Pacete: Exploring the spirit world in us

Ver F. Pacete

After my sharing of “Babaylanism” in Bago City, I was approached by a group of enthusiasts asking me how a “babaylan” would connect himself to the spirit within a person or to the spirit who has left the human body?

Our Baltimore Catechism (religion textbook) is teaching us that man is composed of body and soul. After death (separation of body from soul), the body will return to dust but the soul (spirit) will return to the Creator or will have its fate on Judgment Day … hell or heaven. This is complicated because what we cannot fully understand could be attributed to the mystery of our faith. No one can question faith … not even Senator Manny Pacquiao.

In “Babaylanism,” the “babaylan” will explore the world of animism. Animism is a belief of our ancestors that souls are quasi-physical and can exist outside the body (in dreams and in vision). A soul can be transferred from one body to another and persist after death of the body as “multo” (ghost). It may reincarnate in the next life in another form … human, animal or plant.

Animism differs from animatism. Animatism is the basic religious response to external phenomena, the awed recognition of a force in life, other than the individual self, manifested especially in the strange and terrible. This is also interesting because it explores what is beyond the unknown. Knowing that "force" needs strong determination. It is not our concern in this powwow.

Animate or inanimate creatures have “souls” or “life force.” (Forget your religious belief first.) Our ancestors believed in the spirit beings in the environment, deceased ancestral souls, and to forces in nature (wind, moon, stars) which are invoked for help. (That could be seen in my “Legend of Kansilay”.) This makes it clear that central to the tradition of our ancestors, there is that belief for “soul” that is a “life force” and we would like to believe that the belief still persists today.

From the point of view of the “babaylan,” inside the body of a living person dwells the “dungan” (a companion that co-exists). This “dungan” gives life, animation, and sensibilities to a person. It can temporarily leave the body at will (during sleep). It is dangerous for “dungan” to leave the body when the person is awake. The body would become like a robot that runs out of battery.

There is another spirit that resides in a person (same person). We call it “ginhawa” ( breath of life). It is the vital force. If “ginhawa” leaves the person, the body dies. There is no more vital force that would be responsible for the throbbing of the heart and the beating of the pulse. (If you bring the person to the hospital, the doctor will examine him thoroughly and later would say, “Sorry, he is dead.”)

“Ginhawa” and “dungan” should be together. “Ginhawa” provides the vital life force while “dungan” provides the intellect, emotion, and consciousness. We will make it clear. The two entities are there together lodged in one person. “Dungan” can temporarily leave and the person becomes unconscious or semi-conscious as in fainting or dreaming. If “dungan” returns to a person, he becomes fully conscious again.

Is there a possibility that “dungan” cannot return to the body anymore? Yes, if “dungan” is ambushed or harmed by other spirits. If “dungan” does not return, the person dies. “Ginhawa” cannot sustain life without “dungan.” Here is the funny question, “Do the two spirit entities leave the body separately or do they fuse together and depart for their journey in the upper or next world?”

The “babaylan” does not have the specific answer. I would like to believe that they fuse together and leave. That could be the reason why we need the “babaylan” to do ritual for “dungan” to return. A person who has a weak “dungan” should ask the “babaylan” to give him a “batak-dungan” (upgrading).

The “dungan” that does not return (and the body dies) is known as “kalag” (has separated or disentangled). The “babaylan” can help “kalag” in a “patulod,” a rite where a “babaylan’ would usher the soul to proceed to the world of the dead so that the soul will no longer come back and disturb the living as “murto” (ghost).

If the family insists that the soul will be awakened because the wife and the children would want to know where did the father hide his money, a “babaylan” who specializes on “pukaw” (to awaken) rite could be done. The Catholic Church does not approve of this practice.

I hope I enlightened you in my humble way (the way of the ancestors) to know what is behind living a life in the world of animism. Take good care of your “dungan” and “kalag.”