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?

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