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Monday, May 26, 2008

A Kapihan Tradition

Ver Enriquez, NVM Gonzalez, Juan Francisco, Jimmy Veneracion, Joey Ayala, Eileen Tabios, Helen Toribio, Reme Grefalda, Michelle Bautista, Fr. Albert Alejo, Jean Vengua, Melba Maggay, Perla Daly, Bullet MArasigan, Jun De Leon -- what do they all have in common? They were our special guests at our Kapihans -- informal conversations about shared interests: Filipino and Filipino American history, cultural productions, indigenous psychology, poetry and literature, etc.

Yesterday was Kapihan with Grace Nono.

At this Kapihan with Grace, we were joined by Alleluia Panis, Venus Herbito and Teresa MacColl, both graduates of MA in Indigenous Mind, Jodie Olympia, Lizae Reyes - healing harpist, dance artist/teacher, Vedel (Venus' sister), Miriam (my Fulbright co-director), Noemi, Delia, Lee, Bob, Don -- local FANHS folks. We talked about our work and interests (decolonization, babaylan, ecological spirituality, reclaiming, indigenizing, music, spirit, healing, etc) and the challenges and joys of doing it within the Fil Am community and the need to go beyond community. It was productive and joyful!!

Grace brought cds and hand-made jackets, and jewelry all made by indigenous folks in Mindanao (she is from Agusan)-- after all, the marketplace is also part of Kapihans. More importantly, she talked about her work as an artist who is called to reclaim the sacred chants of indigenous babaylans...and the hard work of trying to convince Filipinos that they have these beautiful and holy chants and prayers that if only they understood the worldview behind these would make us love ourselves more and not always looking for affirmation from other cultures (my paraphrase). But she said the lack of funding makes it difficult to spread the word.

Alleluia, director of Kularts, is the only Fil Am choreographer who presents contemporary and tribal Filipino arts. We always look forward to her new offerings. Two months ago, the Ifugao dance ensemble was able to come to my university and we made a weekend of it, placing the dancers in homestays then coming together for a Kapihan in the morning...and ending with dancing in the streets with gongs!

There is always good energy around these kapihans. Our young friend, Jodie, who recently appeared in Vagina Monologues, said she is a babaylan-stalker (after I told the story of how I used to stalk Ver E while he was in the Bay Area). She read a line from her journal during a low period in her undergrad years: I am breaking. Last night she revised that line: I am breaking...free! Her next project is to work with kundimans and give them a strong Pinay woman flair!:-)

Venus said she feels like my house is her second home considering how often she has come to see me in the past year. She and her sister, Venedel, are newcomers to the Bay Area and they're already plugged in and doing all kinds of volunteer work with Kularts and other cultural productions.

Teresa, who is of Celtic ancestry, talked about the hard work for white people to reclaim their indigenous ancestry because their disconnection from the source is deep. Bob, jazz musician, half-white and half-Pinoy, talked about his Lolo who was an arbularyo...he seems to be drawn to these types of discussions though he's never really been in this kind of group.

Lee, who has been in the US for 42 years, is a single mom and has the can-do attitude of an assimilated Pinay and who now wants to reclaim her Filipina community. She and Noemi (Bob's wife) are moving the local community in new directions, and trying to be graceful under duress. Together with Delia, president of local FANHS chapter, they demonstrate alliance-building across Fil Am organizations.

Lizae - I met for the first time although I've seen her perform with a kulintang ensemble. She is a Buddhist and is a harpist and she gets invited to hospitals to play the harp for the dying (in transition). She is a dance teacher in Oakland.

I wish you were here to share the spirit and energy of this small beloved community. Maybe we will see you at the future Babaylan conference -- this group will work on making it happen!

Grace has a final Bay Area performance on May 31st, 5pm, at Reena's Garden Restaurant in Vallejo. $25 at the door; food included. See you there!

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