and invoked the guidance of your ancestors to watch over the entire weekend. In telling us the story of how you came to reclaim your name, Lagitan, and your inheritance as a mumbaki from your shaman father long after  being initiated into other spiritual traditions – we are reminded that it is possible to come home full circle to our own indigenous spiritual traditions if we seek them with an ardent heart.

To our workshop leaders:

SALAMAT, Lizae Reyes and Lily Mendoza, for sharing how we can coax the crocodile god to give up the pieces it has swallowed in exchange for our offerings of grief, beauty and eloquence. Through singing and storying the fragments of indigenous memory back into re-membrance and wholeness, we may recover the forgotten wisdom of our grandmothers’ mothers and the ferocious beauty and delicious tastes, sounds, and smells of an Earth awaiting the homecoming of her amnesiac lovers. In this re-membering, the babaylans of colonial times who were fed to the crocodiles, honor and inspire us once more with their indomitable spirits.

SALAMAT, Mykelle Pacquing, for helping us find the language and the process for creating a common Indigenous identity.  Such a way helps us avoid the risk of becoming casualties of colonial frameworks that create institutionalized violence, theft of Indigenous land, and cultural amnesia. Thank you for reminding us city dwellers that our Earth Mother is beneath our feet, our Sky Father above our heads, and the spirits of our ancestors are singing and dancing with us – at all times – regardless of whether we walk on concrete or work in skyscrapers.

2013 Babaylan ConferenceSALAMAT, Venus Herbito and Frances Santiago, for sharing how we could heal our untended burdens and wounds through our indigenous minds and how we could enter the story of our people in a way that mirrors and returns us to our sacred origins, our ancestral creation stories. As these unhealed wounds are often unconscious and in the shadow, we learned that our indigenous mind can be nurtured and encouraged to reveal the gold that lies underneath.

SALAMAT, Oscar Penaranda, for providing the Sikolohiyang Pilipino perspective on Filipino Indigenous Core Values of Kapwa, Pakikiramdam, and Loob. It is on these foundations that Kapwa psychology has found its strength and validity.  Re-storying the Filipino self in the diaspora reminds us that beneath the colonial framework imposed on Filipinos are the values that undergird our history of resistance and survival.

2013 Babaylan ConferenceSALAMAT, Nenita Pambid-Domingo and Mila Anguluan-Coger, for bringing the story of Bernardo Carpio to the forefront. If our national heroes, Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio, were inspired by this story so, too, have you shown how its message of revolution through inner transformation resonates with those of us in the diaspora.

SALAMAT, Perla Daly and Letecia Layson, for your workshop on the importance of Ritual in our daily practice. The Babaylan Mandala is a beautiful meditation tool. Your workshop participants, we’ve heard, immediately put to practice what they’ve learned in your workshop when they walked among the ancient redwoods and made ritual offerings of gratitude.

SALAMAT, Rebecca Mabanglo Mayor, for your dynamic storytelling of Filipino folktales. You reminded workshop participants that “our lives are made up of stories – ancestor stories, environment stories, role stories, relationship stories –  stories that open us to the possibility of transformation.”  Most importantly, you taught us how to recognize our indigenous values embedded within the stories in deep and humorous ways.

2013 Babaylan Conference

To our circle facilitators:

SALAMAT, Jen Navarro, Perla Daly, Camille Santana, Venus Herbito, Frances Santiago, Mila Anguluan-Coger, Letecia Layson, Will Gutierrez, Roque Bucton, Carol Kimbrough, Lily Mendoza, Grace Duenas, Jane Alfonso, and Carol Gamiao – for leading our small group listening circles. We felt it was important to have these circles to enable attendees to share their stories with one another. We believe in the power of deep listening to transform us into better Kapwa to each other.

To our responders to our Keynote talks and Roundtable participants:

SALAMAT, Jenny Bawer Young, Kristian Kabuay, Will Gutierrez, Kristen Cabildo, Jo SiMalaya Alcampo, Christine Balmes, Jen Maramba, Grace Duenas, Marybelle Bustos, Joanna La Torre, and Tess Crescini – thank you for reflecting on what you’ve learned from the keynote talks and for sharing what you’ve learned at the KAPWA 3 conference last year. As our sister-conference in the Philippines, the KAPWA 3 Conference has seeded the Babaylan conferences with inspirational ideas, resource speakers, and encounters with our indigenous elders and youth from the Schools of Living Traditions.

SALAMAT to our authors, Grace Nono, Lane Wilcken, Lily Mendoza and Leny Strobel for devoting their research to the Babaylan tradition and other Filipino Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices. May these books birth many more books in the future.

As we return to our respective communities carrying with us the blessings of our Ancestors, the warmth of our Kapwa community, the delicious taste of our indigenous practices in our tongue, the lingering memory of the ecstatic body dancing its stories of wholeness – may we continue to remember to draw from the deep well of Indigenous Memory and may we always be present and available when our Indigenous Soul comes a-courting and teases us with its enduring alluring Beauty.

2013 Babaylan Conference

We also invite you to stay in touch with the Center for Babaylan Studies. Help us build this Center with your ideas and skills. We need people with skills in creating and maintaining our online archives and skill in creating video documentaries. In-between the conferences, workshops, retreats that we offer, CfBS core group members and volunteers continue to deepen our babaylan-inspired practices individually and in community as often as we could.

We encourage and support the individual projects that CFBS volunteers are creating such as Mylene Cahambing’s Bangka Journey and Jenny Bawer Young’s LAGA circle of weavers. We support our Kapwa in Toronto, Canada, who are organizing similar events in their communities.

The ongoing support of the local Filipino community in Sonoma County enables CFBS to hold grassroots fundraising events and provide logistical support for the conference. SALAMAT Noemi Issel, Leah Barker, Menchie Barker, Norman Sheehan, Karen Pennrich, Trisha Hunt, Sheila Bare, Flori Cabergas and all the friends you have brought into the CFBS community to support us.

SALAMAT to the CFBS Banaag and Alaya volunteers who staffed our logistics, child care, bookstore, and registration committees. Thank you, too, to Jr. Guerrero and Vedel Herbito, as our official videodocumentarians for the conference.

2013 Babaylan ConferenceSALAMAT to our elders, Apela Colorado and Jurgen Kremer, who provided wise counsel, guidance, and process facilitation at our retreats as we prepared to manifest the conference.

SALAMAT to our conference partner, Tamalpais Trust; our conference sponsors– Reginald Lewis Foundation, Philippine Expressions, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Sonoma State University Office of the President, Ramar Foods International and the Petaluma Seed Bank. Salamat to our individual donors.

May this beautiful Gathering and Ceremony sustain our inspiration and motivation to bring this work to our families, friends, and communities.  May the knowledge and wisdom that we have learned this weekend nurture us for the long haul. Stay in touch.

Prepared by Leny Mendoza Strobel, Project Director