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Thursday, August 23, 2007

The beautiful soul, Katrin de Guia, sent this email and it's too precious not to share with you. She is responding to an email that we (sis Lily and I), as editors of a forthcoming book, sent to the contributors re update on the book project.

what makes the babaylan tradition unique among the remaining shaman traditions?

precisely the colonial experience! You mention 3 layers, zeus salazar mentions 4 affiliations of filipino psychology (which go- hand in glove- with what the babaylan knows, and not merely because the babaylan is a pinay psychologist but also because as a Filipina culture-bearer that is her history). however, what is hardly mentioned is the Buddhist influence and the Muslim influence which overturned the Buddhist influence on the Filipino culture in at least half of the archipelago (akin to Indonesia). Maybe because the Buddhist and the Muslim heritage is not mentioned either in english or spanish texts, it just fell under the rug. These patches of clothes in the dress of the babaylan are hardly mentioned and yet this very integration of global animist, asian buddhist, oriental muslim, traditional european, modern American and postmodern global culture makes the shamanic tradition of the babaylan so unbelievably rich. its not even the layers that are important, but the retention of ancestral memory despite all the layers, integrating the matching elements due to the inherent "including" strength of the kapwa culture.

that is what i tried to do telling stories about traditional babaylans in the mountains side by side with modern Pinays around the globe. they are babaylans because they keep remembering and connected to their archipelagic ancestors. angel shaw is such a good example for this, in my eyes. (so are you, leny, from what i made out of your book and all you other kindred spirits whom i yet have to meet)

because the babaylan has never forgotten how it all began, (s)he hears the environment talk, like all the other shamans around the globe. (s)he hears mother nature and father wind. that is quite a feat after so many centuries and millennia. (s)he does not need to live in a forest without being artificial or self conscious about being a babaylan even in the city world.

yun. there is that great love for life which comes with this obligation to serve. no shaman without that. but isnt it great that the babaylan can serve in so many ways-- telling her stories even by writing books or painting or making films, or healing as a nurse or doctor or yaya or a cook?

i believe this also plays into the question of diaspora. here, where life is so fast, how much space and time can you realy devote to your ancestors without just repeating old rituals and their forms? does your life express the ideals of the babaylan which are rooted in non-confessional spirituality? do you dream and understand your dreams and become a self sufficient member of society who contributes something, whatever small to humanity each day, wherever you are? do you know how to soul-travel and visit other worlds? can you be a leader when asked to lead?

such questions have to do with critical consciousness. it is the door through which the babaylan must step to claim her wings and humility keeps the feathers of these wings well oiled for flying across those oceans, forever finding a space for its own and its kin to survive.

warm regards from a soggy mountain overseas.

Thank you, Katrin.

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