Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rene Villaroman reviews ABOHO

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Babaylan Conference 2010 youtube ad

The first thing Frances asked was: who gave you permission to organize a babaylan conference?

I knew where this question was coming from; it's related to other questions I've grappled with over many years along with other folks asking similar questions about the appropriation of indigenous knowledge and practices by Filipinos in the diaspora. It has been one of the main themes of my work for the past two decades.

My answer to Frances was not straightforward. I found myself telling the story of what has happened to me in the past year: the events that brought me to the edge of the abyss, the long months of physical and emotional healing, and the opening of doors that for many years I've been knocking on but wouldn't open. I told her of how one day I found myself standing on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and listening to a voice that said you don't own anything - not the Fulbright, not Kalpna, nothing. Nothing.

Nothing. This emptying out was witnessed by Venus, Frances, and Teresa over a period of time. They said it was an initiation or felt like one. Maybe it is/was, am not sure.

Do I/we have permission from the babaylan to hold a conference? Is it a conference/gathering of babaylans or a conference about babaylan traditions?

These are questions without absolute answers but we are organizing this gathering in the spirit of respect, reverence, and of Kapwa; in the belief that we, as decolonized Filipinos, have healing gifts to offer to each other and to our "others."

We step into this door in full awareness that our primary land-based babaylans may not be able to be present with us physically at this gathering and will be with us in spirit instead and, as Venus said, through their energetic blessing, we receive their permission.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What will you do if a woman told you her story of violence and rape?

A group of five men came into her home and raped her in front of her children. After the second rape, the children were rounded up, told to kneel and pray, and then were shot in the back of their heads in front of their mother. Afterwards, the rape resumed...

This is one of the stories that Jimmie Briggs told last night at his university lecture on Compassionate Journalism.

As the woman told the story to Jimmie, he began to apologize profusely for opening up the wound and traumatizing the woman all over again. He stood up to leave but the woman grabbed his hand and told him to sit down. I want to tell my story so that I won't have to carry it alone. I want you to carry my story with you and let people know what is happening to us here.

Having heard this story, I, too, now carry it with me. I think about all the other stories that Jimmie told last night about the child soldiers (both boys and girls) in different parts of the world caught in the crossfires of conflict.

I can relate to these stories because I've seen the image of a child in the Southern Philippines sleeping on a hammock, cradling an armalite. (This moved Fr. Alejo and his artist friends to create this lullaby for peace in Mindanao).

Jimmie has also launched MAN UP campaign. In his talk, Jimmie talked about the need to have more women journalists documenting gender violence in the midst of war.

"Dying to tell a story" is a film about a sister's attempt to understand her journalist brother's death while covering a war in Somalia. After watching a clip from this film last night, a high school student asked Jimmie if he ever had to make a choice between photographing a conflict and saving people; he was also asked if he ever had to shoot an "enemy" while covering a story.
Clearly, these students were paying attention. Maybe someday some of them will become compassionate journalists.

An elder man asked the big question: what is the cause of this violence? There is no simple answer, Jimmie said, but for sure, he said, what we need are witnesses and advocates.

Everyday I think about this question. We have lost our compass. We don't have a cosmic story and the story that we tell ourselves doesn't work...i mused all the way home.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Honoring the Women Babaylans in my life:

Apu Sinang, Lola Dikang, my grandmothers
Esperanza Luna, my mother
The ones who became before them but our genealogical map renders them nameless.
I honor you.

A shaman/babaylan is:
-- spiritual and cognitive epistemological mediator. shamans-to-be encounter raw glimpses of something numinous and demanding, some threat or promise in their own landscape of dreams. shamans not only read but write society. they collapse categories and rebuild aiming for controlled rebirth to effect social cures. in order to bring this power home to her people, she must become part of their mythology, also known as crazy wisdom. the shaman cures his people by takimg them out of themselves making her ecstasy contagious, initiating her people into a changed state. gives people a handle for the numinous. shamans are people with the strength to become vulnerable, the will to impose form, the wit to translate their treasure into an understable dream. (Mary Schmidt).

Two paths of shamanism: warrior and adventurer
Acc to Serge King, the Hawaiian/Pacific Islander shaman takes the way of the adventurer. this shaman--
--seeks adventure; develops hyperawareness; goal-oriented self-discipline; cultivates friendship and unity; practices of survival and exploring skills; emphasizes ethic of love and being loved; desires enjoyment and peace. as healer, influences others to change their beliefs and bring about desired results. is a strong lucid dreamer. often shifts to inward focus.

The women babaylans in my life lived these theoretical descriptions of what shamans do. I am drawn to these articulations now because my life has been shaped and influenced by these women. I owe them a debt of gratitude. I must pay forward.

To do my soul's bidding to honor the women babaylans in my life, I am committed to the Center of Babaylan Studies' vision and goal of having a babaylan conference/gathering next year. This dream that was born during the Kapwa 2 conference in Iloilo in 2008, wants to be the vehicle of 'paying forward' the legacy of our babaylan ancestors.

In the Western context, the psychological, philosophical, ethhical elaborations which would make shamanism relevant to people today do not exist in accessible ways...need to weave together elements of earth philosophies (shamanism) with sky philosophy (buddhism, which emphasizes the mind)...the shaman must guard, transmit, cultivate changes in the culture's inherent mythology. shamans are repositories of knowledges of the culture's history, both secular and saved. (Joan Halifax).

The knowledge that has been passed on to me from my babaylan ancestors lives in my body. The work that needs to be done is to make the body talk in a language of its own.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Adding Virgil Apostol and the healing art of Ablon.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Our Urban Saint, Manong Al Robles is gone.
But he'll be around to remind us to keep rappin with 10,000 carabaos in the dark.
So long, Manong! You are loved by many.

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