An Artistic Creative Process Centered in Breath

Sometimes,
All we have to hold us
Is our breath

Breathe
Breathe
Breathe

—–

Of all things I hold sacred, my breath is at the center- of my voice in prayer- in song, of my movement- in dance, in theatre, in storytelling, in travel, of my spirit awakening- in ritual, in reflection, in connection, of my life. When was the last time you allowed yourself to sit in the divine presence of your own breath? Every morning I take a moment when I wake to lay with my breathing, a signal to me that I am alive. I imagine my breath moving through my body and waking not only my physical self, but my spirit, activating my inner self to come to life. In moments when life feels overwhelming, when I feel I cannot find control, when I am holding fear in my body and it captures my spirit, when I feel the intensity of what it is to be a human being, I center myself in breathing. Awareness of my breath, brings me focus, brings me back to the ground and allows me to calm moments unrest. Breath is power- and I have learned that understanding this power allows you to connect to all life in a deeper way.

Breath is life source, it is the center of what sustains our physical being and it is what connects our physical self, to our spirit. Without breath, we become without life. We can go weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without breath- understanding the truth of this helps me to remember my breath and take pause to connect to it.  Take a moment just to be with your breath, just one moment of seeing it fill you with life as you inhale and  see how you disperse and fill the space with your being as you exhale.

Understanding and connecting deeply to my breath is essential to my spiritual practice- recognizing and seeing my breath is core to my recognition of life’s miracle and my gratitude in living. Just take some time in this day to visualize your breath, see what shape it takes as it enters inside you, from your nasal passage down through your throat, into your lungs expanding and then see it travel beyond that, awakening the whole of your body. See the journey of your breath through your body, into your stomach, deep into the bowl of your pelvis, into your thighs, into your legs, the soles of your feet and out your toes. See your breath move up your back, climbing up and down your spine, into your shoulders through your arms, into your palms, and our your finger tips. See your breath travel through your face, every line and wrinkle and hair follicle, on the top of your head and then watch your breath be released again through your mouth. See it leave your body. After taking this time let yourself recognize how important it is to connect with your breathing and how it informs us of something greater than ourselves. When we release our breath into the world it acts as an exchange with all other life around us and beyond us.

Understanding and connecting deeply to my breath is essential to my artistry. I have been taught in many forms of theatre technique and most often, we attribute psychology to the practice, but I have learned in my own spiritual and performative artistic practices that connection of human being, the spirit of storytelling, and artistic expression will always begin with breath. Anyone who works with me knows that connection to breath is where I focus much of my discipline in performance.

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944346_10100366492063960_669058392_n In all my work as a performer and a director I work with my community to center in breath. I teach my students that breath is the center of your ability to  transform and embody the story of another. Your breath, in connection to your physicality, creates foundation for voice, emotion and movement. This is the center of my practice creating “Movement Theatre”- the integration of physical theatre practice, social justice mindset and spiritual ritual and connectivity. How and in which way do we let our breath inform and connect to our emotions, to our physicalities, to our voices? Understanding breath in rhythms and pattern create vocal manipulations so we might be able to communicate with varied tone, pitch, rhythm, and volume.By finding mastery of connecting to breath we can take on the voice of other human beings, shifting accents, and laughter, and shouts and screams and wails and whispers and character through vocal creations. But, even beyond that if we understand how other living beings breathe, the animals, the trees, the winds and the sky (the breath of our ancestors and a greater spirit), we can open ourselves to realizing that breath is what truly connects all living things on this earth. We can embody this connection within ourselves, by first simply being aware.   My understanding of this and its connection to our anatomy manipulation is how I teach my students to create character. Finding the pattern of breath that lives through a physical being, in posture, position and the activation and movement that not only happens on our outer anatomy, but within. I ask my students to discover  “What is your breath like when you are sad (happy, mad, at peace, etc.)?” Pay attention to your breath first and see how it informs the rest of your being and how it communicates something that emerges from inside you.

Before any words, before movement, before a simple facial expression, breath communicates something within us being released. My students work with their breath heavily throughout the development of characters and the formulation of how they create their stories and communicate the messages and themes that come up in their work performing the human experience and condition on stage.It also connects them to each other- creating ensemble connectivity and relation.

The performance work of The Journey of a Brown Girl is centered in sisterhood circles held together by breath exchange. Throughout the piece the sisters breathe together and through every pinay experience and identity that they embody. And at the end of each segment in unison they exhale the tellings from their voice, their bodies, their malongs. And before each rehearsal, performance or gathering I have invited all those I have every worked with, young and old to find collective breath together and allow it to link us and create deep exchange between us as we move forward.

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Centering my artistry in breath and having it be something that I look to master in relation to my skill in voice and movement work, not only elevates my capacity to create artistic works, but also helps me to uplift my creation of self- in forming the way I feel and connect to all other life . I believe that the way I carry my breath determines how I will be held in every given moment that I live through.   Breath is the strongest most utilized tool in my process of creating and is a fundamental part of why my artistry has become so linked to my spiritual practice.

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Creating a Life Filled with Ritual- Intention Physicalized and Embodied in Committed Practice

I have encountered exchanges, as of late, that have inquired guidance in ritual practice and how I have come to learn and create my own for healing, centering and elevation of spirit.

 

My understanding of spiritual ritual is the physicalization and embodiment of a committed practice that holds a deep intention to manifest action and creation from self and other, to call forth clarity, upliftment, understanding of life’s wonders and to connect to greater divine beings of creation, ancestry and spirit.  The practice of ritual helps me to place all of these grand ideas, desires and beliefs in a small act that I can feel committed to. All of these can feel so overwhelming, impossible to tackle and sometimes even comprehend because they feel so much larger than ourselves, but if we can commit to even the small action of lighting a candle, connecting this repeated motion/action/practice to words of affirmation and intention, we can begin building toward larger creations and connections in our lives. If you cannot light a candle with grounded commitment every day, then how can you take on the larger intentions behind it.

 

The next level to this is to open your senses to experience the ritual in a way that stimulates multiple senses and activates and awakens whole being.  Like, when I light sage, I do not just do it keeping in mind the native practice that I have learned is connected to the practice of burning this sacred herb, but also in simple awareness. I connect with wonderment to the recognition of the shape and color and line of each leaf and stem, I see the smoke rise up in shape and movement, I smell the burning fragrance, I hear the light crackling of the fire creating ash and I feel the warmth of the smoke dance around me. Seeing these things does not have to connect with religious belief, it is powerful alone to just observe the miracle of the physicalized action of burning this herb. Then, when you allow yourself to truly open your senses to this power and dually connect your intention to clear away bad energy or to ward away what does not serve your being, it makes the physicalized action, the ritual that much more powerful.

I have exchanged many rituals with my sisters in “The Journey of a Brown Girl” ones that I practice in my own life as daily practice. Our core ritual takes place at the beginning of every gathering, we engage in physical motions of energy shifting in connection to the intentions of letting go what will not serve us in our space of creation and exchange and to offer to the group something that will serve us as a collective. We have also physicalized this through the burning of candles (black-for release, white- for manifestation). We have also written larger intentions and burned what we are releasing and placed on sacred altar what we are wish to bring forth for ourselves to see. Other rituals have been ones to connect us to one another, often linked to offerings that I have given them. I gifted each sister a bell, purchased from a dear friend who told me each bell is forged separately in a way where they all have a distinct sound that resonates through it. Sound can be so healing (as all things can heal if we learn to use them for this purpose), the ritual in this was that in moments of need and struggle when we are apart, to ring the bell as a reminder to self of connection and means of support.

 

I have recently connected to ritual with water. I have always had a fear of the ocean- of its power, of its mystery, of its magic. But this year I am making a strong intention to connect to all of this as a part of my deepened connection to the world around me. The healing power in the act of washing and recognition of how sacred it is to know water is all around and within us- earth’s bodies of water and our own bodies made primarily of water. These rituals help you feel rooted, help you feel oneness with all things, and humble you to your being only one fragment of a much larger creation.

 

Another ritual in every space we inhabit is to create an altar, which I learned to create from the community of the Center for Babaylan Studies. On each altar is representation of the 4 elements (water, air, fire, and earth) and a center container (bowl, gourds, box, etc.) that represents what is being filled with spirit, intention, prayer and light. The performance itself is centered around this large altar that we place items representing ourselves as Pinay, as women, as human beings- and that also call forth others we love in our lives to be held.
We create another altar with intention to hold the sacred energy of the stories being told and ask audience members to place a stone with a symbol representing their being on it so that by they’ve of our time together they can retrieve the stone which will now hold the energy cultivated in our experience together. The creation of a physical altar built in connection and reflection of my altar within.

I even see the way I dress and what I wear as the adornment as ritual in the building of my physical vessel as an altar;  #soulsurfaced. I often wear jewelry and clothing that has been crafted by artists, or by my self. I was drawn to each item because it spoke to my soul, in this photograph below I adorned myself with light in many forms, connected to my animal spirit the rooster- around my neck is the symbol of the morning sun created by Ray Haguisan of Malaya Designs (http://malayadesigns.bigcartel.com/), he explained to me when I met him in California that this was a guide to our ancestors, when placed with another to create a pattern becomes the “minamata” design- eye of the ancestors, and wen more are placed it becomes the “chain of ancestors” that honors those past and present and also representative of the python scales for protection/ When more are placed they become a weaving pattern of a basket or cloth that represents our community, our lineage of ancestry that holds us. The larger amulet is from my sister May designer and owner of NativeSol and one of the most lifted creators I know (https://www.etsy.com/shop/nativesol) when we first met I saw this large pendant and was drawn to it because of its sun shape, and as held it in my hand she told me, there is a design on the other side, I flipped it over and there was a marking of my spirit animal- the rooster calling to my heart. On my ears are a Rooster Feather earring designed by my hands and spirit connected to the energies of Gabriela Silang ( I create all my feathered earrings in inspiration of a wom*n leader, goddess or feminine power- no website, just requests when asked). And I paired it with a the face of Mother Sun I encountered on a walk in the city one day from a kind wom*n selling trinkets on the street. I combine these articles to help lift my spirit, with the intention of radiating light and warmth to others.

Ritual also becomes a means of centering amidst the craziness of the world around us is so important. Many constructs of this living bring ailments if we do not have ways to reflect, deconstruct and renew ourselves in these moments of heightened energetic experience. My train commute used to be excruciating for me, with so many bodies carrying the weight of the daily grind and grime of the city. Engagements in energy exchange often are intense, and ritual has become so important for me to protect and direct my energy in positivity and creation.  I fill my daily journey with ritual of drawing, writing and spiritual reading meditations that feed my being.  This blog entry itself was my meditation on this morning’s commute.

I am currently in the process of learning more rooted practice from my own cultural background, in particular looking to delve into my lineage as a Filipina born from parents of the Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur regions. This has become something significant for my growing in understanding myself deeper. I am beginning with learning more of the language and the history from my own parents- this itself has become ritual, phone conversations with my father retraining my tongue to speak in ilocano, it has been such a challenge, but extremely liberating- the release of words that have lived in my mouth and my vocal tract, but have not been released.  I hope this will help me in my explorations of our native and indigenous practices I am working to uncover for myself. My father has also in the midst of this learning, been sharing stories of his recollections growing up on the land, tilling it and laboring as a youth. This has been an added blessing gifted to me alongside my intentions to learn tradition of spirit from my ancestry.

I feel that is one of the most important things about ritual, that it is a means of commitment. Whether it be small momentary daily actions or larger collective communal energetic exchanges, if they are rooted in deep intention and you make the recognition of the power in committing to it- ritual will nourish, protect, activate and uplift your spirit and help you walk with more courage and centeredness in this living. In a way if we see all the ways we live as ritual, we begin to walk more wholly, body, mind and spirit- action, intention and connection for oneness with all of creation. Now, how will you live out ritual in your life? What will your commitment to spirit in action look like? Commit to lighting your candle, writing your passage- wash, burn, bury, plant, stretch, dance, sing your intentions, affirmations and connections out and create ritual in your life.

Tracing the HerStory of My Becoming- A Creator of Artistry in Spiritual Movement

My process of becoming the artist that I walk this world as today is deeply connected to my spiritual awakening. My spiritual practice and my artistry do not live separate from one another. I have with every choice of intention and investment to self as an artist chosen the path that would feed my spirit. It is because of this I have allowed my understanding of artistry as divine creation to unveil itself. We as human beings at our core are creators, look around you and embrace all we have constructed. I meditate on this often, taking in sight and sound and smell and taste and feeling stimulated by the creation of human beings- in reflection of the greater creation source, the great creator, God on high.

I have had the voice of an elder and inspiration in my life, Grace Nono echoing in my head the past couple of days speaking “You must find your embodied practice… When you are called, you must answer to do.” I think on all the moments I have been called to center my artistry in the spirit. I think on all the elders that have given to that and trace back the Journey of my becoming.

The root of my embodiment as an artist began at such a young age, my mother told me that when she was pregnant with me that she had cravings of seaweed, which she often attributed to my inability as a child to sit still. “Makuti” they would call me, always in movement always ready to get others up in movement with me. Intertwined with my curiousness and wonderment of the world and the courage to let myself be drawn away from comforts to explore and expand I was often ready to embrace all experiences and people. My family embraced my free spirit and often encouraged me to express myself and sometime “entertain” guests with singing on the karaoke and dancing hula for guests visiting on any occasion. But they didn’t expect me to become an artist because of practicality. “You’re so smart, you need to become a doctor.” The same story told by many 2nd generation artists of immigrant parents that wanted more for their children- stability, security, but this was not the path that would call to me.

I think of the moment when Cindy Little took the hand of a broken teenager, dealing with displacement and separation from family and introduced her to the power of theatre as the power of becoming. Embodying and honoring others in their life stories, and seeing how a piece of every being lives in us,. She taught me that we just have to dig deep into our memories to see where we can find understanding and connect. Upland High School was my fourth high school I attended in my Freshman Year alone and I was looking for something that would make me feel I belonged. I remember the first production I saw, left me in awe- the coming together of so many elements of artistry on one stage, and the mastery of the performers who made me feel alive in the way they moved my spirit. I never would have imagined myself drawn to be among them. That evening I sat in the student parking lot waiting for my sister who predictably was late, but in this instance her lateness was an act of divinity because in a moment of fate I saw the stage door cracked open, inviting me in which was my first call to walk the path of my artistry. I entered the paint room and saw stage fragments, puzzle pieces to past productions scattered amongst paint cans and tools. I entered the stage wing that would unknowingly become my sanctuary and felt a sacredness to the high ceilings with lights hanging above my head, I’ll never forget that moment. Nicole Reyes who was a Sophomore in the program at that time was sitting on a table outside Mrs. Littlest office. She watched me in my wonderment and we exchanged hellos. “Is there a phone I could use?” I asked. “Yea, I’m waiting for it too,” she replied.

We waited together and in that waiting she invited me to be open to the possibility of what I think my heart wanted to inquire of. She spoke to me of auditions for the classes for the upcoming year and encouraged me to audition with her guidance, a prophet who would help me take a risk in my becoming. Acceptance into the program became just a piece of my process, before I knew it, I was also acting as a teaching aide to Mrs. Little for the honors theatre class, having a free window in my schedule to take it on. She took me under her wing and trusted me to learn from her in apprenticeship and invited me to find home in the theatre that called to me serendipitously when I felt so lost and alone. I gave my loyalty in service to her throughout my 3 years of study and I remember her telling me time and again that I was “special”, that, I was “valuable” in my being. She gave to me the knowledge of understanding how to manage back stage and encouraged me to take center stage so the world could see me, hear me and feel me.

After high school, I felt so lost in the Bachelors in Fine Arts program I had been accepted into, the people I was surrounded by felt so connected only on the surface, relationships felt false. On our first day a professor said to us, “Look around, these are not your friends, these are your colleagues, not all of you will make it through this program. Decide if you want to be one of the ones who will.” The room shifted and walls rose up. I don’t remember that professor’s name, all I remembered was a small piece of me whispering the admonition that if the next 4 years would mean being at odds with those around me, then I didn’t want to be one of those people.

Who I do remember with warmth and a deep respect was Evelyn Case who brought Physical Theatre into my life and who told me that the way I moved so free made her see herself in me. She said that watching me move was “entrancing” that she could see me discovering my body and enjoying it, she could see how liberated I was in moving. And when I left that BFA program I carried that foundation of value in Physicality that she gifted us and the power of understanding our abilities to create character by connecting to breath- connected to movement, connected to voice- connected to spirit, into my artistry as a performer.

I transferred schools and ended up at the University of California, Irvine, where I began my path toward growing in consciousness of myself as Filipina. And I felt like I left a lot of my artistry in performance to gain knowledge in self through activism. In this time I was introduced to many artists who were uplifting the stories of our people through their song and word and imagery. One individual I pay deep homage to is Bambu. I still remember the day he and my powerful Ate, Kat Carrido asked me to take a role in support of his team to elevate his music in community. The organizing that I had given my life to brought him to see in me the supporting of his life’s work. I wanted to show them I was worth what he saw in my skill to support, even if I paid tiny roles, I gave all I could. And to this day that experience is still more than I could ever repay. He taught me to use my artistry to say everything I want to say, need to say, and especially what I’m told I’m not supposed to say.

Kababayan was the chosen family who taught me what it looked like to lead. This group of activists, learners, service men and women of our communities taught me that integrity was standing up for what was right and owning up to when I was wrong, they taught me to listen with awareness and understanding and learn when my voice needs to be heard and when silence is necesary. They taught me to manifest my words of commitment into reality. And they encouraged me to be a leader of others who lead. They held a mirror up to show me I was Somebody, who could change minds and hearts, who could change the world. They taught me all these things, that would feed into and activate my artistry in a way I never would have imagined. My art didn’t just move anymore, it was movement.

In the summer before my last year as an undergraduate student, I was given the opportunity to travel to Italy and deepen my physical theatre learning, investing in artistry of mask and body. Michele Bottini would guide us on this journey. This is where I learned true ensemble work, and the power of building in support of one another body, voice and spirit. The sacredness and ritual in our practice of mask spoke to me deeper than any learning I had experienced. The first thing he said to us in meeting was “Humans have lost their animals,” inviting us to return to our bodies and explore every dip and curve and bend and crevice of our physical being. He invited us to re-member our bodies, piece by piece and value the limitlessness of our whole selves. He told me that there was power in my movement, he told me session after session that watching me move was special- echoes of teachers in my past. And on our last day after our morning meal as I gazed out into the vineyards outside the villa we resided in he stood by me and looked me straight into my eyes and told me I had to continue to move, and that whatever I choose to do he would speak for me if I made the call. I vowed to continue giving to that movement of my spirit and make my artistry the center of my being.

1 month after my graduation from UCI I packed my bags and headed to New York, where my deepened practice manifested through the unveiling of “The Journey of a Brown Girl”. The project began as an empowerment piece, to talk through the voice of Pinay leaders about our herstory and the struggles we have endured; a piece speaking on patriarchy and misogyny and all the ills against Filipina wom*n that have and continue to exist. But then transformation came with the discovery of the Babaylan, and connection to a collective of elders who were working to build a network to share in the excavating of indigenous lineage, ritual and practice. I think on  Leny Strobel, Letecia Leyson, Perla Daly and and Baylan Megino who welcomed me to see myself more whole than I’ve ever known.

Letecia taught me to back into my tomorrow’s, back into my future carrying all that served my spirit of ancestry and experience abc understanding. She taught me to rise above sadness and sorrow, taught me that it is powerful to weep. Leny called me a healer once, and it struck me in humility so deep. She shared with me many readings, connecting to many Pinay sisters who were seeking to uncover our truths as powerful warriors, healers, teachers, and visionaries of our shared future. She expanded my mind and spirit to know my ancestry beyond our migration to the United States, remembering forgotten parts of me I never knew were lost. Perla gave me opportunity time and again, to share my voice in writing online for my sister Pinays- and showed me what it looked like to create a global network of support, how to own our identity- to take power to shape it, and that presence even if not in person can be powerful. And Baylan continues to invest in every moment I rise, invests so deep- just last night we exchanged over messaging. I expressed to her that I wish to root myself in embodying deepened practices, she said to me in affirmation, “Girlfriend, you already do that!” Affirmations, affirmations and elevation of my spirit. All their words, actions and breath I keep with me constantly and they whisper to me to remember my spirit is powerful and that if I take care of it, and let it live through my artistry that my movements will move others.

They began in mentoring me through their stories of becoming, but then became such support in my process of growth. In moments of isolation and feeling myself fall to pieces Letecia would ask me “When was the last time you danced?” And Leny would share with me the comfort of words written by others in their own times of reflection during struggle and being confronted with human heart ache. Baylan would encourage practice of prayer and remind me that I had the power within myself to uplift my spirit. They all lead me to connecting to a journey toward finding and creating my own spiritual practices. They helped me to listen to spirit all around me. Because of them I feel my connection to the Great Creator and all creation in such profound ways that manifest in my full being; in the way I think, and speak, and relate to others, the way I breathe in the world and the way I honor myself as a small part of a larger creation. This has become what “The Journey of a Brown Girl” is to me, the story of finding yourself and the process of understanding how to love and honor yourself whole. This would manifest in all my work.

I recall having my final interview with Co-Founder and Executive Director Frances that began my journey at El Puente nearly 4 years ago. Almost 2 hours of exchange, I remember telling her about a project that was deeply important to my being as an artist, and that connected us together in our Filipino Heritage.  As I sat in her office talking about my roots and the wom*n and artist that I sought  to become, I looked around me at the celebration of culture and community that filled her office and gazed at a banner quoting Francis Assisi “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  I knew I had arrived somewhere special- a place of possibility.

I have been blessed to call El Puente much more than my place of work, it has been sacred space of growing and creating self- a place in which I have been continuously supported in my growth as an artist, as a facilitator of community, as an activist and as a human being. Because of this I pay homage to El Puente because I know that the project I spoke to Frances about those years ago, would not have grown into the movement that it has become without the support of the many individuals who have crossed my path here. From Frances Lucerna who encourages us all to awaken our artistic souls as we walk through this living, to Maria Marasigan who continuously connected with me on digging deeply to re-member our Pinay selves in reflection of each other, to Gloria Zalaya who roots us all in spiritual wellness and grounding, to Afaliah Tribune whose path toward her dreams, her brilliance and her drive to bring her artistry to the next level always inspired my own, and to JLove Calderon who guided me in looking deep within myself to unveil all of my power and light to make possibility happen.

These wom*n among many other brothers and sisters at El Puente, all encouraged the creator within myself to see how my arrival at El Puente was not happen chance, it was necessary to bring my visions to fruition. El Puente would become the place where my largest supporters would be grown for that very project I spoke to Frances about in the first moment we exchanged in light. And also be the place where I would learn to share my practice with young people for future cultivation of artistry connected to spirit.  My students who make up the For the Movement Theatre Collective are an ensemble of 10 students who I have chosen and have chosen me to exchange in practice and presence with. The performance art we create is a result of all of my embodied practice and calls my students to explore and own the way they move in the world and how that is reflective in their artistic being. Recently they put on their first full length play, which was such a struggle for many of them, as their spirits face constant unwellness in reflection to the way that they react to life and its ills. I call all my teachers and their spirits beside me in the moments when I am seeking ways to uplift the young people I create art with. Our collective saying is “For eachother, For ourselves, For the movement.” Inviting them to see themselves in one another and connected to greater movements in life.

Below was my most recent letter to them as ritual for me is to write to each of them before curtain at every show- “You all have the ability to rise above everything and be Great. I see glimmers of all your magic every time you individually and as a collective move forward with your commitment to fill the stage with your voice, your bodies, your light. I am always so proud of all of you, and this moment is one of my proudest, because despite every challenge you all made it to today and you will shine because that is in your nature to do so. And you believed enough in yourself to let yourself shine tonight. You will move your audience today because that is what you all do. You have moved my heart and spirit time and time again.

These stones are to help carry what will not serve you as you breathe it out and let it go. And keep the negative away from your heart. I give you these stones as reminders, that you have the ability to be amazing, to be the light that we all see in you, you just have to believe you can, and then you have to speak it as your truth and just BE YOU- BE LIGHT.

I love you and I am so thankful you all are in my life.”

When I sit with them in communion, and we find ways to hold space to hold one another’s spirits in the process of creating art together, I find myself feeling so full of gratitude and humbled to all that has been given to me so I can give to them.

I think these moments of reflection are important, you have to be willing to consistently pull yourself a part in order to behold the pieces that make up your entire being and understand why they fit together to make you who you are. Every part of my life experience connects to how I see my artist self today and are rooted in the many learnings of self I gained from great teachers of living. They offered me their own processes and encouraged me to continue creating again and again.

In this moment of existence The Journey of a Brown Girl and the work that I do at El Puente remain the greatest and truest reflections of my artistry in this moment of my life and I breathe this in with such humility and love. They are constant reminders of how I want to create in its relation, communication and exchange of energy between all those engaged in its process, production and sharing of performance. It is this because it is a realized manifestation of my spirituality embedded in my artistic practice. And I pass this on to my own students all these learnings of ritual and speaking to the power of endless story of human being and understanding of the body connected to inner and outer spirit. The youth I teach are fondly known

I walk in this, I speak in this, I breathe in this- I am a creator of spirit movement through my artistic expressions and in deep reflection, I give thanks and love to all those who have and continue to give to my becoming the creator I live as today.

Center for Babaylan Studies Symposium 2015 Day 3: Community Sharing the Weight of Creating to Heal

Day 3: Community Sharing the Weight of Creating to Heal 

We woke to our last full communal meal together at Burr Lodge with Ate Mila serenading us in sweet song. And as this trip was filled with music that helped raise spirits, it continued. This was something so healing for me throughout the trip, calling my body memory to bring me into dance.

We closed in prayer to the land in gratitude and for safe passage to Mamerto Tindongan’s home and back to our homes. We lifted our hands into the air and took the energy into our own vessels and then headed to our next destination. Warmed by the presence and familiarity of Kool’e again behind the wheel, we all exchanged in conversation of what is next for us after this trip and how we will all connect again.

When we arrived at Mamerto’s Home my heart raced, and my spirit danced, the magic of his home was indescribable, from the carvings surrounding the land and in the home, to the spiral bricks on the ground, to the planted bamboo creating a wall in the walkway of the home and fire burning in the ground to cook our departing meal.

 

Most of all the towering Ifugao hut he had been building with the community. He said that the dream he had that called him to build this in connection to the encouragement and support of the CfBS global community was to build an entire village that would be traveled and reassembled at the site of the Louisiana World’s Fair that exploited our peoples in 1904. This construction would be “ a response of healing past traumas toward our people in this country,” speaking to our presence and service to this land for centuries and giving to our ancestors and our future children.

Read more about the Ifugao Healing Hut Project Here: http://www.babaylan.net/events/ifugao-hut-healing-project/

One of the pieces on the hut when it was placed on the roof, was too short. Mamerto said it needed to be removed. He called on us as ritual to help retrieve the wood that would take its place. He divided us into groups of service to replace the wood inline with the islands of the Philippines- Mindano would be the group who would be to the south and retrieve the wood below in the south of the forest. Midway they would meet with the group Visaya who would carry it on the uphill passage toward the home and Luzon would be at the home preparing our meal and greeting us in our return. We were told that the ritual is reflective of an Ifugao tradition that when an individual has died the communities that the body was passing through before being brought home would have to help carry the body to the next community, sharing the service of lifting a rising spirit.

This ritual was so visceral for me as we walked down to the forest the men with bolo in hand cutting away the trees that blocked our path. And we sang as we lifted the wood and carried it up over our shoulders, in line with one another- divine community in divine service to a greater divine purpose toward the building of a divine creation for divine healing. Gratitude could not be enough. Mamerto gifted us chips from this wood to carry with us in power and light and told us our names would be etched into the wood of the hut. My eyes were welling throughout.

We gathered in closing to send off the group, that included me, who would be leaving for the airport and gifts were presented. I left the circle with necklaces from Cebu and a Pyramid carved by Mamerto- who earlier spoke of the pyramid in connection to the roof of the hut saying:

“The roof is a pyramid and we all know the pyramid is The Egyptians should not own the pyramids, our ancestors knew too.”Our ancestors knew, they were not inferior. They know the power of the universe.”

I closed my eyes to the prayer that Grace Nono bestowed upon us for our departure. Her voice awakened my spirit as it has time and again, grasping my spirit and holding it tightly. I felt protected, I felt embraced by this community, by my ancestors, by the earth surrounding us, I felt love of and from all that lives fill me. With the ending of all of this- Lily offered to us the gift of remembrance,  “Don’t forget. We will not forget you.” Even these passages of reflection I am writing could not encapsulate my experience this weekend. I am changed. I am me more than I have ever been. 

I felt such a longing to stay for just one more moment, to make one more memory in the enchantment of Mamerto’s home. I took a last glance, with a great-fullness that overflowed and exhaled, letting myself feel complete. Saying my last farewells, gratitudes and “I will see you again soons.” Then I heard my name called by Inday Grace “Jana Lynne!” and I knew my moment of physical presence with this community of power was truly closing. I slept during the ride to the airport with my dreams lifted by all the energy moving through me.

The group of sisters who arrived at the airport sat together in the food court holding on to last exchanges before parting ways. I was blessed to speak more on the work I have been investing in through The Journey of a Brown Girl and other creations that I look forward to building on. Lisa Suguitan Melnick and I engaged in a conversation that I promised to keep in my heart as well, to continue on my path of creation with courage, and let myself move forward no matter what may seem unreasonable or unsafe- if my heart calls me to move, I should answer it with action. She reminded me that struggle will be apart of it, but that I need not fear that.

I engaged deeper with Melissa Rae Sipin-Gabon, who exchanged with me throughout the trip, in our first encounter at the airport, on the ride up to Burr Oak Lodge the first day, over drinks on our last night after we closed out with the community and now over ice cream in Columbus Airport.  I asked her, “What do you feel is the first thing you will do when you get home?” And she spoke of lighting a candle of intention as we spoke of ritual in one of our exchanges, “And write.” So blessed to have met this powerful creator of storytelling on this trip and further blessed because she will be spending a month in New York, which I will be sure to account of here when she arrives.

“What will you do when you arrive home?” she asked, and my response, “Cry.” Tears were already welling up inside me all weekend, as I experienced such tremendous givings to and from my spirit, and to bring this experience to a close was difficult. But also to know that this experience was a part of me now, this memory lived in me now, was more than I could ever have imagined. The divinity in the planning of this weekend has fueled me to move forward on my path of creating to heal and uplift more than ever.

My last exchange was with Grace Lasala, who I spent many walks with on this trip. We talked of our next steps when we return home and it was beautiful to hear of her children and know that all that she is growing in and learning of self she will share with them. That is the beauty of this work, is that as it lives in us, it will live in those in our lives we share in life with. And that it will be passed down because it was passed down to us. Our ancestors live in us as we will live in our children.

Loob lived through all the speakers, with the many spirits I exchanged with who felt like family after only 3 days, with the land, the sky, the waters and I have never felt as One with all of creation as I do this moment. Gratitude for all of the wisdom to help me rise in my journey.

This weekend has given me, the deepened language and spirit to share with my community, with all those I come to meet and with my own children in the future. The Center for Babaylan Studies is a community I will continue to give of my service and spirit to, as it has and I know will continue to fill me time and time again.

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.

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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,
Procreation,
Destruction for rebirth and renewal,
Heat in rocks,
Burning of wood,
Burning of herbs,
Passion,
Isla del fuego
Lamuan Kata
The Wind speaks of oneness
Through buntong hininga
The indigenous people unggo their loob in
An open sky,
Breath,
The lifting of birds in flight,
The dancing of chimes,
Whispered wishes,
Tornados,
Cyclones,
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,
Rainfall,
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,
God,
Supreme being,
Bathala,
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.

The Center for Babaylan Studies Symposium 2015- Day 1: Opening My Loob to All of Creation

How could I ever begin to express this experience that cracked me open and revealed to me what I sought to see in myself, but was afraid to. This weekend a community of powerful healers, cultural bearers and spiritual leaders held a mirror to my spirit and helped me behold the truth of the being I have been walking in and want to walk in fully as in this world. The Center of Babaylan Studies has grown me from afar for 5 years now and has humbled my spirit time and time again by showing me who I am and calling me to rise in my fullest, truest self whenever I felt I could not, or was afraid to.

So much to share as I return to New York, that was unveiled and emerged from within me these past 3 days through exchange with individuals and witnessing of transformation reflective of my own, surrounding me and holding me.

Day 1- Opening My Loob to All of Creation:

I arrived in Ohio, with ease and with an open heart, awaiting the greeting of community and of nature. At the airport I saw a group of Pinay and immediately felt tremendous joy of arrival. 5 of us sat waiting for our ride to the Burr Oak Lodge and as hours passed we realized that although hours had passed and our ride had still not arrived, with moments divine, this one was meant to begin our connections with each other. Tess, the elder of the 5, with a fire about her being, one that burst with joyful light and sharing vivid stories of family with free flowing energy, (despite her irritation after being at the airport since midnight). She laughed so much, she was so full in her presenc, but had an ease about her flame. Christine, a healer who centered her life serving queer communities through sacred practices from the Amazon, even her smile was healing- her energy felt grounding and I was so moved by her inquisitive engaging presence. Melissa, a writer of her families histories and her own, so profound in her connection to culture and the written word, wife of a navy man seeking deepening of self and story- her energy was warm and welcoming in connection and her excitement in our stories in exchange with hers was so filling. Christina, a professor and media artist who shared her family history and the intensity of life experiences- she struck me immediately as courageous and confident and with energy that reflected a fullness in spirit and life lived. Soon joining us was Carmen, who arrived with a declaration of her just receiving her PhD, a theologian and a faith worker, she was joy bursting out of every pore, welcoming us all to be joyous in community. We sat and talked story anticipating our arrival to connect with the rest of the group.

We were picked up by a friend of Mamerto- Tindongan- a Mumbaki and shamanistic wood carver from the Ifugao tribes, who lives and builds in Ohio a host to our group and a teacher to our community- Koole, who was a student at Ohio State, hailing from Illinois. He was seeking to connect and learn of spiritual awakening and healing of the whole self. He met Mamerto by fate, as the most profound relationships often begin. In the middle of our travels a police officer pulled us over, with the initial question of “Where are you all coming from and where are you all going?” He then proceeded to ask for his license and social security number, “Why do you need my social security sir?” Koole inquired in which the officer responded “The state of Ohio requires that if you are an out of state driver you provide your social for security purposes.” He received a ticket and a deepens conversation on racism in the United States was initiated. In the midst of this Koole spoke of a notion that was such truth to me, he said “What we need to do, is have all the people of color return back to their homelands.” I interpreted this as us all needing to go back to where we come from, and see what this country would be made of then. It is dependent on our service and the move we have to do to create an awakening is to say we don’t want to serve what does not serve us anymore. The first of the many deepening conversations that would come to be in the next 3 days.

When we arrived at Burr Oak Lodge the Booth Family welcomed us in music and immediately I was moved. We met the core group of elders in the CfBS community. Familiar faces brought me such happiness Leny, Grace, Mamerto, Diyan and Nicanor and new meetings, exchanging spirits filled the air. Lizae who I later would learn was my assigned elder for the trip said to me “You aura is beautiful, so nice to meet you.” I had arrived home to a community I always long for.

We gathered to eat warm home cooked filipino food, one of many meals that would nourish our stomachs and souls in our time together. And then we headed to the main lodge to begin the sharing of knowledge and spiritual inquiry and enlightenment.

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I chose to walk the 20 minute hike with Grace Lasala a nurse practitioner who works with indigenous communities and integrates alternative practices of healing with western medicine. We spoke about up bringing and our life’s work and what we want to see in change and growth and understanding of self and others for the future. The trees listened to our conversation and we watched the sun setting as we arrived to the main lodge.

To open, we filled our sacred altar with items that were connected deeply to our beings. My offering was my malong that has lifted the stories of community in my Journey of finding my self for the past 5 years and a blank journal for future creations.

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Our first keynote Albert E. Alejo fondly known to us as Paring Bert spoke to us of Loob- the Inner Self, and helped me to connect to this deeper then ever.

He began with the Lullaby.
“The lullaby” he said, “is the primordial experience of none violence.” Music to bring dreams, to lull sleep, to implant in our children inspiration of dreams for a future that will be ours as it will be theirs. He invited us to contemplate our dreams and its connection to our humanity.

The Loob he explained, is a whole web of meaningful relationships. Generating cultural energies that build community. That help us see our inner self is one with all else. A welcoming, an inner being with hospitality- a relational self open to self of others. But further still he spoke of the Loob in connection to not just other people, but of all of creation.

Using the song of the Bahay Kubo as metaphor he said, “The interior of the Bahay kubo is like the inner self, the home in self, but if you open the windows the outside is also a part of your inner being. The plants outside, the mountain it’s part of your loob. We are part of this universe. We are connected, do not keep it out.” He called to us to see this deep connectivity.
He helped me open my eyes further to how the Loob is a whole web of meaningful relationships. Where do I feel my hurt when someone is hurt outside of me? Especially when they are precious to you. If we see the land as part of this, the way indigenous peoples are tied to the land. They are deeply attached to the land. And their love for their land is such that they can offer their lives for the sake of ancestral heritage. Loob is connectivity. Even to see a video or see a picture, we can be moved, the connection is there.

Paring said, “Like the islands seem separate on the surface, but if you look deeper you see how connected they are, deep to the bottom of the ocean.” Connectivity, of all beings. And he helped me to understand that as Kapwa is seeing ourselves in the other, Loob tells us to see further that we are one with all of creation.

He spoke of the call we have to return to the motherland, “You feel you want to go back because you loob is in the land, in the relational connectivity. There is a string pulling you back.” With tears in his eyes in urgency he said, “don’t cut that string. Don’t say you have lost your identity. It is energy. We multiple identities and you do not have to leave energy to produce new energy, from within. Let it flow, let it overflow…

The memory of energy is everywhere and it speaks to your loob storing energy in the body, thats why it brings you to dance when the gong is played. Our culture is not lost, it is in the land, the trees, the ocean, the sound and when we connect to it we see it is within.

When you think you are at rock bottom, naked, depleted of your energy this is when a new energy emerges from within you. New dances emerge, new feelings, the past created possibility for the future. We want to learn their dreams, because in the past they were dreaming of their future. We are part of the dreaming of the future of the past.”

Ringing in my ears were the voices of my Journey of a Brown Girl sisters speaking in unison at this moment, a quotation from the closing piece to the first Act of our collective performance “I am the dream my ancestors dreamed would free them.”

I inhaled in gratitude, connecting with Paring in this way and I exhaled deeply, in affirmation.

We closed the evening with a couple of us at bonfire talking stories and staying up until almost 2 in the morning. Laughing together and feeling right where we needed to be.

Pa nag biag iti kayumanggi nga pilipina

Beginning to express through word again.

I often say I can’t articulate myself as well through word, that it takes me time to formulate my thoughts as I feel so deeply, that words cannot often express my experience in the moment, but I want to. And so I will begin here.

The Journey of a Brown Girl (www.thejourneyofabrowngirl.com) has been the center of my being, for many reasons. It is the ultimate expression of my own journey of returning back to myself as a Pinay, as a Brown Girl, as a wom*n, as a human being, as a spirit living in this existence. I want to share that experience deeper with the world.

And so the sharing will begin.

Blessings and Light,

JL