What is a Babaylan?

Jul 16, 2011 by

Babaylan

“A babaylan can communicate with ancestral and environmental spirits through a medium he alone knows. This is done via a ritual language he has mastered and is performed during a ritual by striking a porcelain-like bowl or a metallic ball-shaped object.”

p. 5

The Enduring Ma-aram Tradition

Alicia P. Magos, Ph.D

New Day Publishers, Quezon City, 1992

“The presence of the babaylanes in pre-Hispanic Philippines is well known in Visayan oral literature.  During the early Spanish period, their existence in the Philippine archipelago is well documented in the historical accounts of the Spanish rule.

Morga, a historian described the customs of the inhabitants of the Philippines in his report to the Royal Audiencia in 1609 as such:

‘…They had no priests or religious to attend to religious affairs, except certain old men and women called catalonas.  They were experienced witches and sorcerers, who kept the other people deceived,,, the catalonas uttered prayers and performed other ceremonies …. With which the devil inspired them.’

There is evidence to show that the babaylanes and their followers were persecuted at the time the Spaniards established the Roman Catholic religion in the archipelago. It can be gleaned from Spanish writings that idols were confiscated and burned while priestesses (catalonas or babaylanes were punished with the intention of putting an end to the idolatrous practices of the natives.”

pp. 8 – 9

The Enduring Ma-aram Tradition

Alicia P. Magos, Ph.D

New Day Publishers, Quezon City, 1992

“Social and political conditions continued to worsen under the administration of the colonizers.  If the religious uprisings during the second half of the seventeenth century were easily quelled, t was not so during the forthcoming centuries for the worsening conditions of the times prompted the babaylan leaders to attract more peasants to their side.”

p. 12

The Enduring Ma-aram Tradition

Alicia P. Magos, Ph.D

New Day Publishers, Quezon City, 1992

“In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries two armed movements led by babylanes Papa Isio and Flor Entrencherado respectively engulfed the island of Panay and Negros.  In Samar and Leyte several movements emerged to resist American occupation which were also led or inspired by babaylan leaders.  There are indications also that the Panay-Negros babaylanic uprisings at the turn of the century had nationalistic and nativistic undertones.  Today, babaylan practice is still active and enduring.”

p.112

The Enduring Ma-aram Tradition

Alicia P. Magos, Ph.D

New Day Publishers, Quezon City, 1992

*Ma-aram is a term that Dr. Magos has used to refer to the babaylan.  Ma-aram means a person of higher intelligence.

Photo by Christine Estrada


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