Monday, April 26, 2010

Eileen has started a new blog based on her experiences at the Babaylan conference.

Follow her and other posts on facebook  for a glimpse and taste of the sumptuous feast that is the Babaylan Conference/Gathering -- the gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Babaylan Book Launch Response
S. Lily Mendoza, April 20, 2010

I have been asked to respond to the book as a scholar, but find that task to be impossible given the short time that we have.  Obviously the text before us is much like the ecology of babaylanism itself—a deep loam of intuition, a conjuration of healing from many angles, under varying lights. It is the kind of text suitable to a diaspora, a delicious halo-halo texture, offering up insight and challenge, comfort and confirmation sufficient to touch a varied audience, wrestling with a dislocated experience, and dreaming of home and kin.
I have been privileged to be privy to the book’s remarkable gestation, and although I was originally asked to serve as one of its co-editors and had in fact already began work on the initial drafts of the essay contributions, as it turned out, it wasn’t meant to be: as they say, man, or in this case, woman, proposes and God disposes.  It so happens that when the time came to devote sustained work on the project, I found myself at a very different place in my own journey. More importantly, however, having witnessed the powerful movement of the spirit in my sister Leny’s life in the last few or more years, I thought to myself, no, this is meant to be her baby, hers and hers alone. That’s because, it was in her womb that it’s genius was seeded, in her body where the babaylan drama of the wounded healer was played out, culminating in the fateful summer of Fulbright 2008 where she was painfully initiated into the intimacy of death and then again, in her courageous and compassionate accompaniment of our eldest sister in her hour of grief as she waited out the last two weeks of her husband’s long battle with illness. And even further back than these recent important initiatory rites, were other dramas of love, of love lost and found again, albeit now in shape-shifted form.  Insights from these soul-  and psyche-breaking body woundings became the necessary ingredients to the composing of what turned out to be Leny’s meaty, weighty introduction to the book.

There is a passage from the German writer that I feel most aptly describes the book’s birthing and it reads,

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative [and creation], there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man (or woman) could have dreamed would come his [or her] way.  Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  Begin it now.”

And indeed we find palpable in this book’s pages not just the magic and genius of the sariling duwende of Leny and that of the various contributors, but the uncontainable current of ancient memory, the meandering and mounting of the babaylan spirit itself, crushed a colonial eon ago, but never entirely broken or subdued, trickling or surging like water under soil, seeking the lowest places to germinate fecund life in its manifold forms, stronger than rock, subtler than breath, a whisper from the dark womb of a tropical night, monsoon in scope, typhoon in power, the second coming of kapwa, when given a community to laugh and love in.  And so it is fitting that this book be launched here and now at this conference, in this gathering of kapwa maglalakbay/co-sojourners on the journey homeward, seekers of the fire that would rekindle and keep alive the connection to our ancient ninuno.  May each one of you in this hall be wise enough to get a copy in your hands, and like hungry mouths and hearts, devour the sumptuous feast, and savoring its deliciousness, be nourished, and enjoy. Maligayang pagbati, Sis Leny and all the babaylan-inspired contributors to this book. May it be fitting food for the gods.  Siyanawa. 

Friday, April 02, 2010

working draft:


On behalf of the women and men volunteers of the Center for Babaylan Studies,  I thank you for hearing the call to come to this conference/gathering.  This present gathering is a small link in the very long unbroken chain of Filipino indigenous spiritual and cultural practices that transcend time and space.

When we began to unearth and rediscover the Filipino indigenous knowledge and practices during our process of decolonizing, the story of the Babaylan called out to us. One by one, story by story, book by book, from listserves to blogs, we listened to one another’s yearning to get to know this tradition. Who are the past and present Babaylans? What is a Babaylan in indigenous communities and what is a Babaylan in the diaspora? All of our questions and yearnings brought us to this moment of gathering with you.

“Please, allow us to express our Beauty!”  this is the voice of an indigenous woman leader from Mindanao during a dialogue at Ateneo de Davao University two years ago.  Her voice has never left me and I have, since then, repeated her plea  and all its pregnant meanings to others. We want to express our Beauty.

If you have been to the smaller CFBS events this past year, you may have experienced the Babaylan spirit that inspires and sparks the creative energy that leads to a sense of Pagbabalikloob/Coming Home. Home is where our Kapwa is. Home is where we embrace our Wholeness.

These two days will offer up these gifts of Beauty, Wholeness, and Healing.  I am grateful to the artists, scholars, poets and writers, activists, and healers who have come forward to share their Babaylan-inspired work.  I am grateful to the community of volunteers whose dreams and visions moved them one day to say: “Our ancestors are calling; they want to help us; they want to heal us. Let’s do something.”  Now here we are together.

Welcome….Home.  Tuloy Po, Kayo!

Leny Mendoza Strobel, Ed.D., Project Director
Center for Babaylan Studies

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