4/01/2005

Babaylan

The word babaylan is of the Philippine Visayan dialect and means priestess. In pre-colonial history, it specifically refers to a holy woman(shaman) and a woman leader. - From http://www.babaylan.com/trans.html

Much of the criticism I have about Christians (and yes, that means me too. Ah the wonders of Double Consciousness), stems from the Colonial aspect of the religion itself. “Spreading the Good News” has historically lead to the eradication of key cultural and ethnic traditions as ‘conquering’ nations move to replace political, religious, and social systems to fit their agendas whether economic or spiritual in nature.

The protestations are nearly cliché’ ‘We only meant to provide the Truth about God.’ ‘We only came to educate and bring /those/ people (ne’ savages) the conveniences and opportunities we have.’ ‘We only did what was necessary to protect ‘those’ people from *insert demonized Other Culture.*

Not that it was all ‘their’ fault – many of the Colonized /believed/ ‘they’ were right, assumed that they could retain their cultural heritage at home while their children went to school, got jobs, moved away from their home country. After all, the logic went, their blood was not the Colonizer’s blood – why not take advantage and have the best of both worlds?

But no one counted on the beatings, the edicts forbidding use of native language, the cynicism these children, now grown to adulthood, would face in the new Imperial World. Racism comes too easy after colonialism, colonialism too easy after religious evangelicalism (there’s an essay rolling around in my head centering around Cultural Evangelization in the form of product advertisement and the whole Hollywood scene, so anyway…) And what is left is a gap between past and future, past and present, where the Second/Third/Eleventh Generation post-colonial (because face it, the minority /never/ becomes part of the dominant paradigm, no matter how many generations removed from the initial incursion) senses an absence of understanding but cannot find that cultural link. Often the link has been buried in “good intentions” or worse totally erased.

I am fortunate for I can look for and can now find some of the links to my spiritual heritage that I have lost. The diwata and the babaylan are as integral to my personal identity as Christ and the 12 Apostles, because they /all/ put me in touch with and enhance my relationship with God as Creator, Advocate, and Companion. Some would argue that I have to choose the “better,” the “right” in order to remain Christian, but I am unwilling, and believe I am not being asked to, “give up” this sense of heritage. I cannot change that I am a woman of color, and I will testify that this is who God has made me to be. All of me that has come this far in life is all part of God’s Vision. I refuse to demonize that which the colonial did not understand or that which the colonizer offered as the Pathway to God. Too much blood has been spilt in that argument.

But I have to ask myself, what of the others like me, those who have less access to their cultural/spiritual heritage because of war and rumors of war?

Cultural Imperialism is at an all time height in power. We are /all/ challenged to take back what was taken from us and from others in the name of Expediency.

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