Frauline C.

Tadle September 27, 2012 Eng 10: THY2 Exercise: Concept Paper From Priestess to Monsters: The Babaylan Before and During the Spaniards Colonization With her Eurotel-sponsored signage, Nanay Alice is one of the living practitioners of Filipino traditional method– hilot. Her prowess in this custom has reached far through conversations of people who have tested her abilities. Believing that the ability to heal is a blessing given by Nuestra Senora de Remedios (Our Lady of Remedies) in Malato, Nanay Alice gives her service specially for the poor and never asked for payment, except for small donations given by some of her patients (Robillos). Hilot is not a product of contemporary time. Its history can be traced back thousands of years ago and was one of the primary methods of healing by Filipinos even before the Spanish colonization. It was mainly practiced by one of the most important institution then – the babaylan. Statistically speaking, about 86 % of the Philippine population is composed of Catholics (Miller). Undoubtedly, it is the dominating religion in the country as a result of the 400 years rule of the Spaniards over the lands. Contrary to the common perception that our ancestors had no religion before 16 th century, our forefathers had already an idea of one supreme God and creator of all called Bathala. Its difference from Christianity was the worship on less powerful Gods like Agni (God of Fire), deities and spirits of the ancestors which they believed to be living in nature. Their religion is classified as animism – the act of believing that there were 'non-human' existence that are living in nature like mountains, trees and rocks and could affect the human. These unseen entities, just like humans were believed to have the energy of their own. An equilibrium between the energy from nature (or universe) and from the human body is a major requirement to have harmonious life. Maintaining this equilibrium was the foremost role played by the babaylan as they were believed to have had the capacity to communicate with the spirits. Babaylan is the Visayan and most well-known term for the indigenous 'priestess' or 'shaman'' of the Philippine ethnic groups before the arrival of Spaniards in the 16 th century. They were called

differently by various indigenous groups in the country like Katalonan (Tagalog), Mombaki (Ifugao), Mabalian (Bagobo), Daetan (Samareños), Mabunong (Benguet), Mensip-ok (Sagada), Baglan (Pangasinan, Ilocos), Mamallyan (Pampanga) and Kapandaian (Lanao) (Mangahas 24). According to Leny Mendoza Strobel, the word 'babaylan' literally means 'one who serves' (Mabanglo-Mayor). Nick Carbo wrote in an introduction that when Magellan came, they called these women pintadas because of the tattoos on their arms called batuk (vii). The title of babaylan was commonly given to women but there were occasions that men also possessed the position. Their core role in the community was to keep the peace and was considered as one of the four main pillars pf the community along with the datu (political leader), bagani (warrior) and panday (craftsmen) based on Alice Gaborro's article 'Filipino Women Power'. They were recognized as spiritual leader, traditional doctor and scientists, had the ability to travel to the world of the spirits and become a medium between them[spirits] and the living. Salazar considered them as the proto-scientists of the archipelago because of their knowledge on astronomy and natural phenomena (6). They also showed prowess on the community' s literature as they were one of those who had mastered the epics, legends, myths, songs and chants which they usually used to teach values and in their rituals. Because of these vast knowledge on literature, they can also be distinguished as historians since epics and legends often tells about the history of a certain group. Babaylan were usually chosen either by inheriting it from an elder babaylan or by calling from a spirit through summoning dreams called rukut (Gaborro). In some Lumad communities of Mindanao like Matigsalom, the capability of resolving the community's problem as well as to defend it from enemies through sword were major requirements of becoming a babaylan. It was a lifetime and complex process that's why before they could become full-fledge, they had already reached their mature age or menopausal age for women (Villariba). This part of societal system of early Filipinos was really important to undergo such a complex process. The institution of babaylan was formed in order to understand the untamed environment where our ancestros dwelled. Because they believe of powerful souls and entities within their surroundings,

people need someone to act as medium between them and the humans. They relied on babaylan to do the communication. To seek the advise from the spirits, to appease them when enraged and to give honors and thanks to the blessings the community had received, rituals were usually done. Thses rituals involved chanting of prayers while dancing and finally, killing a boar and could only be done by the babaylan as they possessed the sole authority to do so and were considered as sacred. In the GMA's television series, Amaya, when Rajah Mangubat and his troupes were in the midst of their pangangayaw or slave-raiding in a neighboring tribe, the chief babaylan of that tribe was possessed by a spirit to warn the cruel Rajah of the coming of a child that would eventually kill him. From here, we can see that babaylan were not only a medium between humankind and spirits but also a vehicle of the deities to communicate with the living. They were also blessed with the capacity of making the anting-anting through chanting of prayers onto powerful objects like tooth of a crocodile. These mystical ornaments were said to have had the ability of giving its possessor great powers. As the spiritual chief, she also led the community ritual for agriculture, marriage, baptism, victory of war or raid, blessed weather and death (Scott 84). The belief on life after death was already present during their time and its the babaylan who presided ceremonies to accompany the spirit in its journey across the new world. As someone who had been endowed with spiritual powers, the babaylan also have the capability of healing illnesses through their healing rituals. They had mastered understanding the intricate balance of katawan (human body), kaluluwa (spirit) at ginhawa (comfort) which form an individual's pagkatao. As the kaluluwa bears within it all psychological aspects of a human such as konsensya, unawa, budhi, kalooban at damdamin, Salazar believed that aside from being chief healer, they are also the head psychologist of the community (14). This is the reason why the babaylan ensures that nothing can get the kaluluwa within the katawan hurt (15). Hurting the kaluluwa would inflict a person pain and if not lifted, would cause his/her death. According to Scott, there were three main ways a babaylan can use to help the spirit: “The babaylan's healing prowess was described in dramatic terms: agaw, to carry off by force, was to snatch pain from the suffrer; tawag, to call someone out, was to summon the spirit that had kidnapped the soul; and bawi, to rescue, was to free the invalid from the grip of the

afflicting spirit (85).” The principle of a state of equilibrium between the energy from the sanlibutan (universe) and the energy from the body was also an important aspect of their traditional healing method. This intricate balance also affects the social relationship of an individual to his surroundings (Maraňa and Galvez-Tan 8). Another role of the babaylan which was considered as fundamental was their service as a political adviser to the datu. In every move that a datu planned to do should be consulted with the babaylan first. Because of this, other writers claimed that the power and respect of the people for the babaylan was greater than that of the datu. Based on a speech delivered by Dr. Jose M. Vergara of School of Theology in Australian Catholic University during a talk at Sonoma University, the town people can plan revolt against the datu but can never doubt nor question the power of the babaylan. The very thought of opposing the babaylan was unthinkable for the people because it's like going against the spirits too. Using Vergara's exact words, “Literally, she had the power of life and death in the village”. The babaylan also helped the datu in managing the fields through her knowledge in astronomy. They were the one who could tell when to start the slash-and-burn procedure. They would also be the one who could dictate when to harvest and do the headhunting ritual (Salazar 6). This process was called pangangayaw and was an integral part of their beliefs. This practice was the actualization of the idea of a three- leveled santinakpan composed of the worlds of kalangitan, lupa at kailaliman which should be connected to have a fruitful harvest. The head of a man was believed to be way to connect these three (7). The babaylan can be recognized as the most powerful and respected group in the society of the early Filipino because of their immense connection with the gods and the spirits. Upon the coming of Spaniards in 16th century, the power of the babaylan began to deteriorate. Antonio Pigafetta, chronicler of Ferdinand Magellan branded them as brujas (Mangahas 34). Antonio de Morga, a Spanish historian chronicled the babaylan or catalonan as amateur sorcerers who deceive their people through the evil-inspired prayers and rituals (Magos 8). With the combination of their Catholic religion, the belief that it is the one, true religion, their patriarchal system and their forceful conversion of the natives, the babaylan got stripped of their power almost instantaneously. The friars degraded their

image to the Filipino from someone who were connected with the spirits and who could guide them in their daily living to 'monstrous feminine' whose powers originally were inclined with evil entities. They were able to inject into the locals' mind that they were fraudulent vessel to harmony. The babaylans were not only sacked from their position along with their faith and become monsters in the perspective of their own people, they were also physically abused and tortured. As they were seen as evil-doers and hindrances for the religion they were spreading, historian Mila Guerrero also accounted that some babaylans were literally mutilated, chopped and were fed to crocodiles (Gaborro). The abrupt and unjust eradication of their rights and powers led some of the babaylan to start the first uprising against the colonizers, especially the friars. Most of the babaylan who went berserk against the foreigners said that they had received premonition from the spirits regarding the bad effects the new comers would bring into the land. As a matter of fact, as early as 1609 a babaylan in Bohol named Cariapa amazed the Jesuits when while dancing, she chanted this: Bayabarico ha nagbanua Balunco ha bagcabayon; Maga capucane ang cubayon; Mabual agra qui ring lunson, Mabuen cagra quing cubayon (Mangahas 36). This land will be changed, other people will possess it, with another culture, other practices; This townis to be utterly destroyed. This province with the rest of the islands are to be subjugated (Mangahas 36).

Before Rizal and Bonifacio, the babaylans should be recognized as the first leaders of the uprisings against the Spaniards. Their objective could've been more personal but it can not change the fact that they were early enough to see the possible outcome of the colonization. They were one of the first who protected their people from the oppression of the Western colonizers. Most of their traditional practice could have died along with the swarming of new influences from other culture, especially from North America. Yet, some of their practices are still practiced today and even honored by the Catholic Church and Scientific community. The present day babaylan can be seen through the herbolarios and hilot just like Nanay Alice. They are still using, practicing and reserving anting-anting, chants, rituals and the balance of energy. One of the few remaining Sama baylan named Teresita urged us to continue learning the 'art of knowing' which can make us utilize our pakiramdam to

determine the right medication as well as when to show our combined will to defend (Miclat-Cacayan 66). Up to this day, we have kept on practicing the tradition of the babaylan without us noticing it. This proves that they never cease to exist but rather, they are pushed into our subconsciousness through time. Some said that it's been so long since the institution of babaylan have perished. Others still say that it is not. It is just creeping with veins of every Filipinos, aching for their time to come and be unleashed. We neither need to communicate with the spirits, read the stars nor revive their rituals. We just need to understand the nature of their spirit: strong-willed, independent, intelligent, courageous and does not hesitate to fight for the country. All we have to do is to give a living embodiment to the spirit of babaylan that lives in all of us.

WORKS CITED Carbo, Nick. Introduction to Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipinas American Writers Eds. By Nick Carbo and Eileen Tabios. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2000. ______ “The Other Half of the Sky” Introduction. Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina American Writers. Gaborro, Alice. “Filipino Women Power.” Babaylan Files., 17 June 2009. Retrieved from 31 August 2012. Mabanglo-Mayor, Rebecca. “Defining Babaylan.” Babaylan Files. Babaylanfiles, 2 February 2009. Web. Retrieved from . 29 August 2012. Magos, Alicia. The Enduring Ma-aram Tradition: an Ethnography of a Kinaray-a Village in Antique. Quezon City: New Day, 1992. Mangahas, Fe. “The Babaylan: Historico-Cultural Context.” Centennial Crosssings: Readings on Babaylan feminism in the Philippines. Quezon City: C& E Publishing, Inc., 2006. 21-46. Maraňa, Ma Rebecca and Galvez Tan, Jaime. Hiloy: The Filipino Traditional Massage. Quezon City: Creative Concoction, Inc., 2006. Miclat-Cacayan, Agnes. “Babaylan: She Dances in Wholeness.” Centennial Crossings: Readings on Babaylan Feminism in the Philippines. Ed. By Fe B. Mangahas and Jenny R. Llaguno. Quezon City: C & E Publishing, Inc., 2006. 49-72. Miller, Jack. “Religion in the Philippines.” Focus on Asian Studies Vol. 2 No, 1: Asian Religions (1996): 22-27. Web. Retrieved from /article_miller.htm. 6 Sept. 2012. Robillos, Alyosha. “Miraculous Manghihilot in Malate.” Pinoy Community Newswire., 7 October 2012. Web. Retrieved from 5 September 2012. Salazar, Zeus. Babaylan sa Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas. Quezon City: Palimbagan ng Lahi, 1995. Scott, William Henry. Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Ateneo De Manila Press, 1994. Quezon City:

Sy, James, Jr. “GMA's Amaya: Fact or Fiction? Part IV: Religious Perspective.” Visayan Filipino Matial Arts., 6 July 2011. Retrieved from 3 September 2012.

Vergara, Jose. “The Denigration of the Babaylan in the Colonial Writings. Retiradong Guro si Lolo Jose., 19 September 2011. Retrieved from 5 September 2012.

Villariba, Marianita. “Babaylan as Guide to a Life of Peace and Justice.” Women in Action 2 (2006). 54-60. Isis International, 20 February 2007. Web. Retrieved from 31 August 2012.

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