The Medicalization Of Everyday Life Selected Essays Of Rizal

But in other ways, childbirth is universal ― the pain and joy, the process and the love. We asked the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers, which has members across the globe, for images that reveal a bit about childbirth where they live and work. The 21 photographs here ― with captions from the photographers ― by no means paint a complete picture of labor and delivery across the world, but they do provide a glimpse into what it is like for a mother to have a C-section in Kuwait, or to give birth in rural Nicaragua. These are photos that celebrate the many different traditions that surround childbirth, and the fact that ultimately love is love, no matter where you are. 

Captions have been edited and condensed. 


Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context
Issue 2, May 1999
Baylan, Asog, Transvestism, and Sodomy: Gender, Sexuality and the Sacred in Early Colonial Philippines

Carolyn Brewer

This pagan priest, while offering his infamous sacrifices,
was possessed by the Devil who caused him to make
most ugly grimaces; and he braided his hair, which
for his particular calling he wore long, like a woman.


The Devil ... also chose some effeminate men that they
called Asog in ancient times. Ordinarily they said of
these Asog that they were impotent men and deficient for
the practice of matrimony.


  1. The importance of women to the spiritual wellbeing of the inhabitants of the Philippine archipelago was a recurrent theme in the reports emanating from the quills of missionaries, explorers and administrators alike from the first European contact with Magellan in 1521 and subsequently during the decades following Legaspi's arrival in 1565.[1] However the reports contained references to some men who were also practitioners in the spiritual realm. Viewed through the sixteenth and seventeenth century Hispano/Catholic gaze various representations of these men emerge in relation to their religious roles, linked as they were to cross-dressing, a more permanent effeminate lifestyle and/or ambiguous sexuality.
  2. I begin this paper with a discussion of the importance of gender analysis in understanding the role and status of these male/feminine shamans. I evaluate the sources we have about these men in the light of recent theorising about non-conformist sex/gender roles,[2] and in relation to links between spiritual potency and a possible '"third" sex/gender' as proposed by Leonard Andaya in his thought-provoking paper, 'The Bissu: Study of a Third Gender in Indonesia';[3] Ian Wilson, in 'Reog Ponorogo: Spirituality, Sexuality, and Power in a Javanese Performance Tradition,'[4] Josko Petkovic's, 'Waiting for Karila: Bending Time, Theory and Gender in Java and Bali,'[5] and Ramón Gutiérrez in his exciting text, When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away.[6] I explore the potential of this 'Indonesian' and Pueblo Indian model, that links sex/gender ambiguity or androgyny with spiritual prowess, in relation to examples of male transvestite shamans in the Philippine situation during the first century of Animist/Catholic confrontation.[7] An important aspect of my argument is that I situate the male shamans in relation to their female counterparts and come to the conclusion that the model that creates a link between sex/gender ambiguity or androgyny and spiritual prowess does not fit the Filipino case.
  3. In discussing what the Spanish missionaries wrote about the male shamans of the Tagalog and Visayan areas in the Philippines, discourses of gender, sex and sexuality are blended together in a way that makes their reliance on one another seem normal and 'natural.' For purposes of clarity in this paper I wish to separate them. In the first instance, the focus on gender relations strategically allows for the explicit demarcation between biological categories based on genitalia and reproduction, and socially constructed categories imposed upon a sexed body[8] that are both historically and culturally contingent. As far as analysis of any religious paradigm is concerned, as with all spheres where men and women interact, I contend that it is essential to make gender relationships a tool in the analytical basket to more clearly discern specific links between the construction of gender and social status. However, one of the pitfalls in discussing constructions of gender cross-culturally is that we are, as Peter Jackson laments, limited by distinctions offered by 'the English terms man/woman (denoting sex and/or gender), male/female (denoting only biological sex) and masculine/feminine (denoting only gender).'[9] Even though in the Philippine ethnic groups under discussion these clear-cut distinctions between sex and gender are not always perceived or apparent, because English is the language-tool of this paper, I use the words, male/female, man/woman and masculine/feminine precisely as defined above so as not to confuse the issues under discussion. Whenever possible, indigenous terms are employed.
  4. Within European, monotheistic societies, the dualism inherent in the male/female dichotomy spills over into an unequal gendered power relationship between men and women that Hélène Cixous illustrates as man over woman.[10] However, in Animist, pre-colonial Southeast Asia, gendered categories were differently constituted within discrete cultural settings, which did not necessarily result in the advantage[11] to the male that Cixous' model demonstrates. Indeed, in pre-contact Animist Philippines, there was a bilateral kinship system, women actively participated in the economic realm and maintained control over their earnings, virginity was not valued, 'adultery' was not noteworthy, both women and men were 'chieftains,' and women predominated in the spiritual domain.[12]
  5. While, theoretically, I distance the biologically sexed body from gender categories (feminine or masculine) or as Jolly and Manderson put it 'natural essences' from 'cultural constructs,'[13] the separation of biological sex (male/female) from sexuality is not so clear cut because of the ambiguity inherent in the term sex, and neither is sexuality so clearly delineated from gender - a distinction that Spanish colonisers of the Philippines failed to make. As far as sexuality is concerned, Pringle explains how the word sex can refer 'both to an act and a category of person, male or female.'[14] The ambiguity arises simply because sex can be used to discuss non-gender specific behaviour resulting from the urge to gratify the sexual instinct, or to delineate corporeal sexual difference. 'In either case,' argue Jolly and Manderson, 'it denotes a refractory "nature" which seems to resist or to escape cultural construction.'[15] Foucault also discusses this problem by suggesting that in the socialisation of procreative behaviour, the notion of sex makes it possible 'to group together, in an artificial unity, anatomical elements, biological functions, conducts, sensations, and pleasures' and then 'to make use of this fictitious unity as a causal principle, an omnipresent meaning.'[16] While Foucault's comments are constrained by reference to the medicalisation of 'sex' from last century, it is my contention that the essentialist position which links sex with sexuality, sex with nature, and nature with both woman and nurture, and therefore gender, was imported into the Philippines by the Spanish missionaries in the sixteenth century, who themselves relied on the biologically deterministic philosophies and theologies of Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas.
  6. Indeed, the source materials provided by the Spaniards are sprinkled with examples of indigenous constructions of gender that departed substantially from the patriarchal models with which they were familiar. The predominance of female shamans whose role was to propitiate the spiritual realms is one such example of the transgression of Hispano/Catholic sex/gender boundaries,[17] and the male shaman who dressed and 'performed' as a woman is another.[18] While the Spaniards always linked the female shaman with Satanism, they explained the identification of the 'male' with the 'feminine' with reference to either a supposed anatomical deficiency or what they labelled 'the abominable sin against nature,' or sodomy.[19] I deliberately avoid the use of 'homosexuality' since this was a term introduced into the language in the late nineteenth century to refer to people sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. To use 'homosexuality' in this context would blur the gender issue, because the 'sin against nature,' in the source documents, refers equally to anal intercourse between two men, or a man and a woman.
  7. In discussing male shamans in the Philippines who did not conform to normative (by Hispanic standards) masculine gender behaviour, I rely largely on two sets of texts. The first group, written at the beginning of the Catholic/Animist interface, between 1590 and 1610, include the anonymous 'Manila Manuscript,' ca. 1590,[20] and Chirino's Relacion, 1604.[21] I occasionally draw on material written by other writers of this very early colonial period, particularly the Dominican historian Diego Aduarte[22] and Juan de Plasencia,[23] for corroborative evidence. The second set of documents was written after Catholicism had been a presence in Zambales Province, Luzon and the Visayan islands of Samar and Leyte, for upwards of three-quarters of a century. They include the Jesuit, Alcina's 1668 History of the Bisayan Islands,[24] written during his 35 years of missionary activity during which he studied Visayan customs.[25] The other manuscript was compiled by various Dominican missionaries stationed in the town of Bolinao, Zambales Province, between 1679 and 1685. This manuscript, the 'Bolinao Manuscript,'[26] was collated on the orders of Archbishop Felipe Pardo with the express purpose of eliminating Animist practice from the Zambales district.
  8. Texts that give some indication of the relationship between the female and male shamans are scarce, although the Manila and Bolinao Manuscripts, as well as Alcina do provide scanty observations - some of which are contradictory. When faced with these irregularities I have searched for corroborating evidence from the same era and area. Further, in analysing the scraps of data regarding these peripheral male shaman figures, it is crucial to keep in mind Foucault's caution that 'it would be a mistake to infer that the sexual morality of Christianity and that of paganism form a continuity. Several themes, principles, or notions may be found in the one and the other alike, true; but ... they do not have the same place or the same value within them.'[27] Because, the male shaman's voice has been silenced, it is neither possible to discern how these men understood their own gendered subjectivity,[28] nor to understand how other Filipinos perceived them.
  9. The male shamans were variously labelled: bayog or bayoguin by both Juan de Plasencia[29] and the anonymous author of the 'Manila Manuscript,'[30]bayoc by Salazar,[31] and as asog in Alcina's account from the Visayas.[32] Other writers used 'priest' as distinct from 'priestess' or alternatively they employed the indigenous word for 'priestess' (baylan or catalonan), discriminating the gender with the addition of a Spanish masculine suffix. They also used anitero. In labelling the male shamans I use bayog for examples from the Luzon area and asog for the Visayas. The most common indigenous referents for the women who performed the role of spirit medium and healer were baylan (Visayan), catalonan (Tagalog) and the more general anitera.[33]

    A '"Third" Sex/Gender Category'?
  10. In analysing the position of the berdache, in sixteenth century New Mexico, or the present day role of the bissu in Bugis society, or the warok in Pongorogo (Indonesia), various theorists, particularly anthropologists, have explored the link between non-conforming gender behaviour of the male and spiritual potency.[34] As Gutiérrez noted the berdache, known as a 'third sex,'[35] were 'biological males who had assumed the dress, occupations, mannerisms, and sexual comportment of females.'[36] Andaya has provided a useful theoretical overview of examples from throughout the Asian region in which the male does not conform to 'the more conventional sexual and gender dualism of society.'[37] Borrowing Gayle Rubin's coinage of the compound expression sex/gender,[38] Andaya states that '"third" sex/gender groups' who 'function outside societal norms'[39] have suprahuman powers of intercession with the sacred.[40] He writes,

      The third sex/gender group is regarded as being neither male nor female or of being a composite of both. It is their ambiguous status which locates them beyond the more conventional sexual and gender dualism of society, and becomes a sign associated with the primal creative force.[41]

  11. Andaya provides a list of perceived typical characteristics of such groups, which refers to non-conventional gender behaviour and some sort of anatomically and/or behaviourally inspired 'lack.' Citing Adriani and Kruijt's study of the shamans of Bare'e Toraja of Central Sulawesi, conducted at the beginning of the twentieth century, he writes,

      They were male priests characterised as being effeminate, uninterested in sex, and of never having participated in warfare. Their penis size, it was rumoured, was only half a finger long. Using a special language they could summon spirits to conduct them heavenward in order to recover the soulstuff which had fled an individual causing h/er [sic] to fall ill.[42]

  12. It is this blend of biology being cheated both by biological 'lack' and by identification with the opposing culturally ascribed gendered behaviour that, Andaya argues enables the priest to gain spiritual potency. As he surmises, the priests occupy a 'third' neuter space, 'not between a society's dominant paradigm of male/female sex, masculine/feminine gender, but outside it,'[43] to represent a supposedly ambiguous, androgynous or neuter category.[44] It is this model of ambiguity between sex and gender that I examine in the Philippine context with reference to both female and male shamans who operated as Animist practitioners in the first century of the cultural encounter with Spain.
  13. Spanish reports of the non-conforming gender behaviour of Filipino male shamans focussed on their transvestism, non-conformist (according to Spanish codes) gender behaviour and/or gender identity, which occasioned speculation regarding their 'defective' anatomy and possible links to sexual preference. The 'Manila Manuscript' identified 'old women or Indians [indigenous men] dressed as women' who perform the maganitos,[45] adding that many of these men 'ordinarily act like prudes, and are so effeminate that one who does not know them would believe they are women.'[46] As well as clothing and behaviour, the hair of the male shaman particularly caught the attention of the missionaries. Chirino noted the clear link between a feminine hairstyle and shamanism when he wrote that the 'pagan priest ... braided his hair, which for his particular calling, he wore long like that of a woman.'[47] Rodriguez added that it was 'filled ... with a kind of resin or turpentine.'[48]
  14. When Alcina was writing half a century later, his understanding of the gendered subjectivity of the 'ancient' asog concurred with the sex/gender non-conformity offered in the much earlier 'Manila Manuscript.'[49] He wrote,

      The fact is the Asog considered themselves more like women than like men in their manner of living, or going about, or even in their occupations. Some of them applied themselves to women's tasks, like weaving and cultivating, etc. In dress, although they did not wear petticoats (these were not worn by women in ancient times either) they did wear some Lambon, as they are called here. This is a kind of long skirt down to the feet, so that they were recognized even by their dress.[50]

  15. Alcina then moved his narrative from the 'ancient times' (pre-colonial) to the specific characteristics of a 'mute indian' research subject who was known to him. This 'man,' he wrote,

      was so effeminate that in every way he seemed more like a woman than a man.... His dress was even over the legs with a wide Bahaque which resembled, under the Lambon, the old time petticoats. All the things that the women did, he performed, such as weaving blankets, embroidering and sewing clothes, making pots, which is the work of [women]. He danced also like they did, never like a man whose dance is different. In all he appeared more a woman than a man.[51]

  16. While Alcina's comments regarding this man are offered in the belief that he has located a genuine shaman as a research subject, no evidence is provided to prove that the 'mute indian' did practice as a shaman. Indeed, the influence of Catholicism is abundantly apparent as Alcina stresses his subject's observance of Catholic custom by stating that he had 'heard' the man's confession at various times. (See endnote 23.) While contemporary scholarship labels men like Alcina's 'mute indian,' 'who have bodies of one sex and who think of themselves either partially or fully as members of the atypical gender,' as transgendered,[52] the imposition of Catholicism added a negative bias to their trans-gender performance.[53] Therefore, shamans who attempted to live in both the 'new world' of the Spaniards as well as maintaining the links with their Animist roots modified their behaviour accordingly.
  17. The 'Bolinao Manuscript' suggests that rather than a complete transgendered existence, the three identified male shamans dressed in women's clothes only when they performed the ceremonies for the Anitos. These included the seventy year old, Calimlim,[54] (deceased at the time the manuscript was written and who would not have been born at the time of Catholicism's initial foray into Zambales), Calinog,[55] and Mamacuit.[56] The various co-authors of this document pointedly emphasise that these men dressed as women to perform the ceremonies of sacrifice and do not suggest that the transvestism was anything but a temporary 'aberration.'

    Sexuality and the '"Third" Sex/gender' Space
  18. Thus far I have concentrated on defining sex/gender roles, or as Margaret Jolly and Lenore Manderson put it, separating 'natural essences' from 'cultural constructs.'[57] However, the Spanish missionaries, as did Adriani and Kruijt three centuries later, confused the categories of sex, sexuality and gender and introduced anatomical 'deficiency,' and/or 'deviant' sexuality.[58] Neither Alcina nor the author of the earlier 'Manila Manuscript' arrived at this latter point immediately, but it seemed to develop through a process of elimination, as they sought to discover any deficiencies or difference in the sexual anatomy of the asog that might explain why a male would voluntarily reject his masculinity (which in Spanish codes equated with privilege) and identify as a woman.[59] Alcina and the author of the 'Manila Manuscript' were unanimous in their opinion that 'almost all asog are impotent for the reproductive act,'[60] and therefore 'deficient for the practice of matrimony.'[61] Alcina's curiosity regarding the 'deficient' genitals of the asog remained unfulfilled, since he admitted that the 'mute indian,' 'would never allow himself to be touched, nor would he ever bathe in front of others.'[62]
  19. However, presumably to satiate his curiosity, Alcina persisted in his search for an anatomical answer. He attempted to discover whether the asog constituted a third hermaphroditically-sexed group; that is a group possessing both male and female reproductive organs. In this pursuit, he abandoned his efforts to surreptitiously view the genitals of his subject and turned instead for information to other members of the community who were surprisingly forthcoming in their disavowal of the existence of hermaphrodites. However, Alcina was reluctant to believe them, instead suggesting that 'these matters ... are verified with difficulty'[63] - and verification was what he lacked. He pursued the matter by investigating his informant's sexual preference. Alcina reported that he 'heard his [the mute Indian's] confession various times with sufficient indication of his sins, but not a trace in the matter of the sixth commandment.'[64] He further eliminated 'the sin against nature' with the observation that his informant maintained his distance from men.[65] Given Alcina's 'evidence' it would appear that the 'mute indian' was, like Alcina himself, celibate.
  20. The 'sin against nature' was a topic of much interest to the first generation explorers, settlers and historians and it was sometimes, but not exclusively, associated with male shamans. As early as 1588, just 23 years after Legaspi claimed the archipelago for Catholicism and Spain, the English explorer, Francis Pretty, suggested that Filipino men were so 'given to the fowle sinne of Sodomie,' that the 'women of the countrey ... desired some remedie against that mischiefe.'[66] It must be noted that Pretty's reference to 'the fowle sin' is reflective of his observance of the Catholic 'ancient civil or canonical codes [where] sodomy was a category of forbidden acts,'[67] rather than a criminal action. Contradicting Pretty's opinion that the women objected to 'sodomie,' in 1598, the second Archbishop of Manila, Ignacio de Santibáñez, in a letter to Philip II, suggested that the practice of sodomy was widespread amongst both men and women, although it was not considered worthy of rebuke or censure. From his sinophobic perspective, Santibáñez wrote,

      The sin of Sodom is widespread among them [Chinese], and they have infected the natives with it, both men and women, for since the latter are a poor-spirited people who follow the line of least resistance, the Chinese make use of them for their corrupt pleasures; this curse though extensive attracts little public notice.[68]

  21. Subsequently, in 1605 when under oath, Father Pablo Ruiz de Talavera gave evidence on the subject to the third Archbishop of Manila, Miguel de Benavides - evidence which reiterated Santibáñez' contention that the act of sodomy was introduced to the 'natives' by the Chinese.[69] These two men along with the historian Antonio de Morga were in agreement that the 'unnatural sin' was commonly practised with 'facile and unchaste' Indian women who were bribed by the Chinese.[70]

    Figure 1. Ignacio de Santibáñez, second Archbishop of Manila, 1595-1598, advised the King of widespread sodomy amongst the indigenous peoples. Source: Anales Ecclesiasticos de Philipinas, 1574-1682: Philippine Church History, A Summary Translation, ed. Ruperto C. Santos, trans Andres R. Pelingo, Manila: Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, vol. 1, 1994, p. 44.

    Figure 2. Miguel de Benavides, third Archbishop of Manila, 1603-1605, conducted a further inquiry into sodomy amongst the indigenous peoples. Source: Anales Ecclesiasticos de Philipinas, 1574-1682: Philippine Church History, A Summary Translation, ed. Ruperto C. Santos, trans Andres R. Pelingo, Manila: Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, vol. 1, 1994, p. 49.

  22. However, in the missionary reports there was a persistent reference to sodomy amongst male shamans. The Dominican Aduarte, claimed from what today would be labelled his 'homophobic perspective,' that the male shamans were 'a wretched class of people, and with some reason despised on account of their foul manner of life.'[71] The author of the 'Manila Manuscript,' in a non-condemnatory tone, declared that bayog 'marry other males and sleep with them as man and wife and have carnal knowledge'[72] - a statement which contradicts the suggestion that the genitals of these men were somehow malformed.[73] But, there were also examples from Bolinao, of male shamans marrying women, which again confounds the 'deficiency' theory. Their marriages did not of course preclude the men from having homosexual relationships - a point stressed by Dédé Oetomo in relation to the reog of Indonesia.[74] In the two instances in the Bolinao Manuscript where bayog were married to women who were also shamans, the bayog readily abandoned the religious tradition of their ancestors for the privilege of heterosexual Hispano/Catholic masculinity. So powerful was the hegemonic conditioning provided by the Spaniards, that these men became expert witnesses for the Spanish inquisitors,[75] giving evidence against their own wives.
  23. To this point I have discussed what has been said, both in historical texts and contemporary analysis, about the transvestism, sexual anatomy and sexuality of the Filipino male shaman, in an effort to come to some understanding of the sex/gender/sexuality of these men. While many theories were propounded by various Spanish or European writers in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the Philippines, contradictions, such as perceived links between non-conforming sex/gender behaviour, anatomical deficiency and homosexuality, emerged throughout the documents to challenge the universality of their claims. It could be argued that these anomalies were the result of regional variation, but the author of the 'Manila Manuscript' brings this suggestion into dispute by claiming that 'although it is true that in these islands of Luzon, Panay and Cebu there is an infinity of languages, one different from the others and as a consequence different garbs - some very barbaric, others of medium and still others of very high conception - almost all agree as to pagan rites and ceremonies.'[76]
  24. Nevertheless, as Andaya put it, the missionaries were adept at enforcing 'conformity of the population into ... [a] two sex, two gender model,'[77] and it is undeniable that Catholicism itself had a huge impact in regendering the male to conform to Hispano/Catholic sex/gender congruence. There did, however, emerge one unchanging aspect of male shaman behaviour. That is, that the minimum prerequisite for male entry into the ranks of shamanism was that he dress in feminine clothes for ritual purposes. Even after other permanent life-style choices that reflected a sex/gender ambiguity had been renounced, a form of male-feminine transvestism remained a prerequisite for Animist ritual - as in the case of Bolinao.

    The Filipino Case
  25. To this point, in investigating male shamans, it would appear that the Indonesian and Pueblo Indian model of sex/gender ambiguity leading to spiritual potency would fit the male shaman in the Philippine situation precisely. Nevertheless there is one other aspect to be considered - that of gender roles. In both the Pueblo Indian and Indonesian situations men were in control of the spiritual spheres. As Gutiérrez explained of sixteenth century New Mexico,

      In a largely horticultural society women asserted and could prove they had enormous control and power of seed production, child-rearing, household construction and the earth's fertility. Men admitted this. But they made the counterclaim that men's ability to communicate with the gods and to control life and death protected the precarious balance in the universe.... Because potent femininity polluted and rendered male magic impotent, men abstained from sex with women for a prescribed period before and after their rituals.[78]

  26. This prevalence of the male in matters spiritual was not replicated in the Philippine case, where it was the female shamans who predominated in the religious realm. Therefore, for the model that proposes a link between sex/gender ambiguity and spiritual potency to be universal and relevant to the Philippine situation, it must also fit as far as the female shaman is concerned. In this case we could expect to find examples of female sex/male gender identification amongst women who exercised authority within the spiritual sphere. This is not the case.
  27. Thus far, in investigating male shamans, it would appear that the Indonesian model of sex/gender ambiguity leading to spiritual potency, proposed by Andaya, Wilson and Petkovic would fit the male shaman in the Philippine situation precisely. But for the model to be applicable to the Philippine situation, it must also fit the experience of the female shamans who predominated in the religious realm. In other words, for the model to be relevant as far as the female shaman is concerned, these women would also have to fit the androgynous or ambiguous third sex/gender group. If this was the case we could expect to find examples of female sex/male gender identification amongst those women who exercised authority within the spiritual sphere. This is not the case.
  28. Antonio Pigafetta, in writing about the ceremony of the 'consecration of the boar' that he observed in 1521, during Magellan's fateful stopover in Cebu, made plain the importance of women to religious ritual. Two 'old women' were the ritual facilitators: dressing in specific clothes; chanting prayers and dancing; offering food thanksgiving to the gods; killing a pig; anointing the foreheads of the people present with fresh pig's blood (with the exception of the European observers); and then consuming the thank offering food by 'inviting only the women to join them.'[79] Stressing the ritual significance to this Cebuano Animist community of the old women's role, Pigafetta explained that only women were able to perform this ceremony and that the pig meat was never eaten unless it was consecrated and killed in this way by women.[80]
  29. Indeed, the various accounts subsequent to Legaspi's arrival are quite specific about the fact that in the Philippines the majority of Animist shamans were women whose ranks were swelled by a few males who dressed as women.[81] While statistics were not normally given, the 'Bolinao Manuscript' does provide some idea of the statistical imbalance involved in that community. During an inquisitorial-type investigation in and around the town of Bolinao between 1679 and 1685, the Catholic missionaries listed the names of those from whom they confiscated instrumentos used during Animist ritual. Named were 145 female shamans and three males who dressed as women to perform the rituals - a ratio of almost 50:1.[82] Further, both from the lists and the statements collected under oath and collated in the 'Bolinao Manuscript,' it is made plain that the older female shamans passed on 'the art of doing sacrifices to the anito or anitos' to the younger women-only after they were married.[83]
  30. Returning now to the hypothesis that it was identification with a '"third" sex/gender space' that gave Pueblo Indian and Indonesian men alike both a vehicle into the sacred domain and special potency or agency within that domain, it is my contention that, in the Philippine context, this question cannot be resolved without taking into consideration the complex relationship between female and male shamans. Because of a paucity of data on this subject, and the contradictory nature of what is available, this relationship is difficult to reconstruct. Indeed two of the earliest reports, namely Plasencia and the 'Manila Manuscript,' present conflicting evidence.
  31. The 'Manila Manuscript' emphasises the auxiliary nature of the male shaman's position in relation to the 'priestess.' 'The function of the priests,' the anonymous author observed, 'is to help [the priestesses] on all occasions; in general, to help the priestesses invoke the spirits.'[84] In a conspicuous effort to elevate the boyog from his subordinate role, somewhat analogous to a curate in the Christian tradition, this author seemed impelled to add that in spite of their inferior status, the men who dressed as women 'act[ed] with more pomp, ceremony and authority,' than did their female counterparts.[85] In other words the Spaniard considered that even though the women were in charge, the men 'executed' a more commanding performance of the ritual. This assertion was doubtless influenced by Spanish cultural norms of the day, which equated authority with a male rather than a female voice. Further, the double 'performance' of the boyog who was required to perform as a woman at the same time as he dramatised the religious ritual, blatantly highlighted the 'pomp and ceremony' of the ceremonial process, and, of course, parodied the 'performance' of gender.[86] On the other hand, Plasencia introduced an ecclesiastical hierarchy, similar to that with which he was familiar, suggesting that the male sonat is 'a sort of bishop who ordains the priestesses, for they knelt before him.'[87] Plasencia, however, admitted that women were not represented in the sample from whom he obtained information. As he stated he interviewed only 'old men' from whom he 'obtained the simple truth after weeding out much foolishness.'[88]
  32. In relation to documents written after decades of Catholic influence, Alcina is curiously silent. Only the 'Bolinao Manuscript,' hints that men were in control of the religious realm, but even then the evidence is contradictory. Written after the Augustinian Recollects and the Dominicans had maintained a continual presence in Zambales Province for eighty years, this manuscript conferred the title 'principal priest' on two different men, both of whom lived or had lived in the convent with the Dominicans. One of these men had been deceased for four years when the manuscript was collated.[89] The priest acknowledged, though, that this man's sister was in charge of the most powerful Anito. The other, Calinog, was variously labelled the 'principal priest,'[90] 'principal anitero,'[91] 'Master of the maganitos,'[92] or 'Master priest,'[93] by various male principales. However, Calinog himself was not so dogmatic and described himself merely as 'one of the first [primeros] Ministers.'[94] However, this evidence must be read in the light of the inquisition-type investigation that was being conducted at the time, when the two so-called 'principal priests,' along with the male principales, had turned prosecution witness for the Dominican inquisitors and were involved in giving evidence against female shamans. Further, according to details from the initial Bolinao Manifesto, many more instrumentos, used in ceremonies of spirit propitiation, were confiscated from some individual women shamans, than from the men who were supposedly the 'principal priests.'[95]
  33. In spite of the inherent disagreement between these reports, it would be naïve to dismiss the suggestion of a principal male shaman out of hand since, given the relatively symmetrical gender relationships that existed in the Philippine Archipelago prior to European contact, it would be hard to believe that an occasional male did not gain spiritual potency equal to that of his female contemporaries. But I argue that in the pre-colonial period these cases were unusual, rather than the norm,[96] and that it was the influence of the male-centred Hispano/Catholicism that eventually tipped the balance in favour of the male shaman, so that by the late nineteenth early twentieth centuries, as Evelyn Tan Cullamar suggests, all the babaylan on Negros were male.[97]
  34. In the Philippine context at the beginning of the colonial endeavour, there is, moreover another aspect to highlight regarding the thesis that the occupation of a neutral '"third" sex/gender space' signals exceptional access to spiritual power. While there is no doubt that most of the religious facilitation was performed by women, there is no evidence that women's sacred potency was in any way dependent upon identification with a '"third" sex/gender space' (i.e. female body/masculine behaviour). Indeed, both female and male shamans, for ritual purposes, dressed in clothing that was identified as belonging to women.[98] In the relative gender symmetry prevalent throughout the archipelago at this time, the temporary or permanent male/feminine inversion of the boyog served a threefold purpose. It gave the male shaman status and authority in a sphere that would otherwise have been denied to him. It reinforced the stereotypical boundaries of femininity, but in so doing it also, importantly, reinforced the normative situation of woman as shaman. Given this reality it must be argued that spiritual potency was dependent, not on identification with a neuter '"third" sex/gender space,' but rather on identification with the feminine - whether the biological sex was female or male.
  35. Given the exclusion of women from Catholic priesthood, what is particularly noteworthy within the Animist tradition under discussion, is that while authority was normally vested in women, men were not eliminated from the priestly role of shaman, although they were expected to 'vest' in the appropriate 'feminine' ritual clothing. Indeed, while Catholicism maintained (then and now) an exclusively male/masculine priesthood, the women leaders of the Animist tradition did not feel the need to exercise total control and exclude men from their ranks. It could be argued that this situation highlights a typical tension between what is essentially a patriarchal system where women have to be confined and controlled, and a bilateral system that entertains a largely matrifocal religious system where the authority lies with and is exercised by the woman shaman, who does not have the need to constrain and control the men.[99]
  36. With the arrival of the Spaniards the privilege and social status that accrued to shaman men from actively identifying with the feminine in Animist society was stripped away. The Spaniards held the conviction that the Devil had, as Arcos explains, 'fooled the Indians into worshipping him with excrements in place of the sacraments of the Church of God,'[100] but they also believed that the Devil was specifically attracted to women. As Sprenger and Kramer pontificate in their 1486 handbook on witchcraft, Malleus Maleficarum, 'the greater number of witches is found in the fragile feminine sex than among men.'[101] Their reasoning:

      Since women are feebler in both mind and body, it is not surprising that they should come under the spell of witchcraft. For as regards intellect, or the understanding of spiritual things, they seem to be of a different nature from men.... But the natural reason is that she is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations. And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives.... And all this comes from the etymology of the word, for Femina comes from Fe and Minus, since she is ever weaker to hold and preserve the faith. Therefore a wicked woman is by her nature quicker to adjure the faith, which is the root of witchcraft.[102]

  37. Sprenger and Kramer did not discriminate between sex and gender categories when constructing their links between what they perceived as the abominable corporeality of femaleness and the proclivity towards the femina of Satan. However, for Spanish missionaries, the non-conformist feminised gender identification of the male shamans of the Philippines confirmed that the Devil was attracted, not only to the female body, but also to the feminine. As Alcina explained, 'although their priestesses were ordinarily women selected ... by the Devil, he also chose some effeminate man [sic] that they called asog in ancient times.'[103] Indeed, Alcina specifically linked the feminine with the devil and he was quite adamant in stating that it was the effeminacy of the asog men that attracted the satanic spirits who 'chose them [asog] for this ministry.'[104]
  38. In summary then, I have discussed the gender non-conforming men who operated within the mainly female/feminine sphere of Animist ritual facilitation in sixteenth and seventeenth century Animist Philippines. I discussed what has been written about these men from various sources, highlighting the similarities and contradictions between reports and bringing into question the notion of a prerequisite anatomical 'deficiency' and 'the sin against nature' as defining factors for gaining spiritual potency. By using gender relationships between female and male shamans as an analytical category I questioned, in relation to the Philippine situation, the model that claims that it is identification with an ambiguous '"third" sex/gender space' that provides shamans with spiritual potency. On the contrary, I conclude that in the Animist pre-colonial Philippine archipelago it was the male shaman's identification with the feminine, either as temporary transvestism or as a more permanent lifestyle choice, that reinforced the normative situation of female as shaman, and femininity as the vehicle to the spirit world.


This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.

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