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Sunday, January 27, 2013


Poet, professor, mentor, thinker and decolonialism scholar (among many other things) Leny M. Strobel  recently sent me two tiny blank books inspired by SitWithMoi!  She had made those tiny books to hand out to participants of a retreat preparing for an upcoming conference by the Center for Babaylan Studies Those tiny books and conference will be discussed in another blog post, but for now let me share that “Babaylan” is of the Philippine Visayan dialect and means “priestess” or “woman leader.”

Anyway, along with the two tiny books was a postcard featuring the image of a “Babaylan Mandala” created by Perla Paredes Daly. It also happens to be the cover image to one of Leny’s books, Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous (oh hey, I’m innit!)

Here also are the images from the covers of the tiny books. I show them spread out; they were folded to become the front and back covers:

I kept looking at these items with much fondness—for Leny, Perla and all the other modern-day Babaylans I’ve been privileged to meet.  From such love arose the idea, nay, sudden compulsion, to create a miniature book!  Undoubtedly, the idea was facilitated by the postcard’s card stock.  It was heavy yet bendable enough so as to make a logical book cover.

I didn’t yet have a plan on how exactly to create the book, but as with many other tiny books I’m making for SitWithMoi, decided to trust the process.  First, I thought to Xerox the material as I suspected I’d want to integrate the images of the lovely tiny book covers into this new book. The images are quite enchanting—I would find out later that both were from postcards treasured by Leny, with one being a mermaid and the other an Igorot tribal dance.

I folded the postcard to create the book cover, and gave it “French flaps” to somewhat diminish the size of the book.  Even with those flaps, though, the book came in sized at 2 5/6” x 3 ¼”, larger than the 2” x 2” scale I was hoping for “Books on Chairs.”  But I decided to stick with this size and call it a “coffee table book” because I didn’t want to cut the mandala (and my copier at home doesn’t have the ability to copy at smaller sizes):

As you can see from the above, there is information about the Babaylan Mandala on the left side of the postcard, and a complimentary note from Leny on the right side.  I decided to cover the messages with some post-its as I liked the idea of messages waiting to be discerned.  I used fuschia-ish post-its as I wanted to integrate a vibrant color—Babaylans are often colorful , after all…

At this point, when I closed the book, the fuschia pages stuck out beyond the edges of the book cover. 

Initially, I thought to trim the pages, but then decided to leave them sticking out.  It’s an idea I recall from a chapbook by marvelous poet j/j hastain which I once reviewed. I left the pages long for the same reason I interpreted the elongated pages in j/j's chap: that the book contains something whose expanse is so large it cannot be contained within a book’s borders; I wrote in the review, “It’s as if the cover cannot contain what is inside.”
I next opened the book cover to begin inserting in its contents.  First, I inserted in the Xeroxed copy I made earlier of the Babaylan Mandala.

The Babaylan Mandala would be split by the book’s spine in order to be the first and last images seen by the reader.

Next, I inserted in the copy of the Igorot tribal dance, followed by the copy of the Mermaid.  Both copies are longer than the length of the book, requiring them to be folded into two.  I placed on each of the two folds the words that I Xeroxed from the postcard and are hidden by the fuschia post-its.  Thus, the book unfolds as follows:  First, the final book cover where I wrote the title and author’s name with a fuschia-colored ink pen:

We then open the book, first to see the first half of the Babaylan Mandala and the first half of of the postcard text about the Babaylan Mandala (which I'll replicate below):

After reading the text on the Babaylan Mandala, the reader then can pull the fuschia-colored tab to see the Igorot tribal dance:

The reader folds the page then turns it over to the next page

After reading, the reader can pull the fuschia-colored tab to see the mermaid:

The following is the text read by the reader, taken from the postcard:
Babaylan Mandala
By Perla Paredes Daly

The Babaylan Mandala represents YOU, your soul and existence in the cosmos and your connection with all of Creation. YOU are the Bahala tree of life at the center, shown with sacred numbers… symbols of the elements the Seen and Unseen, the macrocosm and microcosm… and Philippine baybayin symbols of KA and BA, HA and LA.  All these symbols have metaphorical meanings that I share with you and that you too can discern for yourself.  It is a message from our ancestors that I convey through symbolism, instead of words.

The Babaylan Mandala can be used as a meditation tool for “pagbabalikloob” or return to “Loob” (Inner, True or Higher Self). The image is meant to be contemplative so that you can connect with the metaphoric details and the whole.  It is a visual device to enable you to look inwards, realize and live from your True self and to find “pakikipagkawa” or connection to the Cosmos and to the Divine source that sparks all of Life, that exists within all humans, all creatures and all of Creation. This journey may empower you to be whole and in harmony with all your “kapwa” and the Earth.
After reading—hopefully meditating on—the text, the reader can then turn the page and see the other half of the Babaylan Mandala, the image that would finish the reader's experience with the book:

For those of you interested in finding out more about the Philippine Babaylan, there is much information in the internet on the Babaylans.  You might also click on the link to Leny's book, , Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous.

And now, where oh where shall we “shelve” The Call of the Babaylan Mandala by Perla Paredes Daly?  But of course, it should be placed lovingly on the coffee table of the narra sala set from the Philippines!


  1. hi Eileen, thanks for honoring the mandala as a mini coffee table book! another little pleasure and joy in the world has been manifest through human hands and heart. what an entertaining endeavor you have shared.


  2. Perla,
    Glad to see you here. This mini book was a delight to do. Happy to do it and glad you like it!