From ‘Baylan’ to ‘Bruha’: Hispanic Impact on the Animist Priestess in the Philippines
- The Hispanization of the Word.
- The Search.
- From baylan to bruha.
In the Philippines, over the last two decades, with the worldwide spread of scholarship that focuses on previously marginalized groups, those interested in sixteenth century Philippine history have begun re-reading manuscripts written at the beginning of the Spanish period. These scholars have been somewhat surprised to learn that, before the coming of the Spanish to the archipelago, women, and a few men dressed as women (known as asog), were the original leaders within the traditional animist religion. The knowledge that women once had direct access to, and exercised control within the spiritual realms has excited some. Consequently, there has been a move towards liberation hovering on the discursive edges of mainstream historical scholarship which is determined to acknowledge what has previously been repressed and to uncover the acts and criteria of the exclusions by which these women vanished into a historical abyss.2
In the colonization process, some colonisers, intent on imposing their own world view, banished indigenous languages to the margins, and throughout the world many aboriginal languages were lost completely. In the Philippines, at the time of the Spanish conquest, rather than impose the Spanish language, the priests were instructed by the first bishop, Salazar, to learn and preach in the languages of the inhabitants. However, certain clusters of words, especially those involving animist priestesses (as the Spanish called them) were altered, negated and then marginalized almost to extinction. This movement parallelled the demonization and eventual disappearance of the priestess from historical texts.
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