Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Importance of Worship

Worship, as defined in Wikipedia is "an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated leader."

In the Philippines, being a predominantly Christian country, expresses worship in colorful, festive and sometimes painful way. There are a lot of festivals that honors specific saints in different parts of the country and these usually include eating, dancing and merry making. Most of the festivals that we are celebrating however, hides the real history and background of the celebration. Most of the festivals we have here in the country, be it a celebration of harvest or of tribes, stemmed from a more animistic celebration that were masked by a mantle of Catholicism. These festivals are accepted religious feasts and people often forget that these are centered in nature worship and as such, are Pagan.

There are a lot of Pagans in the country that I have known, met and talked to who are religious. Most however, are practical Pagans. Now what is a practical Pagan?

For me, a practical Pagan is a person who follows Paganism, uses spells and incantations for practical, day to day use. These are people who view Paganism as a practice and would use magick to bring about changes the way they see fit. They may call on the assistance of any Divine being they see useful for a specific spell, or ritual. Most of these Pagans are Duotheistic and would view all the Gods/Goddess as the same being regardless of the Pantheon or Mythos they came from. In this kind of belief system, they would call to Aphrodite for a love spells, Ceres for bounty, Hekate for Power, etc. Most of them would worship the Goddess or the God in all Their forms and that gives an impression sometimes that they are being less religious.

The other Pagan profile that I noticed in the country are those Pagans who devote themselves to a specific God or Goddess. Some even devote themselves to a couple or more specific Gods or Goddess. Most of these types of Pagans are either Polytheistic and believe that different Gods and Goddesses are individual entities that needs worship and veneration. They would work and grow with these Divine Beings and they would devote a lot of time and effort just to be close with Them.

What is the importance of worship? Worship is an integral part of a Pagan's life. Devoting your life and time to the Divine being who calls you creates very strong connection. An intimate connection with a specific Divine being would most of the time makes working with Them easier. I always view the Divine as a member of the family (a Sister, Mother, Grandmother, brother, Father or Grandfather). Unlike working with the deity that you haven't connected with, the Goddess and God that is familiar with you would easily respond to you once you ask for help. Calling a being that you haven't worked with yet, or you're unfamiliar with is like knocking on the door of a house, asking to come in. If you have not been working with the specific God or Goddess whose door who are knocking on, what do you think will be the response?

Worship is very important in the practice of the Craft. It strengthens the connection of the witch to the Divine and it makes the rites and the rituals easier. As a Priest or Priestess of a specific Divine being, the protection of the Gods extend to you. You will become an extension of that God's power.

How is your connection with the Divine? How are you as a witch and a priest/priestess?

Religion by Charles Sprague Pearce (1896)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Veil is Parting, Samhain is coming.

In the Pagan world, this time of the year marks the coming of the new year. Samhain, the old Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season. In modern times, Pagans and Wiccans celebrate Samhain as a religious holiday. It marks as the Pagan New Year and is considered as one of the most sacred festival in the Wheel of the Year.

What is the significance of a Celtic celebration in the life of a Filipino Pagan?
As all of the celebrations on the Wheel, even though that this celebration did not originate from our country, Samhain has a similar celebration in almost all cultures in the world. In Mexico, they celebrate it as Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) which also starts on October 31 and ends on November 2. In the Philippines, we observe this celebration as All Saints and All Soul's Day, which primarily centers with the veneration of the dead. As a liminal celebration, it is believed that during this time, the veil that divides the world of the living and the realm of the spirits are at its thinnest. Therefore it is believed that the spirits can easily pass through this curtain and visit the living.

As a "Paganong Pilipino", I celebrate Samhain and it is for me, the most important of the four Greater Sabbats. Though the practice that we have here in the Philippines is very different from the last harvest of the year celebration of our Western brethren, we still follow the most important thing celebrated during this feast- the honoring of our dead loved ones.

In the days prior to Samhain, people who are sensitive to the other worlds may feel a little bit different. Some might already be visited by their dead loved ones and may appear to them in dreams. The realm of the Fairy or what we call Engkantos are also nearest to the realm of the living. Similar in England, where some person who mistakenly stepped on a Fairy Ring get transported to the realm of the Shining ones, we have some similar accounts here in the country where people might see a very shiny mansion in a lonely road only to discover that it was a big tree in the morning. Some might even be successful to be invited in this lavish dinner that these folks were giving only to discover that the black rice seem to be moving or wriggling. In the English lore, when someone who successfully crossed fails to return before midnight (or in some the first rays of sun shine), they will be trapped in the realm of the faeries. In the Filipino folklore, when someone eats food in the engkantado's banquet, they wont be able to return, leaving their family see their dead body who is actually a banana trunk. In order for the body to return, the family should lift the "corpse" and let it pass through a window.

As most of the "Filipinized" celebrations that we get from Western Pagan and Wiccan practices, we included some of our cultural observances in the rites of Samhain. In our previous celebrations, we made sure that Filipino "All Souls Day" activities were also done- like the offering of kakan
in, tabako, anisado or vino. We also do the tracing of the bloodline where we honor all our relative who passed on.

In the coming days, the veil will become thinner and will culminate to its parting on the 31st of October. I want to greet all our Pagan brothers and sisters a Blessed Samhain.

- pictures from the internet-

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ang Paganong Filipino (The Filipino Pagan)

What is the definition of a Filipino Pagan or a Paganong Pilipino?

This has been a source of discourse among the many yet divided Philippine Pagan and Wiccan groups. In my more than 20 years of observing, founding and assisting some of the groups here in the Philippines, this has been a topic that was still not resolved even until today.

True there are a lot of groups here in the country that would claim that they're Pagans even when they do not fit in the accepted definition of a Pagan. Now, what is a Pagan?

As defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary, a Pagan is a heathen, especially a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome). While defines a Pagan as a member of a religious, spiritual, or cultural community based on the worship of nature or the earth; a neopagan. I

In both definitions, we can agree (possibly) that a Pagan is a person who is number one, a follower of a Polytheistic (Believes in many Gods) and is a member of a religious, spiritual or cultural community that worships nature or the earth. In all the known magicko-spiritual religions or practices here in the Philippines what can be considered Pagan?

First, lets visit LNK or Lihim na Karunungan. This practice includes the use of oraciones, anting-anting, Sacred Names and libretas with Latin Invocations. Observing the practitioners of LNK, some of them would call it Kabbalah or Filipino Kabbalah, the practice is rooted on the Jewish/Catholic beliefs. The Name of God is often used in its rites along with angels, saints, the Virgin Mary and the Diyos Ama. Does LNK fit the umbrella of Paganism?

If we based it on the definitions given, LNK/Filipino Kabbalah cannot be considered Pagan. Some of the LNK Practitioners are even unhappy if someone calls them a Pagan. To them, their magick is a form of Theurgy and therefore High Magick.

The next practice we will visit is Babaylanismo (I categorize this under Philippine Shamanic Practices, which also include other culturally centered "religion" in the country) . This is one of the pre-Hispanic practices that the Philippines has, although, some of the known Babaylans now use a mixture of animistic practices and LNK. The original practice of Babaylanismo is really animistic and they practice the reverence of the ancestors and Gods. Some of the tribes in the highlands still maintain this type of practice and would still honor the anitos and the Diwata. The Philippines also has a lot of Gods and Goddesses in our mythology and each Tribe has their own set of Gods. As Babaylanismo believes in the existence of multiple deities and harvest and the earth is also a big part of its practices, I could clearly say that it is Pagan.

The Western Religions in the Philippines. The Filipinos, being one of the most adaptable people in the world, also adopted a few Western religions and practices. The first and the most common is Wicca. Wicca is of course both a Polytheistic and a nature/earth based religion so it qualifies as Pagan. There are still a few religions from the west that are being practiced here. But for me, as long as they meet the criteria of being polytheistic and worships the earth and nature, then they are Pagan.

Now what is a "Paganong Pinoy"? We have cleared the definition of a Pagan and now lets define a Filipino Pagan. We can say that a Filipino Pagan is a Pinoy practicing Paganism in the Philippines. They might be someone who practicing an adopted Western Pagan Tradition or Philippine Shamanism. They might also be Filipinos who practices their very own Family Tradition.

We can continue to improve and define the Filipino Pagan as we go along the Path.


from the internet-

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Concepts of Unity and Autonomy

For the past 20 years that I am with the community of Pagans here in the Philippines, there were a few instances that there were attempts to create an organization to unite the Pagans in the country. In the few times that we have tried to unite the groups, we are always faced with difficulty in making these groups agree to a common goal. There was also the question of who should "lead" the organization and in a group where everyone is supposed to be a "high priest or priestess and an expert", this one is always a challenge.

The question that I want to ask to all Pagans and all the groups that they belong to, would you guys want to unite and share everything with each other or stand on your own and be autonomous.

There are pros and cons to being a part of a group.


1. Sharing of best practices especially with groups with similar traditions
2. Sharing of information among groups and covens
3. Network of Practitioners
4. Training between the groups
5. Standardize the practice


1. Difference in practice might cause a challenge among org members
2. The leadership post
3. Agreeing on the standards- what is accepted and unaccepted
4. Location of gatherings
5. Competition between covens/groups between the organization

The list of pros and cons can go on and on, however, the only thing that we need to remember when we join organizations are the following:

1. Do the goals of the organization align with the goals of your group?
2. Will there be any conflict of interest between your coven/group and the organization?
3. Is it going to be expensive?
4. Do you have some challenge in following the leader of the organization?
5. Are you willing to give up some of your group/coven's autonomy?

Like the one above, the list could also go on and on. Just remember that your Coven/Group comes first and the your members' are always gonna be your first priority.

-photo from the internet-

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Byaheng Norte: A Budget Travel Guide

In this time of my well deserved R&R, I decided to travel to Manila with an original itinerary of having a Manila-Vigan-Banaue-Sagada-Baguio-Manila trip. A friend however encouraged me to drop Vigan since this Ilocandia trip deserves a whole 3-day trip (at least) on its own. I took advantage of a seat sale of Cebu Pacific from Davao on my way to Manila and my Get Go points. The trip cost me more than 7K points which I exchanged to my Manila-Davao trip.

Upon arrival in Manila, we started our trip to Banaue by riding a Ohayami bus in Espana, Manila. The trip lasted for 10 hours (more or less) and we paid around PHP 470.00 pesos. We took the 9PM trip and we arrived in Banaue around 8AM. Upon arriving at the terminal, you can take vans to Sagada which leaves around 10 or 11AM. The local tourism people will collect PHP 20.00 for their environmental fee. We paid PHP 200.00 for the trike which took us to four view points which showcased the beauty of the rice terraces. There are also a lot of souvenir shops around where you can buy souvenirs like key chains, bonnets, etc. You can see the terraces rom different angles between these four view points. There are also statues of rice gods or Bul-ol in the local language around the area and you can also see Ifugao's in their traditional garbs that you can take your pictures with a small donation.

The vans to Sagada costs around PHP 350.00 and they will also drop you off in one of the view points where you can take pictures of the terraces. The entire trip lasts for four hours. It is better to travel in large group when you ride the van because they will try to make sure that the van has enough passengers before it leaves. We stayed and waited for a couple of hours as the driver tries to look for more passengers. We left Banaue around 10AM and we arrived Sagada around 2PM.

 On our way to Sagada, we saw a lot of beautiful sceneries. The air is also becoming very cold as we wiggle our way up to the mountains. Upon reaching Sagada, you can really feel that the air is very fresh. You need to register at the Tourism office and pay PHP 35.00. Make sure that you bring the receipt anywhere you go since they  would ask to see it in all the tourist spots you will visit. There are a lot of places to stay in Sagada which ranges from PHP 250.00 to PHP 350.00 per head in a dorm type room. We stayed in Residential Inn where we paid  PHP 300.00/head. The rooms are neat and clean and they also provide an endless serving of brewed coffee at the lobby.  That afternoon, we visited the Anglican Church- Church of St. Mary, the Virgin which has a unique architecture. The church is also near the entrance of the Echo Valley.
 Our first day in Sagada started really early. We took a van to Kiltepan Peak around 5:30 AM to see the sunrise. By the way, Vans in Sagada costs PHP 500.00 per location. This is okay if there's a lot of you. You can rent the van for one day at PHP 2,200.00 (You may inquire at the front desk of Residential Inn). The place has its own restaurant which opens if there are campers in the area, however, you can buy food and some other stuff from vendors who sell their stuff near the viewing area. Kiltepan peak is breathtaking, you can see a valley with a rice terraces. It's nice to see a sea of clouds roll in at the same time the first light of the sun reek through the mountains. It is truly a sight to behold.

 There are a lot of restaurants in Sagada which sells a variety of food. We had our breakfast at Bana's Cafe which sells really nice Chicken Masala (PHP 250.00 good for 2) They also sell Civet coffee if you are into it. The place also has big serving of food which is usually good for 2 people.

After our breakfast, we took the van to St. Mary's the Virgin Church. The place is the start of the Echo Valley trail. They wouldn't let you in though without a guide (all the places in Sagada need a guide, or else they will not let you in). There are three types of Echo Valley walking tours. The highlight is a three hour tour starting from the Echo Valley, to the Hanging Coffins, the Underground River and ending at Bok-ong Falls. This Adventure Trail costs PHP 1,000.00  for 10 people or less. If you wouldn't want to enter the Sagada Underground River, the Eco-Tour cost is PHP 600.00. If you would like to just have the 45-min tour of going from the Echo Valley, the Hanging Coffins nd back for PHP 200.00. During this tour, we got an excellent guide named Sotero Gau, who gave us backgrounds on Traditional Ifugao beliefs and funeral practices. You can get him by asking the front desk of the Residential Inn.

The Adventure Trail starts with a trail to the Echo Valley. Upon trekking down the mountain, you can see the Sagada hanging coffins which traditionally held the Ifugao deceased relatives. However, this practice as been stopped and the last body was traditionally buried last 2012. After the area of the coffins, we trekked through the forest where you can see a lot of coffee growing at the side of trail. We climbed some rocks, crossed some rivers until we reached the entrance of the Sagada Underground River. You can see a lot of stone people (Stack of Stones believed to house the stone spirits) at the entrance of the cave. The cave is pitch black so you need to bring some flash light. The water is also ice cold and the stones slippery so you need to be very careful. After the trek in the dark, we found ourselves walking along the river leading to some farmlands and ending at Bok-ong Falls which has a naturally formed pool. The water is also ice cold in this pool so better bring a towel and a change of clothes. We started the tour at 8:30 AM and ended it around 12 Noon. We had lunch at Yoghurt House which sells, what do you know, yogurt. I'll suggest the strawberry, granola and banana yogurt. They also sell things like chicken curry, fried rice with traditional smoked ham called etag and pasta. Food is expensive though.

 The Sagada Hanging Coffins

 The Stone People - I made at the entrance of the Sagada Underground River

 The Sagada Underground River Trail

 The Echo Valley Trail

 The Underground River Trail

  Bok-ong Falls

  The afternoon part of the tour was a trip to Sumaging Cave. There are also different types of caving trips that you can try. There is the cave connection which costs PHP 400.00 per person (minimum of two) for a 40-minute walk from the Lumiang cave entrance to Dukiw Hanging Coffins exiting to the Sumaging Cave. We took the Short Course Caving at the Sumaging Cave. Before the 1 and a half hour expedition in the cave, we passed by the Lumiang caves and rode the van to the entrance of Sumaging cave. The cave has very slippery stones and we need to sit and climb the stones. There were a lot of rock formations inside the cave where our guide Kuya Sotero lighted the way with a petromax. There were some rappelling, climbing the rocks using ropes. The place is very dark and you also need to have those plastic pouches where you can put your phone to protect it from water. You can buy it at the stores found at cave's entrance for PHP 100.00.

 The Coffins from the Lumiang Cave

One of the Rock formations inside the Sumaging Cave

We ended our day with a trip to see the sunset at Danum Lake. However, since it was rainy, the lake can't be seen because of the thick blanket of fog. We also dropped by Sagada pottery which was at that time was already closed, so we took some pictures and head back to our Inn. We had dinner at Pinikpikan Haus where they served Pinikpikan, a traditional Ifugao chicken dish served with a slice of Etag. They sell it for around PHP 150.00 per bowl. The soup is sour and smokey and the etag is also salty, but I like it anyway.

 We left Sagada for Baguio the next day around 10 AM and arrived at 4PM. I loitered around Burnham Park and went to Rainbow Barracks where I got a free HIV test (got negative). After spending time with the rainbow gang, we travelled back to Manila around 3 AM and arrived 10 AM just in time for the Manila Pride March at 4PM.

The Byaheng Norte has a lot of first. My first time to travel to Banaue, Sagada, Benguet and my first time to come back to Baguio after 13 years. First time to have my HIV test, first time to do my Pride March. I spent less than 10K on this trip, but the experience was priceless.

Before ending this story here are the things you need to remember when you are in Sagada.

1. Travel as a large group, this would save you money. Van and Guide fees can be split among the group. Trekking usually allow 10 people while Caving limits to 4 people per group.

2. If it's just you and your forever, then talk to people in the van or on the bus. Or just people that you meet on the road or your accommodation. It will be very expensive if it's just both you.

3. Respect sacred sites and rites in the area. If you see some rites or rituals, ask permission before you snap a photo.

4. Caves are always dark, wet and slippery so prepare your gears. Waterproof pouches is a must as well as a change of clothes. Avoid bringing bulky DSLR cameras inside the caves. You will be required to crawl, climb, crouch and your doing this while you're getting wet. ;)

5. Mind your trash. Do not just throw your litter everywhere.

6. Bring the Environmental Fee receipt wherever you go.

7. You need guides everywhere. Except in Kiltepan at sunrise and the sunset at Danum Lake.

That's all.

More pictures on my FB Account: