Investigative Statement: In Defense of the Culture Keepers, An Examination of Utang Na Loob, and An Examination of Filipino Protocol

Procession of a New Ancestor To His Final Resting Place, Bacnotan, La Union, circa 1968
Image: “Procession of a New Ancestor To Her Final Resting Place,” in memory of Isabel Corpuz Orejudos, “Lola Sabel,” Bacnotan, La Union, 1972, posted with permission from the granddaughter of Lola Sabel.
*As of June 4, 2021, details of the photograph above have been updated to reflect that the funeral procession was that of Isabel Corpuz Orejudos, my great-grandmother “Lola Sabel,” in June 1972, born 1889 during Spanish rule. (The previously thought of funeral was Paulino Corpuz Orejudos who was Isabel’s son and passed away before his mother.) It was wet season AKA typhoon season. 
In order to attend Lola Sabel’s funeral, my parents (newlyweds and new parents then) along with my Great-Uncle Jo and Lola Fely initially traveled by bus from Quezon City, but abruptly had to travel the rest of the way by foot when they arrived in Pangasinan as a typhoon had destroyed the Agat Bridge (now known as the Bued Bridge as of 1995) over the Bued River connecting Sison, Pangasinan to Rosario, La Union. They, along with about 20 bus passengers, hiked 8 to 10 km barefoot to get to a footbridge to cross the river on a mountain pass from Pangasinan to La Union. The trails were severely muddy that one had to hike barefoot or risk losing your shoes in the slippery wet mud, like butter. The 1972 Pacific typhoon season was an above average record-breaking season, producing 31 tropical storms, 24 typhoons and 2 intense typhoons. Unlike other typhoon seasons that run half the year, the Pacific typhoon season ran year-round in 1972—from January 4 to December 21. My family’s determination to attend our matriarch’s funeral in the midst of typhoon season, in spite of a major collapsed bridge, says so much about us.
Thank you to the Orejudos women—my mother and two aunties—who verified and confirmed the photograph. Some inconsistency remains whether the picture was taken in June or August, though considering typhoon season was all year round that record-breaking year, it’s understandable if 1972 felt like one big incessant typhoon. This personal history had never been written down, which is part of a larger oral Climate Change history we know so little of. Truly, the matriarchal ancestor, Great-Lola Sabel is speaking.
Photograph posted with acknowledgment from the Orejudos family.

Vocals by Elsa Valmidiano

penned by the following Aswang Warriors: Trinidad Escobar (born in Bataan but of Waray descent), Morgan Hoffman (of Bisayan descent: Waray and Hiligaynon), Elsa Valmidiano (born in Paranaque but of Ilocano descent), an Aswang Warrior of Ilocano descent, and another Aswang Warrior of Laguna, Kapampangan, Ilocano, and Ilonggo descent, who both choose to remain anonymous at this time

 

I open the space with a healer’s song that I learned when I performed at San Francisco Artists Against Rape and had the song translated into Waray Waray when I volunteered outside of Tacloban at a women’s shelter for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Both Trinidad Escobar and Morgan Hoffman are of Waray descent, so this song is also for them:

We are alive
As the earth is alive
We have the power to create our own freedom
If we have courage, we can be healed
Like the sun we shall rise
If we have courage, we can be healers
Like the sun we shall rise

Kita mga buhi
Sugad han kalibutan nga buhi gihap
May-ada kita gahom para magka may-ada kita kalibrehan
Kun may-ada kita kailob, mabubulong kita
Pareho ha adlaw matindog kita
Kun may-ada kita kailob, pwede kita an magbulong
Pareho ha adlaw matindog kita

It’s been three weeks since the identity of The Aswang Project’s founder, Jordan Clark, shockingly came to light as a white cis man behind the screen, not the Filipino-Canadian man whom we assumed to exist. We want to revisit this issue for various reasons to confirm and also bring a few new concerns to light that have emerged within the past three weeks:

  1. I have received death threats from those who support Jordan Clark. One of the death threats warrants filing a police report. I don’t mention the threats of violence or death threats to incite or inflame any anger or rage aimed toward the Filipino detractors who support Jordan Clark. Rather, I hope this shows what kind of following Jordan Clark encourages. While the personal statement is penned by me alone, the collective and collaborative statements were penned by a collective of Pinays, specifically the Aswang Warriors, and so we take it very personally that the threats of violence and death threats are not only aimed at me but my fellow Pinays who assisted me in penning these statements, and whom we are fiercely loyal and protective of each other.
  2. Evidence has surfaced of Jordan Clark not being transparent of his whiteness in an introductory 2019 email to an inquiring Filipina about her ancestral origins, where he poses as a Filipino qualified to make determinations about our babaylan practices. Evidence of the email is penned by Jordan Clark himself and provided below in a time-stamped and date-stamped email correspondence provided with permission and courtesy of Morgan Hoffman, the recipient of aforementioned email.
  3. While the narrative belongs to us, there is also a significant cultural value that we Filipinos in the Motherland and the Diaspora must address with regards to this continued deference toward Jordan Clark, and that is utang na loob.
  4. Jordan Clark likes to pride his white Canadian male self (or when we still thought he was Filipino) on his making of an Aswang documentary with “the simple answer is because nobody else did.” Why did a Canadian make an ASWANG documentary_ • THE ASWANG PROJECT. This current investigative statement aims to show and uplift the work of Filipino creators and Culture Keepers who have been doing this work well without him. 
  5. Any and all Filipina/o/x individuals who are mentioned in this statement have been contacted as a matter of courtesy regarding the publication of this Investigative Statement. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Aswang Warriors except as factual references.
  6. This is the last statement regarding The Aswang Project that will be posted by Elsa Valmidiano.

I. Evidence has surfaced of Jordan Clark not being transparent of his whiteness in an introductory email to an inquiring Filipina about her ancestral origins, where he poses as a Filipino qualified to make determinations about our babaylan practices.

To begin, courtesy of Morgan Hoffman, a Pinay of dual heritage and is of Visayan descent (specifically Bisayan: Waray and Hiligaynon) through her father who also has an Anglo surname, Ms. Hoffman has permitted us to show an email penned by Jordan Clark himself. It is provided here as stark evidence when Ms. Hoffman had reached out to The Aswang Project for ancestral guidance. Please note that personal/sensitive content regarding Ms. Hoffman has been redacted for her safety and privacy. Jordan Clark’s reply email remains unredacted and complete:

Morgan Hoffman email screenshot 1Morgan Hoffman email screenshot 2Morgan Hoffman email screenshot 3

As revealed in the email thread, Ms. Hoffman was forthcoming about her own Pinay identity whereas Jordan Clark noticeably withheld his own white last name but simply signed the email, “Jordan.” In Ms. Hoffman’s words, “I reached out trying to connect to a fellow Pilipino to get guidance in a vulnerable time. He and his platform presented as an authority on my culture and yet he never once clarified that he wasn’t who he presented as.” It is not unreasonable for anyone to have assumed how the tone of his message carried a Filipino authoritative stance on the subject matter of Filipino shamanism. To add insult to injury 2 years after the email was originally sent, Ms. Hoffman was shocked to find that in fact, a white man was behind that unqualified opinion.

As his true identity as a white man was publicly exposed on May 11, 2021, Ms. Hoffman now understands Jordan Clark was never in a position of authority to issue such a statement to her in 2019. He immediately should’ve recused himself on the topic.

While Jordan Clark referred Ms. Hoffman to Back from the Crocodile’s Belly: Philippine Babaylan Studies and the Struggle for Indigenous Memory, he finishes the recommendation with an unqualified opinion regarding “modern babaylan workshops or healing retreats,” which he labels, “a disclaimer.” Jordan Clark could’ve graciously ended his disclaimer with, “I don’t have any affiliation with them,” but instead he proceeds as if he were a valid Filipino authority on the matter when in fact he was a white man all along, telling Ms. Hoffman, “[I] don’t agree with any modern babaylan workshops or healing retreats organized by them.”

As Jordan Clark prefaces his conclusion: “I’m not saying they are not helpful or useful,” the language reflects gaslighting as he concludes: “it is simply something I don’t agree with from a historical and cultural standpoint,” when it is absolutely not his place as a white man to make such a determination.

Very similarly, Bea Hayward—who helped pen the two previous statements (Collective and Collaborative) and who also is of dual heritage: a transgender Ilocana through her mother from Isabela and Ilocos Norte but with an Anglo surname—also believed Jordan Clark had the same dual heritage as herself. Both Ms. Hayward and Ms. Hoffman—Pinay women of dual heritage with Anglo surnames—were under the same impression regarding Jordan Clark’s ethnic identity who instead of clarifying his whiteness when the opportunity presented itself, operated on the assumption that he was of Filipino descent through his silence.

What makes Ms. Hoffman’s email correspondence compelling is that she is forthcoming about her ancestral Filipino origins from the get-go and believed whomever she was emailing must also be of similar descent as the name “The Aswang Project” touches upon something unique to our culture. Her use of Tagalog greetings indicates her assumption that she is speaking to someone of Filipino descent and would understand these Filipino greetings: “Magandang Gabi and Kamusta ka.” In his reply, he isn’t transparent about his whiteness where he simply should’ve gotten it out of the way and said, “I am white, not Filipino,” but he never does. He remains silent about his ethnicity, and only signs with “Jordan,” last name withheld.

Here was Ms. Hoffman, a Filipino woman who was transparent with her own announcement of her Visayan origins, an action that is inherently Filipino. May everyone be reminded that this was an introductory email from Ms. Hoffman who was forthcoming about her dual heritage from the very beginning. Jordan Clark had the same opportunity in return to be forthcoming about his race in his reply. But he never was. He hid himself from the very beginning: (1) last name withheld (2) no clues given as to his 100% white identity. Also a screenshot of his original bio on The Aswang Project website from May 9, 2021 reveals his racially ambiguous bio, not the one he extensively doctored up as of May 12, 2021 when his cover was finally blown that he was a white man.

Screen Shot 2021-05-09 at 12.37.47 PM
Screen Shot taken May 9, 2021 at 12:37 PM at 47 seconds (above)
Screen Shot 2021-05-12 at 3.38.48 AM
Screen Shot taken May 12, 2021 at 3:38 AM at 48 seconds (above)

Ms. Hoffman’s email correspondence is significant as we can only guess how many other inquiring Filipino members of our community reached out to Jordan Clark regarding a specific Filipino issue and at the time believed they were receiving a qualified response from a Filipino man.

As a side note to Jordan Clark’s book recommendation, he also gets the names of the authors completely wrong. He fuses the authors’ names as if it were one person: “Lily Mendoza Strobel,” when the book is authored by two Filipina sisters: S. Lily Mendoza and Leny Mendoza Strobel.

S. Lily Mendoza and Leny Mendoza Strobel have a list of accolades and extensive academic and lived experiences who do their best to pay homage to indigenous Babaylan and also pay cross-cultural homage to the healers and shamans of indigenous communities in colonized lands. Jordan Clark has nothing to compare. Jordan Clark is (1) a white man who bases his opinions predominantly on the historical documentation of predominantly dead white authors and a smattering of published Filipino sources, and (2) his lack of lived experiences as a white man where he mentions a Pinay wife does not give him authority or license to speak on our behalf as Filipinos. Jordan Clark not only lacks the academic credentials, not that that is necessary, but he lacks the understanding and experience of how Oral Tradition in our people is just as valuable if not more than the academic research itself.

As for Jordan Clark’s opposition to modern babaylan workshops or healing retreats, a shaman/healer worth noting in the Filipino Diaspora is Lyn Pacificar, a Katuuran and Albularyo of Visayan descent.

As seen in a 2015 Kababayan Today interview with Lyn Pacificar and Virgil Apostol (Virgil Mayor Apostol is a Manghihilot of Ilocano descent and author of Way of the Ancient Healer (North Atlantic Books)), even Ms. Pacificar humbly admits that she does not think herself worthy of being called a Babaylan as she is not trained by an indigenous Babaylan from our Motherland, though she still practices given our present-day conditions in the United States as a Filipina of the Diaspora (specific comments by Ms. Pacificar appear at 5 minutes and 10 seconds of the video). Ms. Pacificar pays great respect to the indigenous Babaylan and does not choose to diminish their sacred title by naming herself as one, though she has proven to be a trusted katuuran and albularyo in the community with her present day practice and spiritual healing practices passed down from her Visayan ancestors.

Kababayan Today Interview with Virgil Mayor Apostol and Lyn Pacificar 2015
The Ancient Philippine Traditions of Manghihilot & Babaylan: Interview with Virgil Mayor Apostol & Lyn Pacificar discussing the ways in which the ancient Philippine traditions of healing are applied to modern day aches & ailments, Kababayan Today, Original Air Date: September 25, 2015
Kababayan Today Interview with Lyn Pacificar 2015
Pictured above: Kababayan Today Interview with Katuuran and Albularyo of Visayan descent, Lyn Pacificar

My own personal experience as a post-abortion complications care intern in our Motherland introduced me to women whom I interviewed, where some women admitted to hastening their own periods through the Makabuhay plant, Mother Nature’s own “Plan B”—a native plant that some Filipino women have turned to for thousands of years in order to control their fertility through its use to help prevent pregnancy.

Returning to Ms. Hoffman’s email correspondence with Jordan Clark simply shows more evidence of Jordan Clark (1) not being transparent about his whiteness in the past and making someone believe he was Filipino and (2) making unqualified statements as a white authority figure on our modern babaylan practices as he “doesn’t agree from a historical and cultural standpoint,” when the reality is that our shamanic practices are still being practiced today and have been passed down for thousands of years. Jordan Clark fails to see how the lived experiences of our ancestors are passed down to us intergenerationally and are predominantly not written down but remain alive through our constant practice, ritual, physical and spiritual gathering, and Oral Tradition.

II. While the narrative belongs to us, there is also a significant cultural value that we Filipinos in the Motherland and the Diaspora must address with regards to this continued deference to Jordan Clark, and that is utang na loob.

To acquaint some of us, utang means “debt”; loob means “inside” or “deep within.” Utang na loob under a literal Western meaning would then mean “the debt deeply within.” Those who continue to defend Jordan Clark are being shielded by this cultural value of utang na loob, but the utang is being paid to a puti rather than our own community. This cultural value has already been manipulated and misused as we can see within our own families and community members. It’s disturbing to see this being played out by a puti who supposedly has been “promoting” anything Filipino, but actually has been more so taking advantage of the situation in order to financially benefit from us, and also to denigrate our ancestral narrative through his own puti gaze. This cultural value of utang na loob has been used divisively versus to unify us as of late with regards to Jordan Clark.

Wala kang utang na loob.

Wala kang utang na loob is the very thing a benefactor says to a debtor, to remind an ungrateful recipient of a “great kindness” that is owed in return, further making the indebted feel guilty.

For those who feel indebted to Jordan Clark for having promoted their project due to this deeply ingrained practice of utang na loob, utang na loob does not belong to Jordan Clark or anyone outside of our community. For many of us, utang na loob doesn’t even have a name though we are familiar with the cultural practice as we see it through family and community members. Utang na loob has positive aspects where we must respect our ancestors and what they sacrificed for our modern day existence. However, utang na loob has also been manipulated where it has trapped some of us into long-term relationships that require our constant utang regardless of how many times we try to repay one favor.

Jordan Clark paraded around as a Filipino man for years and then put the onus on us as if we should’ve known better to know he was a white man when there is compelling evidence of his own failure to be forthcoming about his whiteness. His deceit does not warrant our utang na loob.

Remember the hard work that got you here—the long hours of research and creativity; the sleepless nights; the family, friends, colleagues, and allies who loved and stood by you to finish your project; and the inspiration of the ancestors buried and embedded in your bones. There is no thanks to Jordan Clark who did one task of “promoting” or being a “consultant” for your work.

As I stated in my Personal Statement with full transparency without naming utang na loob but still operating under its rules, my book, We Are No Longer Babaylan, benefitted from its exposure on The Aswang Project’s social media platforms—none of which I initiated with Jordan Clark as he always initiated contact with me regarding promoting my book on his social media platforms. However, I no longer in good faith could be associated with The Aswang Project when the founder misled me into believing he was Filipino when he was in fact puti. Please see my Personal Statement for my full email correspondence with Jordan Clark where he deceived me to assume he was Filipino. His deception parading as a Filipino man in my correspondence with him does not deserve my utang.

For those who continue to support Jordan Clark because you may think he did you a favor by promoting you, utang na loob is a powerful Filipino cultural value, and Jordan Clark deserves none of it.

III. Highlighting the work of the Culture Keepers.

Because some of our community members continue to feel Jordan Clark is providing a centralized platform about our pre-colonial history and mythology which he’s made his followers believe that no one else is doing, I wanted to particularly highlight the work of Fides Enriquez and Florante Aguilar who head New Art Media, and additionally are artists in many other mediums such as visual art and dance for Ms. Enriquez, and music composition and performance for Mr. Aguilar. Their participation and contribution in filmmaking as a Filipino husband and Filipino wife team has required them to attend press junkets—press releases, advertising campaigns, merchandising, franchising, media and interviews with the cast and crew. They are responsible for the award-winning and acclaimed documentary, Harana (2012).

With regards to the Aswang specifically, Ms. Enriquez and Mr. Aguilar created, wrote, and produced a musical, Aswang, Mga Kwentong Halimaw, where the mythological creatures and ghosts of the Philippines came to life on the stage of the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center in a dramatic, live concert, specifically with the songs sung in Tagalog with English subtitles provided.

Below are video clips of the specific monster or spirit singing on stage:

Kundiman Ng Aswang (Ang Manananggal)
featuring Charmaine Clamor as Manananggal, filmed and recorded live by New Art Media at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center, 2018

Ang Tikbalang
featuring Leon Palad as Tikbalang, filmed and recorded live by New Art Media at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center, 2018

Pagkamatay ni Isagani (Death of Isagani)
featuring Kyle de Ocera as Isagani/Syokoy, filmed and recorded live by New Art Media at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center, 2018

For more information about Aswang, Mga Kwentong Halimaw and a complete playlist of all the songs performed, please visit here.

What’s beautiful and brilliant about Ms. Enriquez and Mr. Aguilar’s adaptation is that the live concert centered the narrative on the creatures and ghosts themselves, giving them agency as they told their own stories. It’s a stunning reflection of our culture through song and Oral Tradition brought to life by our very own Filipino creators. It’s exemplary. Jordan Clark likes to make people think he is the primary source doing the work and consulting regarding our creatures and mythology. He obviously is not, and there are creators who are doing it in much more dynamic ways of our ancestral traditions without him. Ms. Enriquez and Mr. Aguilar have proven to be true Culture Keepers.

Also, according to the social media mythology, Jordan Clark has been a filmmaker as early as 2009, but there are no press junket photos in 12 years. Even if he were to post photos of himself tomorrow with his Pinay wife and Pinay daughter, his failure to show just himself publicly with our community as a filmmaker for the past 12 years is loud and clear. He has none. Jordan Clark may continue to rouse support within our own community, but his constant failure and his own supporters’ failure to provide pictures of himself showing his presence with our people in our community at a film event or as an ally in the Fil Community, says a lot. As of today, no such press junket pictures have been procured or provided.

Ms. Enriquez and Mr. Aguilar whose filmography is supposedly even less than Jordan Clark’s reveals photographs of them at live events with our people and our community, and at numerous press junket events where their appearance is necessary to promote their films as filmmakers. There is no question who this acclaimed husband and wife team are.

As a former activist in the Motherland, I personally understand the fundamental right to safety, privacy, and security to not be exposed. Jordan Clark is not an activist in the Motherland. Jordan Clark identifies himself as a filmmaker in Canada. Even in the off chance that he is in our Motherland, he still is not an investigative journalist or activist that would warrant his anonymity as paramount. If he operates as a filmmaker wherever he is in the world, filmmakers are oftentimes required to attend press junkets to promote their films. Just ask Fides Enriquez and Florante Aguilar of New Art Media, an award-winning Filipino husband and Filipino wife filmmaking team who have showcased their indie film in North America as well as the Motherland and attend press junkets at home and abroad.

Below are a few screenshots of what turns up when you Google images of “Fides Enriquez Florante Aguilar”:

Meanwhile, there is no record or photographs of Jordan Clark at any press junket with our community in the past 12 years. None.

One film festival scheduled in the next couple of weeks is The Diwa Filipino Film Showcase, which is “a community-centered film festival made in cooperation with the annual Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival, celebrating the Filipino Spirit wherever it resides, by exhibiting films from the Philippine islands and beyond.” This year, they are making it online, with films to be screened from June 5 to 30. More information can be found at Diwa Filipino Film Festival. We are confident you will find a film or two that addresses any wonderment you may have about our culture, history, and hey, maybe even the Aswang.

The Diwa Film Showcase logo

IV. Closing and final thoughts.

The proper protocol among Filipino peoples is to announce yourself. Announce where you are from. I am Elsa Valmidiano. I am the daughter of Ilocano immigrants. I was an infant immigrant myself born in Paranaque. My father is from Ilocos Sur. My mother is from La Union.

Jordan Clark’s lack of transparency about not being Filipino and his lack of announcement as a white man, are things he should’ve done from the very beginning to every Filipino who reached out to him personally one-on-one. Jordan Clark knew he was going to be outed as a white man as revelations of his white identity were swirling around social media, so he did what a desperate person does: he outed himself but with an apology claiming innocence, and then placed the burden on the Filipina/o/x community that we should’ve known and that he was always forthcoming about his race. As you will see from the evidence above in the bio screenshots, he was not forthcoming and doctored up his bio to make us think it was always what has been posted.

The fact that so many of us missed the Filipino protocol to announce yourself says something about our own decolonization journey that we have forgotten, ignored, or have forgotten the significance of announcing where we are from.

The fact that Jordan Clark has a wife but does not say where she is from, or where his mother-in-law and father-in-law are from, says something. Even my own white husband knows the basics that I am Ilocano. He would never confuse me as Tagalog or Visayan. It is a huge insult to tell me that I am Tagalog when I am not.

The fact that Jordan Clark hasn’t publicly announced where his wife is from says something. For anyone to say they are from Manila says nothing about them. My parents before immigrating lived in Quezon City and Las Pinas too, and I was born in Paranaque, but those highly urbanized areas do not reflect where my family is ancestrally from. My parents are Ilocano. We all have ancestral roots across the archipelago that we trace even beyond the current urbanized cities of the Motherland that gives us a way of ID’ing each other and defines our relationship to one another.

Usually when I hear of someone who is Ilocano or who has one of my ancestors’ unique last names, the running joke is, “We must be related. What province is your dad from? What province is your mom from? What town is your dad from? What town is your mom from?” These are things we know, and if you don’t know yet, then you should find out. It’s a connection where we are immediately drawn to a place that is glaringly lacking in Jordan Clark’s own wife. For those Filipinos out there, if you don’t know where you are from, you need to ask yourself that. You need to know it. It is Filipino protocol.

Why don’t we know the province(s) where Jordan Clark’s wife is from? We don’t need to know her name even though her last name alone would reveal what region of the Philippines she is from. The archipelago is made up of over seven thousand islands with 108.1 million people. Revealing her ancestral roots would not be a big violation of her privacy.

Announcing your origins is protocol inherent among Filipinos.

Maybe the younger generations do not know this, but if we are to truly decolonize and not become a homogenous Diasporic monolith, we need to always expect and respect this announcement of ancestral origin from each other. It is something we should know, announce, and share with each other.

When speaking with another Filipino person, it is not enough to say, “I was born to Filipino parents.” That statement is obvious. In colloquial terms, “Duh.” The protocol is tribal etiquette and defines our relationship to our culture and to each other.

Kababayan is who we are, a large extended family across the archipelago, and don’t we fight the best with our family.

The fact that it has been mentioned that Jordan Clark goes to the Philippines more than his own Filipina wife, says something about the pass that is given to him as a white man. It reflects the level of access to our own Motherland that Diasporic Filipinos do not have. It reflects the level of access that even Jordan Clark’s own wife does not have. It reflects his level of elitism not just over the Diasporic Filipino people, but his own Pinay wife and Pinay daughter. Even before his cover was blown that he was a white man deceiving most of us into believing he was a Filipino man with his lack of transparency, he had and continues to have the privilege of the puti gaze.

Kababayan are trying to argue that Jordan Clark is inherently a good person who is just “private” and deserves to protect his privacy. They say that he has helped the Filipino/a/x community and justify what he is doing is because he has a Filipina daughter of dual heritage.

The fact stands that the issue here is not just about Jordan Clark.

Why is it that there is awe and fascination when a puti speaks Tagalog as a second language and sings our harana songs, but there is not the same awe and fascination when a Filipino of the Diaspora speaks Tagalog as a second language and sings our harana songs? This same awe, fascination, and joy to be seen by the puti, to be acknowledged by the puti, even in some cases to even look like the puti, says something about us. This feeling that we are suddenly made visible as Filipinos because a puti likes us, likes our mythology, likes our colonial history, likes our Aswang. The Spanish were puti. What Filipinos predominantly know as “American” were also puti or “kano” when we Filipinos of the Diaspora also know we fall under the definition of “American” despite our own American people who do not always see us as American, and despite the rest of the world who do not see us as American.

When I travel abroad with my puti husband, I am always met with the assumption by strangers that I got my citizenship through my puti husband. Strangers abroad, including in my own Motherland, do not stop to think that maybe I could’ve been born in the US, or that I became a naturalized citizen through my immigrant parents during childhood. Those other assumptions are not made. The sole assumption is because I am married to a puti, then that’s how I became a US citizen. But that is not how I became a US citizen. I was naturalized as a US citizen during childhood through my immigrant Ilocano parents.

It is evident that we still largely define ourselves depending on what the puti thinks of us. We have a hard time defining ourselves depending on who we think we are.

This is the most difficult statement as many different truths have been included here and we acknowledge that the truths penned here may not always align with each Aswang Warrior who contributed, but that does not mean that each truth penned here is not valid. Each truth by each Aswang Warrior is considered, seen, and heard.

The way that our people have begun to turn this into rescuing the puti is deeply disturbing. Jordan Clark is not taking into account how damaging it is for our community to internalize a puti’s enthusiasm for our culture as fact. He simply doesn’t have the right to be positioned as some kind of authority. Especially without being transparent about his position as someone puti. It takes away our people’s ability to view the information critically and is a harmful act of deception by omission. The fact he is republishing a book originally written by someone who is puti and is obviously not of our culture is a form of displacing Filipino voices from our cultural consciousness. Internalizing a puti regurgitation of our culture is a soft but gradual self-erasure, and that is terrifying.

To close, we are not a particular fan of lists as they tend to be exclusionary, and so we want to clarify that the Filipina/o/xs whose names and descriptions provided here in this statement are not everyone you need to know but rather a simple introduction to the countless Filipinos in the Diaspora and in the Motherland who are making waves with regards to our Babaylan practices, storytelling, mythology, pre-colonial history, and activism. There is no question as to their identity. They also do not impose their presence as being authority figures but rather show up as an inspiring voice so we may all stand together and show our community involvement and leadership.

If our ancestors survived nearly 400 years of colonization, and yet we are still here with stories, plant medicine, rituals, monsters, and gods that are not written down, that is evidence that their knowledge never died out.

We are here. We are everywhere. We have been doing the work. Do not forget this.

Even if this current generation doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to listen to this statement, it is our hope that future generations do.

Much love and light, always. May the ritual and magic of our Babaylan ancestors always give us strength and always lead us Home.

Maraming salamat. Agyamanak unay. Salamat kaayo. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening.

***

References and articles of interest

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Related articles for cross-reference

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