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.

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