The Life and Death of Papa Melbasa: A Prelude to the Christian Conversion of the Sama Dilaut Migrants in Davao City, Philippines, in the late 1990s

Mar 6 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Aoyama Waka (Associate Professor, Research Faculty of Media and Communication, Hokkaido University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/Discussant: Theodore Bestor (Reischauer Institute Professor of Social Anthropology; Director, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies)

This talk looks at the transformation of a Sama Dilaut migrant community in the urban setting of Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines, focusing on the life of a Sama Dilaut chief and mendicant, Papa Melbasa. Melbasa lived in a houseboat at sea and also on land in a house in the urban slum. He prayed privately in his home to his own ancestral spirits and publicly to the Holy Spirit with his congregation. He witnessed the beginning of the process of the Christian conversion of his community in the late 1990s while experiencing his own personal conversion at the same time. These narratives are clearly subjective personal recollections of his life, but they also reflect the social, institutional, cultural and contingent factors influencing the conversion process of the entire community. Professor Aoyama’s presentation is conceived as the first part of a trilogy on Pentecostal Conversion and Pearl Business among the Sama Dilaut migrants and their descendants over three generations at the turn of the 21st century.