Module 4. Linmipaw: Gender and Spirituality
Limnipaw is a story about a fateful encounter between an Ifiallig man and a strong-willed allukoy (fairy) who forced him into marriage.
Background: Understanding Gender and the Indigenous Spirituality
Women in the pre-colonial Philippines have attained greater equality in society than what was common in many parts of the world. Most indigenous communities across the Philippines have at least one babaylan (the visayan term for a shaman) in their clan or community. They have many names such as baglan, djin, mananambal (healer) and babaylanes, among others. They are the earliest leaders among the various tribes in the Philippine archipelago. The babaihon or women datus have also ascended the chieftainship. Her strength is measured in her skill in healing, wisdom and performing sacred tasks such as planting, weaving, dancing, and chanting. However, her greatest power lies in her ability to mediate between people and spirits especially those who control nature.
Since nature is unconquerable, those who have the ability to concentrate this force are believed to possess great powers. According to Cacayan, the “shaman woman who was once considered superior, may be equal to her male counterpart in status, but she is special in that she renders her gift not only through healing, but also through hard work, child-rearing, creation, and peacekeeping.”
Even though the existence of a babaylan was not mentioned during this projects’ oral literature retrieval, the Allukoy is even more powerful than a babaylan. She is a fairy goddess, a nature spirit with an elevated status, worshiped by the Ifiallig. She lived in an enchanted parallel universe concealed by magical rocks. Being an immortal goddess, Linmipaw did not have a choice when she propositioned him. However, his status also ascended after his union with the Allukoy. He became an immortal nature god whom hunters revered with sacrificial pig offerings.
Many indigenous people in the Philippines now practice Catholicism, a religion introduced by the Spanish colonizers in the 16th Century. While Christianity has greatly influenced their belief and value system, the Catholic church still had to deal with their intrinsic perception of power, based on their indigenous knowledge of the natural environment such as the forests and the ocean where supernatural power resides. Spiritual energy manifests itself in inanimate objects as well as in supreme beings, nature spirits, enchantresses (fairies), supernatural creatures and especially ancestral spirits who live in a parallel dimension.
For example, the spirit realm, such as the one the Allukoy inhabited, is strong and active in the Ifiallig culture. It overlaps with daily life. Spirits must be respected or else they can unleash their wrath through natural calamities such as typhoons, droughts, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Their happiness ensures bountiful harvests and hunts.
Apor – hunting lodge
Allukoy – engkantada, enchantress, fairy
Pakikiramay– empathy or sharing in the grief sometimes through monetary or emotional support, or by helping out in the arrangements
- Students watch or read Limnipaw.
- Ask students to describe the characters.
- Describe the allukoy and her attitude towards marriage? Would you do the same thing? How would you respond to the allukoy? What does it say about gender relations in their society?
- Students discuss the cultural practices of the Ifiallig. What Ifiallig cultural practices were shown in the video? Describe a typical day for an Ifiallig hunter. Describe Ifiallig burial customs. How do you show pakikiramay (empathy) in your culture? What beliefs are associated with death and burial in your culture?
- Discuss indigenous beliefs. What are the Ifiallig’s beliefs in the spiritual world? What is the enchanted world like? How do these beliefs affect present-day practices? How are they similar or different from your modern day beliefs? How about in other parts of the Philippines and other cultures?
- Read Hudhud Hi Aliguyon and watch the video clip from “Mountains of Water.”
- How would you describe Aliguyon’s mother?
- How would you describe the gender relationships in Ifugao society according to the epic?
- Write a “Dear Abby”/”Delilah” letter to Aliguyon’s mother describing a relationship problem (real or imagined).
- In class, read out your letter. Other classmates will respond as Aliguyon’s mother would.