Notes on the Soul of Leadership
Exploring the Spirit of the Babaylan
by P. Paredes Daly
Leadership is a sacred duty---not an act of self-aggrandizement. Let me put that in another way--- the most essential role of leadership is for survival, but the most sacred role of leadership is service.
The highest purpose of a leader is to wield authority to serve people in a special way. A leader's duty is sacred not secular. It's not about gaining external power, it is about helping others find their inner power. Here is where the essence of makatao, makabayan and makadiyos are expressed.
(A wonderful book on this topic of sacred leadership is Pakikipagkapwa published by Mamamathala in the Philippines. See book recommendations).Leadership should be seen as a sacred contract, not as a sectoral assignment. In the Philippines, the people at Mt. Banahaw and progressive academic/insightful groups such as Pamamathala
You, Filipinos who are drawn to the Babaylan's meaning and heritage should explore the 4 power roles of the Babaylan for it will reveal to you the capacities that you yourself have within you to personally embark on a conscious path of self-realization. And if you so choose it can also be a guide for you on how you too can cultivate your leadership spirit and bring guidance and healing to the families, relationships, and societies that you are a part of.
In the islands now known as the Philippines, before the coming of the Europeans and the conversion of the islanders to Catholicism, village shamans called babaylan or katalonan were community pillars, acting as leaders, counselors, healers and sages.
In the colonization of the Philippines, Filipinos were cut off from their ancient roots and their mythological heritage. This has caused an identity crisis for the people and the nation. We know this is true because today Filipino people are facing seemingly insurmountable difficulties in their government and politics, their economy, their natural resources and their people resources, their societies and families, their national and cultural identity.
Many modern day Filipinos sense that they are alienated from their mythological roots and thus have embarked on a questing for rediscovery and renewal of who the Filipino is.
Socially conscious Filipinos who are in touch with their hearts, have come to the realization that the struggle against oppression and the striving for equality and justice come from the yearning for the healing of not just society's ills, but the healing of the whole nation, the Filipino soul. When Filipino men and women come forward with this realization and act upon it, calling for action and change they step forward with the spirit of the ancient Babaylan.
In the language of shamans around the world "big medicine" was a phrase that referred to an unseen power that healed not only the body, but also the person's spirit. Great medicine was also requested from the spirits-that-be to give power to a person.
Today that medicine of the spirit is known by new words --- empowerment. A process by one find his or her inner power to make choices that improves his personhood and life.
The babaylan spirit exists today as it inspires us to find our inner power that each and everyone of us has inside of us. So, in pre-hispanic times, the babaylan brought about great medicine to a villager or a village in the Philippine islands and the babaylan spirit continued and continues to live on in Filipino rebels, leaders, healers, teachers, and artists. The babaylan spirit lives on as we Filipinos seek to empower our selves and our communities by tapping into and sharing our courage, wisdom, wholeness and vision.
Our nation shall find its healing and its fulfillment with the help of the Babaylan spirit in all of us.
As one comes to honor the Babaylan spirit in their self they will find the power to be at peace with one self, have relationships with others at home and in the work place filled with harmony, and realize the expression of their special gifts and creativity.
Honoring the Babaylan spirit in our communities Filipinos will realize harmony with their land and its natural resources, will find peace with other communities, and will come to the expression of its people's God-given gifts and realize true progress.
The mysterious beauty of coming to know the Babaylan spirit better is that it comes from a deep well of Universal Wisdom. Every nation on earth has its own ancient roots, its own mythological heritage, that honor the same Babaylan spirit although called by other languages.
This site attempts to illustrate through the tools of the Internet how today the Spirit of the Babaylan thrives and is found not only in our various community figures but also in each and every one of us. We shall examine the 4 roles of power that the Babaylan performed in ancient days and how these power roles are our guides in living powerful lives and achieving our society's highest ideals.
The Babaylan performed 4 main power roles in pre-hispanic Philippine village communities which were:
Leader, Counselor, Healer, and Sage.
All those roles carried with it the qualities of community caretakers and bearers of wisdom.
Each role had a particular strength and spiritual principle that differentiated it from another.
The Leader embodied courage, making a stand and giving direction to a community. He or she was a leader and at times of conflict, a Warrior.
The counselor or the Sage embodied vision, seeing Truth and sharing guidance without bias, and judgement.
The teacher embodied oral traditions of knowledge and experience. Passing it on ensured the continuance of cultural heritage to generations on.
The Healer embodied the maintenance and preservation of health and wholeness.
Anthropologist Angeles Arrien has studied the ancient wisdom of indigenous peoples and took note of the 4-fold way, a spiritual practice of being conscious of the 4 universal archetypes of Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary---the very roles that the Babaylan embodied in the Philippines. (see book recommendations under Universal Wisdom),
You, Filipinos who are drawn to the Babaylan's meaning and heritage should exploring the 4 power roles of the Babaylan for it will reveal to you the capacities that you yourself have within you to personally embark on conscious path of self-realization. And if you so choose it can also be a guide for you on how you too can cultivate your leadership spirit and bring guidance and healing to the families, relationships, and societies that you are a part of.
For those of you who are interested in the concept if the four-fold way in your personal life, please check Arrien's book. See book recommendations.
Although indigenous practices of pagan ritual have been put underground or have found a union with Christianity and evolved into folk religion (in the Philippines they are called "popular Filipino devotions"...I don't want to miss out on talking about the mysterious, mystical role of the Babaylan.
For now, all I can say is said in the few words and the art work of the web page of Pagdiwata. Click here.
What happened to the Babaylan?
Today, babaylan is not a commonly used term in the Philippines. The influence of colonizers from the Western world has turned our honor of the babaylan to scorn. Instead of seeing their work as sacred and real, we now see them through western eyes---they are evil and their work fakery.
Centuries ago, because the babaylan role was to speak to the spirits for the people, priests demonized their work because the spirit world was not acknowledged by the Catholic Church and was thus satanic. The Spanish brought with them Roman Catholicism and the Americans protestantism, and the ways of the babaylan were deemed as the work of the devil and the babaylans condemned as bruja or witches. Despite the widespread practice of western religions brought in, native Filipino healers still have acceptance in society and are called arbolaryos and manghihilots. Again, although modern medicine and science has relegated their work to the status of quacks, Filipinos, rich and poor, educated or not, still go to traditional folk or alternative medicine practitioners.
There is a modern day notion that babaylan and katalonan are only women, but they are also men. In some ancient island villages, babaylan men dressed up as women. In Negros Occidental today, a powerful psychic who consults for rich and poor alike, is an unabashed, colorful gay man. There are many powerful hilots and arbolaryos who are men. There is an American native tradition that speaks of the choice of the shaman--- "he must have the heart of a woman."
The pagdiwata role of the Babaylan must be revisited and embraced anew. Like our mixed heritage of various cultures and race, we Filipinos must learn to embrace and integrate our mixed heritage of religion and spirituality.
Ancient Babaylan Ways
So the topic of traditional babaylan roles have been covered---we still have the faith healers, the arbolaryos and the manghihilots(terms used for the folk bonesetters, herb masters, massage therapists) who attend to the Healing aspect of people and the community.
But now I want to talk briefly, for now, about the other leaders of today who embody the babaylan spirit in other ways...
We also have spiritual leaders---men and women in secular and pastoral roles who in essence provide healing when they promote wholeness and forgiveness between not only family members but also divided factions of society. Social workers also provide a form of healing to society.
We have the Warriors found not only in military leaders and political leaders but also in activists, proponents for social change.
Our Teachers are found not only in school, but also in artists and musicians who share heritage in their work.
Sages and Visionaries are found in the Poets, Artists, and Scholars who have glimpsed what could be and share their vision and hopes in their artwork, writings and teachings... They are also the hulas who know how to impart glimpses of the future in a way that helps a person grow spiritually.
Please expound on these thoughts more for yourself... You will find that various people in society do not call themselves babaylans, priests or priestesses, but the work they do certainly embodies the babaylan.
There are too many people who believe that leadership is only about power and control. How many of us believe leadership is about acquiring position with influence then wielding power to gain more influence? How many of us believe that leaders may use their power and influence to access resources to increase their wealth and superiority?
We are all human and so we all have fears. And we know that our leaders have fears, too, because they are not super-human. But we do expect our leaders to have more courage than the ordinary person.
When leadership is lead by personal fears of the loss or lack of positions and possessions, then it fails us.
More Notes to come on:
The Soul of the Philippines and Its People
The 4 Elements, Fire, Earth, Water and Wind ----
May you receive this in openness and your life be enriched by it.
If you have any links and resources to share, please email me.
Ever out of Love.
Babaylan.com. All rights reserved. P. Paredes Daly. ©2003