Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Woohoo! Filipinas Magazine, which carries my books in its store ,told me that a professor wants 25 copies of Coming Full Circle for next semester. Linda Nietes of Philippine Expressions in LA also tells me a professor at San Diego Community College has also ordered the books for Fall. And for the past five years, Prof. Dan Begonia at SFSU has continuously used the book in his courses at San Francisco State University (via Arkipelago Books' Marie Romero).


Monday, July 30, 2007

these poems by Melissa Hansen are beautiful! Melissa is a friend of my son but just found out yesterday that she is a Poet!

Powerful Filipina Women

Thank you, Holly, for sharing Irigaray with your friend. And to Grace, for the extended reflection on the ethics of Eros at her blog. And to Jean, for her new project inspired by the Eros dialogues in this space.

Grace's challenge: ... the degree that community leaders-take on their own sexuality and embrace eros and creative power within themselves and all other levels, they create an energetic field of possibilty which gives permission for others to find ,as Eve Ensler says the “power moan” within themselves. And when we all “go there” in whatever way feels responsible and culturally appropriate for each of us, we can find home deep, deep inside and we can be at home as Pinays and Pinoys- in the world, wherever we are- alone or with others.
The question I started with this spring and into summer, prodded by Eileen: Why haven't you dealt with the topic of sexuality in your work on decolonization? has opened up a space for dialogue...a dialogue we have all held within and with our bodies for perhaps millenia as Filipina women conditioned under colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. We were led to consider the word Eros and the need to expand the meaning of this word beyond its popular connotations. Some of you took the risk to become vulnerable and risk telling your secrets so that we may enter into deeper communion with each other. I see this as the potential of babaylan-inspired work - the capacity to enlarge the container of our bodies, hearts, and souls so that we may hold these stories sacred, so that we may weave them into wholeness and release them back into the world as healing medicine.

I am not embarrassed to say that I have cried many times this summer as these dialogues evolved. As the stories unfolded, I realized that I was being asked to put my theory-loving mind in the backburner for now so that I may learn to listen through my body. I am not an emotional person, my sisters will tell you that. They will tell you that, of the five of us, I am the most "even-keeled, held-together" one; my passion shows up only in my writing. Perhaps, there is a new me emerging...and I am scared.

As Eros has now intruded in our lives to ask us to move this energy in the universe, I can't wait to see what we are capable of creating to answer the questions: What is the connection between sexual trauma and colonial trauma? Why haven't you dealt with the issue of sexuality within the process of decolonization?

Some of you have already whispered your dreams:
I want to do a Ph.d. now that I am clear on the questions that I want to pursue!
I'm thinking of going back to school!
I want to make films!
I'm writing a play!
My body wants to produce poem-babies!

Paring Bert's incantation: Create Energy!!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I Love To You

Since I've borrowed this phrase from Luce Irigaray, I thought I'd post some quotes from her book just in case the reader of this blog is wondering why I'm so fascinated by this phrase (well, what can I say? am a latecomer to Irigaray. However, I must say I've already had intuitive knowledge of what she's saying here; I just didn't know how to philosophize about it).

I love to you. "To" as the space for thought, for thought of you, of me, of us, of what brings us together and distances us, of the distance that enables us to become, of the spacing necessary for coming together, of the transubstantiation of energy, of the oeuvre.

To you: spacing in order to pass from affectivity to the spiritual, from interiority to exteriority. I see you, I hear you, I perceive you, I listen to you, I watch you, I am moved by you, astonished by you, I leave to breathe outside, I reflect with earth, water, stars. I think of you. Think of us, of two, of all men, all women. I begin to love, love to you, I return towards you. I try to speak, to tell to you: a feeling, a will, an intention, for now, for tomorrow, for a long time. I ask of you a place and time for today, for soon, for life, mine, yours, for the life of many.

The to you comes through breath trying to make itself speech. It seeks help from the outside, from thought, from History.

The to you enables expectation. It is not merely a present third term but a space of memory and birth. The to you is where we hold our own, engender, suspend already actualized action or truth. The to you reminder of the mediations necessary for the construction of History.

Belonging to a gender seems to guarantee a dialectic of alterity and intersubjectivity. Such fidelity enables us to withdraw from each other and to meet each other... The other, the irreducible, the one who remains without, forever unknown.

We try to hail ourselves, to give ourselves a sign. The one who touches brings joy. And how much must we love then to remain two? but isn’t this love at last/ love in the ideal? The bridge bettween the past and the future? The safeguard of life and time. The concentration and diffusion of an energy at work. Already formed but not accomplished, without final completion.

Beauty helps us discover a measure and direct the growth of relations between us. The dimension of love helps us to overcome immediate affect or attraction. It dwells while becoming, attracts while maintaining distance, allows for respect and contemplation. A sort of sun that illuminates in us and between us. Sometimes appearing in a gesture, a smile, a voice, a word, marks of a presence which approaches while distancing.

Without a doubt, we approached, maybe even passed by, one another. Your retreat reveals my existence, as my withdrawal is dedicated to you. May we come to recognize the intention here as a pathway leading indirectly to us.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Do you think there will be a critical mass of decolonizing Filipinos and Filipinos in the diaspora in your lifetime?

This question was posed to me by Venus, 1.5 Fil Am, 30years old, recent graduate of MA in Indigenous Mind. Before I could answer, she said: I want to see it happen in my generation!

So we spent a whole afternoon brainstorming on how this vision can happen...or specifically, how one person can make a difference. She said that she lives and breathes this question 24/7 and wants to have conversations with as many folks as possible about it. She talked about the need for a specifically Filipino language with which to express our own kind of indigenous spirituality that undergirds all the different forms it is manifest in our communities -- whether Catholic, Protestant, INK, El Shaddai, etc. For her part, she would like to create films or write books; she wants to bring MAtthew Fox's techno-mass celebrations to Fil Am communities.

[At our Techno Cosmic Masses, we are exploring answers to these questions and what we are learning' is that the young, what I call the first, post modern generation, are indeed gifted with ways to awaken us all at worship. By working with the young at making worship work again, a kind of intergenerational wisdom happens. The result is that many people show up, both youngand not so, young (30% are in their twenties or their teens).And many people feel moved deeply, by the experience.

Transformation happens. Transformation is possible. Hope happens. Beauty flows. Fun occurs. Memory is unleashed and tapped into. The ancestors return. Boundaries melt. Boredom ceases. Creativity breaks out. Depression disappears, Empowerment takes place. Community comes to pass.] read on...

Venus was in town to attend a conference on Creation Spirituality - a term coined by Matthew Fox. Her intense passion is contagious and inspiring (thank you, Venus!) ...so there will be more news about her work in this space in the future...or until she starts her own blog.

After Venus left, my friend Noe from the Sikolohiyang PIlipino days and good friend of Virgilio Enriquez, came by to visit. Haven't seen him in a few years. He has since left the corporate world to become a soon-to-be-ordained Deacon of the Catholic Church. So I got my brief lesson on the history of the Vatican II restoration of the Diaconate in the Catholic Church. I learned that the path to ordination is almost as long as the path to priesthood. He tells me that he plans to return as a Deacon/missionary to his hometown in Albay to work on poverty, social justice, and environmental concerns.

Noe talked about a particular Filipino Franciscan priest who recently wrote his dissertation for the Franciscan School of Theology on Eco-Theology using the concept of anito-worship (Anitism) to integrate Filipino animist beliefs and eco-theology. Filipinos have always held their anitos as sacred protectors and guides in every facet of their lives - the anito that protects the harvest from the land and the oceans, that protects us from malevolent spirits, that provides courage and wisdom in times of struggle, etc. The anitos represent our connection to the Land, to our Ancestors, and the harmony and balance in all of Creation. (So yes, he has thought of me and my work all along, he said, and he promised to send me this book).

Noe says that the popularity of the Santo Nino today among Filipino catholics harks back to our relationship with our anitos...that is why during the feast of Santo Nino, he is dressed up as a fisherman, as a farmer, as a laborer...and the mass that celebrates his feast day is infused with all these indigenous elements. (Ok, this non-Catholic gets it...but is the Santo Nino ever dressed as a little girl, too?)

Venus and Noe - two souls that have yet to meet -- were both talking about the importance of indigenizing the Catholic Mass. Venus wants to infuse it with ideas from the tecno-cosmic mass and Noe wants to use ideas from indigenous traditions - the use of gongs, chants, dance during the celebration of the Mass. They both want to see an interfaith, intergenerational coming together of community. Both of them see the importance of these rituals because it reconnects us to our indigenous selves. Both of them want to see religious life connected to issues of social justice, to ecological issues as moral and spiritual issues.

The Oakland, Ca diocese wants Noe to get involved and had asked him to invite other Filipino resources to develop Fil Am programs around these issues. He told the Catholic bishop that he knows this woman who is very interested in questions of theology and indigenous spirituality but she is not Catholic...that she was raised Methodist but no longer...that she is probably an agnostic by now. I gently corrected him and said that I am an animist. Tell the bishop, Noe.

I call myself an animist but I am the sum of all that I have been...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jean, Barry, Ernesto, Jordan, and Jack -- will soon get their copy of TINY BOOK. Congrats! Now Eileen has moved on from raising monies to buy chickens to ...uh, buffaloes?

Which reminds me -- I heard from a friend that Senator Leticia Shahani was at the recent International Women's Peace Conference in Texas. She told a group of Filipinas and Filipina Americans that she is raising funds to finance a project that would allow the Philippines to import a super US caribou ($600 each) that is going to yield more milk, therefore more money for poor farmers, and that this stock should be put in farms and replace the indigenous carabaos. My friend who was at the meeting said that replacing indigenous carabaos doesn't sound like a good idea. She asked if this super caribou is genetically engineered or hybridized through animal husbandry. She didn't get an answer.

Maybe Eileen will come up with a strategy on how to save the Filipino carabao from getting trumped by the super caribou! You never know with poets... how they come up with ideas of feeding the world.

And speaking of feeding, I wrote this after getting sick yesterday from eating fish:

i think the poor fish didn't want to be genetically engineered, smoked, then frozen. It didn't want to cross the ocean, subjected to customs inspection, then smuggled into a California kitchen. by the time i finished my plate, i had eaten all its sadness.

For a moment, I felt like a Sin-eater.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bec shares her thought on Eros as Living in the Body here. Thank you, Bec! Here's an excerpt:

And I think of the bodies of the Filipino comfort women and the bodies of those who fight to have their experiences acknowledged and recognized. How genocide is about taking away the bodies, taking away the evidence of violence, taking away the price paid for the riches of colonization. How the body remembers and if you take away the body, then there is no evidence of crime, and if there is no evidence, then there is no memory, and if there is no memory then there was no crime. But the body remembers, the body of the earth, the body of the blood, the body of the genetics, the body of social thought and social structure, and so there is no erasure, no sure erasure, only the bending of perspective, the revision of history.

There is more on this meditation...follow her poetic reflections. After reading her post, somehow I wandered over to another story about Einstein and so I post it below.

What I didn't know about Einstein:
When he arrived at his famous field equations that mathematically revealed that the universe is expanding, Einstein was alarmed. In the Newtonian world, the universe is static - same today as yesterday. Einstein lost his nerve and altered his equations. The Russian scientist Alexander Friedman came up with the same conclusion about an expanding universe and Einstein dismissed him. It was Edwin Hubble that finally convinced scientists that the universe is expanding. Later, John Archibald Wheeler would conclude: in nature, there is no law except the law that there is no law. From hereon, scientists would enter a new era of enchantment. Scientific understanding will be valued as that power capable of evoking in humans a deep intimacy with (scientific) reality.

Thus, Brian Swimme, theoretical mathematician, persuades us that the Cosmic Story rather than being governed by fixed underlying laws, is actually an unfolding drama: the infinite elegance which gathers us into its life and existence.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I finally have Karen's permission to link up to her blog. Karen is currently coordinating the Tagalog on Site in Los Banos and then she plans to stay in the Philippines for another year. Muki finding home. I Love to You, Karen! (no, that's not a typo).

Leave Taking Ritual

(Note: My sister, Lily and her husband, Jim, are moving from U of Denver to Oakland U in Michigan. I asked her permission to post this in line with the continuing threads here about Eros, babaylan, and now...the role of rituals in body-soul integration work).

The kurandera, Mavis Salazar, came today and performed a beautiful ritual with us. We prepared some sort of a sacred center where she had tealights, a black clay vessel that she uses to hold a burning charcoal w/ sage and other aromatic herbs. Jim had bought beautiful red and yellow roses w/ baby's breath, but she asked us to take the petals apart and lay them in a circle around the sacred area. She also asked us for pictures of recently departed relatives (I had Ma and Tang's wedding photo), something from a place that evokes joyful memories (I took the Hello Kitty night shirt Rox gave me from our reunion), something from our childhood (I only found Ma's sewing kit where she had folded a shoulder pad, sewn the edges together w/ a whip stitch and voila, you had a pin pad! reminded me of my love for sewing, like Ma, and memories of her making all our clothes growing up.)

Then we did the Native American Four Directions prayers beginning with the East: heralding new beginnings, the South, which holds all our joys and happy memories, the West which blows dark and cold winds and holds the sorrowful memories and painful experiences of our past, and the North, invoking our ancestors. With each direction, she first led us in prayer and we took the cue from her on the meaning of each direction and took turns expressing our desire in terms of each theme. The end was a prayer to the sky and then to mother earth. I loved her and Jim's prayers, they were beautiful.

Then she did the limpia cleansing ceremony where she passed an egg all over the body, followed by a thorough brushing using the remaining roses. As we held the egg in our hands (before the ritual), we breathed into it all that we were releasing. Later on tonight, we will take all the organic materials we used (including the eggs) and throw them all into the river. I know every object that was there brought us the gift of its energy and we are now to release them one by one back to the earth.

I liked the ceremony--especially after reading our Osage friend's chapter on Spirit. It was very moving from beginning to end. Even the act of tearing the petals and laying them around the sacred space did something to me that I have no words for. She said that she feels our move will be very exciting for me, more than it will be for Jim and I sense she's right.

I'm glad we had the ritual when we did as we were both getting on each other's nerves w/ OU already collecting my tenure materials from me and everything packed away in boxes in the garage and having to search through so much and JIm just trying to cope with everything (poor thing). It calmed us both down, thought I'd share.

Monday, July 23, 2007

As I prepare for the interview with the Oral History Project of the Fil Am National Historical Society, Sonoma County Chapter, I found this very interesting story about Isidro Canlas from Bacolor, Pampanga. Follow his story.

These are the questions they want me answer in one afternoon of on-camera interview:

1.The US-Phil relationship from the 19thC throughout the 1950s, and how it influenced the first wave of Filipino immigration and immigrants in the 20th century. How that relationship, and US interests, evolved throughout the era, the legislation that resulted, and its impact on the immigrants. Interracial marriages among Filipino men in Sonoma County -how they came about and their legacy.

2. Your own experience as part of a subsequent wave of immigration.
Tell us about yourself, your life in the Phil, and why you decided to immigrate to America. What was your vision of America before you arrived?
What year did you come to America? What type of adjustment experiences did you have? Is there a particular story about your adjustment to life in America that you would like to share?
Prior to coming to America, did you know anything about the experiences of the Filipinos that came to America in the early 1900s? Based on what you now know about the experiences of the Manongs that settled in Sonoma County in the early 1900s, tell us how you feel about their experience? Do you feel any connection to their experience? What do you feel is the legacy they have left to the Filipino Community and future generations?

3. What, if any, similarities were there between your experience coming to the US and that of the Manongs?

4. When we research Asians in Sonoma County, a substantial amount of data is found on Japanese and Chinese, but almost none on Filipinos. Why the disparity?

5. The spirit of the Manongs was the spirit of bayanihan. Several studies have shown that there is disconnection between the US-born first, second and even third generation Fil Ams and Filipinos that immigrated to the US after 1965. What are your feelings about this "disconnect" and how do you feel it can be overcome? In your own words, please explain the definition of "bayanihan."

6. We also now have a new young generation of American-born Filipinos that are fully imemrsed in American society. What can this new generation learn from the experiences of the early Manong immigrants?

7. What do you feel are the most important resources the Filipino Community can provide to future generations to ensure the preservation of Filipino and Filipino American culture and history?

The tables have turned. Whereas, I've spent many years interviewing and documenting people's experiences in my writings, now this interview puts me on the hot seat. How do I talk about my life, what I have observed, what I think/theorize about, in the blip of an afternoon? How do I choose which story to tell and why? How does the camera intrude into the narrative that I want to tell?
Yesterday, a high school friend said that after reading Coming Full Circle, all the stories she has held in her memory about me were all shattered. I reassured her that those stories were still true, in a sense, because the perceptions she had of me as a young woman partly constitute the truth of the older friend she has come to know recently through the book. But I am not the book.

I write, and you do not know me (Mei Mei Berssenbrugge). I now believe that this "not knowing" is what seduces us into asking for more stories about each other. Seduction as an invitation to: recognize, respect, honor, celebrate, thank, offer, ask, praise, bless, communicate with - You who will always be an unknown to me.

Thus, the potential for telling a fecund and felicituous story, for this interview, may rest on my ability to seduce History. I'll have to ask my babaylan sisters to send me erotic energy from the four corners.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Body Intelligence and Awareness

In this continuing thread about Eros, Power, feminine energy, babaylan, I'm sharing another email from J who writes:

J: I think that I really want to write some poetry and develop some art work that draws directly from the body. An embodied poetry. I'd like to do this in a way that doesn't eroticize in traditional ways, e.g. trying to get a rise out of readers through mention of disconnected body parts, or setting up erotic scenarios in which the reader and writer are the voyeurs. In fact, I don't necessarily want it to be about pleasure, either. But rather more about the body's awareness and intelligence -- and perspective. What the body "sees," what it is trying to tell us, etc., despite all our projections upon it.

I'd like to experimentally "channel" my body's awareness into my writing. So I'd be drawing partly from my practice of meditation, where I realize that the pleasure, pain, discomfort, etc. arising from body sensation is primary (or as the Buddhists describe it, the first arrow) and what I think about it, project upon it, intellectualize or dramatize is all secondary (the second arrow, which we are advised to let go of). I want to know what information is carried in the first arrow. I say it's "impossible," because writing is already secondary, hah! But maybe there's an intermediate place.... ? Ah, well, art is the intermediary, isn't it?

This takes me back to something we had discussed before, about older Filipinas. I want to write something that engages (utilizes, draws on) erotic power within myself as an older Filipina woman. I mean erotic in the larger sense. I don't want to write about sexuality in older women, e.g. older women can "get it on," be "sexy," write about sex, have a young lover, be powerful in business, etc. ad nauseum, the old "Passages" schtick. I don't even necessarily want this to be about the power of the erotic. I want to listen: Does my body have intellect? Does it have ethnicity? IS it powerful? Or vulnerable? I want to listen to what my body wants to write. I want to know what it has to say, and what voice it says it with.

As a Buddhist, I also want to address what a few have claimed is a tendency for western buddhists to limit their practice to the western sense of "mind" (reading "mindfulness" wrongly); a tendency to practice meditation in order to escape from the body. When in fact the body may be the prime mediator for awareness.

My reply:

THANK YOU, J! for writing this down! this is also what I am struggling to articulate. Eros is not about sexuality per se although sexuality is part of it. I really like what you say about the body as prime mediator for awareness; and the western buddhist practice of mindfulness as an escape from the body's own intelligence.

As for writing being secondary...I've been reading David Abram and what he calls the "alphabetized intellect" is the same notion you are writing about here. That modernity (and literacy) has allowed the written word/language as a substitute for the primary experiencing of Nature (he means this in a very broad sense)... he calls to poets/writers to write this language back into the body.

Perhaps as we write from the body's intelligence, as Filipina women we can write and occupy our own subject positions as we come to own our feminine energy; recognize the cultural conditioning that has previously asked us to assimilate into a male ideal masked as the universal, neutral, human truth. (But even as I write this, I wonder how Irigaray's philosophy intersects with the concept of Kapwa/Ibang Tao; how the challenge to occupy a subject position is complicated by colonial history).

What has been helpful to me lately is Irigaray's take on women's lack of subjectivity under patriarchy... she writes that there really is no such thing as sexual difference because the sexual female identity that women often assimilate is already conditioned by culture to submit to male and cultural definitions of what female identity should be. She writes that women are conditioned by the culture to keep asking: Do you love me? And the question really means: What am I for you? Who am I? How can I return to myself?

Here's an extended quote from i love to you.

"More often than not the man gives no response. And in this order romantic courtship is not really a response since the woman is desired bodily, not spiritually and energetically …Libido is masculine, or neuter, so Freud claims. Yet there is a specific feminine energy, related more to communication, to growth, and not just to reproduction. Freud presents this as an immolation of feminine energy. This energy is to be sacrificed by man for the sake of his return to the serious matters of public life, culture, a science – activities, that, it would seem, need to be cleansed of every aspect of affectivity and sexuality by returning to a zero degree of libidinal tension. As far as the woman is concerned, it has to be sacrificed in order to annul her own existence and the problems she poses. Energy is not to be cultivated in two (i.e. male and female) modalities, two voices, two colors, two tonalities. It is to be sacrificed on the cross – writes Hegel – rising toward a so-called neutral truth, devoid of perceptive and sensorial qualities, an everlasting truth, alien to our bodies, living in the here and now.

"The Western tradition typically represents living energy as sacrificed to spirit, to a truth assimilated to immutable ideals, beyond growth, beyond corporeality; celestial ideals imposed as models so that we all become alike – our sensible, natural and historical differences neutralized."(100-101)

This is also connected to Levinas' concept of radical alterity...but more on this later.

Am sure this thread is inexhaustible. Thanks!

My Darling Noah is 3 today!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Just arrived: Songs of the Philippines: Huning Kaungalingun (One's Own Musical Sounds) by Priscilla Magdamo, Siliman University ethnomusicologist. This is a compilation of folk songs from the Bilaan, Manobo and Tiruray peoples of Mindanao. Thank you, Ceres, for connecting me to Priscilla.

This has been the most amazing summer of conversations and connections! Some of the previous posts here about Eros and power have caused some of you to delurk to join the conversation in private. It feels as if there has been a need to have a container for all the stories that have waited to be told. Until now. Once we gave ourselves permission to be vulnerable and trusting, we realized that we have always been connected in a very primal way. As the masks fall away, we become each other's Kapwa again. What a precious gift!

If you still want to have a Tiny Book, email me: lenystrobel@sbcglobal.net. Meritage Press delivers around the world!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thank you, Mei Mei Berssenbrugge!

Working backward in sleep, the last thing you numbed to is what wakes you.

What if that image were Eros as words?

I write to you and you feel me.

What would it be like if you contemplated my words and I felt you?

Animals, an owl, frog, open their eyes, and a mirror forms on the ground.

When insight comes in a dream, and events the next day illuminate it, this begins your streaming consciousness, synchronicity, asymptomatic lines of the flights of concordances.

An owl opens its eyes in the deep woods.

For the first time, I write and you don't know me.

Milkweed I touch floats.

--I Love Artists/133-134/Corcordances

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Just arrived: Steps: A Notebook by Tom Beckett, a Meritage Press "Poetry Feeds the World" project.

What a delightful 2"x2" book - the tiniest I've owned and one that's easy to carry in my tiny purse! The book includes not only Tom's poetry but Eileen's hay-na-ku tiny drawings!

This book made me feel happy today! I'll be walking all day with a grin and no one would ever guess why. Thank you, Eileen and Tom! I volunteer to help with the HOD if you are deluged with orders.

So this is my "give back": I will give five of these tiny books to the first 5 lurkers who backchannel for a copy. I want to pay my happiness forward. Email me: lenystrobel@sbclgobal.net

Now reading: The Sunday List of Dreams. I picked up this book in Healdsburg while playing tourist on a Sunday afternoon and because it had two words in it: "list," "dreams."

Still trying to work through:
i love to you by Luce Irigaray.
The Reenchantment of Science edited by David Ray Griffin
The Poetics of Reverie by Gaston Bachelard

And Noah will be 3 this Sunday.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let me learn that I am beautiful for me. (Robin Morgan)

This summer, I feel that I've crossed a threshold: I felt that I was finally able to reconnect meaningfully with my high school bestfriends. There has always been a vulnerability that I've held at bay for two years -- when I first told them that I now have two published books. Now that I've given copies of my books to them, the vulnerability has shifted into a different kind of meditation (about feminism, about body-soul integration, about finding a way out of modernity's straight-jacket, about babaylan work - but these will be for another book, not here).

It's been 40 years, after all, and although we've had occasional contacts over the years, these connections, for me, have been fragile and cautious. On these past occasions, I would find myself watching for snippets of comments about what they remember of me as a 16 year old. What I repeatedly heard was unsettling to me: You were sexy. You were our beauty queen. You had nice legs. You were a snob. You were different from us. I've always struggled with the incongruency between my self-perception and theirs. I am not beautiful. I am not sexy.

I graduated from high school with twenty honor students chosen from our class section. I am number 21. Perhaps this is the beginning of my unconscious desire to be known as smart, as smart as they all are. If I were beautiful and sexy, I must not be that smart -- this is the equation that, even today, still circulates and distorts women's self-perception. Forty years is a long time to carry this burden of misperception, a burden imposed by an ideology that entraps women into submission to prescribed gender roles. I wonder now if my smart girlfriends somehow didn't think of themselves as beautiful. A reversal.

Been wondering if all the education under my belt today is simply a consequence of wanting to prove that I am smart. I shouldn't have needed a doctorate to realize this but there it is! Furthermore, in high school, I've always felt off-center of whatever and whoever was the center of attention and attraction in this tight group of friends. I've felt this lack of belonging to the center but somehow had enough chutzpah to compensate for it by finding my own extracurricular interests - the Glee Club, the church, the barkada. I always belonged...elsewhere.

It's no surprise then that, in later years, they told me that I've always been perceived as the non-conformist, the renegade, the one who eschewed the path one is supposed to follow as part of being "normal and well adjusted." I eloped at 17; a single mother at 24; remarried to a white man; became American...and now a Lola - while all of them are still raising teenagers. Renegade, indeed.

I do not know what "normal" means anymore as I delve deeper and beyond all the nooks and crannies of this process that I call "decolonization." What a strange word this must be to my classmates, I tell myself. Never mind. It doesn't matter much anyway since this is just a story about myself and no one else.

Returning to the persistent question I've been asked: why haven't you dealt with the question of sexuality in your work on decolonization? There are clues in these reflections about the events of this summer - my father's death, my reunion with old friends, the book projects, the books about Eros.

In learning about Eros and Power, I resent being called nostalgic, a hopeless romantic, and sentimental when I've talked about my dreams, desires, and visions of what a decolonized Filipina and a decolonized people might be like. These are the very words used to tell women that there is something wrong about them and their bodies, their minds, and ultimately, their souls. That this is why women need to be tamed and silenced. This "wildness" needs to be imprisoned within the walls of heterosexual and class privilege under patriarchy and capitalist society. (Yes, I see your raised eyebrow).

Perhaps herein lies the key as to why I have never felt affirmed when my friends said that I was the sexy, beautiful snob in our group. Perhaps in my bones and in my soul, I already knew then that there is something deeply wounding about this. It has taken me 40 years to finally find clarity and the language for telling this part of my story. You've read it now... there are still many silences that await their voice and space. For now, this much:

Let me learn that I am beautiful for me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Holly said she enjoyed reading my post about the shoe store manager because it showed her the "non-professorial" side of "Leny who only posts serious thinking stuff." Unfortunately, I've deleted that post because I felt it disrupted the flow of my recent posts. A big Mistake - and thank you, Holly, for pointing this out to me...for telling me how important it was to you to see that I deal with these kinds of situations on a daily basis. What appears trivial, mundane, and ordinary isn't really when one considers the weight that racism and prejudice imposes on our bodies and consciousness as we go about the ordinary business of something as simple as buying sandals.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Spent the day with the beautiful Holly Calica - one of our Fulbright fellows. I reminded Holly that today is the first anniversary of our Fulbright trip to Davao...and we reminisced about the 5-week journey and how magical it all was and still is.

Holly found relatives everywhere she went in Davao and Manila and she's never even been to the Philippines prior...but thanks to a mother who keeps track of relatives, Holly reconnected with all of them.

Holly is a dancer, visual artist, art teacher, and a contributor to the babaylan book!

She was happy to get out of foggy San Francisco and we wandered in and out of shops in Sonoma. Holly found a Ghanaian mask at the Church Mouse - great find!

It was a welcome break from my summer rituals. Actually, I've grown accustomed to my Cave but Holly's stories lured me out into the sun today.

I received K's narrative this morning...i cried all morning. couldn't work. tears are good. here are parts that i collaged from her work. have a taste.

i have come to think of colonization as an opportunistic vine. it is not native to me, nor to my people. i don't remember my life without it. trusting soul that i am, i even thought we had a symbiotic relationship...

the presence of the vine isn't my fault; yet, i am responsible for its eradication. this is the burden of striving towards awakening, towards freedom...

and yes, this has been a painful process...

i am writing this narrative from the Philippines...i've come Home because i'd like to explore the context of the lifecycle of this vine of colonization. how did it get so good at what it does? just how deep are its roots and how far-reaching?...

Inang Bayan has called me Home. she has told me that her rich volcanic soil and her story can help me awaken and remember. ..she reminds me that i am a babaylan and that i have important work to do...

as i decolonize my hearing becomes more acute and my resolve strengthens. Ina, thank you for loving me like you do.

i remember.
i re-member.
i love.

thank you, K.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Poetics of Intimacy!

He threatened me once: I just want you to know that I have killed someone once with words. I should have replied: So, slay me. I have known resurrections. I will return as a black hole. Inch closer to your universe and slowly gnaw at your edges one letter at a time. D.E.S.I.R.E.

calm overwhelms the simplest gesture of awakening.
humility in the face of incomplete knowing.

it is comforting not to be the keeper and watcher of absolutes.
i long for the embrace of ambiguity
deft and artful without being soft.

i miss you sometimes.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Notes on Eros and Power

Until now I have resisted learning about radical feminist theory in-depth. Perhaps it was my preoccupation with postcolonial subjectivity; now I have been invited to widen the fences yet again and see what lies within and beyond. As with my previous experience of how knowledge is constructed for me, my intuition is always my first teacher. My feelings, desires, dreams -- seem to lead me and then one by one they come -- books, music, poetry, friends, places, childhood memories, even Death -- as if summoned by something yet unnamed until that moment of recognition: EROS!

The feminist Eros encompasses the "life force," the unique human energy which springs from the desire for existence with meaning, for a consciousness informed by feeling, for experience that integrates the sensual and the rational, the spiritual and the political. Eros is both love and power. This is Adrienne Rich's "thinking through the body" and Audre Lorde's suggestion that women learn to trust and act upon the "erotic...an assertion of the life force of women which can infuse their lives with a creative energy. For Lorde, the erotic is the sensual bridge which connects physical, emotional, and psychic expression of what is deepest and strongest and riches within each of us, being shared: the passions of love, in its deepest meanings." (Trask, 94).

When I first wrote about how I came to recognize the primal wound in my father as a colonized subject and how I saw glimpses of his wholeness, I didn't know that he was going to die on me before I could speak to him about this. This is my grief that I wake up to each morning since his death a month ago. Slowly, I feel the recovery from anger, fear and shame about this wound and now comes the awakening of a deeper kind of grace and love. And I find that it is my Mother's love that I reach out for. Eros.

You have responded with your own stories of recognition. We call her "babaylan." You told me that my story about my father made you understand your own father's "fixity." You told me that you were moved to do a healing ritual on your Mom and Dad so that their woundedness and yours can be healed. You told me that you met someone who must have had a "sacred contract" with you to deepen your connection with eros. You told me that you are still in search of healing from the sexual trauma of your childhood. You told me that you wish for Filipino indigenous rituals that we can do together so that we can return to our bodies. What is the equivalent of Native sweat lodges in Filipino culture? you ask me.

You told me that this summer you were visited by a koan that challenges your stubborn mind to empty itself. You told me that I should expect to feel differently about my body and my emotions - to notice the expansiveness, the tenderness, the fragile strength, the openness to receive and give Love. You told me to notice the falseness of historically and politically constructed boundaries intended to keep the sexual understructure of patriarchy and capitalism in place. You told me that Eros is a threat to these narratives.

What a mouthful, my old self sighs. Sigh.

Babaylan in Germany!! and here! here! Woohoo!

And Mary Ann Ubaldo.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

all these places had their moments...

...in my life, i've loved them all...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More tattoos! and this is my name in alibata (nice find!).

(As I read Haunani Kay Trask's Eros and Power, I am again reminded that this work is collective. Thank you to those of you who have already backchanneled and sent your well-wishes for the birth of this child (babaylan book) in response to the email below. Salamat!)

Dear ones -
Thank you again for your manuscripts for the babaylan book. As I began to read your essays, I was overcome with emotion and wrote this in my blog:

I started crying last night as I looked at the babaylan manuscripts.
This is powerful work. I don’t know that I can do this.
Why did I have the audacity to think that I can do this?

I had it all figured out: the theoretical framework, the scaffold needed to
privilegeIndigenous Filipino theorizing.
But this is shamanism! This is not theorizing!
This is not mere intellectual work! Where is your Body?
Shamanic work always begins in the Body.

I've had conversations with some of you about my Dad's death and all that has come up for me this summer. I sense that this is all well and good and necessary; I welcome it. I also realize that I do not want to be alone.

Grace, our urban babaylan from Hawaii, has suggested this in her email:

But perhaps, maybe it will take collective ritual on the part of all of us who are book contributors. What do you think if maybe we do a simple ceremony for the book project in our respective locales every time when nanay buwan/apo bulan is full? Or when the moon is new? Maybe it is a prayer you can give us. Maybe it is a vision that you provide that we place on our altars that we help hold together until the entire books is complete? There are some other out there things like sex magic, too. Like dedicating an orgasm and the creative energy the orgasm raises to the book project. (Maybe your eyebrow is raised, but I hope you don't think I am crazy for suggesting it. At best, why not create a little pleasure and pukengkeng liberation from this, too?)

Anyway, maybe you have done any of the above privately already; but, perhaps (re)starting from any one of these places as a collective of contributors, will provide the intention and healing that is needed? And it will support a building of energy.

As I write this, I am lighting a green candle for you that sits on my desk next to the goddess Kwan Yin. Around them, I place the two snake bone head dresses given to me by my Kankanay aunties which are traditionally worn as protection during childbirth and to protect from lightning. The snake, ofcourse, representing the feminine knowledge and Kundalini power that we allow ourselves now to engage.

I am also offering gratitude for your courage and your willingness to do the heavy thinking, uplifting, and groundbreaking so that we could connect. I am honored to travel this part of the inner terrain with you, next to you and with the other contributors. I send you also love and deep aloha- maraming salamat- Grace

As I now think about this book in terms of shamanic work and not just an academic project, I feel scared, humbled, excited, powerful - all at once. I also realize that many of you have done more in depth work than I may have in this process. So I invite your energetic support for this project - in whatever form it may take, please let us know. Thank you for the babaylan-inspired sisterhood.

Lily and I plan to get together in early August to workshop the book. We still do not have a publisher and a book designer but we're still a long ways from having a final manuscript.

In the meantime the first print run of A Book of Her Own: Words and Images to Honor the Babaylan is almost sold out. I plan to look into getting it published in the Philippines. Let me know if you have any ideas.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thus, the explorations of space ends on a note of uncertainty...we know our immediate neighborhood rather intimately. With increasing distance our knowledge fades rapidly. Eventually, we reach the dim boundary--the utmost limits of our telescopes. There, we measure shadows, and we search among ghostly errors of measurement for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial.

Hah! I thought I was going to switch channels and read Death by Black Hole...but here, too, is Poetry in the words of Edward Hubble above. (and why did I think that science is not poetry in the first place? duh!)

Tyson: What are the lessons to be learned from this journey of the mind? That humans are emotionally fragile, perennially gullible, hopelessly ignorant masters of an insignificantly small speck in the cosmos.

Have a nice day. (47)

Have a nice day indeedy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Today, I am feeling very honored to have been given permission to work on this babaylan book. Sharing with you a snippet below:

From Agnes' (she also gave the keynote paper at the 2005 Babaylan conference) babaylan manuscript, she quotes:

Iding, a Manobo baylan from Agusan del Sur....

Nganong kinahanglan man i-sangyaw sa mga Kristiyanos ang Ginoo/Dios Dayag man unta ang Dios sa kinaiyahan. Nganong dili nalang kaplagan ang Dios sa kinaiyahan? (we wonder why Christians need to preach about God, when God's Presence is clear in all of Creation. Why do Christians not allow Creation to make God known to us?..The forest is now being destroyed because the Christians removed God from it. They put God in a building. If you do not see God living in nature, you would not hesitate to destroy it...

". . . But the babaylan is also saying that...almost all indigenous cultures, including our own, are at risk in terms of their survival. We cannot talk about wholeness or indigenous peoples' wellsprings of wisdom, or the babaylan, without recognizing that they face the possibility of cultural genocide, along with the loss of their ancestral domains."

crossing the threshold of shadows...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

An earlier post titled "Sexual Crimes and Colonial Trauma" is now morphing into a cyberdialogue with women who have dealt with this issue in their lives. Interestingly, the manuscripts that were submitted for the babaylan book also contain healing stories from childhood violence and sexual trauma -- all related to imperial and colonial trauma. There is a lot of material on this topic already, but I believe this anthology addresses very specific Fil Am themes that haven't been explored yet. This could be groundbreaking if we can pull it off. I'm struggling to get the writing off the ground.

I wrote this (excerpt) in my journal as I started to read these manuscripts:

I started crying last night as I looked at the babaylan manuscripts
This is powerful work. I don’t know that I can do this.
Why did I have the audacity to think that I can do this?

I had it all figured out: the theoretical framework, the scaffold needed to privilege
Indigenous Filipino theorizing.
But this is shamanism! This is not theorizing!
This is not mere intellectual work! Where is your Body?
Shamanic work always begins in the Body.

and this morning, read this in Grace's blog:

Others may direct energy in the forms of academic analysis, mass action, and politics and policy in stopping global warming, humanitarian crisises and the Iraq war. For myself, my energy may be better leveraged by supporting women and men, to honor, heal, and love the creative, juicy power of their sex. In doing so, a profound nourishing act of service can happen in both the mind and body which can ultimately subvert the origins of Cartesian (black/white, right/wrong, top/bottom), split thinking that created this whole mess in the first place. When the body gets more and more what freedom feels and tastes like deep inside, the rest follows.

What follows this is Grace's analysis of what's missing in the "human potential" movement in (white) liberal communities and what's missing in our Fil Am community conversations about sexuality and trauma. I think she's on to something here.

In the meantime, I continue to get backchannels from readers who tell me that they are glad that they can talk about this now.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

So I was telling V that I feel there has been a shift in the work that I'm doing. Whereas the first two books addressed a Fil Am reader, my work in the classroom now addresses my "other" -- the white, middle class, heterosexual, suburban student. I told her stories about two students last semester. One, an older white male student who started out the semester being as arrogant and belligerent as they come at the beginning, defending his whiteness and privilege thru rants against peoples of color. Perhaps unconsciously he was trying to intimidate me and put me in my place. As the semester inched on, R became quiter, attentive, reflective. He moved from the back of the room to the front. Several times he stayed after class to tell me: Please, I want you to know that I am trying very hard to listen and learn. By the end of the semester, he had written the best testimonial any teacher can want from a student :

He wrote: I learned that being white all my life has allowed me to ignore the issues. If I were a person of color the issues would have been in my face all the time…I never thought about that before. The most important lesson I took away from this course was the realization that whites who recognize their privilege in this world, and who are willing to change to make a significant impact on racism and improve their own lives, are on the right path because the system is crumbling around them. As a white person I realized that I needed to recognize the pain and suffering that people of color have endured for my benefit. Change can happen, but the white man has to change his ways of thinking and realize that his privilege is temporary unless he makes a change. The system won’t support the elitists much longer.

Another white female student told me that she is going to get a divorce because, through the readings in the class, she realized that she has allowed herself to be colonized by master narratives that her spouse has faithfully embodied and imposed on her far too long. She wanted to be free.

V was amazed that there are stories like these about white folks who are being transformed. She said that I must go to the Philippines and share these stories at conferences, with other academics, with influential people who have the power to change the (educational) system there. This is what folks back home don't read or hear or talk about Americans, she said. I told her that I do not have the time to promote my work or seek opportunities; that I have always been shy and that it always nearly kills me to put myself out there. . .and so far, by some grace, I have been able to overcome my fears and welcome the little deaths to my ego.

That this is why I long to become a Poet. Poetry allows for obscurity and lucidity at the same time. I think I know what lucidity is but I am not good at obscurity.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Had a long conversation with V today; she came (from LA) to submit her manuscript for one of my writing projects. V recently finished her MA in Indigenous Mind from Wisdom University. It is encouraging and inspiring to meet with the likes of her - a young Fil Am woman who has come full circle and is asking all the right questions:

How can we (as decolonized Fil Ams) create aesthetic, cultural, political bridges in the diaspora? How can we use the arts and cybertechnology? How can we create energy (in the US and in the homeland) to address deep questions of identity, sustainable cultures? How do we access ancestral wisdom? How does/should ancestral wisdom inform our way of being in the world?

She said she has shared my yellow book (Coming Full Circle) with her cohort in the program who are non-Fil Ams and they, too, agree that they need to decolonize...and that the book provides a map for doing that.

She was also excited to share the news about a hotshot Hollywood movie producer who is Fil Am and is looking for a movie to produce. The suddenly famous Aureaus Solito has already been picked as the director but there is a need for a screenplay penned by a Fil Am who has a grasp of the complexity of the Fil Am diasporic experience and understands the depth and breadth of spiritual, cultural, and psychic work that needs to happen in our communities. This calls for babaylan-inspired work, we said knowingly to each other, and we need to find other kindred souls to work with.

It is good to meet with young writers and to see the world through their eyes; it is even better when there is mutual recognition of the ties that bind us when one has already begun the work of healing the split psyche. Sometimes in my isolated location and preoccupation with other things in my life, I forget that the movement continues...here and over there. V called my attention to a Kapwa conference in Iloilo in June 08 (you must go! she tells me.), an Alamat conference in UP in November, to a Dream conference at my own university nearby.

But the inner world has called me this summer and so I must let this other world float by for now.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Why I like this issue:
1. Copenhagen is redesigning classrooms. Bosch and Fjord architects designed "upholstered reading tubes," "sculptural Hot Pots," "colourful concentration booths." Philosophy: Honor the way children process information.

2. Vandana Shiva on the "dark side of the Green Revolution" in Africa. What's revolutionary about dispossessing small farmers and contaminating the food chain and economic systems with toxic fertilizers?

3. Jonathan Rowe (who is married to a Filipina), writes about OFW remittances as a losing game, "and it won't change until the country's leaders find a way to channel more remittance money into genuine grassroots development."

4. Small is the new approach to entrepreneurship for the 21st century. Or why the maker of Clif Bar has refused to grow.

5. Why corn is not the best alternative energy. Switchgrass and Jatropha are.

6. How Picasso changed how we see the world. By Ben Okri (need I say more?).

7. The Harvard-educated king of Bali, Indonesia says: Bali must offer tourists Bali, not a museum.

7. US health care system: the worse health money can buy.

8. Amory Lovins says: Darwin beats Descartes.

9. Bernard Lietaer says: The current money system is a monopoly that promotes scarcity and stimulates competion. That monopoly limits the amount of choice for people to develop...and blocks the processing of human energy. The current money system must evolve to a higher level of complexity or it will collapse.

(what, you thought all i do is dream?)

Quotes of the day.

and one more:
For some souls, dreams are the substance of beauty. She found him after a dream; that is why he is so beautiful.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My two books are headed for Germany to live with Ceres.
I'm thinking of July 4, 1848 by way of this note from my friend, Carlos Aceves. No fireworks for me.

In 1846 the United States launched a massive military invasion of the Mexican Republic. Within two years, U.S. forces had taken Mexico City and on February 2, 1848 forced the government to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in which Mexico lost half of its territory, which is now the southwest. The Treaty was amended and ratified by the U.S. Senate on May 10, taking out Article 10 which guaranteed Mexicans right to the communal and inidividual land grants. On July 4, 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was officially and formally proclaimed as complete and valid, thus ending the war of aggression by the United States on Mexican territory. Something to think about this 4th of July.

***from an old journal entry (12/30/02):

I blame the thief who spreads rumors of war and takes away the poems I might have written if I wasn't thinking of war 24/7. Poetry and War? Can poems stop a missile that will crush its target and poison the air and water, not to mention the children and mothers? Sometimes I think they are evil - these men with guns who lord it over all declared renegades of the the empire. Is it un-poet like to judge evil?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Eileen has let my cat out of the bag...yup, got tenured and promoted, thanks in no small measure to the Chatelaine who kept asking me to produce essays. Her latest question: How come you haven't addressed the issue of sexuality in your decolonization work? Uhhmmmm.....

I haven't started celebrating yet because I heard that another Fil Am scholar didn't get tenure and I need to write a letter of support for him.

As an accidental scholar, I feel blessed and am thankful for all the friends and soulmates who have accompanied me on this journey. You know who you are. I love you.

Monday, July 02, 2007

been contemplating this...on my scarred wrist from the 10-year old accident.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

(I apologize to the folks who read this blog and are expecting a return call or email from me. I am present here but nowhere else. Please bear with me).

Thanks to those who have backchanneled about the post on "sexual crimes and colonial trauma;" this is a minefield. I hope I can learn to tread softly as you entrust me with your stories and painful memories.

More about storytelling from David Abram: At the very moment that the idea of human equality has finally spread via the printed word or the electronic media, into every nation, it becomes apparent that it is indeed nothing more than an idea, that in some of the most "developed" of nations humans are nevertheless destroying each other, physically and emotionally...through warfare, through the callousness of corporate greed, or through a rapidly spreading indifference.

Clearly something is terribly missing, some essential ingredient has been neglected, some necessary aspect of life has been dangerously overlooked, set aside, or simply forgotten in the rush toward a common world....we have forgotten the poise that comes from living in storied relation and reciprocity with the myriad things, the myriad beings, that perceptually surround us.

Only if we can renew that reciprocity - grounding our newfound capacity for literate abstraction in those older, oral forms of experience - only then will the abstract intellect find its real value. It is not a matter of going back, but rather of coming full circle, uniting our capacity for cool reason with those more sensorial and mimetic ways of knowing, letting the vision of a common world root itself in our direct, participatory engagement with the local and the particular.

If we do not soon remember ourselves to our sensuous surroundings, if we do not reclaim our solidarity with the other sensibilities that inhabit and constitute those surroundings, then the cost of our human commonality may be our common extinction.

In North America there is growing movement of those who have "fallen in love outward" with the world around them. As their compassion for the land deepens, they choose to resist the contemporary tendency to move always elsewhere for a better job or more affluent lifestyle, and resolve instead to dedicate themselves to the terrain that has claimed them, to meet the generosity of the land with a kind of wild faithfulness. They suspect that...sooner or later technological civilization must accept the invitation of gravity and settle back into the land, its political and economic structures diversifying into the varied contours and rhythms of a more-than-human earth.

What then is the task of writers?...our task is that of taking up the written word, with all of its potency, and patiently, carefully, writing language back into the land....it is the practice of spinning stories that have the rhythm and lilt of the local soundscape, tales for the tongue, tales that want to be told, again and again...enfolding us all within a common flesh, a common story now bursting with rain.

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