We Are No Longer Babaylan

Pub. date: November 1, 2020
New Rivers Press | ISBN: 978-0-89823-397-1 | 200 pages

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EDITORS’ CHOICE SELECTION: New Rivers Press 2018 Many Voices Project Prose Competition

A lyrical collection of essays that grapple with identity, family, and femininity, and with the dysphoria of being from a spiritual, matriarchal society in a colonized, patriarchal world.

Through lyrical and experimental prose, We Are No Longer Babaylan explores what happens when mystical and spiritual beliefs of the matriarchal past have been overthrown by patriarchy and colonialism, leaving its legacy of stigma on those descendants of high priestesses, i.e. the Babaylan. Experiences of an immigrant daughter are presented where cultural expectations of obedience, stoicism, and silence are laid bare in her family’s new homeland and where tradition becomes convoluted until it is manipulated and in the worst case, erased. The result is the reimagining of one’s ancestors in a world of descendants who regard ancestral ritual as passé and where the future faces the danger of misunderstanding the past. This collection offers a compelling view in how mystical and spiritual beliefs play a role in healing from trauma, and how we find a way to exist and interact on the personal and community level, given the circumstances of disappearing mystical traditions, particularly replaced by technology and other forms of communication that make it difficult to express oneself on an intimate level. 

PRAISE for We Are No Longer Babaylan

Janice Lobo Sapigao“Every word of We Are No Longer Babaylan brilliantly hooks with and hinges on magic, and the magic of possibility. Valmidiano frames the ancient, persistent pain that hammers and chisels Filipina American knowledge with ritual and unrest. She articulates screams and silences, exalting that in order to engage with the Filipina, female, and storied being is to see her in all of her palimpsests. Her prose about the mysteries of waiting, family in manifold forms, and Pinay friendship, features a heartfelt, phenomenal voice declaring, time and time again, women’s bodies–of writing, of work, of ceremony–theirs to narrate and protect.”

Janice Lobo Sapigao, 2020-2021 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, author of microchips for millions and like a solid to a shadow

Trinidad Escobar

“When a powerful witch promises revenge before being fed to crocodiles and then, hundreds of years into the future, over decades of colonization and occupation, whispers into the ear of a rebellious girl, the ear of her descendant, a book like We Are No Longer Babaylan is born. Elsa Valmidiano uses language like a bolo cutting through hectares of land overgrown with amnesia and myopia. With this collection of critical and graceful stories, we readers are able to see again with such clarity and light. So much light that the shadows lengthen and then retreat again, a continuous ebb and flow of politicized, personal revelation and cultural examination. Many who read this book—from those of generations who remember demons intimately to the younger generations only now recalling their names—will see a kind of summoning of the babaylan we ‘used to be’, an invitation for her to once again stand by our side.”

Trinidad Escobar, graphic novelist, cartoonist, poet, author of CRUSHED

Isobel Francisco

Cover art: Engine by Isobel Francisco
2 x 2 ft (60.96 x 60.96 cm)
oil on canvas

Image of the visual artist, standing before her painting, Costumes, 4 x 8 ft (121.92 x 243.84 cm), oil on canvas, 2017

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