BaylanM asks: 1) What made you cry? Perhaps 3 kinds of crying – Sad, happy, and silent. 2) What did the earth say?
I don’t remember crying when I was at PAMATI. My friends would have to confirm this, but although I felt moved by many things, I never wept.
I didn’t cry when the elders gathered in the Obo Manobo traditional wedding hut and exchanged coins as a sign of peace between them.
I didn’t cry when I heard the first chant at the event, a prayer to the Creator and the land asking for blessing and guidance.
I didn’t cry when my feet touched the ground at Butuan, nor when I walked the grounds of Bayan Agusan, nor when I was given a bed in Grace Nono’s house to stay.
No sad tears when I heard the tales of oppression told by the elders and babaylan. No tears of anger when I saw the devastation of deforestation at Agusan Marsh. No tears of fear when the Marsh seemed to keep us from returning home by making our passage through the water hyacinths difficult.
The delicious food prepared lovingly three times a day did not move me to weep, nor the conversations among new friends and old. Neither the moon near midnight filtered through clouds, nor the rain that drenched us the first few days, nor the rustle of the winds through the trees I know no names for – none made my eyes wet or my heart ache.
I didn’t cry during the many ceremonies we held, or at the strike of the gong, or with the stomp of the feet when the babaylan danced, hands like bird’s wings or warrior’s arms.
I didn’t cry when my new friend Claire fell down the steps and broke her leg; didn’t cry when I visited her in the hospital; didn’t cry when I heard the updates on her surgery and recovery, even though I was so very worried about her.
I didn’t even cry when we all parted from each other over the course of three days. Our leave-taking was dry-eyed and full of hope to see each other once more. Many promises of keeping in touch were made and there was no thought of how far we’d be from each other once we’d returned home.
But I do remember crying. I do remember tears. I’d forgotten until now.
I cried when I collapsed from heat exhaustion. There was no holding back at that moment. There was no careful compartmentalization of the moments I was experiencing into my heart and mind to treasure later. The heat had seeped beyond my attempts to stay cool – the shade, the fan, the water, the holding very still – and stripped my self-control to the barest sliver. All my boundaries were down and my spirit was bigger than my body could handle. My mind scrambled to figure out a way to stop the process, to bring it all into balance once more, but my body was too weak. I cried with embarrassment and panic. I couldn’t move, though I wanted to flee from all the attention I was bringing on myself. I felt the hands of two babaylan, Lagitan on my left, Abraham on my right. I held on to them, my anchors to this world, but could not speak. They murmured questions and encouragement. My mind tried to sort out their words, but my mouth could not respond. Simply shaking of my head took so much effort, but the tears flowed easily, my breath came in gasps. I’m sure I was a wet mess of snot and sweat.
Eventually, they helped me walk to my bed, one slow step after another, one prayer another to not black out and suffer the knowledge that I had to be carried. I stopped crying finally as I let them help me in my most vulnerable moment.
Thinking about it now, I might wish my tears had been shed during those interesting moments I witnessed, but that’s the sort of regret I’m trying not to harbor. I cried when I had pushed myself too hard yet drew in all that I experienced with joy and a sense of awe.
As for the land… she spoke many things, but the persistent message was similar to my heat exhaustion – the land weeps as it groans under the burden of our resource-taking. She weeps for the loss of connection between the humans and the animals that cause us to think first of our human needs and then after (or perhaps never) of the balance among all creatures. Our denial of the strain our choices have made on her systems cannot be borne for much longer. She searches for those who can hear her voice and move toward healing and understanding.
We are interconnected – our fate is intimately tied to the land, and when the land is mined, deforested, poisoned, and re-formed into features that do not take into account the whole system, then disaster will occur…is occurring. Our elders know this; Indigenous leaders from all over the world have given testimony to the ways the land has changed because of our disregard for the our interconnectedness. The land weeps because it has been pushed to the brink. Let us see the vulnerability of the land, that we may be joyful and in awe of all creation. Let us cradle her, console her, and work toward changing the ways we take from the land into sustainable practices for the sake of all the generations.
PAMATI: Listen to the Water and Songs of the Ancestors was a gathering I attended July 1-10, 2015 at Balay Agusan, in the Municipality of Bunawan, Northeastern Mindanao, Southern Philippines. My FB friends have been helping me process my experiences by sending their questions about my recent trip.