Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Painting the Brown Face Red
(thanks to Maria Christina Gonzalez' "Painting the White Face Red," via Lily)

(This is a response to my weekend in Indian Canyon).

grateful for the invitation
i entered the arbor and sacred ceremony
honoring maiden, matron, elder.

saying prayers to the four directions
in my mind's eye, i was bowing
palms together in front of my chest
I say silently:
I am Asian. Filipino.

holding the talking stick
i share my answer to the question:
what has been your burden this past year?
how did you heal?
i listened to everyone else's answer to same.

after the talking stick made its round
i wished to respond
to go deeper into intimacy
i say silently: I am Filipino.
I want more Kapwa.

drumbeats accompanied wailing time
sage purifying, healing, honoring
after the tears
a holy silence.

drumming began again
i feel the earth vibrate
shy at first, we dance in a circle.
my mind returns to Iloilo
dancing with my tribes
i wished to be back there
with my kin.

but i am in indian canyon
with native sisters
with white women
with black women

we say: it's all good.
it is what it is.
then someone interrupts:
it's not all good. sometimes it sucks.
sometimes it hurts.

the elders pontificate around the fire
wisdom we need to hear
advice on sex and death
on learning to listen.

the wind was howling
we were freezing even around the fire

then before midnite we say
goodbye and thank you

we walk back to camp
pitch dark, the stars are almost within reach.

our hearts are large
our souls feel blessed.

as for the things i didn't say ...
as for the things i didn't understand ...
as for the unaswered curiosities ...
as for the feeling of uncertainty...
as for the longing for more...

the next night i dreamt of a long-absent lover
who has returned to marry me.
oh what bliss!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This is a response from a friend, a Native scholar at UCR, who watched our youtube ad.

Dear Leny,

The questions you raise are so important and I think that it will resonate with diverse groups of people. I would love to have a conversation with you. Maybe we have to stop thinking about deterritorialized peoples and look at how the land claims and speaks through us no matter where we are and how indigenous worldviews in their particularity point the way to the global longings we have, in this time of ecological destruction and alienation, and atomization.

I was really moved by the video.

One thing that I find myself doing is trying to make the linkage between Western science and indigenous knowledges, but maybe we have to throw that out, too as an epistemological misstep. This is just off the top of my head, but it really pushed me to rebel against the constant talking back that we have to do. My own longing is to think through the affect and intuitive part of knowing. This isn't a new idea, but in terms of decolonization always having to refer to science as the baseline of real knowledge is limiting. Of course, people learn by observation and experimentation, but inspiration through accessing the invisible intangible and re-aligning power through complex semiotics is incredible human work.

Let's have a conversation. I've got this notion about extraction as the model of Western science and how it permeates modern ways of being in very destructive ways. I know indigenous peoples operate from a very different paradigm almost universally. I want to think this through more carefully.

Take care,
My response:

Thank you for this, V. I deeply appreciate the conversation. I did think twice about editing the video to take out the reference to science because I know I will be called on it for the very reasons you mention here. I like the way you put it - 'so tired of the talking back' - and I know that asserting the relevance of the indigenous via the scientific paradigm is a misstep. But I kept it in the end as a conversation starter.

Extraction-- I agree with you on this. Under modernity and capitalism, it has put most of the planet in a trance/spell so that what's needed is nothing short of a shamanic intervention.

My own little piece of intervention is through this conference. By locating the Filipino experience in the diaspora, we are nevertheless called by a deeper longing to belong to the Land. How to define that Land and how to root ourselves in indigenous knowledge and practices and values as "children of the American empire" calls into question all of the empire's fundamental assumptions. That's what I hope anyway.

Still my voice is a tiny minority in the FIl Am community...my/our desire to connect with other native peoples is also a search for solidarity via conversation and possibly collaboration in future projects.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Are you Filipino?
Today, I'm not. I'm tribal.

My dear friend Noe had his camera on hand as he approached me with this question. I didn't have time to think about my answer but there it was. As my fingers touched the beautiful Tiboli necklace I was wearing, it was as if I was asserting an identity that was different than the one signified by all the men and women wearing beautiful barongs.

At this Filipino Catholic fiesta, I admired the sense of community, the Filipino diwa as Noe pointed out, that created a successful "First Filipino mass held at the new Oakland Cathedral of Light." During the Mass, I relished the all-Filipino liturgical songs of the excellent choir and the instrumentalists that accompanied them. Prior to the Mass, the cultural program held outdoors featured youth dance ensembles and more choirs. Everyone seemed so proud and devout.

As it always happens when I cross borders, afterwards come the questions. I emailed these questions to my friend hoping for a conversation that might inform the engagement I'm trying to construct between the babaylan/indigenous spirituality tradition and Filipino Catholicism. Here goes:

1. The babaylan tradition is primarily an animist/shamanistic tradition. As such it has no sacred text except the Land; the people's sacred understanding of their relationship to the Land defines their way of life and their cosmology.

We are all indigenous because our primary rootedness is in the place that birthed our ancestors. Modernity has disrupted this consciousness.

2. With the coming of Christianity, the babaylan tradition morphed. Acc to Filipino indigenous theologians, what happened is that the indigenous spiritual practices were Catholicized/Christianized so that the change has mostly been in form rather than substance. Do you agree?

3. If the above is true, then our indigenous spirituality/babaylan spirituality undergirds the Catholic religion/form; how do Catholics affirm the former?

4. How do you think a babaylan conference/gathering can engage the Catholic community in these conversations? What are the points of connection, if any?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Today, I received the second rejection of our request for funding. Again, we did not fit their funding criteria even though our proposal has merit.

All day I felt disappointed, angry, frustrated, hopeless. But by the end of the day I remembered that this work, this babaylan gathering, is not my work alone. I do what I can - write letters of inquiry to foundations, request for community sponsorships from institutions - but in the end, I give it up. Bathala Na.

Bathala Na. Isn't this what it means to dance with the babaylan spirit? Do what you can, then leave the rest in the good hands of the spirits.

Friday, June 05, 2009

in reviewing my posts on this blog during the month of June 2004, i look back with profound gratitude for the experiences that continue to guide my path.

this path that chose me.
this path that dared me to cross boundaries
this path that has gifted me with delights
this path that shows me how to conquer fear
this path that reassures me

(June 05, 06, 07 -- see the river flowing still)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

gems from The Shaman's Body/Arnold Mindell

even if you kill indigenous peoples, you cannot kill the indigenous soul. shamanism is immortal. you cannot kill dreamtime.

the Earth dreams.

our bodies dream...and transform mundane reality into a special place where life feels deep and meaningful.

the body wants more than wellness; it wants challenge, risk, personal power, freedom, danger.

the dreaming body is an ally. she wants to be complete and live as the universe lives...where ecstasy is not repressed. an ally is a ghost that spooks your neglected collective spirit, the shadow, the aspects of culture that will not abide...then prepares you for the task of recovering everything that makes you whole.

can't develop shamanic ability through effort, interest, or study. power belongs to the people and the world around us. learn to dream together.

modern therapeutic techniques are not adequate to address racism, homophobia, poverty, etc. shamanism will have to play a role in reshaping the helping professions. today's therapy supports the middle class worldview, the consensus white reality.

modern cultures have forgotten their indigenous origins so they anchor themselves in fundamentalism, heroic leadership, war, dictatorship...which are mirages of meaning.

modern folks go to discos and dance themselves into a trance in an attempt to dream together. football games, drinking, smoking, eating out at restaurants, donning costumes -- are all forms of trying to find dreamtime in cosmopolitan reality, all symptoms of loss and rootedness.

we need new shamans to go deeper into the altered states of oppression, pain, rage...who can lead us into a new kind of social activism that goes into personal and social healing.

war is a trance.

cultures of the future will have to reinvent, then own special methods of living with dreamtime, if they are to survive. heal the impotence of dealing with the direction of history.

the shaman in the city should learn to erase her personal history so that the thoughts of others will not kill her.

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