Monday, November 15, 2004
Symposium: Honoring and Preserving Filipino Identity in a Multicultural Globalized World
PUSOD, Center for Ecology, Culture and Bayan
November 13, 2004
I didn’t know what to expect. All the planning for the event happened via email. As people responded with rsvp’s I didn’t recognize many of the names. But I sensed that this was going to be a good group of folks.
The morning began with a dedication of the altar to Helen Toribio. Evelie Posch led us with the lighting of candles and a chant invoking Mother Earth to bless the day ahead.
The morning’s talk by Dr. Melba P. Maggay was on Filipino Indigenous Religious Consciousness: These are the main points she made about Filipino Culture:
- We live in a culture with a deep sense of connectedness.
Deep structures don’t change even as social and political systems are imposed on a culture.
Filipino language ("ka") shows this interconnectedness.
- We live in a culture that at its base is intrinsically religious.
Indigenous religious movements in the Philippines are again resurgent. They are the carriers of Filipino identity over the centuries.
- We live in a culture that is not totally alien to who Jesus is but has a rather distorted idea of Him.
-The infant Jesus (Sto. Nino) is a domesticated (child) version.
-The suffering Christ (Santo Entierro) constructs an acquiescent people. The dead Christ signifies "God is Dead; there is no help for you" – as a colonial narrative this rationalizes the colonial project.
-Whereas, Jesus as Man is fully potent. Jesus represented in his full potency constructs a narrative of "can do." (as in American Protestantism).
- We live in a culture used to traffic between the living and the dead, and looks at the world, not just a constellation of dead stars, but as peopled by spirits: the living and the dead.
- "Indigenous" and "Postmodern": Implications on the making of a transformed consciousness as basis for cohesiveness and nation-building.
-Recovery of indigenous narratives should not be subsumed under postmodernism.
-Allow the indigenous narrative to develop on its own terms lest it becomes colonized by postmodern theorizing.
-Spirituality is usually constructed by texts within formal systems, e.g. academe, theological seminaries, etc. Must allow spirituality to be contextualized. Let the culture bearers tell their own stories.
Dr. Maggay emphasized that the perceived dysfunction of Filipinos is due to poor governance (formal systems imposed on a culture) and not because of the culture. Formal systems are not indigenous to the Philippines; they are imposed by colonizers and perpetuated by the elite of the cultural divide. Informal systems of social distribution dominate the social relations of the majority of Filipinos in the lower half of the cultural divide.
Ofelia Villero talked about her current research on "babaylan," "loob," "kapwa." It seems that western bias against shamanism is slowly evolving thus creating more spaces for students like her who would like to explore Filipino babaylan traditions in the theological field.
Janet Stickmon talked about the process of inculturation – how the Catholic Church transforms people and the people transforms the Church. However, historically, the church has always resisted being transformed by Filipinos. Filipinos, on the other hand, have continued to imbue the images of Christ (Sto Nino and Sto Entierro) with indigenous meanings.
Christina Leano talked about the notion of Covenant; its demands (to respect the worth of ourselves; to live in solidarity; to develop the virtue of fidelity). Using her work with FACES as example, she showed how a secular movement (FACES) has religious significance. FACES as a prophetic voice in the community. To be a Christian is to do something about real problems. The search for one’s Filipino identity is a sacred journey.
Jay Gonzalez discussed the hegemony of the Church and the counterhegemonic movements within the Church constituting a form of social capital for Filipino Americans. 100,000 Filipino Catholics in San Francisco have tremendous influence in the Church and must translate this into opportunities to address social justice issues within the church – in partnership with government and corporate agencies as well.
Evelie Posch "performed" her spirituality as a musician, teacher, babaylan, ritualist, activist. She talked about her relationship with her biological mother and Mother Earth as the source of her spiritual grounding and empowerment.
The Q and A allowed the panelists, Dr. Maggay, Tito Cruz, and myself to answer a few questions.
During the lunch break, everyone was talking about the palpable energy, the good uplifting experience in the morning session. Tito, who was going to leave after lunch, decided to change his appointment and stay for the afternoon. He told me later, "after this morning, I can’t afford not to be here for the afternoon."
In the afternoon session, Dr. Maggay was able to explore in depth the "tools for analysis" in looking at Filipino culture.
- The culture has loob (interiority) and labas (exteriority) and unless one has understood the loob of culture, you cannot critique it.
- Explorations of the concepts of Hiya from loob and labas perspectives.
- External and Internal dimensions of Pakikipagkapwa
- Ver Enriquez’ scale of social intimacy in understanding Loob from interior and exterior perspectives (for Filipino Americans who want to understand Filipinos in the Philippines). At what point does one cross over from being an outsider to being an insider?
- Coping mechanisms in the face of abusive power and dysfunctional social systems. (Etic and Emic analysis of Filipino Culture).
- Filipinos/Philippines are not short of capital (human, social, natural resources). But the deficit is psychological – of thinking of ourselves as in the margins, as small, as poor. "It’s time to offer ourselves to the world as an alternative center."
to be continued...
i'm very much interested on other notes/reflections/proceedings from the gathering this weekend. i am a supporter and fan of your writing. i read coming full circle awhiles back and an article in a buddhist online journal entitled (if i can still remember) tip-toeing towards...
anyways, every now and then i visit your site here to see what's up and i'm glad to hear about your symposium this weekend.
san diego, ca