REVIEW: This book guides us to a future where indigenous people are no longer an afterthought-abandoned sector 

DIWANG BALAAN/BANAL: A Decolonial Discourse on Pinoy Spirituality
Karl M. Gaspar, CSsR
Institute of Spirituality in Asia, 2022 

MANILA (MindaNews / 08 January) — More than ever, this book is relevant to contemporary times, where environmental concerns are faced by both the Global North and South, and indigenous knowledge and spirituality are invaluable to us all if we want to survive and sustain our homes. The book also highlights the importance of indigenous peoples in protecting the environment, but they’re the ones who face violence. Bro. Karl was vocal about the injustices perpetrated against Indigenous Peoples, through Christianity but masked in colonialism.

The book shines a light on indigenous spirituality. Bro. Karl Gasper’s eloquent and strategic overview of contexts through narration allows his readers to reconnect with their roots.

Readers can sense Bro. Karl is deeply invested in bringing the voice of Indigenous Peoples and their spirituality to the Christian faith.

Bro. Karl has seamlessly weaved the hermeneutic method of “see-judge-act.” The book begins with navigating readers into the remembrance of – to “see” the events involving indigenous people locally and those from other parts of the globe to present the collective memory of this sector that is often an afterthought and abandoned. Bro. Karl’s account of his commitments, exchanges, and experiences with Indigenous Peoples reminds us that we are all interconnected.

This book underscores relationality (the importance of community reciprocity), which was suppressed and silenced by colonialism. Likewise, in this book, Bro. Karl rightly emphasized that we all come from the same roots and carry the blood of Indigenous Peoples, a truth many forget. Hence, it was apt that the Bro. Karl wrote a section about “memory” in this book.

Memory is powerful because it brings the past alive and can push us to take a position. Placed in the midpart of the book, the effects of colonialism – “judge” to our culture, economic and political structure as well as how it managed to alienate us from the indigenous belief systems were bold. This book has emboldened me (I suppose even its readers) to re-trace our indigenous roots. If one of the aims of Bro. Karl was to reinvigorate readers to see the significance of decolonial discourse to reframe our Christian faith by privileging indigenous spirituality (including knowledge, and practices) that will steer newfound interest in Filipino
spirituality, then I would say that this has been achieved in this book. 

The middle part of the book prepares its readers for a commitment – an “act” (found in the latter part) that aims at solidarity, a harmonious dialogue where the Church and Christian faithful are invited to be enriched by Filipino indigenous knowledge, practices, and spirituality, today and for the future.

Furthermore, it invites institutions (particularly congregations involved in missionary endeavors) to re-evaluate and revisit (and revise, perhaps) and re-frame their pastoral-missiological approaches and responses, that might be cloaked with coloniality and Eurocentric orientation.

Having said this, this book should be recommended as ancillary reading for courses on pastoral theology, spirituality, Catholic social principles, philosophy, and missiology. The book guides us to a future where indigenous people are no longer an afterthought-abandoned sector and indigenous knowledge, practices, and spirituality are truly valued by Filipinos. 

To enrich our Christian faith it matters that we listen, afford the privilege, and learn from indigenous wisdom/spirituality, this time around.

(Kristine C. Meneses, PhD, is Associate Professor of the Institute of Religion in Manila)