The Voice and the Voiceless

By: Hermel Pama  

The study explores voice as a paradigm of culturally-appropriated hierophanies, with its binary, the "voiceless" referring to silent manifestations employing visual and other experiential modes of communication. I posit that this is a common theme in the various religious phenomena in the Catholic cult of saints in the Philippines. Proceeding by way of exemplarity, the study devolves from a comparison of two most popular religious icons, that is, Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia in the Bicol Region, and Our Lady of Manaoag in Manaoag, Pangasinan. The former attracts thousands of devotees in an annual fluvial procession in the Bicol River, where the sacred image has been fished out of, according to local religious myth. Our Lady of Manaoag gathers a daily influx of pilgrims from all over the country throughout the year. The shrine on top of a hill is the site where, according to local lore, the image appeared and called (manaoag), facilitating the natives’ conversion to the Catholicism. I argue that both revelatory models are found in the narratives of the sacred as Santong Boses (sacred voice), in the religious tradition surrounding Mount Banahaw in the Southern Tagalog region, which was a center of native resistance that eventually led to the Philippine Revolution of 1898, thereby highlighting a pre-colonial mediation in the present, and for the future. Throughout, the study explores voice as contested power, and as universal paradigm in God talk: as startling starts, and at the start/incipience of religion as a startling experience.

Voice, Experience, Language, Devotions
Religious Foundations
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Hermel Pama

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Santo Tomas, Philippines

I am Fr. Hermel O. Pama OP, Ph.D., Filipino, fifty years old,  born in Guinobatan, Albay, Philippines on November 20, 1967. After finishing bachelors degrees in philosophy (1991) and theology (1994), I earned Master's degree in Anthropology at the University of the Philippines- Diliman in 1999 and finished Ph.D. Anthropology at the University of the Philippines-Diliman (2014). I did fieldwork in a span of four years documenting artifacts of a logging company in the coastal areas of Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region, and writing on an ethnohistory of Bicol's industrial modernity through the narratives of the workers, My current research interests are on ethnobotany and collaborative projects on digital humanities, borne out of an engagement with indigenous people in Minadanao, southern Philippines. I collaborating with researchers for the DNA barcoding of medicinal plants in order to identify plant species which the indigenous Mandaya people use for fishing, and I organize community development projects with the indigenous poeple, primarily in the areas of education, health and the digitization of their cultural heritage.  I am also working on an ethnomusicology research project in Cebu, in central Philippines, documenting songs spanning the World War II period from the living memory of its performers, aiming to contribute to Philippine music history by a translation and interpretation of the lyrics and the genre of the compositions. I am collaborating with the Conservatory of Music of the University of Santo Tomas to produce and disseminate the musical pieces by 2019. Another collaborative project is with the University of the Philippines-Diliman's Folklore Studies Program and the University of Santo Tomas' Center for Religious Studies and Ethics where we are currently undertaking folklore research in the popular religious pilgrimage shrine in Manaoag, Pangasinan. I teach anthropology at the Faculty of Philosophy and at the graduate program on Cultural Heritage Studies of the University of Santo Tomas, and at the graduate program of the Department of Anthropology, University of the Philippines, Diliman.Since I am a Dominican priest of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, I am assigned and working at a top administrative level as Regent of the Institute of Information and Computing Sciences of the University of Santo Tomas. The strong interest for research led me to involve as Research Fellow of the university's Center for Religious Studies and Ethics, and the Research Center for Social Sciences and Education.