Saturday, October 10, 2009

Myths and Legends of Pinatubo and Arayat

The oral traditions involving the mountains Pinatubo and Arayat are quite vast, and I want to give an outline of some of these along with a bit of analysis. However, given that many of the works that might discuss these mountains and their traditions are buried in extensive archives that are not well-indexed, this will be an on-going process.

The earliest explicit mention of name "Arayat" and its main deity "Sinukuan" that I have been able to uncover is the travel diary of Gemelli Careri in 1696:

In Pampanga, and right on the mountain called Bondo [Bondoc], or Kalaya [Alaya], being a league and a half high (which was previously under the rule of Sinoquan and Mingan) are plantains, betels, and other fruits. They say they may eat these fruits on the spot, but if anyone carries them down they either fall down dead, or become lame. Perhaps the Devil (by God's permission) causes such strange accidents, to keep those people in paganism; but the Indians themselves also play their part for they are famous sorcerers and are said often to convert themselves into crocodiles, wild boars, and other forms.

The Bondo and Kalaya come from "Bondok Alaya" or "Mount Alaya," the original name of Arayat. Sinoquan is obviously Apung Sinukuan, who is portrayed here as a ruler of Arayat along with Mingan, a name that in most traditions is that of Sinukuan's wife, but occasionally occurs also as the name of one of his daughters.

As for Sinukuan's opposite -- Apo na Malyari (Apung Mallari) and Mt. Pinatubo -- the earliest reference I have found so far comes from a manuscript titled "Relation of the Zambals" by Domingo Perez in 1680. Malyari is mentioned primarily in reference to the sacrifices made by the Bayoc, the Sambal high priest, and Pinatubo ("Pinatuba") is noted for its rock slides during the rainy season (Blair and Robertson 1903).

These accounts are rather brief and do not provide detailed information. For example, no connection is made between the god Malyari and Pinatubo.

Modern ethnography

We begin to learn more about the myths and legends of these mountains when a renaissance in learning about indigenous culture occurred among the leaders of the Propaganda Movement and the Philippine Revolution starting around the 1880s. These studies intensified after American colonization among both American and Filipino scholars.

During this time, we learn that Sinukuan was also known by other names: Aldo "Sun," and Apolaqui "Lord Male," or possibly "Lord Grandfather." The myths suggest that knowledge of Sinukuan was more widely spread than the areas of Pampanga and nearby Zambales.

For example, Apolaqui was also known throughout most of Luzon where he is variously called Apolaki, Apolake, etc., often in myths that resemble that of the battle of the Sun and Moon, or Aldo and Bulan, that is associated with Arayat and Pinatubo.

  • Diego Aduarte in 1640 mentions Apolaqui as a war god in Pangasinan.
  • The Bolinao Manuscript mentions the Sambal priestess Bolindauan in 1684 who has Apolaqui as her Anito (personal deity).
  • Dean Fansler in 1921 writes of a legend told to him by Leopoldo Layug of Guagua that tells of the battle between the brother Apolaqui, the Sun, and his sister, Mayari (Malyari), the Moon.
  • F. Landa Jocano, much later in 1969 relates a similar tale to that mentioned by Fansler among the Tagalogs involving Apolake and Mayari, who again are the personifications of the Sun and Moon.
  • In 1918, A. L. Kroeber records that Apolaki is considered a mountain monster in Bikol, the southernmost part of Luzon, and that the term is also used as a name for God among Christians in Pangasinan and Ilocos, the northern areas of Luzon.

From these examples, we can see that the myths of Apolaqui and Mayari were linked with the spirits of the Sun and Moon. A similar legend from Pampanga tells of the supreme deity Mangetchay (Mangatai) who is said to live in the Sun while his wife dwells in the Moon, and his daughter lived on Venus, the Morning Star (Eugenio 1993, 64).

Where these myths of the Sun and Moon are not explicitly linked with Arayat and Pinatubo respectively, we can still surmise the connection. For example, the goddess Malyari, the personification of the Moon, has a name that relates to the local Pinatubo Ayta and Sambal people. "Malyari" is also a native Kapampangan word that Bergano derives from the word yari "cosa acabada, perfeccionada ['something finished, perfected']" and gives three alternate forms: malyari, milyari and malalyari.

That Malyari is the deity of Pinatubo is agreed upon by the Ayta, Sambal and Kapampangans. The Pinatubo Ayta call this deity Apo Namalyari (Apo na Malyari) or Apo Pinatubo (Schebesta 1959).

Naturally, the Sun would be located to the east of Pinatubo in Bondoc Alaya, which literally means "Mountain of the East."

The crater lake of Pinatubo with Arayat rising up above the clouds about 26 miles to the east.

Geological connection of Pinatubo and Arayat

Mythology gives Arayat and the Zambales mountain range a common origin as noted by Cornélis De Witt Willcox writing in 1912:

According to the native legend, this mountain [Arayat] used to form part of the Zambales range. It became, however, by reason of its quarrelsome disposition, so objectionable to its neighbors of this range, that they finally resolved no longer to endure its cantankerousness and accordingly banished it to its present position in the plain of Central Luzon, where it would have no neighbors to annoy, and where it has stood ever since, rising solitary from the surrounding plain.

The idea of Arayat belonging at one time, before separating, to another (unnamed) mountain range is also mentioned in the story that Don Pedro Serrano heard from an octogenarian informant in 1889. It was from these and similar legends that the likely latter ideas of Arayat separating from Candaba or Tapang, Nueva Ecija. That the Zambales origin tale was the original one is too obvious from the actual geology of Arayat.

According to the leading theory, Arayat is a back arc of the same mountain range that includes the Zambales Mountains. And this fact would be fairly obvious to keen observers as a note by Richard von Drasche in 1876 demonstrates:

If one were to draw a line from Monte Pinatubo to the isolated mountain of Arayat in the plain, one would notice that all the rivers north of this line flow in a northeasterly direction, while all those south of it flow in a southeasterly direction toward Rio Grande de la Pampanga. This circumstance may be observed particularly plainly from the top of the Arayat, where I first noticed this slope of the plain in both directions, increasing toward Monte Pinatubo. East of Monte Arayat this circumstance disappears entirely.

The connection between the two mountains was alluded to in the idea of a cloud bridge mentioned in Luther Parker's Sinukuan tales published in 1929. This cloud bridge was likely the origin of other bridges that are said to have been built from Arayat to Dayat, Candaba, Makiling and elsewhere. These bridges likely arose from the perception of a ridge, alluded to above, existing between Pinatubo and Arayat -- a formation that probably also gave birth to the latter legends of a tunnel connection between Arayat, Makiling and Banahaw mountains.

(to be continued)

Paul Kekai Manansala


Blair, Emma Helen, James Alexander Robertson, and Edward Gaylord Bourne. The Philippine Islands, 1493-1803: Explorations by Early Navigators, Descriptions of the Islands and Their Peoples, Their History and Records of the Catholic Missions, As Related in Contemporaneous Books and Manuscripts, Showing the Political, Economic, Commercial and Religious Conditions of Those Islands from Their Earliest Relations with European Nations to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century. Cleveland, Ohio: A.H. Clark Co, 1903, 296, 302-4.

Drasche, Richard von. "The volcanic region around Manila," Proceedings of the Royal Geological Service, 1876.

Eugenio, Damiana L. Philippine Folk Literature: The Myths, University of the Philippines Press, 1993.

Careri, Gemelli Giovanni Francesco. Giro del mondo del dottor D. Gio: Francesco Gemelli Careri. T[omo] qu[a]r[t]a contenente le c[ose] più regguardevoli vedute nella Cina. In Napoli: Nella stamperia di Giuseppe Roselli, 1708, 137-8.

Parker, Luther . “Daughters of Sinukuan,” Philippine Magazine 1929, Vol. 26, no. 1, 535, 694, 750.

Schebesta, Paul. Die Negrito Asiens. Wien-Mödling: St.-Gabriel-Verlag, 1952.

Serrano, Don Pedro and Edilberto V. Santos (translator). "El Fabuloso Suku," Singsing vol. 5, no. 1, 23.

Willcox, Cornélis De Witt. The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon. Kansas City, [Mo.]: Franklin Hudson Publishing Co, 1912.