The Tagbanua: Babaylan

Image copyright: Masikampo Ruben C. Joya

      We met this Babaylan (priestess) on a visit for the yearly Kabaraan festival in Aborlan. The trip by a motor bike was about 20-30 minutes from the main town after which we had to leave the vehicle close to a clearing. We hiked for about 20 minutes through a forested area then crossed a shallow river before reaching the venue.
     I remembered calling her "Apo", a vernacular the Tagbanua uses to refer to elderly people. She was petite, close to being emaciated with an opacity in her right eye which I presumed to be senile cataract. Her dress looked well worn, but not shabby or dirty. For how she was dressed up, I would say that she prepared for the occasion.
     The small nipa hut where she resided had the bare necessities for a solitary occupation. The wall paneling was made of stripped bamboo as well the floor slats. There was a rolled mat by the corner and a lamp tucked close to the window. It looked comfortable.
     She was 104 years old during the time we met and spoke with her. The encounter was brief and filled with awkward smiling since she was hard of hearing. We got the impression that the family was respectful and genuinely amicable towards her.
     A lot of rice wine drinking that day. Both men and women danced and sang the "uyman". We had this photo taken and left the place by sundown.

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