In Diwang Balaan Banal/Banal A Decolonial Discourse on Pinoy Spirituality, a book published by Institute of Spirituality in Asia, 2022 Karl Gaspar introduces us to a discourse on the liberating effects of decolonizing Filipino spirituality as a transformative journey of rediscovery.
He challenges us to embrace a new paradigm that values the diverse cultural heritage and spiritual traditions of the Filipino people in order to reclaim our genuine identity and reconnect with our indigenous wisdom, creating a more equitable, just, and sustainable future for everyone.
The author, a Redemptorist Brother who just won the 2021 National Book Award for spirituality and who has personally influenced me greatly in my spiritual thinking and understanding of the Lumad and Mindanawon worldview, attempts to better capture the importance of understanding the roots of indigenous Filipino religiosity.
He does this by situating Filipino indigenous spirituality within the last 500 years and tries to come up with an understanding of the rootedness in the indigenous belief system that has resulted in our identity as Filipinos practicing the Catholic faith.
He then investigates how far rooted contemporary Catholic practices remain rooted in these indigenous beliefs.
Having observed the prevalent influence of medieval European practices and Western colonial theology on modern Filipino spirituality, the author has developed a strong conviction that there is a crucial need to rediscover a spirituality that is rooted in a decolonized theological paradigm.
The book is divided into 15 chapters.
For purposes of the first part of this two-part review, we shall limit the introduction to the first few chapters; after which we shall proceed on the remaining chapters in the second and final part of the review series.
In the section Embracing the discourse of indigenous spirituality, the author gives a contrast between selected indigenous rituals and practices and Catholic spiritual practices, and finally, concludes with the author’s observations on how the predominant Catholic authorities regard and relate to indigenous mysticism.
Despite these differences, many Filipino indigenous communities have incorporated Catholic practices into their own spiritual traditions.
This blending of beliefs is known as syncretism and can be seen in the adoption of Catholic saints and holidays into indigenous rituals.
Gaspar then examines the beginning of Catholic chauvinism and inculturation by the Spanish friars. It looks into the impact of the Spanish colonial agenda on the lives of the indigenous inhabitants of the Islands; describing the strategies employed by the frayles to entice the natives into joining the Catholic faith, through inculturation and incorporating anthropological approaches. he friars also employed anthropological approaches to entice the natives into joining the Catholic faith.
They studied the indigenous peoples’ customs, beliefs, and practices in order to find points of convergence with Catholicism, and then used these as a starting point for conversion.
This approach was more effective than a blanket imposition of Catholic practices and was seen as a way of respecting local culture and traditions.
Overall, the impact of the Spanish colonial agenda on the lives of the indigenous inhabitants of the islands was complex and multifaceted.
While the Catholic Church played a significant role in the development of Filipino culture and society, it also contributed to the erosion of indigenous beliefs and practices.
The strategies employed by the friars to entice the natives into joining the Catholic faith, such as inculturation and anthropological approaches, were not always done in a respectful or sensitive way and had a lasting impact on the cultural identity of the indigenous population.
Given the crimes against indigenous peoples around the world, from the Tulsa Massacre to the Holocaust of the Jews in the hands of the Nazis, the author is convinced of the need to decolonize our spirituality and recover our indigenous roots in order to attain emancipation and achieve liberalization.
This approach has also the effect of remembering the wisdom of our ancestors but likewise heeding the call by the philosophers for respecting historicity.
In the chapter on the quest for Mindanawon indigenous philosophy, the author gives us an overview of indigenous philosophies and their importance and the need to fully understand the full dynamics of this residue and how Christianity in fact became a tool for advancing the colonial agenda.
The book subscribes to the need to bridge decolonize theology with the spirituality discourse relevant to us Filipinos.
The author expresses the hope that this challenge will give birth to a new way of understanding our faith.
Verily, Roman Catholic Church’s promotion of spiritual growth norms in the Philippines is heavily influenced by the country’s colonial past and the introduction of Hispanic Catholicism during the Spanish occupation.
While the Church has contributed positively to Filipino society by shaping its religious and cultural identity and providing social and political support, criticisms have been raised about the relevance of some religious practices and beliefs in the modern era.
The Church’s association with colonialism has also sparked tensions and conflicts, with some accusing it of perpetuating inequalities and promoting a colonial mentality.
Therefore, it is important for the Church to evolve its teachings and norms to meet the changing needs of contemporary society and promote inclusivity and cultural relevance.
Part 2 of this review continues on Saturday.
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