Sunday, May 02, 2010

Thank you note to our conference crew:

Dear Ones –

It has been two weeks since the conference and yet it feels as if it hasn’t ended. In fact, it feels as if it’s just beginning. If you are like me, you might feel as if you’d just gone through childbirth and you had not just one baby but octuplets!  And now all you can think of is how to raise these young ones; how to raise the village that would raise the children. You see the picture.

Today is the first day that I am home alone since the conference. It feels strange and lonesome. I’ve been meaning to sit down and write my reflections but I’m tongue-tied.  What I wish for instead is a sit-down time with you, perhaps over a cup of tea and a delicious Danish, and just chat.  Or perhaps a leisurely walk around the park on this beautiful spring day. Or perhaps a drive over to Wild Flour Bakery and their organic breads and coffees. Or a visit back to Salmon Creek.

Instead I am sitting here with my laptop sitting in the garden (where Lissa composed her song for the Babaylan booklaunch) imagining the Senyales Ritual that is going on now in a Waimanalo beach with our sisters in Hawaii led by Grace and Jocelyn.  I am sitting here thinking of Holly and how she managed to coordinate the transportation needs of conference attendees plus Reyna Yolanda’s group and Katrin’s itinerary. I am thinking of Jen who took charge of Grace Nono’s concert in her own quiet ways and with lots of help from Luis. I am thinking of the many many phone calls between Letecia and the ritualists – Lizae, Virgil, Mila, Vedel, Marisza – who created the sacred spaces for the altars and rituals. I am thinking of the year-long conference calls amongst the core group. I think back to the organizers of the fundraisers without which this conference would not have happened – Lizae, Jen, Felicia, Mila, Baylan, Judy—and all who offered their talents and art works to raise funds and to create awareness for CfBS.  I think of Karen, FLori, Josie, Ryan, Sarah and Judy – our local crew – who helped with logistics, bookkeeping, registration. I am thinking of Tera who couldn’t make it but she did all the groundwork for the booklaunch. I think of Venus and Frances who created our youtube ad.  I think of Perla who designed the website and the Babaylan book and who often stayed past 2am on many nights keeping up with online to-dos.  I think of Titania whose work on the program brochure lifted a big chunk off my shoulders…and I thank her for all the textiles that beautified the Cooperage and WarrenAuditorium.  Leng took care of the conference evaluations and she always made sure she brought us enough veggies and healthy foods. I think of the treks back and forth LA and SFO and the retreats at my home and the Herbitos. We are a happy bunch! And how can we thank each other enough?

The word that comes to me as I write this is “initiation”… I feel as if we all had been through a process of initiation. It began with a calling that kept getting louder and one by one each of you heard this calling. It is your sariling duwende that made you want to participate in making the conference happen. Together we offered our unique individual giftings and the result was a conference/gathering that exceeded our expectations.

We heard comments that the weekend felt more like a spiritual retreat than an academic conference. We heard the question “when is the next one?” a lot. We also heard this: “can I organize this in my area?” Many comments were made about the ambience of the weekend – the love, welcoming embrace, openness.

Most of all there is the healing power of your stories of decolonization and indigenization, stories of healing and coming home. Through your panel presentations and workshops, tears of joy, belonging, and home flowed.  As the gathering extended beyond the break-out sessions into your suites, the kapwa jamming continued extending the ribbons of friendships and solidarity. I still hear the laughter of the lukarets led by Jodie and Frances.

Apo Reyna Yolanda’s rituals at Salmon Creek and Hayward Fault meant something special to each person who was there. I look forward to your stories about this. For me, the ritual at Salmon Creek highlighted what I’ve read in shamanic literature about the need to recover or reclaim the spirit guides of one’s childhood. Indeed, I became the playful child who didn’t yet have a bodily awareness of separation from nature. For three hours during the ritual, I was a child, along with others, at play in the fields of the sacred realms. I’ve read so much about “feeding the sacred” in the works of Martin Prechtel but it wasn’t until I was throwing flowers and fruits into the ocean that I realized this phrase need not be a metaphor only but a literal gesture.

Kidlat Tahimik was right when he wrote to us about the visit of Reyna Yolanda…that the ‘abala’ (intrusion) will turn into blessing…and who knows how these blessings will ripple in our lives?

The creation of CfBS as a container for Babaylan-inspired events, as a vessel for disseminating Filipino Indigenous Knowledge and Practices has now been officially launched. Like a prau (the ocean going vessel of our ancestors), we are sailing into the Great Ocean. We are mere vessels of the spirit of the Babaylan.

For now let us relish the joy and satisfaction from a job well done. Of course, it is more than a job – this work is bigger than anyone of us.  Let each of us pick up our share of the responsibility in growing the seeds we have planted. May each one of us be water that nourishes the seeds. May each one of us be the feed for the sacred.

Wow…I said at the beginning of this note that I am tongue-tied. I guess not. I’ll get off my butt now and march myself down to the anti- SB1070 rally downtown. I realized that while I was riding high on the energy and spirit of the Babaylan conference,  Arizona passed the worst law that reeks of racism and xenophobia. This is so Not  Kapwa. I protest!

My dear Babaylan community – Maraming Salamat. I will see you soon. Keep laughing.

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