Friday, March 19, 2010

Brought to you by Unity of Berkeley, Center for Babaylan Studies, CIIS Alumni Sound Voice Music Healing Ensemble, March 12, 2010

The Boro Boro gongs called us to gather. The Warsi ritual of purification invoked ancestral blessings. Offerings to the altar in the Talaandig tradition and the Dugso ritual ushered us into the evening's celebration of oneness.

Our feast: Tradicion Rondalla, Kulintang Dance Theatre, Kulintronica/Ron Quesada, Inner Dance by Jen Navarro with Lizae's harp composition, The Great Ocean, spoken word by Jodie Olympia, musical offerings by Mila and Vedel, Koronado Apunzen. A talk, "In the Spirit of our Ancestors", by Virgil Apostol.

True to the inclusive Kapwa spirit, we were joined by the Sound Voice Music Healing ensemble from the CA Institute of Integral Studies. They offered a Medicine Melody, a Japanese Medicine Melody, and Sounding the Oneness. Another member of the group, Jose Garvia Silva and our very own Lizae on the harp, offered De Repente California.

We were also blessed by the Pierre family from Haiti who shared a Haitian Dance and Chant and Yanvalou, rhythm for ritual dance from Benin. Romain Grouazel shared in his native tongue in Brittany the oldest poem titled Ar Rannou.

I can describe the program above, but I cannot do justice to the spirit of the evening with mere words. Perhaps it is enough to tell you a story?

A few years ago, she would never have danced in public. During street festivals in her hometown, her feet always pulled her in the direction of the drummers and dancers. She envied the women who took off their shoes and danced their joy; she wished to do the same but she didn't know these women -- they all seemed to be part of a group of drumming women -- it would have been awkward to join in.

In the year after the patriarch died, she found herself in the Philippines in the month of June. This time something inside let go. With the Cordillera gongs, she joined the circle and danced and danced. She was with her community and it was okay to dance.
A few weeks later, she was in Mindanao at Pamulaan College. The indigenous students began drumming as her group was saying goodbye. And again, the shoes came off and she danced.

The dance hasn't stopped. The dance wove its magic. More dancers came and brought along singers, poets, drummers,healers, creative souls, searching souls. They called their village - Center for Babaylan Studies. One day they said "we must enlarge this circle, let us organize a conference, a gathering."

Each of the women said they have heard the call of the ancestors, the call of the Indigenous. From New York, New Jersey, Texas, California, Philippines - they came. "I get it." "I have been waiting for this moment for a long time." "I cannot not do this." "I vow to do this work."

In January we held a retreat. After a meditation session, one of us saw a vision - a buwaya/crocodile was sitting on the table, she fipped her tail, she showed her ancient body. We remembered the story of the babaylans who were fed to the buwayas. The vision and dream about the buwaya visited different members of the group for days to come. They started calling it the Buwaya's path. What does the buwaya - she who ate the babaylans - want from us?

And why am I writing this as if you would understand the language that hides so many things; the language that is available to those who ask for doors to open to the gentle prodding of the Indigenous Soul.

Is it Real when someone writes after last night's event: "Oh the night was so healing for me. I feel I have renewed energy and vision, even how to utilize my energy appropriately so that I am able to make it through the day."

Are the tears from the deep well of joy, real? Is the energy we bring home with us real?

Yes, of course. It is to me and to those of us who didn't want to leave Unity Church last night.

But the dance continues. Next week, Katrin will join us. Then another ritual gathering in Los Angeles on March 27th. Then ta da! The Babaylan Conference on April 17-18, at Sonoma State University.

Are you being called and pulled in this direction? MAybe you are not sure. Maybe you are curious. Maybe you think we are nuts. Just the same, you feel something. Trust this feeling.

Last night, a woman said that she had to beg off from another appointment to make it to Unity. She said she was afraid of disappointing the white women in her group that meets on Fridays. But when she read my email telling her to follow her heart's desire, she called the women and asked for a raincheck. She was glad she came.

This third generation Filipino American didn't understand a word of Ilocano when Virgil was invoking the ancestors. She held her hand to her chest, teary-eyed. She remembers the sound of Ilocano spoken by her grandparents and parents. There is power in remembering.

If you tell her she is merely being nostalgic or is romanticizing the indigenous, she will probably punch you in the nose. Nah. Of course, she won't. But she might want to tell you a long story about how she came to this point in her life, this desire to reconnect with her forgotten and suppressed history. How it has started to change her life. Will you give her the time of day to listen?

There will be more stories like this that you will hear at the conference. I have to end this now. I have to open the mail with conference registrations. May one of them be yours.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Honoring Ancestry
Pls visit the Facebook page of the Ctr for Babaylan Studies for other responses from the event.
And see you at the conference!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Today is Honoring Ancestry at Unity Center in Berkeley.
Blessed rain all the way.

Monday, Katrin arrives and will have lectures around the Bay Area and
LA. If you have a chance to catch one of her talks, go for it. It's a rare opportunity.

Check these out!!


Research dealing with the indigenous mind has largely to tackle subjective issues. These can be better understood through broad and in-depth examinations. For example, the pervasive elasticity of Filipino / indigenous cultural expressions (i.e. multiple word meanings, situational contexts; the flexible concept of time; etc.) produces data that calls for proper integration. But to the present day, the scientific methods of dominant academic communities are based on eliminating ambiguities. This “intolerance of ambiguity” (Lagmay, 1976) maintains the self-serving, industry backed western academe, which spawns unsustainable progress global-wide.

Filipino Research Methods are suitable for accumulating complex, tacit, multi-modal and “messy” data, which eventually will be ordered and interpreted along emerging variables. I postulate that the Filipino data-gathering procedures are “systematic methods”, even though, or precisely because, these approaches do not follow the pathways of linear order. 

According to Webster's definition, a method is “a defined way to accomplish an end.” Responding to the obvious lack of descriptions of the indigenous ways of data collection, I did my research with the research approaches proposed by Santiago and Enriquez (Enriquez, 1992). European social science paradigms provided underpinnings for a better understanding of these methods (de Guia 206).


As the heirs from ancestral communities, many people in the Philippines maintained a holistic mindset. This is concomitant with the Filipinos kapwa orientation (Enriquez 1992), as well as the primary process of knowing (constructivist theory in psychology). In line with this, traditional Filipino concepts of health and healing are always tied in with notions of balance and harmony. According to old Tagalog texts, a body is healthy when the four basic qualities that make up life—hot, cold, wet & dry— are in internal (loob) and external (labas) equilibrium. A nation is healthy when all its different parts work together in unity (Agpalo, 1981). People are doing well when they are in harmony with nature, spirits and God. The traditional Filipino idea of healing is thus paramount to restoring the spiritual, psychological and physical harmony of individuals.

In this perspective, the essence of healing is reminding the body of previous healthy conditions through prophylaxis (initiation), massage (hilot), herbal medicine (gamot) and/or actively restoring psychological balance therapy (rituals, sacrifices/offerings, exorcism, etc.), hypnotic suggestions, trance, dreams, or psychic surgery. The same goes for nature and communities. Sickness and healing has much to do with attitude and feeling, as well as with belief and self-image. The healer knows this and strengthens images of wellness in the other through intuitive resonance (pakiramdam). Good healers ignite their clients’ powers of self-healing and claim no healing powers for themselves.

Internal and external balance is also the basic principle behind “The Ritual of Daily Living”, an ingenious indigenous approach to wellbeing and holistic self-healing that was conceptualized by the Ilonggo culture-bearer artist Perry Argel (de Guia 2005).

Filipino cognitive styles are indicative of the primary process of knowing (Guidano & Liotti, Mahony, Bara): They are embedded in the messy principles of randomness, spontaneity and creative improvisation.  Yet they are closure seeking and anchored in continuity.

Continuity, like the beat of the heart, the tides of the sea, or the phases of the moon, spells out the age-old rhythms of life, which, in their entirety, can only be comprehended as process. Continuity in the everyday relates the profane to the sacred and links the past to the now and into the future. This timeless, archaic continuity is at the core of the indigenous cognitive style of Filipinos.

The cognitive styles discussed are knowing through mirroring, searching for and reading signs, learning through osmosis (saling-pusa) and immersion (kataalan), concluding through “piling up” Information, learning as a give-and-take process, deciding and verifying via collective consent, talinhaga— communicating through metaphors and sampalataya (faith). The cognitive styles are discussed in the light of Sikolohiyang Pilipino Research, the Filipino personality theory and personal experiences with Filipino artists.


Psychopathology has its being within the narrow boundaries that are defined by the western academe. Its constructs and labels, many of them born during the Victorian age, use metaphors of sickness and confrontation: mental disease, deviance, ab-norm-ality. Restriction and chemical control are the cures widely administered in mental institutions. Most of these are funded by governments and the pharmacological industry— in the US, in the Philippines, and elsewhere.

Deviant behavior in the Philippines is often still treated with traditional means by the babaylan. Some indigenous concepts and methods of treatment are discussed (Magos, 1992, etc.). The alternative therapy of a Filipina psychotherapist is presented, which highlights the importance of involving the family and community in the healing (Cabado-Espanola, 2008).

Filipino rival paradigms to the western disease model of psychiatric disorders and a case study on this topic (de Guia, 2002) conclude the discussion.


Father Demetrio (1976), who studied the ways of Visayan shamans and their role in society, links their function to psychologists. Shamans knows human nature and, as psychics, are especially sensitive, said Demetrio. Usually quiet and introvert (mabait or buotan), such individuals nevertheless have the earmarks of the ones not given to trivial matters. Demetrio also points out the artistic talents of the shamans, which is often exercised only during ecstasy.
While all Filipino babaylans are artists by default, not all culture-bearing Filipino artists are babaylans, although some wish to believe so. The dividing line between the babaylan and the culture-bearing artist is psychological maturity, cultural training and a commitment to serve that is also recognized by the community.

Yet, Filipino dividing lines are never black and white, but accommodate many shades of grey. And my lecture would present stories of conscious and unconscious manifestations of culture-bearing artists wanting to be, posing as, doing the work of, learning from, acting like and being trained as babaylans.

Issues of shamanic disease, shamanic lineage, psychopomps versus healers and other topics relating to animist knowledge are discussed. Culture-bearing and the Filipino personality theory, (rather than art theory) are the frame work of this lecture, which is based on years of research and immersion with Filipino artists. 


30 years of cross-cultural marriage linking a German artist and a Filipino artist: What did I learn? What did I teach? How to avoid the snags of cross-cultural misunderstanding?

My university carrier started with a paper wherein I examined 500 cultural biases / divides that come to play in a mixed marriage between the East and the West.

The Filipino Personality Theory of Virgilio Enriquez and the constructivist theory in psychology are the frameworks underpinning my discussion.


This lecture will describe the activities and plans of the Heritage and Arts Foundation of the Philippines Inc. and my motivations and work as the founder.

I will discuss the pilot projects of the Foundation, the two conferences on Kapwa Psychology that HAPI has so far organized and our future plans. Prospects and difficulties of the implementation of heritage academies will be discussed.

I will also present the Sikolohiyang Filipino based program of a culture sensitive tourism that I developed as a student of Virgilio Enriquez, as well as a number of places earmarked for the fut

Thursday, March 04, 2010

There are days when I have an urge to write an essay addressing an issue that is near and dear to me-- undoing racism, alliance-building, ecological issues, the need for a paradigm that connects rather than fragments -- and the potential of an indigenous Filipino discourse to offer answers.

There are days when I realize that I've done my share of writing on these themes but still not nearly enough.

There are days when I feel that what I need to do now is to move into the field of "Action" rather than self-reflection.

There are days when I define my role in the Babaylan conference as "action" but still not nearly enough.
Yesterday, one of my students said, "Leny, let's DO something!" When students feel the need to DO something is when they've learned that it is not enough to self- reflect, to dialogue with each other...that what they need is to move into the world to make a their own mark. I think this also comes from a need to overcome their own sense of helplessness amidst the big social and economic problems that we are facing.
Today I will think about this.

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