March 16, 2010

First Filipino Babaylan Conference Honors Rich Legacy of Filipino

Filipinos have a very rich spiritual and cultural heritage carried forward by babaylans, culture-bearers, and artists. To honor those who continue the rich legacy of Filipino indigenous knowledge systems and practices, the Center for Babaylan Studies (CfBS) hosts the First International Babaylan Conference on April 17, 18 at Sonoma State University.

Key speakers Grace Nono, Katrin de Guia, and Virgil Apostol will present aspects of the Filipino indigenous culture seldom taught outside the Philippines.

In addition, Dr. Katrin de Guia will lecture on "The 'Cross' in Cultural Marriage: How to Avoid Cultural Misunderstandings in Crosscultural/Interracial Marriage" on March 24 from 2-4 p.m. in Salazar 2020. The public is invited.

The Babaylan in Filipino culture represents the figure of the indigenous healer. This sacred gathering of healers, artists, scholars, activists, performers, and other culture-bearers will share Babaylan-inspired work through ritual, ceremony, dance, poetry, film, academic panels, conversations, and workshops.

Artist/scholar Grace Nono spent many years with primary babaylans learning sacred chants and oral narratives. Her research from the last fifteen years on Filipino oral traditions is documented in her book The Shared Voice: Chanted and Spoken Narratives from the Philippines.

Katrin de Guia, founder of Heritage and Arts Academies of the Philippines and author of Kapwa: The Self in the Other, will speak about the Filipino indigenous psychology concepts of Kapwa and the Babaylan. Virgil Apostol, a recognized healer in the Ilocano Ablon tradition, will discuss his healing practice in the context of Western medicine.

Other artists, scholars, community workers, and healing arts practitioners will share how their work is inspired by the Babaylan practice.

Leny Strobel, CfBS Director and an Associate Professor of American Multicultural Studies at Sonoma State University, is coordinator of the conferemce and believes it is timely and relevant. "There is a growing realization in mainstream society," Strobel explains, "that indigenous knowledge and practices carry the ancient wisdom that enabled people to survive the genocide and holocausts brought by modern civilizations."

Stories of physical, spiritual, and emotional healing by a babaylan run strong in Filipino and Filipino American families and communities. Also known as an arbularyo, hilot, mombaki, bailan/beliyan/babaylan, catalonan, dawac, or ma-aram, these women and men received knowledge passed down by ancestors about healing herbs and massage techniques, while others were respected for their ability to speak with spirits and ask for the release of the soul of a loved one.

These women and men provide advice and healing for the community. Their practices are part of the Filipino Babaylan Tradition and incorporate Filipino indigenous knowledge systems that continue to be followed today both in the Philippines and in the diaspora.

Conference information and registration can be found online at

To learn more about the issues addressed by the conference watch the video at

The Center for Babaylan Studies was created to continue the exploration and illumination of Babaylan indigenous wisdom and spirit as it facilitates our ongoing process of decolonization and indigenization - towards Pagbabalikloob (Turning Towards Home) and PagkaPilipino(Being Filipino).

This year's conference is the Center's first project. After many years of research and conversation, we offer the global community a glimpse of the sweet nectar of the Babaylan spirit that this growing community has experienced in a connection with each other over the years. More can be found at

Jean Wasp
Media Relations Coordinator
University Affairs
(707) 664-2057