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Thursday, February 7, 2013


Poet and decolonialism-scholar (& so many other roles) Leny M. Strobel and The Center for Babaylan Studies (CfBS)  are busily preparing for the Second International Babaylan Conference/Gathering to be held September 27, 28, and 29, 2013, at Westminster Woods near Occidental, Sonoma County, Northern California.  As part of the preparations for the conference, Leny hosted a retreat ... at which apparently SitWithMoi's "Books on Chairs" played a role!

That is, Leny took the mini-books idea and created blank mini books that were given to the retreat's participants. The books are pictured below:

Retreat participants were asked to write in the books some of their thoughts on the Conference's theme: "KATUTUBONG BINHI / NATIVE SEEDS: MYTHS AND STORIES THAT FEED OUR INDIGENOUS SOUL." In response, some wrote poems, some drew (example below), some shared stories and musics, among other things.  Participants read their books to each other during the closing ritual of the retreat followed by celebration with bamboo rhythms and kulintang a kayo.

Leny shares, "Everyone was asked to bring a myth from his/her ethnic roots in the Philippines. So we had Visayan, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Maranao, Ifugao, etc. Lane did a hand-tapped tattoo on Felicia in the middle of our circle as we told these stories to each other -- which is also what they did in the old days. Tattoos, of course, tell stories.  Lane also shared some of the stories he has been researching from the Cordilleras."

Here are a few pages from a mini-book by playwright Will Gutierrez. Leny calls him (grin) "very special. He is being mentored as a playwright by Cherrie Moraga."  Here are his drawings, introduced by his "captions" for each:

"This is a bulol inside of a jar. Its eyes and mouth are made from cowry shells."

"As it was in the beginning..."

"'... so it is today...' These hands are holding dried up umbilical cords, to be treasured."

"... Thou hath been mythed." This elder is breathing the words of the myth into the younger woman.

I love the result, and I love that the "Books on Chairs" idea was involved.  A future post will share a printing of Leny's own meditations from the retreat.  For now, here is more information about this upcoming Conference:


The Center for Babaylan Studies (CfBS) announces the Second International Babaylan Conference/Gathering to be held September 27, 28, and 29, 2013, at Westminster Woods near Occidental, Sonoma County, Northern California.

At this second gathering, we will focus on sharing knowledge about our Filipino Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP), in order to deepen our experience and practice as culture-bearers in the diaspora. We seek to further clarify our understanding of what it means to be Indigenous when we are not land-based as our ancestors were, or as our Katutubo/Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines still remain.  Since indigenous belief systems emerge out of a people’s relationship with the Land and the cosmos, we believe it is important to learn how to access the power of our myths and stories even when colonization has erased most of these from our memory. We believe that the fragments that we remember can clue us in on how the stories are still embedded in our bodies and in our unconscious, and thus can be reclaimed and re-imagined.

Our invited keynote speakers and presenters will address this theme through the telling of Filipino indigenous myths and the cosmic stories which they convey, along with the ceremonies and rituals that embody their meanings.  Additionally, our presenters will be talking about the ways in which these indigenous practices can be part of our lives in the diaspora, in the context of deep respect and reverence for the communities in the homeland, which are the sources of these myths.

Our invited keynote speakers include:

Kidlat Tahimik, the original “indigenius” and Father of Philippine Independent Cinema and co-founder and director of the Heritage and Arts Academies of the Philippines (HAPI). Along with Katrin de Guia, Kidlat organizes the KAPWA conferences in the Philippines.

Merlinda Bobis, an award-winning writer and performer originally from Bikol and now teaching Creative Writing at University of Wollongong, Australia. She has incorporated Bikol myth-making and indigenous beliefs in her latest novel Fish-Hair Woman and its play adaptation River, River. She performs this one-woman play as a 'wake of the world' with storytelling, chanting, and ritual.

Mamerto Tindongan, a Mombaki/shaman from Ifugao and from a  lineage of mumbakis.  Now living in Ohio, he is an artist and healer in various indigenous modalities.

Lane Wilcken, independent scholar, and author of Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern. The grandson of a manghihilot/healer, he has devoted years of research on Filipino myths and cosmology. His second book, The Children of Maui, will be launched at the conference.

The choice of our conference venue reflects our desire to connect more deeply with the Land of the Pomo and of the Coast Miwok, where some of our ancestors settled and intermarried with the local tribes. Since indigenous practices are primarily rooted in the Land, we have asked for and received tribal permission to hold the conference at this location. We will be amidst towering redwood trees along Dutch Bill Creek, where the salmon have recently returned to spawn.

You can always go to the Babaylan Link for more information!  And remember that everyone—that would be YOU!—are invited to “Books on Chairs”!


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