Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pinatubo and Arayat (2 of 3)

Between Heaven and Earth

The axis mundi is where sky, earth and underworld meet. That this term applied to both Pinatubo and Arayat is evident by the deities that inhabited these mountains. Malyari, the Moon on Pinatubo, and Sinukuan, the Sun on Arayat.

Sinukuan had among his children Munag Sumalâ, the Dawn, and Ugtu, the Noontime. Among Malyari's children is Sisilim, the Setting of the Sun. In one version (Eugenio 1983, 180), the daughters of Sinukuan are known as the Three Marias (Tres Marias), which is a name given to the three stars of Orion's Belt. Furthermore, Tala, the planet Venus and the Morning Star, is said to descend either from Sinukuan (Apolaqui) and the Moon (Mayari), or from the marriage of Munag Sumalâ and Manalastas, the Rooster, the son of Malyari.

Not only do these deities live on the two sacred mountains, but they are expressly said in multiple accounts to live within the mountains, i.e., in the Underworld. The golden palace of Sinukuan within Arayat, for example, is featured in many of the legends of this region. Sinukuan's palace, according to the accounts, could generally only be accessed by mortals through magical intervention.

In a myth found among the fisherfolk in Masantol, the creator deity Mangatia or Mangetchay, whose name means "net weaver," created the sky as a great net with the stars as the holes or "eyes." After finishing this cosmic net, Mangatia dropped the sewing needle to the Earth and the former became either Mt. Arayat, or Batung Maputi (White Rock). The latter is a massive white rock formation near the peak of Arayat, where many legends say the magical entrance to Sinukuan's subterranean palace is located.

I mentioned earlier in this blog, that the Kapampangans apparently had two geographical centers -- one in the North in Upper Pampanga, and one in the South in Lower Pampanga, where the trading seaports were located. The northern center was located between Pinatubo and Arayat with the latter mountain indicating the direction of the East, and the mouth of the Pampanga River, the direction of the South. From the cosmic perspective, this area between the two great luminaries -- Sun and Moon -- was the center of the world.

Battle between the Sun and Moon

The fighting between Malyari and Sinukuan is also a conflict between the Sun and Moon. The most common form of this myth takes the form of a widespread theme that extends beyond the Philippines. R. Rahmann in his work "Quarrels and Enmity between the Sun and the Moon: A Contribution to the Mythologies of the Philippines, India, and the Malay Peninsula," traces this theme from Southeast Asia to India.

The quarrel between the two orbs is usually started due to the intense heat of the Sun, often together with his progeny. After the battle, the Moon, which was once as bright or brighter than Sun, takes on a subordinate position. In many cases, this theme is combined together with the motif of a cataclysm of fire-rain or fire-water on the earth. There is also, especially in the Philippines, an accompanying land-forming theme with new formations caused by the huge boulders hurled by the combatants.

The motifs of great heat, fire, water, flying stones, and the new land formations in connection with the mountains is easy to interpret as volcanic activity -- an indication of the geographical origin of these myths.

Many of the accounts of the battle between Malyari and Sinukuan do not actually mention Pinatubo by name. Often "Mount Zambales" or a more vague reference to the Zambales mountains is mentioned instead. H. Otley Beyer recorded many of these in his unpublished Philippine Folklore, Social Customs and Beliefs Vol. IX (Pampanga), a collection of papers written by his students during the early 20th century. In many cases, the accounts are clearly mixed with other folk material. For example, the tale of Sinukuan's friends including Carguin Cargon and Supla Supling are taken from the Spanish legend of Lucifer's Ear.

Here are some of the stories of the battle between Sinukuan and his opponent from Zambales.

  • Sinukuan battles with the young prince, the son of Storm God of the Sambal mountains after the latter comes courting Maya, the youngest and favorite daughter of Sinukuan. (Parker 1929)
  • According to Alfredo Nicdao in 1916, Mt. Zambales was a great single mountain in former times inhabited by a friend of Suku (Sinukuan) who came one day to ask for the hand of one of Suku's daughter's in marriage. This angered Suku and the two engaged in a stone throwing battle that broke Zambales into a mountain range and flattened the top of Arayat. (Beyer, undated)
  • Dominador G. David in 1917 tells of a giant in Zambales mountain who challenged and defeated the king of Arayat. The latter was killed and his son Sinukuan took his place, and later he eventually married the daughter of the lord of Zambales. (Beyer, undated)

In 1915, Beyer recorded a myth of the Ayta living in Zambales that sounds very much like a volcanic eruption of Pinatubo, but mentions neither Malyari or Sinukuan. Instead, the battle is between Algao, which may be northern name for the Sun (related to Aldo), and Bacobaco, a great sea turtle. This Bacobaco may be related to the legend of the Baconaua, usually described as a sea serpent or whale. However, Baconaua has a sister that is a great sea turtle according to most accounts. Baconaua was not the Moon but the great serpent that was said to swallow the Moon during an eclipse.

Now, in the Ayta account Algao and Bacobaco have a great battle in which the latter eventually bores into the top of Pinatubo creating a great crater and emitting great flames, huge rocks, mud, ashes, smoke and deafening noise in the process. According to the legend, Bacobaco continued to dwell in the mountain and when he comes out "woe be to us."

Ayta from the Zambales region.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/josearmando/1804253902/

The body of myths surrounding Malyari and Sinukuan clearly show their dual opposition to one another. Generally speaking, Sinukuan is depicted as male although a few accounts portray him as female. Malyari seems to be portrayed more as female, at least if all the myths of the region are taken into account, but sometimes also has a male identity. Despite their periodic enmity, Sinukuan is often said to be married to Malyari's daughter, or vice a versa, and their children also court and marry one another.

Here is a general breakdown of the dual aspects of these deities and their respective mountains.

The western direction, south, female, mother, wife, daughter, hidden, gregarious, wide, sea, creation, beginning, birth, water, storm, bird

The eastern direction, north, male, father, husband, son, prominent, solitary, tall, land, destruction, ending, death, fire, earthquake, serpent/dragon

The belief in a future eruption of Mt. Pinatubo is mentioned above in the account of Algao and Bacobaco, and also in an earlier post on the myth of the battle of Aldau and Bulan. Damiana Eugenio, in her 1993 work (p. 179), relates traditions of a future return of Sinukuan:

Many barrio folks still say that some time in the future Sinukuan may come out again. Mt. Arayat used to be the home of the Colorums who waited for Sinukuan to come out of his cave and to find a new paradise on earth for them.

A colorum is a messianic group -- the name coming from a local corruption of Latin et saecula saeculorum "world without end."

(to be continued)

Paul Kekai Manansala


Beyer, H. Otley. Philippine Folklore, Social Customs and Beliefs Vol. IX (Pampanga), unpublished and undated. Part of the Philippine Ethnographic Series that was destroyed during World War II. Carbon copies were preserved by the National Library of Australia, which subsequently copied the works on microfiche.

Ethnography of the Negrito-Aeta Peoples, Manila, 1915.

Rahmann, Rudolf . “Quarrels and Enmity between the Sun and the Moon. A Contribution to the Mythologies of the Philippines, India, and the Malay Peninsula,” Folklore Studies, Vol. 14, 1955 (1955), pp. 202-214.