Filipino and Canadian indigenous people seek to bridge cultures


By Ted Alcuitas

A unique experiment to bring together two indigenous cultures is happening this weekend at Gibsons, B. C.

The Third Babylan Conference will be held on indigenous land in Gibsons on September 23-25, 2016. Put together by the Vancouver-based Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society and the Center for Babaylan Studies (CfBS), the conference hopes to make these interconnections visible.

The partnership forged through this conference will look into their common histories of colonial migration.

“We explore this theme where we can learn and connect with through workshops, creative performances, ritual and ceremony, and educational opportunities,” says the conference website.

Babaylan is a Filipino word that refers specifically to an individual or a group of healers, mostly women, who were acknowledged by friends and family as possessing extraordinary gifts… having a gift of vision; an ability to see through schemes or situations and later advise on future plans… or the gift for healing; a specific touch or intuited or passed-on knowledge to specific processes of ‘fixing’ and ‘putting’ people and things together. The first priority of all Babaylan [is] her community.

In honour of The Third International Babaylan Conference, two renowned Filipino artists is presenting Tini(g)Tipon on September 21 at the Scotia Bank Dance Centre in Vancouver.

Curated by Dennis D. Gupa and Alvin Erasga Tolentino it seeks “.. how can we build alliances through the arts in times when colonialism continue to pose greater challenges and tensions to our contemporary lives? How could artists contribute in the global discussion of the history of migration and belonging within the larger context of settler colonialism? What is the meaning of our presence as settlers on Indigenous lands? “

Co.ERASGA is gathering Filipino, Filipino-Canadians and Canada’s First Nations artists to build solidarity and networks in this one night cultural performance.

Kathara had their earliest beginnings with the “Awakening our Identity” Theater production in 2003 with Kathara Philippines, which included the opening by Mandy Nahanee and Okalani featuring Cordillera indigenous peoples.

It was followed in the next 13 years of ongoing support of Vancouver’s passionate community cultural organizers: Monsoon Society, Tribal Harmonix community, Kat Kat Cut’samulwut Norris and the Aboriginal Friendship Center,Tulayan, SEACHS,Arts Starts, Asian Heritage Month, Pinoy Fiesta, Seacaf, Surrey Fusion Fest, CBC,The Courier, Hapapalooza, Dahong Pilipino, BirthMark Tattoos, Migrante BC, Collingwood Neighborhood House and more recently, Peernet, Sound Healing Therapy Society, Center of Babaylan Studies, EIYP, Company Erasga, UBCPhilippine Series Studies, Heartwood Cafe, Squamish Society, Native Education College and Butterflies in Spirit.

‘Indipino’ coined

“Indipino” is a new term coined to denote someone of mixed indigenous and Filipino ancestry. That could mean First Nations and Métis people here in Canada, or any of the numerous tribal cultures indigenous to the Philippines, said JR Guerrero, co-founder of Kathara.

Guest speakers will include shamans from the Philippines as well as people of mixed ancestry with Métis and First Nations from Canada and the U.S.

The event will launch with a traditional canoe and blanket welcoming ceremony to Squamish territories including Chief Ian Campbell, who has been involved in his First Nation’s opposition to oil tanker traffic increases associated with the proposed Kinder Morgan bitumen pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands

“It’s basically about being in the same boat together, First Nations and Filipinos,” Campbell said. “This is a very big opportunity that entailed a lot of bridging.

“Like Canada, the Philippines is also a colonized nation — by Spain and the U.S. — so we felt a natural direction was to go towards First Nations in solidarity more intentionally in the last year or so. Indigenous peoples of the world are very similar in their challenges to reclaim ancestral territory, and discrimination they face.”

For more information, contact: [email protected], or JR Guerrero @ 604.779.4209 [email protected]
Third International Babaylan Conference: REGISTRATION
Conference Schedule & Details