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kathangpinay, Author at


Associate Professor of American Multicultural Studies
Project Director, Ctr for Babaylan Studies
Editor, BABAYLAN: FIlipinos and the Call of the Indigenous
Author, A Book of Her Own: Words and Images to Honor the Babaylan
Author, Coming Full Circle: The Process of Decolonization Among Post 1965 Filipino Americans
Co-Editor, Encounters: People of Asian Descent in the Americas

Posts By kathangpinay

When Indigenous Peoples Are Evicted or Displaced, We Are All Culpable

The last time Leny wrote for me and my online publications was in 1999 when she wrote about pagbabalikloob. This week she writes about Bai Bibyaon, indigenous Filipinos, their plight and how they are our kapwa. At our essence, we “modernized” and global Filipinos are still connected to them, despite the differences (more…)Read More

External Blog Entries

22 March 2019 | 5:34 am Aesthetic Distance podcast

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18 January 2019 | 2:47 am DEAR MOTHERLAND

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15 December 2018 | 4:45 am From Galatea Reviews

The Critic writes poems

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15 December 2018 | 4:45 am



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June 5, 2017

10 July 2018 | 4:35 am Dream

It was the end of a conference and I was in the process of checking out of the hotel. I was trying to decide whether I should spend another day to check out the town and do some sightseeing by taking the bus or a tourist bus. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do.  Walked back to the hotel and was looking around. A young woman asked what I am doing next and I said I don't know. She said I should do some writing for the next generation.

Woke up wondering what it means...

As I made pancake breakfast and after eating, I felt my heart rate go faster. I took a dilthiazem and half a fleicanide. Then went to pilates.

It feels like a panic attack but I could tell my mind not to be afraid.

I just need to rest. The last three days have been full of people.

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10 July 2018 | 4:35 am We were blessed by Rain today. Up to 5 inches of rain and more in some places. Still it is not enough to end the drought but I am grateful just the same. The ground is saturated and this will be good for the fruit trees come Spring. The rivers and creeks are full and perhaps there will even be fish in them if we have more rains the rest of the season.

I went for a walk in the rain. I felt happy as childhood memories flooded in. How we always played outside and drenched ourselves in the warm rain. How we watched the flood waters rise until the road is covered and we would see the fish from the overflowing creek squiggling across the road. We caught these little creatures and put them in gallon jars - our makeshift aquarium. We didn't know that the fish do not eat rice so, of course, they died a few days after.

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10 July 2018 | 4:35 am -->
 (I have been looking for a home for this piece but then decided to just share it here. Maybe it will be found and shared by a reader someday).


Leny Mendoza Strobel

In this other land, I wake up to the view of the mountains and the water. Am I a stranger here or someone who has come home to embrace your Water and your Mountains? Are these mountains connected to the crust of the ocean's bottom that connects to my oceans back there -- in my other home? I have written about islands and continents before -- how I straddle both, how I live in both, dream and imagine in both. I imagine that You do the same. We are not bound by time and space. Such mis-imaginations only create distances. Always I need to feel connected to You and You to Me. (Journal Entry: Davao, July 16, 2006, Day 6 of Fulbright trip)

These stories are long overdue. But perhaps some stories need to marinate awhile and live in the dense forest of memory before being born as healing medicine. Yes, stories are medicine. It took me a while to gather these stories into a medicine bundle. I am offering them now to you, dear reader, in the spirit of gratitude for the gift of healing and transformation that I have received from the stories. May it be so for you.

I came with a group of mostly Filipino American teachers from California to Mindanao in 2006 and 2008 through the Fulbright Hays Group Study Project. We came because we wanted to become better educators for the sake of the Filipino American children in our K-12 classrooms. We wanted to improve our curricular offerings and enrich our students’ knowledge about their own Filipino heritage.  As an academic project with our host institution, Ateneo de Davao University, and In-country host, Fr. Albert Alejo, we co-created a program that satisfied all the requirements of the Fulbright-Hays program. For six weeks in both years, we toured national historical sites, visited public and private elementary and high schools, interfaced with local teachers and exchanged ideas about multicultural education, visited indigenous communities, met with public officials, stayed in homes with host families, befriended lumad scholars, enjoyed the lectures from distinguished scholars, and learned about the many facets of Mindanao. At the end of the trip, the California teachers worked on creating curriculum in language arts and social science that shows how they have integrated materials gathered from the immersion program. In the post-Fulbright conferences, these materials were shared with  several hundreds of California teachers.

I knew deep down in my heart that this trip would transform the teachers who came with us; that they would be challenged in ways they’ve never imagined and they will fall in love with their homeland and see it with new eyes. They will learn concepts like decolonization, white privilege, critical multicultural perspectives, and privileging indigenous paradigms. We learned all of these and more.

What I didn’t foresee was how I would be transformed by these experiences. As I look back on those years, I see now that it was the small stories that opened the doors and windows of my life to a vista that I couldn’t have imagined at that time. Prior to the Fulbright experience, I have already written a book on the process of decolonization for Filipino Americans and published many journal articles and popular essays about this pagbabalikloob or Turning Home. What began as a way to understand myself as an immigrant to the U.S. led to an academic journey that eventually took me to Mindanao – the part of the Philippines that beckoned to me as my search for my indigenous heritage deepened.

The vignettes that follow taught me how to become a more embodied person. In my heart, I’ve never wanted to be a mere scholar who lives in her head. I wanted the body-mind-spirit integration, this kabuuan ng Loob, so I could walk about this earth secure in my sense of belonging to a Home. I give you the small stories and I want to string them like sampaguita buds here, nuggets of memory that have returned with the lessons that they’ve taught me.


            Please! Allow us to express our Beauty! I hear her voice in my head still. The woman elder from a Manobo tribe spoke from her heart as she addressed a small group of teachers from California who came to hear her share the struggles of her indigenous community.

            I remember being struck by her choice of the concept of Beauty. She could have asked for Justice, or Peace, or Freedom but no, it was Beauty that she claimed. I remember being rendered speechless and awestruck as I let this sink into my body. The indigenous woman knows this sacred Beauty. In a world where this Beauty has been marred and scarred by capitalist greed, she is making her voice heard: Please allow us to express our Beauty!
I’ve re-told this story to various groups of audiences since then. I tell it to honor the voice of the indigenous woman elder. I tell it to claim my own re-connection to my indigenous spirit. I tell it to re-claim the Beauty of my people. I have stepped into the river of Memory where this Beauty can be remembered through the oral and literate traditions of indigenous peoples – the myths, stories, dances, songs, chants, weavings – all of which are still alive and powerful when reclaimed by those of us who have awakened to the nightmare of modernity.

The Nun

            Sister Rose, a Bagobo, spoke softly and emotionally as the daughter of a Bagobo datu (Duhay Lungsod). She cried as she recalled for us how she saw her father struggle to preserve indigenous culture amidst colonial pressure to become civilized and Christianized. Now as a Catholic Nun she has come to embrace her indigeneity and now also works alongside indigenous peoples’ advocates.

            So one can be indigenous and be a Christian, I thought to myself.  I pondered what my own story would have been if I had learned about my own Kapampangan indigenous roots alongside my Protestant upbringing. How different it would have been! Now Karl Gaspar has written a book, Mystic Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures, where he calls on Catholic devotees to reclaim their  Filipino indigenous values and spirituality in order to become good Catholics who can affect social transformation.

            This gives me hope.

Roadside Sign

            Children waving. Please wave back.
            So we did.
            We saw this sign from a jeepney on our way to Malagos. The uniformed children were walking home. They waved to us and we waved back.

            I thought about the many folks in the U.S., who are baffled when they see smiling children in poor countries. How can they be so happy when they are so poor? they ask. I hear this often in my classrooms from white suburban students whose education has taught them to see the world in “us versus them.” In one of my exasperated moments, this poem came to me:

the child who appears in your photographs infomercials and youtube videos
so that you can appeal to your funders' sense of do-gooding
for the poor of the world

was she born thinking she is poor?
who impoverished her?
who stole her country?

you say that the poor barrio folks are primitive
left behind by progress
so they need you and your aid

and yet you do not say why the poor makes you feel good
why their smiles and gestures of kindness
warms your heart. makes you feel human.
why do you need the poor this way?
your tears do not fool me.

Bai Diwa Ofong

She looked just like my grandmother, my Impo - the one that, as a child, I never got to know very well because she lived in the city and we lived in the province. In Lake Sebu, I sat with Bai Diwa Ofong with two other Fulbright teachers, and Jenita, a young lumad scholar and community leader, as translator. At first, Bai cried and apologized for not speaking any other language than Tiboli, for not having anything to give us because she is poor. She said that our visit gives her hope because we are teachers, because we can reach children. She appreciated our respect and interest in the community. We cried and hugged and cried some more -- as if we have been touched by the recognition of our primordial ties to each other in this ancient land.

            Can we know our grandmothers again? Can we reconnect with our ancient ancestors? During a meditation, I called on my ancestors and expressed my regrets for not knowing my genealogical lineage. How can I reclaim my indigeneity without this information? Who are my ancient people? What is our creation story? What did the Land teach us? Then they whispered: Leny, you may not know our names, but we know you. We have always been here. We have never left. Thank you for remembering and calling on us now.


I took down these notes during a lecture about education issues in Mindanao:
·      BEAMprogram (Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao) funded by the Australian government to the tune of $30M.
·      The focus of BEAM support is "capability building."
·      Two of its notable programs are the Lumad Integrated Functional Education (LIFE) and Providing Educational Access for Cultural Enhancement (PEACE). Note that the Institute for Indigenous Peoples Education (IIPE) is also partly-funded by BEAM.

And wrote this as sidenote in my journal:
During Dr. L's lecture, we noticed two corporate logos on the BEAM project materials and we asked who these corporations are. She didn't know. Later in the afternoon, one of our participants googled the names and found out that they were mining or mining-related corporations. (The Philippine government has recently re-issued the Mining Rights Act which opens up Mindanao to mining corporations).

            The Fulbrighters asked what the motives might be of mining corporations in supporting education. Is it to “tame the wild” and subdue it so that it can me made submissive to the development-oriented capitalist system? What business is it of ours to question this issue? We asked ourselves this question. Many of us are critical of corporate globalization and to see it so closely linked to its impact on indigenous communities and ecological environments in Mindanao was disturbing and so we argued with the lecturer. Were we wrong to do so? How can we deny that funding to education is needed regardless of its source? Sometimes it is easier to embrace an ideology theoretically than to grapple with the realities on the ground.

            If I want to sharpen my self-reflexivity and critical thinking skills, I must struggle with these issues. I bring these scenarios in my university classroom in California. Today I hear myself telling my students: The onus of responsibility lies in us Americans who have the largest carbon footprint on the planet. Before we question the practices in modernizing countries, let us ask ourselves what our responsibility is towards the global mess we have created. Who is paying the social, cultural, political, and moral mortgage?

            In my journal entry of August 2, 2006, I have written:

As I write this, I am reminded of a comment made by a Nigerian working in the diamond mines: "We have diamonds...why are we poor?"


Journal entry: Day 18, July 31, 2006, THE HEALING RITUAL

Earlier in the day, we told the group that we will meet in the evening at Ponce Suites. We didn't give any further information about the place. We told them they should plan on arriving an hour earlier. I went by myself two hours earlier so I could videotape and be alone before everyone arrived. I brought the candles that Paring Bert asked for.

Kublai at Ponce Suites created a labyrinth on the top floor made of dark and pale round stones in the form of a lizard. We arranged the chairs on the edge and lighted three candles and placed them in the middle of the circle. (The wind kept blowing them out though).

Paring Bert tried to lighten up the now-quiet mood by saying: "well, what do you think?" and then he chuckled...and then began to speak slowly: why we were gathered in this place; he reminded us of his remarks on the first day that on this journey, many things will happen that are transformative, deeply transformative.

Paraphrasing Paring Bert: Now we are here. In the last few days you have learned a lot about the Philippines but you are also learning a lot about individuals and as members of this group. Your emotions are raw and on the surface; you have had a lot to think about; your interactions with each other elicit strong emotions. You have expressed your thoughts to each other. Now we need to have a sense of closure or a sense of forgiveness and healing.

Perhaps there are things you want to express individually but haven't done so. Maybe you want to say "thank you" or "i'm sorry" to each other. Maybe you want to say something that you've been holding back. So if you want to do that now, pick up a candle and approach the individual you want to speak to. Stand face to face and talk to each other. After you receive the candle, you may then return the candle to the center or you can bring it to another person.

A few moments of silence.

Paring Bert stood up and brought the first candle to me to say "thank you for being here." I took the candle and brought it to Cheena and I told her how happy I am that she went from Fear to Courage and am glad to have witnessed it. Slowly, one by one, we picked up the candles and passed them on. Soon everyone was standing face to face with one other person hugging tightly, tears flowing and once in a while you would hear Paring Bert's chuckle.

I was specially touched by Miriam who said: "I already know you have four sisters, but I want to be your sister, too." "You became my sister the first day I met you," I told her.

"Thank you..." "I am sorry..." "I am afraid...." -- when all was said and the tears have turned to laughter...we knew that was the transformative moment we had talked about and anticipated (we just didn't know how and when it would happen).

We sipped chamomille tea and smiled. Ritual had found us and we are whole again.

            Ritual has found its way into my life since those Fulbright days. I have become more conscious of how ritual connects us to the ancient memories held in our bodies. I am learning how to tap into the wisdom of my body after decades-long conditioning of living mostly in my head as an academic. I see more acutely that norms of patriarchy and colonial thinking are embedded in academic institutions and I cringe at the extent to which I, too, have internalized these norms. How then can my academic life transform itself into a more embodied practice that honors my indigenous soul? Can the academe be indigenized? Where are the indigenous responses to the imperial order?
As soon as I posed the questions, the answers started to trickle in. I am in good company. In fact the phone rang just moments ago and a Hawaiian elder told me that she could see that I am transitioning from being an academic scholar to a cultural practitioner and that the work that I do now through the Center for Babaylan Studies ( will evolve and shift to a more embodied, culturally-rooted practice.

The ancestors do not like being put on hold, I chuckle to myself. Ask and you will receive. Sooner than you expect.

Politics and Governance

Lecture on Politics and Governance

The Fulbright participants posed these questions to the political science professor:

How should we (Filipino Americans) address the question about the perception of the Philippine government as being fraught with corruption? How do you suggest we answer this question?

How can you say that the U.S. governmental structure is working when most Americans are not politically engaged, don't vote, don't inform themselves about crucial issues especially foreign policy issues that affect countries like the Philippines?

If colonialism has imposed a governmental form that is not "user-friendly" to the people and the culture, why do we keep insisting that the form remains?

Why do you think the Philippines continues to look to the United States for "what works" when the rest of the world is becoming aware that most U.S. economic and foreign policies are deeply flawed?

I felt that it was good for our group to wrestle with these questions even though we didn't always arrive at any complete answer (nor should it be expected). As we locate ourselves as diasporic or transnational peoples, we can at least develop a view from both sides and wonder aloud about how we should formulate our own positions. It is always good to ask the kinds of questions that push us to think in ideological terms -- a good exercise!

            Speaking of ideologies, there are other Filipino American scholars who are critical of my work because they deem it as nativist and essentialist because I privilege indigenous paradigms.  Perhaps in telling the above vignette, they would know that I am deeply engaged in political questions precisely because in using indigenous paradigms to critique modernity, I am able to reference a much larger discursive context beyond modernity. I wish they would read the Babaylan book where I describe lengthily how I came to use indigenous paradigms as a critique of modernity’s projects.[1]


Day 16, July 30, 2006, Journal entry:

As Kublai described his creative process that night on the rooftop of Ponce Suites (reminiscent of Gaudi's architecture), I felt his Fire envelop the space and I slowly felt it warming my tired bones and spirit. He works "very fast" he says because it all comes out of him as energy that needs to be released. As for the giant sculptures (in churches, parks, public spaces) he is usually able to harness the community's or parish members' cooperation to help him. He works with cement so he needs to work fast before it dries, so oftentimes he works continuously without pause, high up on the scaffolding. In one near-death accident where he fell from the scaffold, he hurt his back and today still works with excruciating pain on his back.

He spoke of his then 5year-old daughter and his newborn son (10days old). When his daughter was three years old, he introduced her to paints. Kublai then ushered us into a room where 500 paintings by a three-year old daughter were proudly displayed. Aside from the "public" walls of the suites, he also showed us the "private" rooms where he works and the rest of the art that is not on the walls.

Kublai doesn't like to talk about selling art. He says it's not his job to sell art. However, he did speak of friends who have received gifts from him. His mother told us that she is supposed to do some marketing for him but so far, she hasn't gotten around to it either.

If I were a young graduate student today, I'd probably do a dissertation on this young Filipino artist -- to document his life, his work, his legacy. He is a culture-bearer but his work transcends culture. I don't know of any other artist who is simultaneously a poet, sculptor, photographer, painter (abstract, mixed media, collages) and works with varying themes: surrealistic, transcendental, indigenous, nature, people, religion, spirituality, technology, politics, resistance.

            I have postcards of Kublai’s work tacked on my wall in my office. There are days when I daydream about Ponce Suites and the large installations around Davao and how awestruck I was then and now. Once someone asked me if I am an artist. I said: if Life is an Art, then I must be.

            Culture-bearing Filipino artists are my teachers and inspirations. In Kapwa: The Self in the Other, Katrin de Guia’s stories about Kidlat Tahimik, Angel Shaw, Aureaus Solito and others point to the powerful creative Fire in the indigenous and indiogenius alike. The sariling duwende that manifests in their art continue to inspire my own attempts to live an artful and gracious life that is not blind to injustice.

Lumad Scholars

            I have Retchor’s pen and ink drawing on my kitchen wall where I see it everyday. Retchor is one of the many Lumad scholars that Paring Bert supported throughout their college careers. Retchor was studying to be an architect. I wonder where he is now. Does he know that when I see his drawing, my heart lies still and calm? Does he know that I think of him often? His drawing reminds me of each of the scholars who became our friends during our stay. Who could forget that night when we went to their dormitory and we were fed so lavishly with food and stories about their aspirations.

            This was the key moment when the Fulbright teachers realized the parallels between the Lumad scholars and the Filipina child in a California classroom. The Lumad scholars shared with us their feelings of vulnerability as minorities in a largely affluent, middle class, Christianized school. We heard the sighs of homesickness, of being away from family for too long because they do not have the money to visit often. We heard the resolve to become teachers, anthropologists, and architects because they want to serve their communities. I also saw the strength of their indigenous soul – were it not for the core conviction that to be a Lumad is to be whole – perhaps, survival in the university would be much more difficult.

            In the U.S., we hear the same refrain from the immigrant child in the classroom: homesickness, loneliness, and alienation from the mainstream. In schools where there are Filipino American teachers who can offer nurturance, the children thrive; where there aren’t any, the students become silent and they bury the precious parts of themselves so that they could assimilate and function in a world that requires conformity. Suicide, depression, teenage pregnancy, drop-out rates are high among Filipino students in urban areas. I sense that, unlike the Lumad whose memory of being indigenous is intact, our children in the diaspora are further removed from that core strength making their journey that much more demanding; and in a culture where we are constantly barraged by weapons of mass distraction, the Indigenous Soul keeps waiting for a return that may or may not happen.
Death and Grief

            Kalpna, a young, passionate, excellent, and beautiful high school teacher at Berkeley High School left her body in Davao. I remember Paring Bert wrapping his arm around my body-in-shock saying: Do not interpret too much, Leny. I tried not to but was only partially able to do so. As I look back on those days now, I am only filled with gratitude for the community that embraced us.  Tantan Cena and Katribu took us to the ocean so we could make offerings and do leave-taking ritual for Kalpna’s transition. The university president and Karl Gaspar and so many friends and even strangers came by to comfort and be with us in our grief.  This generosity of spirit, of pakikipagkapwa, is the mark of the Filipino. Our strained capacity, due to the isolating culture we come from, to receive such largesse of spirit, was humbling.

Kalpna’s last words to me were: Leny, thank you for opening so many doors for me. I knew she was referring to the Beauty of the Filipino, the Beauty of the Land, the Beauty of the Soul as embodied by the Lumads and non-Lumad friends who embraced us.

            It took me more than a year to befriend Death and get to know it intimately. In that time, I learned to develop a relationship with death and dying not from a place of fear but from the core of an unfolding heart that contained all the social conditioning about death that I have had to unlearn. This unlearning took me to the shadowy parts of myself that I had to gaze upon. Oh my heart, what is it that you are afraid of? And as I named all the things on my list, I gathered them all in the shade of my Lola’s tree and offered them to her for healing.


            My sojourn in Mindanao through the Fulbright Hays project has given me precious gifts. Our Filipino American teachers learned to sing the national anthem; they learned how to dance; they listened to lectures that filled their minds and hearts; they cried, struggled, and wrestled with questions that had no quick answers. All of our hearts were broken…open.

            You could see it in this picture, don’t you? Can I let the ineffable speak for itself here?

            Dear reader, out of the hundreds of stories I could have told you about my Fulbright stories in Mindanao, I chose these few morsels to offer a glimpse of why and how my love for Mindanao remains. Having been to Mindanao, I can now return to my Kapampangan homeland and seek its face again and find what it was that I missed on my first go-around and this time, hoping to come full circle.

            For isn’t this what all journeys are about? Of finding Home -- not as a beautiful and profound abstract concept but as a beloved Place that gave birth to my ancestors. It is the ancestors that connect the seen and unseen worlds for me. Home is the place where my personal history merges with a cultural and political history that has wrought damage and pain in the course of modernity and yet, knowing now that the Indigenous Soul keeps on singing its courtship song has kept me and my people alive.

            I also offer this as a bridge over the oceans that separate us. I often stand on the shore of the Pacific Ocean in Northern California and stare into the horizon. My islands just lie over there, I say to myself.

            Once, someone asked me: Leny, if you love the Philippines so much, why aren’t you here? I said: I am an accident of History; I had to leave so I could come Home.

            I have always been in search of a language that heals and although am not a poet, I find the poetic more powerful than the virtuosity of the academic pen. So I write from my heart now, confident that the mind has succumbed to the allure of the open heart. Allure. Alindog.

In Kapwa, there is no Other.

            Here is my closing gift to you, written on the closing days of the Fulbright trip:

First: We honor each other just by listening...first to our own heart as it beats to the tune of the unfamiliar words of the Other...words that pierce a corner of our heart where nothing may have yet broken it open. When the heart breaks open, it is painful at first, like the pain of childbirth when something is being born within enlarges the heart's capacity for compassion and empathy. Second: I will not always like what I hear but I can hear it, hold it in my heart with tenderness and charity. I can have a conversation with the inner self - the one who is baffled, confused perhaps, a tad frustrated and disappointed, even lonely. Third: I will ask for a soft touch, a kind glance, an open palm, a song, a gesture. A minor clue that you are still with me and I with you.




[1] See Introduction to Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous, published by the Center for Babaylan Studies, 2013

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10 July 2018 | 4:35 am 101 - is my Mom's age come April 7
101 - highway that runs north to south
101 - name of boutique with rude white saleswoman
101 - title of basic courses such as Math 101
101 - can also mean one-on-one as in mentoring

woke up feeling refreshed after a day of tiredness.
but felt that i needed the extra hours of sleep and slow movement
the rain is soaking the ground

mamerto calls and says that he will do a death ritual for Harold Conkln, the Yale anthropologist who studied the Mangyan and the Ifugao. what do you think of that? the ethnographic subject doing ritual for the anthropologist! that is significant!!

on the homefront, the drama that keeps popping up has to do with "this is my home/kingdom and i am being manipulated by this other person in my home" -- this, too, will have to be deconstructed. the notion of village must become the new paradigm.

thinking of mom - why did you say you want us to rebuild the village unless you know or already trust us to do it? that this is the way forward to heal the family traumas...

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June 3 2017

10 July 2018 | 4:35 am Dream (after Kamayan with Rako, Vince Sales, James, Nini and Phoenix)

Family was renting a country home somewhere. Lots of people milling around, children playing. We were all getting ready to go to SSU graduation so we were preparing sandwiches -- which were quite messy to prepare - like using green salad to put in between two pieces of toast. it wasn't quite working and we were running late.
When we finally got to SSU we were an hour late and Miriam said we could still use our tickets but then we all just decided to skip it and said we'd just check out the campus.
The campus is in the heart of Manila - the Philippine Normal University -- and it was crowded and very quickly I got separated from my family. Wondering around Cal finally found me. He was riding a chariot but now i don't remember whether it was a horse or a big dog that was pulling him. I still had to walk along with him on the way back...and then i saw that there was an alternate way go down a path. Instead of the stairs, there were rollers so I took these rollers down and down...and soon I was in a basement and couldn't find my family.  I wandered around and saw an alley thinking it was a short cut to get back to campus but it turned out to be an ancient obstacle course that has been abandoned. I had to go through each obstacle course and in one part of it, i got sucked by air that sent me flying and then abruptly ended on a cliff and then i had to thread my way around the chasm holding on to dry and brittle trunks of trees.  When I finally got back on the main street I was still lost and i couldn't recognize anything. I didn't have my bag and cell phone and even if i could borrow a cell phone i didn't remember the cell phone numbers of Cal and Dustin. It was getting dark and I was getting worried.
I woke up tired and I kept telling myself it was just a dream and it's okay.

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8 May 2018 | 3:08 am

Alex Tizon's article about Eudocia

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29 March 2018 | 6:12 am Monica Anderson: Yogi

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Interview on Revolutionary Wellness TalkRadio

24 May 2017 | 4:41 pm Decolonization and Learning to Dwell in Place

Rochelle McLaughlin hosts this interview. Please enjoy.

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The Holiness of Mothers

24 May 2017 | 4:25 pm
(I gave this talk at  Daly City United Methodist Church
May 14, 2017, in honor of Mother's Day)


Grateful to be on Ohlone land.

When Lilian Sacun called me a month ago about speaking with you today, I was at my grandson’s baseball game as a weekend chaperone where we watched him play 4 games during the weekend. For that is what Lolas do, isn’t it? We drop everything when we are called to our apo-stolic ministry.

That is also exactly what my Mother used to do when we were growing up. Children always came first. My mother was a one-woman social welfare agency; she often brought in kids from the street, bathed them, fed them, and then sent them home.

All of us have memories of our mothers doing ordinary acts as if they were extraordinary.

This is why I want to focus my talk on the Holiness of Mothers.

In Hawaii, there is a sacred site called the birthing stones where the Hawaiian royal babies were born in ancient times. The place, Kukaniloko, is believed to be filled with mana and it is here that the gods would recognize the child’s royal birth.

When a Filipino American friend brought me to that site a few years ago, before we entered the site, he offered a chant to ask permission for entry, and he asked us to remove our shoes for we were on holy ground.  As I walked bare feet around this sacred site with tears in my eyes, the thought that kept coming to me was Thank you for the holiness of mothers. My tears were my prayer at that moment in that sacred ground.

Ever since then I’ve always reflected on the holiness of Mothers.
For several years now I have also been reflecting on my Mother’s Catholic faith and how she agreed to become a Methodist when she married my father. I have often wondered how that conversion affected her devotion to Mother Mary and how she may have had to hide it. I feel in my heart today that it may have been Mother Mary who sustained her faith and gave her strength and courage to raise six children.

So this morning, it feels right to me to talk about the holiness of the mother of Jesus, Mary.

In preparing this talk, I looked for information as to why Protestants do not talk about Mary a lot.  I found plenty of information online which I am not able to detail here but I share these few points:

·      Around 1054, the Eastern Orthodox Church calls Mary – Theotokos- The Mother of God. Acc to the church, Mary was chosen by God and Mary freely cooperated in that choice…therefore, she is honored above all saints.

·      Around 1500, Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, wrote  “Mary is the embodiment of God’s grace” as he was writing a commentary on the Magnificat (Mary’s hymn of praise to the Lord based on the gospel of Luke)

·      Marian devotion lost favor with Protestants in the 16th century. In the meantime, as Catholicism spread during the colonial era, churches were built on top of sacred sites that were dedicated to the goddess.  In ancient cultures there are myths that refer to the virgin birth of the gods.

·      Today, Protestants are beginning to take another look at Mary as a bridge to ecumenism. Cynthia Rigby, a Presbyterian theologian, writes that Mary is the archetypal Christian, the mother of all believers.

·      Kathleen Norris, a poet/ author, says that she didn’t learn much about Mary from her Methodist and Congregational upbringing but after spending time in Benedictine monasteries, she grew to identify with Mary. "Like Mary, I am invited each day to bring Christ into the world in my prayers, thoughts, and actions," she says.”

·      In the book Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother, Middle East historian Lesley Hazleton speculates that Mary may have been a shepherd, herding sheep and goats on the craggy hillsides and learning about healing and herbal cures from village women, techniques she passed along to her son.

·      Mary is also revered as a symbol that bridges disparate cultures. Mary appears prominently in the Koran, where she is compared to Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, founder of the Islamic nation. In Mexico, where she appeared to an oppressed Aztec Indian in the 16th century, she is Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe; ten million pilgrims a year flock to a shrine honoring the dark-skinned Madonna. (

·      In the Philippines, devotion to the Virgin Mary is the “mother of all devotions.”

So clearly there is a powerful resonance to the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, that is beyond theological and doctrinal debates in the history of the Christian church. 

Personally, I am most attracted to the story that Mary may have been a shepherd learning about healing and herbal cures from other village women; something she may have passed on to her son.

I have been interested in the ways that indigenous peoples and their spirituality manifest in their relationship to the animate Earth. This is what we call traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous science today but if you ask the indigenous folks how they know which plants contain medicine, they simply say: The plants told me. The plants are alive.

So when I think of Mary as a shepherd who might have known of healing power of herbs and plants and that she might have taught this to her son, it is very meaningful to me.

We, too, have mothers or grandmothers who may be arbularyos or hilots, who know the healing power of ampalaya, guava leaves, alugbati, malunggay, guyabano, at iba pa. We may have had mothers and grandmothers who connect with the spirit world as mediators and bring healing from Spirit. Today we still have healers, shamans or medicine people. In our Filipino languages they are called babaylan, catalonan, mombaki, belian, ma-aram, arbularyo, …

The fact that these gifts may have been lost to many of us (because they have been demonized) in this modern age doesn’t negate the fact that this knowledge may still be in our cultural DNA waiting to be awakened.  Perhaps if we ask Mary, if we ask our beloved ancestral mothers, we will begin to awaken the memories of our wholeness as indigenous peoples before we were called Filipinos. Even before we were Methodists.

I bring up this up as a way of talking about different ways of Being in the world.

Just like Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose story invites us to think of the holiness of Mothers.

According to Jason Byassee, former pastor of Shady Grove United Methodist Church in Providence, North Carolina and now a professor of theology, “For Protestants to ask Mary for her prayers may be the key to future ecumenism.”

Another Presbyterian theologian, Cynthia Rigby, argues that if there is a common theme that resonates in Protestant attempts to recoup something lost in the rejection of Mary, it is the description of her as the archetypical Christian, the mother of believers. "We too are ‘virgins’ who are incapable of bearing God," until God deigns to be born in our ordinariness as in Mary’s.

What I get from these sources is that the call to reconsider the importance of Mary in Protestant churches is a call to build ecumenical spirit, to encourage interfaith dialogue, and to create bridges across all kinds of differences. Or simply, to reclaim the power to birth God in the ordinariness of our lives.

In the recovery of our Filipino indigenous spirituality, I invite us to honor our Filipina mothers who have always been powerful not in a domineering or better-than-thou way, but powerful because they offer their lives in service to their families and communities in the same way that Mary offered her life to serve God’s purpose.

I invoke the holiness of mothers as the power to create Bridges: for example, the bridge between our US-born kids and immigrant parents. As a university professor, I have taught many Filipino Americans who tell me of their conflicted relationships with their parents. They talk about their confusion in their sense of identities as Filipino Americans. They question why their parents have not been helpful in clarifying what it means to be Filipino. They talk about miscommunication or the difficulty of bridging the generation and cultural gap between their immigrant parents.  But I’ve also seen the healing of this gap when the children and parents are encouraged to fully embody our Filipino indigenous spirituality alongside our devotional faith as Methodists or Catholics. Believe me, it really is not an either-or. We can do both.

I invoke the holiness of mothers as the power to create the bridge between our neighbors of different faiths. I don’t know about you but there is a part of me that feels envious when my Filipino Catholic friends have their various religious festivals to go to – the Santo Nino in January, the Santacruzan in May, the Simbang Gabi in December, 9-day novenas when someone dies, etc. I guess that is why I wanted to talk about Mary today…because I am wondering how we might create bridges of communion with our Filipino Catholic kapwa.

I invoke the holiness of mothers as the power to create bridges with our co-workers who are different than us. There are many of areas of conflicts in our workplaces that might push us to the margins, push us to become silent, or push us to become subservient. I think if we recognize our holiness, we will also have the courage to break the rules, to speak up, to fight against racial injustice, call out racial microaggressions, and to stand up for other coworkers who are being discriminated against. So, Mothers, please take up your holiness and let it give you courage.

I invoke the holiness of mothers as the bridge to create communication within our communities that does not tear down but build up one another. Let’s have enough of “kanya-kanya mentality” or colonial mentality. Let’s learn how to work together with people that we may not like; let’s learn how to have deep conversations; let’s learn how to use our pakikiramdam to listen to each other in a deep way that connects our kapwa and loob. We live in a culture that fosters disconnection and separation because the more disconnected we are, the more fearful we become; the more fearful we are, the more they can sell us goods, and mindless tv shows, and junk food. Dear Mothers, please invoke your holiness to create better alternatives for our descendants.

The essence of our pagka-Pilipino is PakikipagKapwa, KAgandahang Loob at Pakikiramdam – no English words can fully capture the meaning of these concepts. So to capture the meaning, we have to look to our Mothers who manifest these values. I think about Filipina mothers who are also nurses, caregivers, nannies, managers, entrepreneurs, teachers, social workers, counselors, stay at home moms.

I am in awe of mothers whose hearts are so open and that they can behold so much with compassion. Just like when Mary had to behold her son on the cross, taking in his suffering into her own heart and body.

When I think of the holiness of Filipina mothers, I think of the desperate choices that some mothers are sometimes forced to make – the choice to leave our own children to take care of other people’s children in another country; the choice to leave the homeland to seek opportunities elsewhere; the choice to leave abusive partners; and sometimes even the choice to stay and bear suffering in silence.

Yes, I call this work of making such choices as Holy Work because we trust and have faith that God would not deem our choices as mistakes or sins.  Moral and ethical choices that are often imposed on us by circumstances beyond our control are difficult and heart-wrenching.  Sometimes these codes are a way to maintain the superiority of men over women, or the notion of what is “developed or modern” versus “traditional, undeveloped and third world”. I think in another sermon someday, I would want to talk about how Christianity has been wedded to capitalist values and how it has been in collusion with the degradation of the Earth…and of women and children. It breeds separation and disconnection.

When I think of the holiness of mothers, I think of the comfort women who were taken by the Japanese as sex slaves during WW2.  I think of them because this is still happening and being perpetrated by human traffickers today albeit in different forms.  One of my friends, Evelina Galang, will soon be publishing the stories of these Lolas. As I was reading the manuscript, I would often break down and cry at the horrible acts that dishonored their bodies and their spirit. In the reading of their stories, I had to allow their stories to get into my body. This is how I know that stories are alive and powerful.  I want to honor these Lolas and what they have endured. And we must read their stories and tell others about it. The Lolas said that if we allow their stories to enter our bodies, perhaps wars will end.

And finally, when I think of the holiness of mothers, I think of the stories that we will pass on. I think of the answers to the question: What kind of ancestor are you going to be? Dear Mothers, this is a good question to always carry in our hearts.

 When I think of the holiness of mothers, I do not think of the Hallmark version of Mother’s day.

I think of the holiness of Mothers as the ground of my faith, the rock of my foundation. I pray that we may look to Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary, embodiment of God’s grace; Mary, the mother of all saints; Mary, the shepherd; and Mary the herbalist and healer. 

All our Mothers are Holy. As you celebrate your Mother today, may you be filled with love, gratitude, kindness; may you be filled with the sweetness of remembering  all of her Holy acts that carry you through each day and always a lullaby that soothes our aches, pains, and our longings to be cradled in the bosom of a Holy Mother.

Sa Ugoy ng Duyan…


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31 October 2016 | 6:02 am KApwa's Song
by Eileen Tabios

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The Transit of Empire

14 September 2016 | 4:50 pm quotes from Jodi Byrd's book:

theory of place and narrative and the place of IPs within postcolonial theories, queer, race theories

syllogistic tropes of participatory democracyborn out of violent occupatio of lands

how Indianness functions as a transit within empire

to read mnemonically is to connect the violence and genocides of colonization to cultural production and cultural movements

multicultural liberal democracy rationalize historical traumas thru inclusion

IPs must be central to any theorizations of the condition of postcoloniality, empire, and regimes that arise out of indigenous lands

transit - fluidity, noise, instability; to exist relationally, multiply

liberal multiculturalism invested in acknowledgements, recognition, equality, equivalences

US colonialism and imperialism coerces struggles for social justice for queers, racial minorities, immigrants into complicity with settler colonialism

"derealization of the other"

metropolitcan multiculturalism and dominant postcolonialism prose the US as a postracial asylum for the world, the diminishing return of that asylum meets at the point where diasporas collides with settler colonialism

US cultural and political preoccupations with indigeneity and reproduction of Indianness serve to facilitate, justify and maintain Anglo-Amerian hegemonic mastery over signifcation of justice, democracy, law and terror

how would debate change if the responsiblities of the real lived condition of colonialism were prioritized as a condition of possibility

sovereignty without rights to self government, territorial integrity, cultural autonomy

Indian as the ghost in the machine of empire

erasure of the sovereign - racialization of the Indian

colonization = racialization; where Indians become ethnic minorities

loss of intimacies on four continents - genocide, slavery, indenture, liberalism (lisa lowe)

"cathect" "parallax"

conflation of territoriality with conquest by assigning colonization to the racialized body

multicultural liberalism aligns itself with settler colonialism


postcolonial studies have ignored indigenous struggles in the US

indigeneity can be too dangerous and xenophobic when combined with  nationalism or anticolonial struggles in a world shaped by forced diaspora, migration, hybridity and movement

cultural studies...towards a joyous cacophony of multiplicities and away from the lived colonial conditions of indigeneity within postcolonial-settler society

how did the impulse to constellate the America into European colonial alignment come to depend upon the lamentable but ungrievable Indian? how do arrivals and other peoples forced to move thru empire use indigeneity as a transit to redress, grieve, and fill the fractures and ruptures created thru diaspora and exclusion?

what happens to indigenous peoples and the stakes of sovereignty, land, decolonization when conquest is reframed thru the global historicities of race?

how to discern how the noise of competing claims, recognitions, remediations function to naturalize possession at the site of postracial inclusion, transformative multiculturalism, and cruel optimism.

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The LUNA in my Blood

2 December 2015 | 8:27 pm There has always been a rumor in the family that we are related to the famous Luna brothers: Antonio and Juan.  Now that there is an Oscar-bound film, Heneral Luna, the rumor has again surfaced. This time a cousin's daughter has done some research and found documentation that indeed we are related.

My mother, Esperanza Luna, is the daughter of Gerardo Luna and Teodorica Santos Ocampo. Gerardo Luna is the son of Joaquin Luna, the brother of Antonio and Juan ,and 4 other siblings (Manuel, Remedios, Numeriana, Jose). Joaquin is named after his father:  Joaquin Posadas Luna de San Pedro and his mother is Laureana Ancheta Luna.

The information is scanty but there are fragments to go on with.

My older siblings who lived with our Ingkong and Impo in Mandaluyong said that Ingkong had mentioned that we are related to Antonio and Juan but that is where the stories end. Another cousin said that he remembers my mother's brother, Ben, often talked about his grandfather Joaquin as a frequent traveler between Baguio, Ilocos (La Union), and Manila. Well, it figures now since documents say that he was a government agent for the tobacco industry. Namacpacan, a town in La Union was renamed Luna in honor of Joaquin Luna.

The cousin who found the records on Joaquin Luna said that she saw the names of his children which includes Gerardo's name. But I asked her again to send me the link and she said she couldn't find it. Only that it was in a site.

Trolling around google, I found bits and pieces on the less-famous Luna brother, Joaquin. Before he became a Philippine Senator in 1916 for the 12th district in the first ever Philippine Legislature, he worked for the government in the tobacco industry.  As a Senator, he introduced a bill that created the first state-owned school of music that would later become the UP Conservatory of Music.

Oh, did I say that my Ingkong was a violin teacher? Okay, so there is that musical connection.

Another fragment said that in 1903, he was also sent as an agent of the Philippines to the St Louis World Fair.

In 1917, he was appointed governor of Mt Province.

I haven't yet found anything about Joaquin's marriage to FIlomena Baltazar.

At least there is a trail now. Stories await.

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