The Babaylans used to gather to tell their stories, to hear ours. They danced, sang, touched and healed. Those of us while growing up in the homeland knew them by an assortment of names. We took for granted their role in our daily living because they were simply there—around the corner, two streets down, a barrio nearby, a mere call away.
I for one can no longer recall their faces. They seem to me collapsed into each other, a collective of women – older, wiser, infinitely stronger. The five, maybe six, of them lived with us doing chores by day, and at night, in their room, they would whisper, they would giggle, they would tell their stories, brush their hair, reset their joints. They seemed to know exactly, and esoterically, what to do with a sprained wrist, a tummy ache, a boil, a straying spouse, a broken heart. Unfortunately, I was too young at the time to have formed more than barely graspable impressions and memories. I suspect, however, that I have come across these women repeatedly; may have been healed by them at one point; or the object of their extraordinary perception at some other.
Welcome to our 32nd issue where we celebrate Babaylans, our modern-day healers—poets, essayists, storytellers and artists Mary Anne Akers, Cynthia Arias, Geejay Arriola, Mary Grace Bertulfo, Hope Casareno, Maan Chua, Mila Coger, Reimon Cosare, Perla Daly, Katrin De Guia, M. Evelina Galang, Ingrid Gonzales-Padilla, Gina Honda, Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor, Rei Ki Mudjahid, Grace Nono, Gauss Obenza, Riya Ortiz, Marcella Pabros-Clark, Lissa Romero, Frances Santiago, Leny M. Strobel, Beatriz Tabios, Eileen R. Tabios and Lane Wilcken.
Our Bookshelf features, in particular, Babaylan: Filipinos And The Call Of The Indigenous, edited by Leny Mendoza Strobel. Our Bibliography this issue is a work in progress, listing existing publications by or on these indigenous Filipino healers.
The Babaylans are gathering again. To tell their stories, to hear ours. They celebrate and bring their dances again. This time to remind us that they sing to touch and heal. Once, they set bones this way, and mended hearts. By their ways, they again collectively point, to community.
San Francisco, August 2010