By: Grace Odal
This article reflects on Filipino contemplative processes which according to the author is all-inclusive yet at the same time strongly infused with feminine energy.
She is well-known in her familiar signature as bai, bay, bayi, bahi, bahy - terms all referring to woman. In a Visayan legend, she is called sibabay (Si Babay) or sikabay (Si Ka Bay) whereas the first man is called silalak (Si Lalak) or sikalak (Si Ka Lak).
The word bai in Laguna de Bai can easily be associated with a woman water-spirit. For water in most cultures has always been associated with the qualities of nourishment and nurture. It is also associated with such feminine qualities as flexibility and resilience. In almost all cultures, it is of course considered the source of life, hence the dwelling place of the spirit. No wonder then that water is the content of the womb of woman, for it is here that life is nurtured. As it burst open childbirth, life comes to the earth enriching it.
It is much like the Laguna de Bai that appears like a womb of nature letting its life flow out into the fallopian tubes of the Pasig River into the open reaches of another womb called the Manila Bay, and further out into the wide expanse of the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
The term bai or bay, or the woman-spirit dwelling in the waters, could easily have expanded to the word balay or bahay (house). The house is most often classified as possessing the feminine energy, for like the womb it contains, shelters, and nourishes life. A strong parallel is seen in the first houses which were said to be a house-boat, a water-house, a floating and travelling house called balangay or barangay (root stem bay) in which several families lived together in separate units. It was on the balangay that our forebears explored new worlds.
And as they discovered new lands, they naturally sought famine coastal areas near the mouths of rivers - the wawa. And so they lived in their water-houses in the baybay - the baybay-dagat. After a time they grounded their balay or bahay (land houses root stem bay?) and as the number increased these bakayanan or kabalayan, was later shortened to bayan.
Their exploring spirit moved them to discover the source of the waters so they travelled upstream to the ilaya, iraya or idaya, and there established upstream communities.
It is said that earlier immigrants to a place always traced the source of the river to the mountaintops from the mouth of the river at the opening of the sea in the downstream region or lagud. Finding this river source, they call at ina ng tubig or inang tubig.
Inang tubig is the place of the summit. It is the place of laya or freedom - the place of the heights where the Divine Goddess lives close to heaven and paradise. There, at the summit, inang laya, inang malaya or inang kalayaan dwells in peace and freedom - away from the interference and busy commerce of the lowland regions. At the higher and more interior places, the likas and the ka-taalan (the inherent) is more pristine and intense.
In the higher regions, therefore, one has greater freedom to be ones likas or ka-talaan, to be integral to ones true self and original spirit. And whenever and wherever one is true to ones likas self or close to ones taal na espiritu or katutubo self, one is malaya or free. To be at the heights is to be malaya for one is closest to ones true self - the place of ones original ancestors. To be ma-laya, therefore is to be of the mountains or to be of the heights, where one is most true to the likas - the taal self and the katutubo ancestors. Regardless of whether our immigrant ancestors lived upstream, mid-stream (as riverbank communities), downstream, or coastal - their floating and travelling water-houses were grounded in the ba-yan - the land upon which the people have attached their houses. Bayan is the land in which they were born and therefore, attached to, the land where they bury their unbilical cords at birth, and where their spirits would always come back to in death if they die in far away places. They call this place of birth and attachments their Inang Bayan or Motherland.
It is from the Inang Bayan where the diwa (idea/spirit) or the original spirit of their race and their land would emerge. So, for our forebears the Inang Bayan was not an abstract concept of nationalism but a spiritual experience of communion with the Mother Goddess of the Land. It is a devotional love given to her as the spirit of the place - the guardian of the place and the owner of the wealth it possesses. She is the mutya, the spiritual force - the power, beauty and wonder of the land.
It is the pristine spirit, the Mutya, which is the focus of many devotions, panata, pangako and pamimintakasi. She is loved to the point of sacrifice. Her great lovers were our ancient bayani, magani, bagani, (warrior leaders and hereos, activist martyrs and revolutionary saints) who fought as brave warriors in defense of Inang Bayan and as dauntless protectors and devotees of her inherent freedom as the great Inang Laya.
Bayanihan (working together for the cause of the community and the bayan ) is the communion of the people with Her. Where the spirit of bayanihan is there is pagkakaisa for there her diwa is one with the people.
Thus the community is blessed, for her presence is among the people. There is therefore reason for a continous pagdiriwang or celebration, for it is but right and fitting that one should give thanks for the presence of the diwa that is the spirit of the Mutya.
It is this light that the EDSA phenomenon could be understood. It is the bayanihan endeavor spontaneously generated out of the likas-loob and lakas-loob (inherent inner- strength) of the Filipino self. The phenomenon at EDSA where the Lady of EDSA played a critical role could be the modern-day intuition of the pre-Hispanic katutubong diwata and mutya.
EDSA is a benchmark in many ways. The strong religious factor surprising to many is but the emergence of the diwa that for so long has been neglected and ingored. It is our inherent mutya making its presence known again. I would like to call this the Mutya Spirituality. This spirituality is reflective of a certain renaissance and flowering of the feminine principle arisng out of the healing of the soul of woman. Her healing carries with it the healing of her whole self, the healing of the whole humanity, the whole nation, the whole world. Her healing means regaining the lost likas divinity of man, regaining the lost unity within oneself, unity with others, unity with nature and the cosmos.
Mutya spirituality is expansive and embracive of both feminine and masculine energies contained in the form of the healed, integral, and transformed woman. It is the spirituality that does not deny and eliminate the masculine, but is enhanced in its inclusion of the male within herself, without being lost in the process.
Mutya spirituality is grounded on the katutubong likas and taal spirituality of the people, and is closely related to the contemplative traditions of the people, part of therefore of our taal na pamana ng lahi (the native ancestral heritage).
This contemplative element appears to be basically a feminine way of unfolding ones union with God. The word feminine refers to the intuitive, imaginative, spontaneous oneness with the creative flow of life. In loving devotion and surrender, this feminine energy unites with everyone and everything in the cosmos. With trust and openness it seeks union with all things, even the negative and the unlovely.
It is pakikipagkapawa not only to the kapwa-tao but also to kalikasan (nature) and to the whole sanlibutan (world and cosmos). It seeks to unite all things in love. And in this unity of all things manifests the Presence of God. In this process human nature is transformed, just as the sand is transformed into a pearl in the womb of the oyster shell. The transformative process from which the grain of sand is transformed into the pearl or mutya is a most difficult process, but becomes possible because it is the Divinity within that guides the process. It is the contemplative process grounded in our kataalan.
This is the pearl of great prize, the mutya emerging out of the waters purified now of the dross from where it originally came from - now the Mutya ng Silangan ---The Pearl of the Orient Seas.
Roots of Filipino Spirituality
Edited by Teresita B.Obusan