Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 34, March 2014

Syncretic Ethnosexual Rites:
Intersections of Sexuality and Ethnicity among Filipinos

Lilia Quindoza Santiago

  1. I begin with stories of three women who taught me important and practical lessons on sexuality, ethnicity and citizenship. Inang Onor is a partera [I] or comadrona [T],[1] which are terms Filipinos use to mean midwife. She assisted my mother in giving birth to me. So I consider myself 'home-made.' My older sister and I were both born at home through Inang Onor's skills as a partera. She was self-taught as a midwife and was also popular as a hilot [T].[2] Her services were sought after not only by pregnant women but by others who had problems with their bodies. She could heal young women who had dysmenorrhea, fix dislocated joints and had herbal cures for inflamed skin. She was a mang-aatang [G],[3] one who ministered to the sick by food offerings and prayers. She also did buniag iti sirok ti latok [I].[4] a ritual of rebaptism described by Isabelo de los Reyes in his book El Folklore Filipino.[5] In this ritual, the spiritual leader prays over a sickly child and gives her a new name. Inang did a simple rite: she would utter a new name then place an egg on a plate and when the egg could stand then the new name was adopted. She rebaptised my two sisters so that they would not be so sickly.
  2. Many women believed Inang had the power to heal their barrenness; she had the power to make them pregnant, bear children and give birth more easily. Stories about her skills as midwife included being able to fix the position of the child in the womb. When the baby's feet came out first during labour she would put the little feet back into the womb, slowly massage the womb to help the baby tumble and possibly turn around head first toward the cervix and come out through normal delivery.
  3. I remember asking Inang Onor how she was able to do the things she was doing—that is, helping people get rid of their illnesses, helping women give birth or even helping them get pregnant. Inang said it was a gift from God Almighty, her 'Apo Dios a Mannakabalin' [I]. Inang Onor was a devout Seventh-day Adventist and went to Sabbath every Saturday.
  4. Ninang Lourdes is a woman from the Ibaloi tribe of Benguet province in Northern Luzon. When she embraced the Catholic faith, she continued to celebrate the indigenous rites she had known from childhood. She became my mother's best friend. I remember the Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays when she and my mother would go to church early in the morning. They wore white Catholic Women's League (CWL) attire with blue sashes around their waists. Because Ninang Lourdes did not like hospitals, she gave birth at home too. Her days of giving birth became occasions for neighbourhood gatherings because she would invite everyone into her backyard to await her baby's first cry. She would sponsor a canao [Sp],[6] also known as kanyaw in Ilokano, which is a ritual among peoples of Cordillera, a region in Northern Luzon, Philippines. Canaos celebrate birth, courtship and marriage, victory in war, and harvests. Paeans are sung to the gods to heal illness, to make rain during a drought or seek help during moments of danger and death. That she still celebrated the canao and even encouraged others to join her in these rituals is testament to her commitment to keep ethnic roots intact. She was determined to preserve and even propagate the rites of her upbringing and blend these with her catholic faith.
  5. The third woman is Dr. Dolores Feria, my teacher in comparative literature at the University of the Philippines in the 1970s Apart from inspiring me to study world literature and learn of socially engaged, protest literature, Dy, as we fondly called her, became my close friend especially during the imposition of martial law in the Philippines. Dolores Feria was born Dorothy Stephens, an American citizen from Marcellus, Washington but changed her name to Dolores when she opted to marry Rodrigo Feria, an Ilokano and a good friend of Carlos Bulosan. She opted to become a Filipina, lived and died in the Philippines.
  6. What are the lessons that I learned from these women? One is resilience in belief and faith to assert ethnicity and sexual roles. Sexual roles, broadly defined here refers to differentiated work and responsibilities for men and women in society. Another is the significance of rites and rituals in summoning a community and the third is recognition of the virtue of choice in the affirmation of ethnicity in citizenship.
  7. Inang Onor and Ninang Lourdes were able to reconcile and blend their own ways of looking at the world with colonialist introduced religions. For Ninang Lourdes, to be a devout Catholic and still practice the native canao, which is considered a pagan animistic rite was perfectly all right. For Inang Onor, there was no problem in becoming a devout Seventh-day Adventist and practising as healer of body and spirit. Both women embraced their religions in order to engage in rituals and make their vocations legitimate. It was mainly through rites and rituals that they could vigorously assert their ethnicity and sexuality. To do this, they had to have an abiding faith in the teachings of the church to which they belonged.
  8. Inang Onor, needed the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine to gain grounding and credibility in the community. This is especially important with reference to her crucial role in the processes of human health and reproduction. I admired her resilience in faith, but more than that, she taught me the unique power of woman to procreate and to sustain the life of a community. I think one of the reasons I was never afraid to give birth myself was because I knew I had Inang's blessings by me during labour. Birth giving, she had taught me, is a ritual, a necessary social rite that was needed by society to keep itself alive.
  9. Dolores Feria is another story. She is my own perfect example of how one can choose one's citizenship in order to live a fuller and more meaningful life. She embraced Philippine life and became Filipina with intense patriotism, an identity act which put her in trouble with the Marcos dictatorship. I was her student at the University but we were peers in those dark days as we fought the fascists through the underground movement during martial law. She advocated for a literature of refusal among Third World writers: 'the refusal to accept the freaked out cynicism of the overdeveloped world.'[7]
  10. She authored The Long Stag Party[8] which analyses and criticises Filipino machismo as embedded in family, social and political life. It was from her that I learned some of the most radical changes that are desirable for Filipinos. From her I learned how gender and sexuality could be deployed for affirmative action towards citizenship.
  11. I use their stories now as personal references for a discussion of the significance of sexuality, the language/s of the body in rites and rituals that bind community. These stories lead to an understanding of the intertwining sexual and ethnic norms and processes in the Philippines. These processes, I argue can lead to more harmonious social and even political life and relations. They illustrate how responsible citizenship can be moulded in the Philippines and in places where Filipinos have migrated throughout the world.

    Syncretic communal ethnosexual rites
  12. Anthropologists historians and sociologists define syncretism as the presentation of belief systems that widely differ and sometimes even contradict each other yet are blended and become one in ritual.[9] Syncretic broadly defined then means the melding or welding of ethnic indigenous traditions with colonial foreign traditions. The blending of animistic rites which are considered pagan with the Catholic liturgy is a good example of syncretism Filipinos have reinvented Catholicism because of the melding and welding of ethnic rites with the liturgy of the Catholic faith.[10]
  13. Rites and rituals are distinguished from political rallies and popular assemblies in terms of organisation and purpose. Political rallies, popular assemblies and cause-oriented mobilisations are largely run by organised forces and often focus on issues of current concern. Rites on the other hand are structured along custom and traditional lines. In rite and ritual, people come together to partake voluntarily and of their own accord to celebrate custom or tradition. People who partake in customary rituals follow what the occasion preaches and demands.
  14. Syncretism is manifest in Philippine religious rituals such as the Ati-atihan in Kalibo, Aklan,[11] the Sayaw sa Obando which features street and altar dancing in Obando, Bulacan,[12] the Santacruzan which is now held in various parts of the archipelago,[13] and the feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila.[14] These rituals are well attended. People from the community and other areas in the country, tourists and foreign visitors are present in large numbers during these rituals. Filipinos claim ownership of these rites even as Catholic authorities appropriated them as part of colonisation and Catholic indoctrination.[15]

    The Ati-atihan [T] as a masculine celebration of virility
  15. The Ati-atihan predated Spanish colonialism and is believed to have begun in the thirteenth century.[16] The rite is a form of Dionysiac revelry and festivity where drinking, chanting and dancing are done to the beat of drums. The participants are mostly adult males. When the Catholic Church accepted the indigenous Ati[17] into its fold, the Ati-atihan was transformed into a Christian ritual and became festivity in honour of the birth of Jesus Christ, or the Santo Niñno. A common belief is that the Ati-Atihan began when datus from Borneo fled their islands, landed in Panay and were received cordially by the natives. The natives called Ati who were mostly black nomadic tribes then ceded their lands to the newcomers as they trekked to the mountains to find newer fields to cultivate. But this story of the Bornean Datus in Panay has been subjected to scrutiny by historians and has been found wanting in terms of historical accuracy.[18] So, the story is now considered only a legend or a myth. Anyway, the myth still tells how every year at the time of harvests, the Ati would come down from the mountains to celebrate the bountiful harvest and dance with those on the plains. Those who have settled in the lowlands meet the Ati. In harmony with the Ati, the lowlanders paint themselves black.
  16. Held for two weeks from the second Sunday of January in Kalibo, Aklan, the last three days of celebration turn wild as people adorn themselves in colourful attires, paint their bodies and faces black, at times using mud, then march through the streets with the rhythmic beating of drums and shouting, 'Hala Bira, Puwera Pasma!'[Ceb]. (Go, Go, Dig, Punch, Save us from fatigue). This celebration of plenitude and harvest was appropriated by the Catholic authorities in the colonial period because they could not stop the indigenes from observing festivity during harvest time. Churchgoers were then made to observe the festival also as the celebration of the birth of the child Jesus which can arguably be interpreted as festivity over birth with all its blessings of life and abundance. The slogan, 'hala bira' has overtones of sexual virility and pleasure.
  17. Why does the Ati-atihan become wild in the last three days after novenas and prayers? Why did the friars choose to adopt the Ati-atihan as the rite in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? There can be as many explanations but I believe that the friars understood that this was a celebration of men's virility. The men release libidinal energy when they shout 'Hala Bira, puwera pasma!' [Ceb] (Go, go, avoid fatigue) as they beat drums and sometimes take off clothes in the streets and dance almost naked.

    The Sayaw sa Obando [T] (Dance in Obando) as fertility rite
  18. The Ati-atihan as celebration of virility and abundance of harvest is related to the Sayaw sa Obando. (Dance in Obando) which is a fertility rite. Couples dance to Saint Claire, Virgin of Obando to seek grace and blessings to have a child. Others dance thankful for having been blessed with children. Celebrated on 17, 18 and 19 May every year as feasts of Saint Pascual Baylon, Saint Claire and the Virgin of Salambao, people sing, dance, drink, beat drums in the street procession that finally enters the church. At the altar, masses of people continue to dance and sing. The traditional religious song in my own recollection as I attended the festival over the years was about the request for spouses from Saint Claire, the patron saint of those who wish to have children.

      Santa Clarang, pinong-pino (St. Claire, most pure)
      Anak po kami'y bigyan n'yo (Please bless us with a child)
      Pagdating po sa Obando (When we reach Obando)
      Ipagsasayaw ng pandango [T]. (We will dance the pandango).[19]

  19. The sayaw (dance) is done mostly by women and this song is also sung mostly by women accompanied by a band. The rite is feminine with the women dressed in Philippine attire such as the terno, the tapis and the saya and dance the pandango in the streets and at the altar.[20]
  20. People in the town believe that the sayaw or dance, like the Ati-atihan, predated Spanish colonisation. People of the town narrate that at one time, the celebration was banned from going inside the church because of the rowdiness of the crowd. But the people persisted in the celebrations. The Catholic authorities had to adopt the rite as part of church ritual.
  21. The three patron saints of the festivity are St. Pascual Baylon to whom people, mostly women, pray for suitable partners.The services of St. Claire are invoked by couples wishing to have children, and the Virgin of Salambao is prayed to by those wishing for prosperity and wealth. Fisherfolk narrate this anecdote about how the Virgin of Salambao was found as an image floating in the sea. They then attempted to set sail for Malabon but their boat would not move; when the fishers rowed in the direction of Obando, their boat was able to set sail. So the people believe the Virgin of Salambao is for the inhabitants of Obando.
  22. While most of the crowds sing the traditional song, a more rowdy and sacrilegious song is sung by men alongside the procession and by the less devout participants who want to add colour to the festivity. The song, as I recollect, is sung humorously but illustrates interrogation of the rite itself and even hints at spousal infidelity and abuse:

      Santa Clarang pinong pino (St. Claire most pure)
      Kami po ay bigyan n'yo (Please give us)
      Ng asawang labintatlo (Thirteen spouses)
      Sa golpe walang reklamo (Who will not complain when battered.)

  23. Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, in his novel, Noli Me Tangere,[21] used the tale of the miraculous impregnation of women by St. Claire of Obando as a satiric device to criticise the abuses of priests during the Spanish conquest in the Philippines. The heroine of the novel, Maria Clara is known to have been born as a result of a miracle of St. Claire as her mother, Dona Pia Alba, danced in Obando. But in reality, Maria Clara is sired by an abusive priest, Padre Damaso who violates his vow of chastity to have an affair with Dona Pia Alba. Pia Alba is married to a Chinese businessman, Don Santiago de los Santos. Rizal configured Padre Damaso, with a similar satiric intent that is expressed in these sacrilegious lyrics and overtones by a public not entirely convinced of the message and effectiveness of the miracle in the dance ritual.

    The Black Nazarene: a ritual for male absolution of sin
  24. The feast of the Black Nazarene is traced to the worship of a burnt statue of Christ transported from Mexico to the islands in 1607.[22] Celebrated on 9 January every year, this festivity is a crowded ritual of males in procession at the church of Quiapo, hub of the city of Manila. The devotees, mostly men, surround the fallen and burnt Christ statue and attempt to get their bodies near him. Some men throw pieces of cloth, towel or kerchief for the sacristans guarding the statue to wipe on the icon. The sacristans then throw back the pieces of material to their owners in the crowd. The owners, who are lucky to get back their pieces of cloth, use them in an attempt to heal various types of bodily ailments—sickness, deformity or disability. The cloth may also be used to relieve an aching heart or a tormented soul.
  25. The centre of the celebration, the Quiapo church in Manila, is surrounded by vendors hawking different kinds of herbs, candles, rosaries and other religious items. Some of the herbal items vended around the church are known to be an aid for procuring an abortion. Women boil the herbs drink the juice extract and expect to abort foetuses from unwanted pregnancies. There is thus, a curious semiotic significance of the fallen and burnt Christ vis-à-vis the male devotees as they practice penance for their sins and the surrounding environment that peddles herbs for abortion and its consequences to sinners. The 'almost all' male crowd, which generally numbers over a million yearly, prays for the forgiveness of sins. There is a powerful message implicated by this ritual in a fiercely Catholic country that condemns adultery, abortion and sins of lust related to sexual and illicit pleasure—as well as abortion.

    The Santacruzan as a come on for courtship and mating
  26. The Santacruzan is procession in honour of St. Helene and her son Constantine who founded the cross of Jesus in Christian mythology. This is one of the rites for women in the month of May. The other rite, Flores de Mayo, is held at the beginning of the month. In the Flores de Mayo, young women carry flowers to the altar in honour of the Virgin Mary.
  27. The Santacruzan, is a re-enactment of St. Helene's finding of the cross of Jesus Christ with her son Constantine. In this ritual, the community's girls and women with men as their escorts are garbed in luxurious attire to perform some twenty-five different roles in the procession, starting with the Methuselah, the banderada (flag or banner woman) the Aeta (the indigene) the Mora, (the Muslim women) then the different queens or Reynas—Reynas Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, Abogada, Sentenciada, Justicia, Judith, Sheba, Esther, Samaritana, Veronica, the Tres Marias, Marian, Ave Maria, Paz, Propeta, Cielo, Virgines, Reyna de los Flores and Reyna Elena (Queen Helene) who is the most illustrious of them all and wears the most exquisite of gowns. Often, the most beautiful women in the town are selected to represent various queens, some of whom are derived from the Bible but some are already invented characters—from local realities like the Aeta to represent the Aetas and the Mora to represent Muslim communities.
  28. Seen today, in all its gorgeousness, the Santacruzan becomes an occasion for a woman or a man to look for a partner. A most recent development of the Santacruzan is its appropriation and observance by Filipino gays. The Babaylan, a Manila-based group of gays staged a Santacruzan in 2007 in observance of one of the Lantern Parades held annually at the University of the Philippines grounds. The use of the ritual by gay men is a declaration not only of 'coming out' as gay but also as an appropriation of a rite that belongs to all citizens, not just to the richest clans or to the most beautiful of women. Gay santacruzans have mushroomed all over the country and are positive indicators of acceptance by the gay community of the effects of ethno-sexuality in positive citizenship.
  29. The episodes and the actions that are shown in all these rituals are native inventions. The sequential order by which the rites are observed, the adulation for the icons varies in accordance with the customs and traditions of the place and are improvised upon depending on the milieu and the particular community which holds or sponsors the rite. Entire communities participate in these rites; guests are invited to share and partake of the revelry and the food. Tourists from different places of the world who want to learn and study the rite come and stay and mingle with the celebrants.
  30. In these rituals, one can witness very clear intersections, interrelations, interactions of sexual norms and ethnic practices. I use the term syncretic ethno-sexual rites here because of the use of indigenous custom for initiation into the sexual world. The participant celebrants, through traditional songs and dances and prayers collectively express and manifest a desire for ethnic perpetuation and celebration. The desire for ethnic perpetuation connotes sexual procreative acts as well as ethnic commemoration. Whole communities march in towns and villages invoking blessings for continued virility, fertility and overall well-being of body and spirit.
  31. Celebrations like these are better explained from their ethnic beginnings. These festivities were intended to create space for the expression of various forms of desire, collective and individual. They signal initiation into adulthood. Young men and women are introduced to the sexual world thus the flirting, sexual seduction, display or virility and the release of libidinal energy. The Ati-atihan and Santacruzan festivel are now so popular that many towns and municipalities all over the country have adopted them. The Ati-atihan becomes the starting ceremony to call upon citizens to come out, join the celebrations and actively participate in the feast. The Santacruzan serves as a central, crowning and final rite of the festival.

    Rite as negotiations to encode identity
  32. These ethno-sexual rites traced from their cultural roots are important processes in defining and encoding identity. The Ati-atihan for instance, is a negotiation with settlers to preserve lands, bodies, harvests as all these assure the preservation and promulgation of the race, the genealogy, of the puli [I] or the angkan [T]. Conservation of the culture, language and heritage become significant but are pursued at a later time because before all these happen, there has to be a meeting, a connection between matters of sexuality and ethnic progeny.
  33. The festivities are a way of announcing and proclaiming that the season for mating and the processes that follow—courtship, marriage, procreation and birth giving—has begun and that anyone eligible could partake in all the celebrations and be blessed through rituals. Men and women who reach the age of puberty become eligible for marriage. They announce their status in the festivity. They may also, through these rites, announce their sexual preferences and orientations as in the gay Santacruzan.
  34. Ethno-sexual rites for these communities are made public and people come out, shedding all inhibitions, to release physical and libidinal energy. Sexuality or sexualities are unfolded for the public as the merriment becomes a rite of passage and a good occasion for socialisation. For ethnic Filipinos, therefore, matters of sexuality have always been out in the public sphere and these are matters that invite talk, reflection and discourse. However, the catholicisation process tended to ignore this aspect of the ethnic peoples' lives. The Spaniards' desire to catholicise created some kind of moral turgidity as the priests who presided over the liturgy either purposely erased or glossed over the sexual overtures of the rite in order to observe these as 'proper' canonical Catholic rituals.
  35. This moral turgidity by the Catholic priests may be sourced from the writings of the early chroniclers of the Spanish conquest. They had bared their intentions early on of colonising the bodies of the natives since they misunderstood the man-woman relationships among the indigenes.[23] They insisted that men lacked control over their wives. They wrote that sometimes, men tolerated even 'adultery' by their wives.[24] Their self-righteous intent to preside over the bodies and sexual desires of the pintados[25] insisted on the 'lewdness and unchastity of the women'[26] who persisted in their conduct. They narrate how the women were even encouraged by their mothers because they incurred 'no punishment.'[27] These observations betray lack of understanding of the sexual freedom of the pre-colonial woman and of the premium placed by communal life on ethnic and racial perpetuity.
  36. The priests, Juan P. Noceda and Pedro Sanlucar made a dictionary of the Tagalog language entitled, Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala in 1754 and in this, and in many dictionaries of Philippine indigenous languages, they are known to have omitted vocabulary pertaining to sex and sexual matters.[28] However, ethnic Filipinos were smart enough to have these inscribed in their oral and performative literatures and this explains the existence and persistence of these ethno-sexual rites. These rituals continue to gain supporters among local and indigenous communities and they are consciously performed to mark identity, celebrate virility and fertility and seek blessings for the health of body, mind and spirit.

    Sexuality and social agency
  37. Sexuality has always been a matter that is made public because coming to terms with one's sexuality and sexual orientation is a social as well as a public act. Robert Padgug affirms this as he claims that sexuality, although a part of material reality, is not in itself an object or thing.[29] He believes sexuality to be part of a process, or rather, a group of social relations consisting of different kinds of human interactions. Sexuality insists on the relational and consists of activity and interactions—active social relations and not simply 'acts' as if sexuality 'were the enumeration and typology of an individual's orgasms a position which puts the emphasis back on the individual alone.[30] In other words, one cannot claim to be a sexual being without having or knowing sex. Sexuality is the totality of one's sexual knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviours of individuals.[31]
  38. In forwarding the social, rather than simply the individualistic notion of sexuality, from the standpoint, viewpoint and centuries-long experience of ethnic Filipinos, I believe I have helped start a conversation for a healthier and more open, wholesome discussion of sexuality in the diverse ethnic and language groups in the Philippines.
  39. It will benefit Filipino communities to seek common ground and start from their roots as it were, in the resolution of various conflicts and problems that pervade social and political life. Mounting these kinds of rituals and infusing them with a communal significance can be explored. Putting up the Ati-atihan for example, to call attention to the desire to eliminate the social divide between lowlander and highlander populations would be useful. Making street dances and processions as community processes that engender and define can promote the common good. Finally, continuity and perpetuation of the race can be promoted by opening up discussions and conversations on the intersections of sexuality and ethnicity as self-affirming modes of identity formation and responsible citizenship. Resilience and negotiations can be valuable tools in resolving differences. The mounting and observation of rites to seek absolution for misguided steps and actions is also a possibility.
  40. I am aware that national and global developments have made discussions of ethnicity and sexuality intricate and complex. Feminist theoreticians speak of the sexualisation of race and racialisation of sex—'that sex is raced and race is sexed' and which suggests that there is such a thing as ethno-sexuality.[32]
  41. Ethnicity has become a complex and perplexing issue because of layers of definitions and re-definitions, delineations, boundaries and borders. People have crossed and crisscrossed ethnic borders and ethnic progenies. Intermarriages have given birth to creole and mestizo classes. Sometimes four, five or even six races are mixed in the blood of one person. One can have Spanish, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese-Portuguese, Hawaiian ethnicities. Ethnicity today, like sexuality is negotiated. The limits, the boundaries for definitions expand and contract according to place, time and milieu. Joane Nagel is right in claiming that ethnicity is not merely a feature of one's ethnic ancestry; that the social definition of one's ethnicity and nationality is decided and given meaning through one's conscious interactions with others and that an individual's ethnicity is as much the property of others as it is the person's making the ethnic claim.[33]
  42. The age of globalisation, cyberspace and digital technology has contributed to the preservation, conservation and documentation of ethnic identity. Peculiarity and uniqueness are captured, and ethnic identities are becoming more distinguished. There are even more exact sciences that determine progeny and more fascinating technology to preserve memory. Filipinos wherever they may be in the world today should take advantage of these developments. I am partial to memory, because memory serves both as a link to the past, and a bridge to the future. Memory is both resistance to subjection and a weapon against cultural interloping and encirclement. That is why I treasure the memory of the three women who have taught me early in life, some very basic lessons on ethnicity and sexuality.
  43. Inang Onor will always remind me to celebrate birth and to choose life and health over everything else. Ninang Lourdes will always remind me to keep my feet on the ground, keep my roots intact and stay close to home and hearth, even as strange orientations fly overhead, and of course, Dolores Feria is the quintessential exile in an ethnic country—a woman who chose freedom over servility.
  44. I say this now as Filipinos roam the globe with memories of the homeland and with their sexualities and ethnicities always expanding and contracting by choice and by necessity. There are over a hundred different ethnolinguistic and sectoral Filipino groups and these are culturally diverse groups which have different languages and literatures, differences in tastes in food, clothing, shelter, landscape and architecture, forms of worship, beliefs, customs and most of all, agendas for social progress and development. Yet, differences cannot at once constitute disadvantage. Differences per se are no impediments to progress and can even be used to promote progress. Difference becomes corrosive only when they are manipulated to produce exploitative power relations. This is what has happened for centuries now.
  45. A coming together of these diverse cultural groups, a communing with and sharing of similarities and differences can help define commonality as well as community. Ethno-sexual rites, syncretic, indigenous or native have the capacity to bring together the diverse and continually diversifying groups into some kind of recognition of commonness in vision and desire. A voluntary and willful recognition of a positive multicultural, multiethnic identity is possible. Such a recognition will contribute to social vitality and progress. The rites and rituals like the ones I have described above can be very useful in achieving this.


    [1] Inang as used in many languages of the Philippines refers to either grandmother or mother or elderly lady. Partera is Ilokano [I] and comadrona is Tagalog [T] but maybe used by both Ilokanos and Tagalogs to mean midwife. In this paper the following abbreviations are used for the different languages that are used: Tagalog [T]; Ilokano [I]; Gaddang [G]; Cebuano [Ceb]; Spanish [Sp].

    [2] A hilot is a massage therapist and folk healer who uses herbal remedies to ease ailments.

    [3] Mang-aatang is a Gaddang word that means sacrifice offerer. Also used by Ilokanos.

    [4] Literally means giving a name through a ritual like re-baptising, naming underneath a plate. See Isabelo de los Reyes, El Folklore Filipino, trans. into English by Salud C. Dizon and Maria Elinora Peralta-Imson, Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2010, pp. 213&$8211;15.

    [5] See De los Reyes, El Folklore Filipino, pp. 213&$8211;15.

    [6] See definition and illustration of canao as a socio-religious ceremony in Alejandro Roces, Fiesta, Manila: Vera Reyes, Inc. 1980, p. 30.

    [7] Dolores Feria, 'A literature of refusal' in Pamana (Legacy), Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), vol. 38 (June 1979): 39–42, p. 39.

    [8] Dolores Feria, The Long Stag Party, Manila: Institute of Women's Studies, St. Scholastica College, 1992.

    [9] George D. Chryssides, 'Unification: a study in religious syncretism,' in Religion: Empirical Studies, ed. Steven J. Sutcliff, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing 2004, pp. 231–44, p. 242.

    [10] Florentino Hornedo, Culture and Community in the Filipino Fiesta, Manila: University of Santo Tomas Press, 2000.

    [11] See, 'Ati-Atihan Festival,' as described, narrated and illustrated in Roces, Fiesta, pp. 225–47; also featured in Frank Ossen, 'Ati-Atihan Festival,' Ultrect Faculty of Education, December 2002, online:, 10 February 2014.

    [12] See 'Obando's orational dance,' in Roces, Fiesta, pp. 75–87.

    [13] See 'Santacruzan,' in Wikipilipinas, 2009, online:, accessed 17 February 2014.

    [14] See 'Black Nazarene,' in Wikipedia, 2014, online:, accessed February 17, 2014.

    [15] Hornedo, Culture and Community in the Filipino Fiesta.

    [16] Historians believe this was the time Islam came into the archipelago. See Hornedo, Culture and Community in the Filipino Fiesta.

    [17] Ati is synonymous with Aeta and refers to indigenous people who are dark skinned and nomadic. When the Americans came, they were referred to as Negritoes.

    [18] See William Henry Scott, Looking for the Pre-Hispanic Filipino, Manila: New Day Publishers, 1992. This book also contains Scott's article, 'Kalantiao: the code that never was,' which asserts that the Code of Kalantiao is a hoax perpetrated by Jose Marco. See also Williman Henry Scott, Pre Hispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, Manila: New Day Publishers, 1984. The Code itself is quoted in 'The code of Kalantiaw,' in Wikipedia, 2013, online: http:/, accessed 17 February 2014.

    [19] The Tagalog folksong for Santa Clara which accompanies the dancing in the streets by women and men. It is derived from the Spanish-American 'fandango' a dance by a man and woman usually accompanied by guitar and castanets.

    [20] The terno [Sp.] is term used for a floor length long gown with puffed butterfly-like sleeves that are worn by the women who dance the pandango, the Tagalog for the Spanish, fandango.

    [21] Jose Rizal, Noli Me Tangere, Berlin, 1887. Noli Me Tangere is Latin for 'Touch Me Not' and was written in 1887 by Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal. It is probably the most read Filipino novel today. Penguin has come out with an English translation by Harold Augenbraum. The sequel is El Filibusterismo (The Subversive). For writing these novels, Jose Rizal is believed to have been executed by Spanish authorities because he agitated the people to rise in revolt against Spain.

    [22] Hornedo, Culture and Community in the Filipino Fiesta.

    [23] Carolyn Brewer, Shamanism, Catholicism and Gender Relations in the Philippines, 1521–1685, Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2004.

    [24] Miguel de Loarca, 'Relation of the Philippine Islands,' in Readings in Philippine History, ed. Mario Garcia, Manila: Filipiniana Book Guild, 1979, also in Miguel de Loarca, 'Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas,' Arevalo, ca. 1582, trans. Alfonso de Salvio and Emma Blair, in The Philippine Islands, 1493–1898 ed. Helen Blair and Alexander Robertson, Mandaluyong, Rizal: Cachos Hermanos, vol, 5, pp 34–187, pp. 116ᰫ19.

    [25] The term was used by Spanish chronicles to refer to people in the islands whose bodies were 'painted' meaning tattooed.

    [26] Loarca, 'Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas,' p. 119.

    [27] Loarca, 'Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas,' p. 119.

    [28] Juan P. Noceda y Pedro Sanlucar, Vocabulario de la lengua Tagala, ca. 1754. This is considered the most authoritative dictionary of the Tagalog language published during the Spanish period.

    [29] Robert Padgug, 'Sexual matters: on conceptualizing sexuality in history,' in Forms of Desire: Sexual Orientation and the Social Constructionist Controversy, ed. Edward Stein. New York and London: Routledge, 1992, pp. 43&8211;68, pp. 55–56

    [30] Padgug, 'Sexual matters: on conceptualizing sexuality in history,' pp. 55–56.

    [31] SIECUS is acronym for Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. This definition is taken and discussed in Jerrold S. Greenberg, Clint E. Breuss and Sarah C. Conklin, Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality, Boston, Toronto and Singapore: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010.

    [32] Joane Nagel, Race, Ethnicity and Sexuality: Intimate Intersections, Forbidden Frontiers, London: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 10.

    [33] Nagel, Race, Ethnicity and Sexuality, p. 42.


Published with the support of Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.
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