Legends in Aklan
Melchor F. Cichon
May mga istorya sa Aklan hanungod sa aswang ag sa lugar.
Ro mga masunod nga legends hay ginbatak (lifted) sa libro ni Damiana Eugenio, nga ginbatak man nana sa tesis ni Claire A. Zarate-Manalo nga ginsumite sa Centro Escolar University, Manila. Ro iba hay ginbatak man ni Prof. Eugenio sa iba pa nga mga sources. Ro ulihi nga legend hay ginsueat ko.
Bangud owa ako kasayod kon siin si Ms. Claire A. Zarate-Manalo, Nick I. Marte, ag kay Leopoldo A. de la Cruz, owa ako kapangayo kanda it permiso nga ibutang ra andang obra kara. Ginbutang ko raya nga mga legends agod mabasa ra it mga Akeanon, maskin siin man sanda. Kabay pa nga masugot man nga mapabilin ro mga legends ngara riya agod mas abu pa gid nga Akeanon ro makabasa kara. Pero kon indi gid man sanda magsugot, sueati eang ako agod mahugas ko ra. Saeamat gid.
Narrated by Amelia Zarate
This happened about 34 years ago when my third son, Junior was only eight months old.
That morning, an old woman selling dayok (native salted shrimps) passed by. From the balkonahe (porch), I called her and tried the dayok. I did not like the taste, so I said, “Your dayok doesn’t taste good! I’m not buying anymore.” That was all I said and the old woman left. The old woman, however, came from a neighboring town where witches are rumored to abound.
At about eight o’clock that evening, my mother-in-law, my children, and I were getting ready to go to bed. My husband was in Manila at that time. We heard sounds of scratching and running at the rooftop (made of nipa thatches). My mother-in-law began cursing and muttering that there was an aswang around. (It is believed that the aswang is frightened when one shows his awareness of its presence.)
A moment later, Junior suddenly began crying. He cried harder until it became difficult to pacify him. Everytime I laid him down to sleep he would get up. He kept on crying as if he were being pricked.
While we were trying to lull the baby to sleep, our neighbor, Tay Iboy, shouted, “Ay, mare, hada-ean it a kamo it kinanta, haron ro tiktik sa idaeom ninyo, ga hinuni” (Ay Mare, you seem not to know, you’ve been singing while the tiktik continues to make sounds under your house).
The following morning, Junior started vomiting. At the same time he had watery stool. He had not eaten anything aside from the milk feedings.
At dusk, he was very weak. He had deep eye sockets.
We called Dr. Rafael Tumbokon. After examining the baby, he advised us to have someone perform lay baptism on Junior. Then he gave the baby an injection. It seemed to be the last recourse.
Under the house, my neighbor had started to build a bonfire (dap-ong). Smoking the house is believed to drive away the evil spirits. When we asked the doctor if it was all right to make dap-ong he told us to go ahead.
We requested Tiyo Cleto to perform the lay baptism.
Suddenly we thought of calling Anton, an arbulario (medicine woman). She took an empty coconut shell and filled it with live coals, tawas (alum), kamangyan (incense), and kinuskos nga niyog (shredded coconut). The tawas was first placed on Junior’s abdomin before it was mixed with the other things in the coconut shell. Gintu-ob si Junior (Junior was treated by smoking). Carrying the coconut shell, the arbulario circled several times. Afterwards, gin-uli-an si Junior (the egg ritual was performed on Junior). After examining the egg, the arbulario came out with this pronouncement: gin kaigban it aswang si Junior (Junior was bewitched). Seen in the egg were eye marks and blood which were indications that Junior was inaswang (bewitched).
After that treatment, the baby immediately became well. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escolar University, Manila, 1981, pp. 109-111). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp. 156-157)
Narrated by Odong Julian, December 2, 1980
This happened to me sometime in 1958. We were at the house of my bilas (my sister-in-law’s husband) because one of his children died. We were about to sleep at about eleven o’clock in the evening when my brother-in-law opened the window. Outside the house was a banana tree. I invited him to go to bed but he remained silent. Instead, he waved his hand at us. We quietly approached the window. It was incredible! We saw a person fast climbing the banana tree while clinging to a eamay (withered banana leaf). It was strange that the eamay did not yield. When Manong Jose Belarmino saw this, he went down the house carrying a talibong (fighting bolo) and cut the banana tree entirely with one back stroke. Pumsik ro tawo ngato; tumugpa, kuring. (The person jerked; a cat fell on the ground.) About forty of us witnessed the transformation from a human being into an animal. When the cat moved, Nong Jose’s elder brother struck it, but it was able to jump outside. It was April and the ricefield had been cleared and prepared for planting. We all chased the cat in the field. To be sure that the cat would not be able to catch the cat, some people shouted “shoot.” One of us, however, opposed the idea as someone else might be hit. Another one said, “Bali aswang ron (that might be an aswang).” Finally, we all went home disappointed for the cat just disappeared.
The moon was beginning to wane. My bilas asked me to keep him company while watching the house. We sat closed to each other on the hagdan (staircase). He was facing one direction while I was facing the opposite. About ten minutes later, a tall man suddenly appeared in front of him. My bilas gave out a loud frightened cry. I pierced the creature through and through with my talibong but he was able to creep (nagsuhut) under the house and vanish. Surprisingly, my talibong was dulled at the tip. That was the time I started to believe that the aswang really exists. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escular University, Manila, 1981, pp. 115-116. In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp. 170-171)
Narrated by Querubin Abello
When I reached a secluded place, it started to drizzle. I was approaching a tulay-tulay (improvised bridge) when I noticed a shadow of a human being leaning against a wire post. I stopped for a while and lighted a cigarette so that the figure would know that there was someone else in the road. When I threw the lighted matchstick, the shadow disappeared. I looked at the other direction thinking that it might be a rival mirror. I saw no one. I had walked a distance of about ten meters when I began to hear do huni nga ga kutu-kutu (successive sounds) and the sound was tik tik. According to old folk, it is an evil spirit. I cursed and teased the object, saying, “If you like me, come walk with me home!” It was not a windy night for there was only a drizzle, but after a while a very strong wind suddenly seized me and I felt being strangled. I realized that I was grapping with an invisible creature whose attire resembled a birang (a native clothing material of very coarse fiber) similar to that worm by old women. I tried to grab the invisible creature’s head but its long tresses were slippery, and when we wrestled, its legs twisted around my waist. I suspected that it was a female wearing a saya (long shirt). I just could not visualize its face. I would wind its hair around my arm but it would slip at once for it was so slippery. It continued to sound tik, tik, tik as we grappled each other. Someone was pulling my legs until my shoes were taken off. I also succeeded in hurling my enemy upon the ground ag naga-eagpok man (and it would create a loud thud). But again it would cling to me and it was trying to reach my neck. When I gripped its hand, it was like the hand of an old woman, thin and shriveled. When I tried to whirl the creature around and around, it just clung tightly to my frontal body.
Later I weakened and I shouted for help, but no one came. My voice turned hoarse as I shouted, “Tabang, Tabang! (Help! Help!)” more than a dozen times.
Finally, I lost consciousness, but by a stroke of luck, a man from Nalo-ok (a barrio of Kalibo) transporting pawid (nipa hatches) in his karusa (cart) passed by Dikoy and I actually knew each other but that night he did not recognize me at once. We live on the same street in Kalibo. According to Dikoy, when he came to help me, he also heard the sound tik, so he drew out his bolo and shouted for help… (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escolar University, Manila, 1981, pp. 95-96). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp. 174).
Narrated by Berning, 27, a tricycle driver, April 8, 1976
This happened to me in February 1976. At about nine o’clock that evening. I took a walk. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a wakwak. Since I was beginning to feel afraid, I shouted, “Come here, let’s make love.” It was only to boast my morale. Each time the wakwak created a sound I shouted back. Later, however, after having shouted several times and as I was becoming more afraid, the wakwak hovered about me. It was black and it resembled a kabug (bat), but was bigger than the latter. It seized me and we wrestled, but I noticed that it was not bat-like anymore. It was now a woman I was grappling with and the creature was slippery. It had long hair. I know very well it was a wakwak because I kept hearing the sound wak, wak, wak. The wakwak was always over me.
We rolled over and over until we reached a eogan-eogan (quagmire). I shouted for help because I felt as if I were going to die. I had a good physique and I was strong enough but I could not beat my adversary. The female wakwak seemed young and it had sharp, long nails. In fact the fingernails were visible the following morning.
I kept shouting for help as we wallowed in the mud. But there was not a single house nearby. So we continued to fight. Had I not been aided on time, I could have been choked to death. When help came, the wakwak disappeared. I was muddy all over. I suffered from bruises and other physical injuries. I learned that several persons had died in the very same spot several years before.
I was not drunk when the incident happened. In fact I was starting to look for tuba wine extracted from coconut. I would be dead now if I had been drunk. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escolar University, Manila, 1981, pp. 97-98). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp.175.)
Narrated by Beverly Matutina, December 5, 1980
This happened when I was in Grade III. We were on our way home from school when I saw a female aswang. First, she kept on going around the bungsod (ant hill). Then, nagtinuwad-tuwad (she kept on crouching with head downward and buttocks upward on the ant hill). Her dress began to spread apart and my two cousins and I clearly saw that wings resembling those of a chicken were growing on her kilid (sides). The three of us watched her closely. The wings continued to expand and she also continued to crouch with head downward and buttocks upward. She was now ready to fly. Her hair stood on end (nagtindi ra buhok). It was a horrible sight. We ran as fast as we could because we were afraid that she would fly and snatch us away. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escolar University, Manila, 1981, p. 100). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp.176.)
Narrated by Rom Barrios, 36, candle maker, on November 30, 1980
I saw an old woman in her eighties just in front of the Sampaton house. She was carrying a bayong (native bag). Right away I wondered why a woman of her age should be out in the street at that time of the night (almost twelve o’clock midnight). I wondered if she had lost her way. After dropping Nichols home, I decided to go back to the place where I had seen the old woman with the thought of giving her a lift. I was with Mr. Avellana, our boarder. Strangley enough, I could see no trace of the old woman. I had left her just a block away from Nichol’s house and I could not understand how she could have vanished in just a wink. I stopped in every corner just to locate her, but she was completely gone. So, we proceeded home to Toting Reyes St., forgetting all about the old woman. But then, all of a sudden, I spotted her along 19 Martyrs Street, Building III, so I followed her. I began to suspect that she was a witch. I called Mr. Avellana’s attention to the woman’s feet. They were not touching the ground. The woman was floating. I alighted from the jeep without turning off the light. I wanted to see (her entire appearance clearly). I kept turning around for whenever I turned to this side she would turn to the other side and vice-versa. I could not figure out her entire appearance. Much as I tried, I could not grasp the old woman because she was slippery. We arrived at our apartment on Toting Reyes St., but no sooner had we gone up when we heard the sound of the wakwak. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escular University, Manila, 1981, pp. 101). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp.176-177.)
Narrated by Francisco Tolentino, 65, farmer, on April 10, 1976
We came to notice that upon reaching home in the evening, Alfredo, my nephew, would proceed to the kitchen, look for some rice and viands and take them down. This time, I was compelled to ask him: “Why are you bringing them downstairs?” Alfredo replied, “Itay, my friend could not go upstairs; besides, the people in this house are quite different from my friend.” He added that his friend looked very much like the rest of us, except that it was much bigger and did not live in a house like ours, and that his friend was five meters tall and somewhat like four dangaw (approximately thirty-two inches) in diameter. I was told that it was quite dark. The other parts of its body, I was further told, were in proportion to its body. Alfredo could not even reach his friend’s sakang (portion between the thighs) even if he stood straight. It was so tall that Alfredo would just pass underneath its legs. His friend would laugh everytime Alfredo stared at him. But this kapre, I was told, was tidy and not hairy like the rest of them; it would always stay naked, though.
Everytime the two of them went out together, Alfredo’s friend would always guard him along the way. His friend was absolutely harmless, Alfredo told me.
Alfredo first met his friend when he was on the grassy fields feeding a carabao. Alfredo, as you know, was staying with us and helping me in the farm. He would feed the carabao starting at three o’clock in the morning, then at five-thirty in the afternoon, and at eight o’clock or nine o’clock in the evening.
At about seven o’clock one evening, while Alfredo was watching the carabao in the grassy fields, this giant creature blocked his way and laughed when my nephew gazed at it. Alfredo was never afraid of it. Alfredo told it to stop kidding him. He knew all along that it was a kapre (he had heard so much about it). Alfredo was brave. My nephew told the kapre that if it ever wanted to make friends, it would have to follow him. Whenever they reached home, they would take supper. But the creature would just wait at the back of the house outside. After the kapre had eaten supper, he would ask permission to leave. Every night, the kapre would pick Alfredo up in the fields and they would go home together. That friendship lasted for over a year. The creature did not really help Alfredo much; he simply guarded Alfredo wherever he went.
But something happened that the kapre resented. It all started when Segunda, our helper, slammed the kitchen door when she saw Alfredo and his friend eating together. Before it could finish its food, the poor giant left the house quickly. But it had told Alfredo that it would never come to his place again. Alfredo followed his friend bringing along with him the food his friend had left. But the kapre refused to accept it.
Alfredo went home crying. Now that his friend had left him, nobody would help him with his problems.
Fortunately, however, Alfredo was able to appease his friend, and they went on with their friendship. But the friendship finally broke up when the kapre became so strict as to restrict Alfredo from going out at night. Not only that, Segunda’s annoying habits added to the trouble. Soon after, Alfredo and the kapre parted ways. Alfredo became mentally ill. He has fully recovered from the illness, though. It was Alfredo himself who narrated this story to me. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escular University, Manila, 1981, pp. 158-160). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp.186-187)
Narrated by Virgie Bongabong, 31
college graduate and businesswoman
This happened to me in 1973. I had some petty quarrel with my husband, Rey, that night. That is why at a little past nine o’clock, I went out to the terrace to catch fresh air. During the three of five minutes that I was standing beside the door, I saw something shining on the rima tree. Before that, the rima tree had been so huge that it had to be partially cut as it practically covered the house next door. We heard that our place was frequently visited by evil spirits during the full moon. When I looked at the rima tree, I saw a very big creature squatting and holding something brilliant. Probably it was what we call tabako (tobacco), as it is believed that kapre do smoke tobacco. If I recall it correctly, I would say that it was about three times the size of a regular human being and his lower limbs reached his shoulders. I did not clearly see his eyes, ears or hair because it was as if I was viewing a shadow. But definitely, it was not merely a shadow of a man because I am sure I really saw a very huge creature. His size would probably be about double that of two big human beings. Much as I wanted to shout upon seeing the creature, I couldn’t. It took sometime before I was able to run into my room. When I was running into my room I was freezing and sweating all over. I was terribly scared and was trembling, that is why Rey asked me what had happened. He even shook me but I just could not utter a word; so, I bit my finger for so long. The pain enabled me to shout and tell Rey everything. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escular University, Manila, 1981, pp. 146-147). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp.188)
Narrated by Napoleon Barrientos, 64
This is what happened to me before the war when I was still a bachelor.
There were five of us, all guys, who went to Alipustos, Numancia, to serenade someone. Aliputos is about four kilometers from Kalibo. Along the way, at about one o’clock in the morning, we were followed by a wakwak and a titktik. We did not see them but we heard their sounds. We had brought with us three knives and one box of matches. I whispered to my companions to get some li-ay (dried coconut leaves) and light a torch. But still those sounds followed us. Upon reaching Laguing-Banwa, we passed by a river and picked some corn which we later broiled. As we were about to finish broiling the ears of corn, we saw two women in wooden slippers running. That was about two o’clock in the morning. I told Juaning, one of my companions, “Juaning, let’s follow them and find out where they came from.” But Juaning replied, “But what about the corn?”
I followed the two women alone.
As I was approaching the dam near my place, I picked up some wooden spikes and ran toward the dam to follow those women. I chased them for about a kilometer, but they disappeared from view.
As I stood on the dam, I suddenly saw a gigantic creature stretching his hands sideward and wearing a huge hat and suit made of sheepskin. It was a very tall and black creature hovering about me. It had probably three times the height of an ordinary person and a width four times that of a human being. It was so big indeed and it had very long nails. I wanted to run but it was blocking me. Thereupon, I remembered the wooden spikes, and so I stabbed the creature on the side, causing it to fall off the dam. He felt the pain and he roared. He wanted to climb up the dam again. I could not determine how thick were its hairs all over because of its long sleeves. But it had huge eyes and nose. That is what the old people call kapre.
When I saw it climbing up the dam again, I hurled a wooden stick about one meter long as it, causing it to roll till it fell into the waters. It managed to float and was able to find a coconut wood to lean on. I watched it closely. Thereupon, I ran as fast as I could and called my companions. I told them there was a kapre over there. My companions even saw it floating. Thereupon it slid off the log and began to disappear. Then we all went to eat our boiled corn and parted. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escular University, Manila, 1981, pp. 150-151. In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp.188-189)
Narrated by Melani Zarate who saw the duende in 1979
Around six-thirty in the afternoon on August 24, 1979, my friends (boys and girls) and I went to Barangay New Buswang, Kalibo, Aklan. This Barangay is by the seashore. We went there for beach-strolling and pleasure. We rode a jeep and when we arrived there we were cheerfully telling stories, while sipping soft drinks. We stayed there for about an hour. I called upon my companions to go home because we were to have “reparation” in church at eight o’clock in the evening in connection with our Kristo-Maria seminar.
We rode the jeep again. I was seated near the back. All of a sudden, I was shocked to see ahead of us a small old man sitting on top of a cut coconut stump. He was one and a half feet tall. He wore a sharply pointed hat and he was barefooted. He was laughing at me. Because of my sudden shock and surprise, I kept looking at him, I was speechless. I rubbed my eyes for I might just been mistaken in my sight, and I stared at him intensely because this might just have been due to the glass windshield of the jeep. But I could not be mistaken for my eye light was normal. I told my girl friends about what I saw and I pointed to them the small man, but they just laughed at me and they said that I was only fooling them. I pointed to the object but they said they could not see it. We became the light of the jeep toward the small man but still it was I alone who could see the object; the rest of them could not. On the road back home, I still insisted that there was really a dwarf on top of the coconut stump but they would not believe and they just laughed at me. But I cannot forget my sight of the dwarf on the coconut stump. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escolar University, Manila, 1981, pp. 168-169). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp.213-214)
Narrated by Emile Zarate-Ramos
A college graduate and businesswoman
On November 1, 1968, feast of departed souls, my elder sister, Claire Zarate-Manalo and I went to the Kalibo Parish Church at about nine-thirty in the morning. When we went towards the altar to receive communion, I knelt at the extreme left, side by side with my elder sister who was gazing at the altar. At once, as I knelt, I saw a small man sitting at the side of the altar. The size of the man was about that of a five-month-old baby, only that he was thin. He was one and a half feet tall. He was dark complexioned and looked as if he was between eighty to eighty-five years of age and toothless. His dress was entirely black like a pajama, with long pants, and long sleeves. He had a black hat like that of a dwarf and his shoes were like his black hat. I stared at the man seriously because he was the first smallest old man I had ever seen. It occurred to me that this might be what we call dwarf. That is why I stared at him long enough. I looked at my elder sister to see if she was also looking at the man, but she was not; she seemed serious and seemed to have seen nothing unusual. I looked at other people beside us and they wee not looking at the man either. It occurred to me that they might have been used to that man there. When we got home, I asked my elder sister if she saw the dwarf, but she answered that she had not seen anything. My hair stood on end from the answer she gave me. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escolar University, Manila, 1981, pp. 162-163). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp.214-215)
Narrated by Peping, a welding shop operator
This happened to me in my shop. We started operation in 1972, but the incident happened in 1973, to be precise. The shop which I am occupying now used to be an ermita of Roxas Avenue which was utilized for the May festivities.
Every afternoon, we would gather the different pieces of equipment inside the shop and arrange them in one place. Every morning, as we started working, our pliers would mysteriously disappear and my hired workers would endlessly look for it. In fact, my workers had nothing to do with the pliers, for it was I who used it and kept it afterwards in the afternoon. So, we would search for it till we finally found it. It had been like that for many times. So, the next time around, I would simply look for it silently when it disappeared. After all, my workers would always tell me that it was I who kept it the day before. I suspected that someone was making fun of us. My suspicion that my shop was inhabited by a duende was strengthened when something strange also happened to my worker, Gil, who used to sleep in the shop. It was a full moon, and Gil sensed something that sounded like footsteps moving about the room. But he saw no one outside. He went back to sleep spreading the blanket over himself. Shortly after that, he felt his hair being pulled from below. He suddenly got up feeling terribly nervous. (From Claire Zarate-Manalo, “Kalibo Supernaturalism and Its Social Relevance” (M.A. theses, Centro Escolar University, Manila, 1981, pp. 167). In: Philippine folk literature: the legends. Edited by Damiana Eugenio, Diliman, Quezon City, UP Press, 2002, pp.215)
Nick I. Mate
Philippine Herald Magazine, March 18, 1961, p. 8-9
A priceless relic of great historic importance lies buried to this day beneath the muddy bottom of a haunted river in Aklan province. This is the great white bell of Jemino whose legend many grade-school children found exciting reading in the Osias Readers.
The long-buried treasure awaits some philanthropic hands to salvage it from this watery grave. Cast in pure silver, the fabulous bell may enrich a finder with a few thousand pesos but the nation will immensely rewarded by its rare cultural values, for this is the memento of those brave and intelligent people who ruled these parts, flourished, and passed away.
This historic spot is located in the lonely little barrio of Jemino where flows the old meandering creek which the inhabitants call bucayan, or the White One. A drying rivulet now, it had been a deep eddying river which cut across the broad meadows of this ancient sitio of Altavas, Aklan. Nearby, to the south, a forested hill of noble height rises, forming a verdant backdrop against the rustic scene. The barrio abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and superstitions.
On the summit of the hill there used to stand, according to natives, a bamboo belfry where the legendary white bell would sound a warning of approaching Moro pirates. Local chroniclers claim that the superannuated stream is associated with the legend and point to the exact spot in the river where the white bell was hidden to prevent its capture by a band of Moros centuries ago.
The fabulous artifact was never retrieved after that and it was assumed to have found eternal repose beneath layers of silt that for centuries have accumulated in the bottom. Thus has the river derived its name. Several attempts to recover the white bell in the early days proved futile as divers came up scarred and reported seeing a Kataw, or siren (mermaid), near the bottom. Then legend took over. Superstitious natives believe that the bell is protected by the river-siren whose mighty charms hide it from the search of mortals. A quaint old man who lives near the enchanted spot gives credence to this mythical yarn and says that the white bell is still there where his forebears threw it into the water centuries ago.
The celebrated episode began sometime in the year 1600, during the height of the Moro depredations. In olden times Jemino embraced the length and breadth of a whole wide valley where a prosperous community of farmers and fishermen flourished. The wilderness reigned on the borders of the river. The hand of cultivation had not as yet laid low the dark forest nearby and tamed the features of the countryside. Game was plenty, crop harvests were abundant, and the people lived a happy life.
The only source of trouble was the pirates who were relentlessly harrying the inhabitants of this coastal region. Like hornets, the buccaneers would come in hordes from the islands of Ternate and Jolo, and not infrequently they would be joined by the fierce tribes of neighboring Borneo. Loaded with prisoners and booty, they would sail away to their distant strongholds, leaving in their wake death and destruction.
Usually the villages along the seacoast of the Visayas were the ones which suffered most. Many of the inhabitants were captured and sold as slaves. In 1621, Colonel Hernando de los Rios, a Spanish fort commander in Mindanao, estimated that some ten thousand Christians were captured and sold to rich Moslem datus.
At times some valiant villagers would offer resistance but their fear of the enemy would force them to withdraw after a brief skirmish. In that chaotic period, the hopeless inhabitants could never go out to sea without encountering the possible danger of falling into the hands of roving pirates. For several years the natives lived in a constant state of fear.
Along Aklan the pirates concentrated their raids in the minoro of Batang, which comprises Jemino and the fishing villagers of Lagatic, now known as New Washington. These are the domains of Datu Kalantiao, the famous lawgiver. The pirates’ favorite lurking place was Tinagong Dagat, a capacious cave near this township. The peaceful waters of the secluded bay provided an ideal harbor where the rogues could easily land their vintas.
Each time the Moros were sighted on the bay, drums and bugles would signal their presence. But this public alarm did not prove effective enough in the widely scattered communicates. Those who failed to hear the alarm would often fall reluctant prey to the foraging bandits.
The daring escape of Ora Guyang from the pirates and how her quick wits saved her life is a favorite story in Batang. The Moros were returning to their vintas after a raid during which Guyang was captured when nightfall overtook them on the trail. It was necessary for the raiders to rest and wait for daylight before resuming their homeward journey. Guyang made a dash for freedom in the darkness while her abductors were fast asleep.
She ran fast and as far as her legs could carry her. Nonetheless, dawn found the fleeing girl too far away from the safety of their community. Gravely worried that the Moros would recapture her, she thought it wise to retrace her footsteps on the sand to a wrong direction to mislead her pursuers. Then she took refuge in a thickly leafed branch of a tall tree. Only when certain that the Moros had left the islands did she climb down her perch, after several days of hiding. Guyang’s relatives were very glad to see her alive after given her up for lost.
It was amid such wide-felt despair and suffering that the idea of the bell took birth. The harassed people, who could no longer endure the continued Moro raids, summoned a council to seek ways and means of improving their vigilance. A wise old chieftain presiding over the gathered clan emphasized the great need for a device that would better secure the safety of the villagers. Someone suggested that a bell could speedily spread the alarm. Assign a sentinel to keep a sharp look-out, said another. The tall hill in Jemino would be just the right place for the project—this was the clincher that convinced all.
The heights command a good view of beaches in Batang. From the distance the approach of the enemy could be easily detected. The ringing of the bell would then alert the natives even when the pirates were still far out in the sea. To produce an effectively powerful sound, it was decided that the bell would be cast in silver. This would audibly bring into the ears of everyone the presence of danger.
It was the traditional Barangay spirit of the Visayans that helped make the white bell of Jemino possible. For as soon as contributions were exacted, hoards of moldy Spanish pesetas and silver coins were dug up from hiding places until a large heap glittered in the house of the chieftain. A blacksmith immediately sets to work. After a full week the silver bell was finished. The workmanship turned out to be excellent. Though of normal size, the bell was loud enough to be heard throughout the outlying villages. As planned, the silver bell was hung on a lookout post erected above the hill.
The next time the villages were imperiled, a lookout rang the white bell and the tolling reverberated across the glen bringing the message of danger. The alert gave the natives enough time to bundle their precious belongings and hide in the interior forests and surrounding marches. So it came to pass that the trustworthy bell which had saved many lives and much property soon became an object of superstitious reverence.
In no time the Moros became curious when they found deserted communities where nothing of value could be taken. Again and again their forays turned fruitless. In danger they put to the torch all abandoned huts. Precautioned, the inhabitants were already able to arm themselves and had on some occasion succeeded in driving away the buccaneers. This so enraged the pirates that they resolved to put an end to this mischief. Finally, the information about the existence of the silver bell filtered into their ears.
One day, the crafty enemy stole upon the village of Batang at noontide of a sultry summer’s day and surprised the inhabitants in the midst of their siestas. The pirates were out to capture the bell in Jemino. An excited native seized a conch-shell and blew a resounding blast that electrified the air. In an instant a stultifying scene broke out among the inhabitants.
A buxom maiden who was on her way to fetch water from a distant spring froze on her path when she heard the familiar sound. In panic she quickly ran back toward her village, forgetting her bamboo container in the spring. Suddenly, a pirate appeared on her tracks. Since then nothing was ever heard of the poor Olegaria.
In Jemino, the inhabitants were in a state of confusion. The old men, terrified, left whatever tasks they were doing and fled in the direction of the hills. The women, so great was their terror, gathered their children and ran. In the sudden excitement loose sayas were recalled to have simply slid off some slender waists. Others just forgot everything and scampered towards the jungles top hide.
Amidst the hue and cry, a lean warrior ran to the hilltop and quickly scanned the beach in the direction of Batang. Peering from the heights he had a bird’s-eye-view of the sea below him. His heart froze for a moment at the sinister sight that greeted his eyes. An enormous fleet of vintas was spread over the bay of Tinagong Dagat. The sun glided their bellying canvas as they rode at anchor along the shallows. They were greater in number than at any time before. Then the excited lookout rang the bell with frightened inhabitants as they crouched behind bushes and above trees awaiting their fate.
Back in the village the braves deployed a distance from the sitios and put up a posture of defense. Intelligence had reached the villagers that the Moros were going inland to take possessions of the bell. The chieftain had exhorted his followers to save it at all costs and the natives braced for a fight. Talibongs, bamboo lances, bows and arrows bristled among the men.
Among the motley defenders was one Paciong, who staged a one-man attack and bravely routed a vinta which was full of the enemy. Riding a banca in the dead of the night, he surreptitiously rowed towards the place where the Moros had anchored their vintas. Paciong quickly jumped into one and hacked a sleepy sentry before he could utter a cry. The rest he annihilated by skewering their nipa cabins with his bamboo lance. He impaled many of his sleeping enemies. The others who were able to wake in time spilled into the water to escape certain death.
When his feat became known to the Moros, the pirates fumed with revenge, and with augmented audacity became more determined to snatch the white bell. The marauders established a cotta near the shores of Batang as a base of operations. They continued to forage inland in search of the white bell during the siege that lasted for weeks. When captured was imminent, the natives acted quickly and took the white bell down and hid it deep in the river’s bottom.
Time has since filled the river with alluvial deposits from the rich top soil of eroded farmlands fringing the banka, even as modern political growth has reduced the boundaries of Jemino to the size of a small barrio peopled in recent years by a scant circle of farmers. The site of Jemino is already known today as Altavas named after the honor of the late Capiz assemblyman who authored the bill that converted the old barrio into a municipality.
Misty-eyed old folks, proud descendants of the original tribes, would still narrate, often in the innocent exercise of their fancy, the amusing and the tragic experiences their forebears had in defense of the white bell. Relics of the struggle in the form of a rutted fortification can still be seen today. Other interesting incidents, already tinted with superstition, have become myths which are stored only in the memory of the inhabitants.
Natives living near the bank of Bucayan claim that they often hear weird noises coming from the river. Is this the breeze passing through the bamboo thickets growing profusely along the banks, or is it the sound of the wood-nymphs singing as they keep eternal watch over the silver bell?
Leopoldo A. de la Cruz,
Sunday Times Magazine, March 19, 1961, pp. 16-17
A long time ago, there lived in this part of the Aklan river a man called Paumod. He had a son by the name of Dagasanan who, like his father, was a hunter. Ever since he had learned to hunt by himself alone, this boy was always in the forest of Kagoyuman which covered half of the back of Mount Daeogdog.
In this mountain lived the gods, according to the inhabitants of Aklan. The most powerful of them was Gamhanan who was the giver of life, security, and livelihood. But like any other gods, he also punished erring residents.
When summer came and trhe Aklan river bed turned dry and the soil caked, the people believed that Gamhanan in daeogdog was angry at them for their sins and had caused the drought and burned up the vegetation.
Again, when the rainy season came and lightning damaged animals and broke trees and split mountainsides, the people said that Gamhanan was angry because they had failed to offer a portion of their good harvest to his dwellings in the cave.
In Mount Daeogdog there were times when the people used to hear the bleating of the white panigotlo during the full moon. The pangotlo was a deer with full antlers. And this deer was often seen dashing across the river stream like a shaft of light. But the people never molested this pet of the gods; neither did they permit anyone to catch it.
If this animal was heard bleating before midnight during full moon, the people concluded that nothing bad would befall any villager and that anything that the farmers would plant the following day would become fruitful and abundant. But if the bleating was heard after midnight, the inhabitants believed something bad would happen: a flood to wash away their homes, farms and domestic animals, or blood spilled on the land.
One night, when the moon was full, this white panigotlo was heard bleating. The people learning of the event prepared their seedlings for the morrow. A camp fire was built near the river bank where the farmers, hunters, and fishers converged to join the thanksgiving gathering.
In the midst of the merriment, there appeared from across the river bank the figure of a man with a heavy load on his back. A sense of foreboding seized the people.
The people watched this figure. It moved on, then slowly descended the banks with difficulty and waded across the lazy stream towards the caked river bed. He followed the beaten path towards the clearing where the people were.
When he neared them, the people recognized him—Dagasanan, Paumod’s son, the hunter. The man lowered his load—the carcass of the enchanted white panigotlo!
The people stared in horror as the hunter and the dead deer.
“why did you lay your hands on Gamhanan’s pet? “ the people cried, raising their spears. “You’re a curse! A curse! A curse!”
Dagsanan turned on his heels and dashed awayas fast as he could but a spear caught him before he could get away. On the edge of the bank that rose from the dry river bed, he staggered and fell. Then the other men fell upon him with spear and blade. Meanwhile, another group raced to the hut of Paumod whom they also slew without warning.
That night thunder boomed in the countryside and the rains fell. The waters rose and flooded the river banks. There was devastation in the lowland areas at the foot of Mount Daeogdog. The people felt the wrath of Gamhanan.
Dagasanan’s body was washed away, but on the spot where he fell, there grew an inyam tree. That arm of river where falls the shadow of this tree was named after thus youth. On this very spot drowning occurs often. Dagasanan’s vengeance—every year a child is claimed for what their forefathers had done!
Mothers always warn their children not to go bathing in that side of the river the day after a booming sound is heard among the rocks. The people say it is Dagasanan groaning with pain and telling everyone that he was waiting for his next victim. Rufo’s son was around last year. And a farmer’s son across the river disappeared the year before.
On the spot where Paumod was killed another inyam tree grew. And it is said that during full moon natives sometimes notice a strange shadow flying from this tree to the other inyam tree by the riverbank where it will disappear while dogs howls in the distance.
Habatian Ko Eang Ra sa Magueang Ko, Melchor F. Cichon
Natabo ra sa Baryo Sta. Cruz, Lezo, Aklan. Mga 1957 siguro rato.
Si Nay Diday Felomino nga taga-Sta. Cruz, Lezo, hay nagahaea it puto. Aga-aga kon imaw mag-eaha it puto.
Ro baeay nanday Nanay Diday hay mga waeong piyes ra kataason ag ro andang saeog hay butong. Sa uto ku andang baeay hay may mga liay. Gina-amak na ra kon imaw magdap-ong o kon imaw mag-eaga it tubi para sa anang puto.
Isaeang aga-aga, samtang nagaeaha imaw it puto sa andang kusina, may nabatian imaw nga may nagakaeas-kaeas sa idaeum ku andang baeay. Sigurado imaw nga bukon it baboy aynakatangkae ro andang baboy.bukon man it andang ayam ay ro sambilog nanda nga ayam hay bag-o eang nana nakita nga naga-euko sa andang sala. Bangod nga eain gid ro nagakaeas sa andang idaeum hay ginhaon ni Nanay Diday ro sangka hurmanan nga lata nga may nagabukae nga tubi ag gulpi nana ra nga gin-uea sa may lugar kon siin nana nabatian ro nagakaeas.
Ag gulpi dayon nabatian ni Nay Diday nga may nagsinggit it aruy nga boses it magueang nga baye. Ag ingko may nagdaeagan.
Pagkaagahon hay nagbantog sa amon nga baryo nga ro ginakuno-kuno nga aswang nga si Lola Maria sa Takas hay napaso ra bilog nga eawas ag nagapaeaea sa andang kubo. Owa man imaw gindaea sa ospital ku ana nga bana nga magueang eon man ay owa man abi sanda’t kwarta. Gineampuean eang kuno nanda it ugbos it saging.
Isaea pa basi masayran kon ano ro natabo kana.
Pagkataliwam it mga tatlong adlaw, ro magueang nga baye hay namatay.
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