Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sharing this inspired reflection of Mila, after the Ritual Gathering at Lizae's

My dear friends, sisters and family,

Please allow me to try putting in words what the experience of the ritual night meant to me. The gongs have not stopped playing. From some mysterious place, they continue beating, rhythmic and distinct. They bring me back to Saturday evening and everything that flowed from it.

The poem that I was asked to create for the Night of Ritual Gathering in Oakland had been like clouds gathering in my imagination. I did not anticipate what they would bring. Not even when the words drizzled their patterns. Then, the drizzle became stronger, and the images and meanings started to pour like rain. I felt my Lola touching me once more as a child, in my hometown; smelled her roasted cacao beans and inhaled the smoke from her slow burning herbs. Most of all, I heard her gentle chanting, how she implored my wandering selves to come back as we prepared to go home from visited strange places.

After writing the poem, I practiced reading it to my sister in Los Angeles. I did it again in Berkeley, to my son, Kriya. I thought they were simple readings at first but I began to wonder why my sister cried and why my son could not speak after listening to it. Kriya remarked later that the chanted words resonated with a haunting yet familiar power. And when he said this I realized that the only way a song could be heard was for someone to sing it; and that by my chanting, I have finally opened the gift that Lola had long ago bequeathed when she sang it for me, exactly the same way her grandmother chanted this to her as a child, and all the other elders before them who did the same act to the next generation.

By invoking the chant for coming home, I have once more opened the entrance to the sanctuary that our ancestors knew; the sacred and safe space where I could settle myself with them, after wandering to so many places. By the act of listening, my sister and son similarly invoked the chant, lifting the veils from a distant past where the three of us reconnected with our roots in that same safe and mystical place. I felt as if I was floating in collapsed time; that I was, I am, a strand tying the past to the present; in a continuum of melodic notes and rhythmic words that could only emanate from a life source, the one creative source.

I cried as insight after insight rippled within me. I was chanting to the nudgings of my grandmother, to that of my mother, their mothers and all the other ancestors before them; to once again play the music of the spheres, so that I may serve as a humble medium and be able to pass it on to others; so that the sound may continue in its healing as it calls to our wandering selves to come together as one; as it implores us to listen, as it reassures us that to come home is to face who we are; and to know that the real self is infinite and thus, indestructible. It was the most reassuring truth once more revealed, the truth about how fleeting and yet how eternal life is, like we are.

And the most beautiful thing about life is the chance to rediscover it with you, dear kindred souls, as we continue drawing congruent mandalas within the babaylan consciousness and community, as we continue calling to ourselves and to others to come home. My heart is a spring and you provide the waters which nurture it.

Thank you to all of you.
In loving gratitude,

How could I not know that it was the chanting that my Lola's way of bringing us back to where we came from; to our past, to our ancestors, to ourselves? I realized later that the chanting was chanting itself through me, that the chanting was the bridge of my Lola, later my mother, that brought tears.

I was in my hometown, in my Lola's big house, in my little body as a child.

I traveled all over the horizon of my childhood and all those beyond. I remembered the hundred thousand miles of distances spanned as an adult and the darkness and pain that seemed to surround them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I woke up this morning thinking:

we are making history

and pondered for a while the weight of such thought.
why is it so important to "make history"?

who invented the "making of history"?
i have been posting (on FB) fragments of "Babaylan history" culled mainly from the work of Carolyn Brewer and Alicia Magos.

people at the Ritual Gathering said: we've never heard of Babaylans.

and now you have, i said.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

today is the first event of the Center for Babaylan Studies.
Ritual Gathering and Sacred Music, Dance, Poetry
at Lizae Reyes' home in Oakland.
Lizae, Venus, Vedel, Frances -- just over a month ago, they
started dreaming about how the ancestors would want them to
support the Babaylan Conference.
After two nights of brainstorming, this Ritual Gathering event was born.

and it is going to be beautiful: Kulintang Music, a ritual blessing, readings, dance, talk, food...everything synergistically emerging.

if the venue was bigger, there would be more people wanting to come.
but rsvp's had to be closed weeks ago.

if this portends what is ahead of us, it is a delicious anticipation.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Possible book cover for the next book...you like it? Babaylan Mandala design cover by Perla Daly.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

i spent two hours writing about the recent news:
ayn rand
education drop out rates

then i erased it all. i don't think i want to put anymore
negative energy out there. let the pundits take care of that.

but as i have already absorbed this energy while writing
now i need to go out and do some clearing.

and later get back to my list of 'to-do's' on my furlough day.

but hey, if you are curious about what i just erased, ask me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

dear ones -
we are all part of the great river and flowering mountain. years ago when i met Ver Enriquez, NVM, and all the folks in the Bay Area who were drawn to the indigenous discourse, a seed was planted. slowly, as it was watered by friendship, reflection, analysis, ritual, email and listserve dialogues, conferences, publishing, speaking engagements, this seed began to grow in all of us.

now this seed is a full grown tree and its fruit a sweet nectar for our souls and our communities. for many years we whispered in each other's ear that we are looking for a healing community...that what we need is for all of us to truly come to know the meaning of Kapwa, Loob, Pakikiramdam -- all these Filipino values that make us beautiful creatures. none of this happens without community, without connectedness to each other's spirit.

our tears, our laughter, our sighs, our desires have been heard by our ancestors. for so long they must have waited for us to open this door to let them return from the other world so that they may bless us and help us fulfill our responsibilities in this life. when my paternal grandmother started visiting me as i began this work, she gave me the strength and courage. now i think of my maternal grandmother - the one i didn't get to know and, i sense, the one who is in need of healing. this ongoing work is dedicated to her.

we have to heal our ancestors as part of this work. think of the babaylans who were murdered, betrayed, fed to crocodiles -- all because their power became a threat to the new religion. the healing of history requires that we meditate on this. as history is written in our bodies, so must this history be reclaimed, rewritten and restored to its indigenous beauty and sacredness.

thank you for allowing me to share my heart today. love to you.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

In re-reading Carolyn Brewer's Holy Confrontations, I take notes of the names of the Babaylan/catalonans mentioned in the Spanish documents that Brewer is deconstructing in order to tease out the stories behind the colonizer's narratives. I write these Babaylans' names down in my notebook - Fulangan, Cabacungan, Caquenga, Bonga, Cablingan, Bolindauan -- to remind myself that these were women who resisted the negation of their Animist beliefs and practices.

The chapter on the Bolinao manuscript narrates details about how the Spanish, over a period of 100 years of linguistic erosion and negation, erased the Babaylans from history or how they were rewritten only in negative ways by the Catholic perspective. Over this period, the friars kept lists of their strategies: the people they interviewed and/or forced to extract confessions against the babaylans, the instruments of ritual that were seized from babaylans, the list of Anitos (Apolaqui, Ganciam, Ambing, Poon) that the babaylans made offerings to, the young men who were lured to live with the friars in the convent and were told to spy and snitch on the babaylans -- all these strategies were recorded.

I love the story of Bolindauan, who was born of a Spanish friar and a catalonan, and how she resisted Catholicism and continued to follow her animist beliefs even though, as a mestiza and privileged daughter of a priest, she could have lived a life of privilege.

***And here we are today, getting to know the history of the babaylan to remind us that we are descended from these women. We are also reminded that what is lost is not lost forever, that the fantasy story on which these women's lives were written into can be unmasked. As women who recognize how we were constituted by erasure and negation in historical narratives that pass for transcendent truth rather than the fantasy story that they truly are, we can, today, choose to tell a different story.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

today's gift:

Hi Leny,
I am 21 years old, filipino, born in
Manila, .....

... So I started to write again and start questioning what I wanted out of life. I went to the Pistahan festival in San Francisco a few weeks after I came back and I decided at that festival I was going to buy a few books before I left. I knew the books at the festival were books that I couldn't get at your local Barnes & Nobles. There was one stand that Eduardo Detangez was selling some books laid out on a table and for some reason your book "A Book of Her Own" was calling me. At first I picked it up and thought hmm maybe I should start looking around more, but for some reason I couldn't put it down. I decided to buy it and the lady at the stand told me that it was a great book, how great of a speaker you are and well known. She also told me about the Baybaylan Conference in April at Sonoma State. So I joined that conference circle on Facebook and eventually found you =)"

also, I wanted to say Thank you for your works. You are a true inspiration to me. I appreciate all your hard work and your ability to share your thoughts and words. It is comforting to know that there is someone else out there that feels some of the same overwhelming emotions."

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