Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Shadow Dancer Retrieves Herself

The storytelling tradition is one of the many cherished shards that that make up the rich mosaic of my heritage. I’ve been blessed to know those who came before me and have been afforded the chance to be an active participant in the continuation of the old ways. My yewyah (grandma) is definitely a master storyteller, and some of my keenest memories as a child were that of sitting at her knee, and listening to her recount the tales of diwatas, sirenas, agta…otherworldly beings that while seemingly whimsical at first hear, are really an observation of the nature of man and the world he inhabits. Fate. Destiny. Choice.

I don’t think I really appreciated the significance of folklore until much later, when I was in the throes of that inevitable “finding yourself” stage. Truth be told, as soon as I grew out of the Disney princess stage, I began to examine folklore from a harsh academic’s eyes. I was that type of academic who believed in proof and abided by statistics and probabilities rather than simply believing. In other words, I was a jaded government concentrator who believed that everything worth something must hold up well to scrutiny. I saw folklore, culture, and traditions as scholarly things, rather than as living things that are a part of people…and in turn, are shaped by people and their beliefs to help form their identity.

That all changed when I had to fulfill some of my core requirements outside my concentration. One of the requirements for that course was to compile a folklore collection by interviewing people. I first approached the assignment with a grain of salt; I figured I could just talk to some of my family and friends and type everything verbatim. Easy enough. What I didn’t expect was for the assignment to put into words and bring back into being the dormant native child that I once was. As I collected creation myths, tales of the first pineapple, and the like, I began to realize that I didn’t need to find myself; I just needed to retrieve myself.

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We must never permit the voice of humanity
within us to be silenced. It is Man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him a Man.

--Albert Schweitzer

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

--Viktor E. Frankl