By Rhea Claire E. Madarang
More than a figure briefly mentioned in Philippine history textbooks, the babaylan was a formidable force to reckon with.
This was what Milagros Guerrero, history professor and past president of the Philippine Historical Association, expounded on in her lecture during the “Babaylan Sa Kasaysayan” (Babaylan Throughout History) lecture-ritual event held last July 30 at the College of Social Work and Community Development building in University of the Philippines-Diliman. 100 participants from different schools and organizations attended the event.
Guerrero explained that the babaylan was an influential leader in history, much like the datu. While the datu was the political leader, the babaylan was the spiritual leader. The babaylan also advised the other leaders and the community in all matters.
“She is the one who says what to do tomorrow – for example, should we fight the enemy or not?” Guerrero said.
The babaylans were the last to succumb to Spanish rule, Guerrero said. The datus were the first. The babaylans revolted and were killed by the Spaniards. One group was daring enough to abduct an Augustine priest and disembowel him as revenge for the babaylans who died.
Guerrero discussed other roles and accomplishments of the babaylan throughout history and concluded her lecture by challenging the audience to be babaylans on their own right. “Be able to create your own reality without divorcing yourself from your beginnings and your creator,” she advised.
After the lecture, Erlinda Natocyad, Asian Social Institute (ASI) researcher on rituals and indigenous healing, facilitated a creative prayer ritual called Ar-Allag. Ar-Allag is an actual birthing ritual from Mountain Province’s enthno-linguistic group Kachacran, of which Natocyad is a member.
For the event, Natocyad led a symbolic birthing ritual. Participants were asked to write down their dreams and projects on a piece of paper and wrap that piece of paper with a cloth the way a mother would wrap her baby. The participants then laid their “babies” down on a circle in the middle of the room, where Natocyad later prayed and made offerings of pinikpikan and rice wine.
The participants danced in a circle, to the music of indigenous music group Sanghabi, at the start and end of the ritual and drank rice wine to celebrate after the ritual. Before the ritual, singer-composers Irene Landicho and Nota Magno sang Landicho’s composition, Ala-Alay, which means remembering and offering.
ASI faculty member and GINHAWA Executive Director Leah Tolentino facilitated the creative synthesis through an activity of using stones and colors, enabling particiapants to identify specific lessons learned and tap into collective memory.
The Babaylan Sa Kasaysayan is the second of the Buhay Babaylan lecture-ritual series. The first was the Babaylan Bilang Guro (Babaylan as Teacher). Upcoming topics in the series for 2011 are: Babaylan Bilang Manggagamot (Babaylan as Healer), and Babaylan Bilang Tagapagpadaloy ng Kapayapaaan (Babaylan as Peacemakers).