As I entered the majestic wooden house of Julio Nakpil sitting serenely like a queen amid the hustle-bustle of noisy Quiapo, mixed feelings of awe, sadness and reverence for the Filipino ancestors enveloped me. Julio Nakpil, musician, revolutionary and second husband of Gregoria de Jesus, whom she married after Andres Bonifacio died in the hands of his fellow Katipuneros, took care of Ka Oriang after her and her first husband’s ordeal in Cavite in 1897.
The Nakpil and the Lin- Bautista clans opened their ancestral house for the book launching of “Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous” to the book enthusiasts, historians, women and students as well to commemorate the birthday of Bonifacio that falls today, 30 November 2010. The women descendants of Ka Oriang graciously asked the guests to tour around the big house that is now a museum of pictures, memorabilia and writings about history.
The house, before it was reconstructed in 1913, had two gates: one facing the busy street and another one serves as a get-away to the river where Ka Oriang’s eldest daughter Julia used to paddle the banca in going to school by herself. A big window facing the river was where Ka Oriang usually hang her pamingwit to catch fish for lunch. Retracing Ka Oriang’s steps, the river now is murky and dirty. Tall buildings and sign boards tried, though not successful, to dwarf the Nakpil house. Old tin roofs marked with rust spread along the riverbank as garbage and plastic bags cling lifeless wherever it can between the waters and solid ground.
Ka Oriang’s dainty looks with her coiffed black hair in a picture hanged on the wall commands admiration and respect befitting a hero and a babaylan. She speaks her mind through her “Sampung Aral ni Oriang” written on the Nakpil wall. It says in numbers 6 and 8: “Iligtas ang api sa panganib;” and “Matakot sa kasaysayan pagka’t walang lihim na di nahahayag.”
Social development activist Sister Mary John Mananzan inspired everyone when she said that the babaylans have a “dangerous and subversive memory” that the foreign colonizers failed to subvert. While they were burned at stake, beheaded and killed by the thousands, the babaylan tradition lives on.
Herstorian Fe Mangahas explained in the launching that the pre-Hispanic Philippine society had three major characters – the datu, panday and the babaylan. Where the datus and the pandays failed to continue their legacy, the babaylans continued to live in the hearts of Filipino women in the beaterios, the present-day nuns and the indigenous peoples in the north down south. She further said: “Nanatiling buhay ang diwa ng babaylan sa bawat isa sa atin – lalaki man o babae.”
Feminist Girlie Villariba who is one of the book writers brought a tampipi full of gifts from Charito Basa who is in Rome helping Filipino migrant workers. Girlie made us smell the lavender flowers, leaves and herbs – curative of mental and spiritual illnesses one has as an individual and as a collective group of people.
Chapter writer Ceres Pioquinto’s sister and relatives flew all the way from Iloilo to relate how their Lola healed people, thus, regarded as a good “tambalan” in their community.
A group of young babaylans called “babaylanins” (female) and “bayogins” (male, from the Visayan word bayog or prayer leader) taught a Palawanon way of hand gesture and greeting saying: “Nagkakaisa tayo sa diwa at sa puso.”
Professor Grace Odal, dressed in white with a flower bouquet on her head, lighted the candle at the altar, threw fragrant petal flowers up on air and danced ala-early babaylan to summon the spirits of nature to come and bless the occasion. While the book launching attendees danced to the tune of the gongs, guitar, kudyapi and bamboo musical instruments, Professor Connie Alaras said: “Natutuwa ang mga sinaunang babaylan.”
By Gloria Esguerra Melencio
Waray is a Samar-Leyte word which means none or nothing. How the word became a collective name of people living in Samar and Leyte, two islands that lie closely to each other in the Visayan region in middle curve of the Philippines, is not yet known in history.
Some Filipinos condescendingly refer to this group of people as “waray upay” (poor) or “waray kuwarta” (no money). Stereotypic images of Waraynons vary as “waray upay nga mga tawo” (good for nothing people) to mean they are drunkards, thieves or gamblers for men; and prostitutes, dancers or housemaids for women.
Recorded was Jesuit priest Pedro Chirino’s account describing those people in Samar and Leyte as “good-for-nothing” people because all they responded to the friars when they asked them about everything – the name of the place where they berthed, for directions , or for the names of people who were not yet and who refused to be baptized as Christians were: “Waray” (I do not know) or “waray gad” (nothing if you please) or “waray man” (truly nothing) or “waray kunta” (absolutely nothing).
Early Samar-Leyte people must had invented many versions of that waray word to cover up what had really been happening from middle of 16th century up to the whole of 17th century.
The word connotes negativity, but for the Waraynons it means vigilance, bravery, intelligence, wit and survival. Had the early Spanish conquistadores only known that the word covers up the “turugpo” (meetings) or “tigaman” (congregation) in the “pantaw” (temporary makeshift altar) every “ginmata” (full moon) or a reaction to the Spaniards’ burning of the babaylans (mostly priestesses) at stake and beheadings of Bancao (Carigara, Leyte) and Sumuroy (Palapag, Samar) – they could had directly named these “docile” yet “warlike” people as cimarrones, remontados, paganos, erejes, insurrectos or suversibos.
Yet, they call them as such in their 18th and 19th century Spanish documents. But while the Waray word had stuck just the same, the bravado of the Waraynons has continued even during the American period up to this day.
The 20th century Balangiga Encounter (Americans refused to call it such and prefer to call it the Balangiga Affair) in Samar where Waraynons successfully penetrated and defeated the American encampment had been a result of a well-planned attack.
What’s in a name? Spaniards refused to give the Samar-Leyte people a name that would show their resentments and their wit in the battle of the minds. Americans deny that the Waray people are capable of retaliation: At times when Waraynons cannot face cannon balls, guns and swords, they used a different strategy. Lack in arms did not mean losing the war.
Next time we are tempted to think of the Warays as all members of the Waray-waray Gang who does kidnap-for-ransoms, or the “waray upay” people who drink gin till they drop dead in Tondo or Navotas side streets, or the GROs along Ermita and Quezon Avenue or the housemaids in the neighborhood, always remember the ancestors and babaylans in 1521, Bancao in 1621, Sumuroy in 1650, the heroes of the Balangiga attack in 1901 and many more who did not make it in written history because they were not rich and famous.
Waray has become a beautiful word.