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Sobey’s Address to Kathara Canada – Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society

Sobey’s Address to Kathara Canada

As a Hapa mixed heritage person of color ancestry is something that daunts me and is one of the great mysteries I like to move towards the center of my existence more and more as I move through life. There seems to be a resurgence in interest particularly in Eurocentric cultures in recovering family tree information. It appears the Church has well understood the value of being able to maintain a registry of information of its members but too few families seem to have done this of their own volition. Primarily it seems that the wealthy elite have made sure to maintain the purity of their bloodlines as has been done since ancient times around the world.

I grew up in Toronto, Ontario in a Roman Catholic family and school system. Toronto is an extremely multi-cultural city. I went to Caravan events as a child and was exposed to many cultures and that interest has never left me. I’ve travelled to many lands including the Philippines several times, Korea, the east coast of Canada, alot of the westcoast of North America,some of the midwest, a lot of British Columbia, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and my next journey will be to Europe.

In my case I can trace my ancestral descent back only three years on my mothers side, and not even one on my fathers side as he was adopted. His birth mother refused contact and thus that side is walled other than some possible hints mainly Chinese-American, Acadian (colonists from France), and possible Metis.

My mother was born in Palompon on the island of Leyte. It is famously known as the island where Tacloban is where the super typhoon of 2013 struck without mercy. Thus our ancestors are Visayan, an indigenous culture that was completely assimilated by force in some areas by Spaniard conquistadors.

My mother had an instinctual cultural inclination to ensure my sister and I were exposed to traditional filipino ways when we were growing up. This included Hawaain dancing for my sister (which later I learned share ancestral ties as the colonially named Philippines is not the boundaries of that indigenous set of races), nursery rhymes, and taking us to see performances of both hispanic and pre-hispanic influenced acts.

In my early teens and early 20’s I explored my Chinese roots mainly through martial arts. For some reason this included some Japanese ones including Judo, Karate & Kendo. The Chinese ones I explored were Kung fu & Tai Chi as well as Tai Chi Swordplay. When I was in my early 30’s I discovered Arnis, a filipino martial art. This was connected with the formation of Kathara Canada in Vancouver BC.

I have participated in some performances with Kathara in its early years and here and there in its ten year span. Some memorable moments include representing a n ancestral spirit of the Philippines at a performance in front of 5,000 on Philippine National Independence Day at Canada Place. Also playing the role of a babaylan or shaman in a mythic tale from Mindinao’s Bagobo tribe. I also played the role of the first man in the filipino myth about the creation of the Philippines. Now at age 40 I find myself taking my niece to see Kathara perform with the hopes of interesting her in her cultural roots.

Of course Kathara isn’t performing any Visayan pieces at this point. I’ve mainly seen that done by people in the streets of Cebu City during the annual Sinulog festival that renacts the colonization of the Philippines in that region. This brings up something about the potential future of Kathara. Thus far most of what I have seen of representations of indigenous culture in the Philippines depicts it as exotic entertainment. I know that Kathara has a much more significant purpose behind its work stemming from similar intentions held by the original Kathara Collective led by Boots in Mindinao. First though further background..

In my 20’s I learned through a community workshop on the colonization of the Philippines at the Kalayaan Center in Vancouver. I learned of how the Spaniards had colonized the Philippines by force and coercion, how most of the land was owned by Spanish families even today. I also learned of the American colonization which despite national independence is still a major influence there today.

Only much later did I learn how much genocidal practices of the Spanish had been carried out such as the slaughter of men and raping of indigenous women in order to create the half breed race that predominates in the Philippines of metizos. Only more recently did I piece together how women healers were labeled witches and turned upon by their own people through the influence of the Church.

During the start of my Saturn return around age 27 I had an inadvertant but timely rite of passage journey in 99/2000 in the Philippines which led me to connect much more with the indigenous heritage in me that had been completely assimilated and unspoken of in my upbringing. I was still carrying a lot of rage about colonization of the Philippines which by that point was coupled with my awakening sense of the colonization of Turtle Island, the land of North America that I call home. During that time I encountered through a journey with an indigenous film maker named Auraeus Solito, various tribes in the Palawan region which he was related to. That journey exposed me to the cultural sensitivity involved when making contact with tribes that had limited exposure to outsiders. But those tribes were threatened by resource extraction industry and having witnesses was helpful to them by people who showed concern. After that experience I chanced upon a workshop in Manila titled “The Mystical Destiny of the Philippine Nation” which was facilitated by members of the Anthroposophy Society of Manila. This had a profound influence on me. This gathering brought together Filipino people of all walks of life from farmer to business man. We examined the past, present and future of the Philippines based on its folksoul, it’s collective anthropo including high and low attributes. This workshop gave me a new perspective on what it means to be of Filipino descent. I saw how the suffering of warfare and colonialism are how the human race are slowly learning about becoming a culture of peace. By seeing how low we can go it seems. But the return to innocence or rather the maturity of humankind is a matter of much trial and error and healing the wounds of the past in order to earn the right to be truly free.

Inner Dance- Babaylan revival
Ma’i/ Maharlikan
Polynesian ancestors

Solidarity with local First Nations
Kapwa with local indigenous peoples as Filipinos – shared history and future

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