But we do know that indigenous values, whether or not they are labeled as such (and that’s what’s so great about these books I’m reading—the ability to name things because people have chosen to write theories), do work even in a modern context. Intuition, for instance, is closely-aligned with the ability to conceptualize/create versus simply follow orders and rules—which is more likely to create or expand a new company?
And politics. Remember the first People Power’s Revolution in the Philippines that overthrew the Marcos dictatorship and went on to inspire other such people power’s movements in other countries? That act succeeded because of the indigenous value of pakikibaka, or together-as-one. (I remember my young self as a Barnard College student doing a political science thesis on the Philippines--and how in that thesis I had expressed doubt over that country's Communist effort as so much of that seemed more rooted in poverty and political corruption, versus a belief in Marxism. As recently as last year, in response to political corruption in the Philippines, a despairing Fil-Am writer expressed his concern that It may have to take a (violent) revolution after all to resolve things. I remember my empathy for this writer's frustrated assessment, but it occurs to me now that political movements based on Kapwa and pakikibaka have more of a chance at success than the exported Communism.)
The ability to tap into community and have a larger desire create something is a very effective force. My very first book was BLACK LIGHTNING.One of its facets was that it was a book desired by the reading community, versus a book I concocted *in my own room* and then attempted to pitch to publishers. BLACK LIGHTNING was a huge success—and I talk more about this in the Introduction to a special issue on Poet-Editors that will be published by Otoliths (I’ll update link when the issue goes live later this week).
And if I look at everything I’ve done so far as a poet—a modest career as a writer for only encompassing 14 years so far—I’ve been prolifically published. To be a prolific writer is one thing, but the publication of one’s writings is a different step. Sure, I could say I’ve found many publishers because I’m a good writer—but many good writings are overlooked. My secret is Kapwa, its practice long before I knew its word: I can trace every writerly achievement to the root source of me having first tried to do something else on behalf of others. That’s the melding of Kapwa and Bahala Na—you live in the indigenous spirit without looking for rewards and yet the rewards come in terms of you thriving as a person and, in my case, poet. And I’ve done this without donning ethnic garb (unless Halloween counts) .
But let me digress to mention a baby elephant in the room (Hello Elephant!). When we start discoursing on the indigenous, people and concepts that may seem “flakey” come out of the woodwork. Whatever, you know. I’m not going to diss someone for wearing symbols—we have to wear something and I’m not going to say my German Shepherd pendant is less flakey than the silver bracelet etched with Baybayin (btw, I love my Babaylan jewelry). But we need to not judge the indigenization movement based on these trappings. The flakes that should be dismissed are those forcing themselves into an indigenizing community as a leader of sorts—someone to be followed. I’ve been contacted now by people trying to claim me as their own in exchange for presumably some spiritual revelation….Look, if you’re a leader, you don’t have to try hard to find followers, you know what I mean? If you have something relevant to say, the community will recognize you. Until then, try to manifest your interest in indigenous values in ways other than a power play, okay?
Effectiveness. How to assess said effectiveness? Look at the results. Is there something coming into existence—for the good of community/world—as a result of the results? Is there something being created versus a movement-for-the-sake-of-having a movement; is there something going on besides the creation of navel-gazing or socializing groupings? Was a book created that ended up empowering some of its readers? Was a dictator overthrown? Was a new company hatched? Did an environmental movement to green the world unfold? Et al...
The indigenous spirit is like poetry (which is why I say poetry has provided me good training): words can’t fully capture the indigenous spirit because one has to live it, not talk it.
Community and activism are forces that can create new lovely poems, especially if one is willing to abide by Bahala na (note that this Indigenous value has been debased into it being interpreted as passivity, when its true nature is one of courage—courage in the face of not knowing what will happen. I often write poems, not to say something but to discover what needs to be said).
In earlier essays and talks, I’ve raised my belief that Poetry is a Doorway Into Something. I’d like to share two examples, for which new poems were created by myself and other poets in order for these projects’ successes. Both of these projects were effective in actually raising money (I’s got the beef, son!) for poverty relief and Haiti relief. These are—
"Hay(na)ku for Haiti" relief, about which information is available HERE.
"Tiny Poetry Books Feeding The World...Literally!", about which information is available HERE
These projects involve community, involve the indigenous notion of Kusang Loob (volunteerism), bowed to respecting/preserving nature (and core to indigeneity is a tie with nature), among other things, as well as created new poems. I hope you will check out the links…and even participate!