Goddesses, Women’s Spirituality, and Nature

Dear Ones,

The gift was loosely wrapped in soft, crinkly beige tissue. I held it upside down and backwards. Theresa flipped it gently. “It’s a goddess,” she, the giver, said simply.  And so it was. Hand-crafted together from milkweed pods, tiny pine cones, and acorn caps. Theresa had gathered them in Ohio, Illinois, quiet places, or maybe she carried the serenity inside herself, enough to pay attention when beauty appeared at her feet.

Gifts come in many forms, you know? Like time. When Unity Temple’s “Women’s Connections” Retreat asked me to
deliver their keynote, they gave me the gift of time. Two hours to weave together my story as an Asian American writer, the power of stories to heal the world, and to share my passion for the history of babaylans, Filipino women healers. Two hours to listen to ninety women’s voices, a thoughtful and feisty chorus. Their stories and mine moved in and out, attached like an in-breath to an out-breath. Weaving. The two months I had to marinate and ponder the talk helped my understanding deepen about traditional, indigenous Filipino healers. As scholar-performer-oralist Grace Nono reminds us, babaylan are not our past. They are our present. They are modernity and change. Their existence speaks to the vibrance of indigenous Filipino culture that survived colonization. They still fight to protect nature and simply live. Stateside friends, think Standing Rock.

Mother Earth, Inang Mundo, sings her Story. From our feet, grow roots, deep into the loam and the core of the planet. Through our shoes, souls can sprout through soles. We can anchor to the earth and remind ourselves of what is real. Why? Because power-hungry ghosts are trumpeting stories of fear, trying to keep us divided and afraid of each other. It is an old, base, yet effective tactic: Scare people into submission through story.

There is another way. Stories can heal, too. Stories can shine compassion on everyone we’re being told are Bogeymen. Stories can focus on Mother Earth, her generosity, and the need for us to give back to her in thanks and reciprocity. What kind of stories are you choosing to tell? How will you share your gifts?


Mary Grace

3 Things I Love about Filipino Culture Today

Focusing on the light –

At a dinner gathering with Filipino American teachers last night, someone pointed out our community’s lack of representation in the national news – until something shocking happens. (I am paraphrasing the convo.) So, as a counter-balance, I’d like to share 3 things I love about my Filipino culture that make me happy. They may not make the national news, but they make a difference:

🌺 Filipino nurses. Everywhere in hospitals, every day carrying on the tradition of healers. Making America (and many other countries) healthier and helping heal wounds and illnesses.

🌺 Kapwa spirit. The spirit that people are in it together, that we help each other out, that life is not just about yourself but about all of us together. I see this especially in extended families, in the way people help with whatever little money they may have, help in childcare and child-raising, help relatives move, build up homes. I see this in community projects to help the poorest in the community afford wheelchairs, help for victims of typhoons, help empower girls with scholarships, belief, and confidence, help the hungry by providing food.

🌺 OFW’s. Overseas Filipino Workers: the Filipinos on working visas who contribute to the world’s computer industries, software development, medical field, domestic services, and hospitality industries. They sacrifice to send money back to their families, often at great personal risk, with tremendous work-ethic.

🌺 All right, a 4th: I don’t know the name for it but my friend Denise Nacu calls it “welcoming”. There’s a Filipino way of welcoming people at the door, at its best a kind of warmth. You know you’ll be fed, brought into the fold, accepted. Yes, we ask you to take your shoes off at the door – and then we feed you as we all make kuwento, share stories and bask in laughter and the joy of togetherness (pakikisama).

– Mary Grace


Moon Phases


That moment when you calculate the moon phases in 1521 and can now reckon time precisely in the world of your novel. Kilat-kilat, the time when the moon is a flash of lightning. Ah, twenty-first century tech meets the precolonial Philippines!