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Babaylan confab to share stories, myths

/ 05:31 PM September 26, 2013

Grace Nono. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Neal Oshima

SANTA ROSA, California—Filipinos will share ancient and modern indigenous stories under the redwoods by the Marin County creek where the salmon recently returned, during 2nd International Babaylan Conference from September 27-29 at Westminster Woods, “in the land of the Pomo and the Coast Miwok.”

The Center for Babaylan Studies conference theme, “Katutubong Binhi: Native Seeds: Myths and Stories that Feed Our Indigenous Soul,” highlights the relevance of indigenous perspectives as guides in this modern age of globalization.


“It is timely and appropriate to think about stories in terms of cosmic stories,” Project Director Leny Strobel explained.

“What are the stories or meta-narratives that we hold onto or we choose to narrate our lives? As Filipinos in the diaspora and as Filipino Americans we felt that it is also important to look at mythology or the mythic imagination or stories as seeds, because everything starts with the seed. The seed becomes the plant, the plant becomes the food that nourishes us and nurtures us. So it’s an interconnected theme, something that is biological and ecological, and also literary and mythical.”


Speakers from the Philippines and the United States will address the conference.

Greg Sarris, tribal chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, will be the opening night keynote speaker. A professor of Native American Studies and Creative Writing, Sarris is part Filipino and Pomo. His grandfather was a Filipino boxer. Known as a great storyteller, Sarris documented the life of Mabel McKay, and wrote the book “Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Holistic Approach to Native American Texts.” He has inherited the mandate to keep the stories of his people alive, and is simultaneously proud of being Filipino.

Kidlat Tahimik, recognized as the Father of Philippine independent cinema or indigenous filmmaking, is the Co-Director of the Heritage and Arts Academies of the Philippines (HAAPI), along with Katrin de Guia, They have spearheaded the three Kapwa Conferences, which bring together representatives from different schools of living traditions around the Philippines, academics, and culture bearers. Tahimik will share his films and be available for open dialogue sessions.

Grace Nono is known by many as a world-class musician. A scholar for 20 years, she researched Filipino indigenous oral traditions, and learned chants as an apprentice to many oralists and chanters, many of whom are babaylans in the Philippines. Her most recent book, “Song of the Babaylan,” will be launched at the conference.

Kanakan Balintagos, also known as Auraeus Solito, comes from the Tungkul lineage of shaman-kings in Palawan. Solito recently claimed his tribal name, which means “the Hunter of Truth.” Kanakan’s 2011 film Busong was well received at the prestigious Cannes Festival and Cinemalaya, and is the first of his indigenous trilogy. More importantly Balintagos has documented shamanic traditions in Palawan. His life stories begin as a child raised in Manila, pass through his belated discovery of his tribal roots and bring him back to Palawan to serve his community.

Mamerto Tindongan, ordained mombaki, comes from a lineage of mombakis in Ifugao. His father was a seventh generation mombaki. Mamerto has lived in Ohio for 20 years, and has learned many healing modalities from other traditions, including from shamans in Peru. It was his return to the Philippines to learn the bakis, the traditional chants of his father, that inspired his father as he was dying to transfer the tradition to Mamerto. Interestingly those traditional chants now live with him in the diaspora.

Lane Wilcken, author, researcher and one of the directors of the Center for Babaylan Studies, is mestizo. His Ilocano grandmother is a healer, a mandadawak. He has spent many years researching Filipino indigenous traditions—Filipino tattooing, the history of tattooing in the Philippines, and the spiritual meaning of the symbols. Wilcken will share the stories that connect the Philippines to the mythologies of the Pacific Islands. His latest book, “The Forgotten Children of Maui,” will be launched at the conference. Through this book one discovers the connections between the Pacific Islands and the Philippines.


Virgil Apostol will present “Salun-at: The Micro- and Macrocosms of Spiritual and Physical Health and Well-Being.” Lizae Reyes and Lily Mendoza will speak about “From the Crocodile’s Belly: Re-Membering the Indigenous Soul.” Letecia Layson and Perla Paredes Daly will hold the workshop, “The Importance of Ritual Making in the Diaspora.”Mila Anguluan-Coger and Tita Pambid-Domingo will hold a workshop on Bernardo Carpio, which is one of the more famous Filipino myths.

Oscar Penaranda will share “Indigenous Core Values: Re-Storying the Filipino Self in North America.”  Venus Herbito and Frances Santiago, educated at the School of Indigenous Mind, or the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network will lead “Entering the Sacred of Our People Through Dance, Ritual and Film.” Canadian Mykelle Pacquing’s workshop will consider, “Can We Really Live Indigenous Lives in the City as an Urban Person?” Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor from Washington will tell the power of storytelling for transformation, and as a support for our decolonization process.

Time is set aside for dialogues with elders Kidlat Tahimik, Greg Sarris, Leny Strobel, and elders from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

A unique aspect of the conference will be the Talking Circles, where participants aim to connect and to listen to each other’s stories. As in all CFBS gatherings, there will be music, ritual, and kapwa jamming.

“One of the reasons we are making time to listen to each other’s stories in the talking circles is because each of us comes with very, very specific stories, and some of us come with fragments of stories that we remember. When we hear each other’s stories we might find a way of connecting our stories to each other,” Strobel explained.

“(We also learn) the importance of just listening. I think the culture is so noisy, and we really don’t pay attention. We call it the practice of Radical Presence, of just learning to be present to each other without being mediated by our gadgets, without our texting, without our cellphones. What is it really to sit next to someone and to really hear them out and to hear their heart and to see their beauty as they tell their stories?”

The Center for Babaylan Studies has received support from the Tamalpais Trust, the Reginald Lewis Foundation and Loida Lewis.

The center recommends advance registration because Westminster Woods has very limited capacity. CFBS can be found on Facebook, and online at .

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TAGS: “Katutubong Binhi: Native Seeds: Myths and Stories that Feed our Indigenous Soul, ” spiritualism, 2nd Babaylan Conference, Beliefs, Center for Babaylan Studies, Culture, Heritage, legends, myths
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