detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Friday, November 01, 2002


: . All Souls:

From Ma’i: Panoramas of Philippine Primeval by Gabriel S. Casal:
    [For] the Bukidnon…[e]very person has six spirits: one to teach him, one to lead him, one for action, one for identity, one to guard him, and one, sent by the god Magbabaya, to inspire him. Evil spirits, called bal-bal, haunt perilous rocks, cliffs, waterfalls, rapids and the balite tree.
    The Palawan believe that every man has eight souls. The five minor souls are his senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. The three major souls are the good in him, the bad in him, and the human in him. When he dies, his human soul decays with his mortal body, his evil soul descends to be punished in the underworld, and his good soul ascends to guna, the sky. There are thus three worlds: sky, earth and underworld…
    The T’boli believe that, during sleep, the soul leaves the body; when it returns, the body awakes. But there comes a time when the soul no longer returns: it has been stopped by evil spirits or the gods. Then the body dies.
    Evil spirits, according to the Bagobo of southwestern Mindanao, are the “left-handed” souls left behind when people die. Each person has a good “right-handed” soul associated with life, health, activity, and joy; and a bad “left-handed” soul that tends toward illness, pain, sluggishness, and death. Nightmares come about when a person’s bad soul wanders outside his body and does mischief. Death comes when the “right-handed” soul separates from the body. The “left-hand” soul then abandons the corpse and joins the innumerable company of evil spirits haunting graveyards, ominous trees, and lonely places.
    A Bukidnon’s eight soul, that of his afterbirth, is that person’s spirit brother: when the afterbirth is buried, its soul goes to the sky, from where it watches over its living brother on earth. This person remains healthy, if his other seven souls are together in his body. He falls ill if one or more of these souls wander away and get into trouble. If all seven souls leave the body at the same time, the person dies. Then his seven souls merge into one and migrate to Mount Balatocan.
    The “beyond” for the T’boli is as varied as the manner of death. Those who drown descend to the navel of the sea and become subject to the sea gods. Those who die from disease pass into a world where it is night when it is day on earth, and vice-versa. Those who perish by the sword are received with a roll of thunder into a red world where sky, water, mountain, and even grass is blood-red. Suicides lurch into a swaying world where everything is in a constant swing. Wherever the destination, the dead are guided by stylized tatoos on the back of the hand and the forearm that glow and lead them on. If the dead do not like where they are taken, they may return home – a fearful omen, since a revenant means another death in the family. But rain after a burial is a good omen. It signifies the tears of the soul that has crossed to a point of no return.

From House of Memory by Resil B. Mojares:
    The intimate connection, necessity, of the soul to what or who we are is conveyed in the terms we used to refer to it. The Ilocano word for soul, kadkadduwa (from kadduwa, or “companion”), images the soul as constant and “inseparable” companion. The word kaluluwa or karuruwa (the word for soul in Tagalog, Ibanag, and other local languages) derives from duwa, “two,” and expresses the duality of human nature, the twinning of physical and spiritual.
    The soul informs the body. It is what gives direction and wholeness to the person. The body is as husk, as driftwood, without it. The Visayan word calagan (from calag or kalag, “soul”) – now, unhappily, somewhat archaic – refers to a person who is full of energy or anima. It does not mean one who is merely busy and active, but one whose energies are purposive, well-formed, high and focused, a person “rich in soul.”
    Such is the premium placed on a healthy soul that Filipinos have a complex of beliefs and practices that pertain to soul-nurture. It is believed that the soul grows proportionately with a person’s body. It is weak and faint at a baby’s birth and gradually becomes strong, more firmly lodged, as the child grows in strength, health, virtue, and intelligence. The soul must be continually protected and nourished through prayers, the performance of rituals (the aerobics of a higher order), and the continuing initiation and education of the person in the mysteries of how a full, mature life is lived. Sickness (and we speak of ailments not merely physiological or psychiatric, but moral and social) is the temporary loss of soul. Its permanent loss is death.
    Yet even death shall not erase the vivid traces the soul leaves in a life well-lived. It is one of the acutest ironies of human existence that the soul is so fleeting and elusive. But that, because it stirs in us, life, no matter how short, is still sufficient. [full text]

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