Magic Tales from Cuenca, Batangas by Agripino R. Cuevas, 1925 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Magic Tales from Cuenca, Batangas by Agripino R. Cuevas, 1925 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Magic Tales from Cuenca, Batangas by Agripino R. Cuevas, 1925

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1925 ethnographic paper written by one Agripino R. Cuevas from .jpeg scans of the originals made available by the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Corrections for grammar had been made in certain parts but no attempt was made to rewrite the original paper. Original pagination is indicated for citation purposes.

Henry Otley-Beyer Collection

[Cover page.]

Tagalog Paper No. 475.
Agripino R. Cuevas.
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  1. TAGALOG: Cuenca, Batangas Province.
  2. Summary: Folklore: Magic Tales.

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March 1, 1925.

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By Agripino R. Cuevas

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The Well of the Virgin of Caysasay.

Once, there was in a small barrio of Laboc, a deep well known as the Well of the Virgin of Caysasay. It is said that the water taken from that well is of such a value that it not only cures many kinds of sicknesses, but that it also possesses some miraculous or magical property. For example, if one has lost something, say a carabao or a plow, and the owner can’t locate the lost object at once, by filling a clear transparent glass jar with the water taken from the well, the place where these lost objects are found hidden, is clearly reflected on the surface of the water in the jar, so that the owner could easily recover them. Besides, if the loss of such properties is suspected to have been stolen, by just asking who the stealer or robber was, and his face will also be revealed on the water’s surface. Even the moss that grows in the inner wall of the said well is believed to possess a magical power, so much so that if a piece of it is grounded in a mortar with any kind of oil, but preferably the “calumpang oil,” and the extract is obtained from the said process is sprayed or mixed with the water of fish ponds, it will cause the fishes in it to grow so rapidly

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that within a period of scarcely twenty-four hours, each small individual fish will suddenly become big enough to offer a marketable price.

Besides the water and the moss, also the sediment that collects at the bottom of this well is of a marvelous healing power. An interesting story is told out of this. It is said that there was once a fight between two brave men of that barrio. It was rather a bolo duel. Both were strong and well-bodied, then one of them is “one-eyed.” As they began to strike one against each other, the one-eyed fellow due perhaps to his disadvantage of fighting only with a single eye, received a blow on his neck with such a force that he was nearly beheaded. A younger brother of him happened to be present in the fight, did not lose time to approach his dying brother and by applying a kind of poultice to the wide cut inflicted by the opponent’s bolo at his brother’s neck, he could easily get up to continue fighting, for his wound was miraculously healed up without leaving any trace of scar. The fight continued and each time that the single-eyed fellow received a cut, his brother applied the remedy, so that at the end he succeeded to kill his adversary. Then, [through] inquiry they learned that the remedy applied is nothing more than the fresh sediment taken from the bottom of the well of the virgin of Caysasay.

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The Solitary Hair of the Tigbalang.

There was once a young man by the name of Ponso, who was looked upon by his friends as a real hero. He was known all over the town and his power was regarded as great as that of a demi-god. His parents were proud of him and the most beautiful women of his town have already “set their hopes” on him. Ponso, however, though courteous and respectful as ever to all, had remained indifferent and selfish as far as matrimonial contract was concerned.

One day, while he was wandering in the forest, as it was his habit to seek amusements among the woods and running brooks, he found a lady lying asleep on the trunk of a big balete tree whose beauty dazzled him at the very first sight. He approached her and gently tried to wake her up, to ask who she was and why she was there. But no sooner had he touched her dress that the girl opened her eyes and all startled and bewildered to find a stranger by her side moaned a repressed cry and vanished as if by enchantment. Ponso, far from being disappointed, drew from his pocket his leather purse and from this, he took out something that looked like a black cord about the size of an umbrella wire. It measured nearly three feet in length and it was soft and pliable. This curious object was nothing more than a “Tigbalang’s solitary hair,” and to which the “extraordinary” power of Ponso was attributed to. By stretching it between

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his two hands, there instantly appeared before him whom the single hair in question had not obtained. Ponso told him then, “I want you to find for me the beautiful maiden who had been sleeping just several minutes ago in this place.” After this, the Tigbalang disappeared while Ponso sat waiting on the trunk of the balete. After a few hours, the faithful Tigbalang reappeared in front of Ponso and said, “Master, the beautiful lady you found sleeping here is the daughter of the powerful enchantress, and the power I have to serve you does not reach as far as taking the lady from her mother for they are much more powerful than us.”

“Well, then,” said Ponso, “What will you suggest for me to do in order that I may win the lady’s love?”

“The only thing I can do,” answered the Tigbalang, “is to take you to the place where they live, and the rest I leave to your discretion.” So, he took Ponso in his arms and both of them disappeared. The next moment, Ponso found himself in front of a big house, and as he tried to enter the front door, he suddenly felt as if some unknown and unseen force was trying to lift him up. He faced to go back but the door had automatically closed behind. While he was in this state of bewilderment, a door at his left opened and to his great amazement, the lady he was looking for appeared from it, greeting him with the sweetest smile. She asked him to be seated, and it was only then that he realized that he was standing in the middle of a magnificent hall.

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The lady inquired how he came to find her house and Ponso told her that he learned it from his faithful servant, the Tigbalang. Ponso explained to her everything that was converted with his power, how he acquired it, and how he retained it so that at the end of his narration, the lady said, “It is, therefore, that Tigbalang’s hair which serves [as] the key to all your wisdom. Well, then, let me try how it works.” Ponso presented to her the hair, and by stretching it between her two hands, she began asking her questions. To her great delight, she found that all her wishes were complied [with]; as for example, when she asked that she be given the most beautiful flowers, and instantly the Tigbalang handed to her the most beautiful bouquet of fragrant wild orchids; she desired a bird and the most beautiful “kulyawan” was given to her; she liked diamonds and the prettiest were offered to her stones. She was, therefore, convinced of the great power that this solitary hair of Tigbalang kept, so that she decided to marry its owner, the lucky Ponso.

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The Tawak and the Serpent.

Once upon a time, a certain Tawak was called upon to cure a boy who was bitten by a snake. When he arrived at the place, he “diagnosed” the boy and declared later that there was little hope to save the boy’s life for the poison

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had already reached the heart. He, however, promised the parents of the boy that he would try his best. Going out of the house at once, he put two of his fingers in his mouth and tried to whistle. Such whistle seemed to have a commanding power over the snakes, so that many of them came out of their hiding places, and approached the Tawak. This, in a tone of anger, asked them, “Who of you had bitten the boy this morning?” No one answered him in the affirmative, but a small snake of briskish [curious word] remarked, “I have seen this morning our cousin the “Serpent” who dwells in the enchanted cave returning hurriedly to his hole, and when I asked him why he was running so fast, he answered me that he was escaping punishment.” This was enough to convince the Tawak that the serpent referred to was the guilty one. So, he went to the place where the guilty serpent was hiding and when he arrived there, he whistled. The serpent, upon hearing the whistle, came out from his hole but disguised as a mouse. He had learned this trick from his hiding place which was an “enchanted” cave or big underground hole, so that he could assume all forms and shapes that he desired in order to protect himself from being punished by his master. It seemed that the food which he got from this enchanted place gave him also the power of enchantment. The Tawak saw, therefore, a mouse coming out of the hole instead of the serpent. He waited for the appearance of the serpent but in vain. He again whistled and whistled but no serpent came out. The

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mouse that appeared before did not move from its place and was looking all the time at the Tawak as if mocking him for his failure. The Tawak caught sight of the mouse’s mocking attitude so that all in rage, he ran after him with a stick. When he was about to overtake him, the mouse was suddenly changed into a cat that could run very fast so that he could no longer catch it. This prompt transformation startled him and he decided, therefore, to solve the mystery. He pursued the cat, but again the cat was transformed into a wild cow, and this time he could not come near because the cow also tried to attack him. He took his bolo to kill the cow but after he had succeeded to fell it down, the cow’s body became a solid rock. He took a hammer to break it, but at the first strike the rock was converted into dust. And now that it was dust, what could he do to it? He stepped on it, tried to press it with his feet to the ground, but in vain. He could do no harm to it, nor this to him. It no longer underwent any further transformation which maddened him at the beginning so that he resolved [to] leave it at last. He went home tired and defeated and when he arrived at his place, he learned that the boy whom he had intended to save had already passed away.

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[p. 8]

The Fight Between the Ulupon and the Boy Isco.

Isco, the son of a wealthy family, was driven out of his home by his parents because of his laziness and disobedience. He wandered from town to town and from city to city. At last, he came to a kingdom where the hand of a fair princess was being disputed by several brave men. An adventurer as he was, he inquired [about] the conditions required by the king in order to win the hand of the princess. He was told that anybody who could kill the ferocious and dreadful Ulopong that dwelt in a big hole in the ground under the king’s palace would surely be married to the king’s beautiful daughter. The Ulopong in question was considered a menace to the lives of the king’s whole family because every night at midnight, it went out of its hiding place to search for his prey. The king, in order to save his own life and those of his closest relatives purposely sacrificed every night a slave by placing him as bait at the mouth of the big hole where the Ulopon came out. And because this bloody practice had already been carried on for many years that the number of slaves had been reduced to its minimum, so the king had decided to offer his daughter’s hand to anyone who could kill the monster. Several aspirants had already met their tragic end, but Isco, confident of his own strength and power in spite of his youth, and desirous of winning a fair princess, presented bravely himself before the king to try his luck.

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The King would not allow him at first because he was too young and too handsome to be sacrificed, but his insistence was such that at last, he was allowed to fight the monster. He was given the best swords and the strongest shield so that he might protect himself from the attack of the enemy. The evening of his turn came at last, and Isco waited for the appearance of the Ulupong at the mouth of its hiding place. At midnight, his enemy came out of the hole hissing and sniffing in all directions, as if trying to locate his next victim. Isco aimed at the neck of the monster and with all his force, he let his blady [strange word] sword fall on the aimed spot. The Ulupon’s anterior head was separated from its trunk, so that only one more head, the posterior one, was left for him to cut, before he could kill the monster. But the Ulupon was endowed with such a gift that even [if] his whole body was separated into small pieces, he could reunited them at once into its complete form, so that after a while, that he was beheaded, he thought for his separated head and fixed it again to his body. He then faced his enemy and tried to devour him but Isco was so clever that he could not catch him. Again, Isco cut the monster’s body into two halves, and the monster joined the two separated portions to make it a whole. He again attacked Isco, but he always succeeded in evading the attack. They continued to fight till dawn without rest but neither of them could claim victory over the other. The Ulopong, at daybreak, retired to its hiding place while Isco went to see the king to inform him of the result of the fight. The king was over-

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joyed as well as surprised to see Isco still alive for he counted the youth already a victim. He asked whether he (Isco) desired to continue the fight and the boy answered him, “Yes, my dear king, I am ready to resume over the struggle this evening, and I hope that I will succeed in defeating him.” The King was delighted to hear Isco’s optimism and courage. So, he called his servants and told them to take Isco to one of the best furnished rooms in the palace so that he might take rest and also advised them to give to him the best kind of food. Isco slept peacefully in the room assigned to him, but suddenly, he was awakened by a voice. He rose up from the bed to find where the voice came from, but it soon stopped. He again laid down to resume his disturbance or disturbed sleep, but again he was awakened by the same sound. What he heard was a rather mysterious voice telling him how to defeat the Ulopong by the use of a magic sword which had a double edge. The sword could be found in the cellar of the King’s palace, left slovenly there in a dark corner, rusty and with the handle broken, so that it had never called the attention of anybody. But, had they only known its value, Isco upon hearing this hurried to the indicated place and then he found the wonderful sword described to him. He took it to his room, changed the broken handle with a new one, cleaned it carefully with oil, and when he touched the edge, he found it

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very sharp. He wanted to know what its attributed gift consisted of, and through several trials, he learned that the most important one was its ability to cut anything or whatsoever object regardless of strength and size at a distance. In other words, by simply swaying it from a distance against the object desired to be cut, such object was instantly cut into two, without the edge of the blade necessarily striking the material. This sword could also be changed into different sizes and forms, it could be lengthened and widened and it could also be shortened in the form of a simple dagger or be even transformed into other instruments of combat. With such a wonderful sword, Isco therefore prepared to face again his enemy. But this time, he stood from the mouth of the hole when the master was hiding. He let the whole body of the Ulupong come out from the hole, before he swayed his sword several times. Instantly, the body of the Ulupong was cut into several pieces, but again it was joined together and was ready to attack. In view of this fact, Isco thought of other means to stop the rush of his enemy. He wished that his sword be changed into a club, and instantly it was changed so. With the club in his hand, he gave a hard blow to the monster’s head and the monster for a moment seemed hurt and confused. This made Isco see his chance. With all his cleverness and strength, he repeated giving blow after blow to the body and head of the Ulupong and this soon weakened. Isco continued inflicting his death

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punishment to the monster with the use of his club till at last it succumbed and laid flat dead on the ground. Then, he made his club changed into [a] sword again so that with this he cut the two heads of the dead Ulupong and sent it to the King the next morning. When the king saw the cut heat of the monster, he rejoiced very much and soon gave [the] order to prepare for a big feast to be given in honor of his daughter’s coming betrothal to the brave Isco.

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The Tagabulag.

The Tagabulag is simply an ordinary man who possesses the power of making himself unseen whenever he desires to. Such power has been obtained from the snakes who are believed to be the best “sneakers” of all the animals. Others say that such [a] gift can also be obtained from the wind during a hurricane.

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The Lumay or Gayuma.

This [is] simply a kind of charm thought to be of special value to “rejected lovers.” Sometimes, it is in the form of powder and it is spread in the hair of the girl desired to be conquered. It may also be in the form of liquid and it is also applied to the hair of the girl as a sort of sham-

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poo. In both cases, the effect is such that the girl who has been “lumayed” will surely follow the man who had applied the charm.

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The “Anting-Anting.”

This is known in [the] English language as the amulet. There are several kinds of this and each one has [a] definite characteristic usage. For example, the “kabal” serves only for a bolo fight because one who has it, is not hurt by even the sharpest bolo. Another is the “anting-sa-bala,” whose power is not to be hit by a bullet, or make the bullet fail to explode when the gun is aimed to that who keeps such amulet. Another is the so-called “anting-sa-tubig,” and he who has this kind of anting-anting can walk on the surface of the water without sinking into it. He may also stay as long as he likes submerged into the water without drowning himself.

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The Encanto.

He is a tall man who dwells in the forest, in a palace made of gold and diamond. He is, therefore, rich and powerful. He is taken as the “father” of all charms so that

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he can have what he likes, he can transform himself as well as other people with his power into different forms and shapes; he can go where he likes, he can even fly and also can make himself invisible like the “Tagabulag.” He has many servants who only appear to him when he claps his hands, and coming from nowhere also disappear or rather vanish like winds after receiving his orders. As a whole, therefore, his life is surrounded with all comfort and luxury, but also very mysterious.


March 1, 1925.

Notes and references:
Transcribed from “Magic Tales from Cuenca,” by Agripino R. Cuevas, 1925, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
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