Ambahan and Babayin

Next week, I'll be presenting writing workshops at the Woman of Color Symposium sponsored by the WSU Coalition of Women Students (here's the flyer. It's big, just to warn.)

I presented at the CAPTIVATE conference in 2006, and I'm very honored to be asked back for the annual event. As in 2006, I'll be focusing on babaylan concepts of Tao Po!, Loob, and Kapwa with a view to creating activist prose. This year, though, I'll be bringing in more examples of modern babaylan practices that I've come to know. Right now I'm listening to the chants of Mendung Sabal from the The Shared Voice cd for inspiration and guidance and as I'm putting together my notes, I'm constantly asking myself how can I help the conference participants bring awareness to the things they feel are most important now?

Here's the workshop blurb:

Tao Po! Sharing Ourselves, Changing the World

Our lives are stories made of stories: ancestor stories, environment stories, relationship stories, role stories. Many of these stories are given to us without our awareness, while others are built from our experiences.

Using the babaylan concepts of kapwa, loob, and Tao Po! this workshop will focus on creatively expressing our stories throught the written word to help us find and create meaning in our experiences. We will reflect on small and big events, tease out the stories that have been given to us, and share our writing with each other. Our stories exist in the details of our lives and sharing requires a belief that our stories matter to not just ourselves but to others.

By writing down and sharing our experiences, we pass on the gift of our lives to others. Even if we are not physically with the reader, our writing can provide a new perspective and new information they would not otherwise know. Bringing our experiences to the page, even if they are cloaked with metaphors or changed slightly to protect the innocent and the guilty, a kernel of truth can be revealed. Isolation divides, but community can heal if approached with honesty and integrity. That’s the beauty and wonder of writing.

Each of us has a story to tell; that’s what makes each of us storytellers.
If you are a storyteller, you can write.
If you can write, you can change the world.

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Mendung's words will be included too:

My assignment is to heal and recount history; to teach how we must relate with our neighbors; how to handle conflicts and promote peace; to teach the values of bravery and the protection of our territory. I also teach how datu must deal with their wives...When people fight and kill and I sing to them, they start crying.

And I look forward to playing her chants during the conference.

My slides will have concepts in baybayin and English, thoughts from The Enduring Ma-Aram Tradition by Alicia P. Magos and examples of ambahan poetry from Mangyan Treasures by Antoon Postma.

The form will take after Nancy Canyon's writing exercises and Sheila Bender's callback method.

* * * * *

There's an aswang that hovers nearby holding a blade made of concerns about authenticity, claims of mastery, and use of methods from two different cultures. I'll need to make peace with her soon.