COMMON BELIEFS IN TAYABAS AND BATANGAS
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2. Folklore: Beliefs.
March 12, 1917
It was on the eve of January 29, 1911, and all the region around the Taal Volcano was being shaken continually. Here and there, ignorant persons, ghostly pale with fear, stared at each other as if asking, “What will become of us?” But not all the people looked upon that phenomenon as an impending catastrophe which would ruin them all. There were hearts that beat with pleasure, expecting some miracle, some unheard of event which might crystallize their long pent up dreams. They expected that “Bernardo del Carpio” would at last break the chains that bound him. But let us not anticipate; let us hear the story from the mouths of the people themselves; let us visit one of the nipa houses tending solitary on the south shore of “Laguna de Bay.”
The night was dark. Thick clouds mantled the little heavenly stars; but once in a while, tongues of flame flashed toward the south. A low rumbling murmur could be heard, piercing almost inaudibly the noise made by the banana leaves swayed by gusts of wind.
As I said, on the south shore of Laguna de Bay, there stood small nipa houses. If we were to visit the house on the eve of the eruption of Taal Volcano, we would find a little boy of about ten years reclining on the lap of an old man. His lustrous black pupils were fixed at the sparse gray beard of the old man.
“Well, Amana, don’t you hear the roar? Are you happy Amama that our house is trembling? Are you not afraid it will fall? I wish Nana were here. I am afraid Amama.”
“Ah, my son, you do not know the cause why our house is shaken. You ought to rejoice; our king is coming!”
“Who, Amama, King Alfonso?”
“No, my son; dear me, King Alfonso is not our king. Our king is brown like you and me; but he is strong, very strong, so strong that the earth shakes when he moves.”
“Where is he then, Amama? I wish you will tell me the story of his life.”
“Well, do not interrupt me, and I will tell you the story which I used to hear when I was a little boy. The name of our king is ‘Bernardo Carpio.’ He was so powerful that all the people from far and wide were happy to pay tribute to him in order to receive the strong protection of his mighty arms. His soldiers met death unflinchingly when they were fighting by his side.
“However, one day he discovered the faithlessness of one of his wives; and mad with jealousy, he killed her. Bathala came to test if that crime had not stained his virtuous character, consequently, he disguised himself as a stranger and begged to see the king. The king, contrary to his habit, did not receive the stranger; and contrary to the custom of his ancestors, did not receive him hospitably. Bathala was sent out of the big house by force. The spirit became angry. He hurled at the king his
lightning, but missed his victim. Bernardo, enraged, pursued the spirit. They raced mile after mile and their heavy steps shook the earth. At last, Bathala entered the cave of San Mateo, but even [then] the powerful king kept pursuing him. The solid rock opened and in rushed Bathala; but just as Bernardo landed his feet in [blurred word], the rock closed and he was made a prisoner. Bathala chained him, limbs and all. Then the spirit said this to him:
“You have forgotten the sacred memory of your ancestors, therefore, you are punishable by death; but because you repent, your punishment will be remitted. You will stay here until you can break the chains that bind you. Once unfettered, if your promise to reform yourself, I will allow you to return to your kingdom and reign happily over your people.
“When Bernardo did not return to his big house, and after the most systematic search proved futile, his ministers thinking him dead, began to divide his kingdom. Internecine was faced the number of the inhabitants; and when the civil war ended, many petty kingdoms, jealous of one another, were formed. Not long after this event, the Spaniards came. The mutual jealousies of the different kingdoms favored their expeditions for [blurred word]; and a short period, thanks to the degenerated patriotism of Bernardo’s vassals, the great kingdom was reduced almost completely.
“When I was about your age, some people said that the two hands of our king were already unfettered. Later when I was a
young man already, I heard from many people that Rizal had visited the king. This fortunate youth brought the happy news that Bernardo had only one foot left chained. You see now, why I am happy. The earth is trembling because our king is trying to break the last chain. If he will not be able to free himself at this time, I am afraid I am going to die without seeing our king.”
The old man sighed and looked sad. His eyes were moistened with tears, but the boy did not notice [his] downcast expression.
“Amama, is our king very strong?”
“Yes, he is so strong that Rizal did not dare to shake hands with him. Rizal was wise enough to give the bone of a cow instead of his hand; because when Bernardo grasped the bone, it was crumbled to dust.”
“And where is Rizal, Amama? Is he not dead?”
“Rizal had gone to visit our king again.”
“As soon as he spread the news that King Bernardo is coming very soon, he went back to the cave of San Mateo. He will stay there until the king gets free; then he will come back to announce Bernardo’s arrival in order that he may prepare to receive our true king. I think you will see Rizal and King Bernardo yet, my son…….. As for me……..”
He sighed; and a small crystalline tear fell on the cheek of the child.
A few further remarks will close this account. Why are the Filipinos hospitable? Why do they revere their ancestors? Why they were easily conquered, and why they are developing a national sentiment, together with other questions which a careful
reader will notice – all these questions are explained by the old man who tells the legendary and allegorical “Bernardo del Carpio.”
In my home town, there is a big tree where a ghost is supposed to be living. This tree stands on the northern part of the town near the Campwhelhelm [Camp Wilhelm?] where the American soldiers were stationed before. This tree is called Baliti, the only tree where ghosts lived according to the superstitious belief of the country people. Among the ghosts are Cafre and Tigbalang.
Cafre is the one living in this tree. This ghost has the power to transform itself into a very big man, and very often into a very big man, and very often into a big light which usually appears in dark nights.
In 1904, when the American soldiers were living in the camp near this tree, one of the soldiers went to the town. It was almost seven o’clock when he returned home. It happened that when he was passing by this baliti tree, he saw a big light moving on this tree. He was surprised upon seeing this. Then, he took his revolver from his pocket. While he was looking attentively, it was suddenly transformed into a very big man, so he fired at him but the soldier failed to hit him. The cafre then came to seize the man, so he ran as fast as he could to the camp for aid. Then, a company of eight soldiers went to see this
cafre. When they reached the place, they saw the big man and they fired at him but they neither killed nor hit him. Now, they returned to the camp with awful feelings. Since then, they believed in ghosts, and at night, they always went to the town in companies as if they were afraid of [the] cafre. Today, this cafre seldom appears.
Before the establishment of the civil government in the Philippine Islands and when the country was still in turmoil due to the successive changes in governments, the barrio of Palike was almost always at the mercy of robbers. Many causes of robbery which caused the loss of many lives and the destruction of properties were reported. In a meeting of the barrio folks, it was agreed that at the sound of the chief’s tambuli, a horn trumpet, every male inhabitant of the community should at once go to the chief’s house to help driving the robbers away.
The following night, at about eleven o’clock, the chief sounded his tambuli as if there were robbers, just to see whether the inhabitants were true to their promises. Quick as a flash, all the inhabitants were assembled in the chief’s house but there were no robbers. So again, they dispersed, saying to each other that the chief was fooling them. All slept soundly until then.
On the third night, the chief saw the robbers starting a fire at his house. He sounded his tambuli, but the people, thinking that he was again joking, did not heed. Thus, he was left alone
at the mercy of the cruel bandigs.
On setting sail from the town of Unisan, one may see from the boat the enchanted cave of Malatandang, just about a kilometer to the west of Unisan. Traditions and all sorts of stories are connected with it. The townsfolk say that lights are often seen from the cave especially in the cold, dark, rainy nights. No one has yet found the real cause of these lights, but the ignorant country people assert that these lights are glowing [probably, word blurred] cigars of the cave’s occupants. Some go even so far as to trace the origin of these spirit-life inhabitants of Malatandang are still appearing in this cave.
Thousands of years ago, when Unisan was but a small community of not more than six or seven families, there ruled a savage chief. He prohibited the smoking of cigars as he thought it would someday bring vice misery. A family who had acquired the habit of smoking so such a degree, as to be unable to quit that habit, naturally sought refuge among the caves and valleys where the mandate of the cruel chief could not lay hands upon them. Thus, the cave came into the possession of this family whose souls still inhabit the place.
Notes and references:
Transcribed from “Common Beliefs in Tayabas and Batangas,” by Melanio Javierto, 1917, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.