Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yesterday was Rizal Day but there was nothing in the Filipino news or anywhere else about it.
I remembered because Kidlat Tahimik told me the story of how he helped his sons remember important historical dates like Dec. 30. At some point he decided to stop buying christmas presents and celebrating borrowed holidays. Instead on days like Dec. 30, he would surprise his sons with gifts and a "Happy Rizal day" card. You get the picture.

Belated greetings on Rizal Day!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reading The Shared Voice by Grace Nono...

draws me deeper into the indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSP) of Filipinos. This 15-year research project on the oralist traditions in the Philippines is only a taste, a sip from the deep well where these spring from! In this book, Grace was able to feature ten oralists - many of whom are also shamans/babaylan/healers like Mendung Sabal, who received her gift of chanting, story-telling, healing, and weaving directly from her abyans/spirit guides. Another is Evelyn Rivera Mirano, a US-born Fil Am who grew up in the Philippines, was trained in classical European musical traditions and was later drawn to research and study Filipino oral traditions. Florencia Havana is a christianized Manobo who valorize and include the Manobo oral traditions in the Methodist church that she and her husband pastor. What a great collection and if this is only a taste, I think of the depth and breadth of that spring. How it must be waiting to feed us.

What Grace Nono has accomplished in this compilation includes: academic theories and concepts about primary and secondary orality; the process of doing this kind of research as a lifelong commitment, perhaps even a calling by the spirits; the need to keep the traditions alive and sustained by the communities of origin as well as by those of us outside such communities; the healing power of being rooted in the indigenous and all that invokes in the cells of our bodies and memories.

As I write this, I am listening to Translating the Gongs by Grace' musical collaborator, Bob Aves... and before this, to Kulintronica by San Francisco-based Ron Quesada (who also helped facilitate Grace' recent performance in SF). I hear the kulintang, gongs, drums, electric guitar, and Grace's voice and I think about the re-imagination of indigenous traditions by contemporary artists in the homeland and in the diaspora.

Whereas I used to labor in my intellect about the politics of appropriation, I realize that I'm doing so less and less. Fed by a growing tacit knowing and trust in the power of these IKSP to move me beyond the linearity of intellectual predispositions -- is a beautiful feeling. If I can keep the monkey brain from being imprisoned by its own narrowness, who knows what is next?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

been reading The Idea of Wilderness
watched Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World
invitation to week-long "indigenous science" retreat in Maui, Feb 09

as for holiday treats: i used to wonder why movie theaters were open on christmas day when everything else was closed. well, i wonder no longer because for the past two christmases we've gone to the movies with the rest of the Jewish community (it seems like). today's movie: The Reader.

and no traditional feast either. this year i made crab cioppino for noche buena and seafood paella for today's dinner. much as i crave the usual lechon, i just can't indulge in it anymore. and besides it's no fun without a crowd. our crowd does not get here until the 29th.

finally, this one and this one came in my inbox today. is it a spoiler or a wake-up call? i will go for the latter because i've been sensing this for a while now but i've been too timid to say it myself.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I wish there is an easy way to round out this year.

so many folks easily churn out holiday letters chronicling births, deaths, travels, pride in what has been accomplished during the year. these are the friends we hear from once a year. e.g., we hear from a couple who spent their years in the Philippines, he as the general manager of GM and she as the exec director of a foster care program. there's the other couple whose kids grew up with our kid. all the kids are married now and have kids of their own.

but then there are other letters we have not received this year and i am wondering what happened...i miss the letters -- these letters are markers of a shared past, a reminder of the way we were.

i didn't write a holiday letter this year. i don't know where to begin or what to say. i figure my dear friends understand this because they know what I've been through this past year. the anonymous reader of this blog may or may not get an inkling of what the obscurity is about but thank you, too, for continuing to come here.

there will be much to reveal in the coming year according to the baybayin oracle.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

shape-shifting the work we do...

I've been having conversations lately with women who are tired of academic work and want to be independent scholars if only they can support themselves financially while doing it. That's part of what I want to research now -- how to support women doing important work but are not institutionally affiliated. Also - how to build credibility for work that is not always institutionally validated. I sense that means finding those networks that are already doing this. I know they exist. If only I were more tech savvy... it seems that's where the potential lies.

The kind of work that lies just beyond the margins of what is called "academic rigor" (as defined by a supposedly objective science) -- is important and necessary more than ever. But there will always be this issue of gatekeeping. And there are those of us who will always be finding ways of getting around those gates and gatekeepers by building our own wisdom communities based on a different paradigm that is more humane, inclusive, and non-hierachical. Work that is not damaging to the spirit but supportive of the need for wholeness of body, mind, and soul.

To build our own wisdom communities -- this is the challenge. As our communities are often virtual, transnational, diasporic -- how do we define community? For me, this hinges on a common vision, and anchoring this vision locally while imagining its diasporic possibilities.

In my recent travels and meeting Filipino babaylans/artists/culture-bearers and resonating with their profound vision of Wholeness, something shifted within me. Something very deep, very loving, transformative, radical. I cannot deny the impact of this experience on my body, my psyche, my spirit and now all I want to do is to challenge myself on how to transform my academic capital (if it can be called this) to serve this larger vision.

A few weeks ago, I again asked the baybayin oracle cards for insight. These are the three cards:
1) prepare to fly. prepare for expansive emotional, psychic, and spiritual growth.
2) the door that's been closed - don't keep trying to push it open.
3) look for new kin.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last night, I was brainstorming with Grace Nono and Su and Lia Llamado on how to support artists who privilege the importance of indigenous creativity. Su and Lia have lived in the Philippines for many years, being one of the partners of the famous Cafe by the Ruins in Baguio and friends to many artists including Santi Bose, Roberto Villanueva, Bencab and others. How do these artists keep doing what they do regardless of what else is going on, e.g. political turmoils, economic downturns, personal heartbreaks, etc.

In the Philippines, I realize that there are artist communities from the North to the South that are linked together and support each other's works and projects. In conversation I even suggested that one can do art-centered traveling to the Philippines by visiting these communities. Why not eh? But if one can't travel, how about checking out Grace Nono's latest offering?

Grace Nono's latest book, The Shared Voice, and its accompanying CD, shares the work of ten Oralists -- chanters, musicians, poets, storytellers. Grace learned how to sing the chants from these cultural geniuses and is able to re-present them to us by including Bob Aves' musical arrangements, a multi-media background and English sub-titles and, of course, Grace's own powerful and entrancing voice.

In her book, she talks about primary and secondary orality (via the work of Walter Ong). Primary orality in this case, refers to the oral traditions and the oralists featured in her book. Grace, having learned these chants from primary oralists, considers herself as a secondary oralist whose orality is being facilitated by technology. Whether primary or secondary, orality transforms our consciousness in ways that print literacy may not.

The book is a rich resource for its photographs, chant lyrics and translations into English, rigorous intellectual discussion, and a CD of the oralists.

I know that these days I'm drawn to the experience of hearing, seeing, and moving the body, of feeling the ground on the soles of my feet, on sensing the tingle of energy as I do qi gong. The vibration of these sounds and sensations in my body is a different kind of teacher. It seems to bypass the analytical brain at the moment of experience but brings it back to integrate during post-reflection.

Back to supporting artists...I have been dreaming of a babaylan conference that would bring primary babaylans, babaylan scholars and culture-bearers, to the Bay Area. "Conference" may not even be the right word for what this gathering would be. "Conference" is too cognitive and academic. It is important, of course, but I believe our cognitive faculties need to be educated by tacit knowledge that has been honed by ancient intimations of being and belonging. And that education happens through the body.

Dreaming may not be enough, others would say. Maybe so. We need pragmatists and organizers. Benefactors/funders. Institutional support. We need cultural impresarios.

In the Philippines, artists like Grace Nono, Joey Ayala, Kidlat Tahimik, Katrin de Guia, and many more (indigenous architects, musicians, weavers, chanters, storytellers), continue to create regardless of the economic constraints and the strong winds of popular and global culture. In the Bay Area and beyond, there are also many artists who endeavor to integrate indigenous elements into their creative expressions. There is a common ground being cultivated. I sense that it is being fed by a tacit knowing that hasn't yet been fully articulated. Does it need to be? Maybe. Maybe not. Nevertheless, I am writing about it now. To sow the seeds.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm looking forward to working with Grace Nono again who will be doing a performance of PHILIPPINE SACRED CHANTS, at the Bayanihan Community Center on Sunday at 6pm. Grace has just published a book/cd on Philippine oral traditions.

Our world-class artists like Grace Nono really deserve a much bigger venue -- like Grace Cathedral -- to share our own indigenous cultures with a larger public.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Elemental Blessings for the Season

May the gentle persistent wind be a soothing balm to your tired bones
May the stability of the mountain strengthen and secure your footing
May the deep mystery of water remind you of the light in the depths
May the fire of the sun warm your belly for energies yet to be born
May the power of thunder be your bold voice
May the receptivity of the lake fill your soul's longings
May the energies of heaven and earth co-mingle in your body
so you may always feel and know the meaning of

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Chatelaine has included something I wrote among her epigraphs for the next book, THE THORN ROSARY...

can't wait to read the accompanying prose poem.
at 300 pages - one for each day of the year.
none for sabbath.
how many beads are there in a rosary?
how do you pray through the thorns?

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