The Center for Babaylan Studies Symposium 2015- Day 2: Lamuan Kata- We Are One

Day 2 Lamuan Kata- We Are One:

I woke up early- 5:30am with the sun and ran toward the water seeking space to train in practice of my Kali martial artistry. I let nature feed me, fill my lungs with fresh air, and I was enwrapped by sun and sky, towering trees, and reflective water. 6:30am Ate Lizae passed by with the sound of the gong to wake those still in slumber. And we sat together to another blessed meal.
I walked to the lodge again in talk-story with Grace Lasala and we continued our conversation exchange reflecting on the night before. When we arrived to the space where we would be spending our full day in, we were greeted with the smell of sage, a gift from Leny for all of us, cut from her garden to cleanse out spirits and lift us. We left our things behind and journeyed out to the docks looking out to the lake surrounding the area and sat ready to receive in ritual.


Grace Nono, blessed us all and transported  us into the sky guiding us to connect with the land and our ancestors in prayer and gratitude. I felt something so real speak to my soul of the value in nothingness. A humbling reminder to my soul that the simplicity of life rooted in the elements of creation in air, earth, water and fire are where we should reconnect, where we should begin to renew the sacred of self and other. Her invocation called my spirit to pay homage and gratitude to the whole of creation and spoke to the blessings of living fully, in living as nothing, so I can connect to everything. I weeped on the dock and let the sun warm my tears.

We entered the lodge again and sat to listen to further wisdom from Paring Bert. This time speaking on Cultural Energy exchange between religious and indigenous spiritual belief. He began with speaking on the power of words. Words used as a means of giving power to others. This has been something I have been thinking on so much in the past months as I have filled my reading meditations on the subway with Krishnamurti who speaks of words as oppression, and how we need to remove ourselves from words to truly feel life. To not just live from, communicate and attach to definition of what moments, feelings and experiences may be limited to with word, but rather allow ourselves to feel without judgement and predetermined reactions.

Paring Bert said “Word has been used again and again to claim ignorance on a people’s, inferiority, devaluing and alienation… If you do not have the word, if you do not have the doctrine to prove in writing, the historical accounting– you are no longer validated in your thoughts and beliefs.”

He spoke to the fear of misunderstanding without written word to justify a belief and helped us to articulate the absurdity of erasing ones belief and replacing it with your own because you don’t understand it. Acting in the way that, what you don’t understand- you erase and impose something on others they may not or do not understand.

They call this civilizing; teaching others of civilization. This came up again and again for me throughout the trip. What is truly civilized? Thinking on the city and taking in this moment of being surrounded by nature and community, I would say for me the latter would be civil living. The erasure that Paring Bert spoke of, the colonial ideas of civilizing our people has been attained by the many deaths of bodies, minds and spirits, death of land, sky and water. And the maintenance of this comes with greed, selfishness, intolerance and inhumanity.

He showed us many accounts of churches proclaiming apologies, the Catholic Church in moments recognizing their fault in colonizing lands in the name of God. Paring asks “Why are you saying sorry?… Sorry we took your land… Okay, are you ready to give it back?” And the questions come into play, who can forgive, who is in the position to forgive?  How do we move forward from here?

Paring Bert made another call to us, asking us to look within ourselves to understand what is our “authentic experience of God?” And left our hearts with the power to not be concerned in converting others to your belief, rather seeing the experience of others and letting it live as ours does.

Next came community building in our small groupings with our assigned elders, we were given Babayin to put into motion and present to the whole community. It felt so good to be in my body, so many awakenings of my full being deeply engaged.
After a break we gathered for talk story from a panel of tremendous wom*n of spirituality- Arlene Natocyad, Natividad Delson, Cynthia Tindongan and Grace Nono each sharing their stories of becoming and the journeys that brought them to understand and wield their power of spirit.

Arlene shared her connection to her dual roots of culture and the growth from curiousness of ritual as a youth to growing in practice as a wom*n. It spoke to my own experiences of seeing ritual at home, by elders and remembering them today with deeper understanding of how to continue letting them live.

Nati spoke of her path toward spirituality beginning with connecting to the natives of america and how their acceptance of her to be rooted in their native  practice allowed her to connect deeper in her own and see how they are one. As I form my own spiritual rituals I see myself drawing the same connections often with my Caribbean based community in New York and my own admiration and inspiration of communities who have such preserved knowledge in the U.S. of their traditional rituals and roots in spiritual practice.

Cynthia shared her conflict of growing up in strict Catholic faith and finding that it did not serve the way she wished to walk in her beliefs and how finding love and partnership with an Ifugao Mumbaki continues to create conflict of identity in spirit and history, but has taught her to live fuller in seeing connection and love at the core of all beings. My family continues to practice in Catholicism, and I have drifted far away from religious belief systems and I see them and often wonder- how they can deny my beliefs, when those beliefs are that their belief is real and true as mines are, even if they do not align. Conflict surrounds spiritual belief so deeply in this living- how true and unfortunate this is.

Grace spoke deepest to my soul, saying everything I have been speaking to myself in silent prayers, tucked away within me. She spoke to me and all that I was afraid to hear as affirmation of what I must move to do in my life now. She spoke to why I was so deep in my intention to be on this trip, in that room, in that moment.
She spoke a story I have heard her tell before, but her telling in this moment resonated with me louder. “My life changed when I heard chants,” she said and she spoke of the pain she felt of never having know they were there. “They were kept in silence- not death, but worse- to be seen as if they are not there.” She called to us as she had been to “Learn to open your ears. Learn to open your eyes. Learn to open your mind.”

She talked about learning of the Babaylan in a book long before learning from them and living with them. “The Babaylan was just a word,” she said “I kept on wanting more.” I remember the path that brought me to this moment it was the same discovering that awakened in me a longing so great. And since I have been digging, excavating within myself the spirit of my culture, or my core being in my expressions out toward the world.

Then Grace said something that brought me back to the now. She spoke on how she acceded embodied engagement with elders and how important it is to find what your “Embodied Practice” is. And I felt my spirit cry because I knew this was what I could not articulate about what I wanted for myself- to embody my practice, to learn deeper, to grow in my understanding of what will keep my spirit feeling awaken and alive.

The session closed and Muki who was sitting beside me on the floor at the feet of where our elders were just speaking and I weeped to her and she held me in physicality and spirit. I explained to her what I was experiencing and she assured me with her words, “I’m so sorry you are going through this, but I am also so happy for you.” She told me that when we receive our truth of where we need to be that “It will hurt, it will be painful and we will need to cut away pieces of ourselves and we will need to leave people behind and sometimes they will grasp on to us, but we have to be strong and have to let go and abandon everything that seems safe.”

And that’s what it is. I don’t want to be safe anymore. I don’t want this to drive the way I live. I don’t want to be tied to obligations that do not feed the fullness of my spirit. I want to be free. I want to deepen my embodied practice, I want to open my loob to the world as I discover it more and more. I want to walk the land and swim the oceans of my people and, I want to dance and speak the stories and rituals that live in my roots. This means so many things to me that will unfold in many conversations and actions that I will care for in coming home to NY, but I am ever grateful for being held.

We continued in this exchange walking back to our cabins for lunch and I thanked her for her presence and sharing with me in this moment. And in divinity I sat next to Lily and we talked about this further, her gentle focus in listening to my reflections and what my soul was speaking to me was so humbling. She spoke to me in line Muki’s words and with positivity and excitement for this movement forward in my life.   “I will remember you,” she spoke to me. I not only felt held- I felt lifted.

We returned to the lodge and our next keynote, Carmen, spoke in her experiences helping to guide the Aeta people who are a part of her lineage back to their indigenous practice while still holding to the truth of belief they held in religious practice. Speaking on how multiple beliefs in spirit and religion can live within a peoples. The celebration of giving to her people in this way through her use of her PhD study was ever inspiring- and connected again the idea of knowledge being applied in embodied practice. She then expressed to us a deep spiritual message from the ancestors during our open invocation with Grace Nono, she would be called to bear the name Lamuan, with joy we celebrated her rebirth that was a reflection of all of our own in this gathering of powerful spirits and light.

Ate Arlene lead us in afternoon ritual with a beautiful prayer exchange that had us moving with one another and ended with a piece of land tied to our fingers for reminder, remembrance of our connection to each other and to the land.

The sharing of Dr. James “Jim” Perkinson moved me to think on the creation of cities, and why I have been so drawn away from them, although I live in one of the most renowned metropolises in the world. I have been feeling lost in the city lately and he brought clarity to one of the roots of this. He spoke of the way the indigenous people, those in the countryside who live of and with the land source their goods by construct to cities that do not provide and service all the people that inhabit it. This was a structure of understanding inequality and degradation and power exploited of the city further and in a spiritual way of knowing. He connected this to bible story of Cain who killed Abel as the Colonizer killed the indigenous peoples, he spoke of how many have been driven by the word of God to justify their creation of “civilization” building, but the bible supports the opposite. And Grace Nono’s words echoed through him “My Jesus will invite the Babaylan to the table, as my Babaylan will invite Jesus to the table.” We are all connected.

He also shared a story of being spoken to by the great creator through his loob in connection to his wife Lily and their experience of growing and learning of spirit and justice together and through each other. I thought on my own loving partnership that grows in this same way, and I am even more open to listen to all of creation, to hear what it has to offer in lifting our growth together. Such a blessing to see love bloomed through so many empowered partnerships this weekend in this way.

In closing out his talk we moved into our small groupings and were given the task to create a living altar to represent Lamuan Kata (I am one with you), and the story of the living memory and spirits and stone from Paring Bert spoke to our group. The beautiful sharing of each group were filled with ritual, with storytelling, with song, with laughter and with magic. Our group, the smallest of the others (Elder Lizae Cervantes Reyes, Joanna La Torre, Carolyn Gamiao Wallace and Tess Crecini) decided to invoke the elements in our presentation to our community in dance, word and the sound and rhythm of rocks. This is the piece our group shared:

Lamuan Kata
Co-written by Group Bulalakaw- shooting star at the CfBS 2015 Symposium (Elder Lizae Cervantes Reyes, Tess Crecini, Joanna La Torre, Jana Lynne Umipig and Carolyn Gamiao Wallace)
Editted and Arranged by Jana Lynne Umipig
Stones hold our memories
Listen to them
Let them move you
Let them lift you
Let them connect you
The Earth speaks of oneness
Through roots that run deep
The indigenous people plant their loob in
The trees,
The mountain range,
Vegetables and fruits,
Garden of eden,
Gardens of flowers blooming,
Forests, Deserts, Tundras, Jungles, Valleys of Mother Earth
Lamuan Kata
The Fire speaks of oneness
Through transformative flames
The indigenous people spark their loob in
The suns rays,
Destruction for rebirth and renewal,
Heat in rocks,
Burning of wood,
Burning of herbs,
Isla del fuego
Lamuan Kata
The Wind speaks of oneness
Through buntong hininga
The indigenous people unggo their loob in
An open sky,
The lifting of birds in flight,
The dancing of chimes,
Whispered wishes,
The gentle breeze
Lamuan Kata
The Water speaks of oneness
Through our bodies and bodies of water
The indigenous people pour their loob in
Ocean waves,
Ebbs and flows of tide,
In blood pulsing through human being,
Reflective lakes,
Flowing rivers, creeks and waterfalls,
In tears falling- flooding
Lamuan Kata
My heart is with you
My spirit with you
Even when my body is not with you
Our roots connected
Person to person
Outside and in
Connected, with our Creative Source,
Supreme being,
Apo Namalyari,
The God unseen
No words
Just this connection
This connection is God
This connection is you
This connection is me
We are one
Lamuan Kata
So beautiful is the recognition of oneness that lives in me truer than ever.

We moved into a moment of Kapwa Jamming, with music of Kulington, drum, flute and kubing filling the air and our spirits in dance. And so much was just overflowing, I felt like we awakened the mountains with our circle of power created. Our energy was pulsating all around and I just took it all in with joy, with gratitude, with humility, with LOVE.

We gathered to close the circle for the evening and Christine Cruz Guiao shared with us all gifts of herbs and healing from the Amazon and our sister Stephanie Camba spoke words of empowering poetry to our collective. Leny asked, “Is there anyone else called to give an offering. Ate Mila called to me “Jana, go.” And I was still, I felt my face flush, and my heart race and then Lilac Caña offered a lullaby, to fill our hearts. While she sang, Mila looked to me exchanging energy of encouragement and I thought of something Paring Bert said the first day he said the community asked him why he was going to visit a community of indigenous peoples, he was to work with and he said simply “Because I was invited.” And as Lilac finished, I looked around me and remembered when I was invited 5 years ago to present the beginning writings of The Journey of a Brown Girl at the first conference in Sonoma and here I was being called again. And with Leny and Grace who gave so much to my unveiling of self time and again. I thought of Letecia Leyson, Baylan Megino and Perla Daly and I stepped into this powerful closing center. My malong had been on the altar the entire evening and I retrieved it ready to answer the call, answer the invitation, and I opened my body, my heart, my breath, my spirit to exchange in energy with all those in the room. I was transported inviting all the powerful spirits of living and past ancestors and the land to join me on my journey. I felt my loob spill over.

When the piece ended I looked to my elders, my spiritual guides- Leny and Grace and Lily and Mila, and Lizae and I wept with all my being. And as the community embraced me after being moved with the movement of my sharing- I allowed myself to receive their words, their Love.

We returned to the cabins and I joined a gathering of our community at bonfire again, this evening was filled with laughter so booming that we were asked by the ranger to keep our volume down. But the joy even in whispers and even in silence pulsated around us. Paring Bert shared jokes and balanced with poetry and Tess shared with us memory and words of her lost Love. We spoke of the work of Journey as Tess also spoke of her being moved by my sharing in the open flame, and I felt so affirmed in my path as I opened my loob toward the open sky, with stars and crescent moon flooding light into my soul.


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