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