By S. Lily Mendoza (right), from Paula Miranda’s Pinay Protrait Project
I am a native of San Fernando, Pampanga in Central Luzon, Philippines. I grew up in the small barrio of Teopaco next door to calesa drivers with their handsome horses and their backyard stables. I shared with my five siblings duties feeding pigs and raising chickens and collecting horse manure for fertilizing our small family garden. Although I grew up colonized (tutored by American missionaries and Peace Corps Volunteers and Filipino teachers who taught strictly in English), I retain memories of sitting at my Apu Sinang’s feet listening to her tell stories as I strung fragrant sampaguita leis or as I watched with fascination as she prepared her betel nut chew, breaking open the nut and sprinkling shell lime on the meat, then rolling the concoction in betel pepper leaf before putting the bite-size pouch into her mouth for chewing. Then there were the home deliveries of fresh milk in unbranded glass bottles that you handed back when the milkman came back around, and the early morning toot-toot announcing the arrival of Apay Tinapay on his bike, the hot pandesal vendor, who magically kept the fresh-baked buns steaming hot in his big newspaper-insulated basket hanging by the side of his bike. Continue reading
By Lily Mendoza, from “Healing Historical Trauma: Ethnoautobiography as Decolonizing Practice,” a talk delivered at the Graduate Center, University of Pretoria, August 16, 2016:
Indeed, there is hope in remembering that for the majority of our time on the planet, we have lived very differently than we do today. We did not make war a way of life; we did not treat the Earth as mere resource to do with as we please; we did not deem ourselves the most important creatures on the planet; we did not always enslave; we did not take more than we needed and without giving back; we did not build businesses out of imprisoning huge numbers of our population, or out of producing weapons of mass destruction or psychotropic drugs meant to numb our pain and boredom; we did not take over every square inch of land driving every other species out their habitat and into extinction, etc. In other words, if, for the majority of our life on the planet, we did not do any of these things—i.e., we did not rape, pillage, and plunder—surely we can stop doing so again and start desiring and working for a different way to live on our shared planet? Continue reading
Excerpt from Lily Mendoza’s keynote at the recently concluded Third International Babaylan Conference held in the Unceded Coast Salish Territories, Vancouver, Canada:
This is what we’re doing when we come together in this way, and in our respective local communities, when, in ritual and ceremony, we ask help from our Ancestors to joggle our memories so we can remember once more how to live on the earth in a good way, in order that we, as a people seeking to rekindle our Indigenous Souls can remember once more the Original Instructions that every natural people has lived by for hundreds of thousands of years. What we’re doing, often in fumbling, bumbling, and groping ways–in the process inevitably making many mistakes–is striving to create cultures capable of sprouting seeds of vitality worthy of feeding a time beyond our own, cultures that could not be designed by humans using the imperial mind. In other words, they could not be grown by us simply upping and leaving our cities and current places for a hoped for new life among our indigenous kin (Empire is there, too!). Continue reading
From our interview with Dr. Lily Mendoza, the author (with her sister Leny) of Back From the Crocodile’s Belly (2013):
For me, the challenge of decolonization and re-indigenization demands a giving up of all forms of supremacy, including that of Christian supremacy—the claim to having the one right formula, the ultimate trump card, the final word. I know of many Christians who struggle with the notion that the Christian story is only one story among many. But I am all too familiar with the damaging effects of the more typical insistence that the Christian story is the only true one—no matter the attempts to wrap it in benevolent and compassionate missionary work. Can Christians engage with others on equal ground without pulling out the trump card in the end? Can they give up the trump card altogether?
S. Lily Mendoza is a native of San Fernando, Pampanga in Central Luzon, Philippines. Lily is especially known in the Philippines and beyond for her pathbreaking work on indigenization and indigenous studies. She is a scholar and associate professor of Culture and Communication at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.
RD: What is the crocodile’s belly? Where does the title come from?
LM: I don’t know if I should even dare tell you what our original title was. But it was Towards a Postcolonial Indigeneity: Babaylanism as Critical Pedagogy for Diasporic Struggles (laughter). Continue reading