Book and CD Review: The Shared Voice by Grace Nono
by Letecia Layson
Leny asked: Letecia - Can you please write a review of the book from your perspective as a second generation, daughter of Manong?
Letecia responded: I am so used to just having my own epiphany in the wee early morning hours. Often words don't form in my brain, much less sentences. I just sense something is different inside of me...an energy release, a veil lifted, a 'knowing' revealed. The odd thing is that the 'knowing' is not just mine, Letecia's, it seems to be an echo of what simply is, has been, always was and never was not. The 'knowing' is not something that was 'spoken' to me in a literal sense, perhaps only hinted at, or l observed it (whatever it is) and it lived in my presence. You know when you are looking at a picture and suddenly you see the white space between the pixels of colored dots...I feel myself sort of 'shake it off' and zoom out again to see the picture ever more clearly. Sometimes words are spoken in my head, phrases or a story takes shape as images flash by.
I felt something had shifted in me after reading 'The Shared Voice,’ it happened in my sleep....Like Magic! Really I am not sure what happened, or why, but I have a sense of 'rightness' in the world. LOL and perhaps if we were in a room sharing stories and thoughts about the book, more words would flow freely in the dialogue which allows for the connectedness, reflection, warm smiles and laughter. Writing is essentially a monologue and I am not so sure what I have to say is interesting or important, or will even make sense to someone else. And if I fix my thoughts into print (either on paper or on a screen) it feels a bit rigid....the words reflect a moment in time....not what is happening as my fingers are tying the letters to this sentence.... they are reflections of the past.....always trying to catch up to the present moment.
And even with all that being said....I wonder if 'tacit knowledge' is asserting itself rising from ancestral waters and has me qualifying my words as 'not very important' to deflect anyone from noticing 'the words of power that I speak' I learned of a concept called Buyag when I was in PAWWA (Philippine American Women Writers and Artists accessed 5/26/09)
"Buyag" or "Pwera/PuryaBuyag" is an expression that is meant to ward off "Evil Eye" when you praise or take notice aloud of someone, especially a baby. Old folks believe so and there is no harm if the younger generation say it too... " Yahoo Answers (accessed 5/26/09)
I realized then and even today, how Buyag or Pwera/PuryaBuyag whispers in my blood. I don't even really know how to pronounce the words, so I look forward to someone calling me up and speaking it into a voice mail for me (smile), or send me a video message on Seesmic.
See what I mean...the deflect away from my own shared thoughts...for now, I have quieted the voice some by getting a piece of garlic and setting it on my altar (if I had a pocket in what I am wearing, the garlic would be in it!)...
For those of you who want the short version 'TWO THUMBS UP', 5 out of 5 stars. 'The Shared Voice: chanted and spoken narratives from the Philippines' by Grace Nono is a Divine Find.
I am listening to the CD as I type to you. Nono's book provides a bridge from the past to the future of a Filipino Spirituality that lives - a living tradition. One that is represented not only by the primary oralist, but also by the secondary oralists and each of us who identify as Filipino and Spiritual - beyond organized religion and inclusive.
Grace is a good storyteller. As I read, I felt the conversational tone of her writing open my mind and heart - stretching me open to my own paradoxical nature of living in two worlds - the natural world and a constructed world. I read to myself out loud, letting the sounds of the words work like incantations, not holding tightly to my own pre-conceived ideas about what Filipina/os are like, or who I am being....just allowing and listening. I would read some and then listen to the CD.
Even the academic models, the history and statistics flowed like nectar. If you asked me now what was said I would have to pull out the book to quote it....and I am not sure if there was anything specific that touched me other than the wholeness of the presentation. Hmm, I guess if I looked at it like a faceted jewel, one of the facets that etched in my brain is Table 1. Oralist and Literate: A Comparison on page 22. I am making a copy of it and posting it on my wall as a reminder of my own dynamic flow between these two systems and ways of being.
I am not one or the other, I am an AND/AND, a both, not an either or. Even now I laugh at myself knowing that in future days I will use this table to support my desire to 'not write' to continue to 'be-speak the world into being.'
I felt properly introduced to these 10 elders, to know their place, their families, their people and I realize how limited the introductions are here in the USA - your name, what you do, where you live. Here in the USA, it is your intimates that you share the information about your ancestral place, your people, etc. What rich and vital traditions each of these 10 elders come from. For the secondary oralists, those that bridge the ancient/future lineages, they are my She-ros and He-ros. They find ways to live a continuum... NOW, NOW, NOW the past is now, the future is now, the present is now, if this is making any sense.
Almost 20 years ago when I started my training in the Dianic Tradition, we were asked to research a goddess from our ethnic background. During the next 5 weeks, I was to spend time with Her, using whatever written information I could find and if there was not much - to meditate with Her, Her symbols or any means to listen to what She might have to share with me personally and if there was something She wanted to share with the women of the class. In the last class I invoked Her, using the skill set we learned in class and to aspect Her (let Her speak through me) so that the women in the circle might be able to meet Her. It was through this process, the invocation of Gamaogamao* and time spent with her that stepping forward on my spiritual path of service as a Dianic is forever entwined with my ancestral spirituality.
Grace's book provided a deeper context from which I could understand my own spiritual calling - from the ancestors and the elements. As a daughter of a Manong and a Filipina war bride, I was not raised speaking either language of my parents or Tagalog - only English. I think the ancestors had to speak to me elementally - through nature and through many other earth-based traditions that are rooted in the lands they originated from. It is only now, and in the last 20 years, that FilAm's like me have had access to information about our culture and traditions in English. I used to think my experience was unique, and as my mother use to remind me, to keep quiet about it (she was after all a good Catholic). I feel fortunate to be living in a time where information is shared and I can see that I am not unique, but one of the many displaced Filipinas who have managed to stay steady and listen.
I have honed my lens/worldview as a feminist - radical at that. The good news is the mentors and teachers encouraged me to do my own research, be in the center of my own life and comfortable in my own skin as a woman. The Shared Voice has added to the context of who I am in the world - how I am in service to my communities and has me questioning, if I was raised in the Philippines and had access to elders of these living traditions would I have made my way to their mountain tops or to their remote villages in the same way I have found elders here in the USA?
I’d like to think so, but I will never know what could have been. I only know what is and what might be...I feel fortunate to have found this virtual circle - each of you who are on this list has contributed to the bridging and integration of my spirit calling and how it out-pictured itself in me as a Priestess in European-based Goddess Traditions. On this list our conversations, book suggestions, gatherings, etc., have helped me to own the gifts that are from my/our ancestral pool of wisdom. All the formal training, reading, references in the Goddess traditions I am ordained in are from other lands, not even from the land from which I was born (USA). They are from the lands of the colonizers, reaching back into their roots, to their ancestors, to the roots of their religions, consciousness, medicine, philosophy, science, literature, art - all the way back to the neolithic.
The Shared Voice reminds me....we are all connected to lands, ancestors and nature. Living Traditions need to include the her/history and all the diversity and richness we represent. The Shared Voice helps me to feel even more at home in my own dance - in my own body by giving voice to what I did not know needed to be spoken.
In closing, I add my voice in gratitude and blessings of a work well done. I am changed by the work in subtle ways....which will bubble up through my own words, works, songs, dance and stories....
Thanks Leny for asking. Thanks Baylan for getting a copy of the book to me....and Thanks Grace for writing and sharing your words, images and song.
PS. Do I need to be worried about Buyag or Pwera/PuryaBuyag ? (smile)
*From "The ColourfulMandaya: Ethnic Tribe of Davao Oriental" by UrslaCincoValderrama, pg 30. The making of a Balyan: "Gamaogamao is believed to be the goddess of water..."
Editor’s note: This post appeared originally on the Yahoo listserve group “Babaylan” on May 9, 2009 and has been edited slightly to correct spelling/capitalization errors and smooth paragraph transitions. Every effort was made, however, to maintain the conversational quality of the post. The editor apologizes for any subtle changes in meaning as a result.
The Shared Voice: Chanted and Spoken Narratives from the Philippines
ANVIL Publishing and Fundacion Santiago, 2008
Available at ANVIL Publishing: 63 2 477 4752, 477 4755 to 57, http://www.anvilpublishing.com/?s=the+shared+voice&post_type=product
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