Friday, December 31, 2010

from Slavoj Sizek

Consequently, the notion of “toxic subjects” gained ground. While toxic subjects originate from popular psychology warning us against emotional vampires, the frontier of toxic subjects is expanding. The predicate “toxic” covers a series of properties that belong to totally different levels (natural, cultural, psychological, political).
Socially, what is most toxic is the foreign Neighbor—the strange abyss of his pleasures, beliefs and customs. Consequently, the ultimate aim of all rules of interpersonal relations is to quarantine (or at least neutralize and contain) this toxic dimension, and thereby reduce the foreign Neighbor—by removing his otherness—to an unthreatening fellow man. The end result: today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism is an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness—the decaffeinated Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality while features like wife beating remain out of sight.
Is this same attitude not at work in the way our governments are dealing with the “immigrant threat”? After righteously rejecting direct populist racism as “unreasonable” and unacceptable for our democratic standards, they endorse “reasonably” racist protective measures. Or, as today’s Brasillachs tell us: “We grant ourselves permission to applaud African and Eastern- European sportsmen, Asian doctors, Indian software programmers. We don’t want to kill anyone, we don’t want to organize any pogrom. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable violent anti-immigrant defensive measures is to organize a reasonable anti-immigrant protection."
This vision of detoxification of the Neighbor presents a clear passage from direct barbarism to barbarism with a human face. It practices the regression from the Christian gospel (love thy neighbor) back to the Greco-Roman privileging of tribe over the barbarian Other. Cloaked as a defense of Christian values, it is itself the greatest threat to our Christian legacy.

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    CFBS Videos

     The Great ocean dance -- performed at the first Babaylan/CFBS event (Sept 2009) at Lizae's house. Composed by Lizae and dance by Frances Santiago.
     Honoring our Babaylan Ancestors - in honor of Aurelia Melgar, Karen Pennrich's sister; footage from the Babaylan event at Unity Church in Berkeley, Spring 2010
    Lissa Romero composed this song for the Babaylan Book and performed it during the April 2010 conference.
    Healing Journey with Tatay - videodocumentary by Venus Herbito as part of her Indigenous Mind program at Wisdom University.

    Enjoy and share!!

    The Commonwealth Cafe

    Jean shares her dissertation findings here: 

    From the blog:
    What’s the point? In my readings of U.S. Filipino writing in pre-WW II periodicals from 1902 through WWII, many more newspapers and magazines were named which I did not have time to find, nor read. These periodicals are not just objects of sociological or historical study; they are archives of the earliest writings and literary efforts of Filipinos in the U.S. My intent is to encourage further research in this area, so that we might have a larger perspective from which to study Filipino American writing in its historical, political, and literary contexts.

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    feeding the soul...literally

    on Christmas day, the Jewish-owned supermarket remained open until 3pm. i bought meself a 1.5lb dungeness crab and a bunch of green mustard leaves. for the spouse, i bought a slice of wild salmon and marinated it in kalamansi, soy sauce, and dill and panfried it in butter while the crab was steaming in another pot.
    i chopped the green mustard then mixed kalamansi (from the garden) juice with bagoong and added a dash of sugar. i warmed the leftover brown rice. i ate with my hands...just like my Tang used to do...just like my Apo Sinang used to do. Apo even raised her right knee on the long bench and her right elbow rested on it while scooping the rice with her long beautiful fingers. . .
    i see her now. she is wearing her long saya and her white hair is in a tight bun. i loved how her wrinkled soft skin felt in my young hands. after supper she would sit on the stoop and we kids would sit at her feet and listen to her stories. sometimes, she asked me to help her assemble her maman. her betel nut was already chopped but she would let me wipe a little lye into the betel nut leaf before she popped it into her mouth.
    i have written about my Apo Sinang before. my maternal grandma, Apung Dikang, lived in Manila and we didn't see her often. But when we traveled by train from San Fernando to Manila to visit her, I always knew that we would eat well for she is a very good cook (she ran a cafeteria in her own home) and we would always get a treat from one of the jars in her sari-sari store.
    this year we could have had ham or turkey or pot roast with potatoes, yams, and green bean casserole...
    but my craving for something familiar subverts. back home, fresh crabs, shrimp, catfish were delivered fresh to our home straight from the fish farms of Guagua or the ocean off the coast of Bataan.  on some days when there is no delivery, the open market was never too far away. perhaps this is why, thankfully, i am healthy today because i grew up on fresh food. my mother taught me how to butcher a chicken, how to skin a frog, how to clean fish, how to process shrimp and make shrimp juice out of the fat from the head and shells.
    later when they came to the U.S. and she was shopping at Safeway to make dinuguan, she asked for "blood" and she was promptly told to go to the Red Cross. likewise, it took me many years to get used to the sight of fillets - of fish, of chicken... so clean but, oh, so devoid of .... good memories.
    it occurs to me now that my craving for fresh crab is a desire to visit those days when the old folks knew what it meant to live by the gifts of the sea. there were no mediating processing plants and packaging companies in-between. from the sea to the table. can't help but think that this intimacy fed their souls and in turn now feeds mine.

    Saturday, December 25, 2010

    on Christmas Eve, I Think of You...

    It has been difficult trying to compose a Christmas letter this year.
    Since Facebook, everyone's life seems to be an open book, mine included.
    The public aspects of my life are accessible to Everyone so what is left to write about?
    I do want to thank so many individuals who have shaped 2010 and turned it into an Awesome year.
    But I cannot name you all here.
    I can only trust that you know who you are and you know how much you mean to me.
    Whether in the Philippines, in the US, or elsewhere on the planet, we have connected with each other in big and small ways. These connections are threads interwoven with other threads creating an invisible tapestry of Beauty that is timeless and boundless. I call it our Pagbabalikloob to our Sacred Wholeness.
    This year this Beauty manifested itself through the events of the Center for Babaylan Studies and many of you have become a part of this community. Perhaps you were at the conference or at our events around the US and in the Philippines. Maybe you are a member of our Facebook page and have seen all our photos, videos, and posts. Perhaps you were a presenter, volunteer, organizer, fundraiser for the Babaylan Conference. Thank you.
    We tell each other that we hear the call of our Ancestors in our hearts, souls, minds, bodies.
    Together we are participating in feeding the Sacred so that the rivers, mountains, sky, moon, stars, birds, plants, fishes, oceans, and everyone that shares this Life with us may create the balance and harmony we need.
    This earthly cosmology invites our communion.
    As I write this, I think of Noah who is making snow angels in Chicago. He is sledding, throwing snow balls at his uncles, wrecking the snowman, and wrestling with Brutus.
    The future belongs to him.
    How then do I live my life so that I may, someday, be a worthy Ancestor to him?
    What kind of Ancestor are you going to be? -- is a poster on my wall in my office.
    It is a simple question and no complex theological discourse to reckon with.
    For now, I think of You, all of You who have been walking this road with me. Whether we've walked together for many decades or a few years or months, I am grateful for your radical presence in my life.
    And to the One that I call my Koan, you remain...

    Friday, December 24, 2010

    Babaylan book: Reader comment

    Dear Leny,
    I thank you for the book.  I read the introduction with great interest.  It helped me to understand more of your personal journey and that of others who have had to deal with the tragedies of colonialism.  And, rather to my surprise, it helped me to understand my own journey:  first trying hard with and then abandoning Christianity, both Protestantism and Catholicism; then struggling with a vision of myself as a little burr clinging to a dying planet spinning in a mindless universe; and finally beginning to come back to life through Qigong.  I have no indigenous past that is available for me to explore.  But. odd though it may be,  it is an ancient Chinese tradition (which goes back to shamanism) that  allows me to begin with the body, and move from there to an awareness that I live in a chi filled universe.  You quote from Hobgood "the gifts that the body can give to the spirit," a phrase that resonates so deeply.  And I will go back to Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous again.

    Finally, I love the cover.  Some years ago as I was struggling through a dark period, I did mandala work.  Then I put it away, and just last week decided it was time to return to that practice.  A couple of days ago as I was lying in bed preparing to start the day, I began to think about doing a mandala that had the tree of life in the center.  And then, yesterday, the beautiful cover of your book came into my hands.  I intend to use it as a model for my next mandala, and will hope that some of that ancient energy will come through to me.

    You inspire me with your work and your willingness to explore the way that is not the usual academic way.  The academy needs more people like you!

    Love, Ardath

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    New post on the Babaylan Files.
    One of my early essays on the Babaylan practice is included in this book. I met Prof. Fe Mangahas, Sister Mary John, Sister Datung, Grace Nono, Agnes Miclat Cacayan and others in this book at the Babaylan conference in 2005 at St Scholastica College  while on a summer research project in the Philippines.  To them I owe so much - Maraming Salamat Po!

    And at the recent Bahay Nakpil booklaunch of the Babaylan book, here's a young writer reflecting on the event:

    An Encounter with the Babaylan
    By Rhea Claire E. Madarang

    Warrior, teacher, healer and visionary. This was how Sr. Mary John Mananzan described the babaylan, the historical figure whom before then I only knew through my history schoolbooks as a healer and priestess in Filipino indigenous communities during the pre-colonial era.

    Mananzan, a contemporary babaylan herself, spoke these words with a quiet force. I listened, together with a rapt audience of around 40. They were also attendees of the book launch of “Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous” on that warm Monday afternoon at Bahay Nakpil, Quiapo, Manila. Writers of the book, all with deep involvement with the babaylan tradition, and people significant to the creation of the book were speaking in turns.

    Warrior, teacher, healer and visionary? I felt overwhelmed by the immensity of the power and significance of the babaylans in pre-Spanish Philippines.

    Prof. Fe Mangahas corroborated the power of the babaylan in her sharing, saying that in indigenous communities back then, there were three significant roles - the datu, panday and the babaylan. The datu was the ruler and the panday ensured the livelihood of the people through farming for example – both roles addressed material concerns, while the babaylan was solely in charge of the spiritual realm and also had influence on the material concerns such as determination of the best time for farming.

    But the power of the babaylan is not only possessed by women, as I had thought – and as many others had thought, I believe. It is also wielded by men. According to Katrin de Guia, one of the book writers, some northern provinces have men performing the roles of the babaylan. To the Ifugaos, this is the mumbaki.

    With every speaker’s words, I felt my awe and respect for the babaylan grow, but I was most jolted by Mananzan’s sharing, for she shared how, in these modern times, she took on the roles of warrior, teacher, healer and visionary in her work for women’s empowerment and social transformation.   

    The babaylan is thus not just a powerful historical figure but a very real and present power anyone can access at any moment. As Teresita Obusan, another of the book’s authors, put it: “The spirit of the babaylan never dies.” It is always there, available to everyone.

    Upon realizing this, I felt the faintest stirring in my body of – dare I say it? – the babaylan spirit. Is there not a babaylan in me – in all of us? I wrote down this realization in one of the pieces of paper given to us for reflection after the speakers’ sharings.

    At the end of the book launch, professor and modern babaylan Grace Odal, performed a babaylan ritual dance, scattering rose petals, lighting incense and singing along the way. In a white flowing dress and with flowers crowning her head, her movements were both graceful – as befitting her name – and forceful.

    Slowly, she led almost all of us to dance along with her and urged us to make any movement that came naturally to us. We danced moving in a circle, as though in a trance, but still conscious. The air was electric, charged with the energy of this ancient ritual performed in the present.

    After that I had no doubt as to the reality and power of the babaylan spirit. And through that experience I believe I’ve glimpsed the babaylan in me too.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    A Bat Taught Me To See

     This is from one of my students:

    Learning to See
         Everybody has a fascination.  The next step in that fascination would be to fall in love with it.  The step from fascination to love is an unusual step and I believe it happens for many people in many different ways.  When you say, “I love you” for the very first time; or when you realize that what you feel for someone is too great to hold inside.  I could write this essay about those whom I love, my mom, my dad, and my girlfriend.  Or I could look inside myself and describe another deep love that I hold.  My fascination for this has become a deep love and I know this because it has passed a point in which I could describe my feelings in words.  I know that I love something or someone when the feelings inside make my literal descriptions useless, when words cannot be placed on how that person or being makes me feel.
         I did not know what I wanted to write about, to be honest.  I started to think about everyone that I could, as I mentioned earlier, but none of them seemed to fit.  Yes I love them all but the reason I now know what to write about is because I saw them flying in the darkness the other night, in all their beauty and misunderstanding.  Coming home from class I could hear them flying, I could hear them speaking and finding their way around at night, and I realized, I am in deeply in love with Bats.  Before I begin, however, I must explain who I am and where I find myself as in relation to these bats that I love so sincerely.
         I am twenty years old.  I am white. I am in the “middle” class.  I am a college student.  I am, however, not a robot.  Nor am I a drone to walk around and mindlessly follow our society’s system.  The system that tells me I am in the middle class even though it does not exist.  The system that privileges those who are white and questions those who are not.  The system that does not care about anything other than what their paycheck will earn them.  Before this class I would look at my life and define myself by the facts that are apparent in it.  It is obvious that I am white, obvious that I am not an elite, and mostly obvious that I am around my twenties.  How does this tell a person who I am, how does it tell them what history I hold?  It does not do any of that.  It gives you my face value, and I am not one to judge upon first sight.  How can I relate to these bats that I hold so dear to me, what part of out histories cross.  Will the cross be positive or negative?  I must look into this to see how we are related.
         The history of white people includes mass murders of humans and nonhumans, it includes over-use of resources, and it includes an overall indifference on whether or not Mother Nature is harmed in this process.  This is where my path crosses with the bat; this is why, when I looked up in the night sky and saw the bats, I wanted to apologize.  Bats live in forests and in caves.  They are becoming extinct because humans are destroying their habitat, many bats live in the trees that we are cutting down and many of them live in caves that we are blowing up for minerals.  We are disturbing their hibernation, and this can kill them before winter passes.  Many people would look at this fact and not care at all, why should they?  They hear the word “bat” and see those hideous, hairless, blood sucking, rabies-carrying monsters.  This fills me with grief and anger for the misunderstanding between bats and humans.  Bats have helped us every single second of our lives.  They eat thousands of bugs every hour that could transmit disease to us; they pollinate trees that only bloom at night (such as bananas, avocados, dates, figs, peaches, mangoes, and cashews).  They clean themselves quite often and rarely carry what we fear, rabies.  They are endangered because all we hear is that they will get stuck in your hair and suck your blood.  We are destroying the rainforests, a big food supply for them.  We need to be careful because they give birth to one offspring per year since they have such a long life (about 40 years).  They are dying faster than they are reproducing, this will lead to an eventual extinction.
         I have found a connecting point between us.  Like many other animals that humans have a connection with, it is a connection of destruction from us to them, and life from them to us.  We are blind, as a nation.  There are some of us who are able to see, I hope I can be a part of them soon, but there are many of us who cannot.  It is funny to me that we say these bats are blind.  It is funny because many of them have extremely acute vision.  They not only have vision but they have something called echolocation, which humans cannot hear.  This is a form of sight; to me being able to have sight is not only doing so through your eyes.  Having sight is having an image of what is around you.  Bats have the physical image through their eyes, but they also have an image through the sound waves that they receive from echolocation.  How can a nation call these creatures “blind?”  If we cannot see such a simple fact that bats are able to see, then yes, we as a nation are the true blind.  We have a perception of what the world is around us, yet we cannot see it.  We do not know what the real world is, we see what we want to see and we use what we want to use.  America is blind, it is ironic that in this essay the bat can see and America cannot.
          I can continue on with what I wanted to say.  I want to explain why I fell deeply in love with a bat and it has to do with their “blindness.”  The sun had set and my class had just let me out.  I was walking home when I heard a screeching above my head.  I looked up and to my surprise I saw three flying creatures in the night sky.  At first I could not place them, I did not know what they were.  I continued to watch them and to listen to them and I saw that they were bats.  At the time I had thought bats were blind as well, I believed that they could get around by means of sonar and that was it.  I fell in love with them because of the fact that everybody (and by everybody I mean a broad majority of people) on the ground hates them, yet they continue to treat us kindly.  I fell in love with them because even though they are “blind” they listen.  They listen to what is around them and if thy do not do this they will miss a meal.  America needs to take on some aspects of the bat, we are blind and we do not listen, we are surely on a path to extinction.  If the bat did not listen, the bat would starve.  I hope America takes this into consideration; if we do not listen, we will die.
         If we do not take into consideration what the bat can teach us, if we cannot look beyond the face value of objects, we are sure to end.  The bat is told it is ugly, the bat is told it cannot see, and the bat is told it cannot live in the trees or caves because they are too important to us.  The bat, in return, eats bugs that would kill us, gives us fruit by spreading the seeds, and is even now helping stroke victims because their saliva acts as a blood thinner.  Why do they give us such great rewards?  Why do they treat us so well if we are killing them?  They are doing this because nature cares about its environment and it cares about those who inhabit it.  America needs to understand that the bat is a marvelous creature and that we should all thank them every time we see them.
         I am writing to tell this bat that I have learned all of the wrong doings of the American people.  I have learned about the corrupt people who are controlling the deforestation and about the people who do not care whether you live or die.  I am writing this to apologize to you for all of the people who fear you for no reason.  I learned that America would do whatever it wants for whatever it wants at the cost of anybody of anything.  I am telling you that I have learned that corporations have become the strongest part of our nation and that nature has been pushed back in our priority list.  I learned that in order for change to happen, action must be taken.  I am writing to the bat to show Americans what we are doing to you.  Let us know how you feel.  Perhaps Jensen was right, I hope he is not though.  He says that the animals are going extinct so that they are no longer supporting our way of life.  I understand, bat, if you leave our life.  You treat us so well and we treat you as if you were nothing.  I hope we can change how we are related to each other and live peacefully and happy.  I would hate to see you leave.
         I am writing this letter to apologize to, and to thank, the bat.  I apologize because I do not wish to cause you harm; yet my history tells me that I have done so and that I continue to do so.  I want to apologize because I fell under the majority and thought you to be a hideous beast.  I want to apologize to you because as a white man did not understand what wrongs I was causing by supporting a corrupt system.  I want to apologize about my white privilege; I want to apologize about everything that I have ever done that has caused you to be harmed without my knowledge.  I want to apologize, lastly, for valuing money over your life.  We destroy your home and your food so we can have money in our wallets and our purses.  We destroy everything you need so we can have everything we do not -- luxuries.  I as a white person am “entitled” to anything I want and can get it in whatever means possible, even if it comes at the exploitation of my mother, of other individuals of color, and of the animals and plants that inhabit this earth.  I am sorry that that previous statement is the norm of America.
         I want to thank the bat for everything it has done.  I want to thank the bat for providing us with wonderful fruits that keep us healthy.   I want to thank the bat for eating the bugs that carry disease and destroy crops.  I want to thank the bat for not treating us the way we treat it.  Most importantly of all, I want to thank the bat for making me understand.  Had I not seen that bat, had I not heard it, I would not have heard its story.  The screeching and the fluttering of its wings let me in, for a moment, to his or her life.  I was able to see and understand the bat.  I want to thank the bat for letting me understand that I need to be able to see without physically seeing.  Had I not seen the bat I would not have taken time to learn more about it.  This bat taught me that I need not wait until I see to learn; rather, I should learn to see.  And so I leave this class with a final thought that describes all I have learned about America in this class.  A bat, considered blind by our nation, taught an American how to see.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Babaylan in Kapampangan

    Thanks to Mike Pangilinan for these lessons:

    "katulunan" and "mamalian"...

    Katulunan = seers, men to whom the spirits appear via visions (see Bergano's "vocabulario"under the entry TULON).
    Mamalian = Kapampangan for Babaylan, "ding babaing luluguran/sasaniban ding nunu" (see Bergano's "vocabulario"under the entry "BALLUYAN").

    katulunan are males and babaylan are females. in Kapampangan they are called "babaluyan" (passive) and "mamalian" (active)...the ceremony is called "pamalian". according to Berganio, "balluyan" is synonymous to "buri"...

    Talugigi -- chants, prayers, invocations; the chant is based on the "sane", the indigenous chanting tune now used in the catholic 'pasion'. the tunes of the Kapampangan pasion are different from other lowland christian groups in that they are mostly indigenous and non-western... still retaining their native names: tagulele (laments), sane (chants), uakas (funeral chants), sambitan (another funeral chant), pasaldak (another form of lament), etc... guardians of the five directions: indung laut (mother ocean, south), ibpang banua (father sky, north), apung sinukuan (the sun, east), apung maliari (the moon, west), indung tibuan (mother earth, center). the 9 sacred directions are: Ugut (north, on the star) / Amianan (north, based on the wind), sabalasan (n.e.), aslagan (east), bagyuan (s.e.), abagatan (south), siguaran / salatan (s.w.), albugan (west), balaklautan (n.w.), Alaya (center)

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    The Masses and their Messianic Role /Karl Gaspar

    Published Date: November 16, 2010
    By Karl Gaspar

    In a Third World setting such as the Philippines, social transformation cannot take place unless the ordinary people – the masses – take an active role in effecting such transformation at all levels: individual, family, community, the nation-state and even at the cosmic level, given the reality of climate change today.

    Change agents used to emphasize the need to highlight agency if society is to change from injustice to equality, dysfunctionality to unity, from slavery to emancipation of oppressed sectors. A change of heart leads to justice, peace, harmony and progress.

    In time, there was a realization that, for all the Church did to change people’s hearts, the structures of society remain oppressive and disenfranchise those who are marginalized in a society dominated by the rich and powerful. Landless peasants, unemployed workers, indigenous peoples, subjugated women and others are still pushed to the margins.

    Using tools of analysis that pinpointed the unjust structures of society, many change agents among pastoral workers concluded that there was need for the conscientization and organization of the poor and the oppressed. Transformation of peoples and the economic, political and social structures of the nation-state will come about only if there was a mobilization of the masses for their own liberation.

    Organizing urban poor settlers, landless peasants, agricultural workers, indigenous peoples, women and even middle class citizens was the call of the moment during the tumultuous years of martial rule.

    Then came People Power. New insights were gained in the course of the mobilization of the masses, some of whom were not part of the organizing work of civil society agents, including church pastoral workers. Ordinary Filipinos held on to religious icons and expressed a belief system that aspired to liberation from the evils of martial rule. With courage in their hearts mobilized from various sources, the masses were willing to risk their lives.

    The book The Masses are Messiah: Contemplating the Filipino Soul is the result of two years’ research. To conduct interviews and focused group discussions, the author traveled all over the country asking two questions: Is there such a thing as Filipino spirituality? If there is, is this transformation-oriented?

    The study concluded that, indeed, there is such a thing as Filipino spirituality and it is transformative at all levels: self, family, community, nation-state and cosmic. But it is at the level of the ordinary people – the masses – where this spirituality is best manifested. It is also there among those in the middle sectors especially those belonging to civil society organizations who are at the support of the struggling poor.

    The roots of Filipino spirituality

    The first part of the book’s title – The Masses are Messiah – is taken from a poem written by a young Filipino who was one of the first young people who resisted the Marcos dictatorship. Eman Lacaba, a poet and philosopher went to the best schools in Manila including the Ateneo de Manila University. Beyond the confines of traditional church structures, he sought the space where he could walk his talk, namely, to be on the side of the poor and the oppressed.

    Hundreds of Filipinos would take the same path of resistance and martyrdom including priests, religious, Basic Ecclesial Communities, lay leaders and those at the forefront of the struggle. How did such deep commitment arise? What were the roots of their militancy that empowered them to overcome their fears and embrace a life that paralleled the one of THE Messiah?

    The book traces these roots to the indigenous belief system of our ancestors in the pre-conquest era that serves as the bedrock of our spirituality as a people. It was one that linked us to the spirit world in terms of our aspirations for good health, prosperity and well-being. It highlighted the sacredness of all creation; all species on earth were part of a whole web of life. It focused on our needs of “this world”, rather than “the world out there”; it had a matriarchal angle and thus was gender-inclusive.

    Thus for time immemorial, our people’s spirituality was attuned to the challenges of constant transformation. Ironically, the Hispanic Christianity that the Spanish friars introduced to the islands negated many of these elements which are now much more appreciated in the post-Vatican II Church. However, despite what the friars did, our ancestors held on to the core of their indigenous spirituality. That made possible the rise of the religious social movements in Central Luzon which Rey Ileto brought to our attention in his book – Pasyon and Revolution.

    During those revolts, the masses’ spirituality helped them connect to what they could mobilize from within themselves as a messianic people and even as they linked to the Messiah manifested in various icons – the Sto. Nino, the Santo Entierro, the various angels and saints and even Mary with her various titles such as Mother of Perpetual Help.

    The relevance of Filipino spirituality today

    The Church in the Philippines – especially from the perspective of the institutional, hierarchical and clerical Church – today is again at the crossroads. On one hand, there are the moral issues that she traditionally considers very important including issues of the reproductive rights, abortion, divorce and the like.

    However, in a society where secularization is beginning to have an impact, especially among the urban middle-class sectors and the media. The Church is painted as outdated and finds herself at loggerheads with those advocating for lesser control from such institutions. The youth also find themselves not caring about such moral injunctions.

    On the other hand, many people expect the Church to take a strong moral stance on issues that have become very urgent, such as genuine land reform, workers’ rights, assistance to overseas Filipino workers, women’s subjugation, ancestral domain of indigenous peoples, militarization and human rights, mining and other ecological issues.

    While there are Church people who have spoken strongly on these issues, many Catholics are disappointed that there is very little discussion of these issues. And where there is little talking the talk, there is even less walking of the talk.

    At these crossroads, the Church needs to re-imagine and reconstitute the pastoral-missiological fields to identify the kind of engagements church workers should have so that they can truly witness to the Gospel and make a difference in the lives of the most abandoned who continue to be marginalized on the basis of their class, ethnicity, age, gender, culture and faith traditions.

    Karl M. Gaspar CSsR is director of the Alphonsian Lay Formation Institute of the Redemptorists in the Cebu Province. He teaches at the St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute in Davao City and the St. Mary’s Theologate in Ozamis City.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Romancing the Indigenous?

    There are many intellectuals today who feel that any respectful reference to indigenous beliefs smacks of romanticism, and a kind of backward-looking nostalgia. Oddly, these same persons often have no problem "looking backward" toward ancient Rome or ancient Greece for philosophical insight and guidance in the present day. What upsets these self-styled "defenders of civilization" is the implication that civilization might have something to learn from cultures that operate according to an entirely different set of assumptions, cultures that stand outside of historical time and the thrust of progress. Many persons steeped in Western science tend to assume that native notions are superstitious or simply negative, unaware that indigenous thought stems from a radically different view of what language is, and what thinking is for.

    There is simply no way to comprehend indigenous notions without stepping aside from commercial assumptions that are broadly taken for granted today (including the basic equation of land with property -- with a commodity that can be bought, sold, or owned). Indigenous insights cannot be understood without slowing down, without taking time to notice the upward press of the ground and the earthen silence that surrounds all our worlds. Often at home in such silence, oral peoples tend toward reticence, reluctant to broadcast their experience very loudly. Hence, while indigenous traditions are vigorously unfolding today, the philosophical intensity and practical wisdom of native peoples all too often remains invisible and unheard amid the bustle and blare of contemporary commerce, conveniently ignored by those who most have need of such intelligence.

    David Abram, Becoming Animal, 267

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    from a reader of the Babaylan book

    I'm only on Page 10 of your book since I got it last night... a very slow read because I can't stop myself from crying all the time... Tears are streaming down my face, tears within tears, and cries within cries, and sobs from more sobs deep within... I always knew as if someone erased my memory that someone was killed in my sleep. I know now what it is. Now I can honor it...weep for it. 

    To your: "I am an accident of history, I needed to leave in order to come home again." 

    How you echoed my innermost emotions caused a wild drumming inside me, as if I have suddenly sprung a tribe awake.

    I must thank you now at page 10. I know I must remember.
    and here's a link to the booklaunch event at Bahay Nakpil on Nov. 29

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    I have been receiving emails from a Datu in Mindanao who is part of a movement to "consolidate and confederate the Indigenous People's Communities" all over the Philippines. It is good to know that there is such a movement and am looking forward to learning about this from Datu B who also claims to be a Babaylan. Happy to have this dialogue.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Manifest Manners
    Absence as Presence

    ahhh, Vizenor!

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    to the reader of this blog:
    things are brewing underneath. language not yet fully formed.
    only this: decolonization is shamanic work
    i have written about this but not quite within this framework.
    so i'm marinating for now.
    yesterday, i facilitated a mini-retreat for local leaders
    someone commented afterwards: this feels like therapy.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Fil Am angel investor and social entrepreneur Yobie Benjamin, spoke to my class today on social entrepreneurship.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    PostPeakOil Living

    Today's lecturer, Andre Angelantoni, introduced my students to the reality that we are facing the end of the empire of Oil. He presented the science, the economics, and the "what to do?" proposals.
    Highly recommended lecturer. Invite him to speak to your organization.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    When white folks decolonize....

    For  a White man engaged in any spiritual practice and inquiry of this nature -- whether as psychologist, educator, writer or in some other role - inevitably makes these ventures and adventures critical, unless he wants to perpetrate essentializing or retro-romantic notions. Decolonizing is thus not just the recovery of the memory traces of indigenous presences, but a creative psychospiritual, moral, political and activist endeavor. It doesn't just join 'the other' in its struggles of decolonization, first and foremost it turns its gaze to the center of colonial processes, upon itself, its process of self-colonization. The imperial gaze of transpersonal anthropology and psychology has its origins in a dissociative and objectifying construction of self and reality, furthering the colonization of peoples, nature and spirituality and providing notions of individualism, resources, sovereignty, etc., that serve the trivial measures of commerce.

    Leslie Marmom Silko has pointed out that when Whites "attempt to cast off their Anglo-American values, their Anglo-American origins, they violate a fundamental belief held by the tribal people they desire to emulate: they deny the truth; they deny history, their very origins. The writing of imitation "Indian" poems then, is pathetic evidence that in more than two hundred years, Anglo Americans have failed to create a satisfactory identity for themselves."

    (Jurgen Kremer, Ethnoauthobiography as Practice of Radical Presence, 2003)

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Mentor/Roshni Rustomji

    Thank you, Roshni Rustomji, for being my mentor, friend, heart-sister.

    I met Roshni when I started my MA Interdisciplinary Studies program at the university. I was nervous about being a re-entry student, feeling unsure about my abilities; lacking confidence in my writing.
    On our first meeting, she asked me about my writing and I said that I have dabbled here and there in journalistic writing. Her first homework for me: Bring a portfolio of your writing.

    I was a correspondent for Philippine News at that time so I had a few published articles. I also included published articles from the Philippines and my written papers from my English classes at the Junior College and theology classes at New College. She said she was impressed and then chided me for being timid and shy about my writing.

    For three years, she guided my MA studies and encouraged my writing. She believed that I had something important to say. It was so important for me to hear this and I have quoted Roshni many times in my writing since then.

    Roshni retired after I finished my MA but we had become friends and so continued to work together. She went to Stanford's Center for Latin Studies and taught at New College and in both places, she always included me whenever there was an opportunity. At New College, I lectured in her classes often. And at SSU, she came and lectured in my classes.

    We also eventually collaborated on the first anthology about Asians in the Americas. She introduced my writing to other scholars and I got published here and here and elsewhere.

    When her novel, The Braided Tongue, was released, I was introduced to the world of Remedios Varo. Roshni gave me her only copy of her book.

    Roshni would give me all kinds of gifts over the years: from Oaxacan shawls, to ethnic jewelry, visits and luncheons, books, tapestries. She also gave me pieces of art works by Amy Ling and a famous Mexican artist, and other Oaxacan arts. When she tells me the the titles of books she is reading, I perk my ears for leads to another way of thinking, for another way of asking questions.

    At today's luncheon, as we celebrated her 72nd birthday, and revisited her years at SSU, I felt so blessed to have her in my life. I don't know if my journey would have been as fecund as it has been if she hadn't pushed me to keep going, to keep asking questions.

    Roshni is fearless, courageous, compassionate, a luminous soul, best storyteller. She is light and joyful.
    What a blessing to have been on this journey with her.

    Thank you, Roshni. Love to You.

    Friday, October 29, 2010

    Waiting for Superman

    Saw this documentary by Davis Guggenheim (of Inconvenient Truth).
    Notes to self include:
    - ignoring the obvious: what does race have to do with the failing school we see today? 50yrs after Brown vs Board of Education, schools are more segregated than ever (Harvard study of 2000). Guggenheim chose not to address this. See Bonilla-Silva's Racism Without Racists.
    - most of the failing schools are from low-income, inner-city, communities of color. is there a connection between de-industrialization, white flight, outsourcing, loss of jobs and failing schools in these places?
    - what legislations have been put in place to de-fund schools (Prop 13 in CA)?
    - yes, there are teachers who shouldn't be in the classroom. is the solution to weaken teacher's unions?
    - how do federal mandates like No Child Left Behind punish low performing schools and deepen the crisis? Is Obama's policy any better?
    - who is this "Superman" hero and what does he represent? or who does he represent?
    - Detroit's Another Education is Possible:  the devastation of deindustrialized Detroit is creating a revolution. Grace Lee Boogs: We have to stop waiting on government and corporations to save us, we have to redefine the meaning of education, work, community away from the economic model. is there a different model to work with? what values must this revolution embrace?
    - Connect the dots: globalization is in crisis and the crisis in education in the US is part of this crisis. the documentary does not make this connection. it seems to beat up on a dying horse.
    - the 19th century education that produced the affluence of the 20th century may have peaked -- and what we are witnessing are its unintended consequences. the economic model is failing us. capitalism is producing severe social crisis.
    - the crisis is perhaps not only social and economic but also ecological, spiritual crisis. how can they be separate? some even it call it a civilizational crisis.
    - how do we re-imagine ourselves out of a crisis? how do we re-define what it means to be 'educated'? how do we re-imagine the American Dream that has turned into a nightmare for so many?
    - the old escapegoats won't work.
    - Guggenheim, a good bleeding heart liberal, offers his own mea culpa everytime he passes a failing urban public school on his way to drop off his kids to a private school. he wants to do good. he wants to save education. but i doubt that charter schools alone will save education; weakening teachers' unions won't cut it. putting money into education won't do it.
    - we need more than Superman. Superman is dead and he is not coming back to life.


    Sunday, October 24, 2010


    This gravitational draw that holds us to the ground was once known as Eros -- as Desire! -- the lovelorn yearning of our body for the larger Body of Earth, and of the earth for us. The old affinity between gravity and desire remains evident, perhaps, when we say that we have fallen in love -- as though we were off-balance and tumbling through air, as though it was the steady pull of the planet that somehow lay behind the eros we feel toward another person. In this sense, gravity -- the mutual attraction between our body and the earth -- is the deep source of that more conscious delirium that draws us toward the presence of another person. Like the felt magnetism between two lovers,...the powerful attraction between the body and the earth offers sustenance and physical replenishment when it is consummated in contact. Although we've lately come to associate gravity with heaviness, and so to think of it as having a strictly downward vector, nonetheless something rises up into us from the solid earth whenever we're in contact with it. (Becoming Animal, David Abram, 27).
    No wonder. My first instinct when I get home from work is to put my hands in the garden...

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    MG chatted with me on FB tonight and made me smile. she said that some young folks in newyork/newjersey asked her: "do you know leny strobel?" apparently they are thinking of designing a t-shirt "inspired by the work of leny strobel" and were inquiring about how to find me. i told MG to tell them to concentrate on the work and not the author but that am very happy to know that they are inspired.
    on the same day, my mentor, Roshni, chided me for being too timid to talk about my work esp. the latest book. earlier in the day she was talking to a mutual friend and the friend said that she hasn't heard me talk about my latest book (and we just saw each other last week).
    tomorrow am doing a lecture at SFSU at Prof P's class.
    am not that timid.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Local community service

    happy with the surge in interest from local community folks on how to re-envision, re-spirit, re-energize our Kapwa in this county. today, about a dozen folks gathered at Noemi's to brainstorm on how this might happen. before diving into the topic, we went through the creativity exercises that i borrowed from dear Mila. Mila calls these "raising babaylan consciousness" activities but i didn't use this term as i didn't want to confuse those who are not yet familiar with the term. the purpose of the activity was to introduce ourselves to each other while also identifying the qualities or values that made us proud to be Filipino. some of their answers: Masipag, mabait, maka-Diyos, malikhain, mapagmahal, masaya, matulungin, malakas, matiyaga, maganda ang kalooban, may paninindigan, at iba pa. they also said: we are family oriented; we value education; we are practical; we are resourceful, we are respectful.  from these answers, we asked ourselves: how then do we share these values in our community-at-large? how do we enlarge this circle? 
    it was only from this point on that we were able to start brainstorming on how to address the issues in our community.
    *the need for educational workshops and cultural programming
    *how to invest in the youth
    *how to bridge the different groups in the area
    *how to improve the infrastructure and services of the community center
    *how to inspire? basis of inspiration?
    i liked the energy of the small group. i can tell that there is potential here.

    my next project: becoming animal...
    Adding Morris Berman.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    New CFBS video/footnotes

    Karen Pennrich created this "Honoring Our Ancestors" video in honor of her sister, Aurelia Melgar, who passed away during the Babaylan Conference. Thank you, Karen.

    I should mention, however, that Apu Mendung Sabal is a contemporary babaylan and she is not one of the women on the Spanish texts. I mentioned her in my talk because it was a privilege to have met her at the Kapwa conference in 08. She passed away shortly after the conference. She lived long enough to receive recognition as a National Treasure; she was also able to record her Tiboli chants and songs and taught them to Grace Nono and other culture bearers.

    Re my mention of Mila Guerrero, historian from UP -- I met her in CA more than 15yrs ago during a conference and she told me this anecdote about babaylans being fed to crocodile. At that time, I hadn't realized the symbolic meaning of this detail (see link to March 14, 2010 below).

    The opening ritual offering of Virgil Apostol is excerpted from the "Honoring Our Ancestors" (see March 14, 2010) event at Unity Church in Berkeley in Feb 2010. This event was organized by Lizae Reyes and the CFBS volunteers.

    This video short honors Aurelia Melgar. Aurelia, Karen's sister, passed away during the Babaylan conference and so Karen was not able to attend the conference. We taped the video interview in March. Aurelia retired from Sonoma State University's Disability Services Office. She mentored many students of color and students with disabilities many of whom lovingly remembered her during her memorial service. Karen continues her sister's legacy as adviser of the Fil Am Students at SSU and as a board member of the FANHS Sonoma County Chapter.

    Thank you, Karen!

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Malidoma Some on Indigenous Technologies

    Holding Our Power :
    (Part II)

    An Interview with

    Malidoma Patrice Somé

    Excerpt from SUN Magazine, August 1994
     D. Patrick Miller

    Miller:  It seems to me that the modern world is interested in virtual reality, computer linkups, and high-speed electronic communication because it's trying to do a kind of soul traveling.

    Malidoma:  That's right!  It wants to jump to "warp sped" and get there fast.  I'm watching what's going on with virtual reality and CD-ROM; the hidden spirituality of science is an attempt to return you to your ancestors.  It's a return to the primal way of living, where you are connected with the cosmos.  For now, it's represented by the telephone, the television -- tele means "contact from a distance."  The truth is, there's not much difference between you watching television and my grandfather sitting in his room watching a bunch of antelope eating in the field many miles away.

    Miller:  Is virtual reality the only way the West can get back to this power?

    Malidoma:  No, it's one of countless ways.  Right now, it's the fashionable way because you can meter it and bill for it.  This contrasts radically with the indigenous world.  People there don't measure how much time they spend connecting with the spirit world.  I don't think the West will be ready to connect with spirit until someone can find a way to bill for it.

    Miller:  Why is the West obsessed with billing?  Is it simply a survival issue?

    Malidoma:  Not really.  It has to do with accumulating power.  Some people think that if they get rich and powerful enough, they will jump right over to the other side of reality and be able to connect and be able to connect with the real power of the ancestors.  But this is just an illusion, an endless cycle of accumulation that doesn't get you any nearer the other side.
    Miller:  In Western religious traditions we have long been convinced that the other side -- heaven, or paradise -- is very, very far away.  Thus, we think it must take a lot of money or power, or even suffering to get there.

    Malidoma:  But it's not far away, really.  It's right here.  That's like thinking your shadow is very far away.  Actually you can never get away from it.

         When you believe that the other side is distant, you have to think about  transportation -- a means to get there.  You need interstate highways, airlines, shuttles in orbit.  You think about speed all the time to figure out the fastest way to get there.

    Miller:  What are some ways to reestablish a more direct contact with the other side?

    Malidoma:  It's not complicated.  You can go for a walk in nature and listen.  Someone asked me how to hear what nature was saying, and I told him, "Just go out there, put your hand into a creek, and pull out a stone and listen.  You'll hear something."

         The important thing is not to panic when you do start hearing something and don't know whether or not it's for real.  Give yourself the benefit of the doubt.  That is what most people fail to do.  They have a magical experience, and then they surround it with resistance, with questioning.  They will come to me and say, "I think I heard something, but I would like to know for sure."  I say, "What do you mean, for sure?"

         Let me tell you, that stone is for sure.

    Miller:  When I sit beneath a tree and get some kind of feeling or message, the problem is that it's not verbal.  I am always struggling to use words to figure out what it means.

    Malidoma:  You are trying to bring it into this world.

    Miller:  But I can't be sure of what the tree is saying if I can't put it into words.

    Malidoma:  When the message resists being put into words, it is very important to respect that.  There are many realities that die the moment they are wrapped in words.  Verbalization is a massacre of these realities, and that upsets the other realm.  That realm is asking you to recognize it by respecting its wordlessness.  Sooner or later, you'll realize that your experience by the tree constitutes an entirely different type of communication.  With practice you'll be able to enter that realm as comfortably as the worded world you are used to.

    Miller:  When I look at the big addictions of our culture -- drugs, violence, money, sex -- they all appear to be thwarted forms of yearning.  It's as if addicts are trying to get to the other side through these substances and experiences.

    Malidoma:  If only they could stop and look at the tree.  It's right there.  They could reclaim their right to get to the other side, instead of killing themselves slowly.

         The addict misses community.  He or she misses home, the village energy that makes one feel whole.  That's why people can't quit these things on their own; it's utterly impossible.  The overeater, the smoker, the alcoholic -- they are all using different means to communicate the same message:  "If you don't bring back my village, I might as well die."  People with addictions take in more and more of the same substance, imagining they can become their own village.  But it won't work.  They remain lonely individuals.

         We need to shift our point of view on this.  The addict is not having a personal problem; he or she is communicating a problem we all have.

    Miller:  That makes sense when I think of our rise in violence and crime, and our approach to criminal justice.  We try to lock away all the people we regard as violent, as if their violence were strictly their own problem and responsibility, rather than our responsibility as a whole community.

    Malidoma:  The driving force behind violence is twofold:  there is an absence of adequate community, and also an unanswered need for initiation.  Violence is a force that is trying to open up what I call an individual's "black box" -- all the information that was stored within a soul on its journey to earth.  Unless we recover that information, it's very difficult to know what our purpose is on this planet.  The individual will do anything and everything to open that black box.  Without a proper initiation, this drive can become a very wild energy with the power to kill other people as well as the person caught up in it.

         We want to put it away because it's scary.  But our fear should be a reminder that we're in the proximity of something magical, something very powerful.  Violence is an expression of the proximity of magic.

         A dysfunctional society instinctively suppresses magic.  That society locks up people who are violently trying to understand their own hidden purpose.  And it tends to treat illness in the same way:  "Just put it away.  Put it out of our sight."  The belief is that hiding the symptom will cure the illness.

    Miller:  Does this explain why the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to violent crime?

    Malidoma:  The energy of violence is not subject to death.  You can kill a container of that energy, but the energy goes on and finds another.  And there are so many containers available in a dysfunctional society!  We lay the blame on the container without studying what is contained.

    Miller:  So how can our society understand its violence in a useful way?

    Malidoma:  First, understand that it is a message about illness of the social body.  Then try to trace it to its source and go about making peace with that source.

    Miller:  Some would say the source is racial and class discrimination, unfair distribution of resources and employment opportunities, and so forth.

    Malidoma:  In a sense that's true because there is an industry of inequality that some people profit from, and they don't want to give up their profits.  It's the historical struggle between rich and poor.  But the underlying ailment is spiritual -- the disconnection from the ancestors and the spirit world.  Inequalities inevitably arise in a society that is alienated from the cosmos, from the grand scheme of things.

    Miller:  So you're suggesting that we're too busy fighting each other to realize that the access to what we ultimately want is all around us.  We fight over little bits of power on this side of reality, when the power of the other side is immense.

    Malidoma:  It's so huge we can't even fathom it.  But we cannot own it or control it; we can only serve it.  To do that one must constantly ask:  How humble am I when I approach power?  We must be careful not to overinflate our egos, because the West is a showoff culture.

         To hold on to power, you must guard against self-inflation or ego-tripping.  Constantly envision yourself as servant, not proprietor, of the powers around us all.  Honor their mystery.  And let them use you.


    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    The Day the Dancers Came: Redux

    It felt like this to me the night Bayanihan Dance Co came to town recently.

    In this neck of the woods, the center for the arts very rarely features any Philippines or Fil Am group. The last time was in the 90s when the Ramon Obusan Folkloric group came to the same stage. Naturally the local Filipino community was abuzz with excitement and they came to fill the venue.

    They were thrilled and beaming with ethnic pride. One elderly matriarch even said: For the first time in my life, I feel proud of the Philippines! We know what the under-handed compliment means, don't we? Whether lamenting the local community's internal politics or listening to the network news about the latest scandal or latest catastrophe from the Philippines -- it all comes down to feeling somewhat embarrassed or ashamed about one's country of origin. But tonight there was something she could be proud of!

    The day the dancers came to perform at our city's major arts center made the predominantly Filipino audience proud that we have this world class talent on stage. Never mind that during the pre-show interview with the group's directors, they stumbled on their words and sometimes gave the wrong facts (at least not very many noticed). Never mind that they didn't seem to understand the question and so the answer didn't seem coherent. (A friend said that the interview reminded her of the Venus Raj moment.). During the awkward moments of the interview, I wished that they were better prepared with answers. Their talent manager could have asked for a copy of the interview questions so they could have prepared a script for their answers. But all of this was quickly forgotten when the house lights went down and the dancing began. From one suite to the next, the hungry and thirsty audience was more than satisfied, some even mesmerized. On stage their beloved homeland was represented in dance, song, beautiful costumes, and beautiful women and handsome men -- satisfying their longing and homesickness.

    Naturally, after the show, the community wanted to meet the dancers to say Salamat, to have Kodak moments. They heard that there was going to be a "meet and greet" time after the show and many lingered and waited. A small group who was privy to the instructions on how this was going to happen made its way to the stage where two white female docents were waiting. The docents were instructed to lead the 15 people on the list to a small room to meet some of the dancers for a brief 15minute meeting. But there were more than 15! The befuddled docents kept on insisting that there should only be 15 but the folks wouldn't budge. After a while, they relented and started to walk the group to a very small windowless room. The dancers obliged and posed. The folks got their souvenir photos.

    I was on the list of 15 but there were six students from the university who wanted to be there so I  and others on the list gave up our slots to let the students have their time with the dancers. The docents told us that the reason for the brevity of the  meeting was because the dancers had to rest as they had to be back to the same stage the next day to perform for the schoolchildren of Sonoma County. Ah so....

    But still. If the Bayanihan dancers are official cultural ambassadors of the Philippines, could they have arranged their schedule to include making time for connecting with their kababayans in a less hurried, less formal, less bureaucratic manner? What's with the stiffness of procedure? What's with the small windowless room? Okay, I get it. The group is managed by Columbia Artists Management, Inc. The group is on a tight schedule and who knows what other terms of contract they have to abide by.

    Am I so naive to wish for the old ways of connecting? Ba-ya-ni-han spirit. We are a very friendly and happy people and we like to share this with the world said the two directors. I wish they had meant it that night.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    The Prodigal Mother

    We said goodbye to Flori this week. After more than 15 yrs in the U.S., she decided to return Home.

    Flori was a mail-order bride. She is not embarrassed to acknowledge this. She said she did it for the same reasons as other women: to find a better life or to get away from the life they had. When her first marriage failed; she remarried Mr. T. She had hoped that this one would last. There was just one hitch. Flori had an adopted daughter in the Philippines and she wanted her husband to adopt her daughter and bring her to the U.S. After more than a decade, Flori got tired of waiting for him to act on his promise. In the meantime, he had become emotionally abusive and Flori eventually divorced him.

    In the meantime, the adopted daughter in the Philippines had grown up without her Mom. The grandmother who took care of her is now ailing. Her daughter had graduated as a Nurse and is about to start her own life. Flori had to decide whether to stay in the U.S. or return home. In the U.S. she had a good job at the university and was an active volunteer in the community. She could have been happy here.

    And yet she couldn't bear the thought of not having been the mother she could have been. She now wanted to be there for her daughter and her mother.

    I am the Prodigal Mother, she told us. I hope it is not too late to return, to make amends, to start a new life. I did what I had to do and I thought it was going to work out. But now more than ever, my daughter needs me. My mother needs me. I am coming home.
    Flori's story touches me deeply. Stories of Return do this to me. I think it has something to do with a Yearning and Longing that we all share -- to re-connect, to remember our promises and commitments, to return to our roots, to follow the Call.

    It is also the story of the thousands of OFWs, migrant workers, immigrants who involuntarily leave the Philippines for supposedly greener pastures. The women leave their children behind to be raised by other family members. Long-distance parenting. Surrogate Parenting. Parenting via balikbayan goods sent home.

    It is the story of women who put their names and photos in mail-order bride catalogs and websites. Looking for Mr. Right or Mr. White. Looking for the American dream. Looking for love. Looking for amelioration. Looking for hope. Looking for happiness.

    Flori wanted me to share her story because she wants to share the lessons she has learned from the consequences of her earlier choices. In her farewell talk to her friends, she admonished everyone to learn how to love, how to care for one another, how to stay married, how to serve God and each other. She reminded her friends to be faithful and committed to the pursuit of God.

    Even those who are not religious or Catholic (like me) resonate with this. But perhaps only because Flori has touched all of our lives in small and big ways.
    When Flori first heard that we are organizing the Babaylan conference she didn't know what a Babaylan is. But when we started talking about what a Babaylan does, she started to remember that her mother is a healer and at times has taught her how to do hilot. When I learned about all the things she does in the community after her 9 to 5 job -- doing elder care, home care, assisting friends in need, doing bookkeeping, house cleaning, babysitting -- all in the name of serving her community, I knew that she also had the healing gift. She, too, is touched by the spirit of the Babaylan.

    Welcome Home, Flori.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Books on indigenous research methods

    thanks to Letty for this link.
    and by the way, dear one, i dreamt last night that we were dancing.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Community Dreaming

    A version of this was published in the Asian Journal.
    I am sharing it here to invite participation to community dreaming.
    For the sake of the children. For the sake of the future.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    The U.S. is #11...and the reason is

    Thomas Friedman's column concludes:

    In a flat world where everyone has access to everything, values matter more than ever. Right now the Hindus and Confucians have more Protestant ethics than we do, and as long as that is the case we’ll be No. 11.

    Ah, dear Mr. Friedman -- I think the U.S. is undergoing a revolution of values that are more akin with the values of Hindus and Confucians. So you are right, the Hindus and Confucians are learning about Protestant ethics...and Americans are learning the values of the "Other" (or at least what used to be their values before they learned Protestant ethics)...and isn't that the yin-yang of things that keep things in balance? So why beat a dying horse? What you call the "greatest generation" may have produced its own unintended consequences. It created affluence that lulled and numbed affluent Americans to the idea of responsibility and sacrifice. The "success" of corporate capitalism has  reduced us to being mere consumers of brand names and cheap imports. Like the slogan of one superstore: why pay more?

    Friedman's article cites sources that blame either school reform or the lack of motivation of students. But instead of asking why reform is failing or why students are lacking in motivation, he insists on reverting back to the "values of the greatest generation." But what if this generation doesn't want those values and want something else? Many students today know about Gaia theory, about ecological limits, about interdependent and interconnected survival on the planet. They do not want to be no. 1; in fact, they don't like hierarchies of any kind. They hear about the stories of genocides and holocausts committed by their ancestors and they are horrified that this was done in the name of being no. 1. No, they tell me; it's not about being no. 1, it's not about "us" versus "them", it's about "all of us".

    Another World is Possible. Another America is Necessary.

    Let's teach the U.S. the values of Kapwa and Kagandahang Loob and Pakikiramdam.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    A Festival, A Jazz Concert, A Birthday Bash

    She asked me to stand in for the brown race and then asked for other volunteers to stand in for the black, yellow, red, and white races. Then the crowd followed her instructions: Pair up with someone. What is your word for Love? Say it to each other. Beauty. Universal. Family. Peace. Justice. Compassion....Touch each other's heart. Listen. Breathe. Now all the people who said the same word for Love, get together. Now all those without partners, insert yourself into the pairs. Now form a circle. Walk around....

    Thus we entered the sacred space of Ritual led by Reyna Yolanda, a primary babaylan from the Philippines, at the 19th Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture in Los Angeles. Amidst the magnificent and ancient trees of Fermin Park, the cooling breeze of the Pacific Ocean, and the early crowd that gathered around for the opening ritual, we entered mythic Time. We made our offerings to the ancestors and to Mother Earth and asked for blessings on the festival. I cannot find the language for describing this feeling of being fully present to the Sacred -- so palpable from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head, I was tingling...and the energy would carry me all day and into the long night.
    This is the day of my 58th. When I decided to be at FPAC for my birthday, a part of me felt ambivalent but I also could not Not be here to support the first CFBS Babaylan Pavillion at FPAC. It was the best decision ever.

    The weekend began with my host, Prosy, taking me to Baldwin Park summit as soon as she picked me up from the airport. She wanted me to see the sunset at the summit with a 360 view of the city. There was also a 220-step climb from the base to the summit. What a coincidence, I told Prosy, that this was scene is similar to the dream I had the night before of being on top of a plateau and a vertical ladder on the rim going down to earth.

    Prosy also had a piece of quiche from La Maison du Pain for my snack - oh so thoughtful! Then she and Enrique took me to their favorite Serbian restaurant for a pre-birthday celebration - Serbian food is a first for me! The delicious entrees were topped by desserts from La Maison that Prosy brought with her. I know now why she has been raving about this Kapampangan-owned French Bakery in LA. Thank you, Prosy and Enrique!

    Naturally the next morning she took me to La Maison  again where I bought more goodies to share with our CfBS crew. We got to Fermin Park early to set up and decorate the Babaylan Pavillion tent. Mila greeted me with a basket of purple hydrangea when she came to pick me in the morning. Mila, whose effervescence is infectious, has been the backbone of the LA CFBS crew together with Vedel, Virgil, the Herbitos, Gina, Lilibeth, Mandala, Letecia, Mang Faustino, Mang Rudy. Those of us from the Bay Area - Lizae, Titania, Jennifer, Marisza, Trixie, Mark, Rocco, Lengleng - were also present. Our joyful reunion and our colorful ethnic malongs, the drummin and jammin at the Babaylan Pavillion attracted festival goers to the pavillion. At first people walked by with curiosity but by early in the afternoon people were lining up to Virgil and Mang Faustino for healing. The rest of us practiced on our Kapwa jammin with Cordillera gongs.  Prosy said our Pavillion was the most vibrant in energy and colors!

    Happy Birthday songs were sung several times during the day and by late afternoon Leng brought me a bibingka cake with a candle on it! Bliss!! Mila and Mang Rudy serenaded the crowd with folksongs while the others were answering questions about the Babaylan and what, who, how, why....It was heartening to listen to young folks talk about their desire to consciously connect with their tacit experience of the Babaylan spirit. Listening and receiving their intentions always confirm the reasons why we do this work. 

    There were a lot of folks taking pictures of our pavillion. They thought we were "performers" because we were in our colorful malongs. Some people walking by cast long glances unsure of what it is they were seeing. Others stopped to ask questions, sign the guestbook, and others couldn't resist and joined in the Kapwa jam circle. The colorful banigs from Samar were laid out on the grass and Virgil and Mang Faustino laid their healing hands on those who wanted to have a taste of the Ablon healing practice.

    Reyna Yolanda's quiet presence supported our rambunctious energy. It reminded me of what Kidlat Tahimik said about what it feels like to be in the presence of a primary babaylan. He said "in ritual you can almost touch and feel what it must have been like for our ancestors to commune with Nature, to understand Nature'a language and to commune with the spirits in Nature."

    I wasn't able to return to FPAC on Sunday but there were even more folks who came to the Pavillion. Lane and Virgil and Lizae did their respective presentations to a large crowd. According to Venus who described it to me: there were competing loud music coming from two stages at FPAC, but in our Babaylan corner, there was stillness as people listened to Virgil's flute and watched Lizae's dance; people were transfixed.

    Prosy also described this to another friend: 
    The Babaylan women and men were presenting amidst the competing noises and chaotic sounds of the generations stage and the main stage. The noise has become the dominating sounds of FPAC. But, even with that dominance, and amplified by volume of microphones, the Babaylan women and men managed to share, read, chant, do kulintang dances, heal with intent and focus, light incense, all the while while the noise had amplified, the booth had attracted growing numbers of folks who lingered, stayed, watched, observed, participated and asked questions. Even the babaylan rituals and offerings to the ocean, sky and earth. They concluded, that we take the world as it is, no alterations, and still manage to change our interior selves. It was a profound discovery, a transformation of thinking from reflecting on what they did, on spontaneous self expressions and a space where each person was free to occupy. In doing so, none of them negated each other. They created an outcome they did not consciously prepare for, except that their hearts and spirits were clean, clear and open to receive and give! It was amazing to see. And folks were wondering why the crowds kept growing. There really can be peace and harmony from community gathering from correct foundations and folks articulating new ways of communion.
    On Saturday night, Jennifer, Lizae, Titania and Rocco, Gina, Prosy and her friends joined us at Ford Theater for Jazzmopolitan. What a beautiful evening! Later, I will post Prosy's review of the concert. For this blog, I want to thank Mon David for his special rendition of O, Rosing, A Kapampangan song, as a birthday greeting.  What folks may not know about Mon is that he is one of the cultural pioneers who revived Kapampangan culture before he left for the U.S. Mon has a big heart for Pampanga and the Philippines and it shows in his jazz repertoire. In this way, it can be said that he, too, is inspired by the spirit of the Babaylan.
    For isn't that what the Babaylan inspires in all of us? A love for the Land. Homeland. Bayan. Kapwa. It shows up in Filipino jazz, too.

    Mon has a special place in my heart. I sang a bit with him in high school glee club and then later he sang many duets with my younger sister, Rox. I will never forget when he visited my dying mother at the hospital and sang for her, Ima, and again at my mom's memorial service. Like an older sis, I watched him "grow up" as a musical artist and now seeing him at the top of his game just makes this heart swell...and even gloat a little. I hope his pagkaPilipino will always be foregrounded no matter the audience he is singing for.

    So there it is -- a Festival, A Jazz Concert, A Birthday Bash....and a plentiful dash of Facebook greets and texts -- what more can an old gal ask? I feel very blessed. Salamat.