Monday, August 2, 2010

Notes from An Evening of Dawac Stories

The first of many reports from the Dawac event is Eileen's.
After Manang Betty  read from her short story about her brother being healed by a Dawac, the q and a portion triggered more memories of Manang's eyewitness accounts of the healer. As most of her stories are childhood remembrances, she said that she didn't ask a lot of questions then. In hindsight, she realizes now that it would have been better if someone had, at that time, explained what the healing rituals were about, what the symbolisms were, or what the underlying worldview was about.

Jean said that she couldn't help but feel a sense of loss as we shared bits and pieces of what is remembered about our encounters with the spirit world. She said that listening to Manang Betty reminds her of how she could have asked her mother and other relatives to tell stories about healers but not knowing at that time how to ask the questions, she missed the opportunity. Now they are all gone taking the stories with them.

These bits and pieces of loss and remembrances, even to this day, resonate with us. We remember the stories we heard growing up about hilots, arbularyos -- the gifted and blessed ones by the ancestral spirits. We recalled into the evening how later on these stories would become stories about ghosts, faith healing, psychic surgeries, and other phenomena that were inadequately explained or framed within a coherent narrative. They became mere fodder for casual conversations about psychic stuff and sometimes as curiousities to be explored by those who are fascinated with the spirit realms.

Were the river spirits really offended and took the soul of a child?
Did the river spirit really saved a child's life?
Did  the Dawac really heal the child of typhoid fever?
How and where did the Dawac get her extraordinary strength and precision when she cracked open a coconut with one fast swoop of a sharp and long bolo?
Why does she go into dance and ululations when she performs her ritual?
What about the ouija board games we played and the spirits showed up? what was that about?
Did the pig and chicken offerings really propitiate the spirits and returned the soul into the body?
How did our mothers know about the medicinal qualities of local plants, trees, and roots?
How did the hilot learn about kinesiology, bone setting, or balancing the energies within the body?

Manang Betty's stories led us into a labyrinth of questions but there wasn't enough time for answers. It seemed enough to acknowledge that we have this treasure trove of memories about our spiritual and cultural heritage that is waiting to be explored. It is not enough to be curious. Something, someone is calling us.
Darlene came to this event hoping to find answers and ways of feeling more deeply connected to her indigenous roots. She was at the Babaylan conference and at Reyna Yolanda's rituals in the Bay Area. At this event she said she wanted more. This desire to quench a hunger for rootedness seems to lead to an even greater sense of loss. Later in the evening, we asked Darlene to sit inside a circle so that her older sisters can offer her gifts of insight:

It is a process that you embrace. It is a journey.
You are not really lost. "Lost" is only a perspective. You are where you need to be at this moment in your life.
Learn to grieve well. We all must grieve for this sense of loss under colonialism.
Out of the remnants of what we remember, we create anew.
Find and read similar stories from other cultures which have a better archive of indigenous knowledge and practice. 
Yes, it helps if you can go to the Philippines and visit indigenous communities but this journey is as much an inward journey as it is an outward journey. Kularts tribal tours will be great. There's one in January!
Yes, of course, we had a Kapwa Jam afterwards. Out came the kumbing, kulintang, balengbeng and other instruments that Titania brought. We sat on her lovely banigs and made beautiful rhythms. Once we got synchronized we began to feel the energy dance around and with us, connecting our bodies and spirits with each other.  This is the way we tap into the energy of our babaylan ancestors who danced as they healed. There is power in "losing the mind", in being with the rhythm and sounds of hands connecting with bamboo and brass -- these elements that were/are connected to the the Earth's elements.
Elemental spirits.
It seemed that the next best thing to do after a night like this is to go the Water. Off we went to Salmon Creek (same beach where Reyna Yolanda did her ritual in April) on Sunday morning. But first a side trip to Wild Flour Breads in Freestone where we feasted on organic sweets and savories. We were breadtarians for a day. At Salmon Creek, we went for a long walk greeting sea gulls, picking up shells, seaweeds (Lizae asked permission to bring these back to her children at the school). On the beach, a makeshift structure was erected and we sat at its threshold imagining that someday we will have a physical  Center for Babaylan Studies. Dreaming the future.


  1. Yes, was a fabulous event! I feel so fortunate to have had my older sisters share with me their wisdom.

  2. D - waiting for your write-up:-)) so glad you came and stayed...

  3. If you haven't already read this, check out Gura's (Michelle's) lengthy response, here:

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  5. Tita Leny - Why do I feel like you've given me *homework*? Lol. (Have been brainstorming on what to write. But don't expect much; words and books are not my forte =) )

  6. only from your heart, Darlene!:-)