Listen children to the story of Maglume, she of the fireflies.
Listen with your heart for this is the story of our tribe.
It was a time the oldest storytellers call the age of dreams
When neither sadness nor death was part of life
And the land was fresh from the dream of Bathala.
In the darkest part of the forest that covered the land
A woman woke up from the nest of a giant snake,
The woman felt cold so the Bakunawa wrapped her old skin
Around the woman and called her Oryol, snake-daughter.
The snake taught her about the world and her eyes were opened.
She was but a dream of Bathala, a spirit-breath; and she understood.
At the edge of the vast and dark forest
The leaves touch salt and an unknown immensity that is the sea.
A man drifts in the blue waters and wakes to the unending sky and sea.
No one was there to teach him.
He swam to the nearest shore and reached the forest,
A mysterious place filled with creatures other than he.
He was afraid. He was cold because he was naked.
The trees who first saw him tried to talk to him,
But he ran and ran. So they called him Makabari,
For he broke the twigs and the young trees
When he ran back to the sea.
A white fish took pity on him, crying and shivering,
Ugis the fish slowly slid to where Makabari was and said:
“Friend, do not be afraid, I shall teach you the ways of the world.”
He looked at Ugis and his eyes glared at the fish
He grabbed the white fish and in his ignorance
Ate it until nothing but white bones were left.
But still he was so hungry that he ate the other animals he saw in the forest.
Makabari felled several trees
And built for himself a house.
The forest grew fearful of Makabari
And soon it was silent.
The frightful silence reached the heart of the forest
Where Oryol had her abode.
The birds went silent and Oryol grew suspicious. She asked Bakunawa:
“Mother, what is this mystery? What is this feeling of dread that I feel?”
To this Bakunawa replied: “The trees say that a mysterious
Creature came from the sea and is scaring all the other
Spirit-breaths. He kills and eats the others. Truly a detestable monster!”
With this, Oryol asked the other creatures of the monster’s
Whereabouts, until she was led to a great clearing in the forest.
At seeing the felled trees, she cried for her lost friends.
She went mad with rage and a hiss came out of her throat.
With the knowledge of lore that Bakunawa taught her
She sang a great wind that descended from the sky to the hut of Makabari.
A fierce and howling storm destroyed the little hut, and a Man went out of the rubble
Screaming and running, ready to attack the creature that destroyed his hut.
Oryol brought lightning and blades of rain, but Makabari’s anger was made more intense.
He run faster and faster to where Oryol was and suddenly
Everything stopped: the wind grew quiet, even the other creatures stopped their breath.
Oryol saw the naked body of Makabari and instantly knew they were the same spirit.
Makabari saw the beauty that is Oryol and said:
“What are you? Why has my heart stopped pounding in my chest? Who are you
Whose beauty instantly stops my rage and a feeling of calm surrounds me?”
Oryol smiled and simply said: “Come, I will show you who we really are”
And she led him to the darkest heart of the forest
and taught him everything she learned from Bakunawa.
There was peace in Makabari’s heart and they both knew they were for each other.
They rebuilt the hut at the edge of the sea and they lived together.
Makabari and Oryol had a son which they called Ki-gurang for the joy they felt
Upon seeing the little child. They had a daughter, Dayang she was called
The most beautiful, said bakunawa. And the four of them lived in peace
With the other creatures of the vast forest and the blue immensity of the sky and sea.
Bakunawa came to them one sunless day. She hissed in riddles:
“Beware the sharp blade that cuts and conquers. The mighty be fallen
Beauty be damned. The other children come in haste and fiery blaze,
They carry the ignorance of the striped sarimaw.
Look to the songs and follow the moon where she dies. There you
Will have peace for a long time. Beauty will arouse the blade
And the blade will conquer Beauty.”
Many moons and suns passed, and they forgot the riddle of the bakunawa.
Dayang indeed bloomed to be the fairest flower in the forest. Her footfall
Aroused the sleeping seeds and birds followed her rhyming breath.
Ki-gurang was the strongest and could carry the boulders from the river
With his one hand. In truth, he was the strongest of our ancestors.
Dayang the most beautiful and Ki-gurang the strongest didn’t hear
The setting sun when it exhaled a warning of death to the forest.
The other children were small sooty men made from the dark clay of the spring.
They were strong and hardy, able to withstand unimaginable torment.
Urok-usok was their leader. His presence commands and his voice was law.
He ruled with his sharp minasbad, a blade made from the stone of the volcano and
Kills whoever defies him. They were raised and taught by the dark god Asuwang
Who loves blood and the smell of burnt sacrifice.
They were his children and bloodlust army.
One day Asuwang dreamt of Gugurang’s children, students of the snake Bakunawa.
They were stronger, more beautiful and powerful than his putrid children.
He grew jealous of their inner pangyari – for they could control the wind,
Rivers, lightning and fire through their songs and lore. They have
Conquered death too, for they have knowledge of herbs.
He grew very jealous of them and wanted to kill both Makabari and Oryol.
Then Asuwang went to Urok-usok and said: “in the land of the two mountains
Where the river forks and joins the sea, live the fair children of my brother.
Kill them! Slaughter them! But beware for they have great pangyari
And their spirit friends protect them. Bring their heads and offer them at my feet.
I will show you great treasures you can only dream of. Go! And save no one.”
Urok-usok and the children of Asuwang then went off in a sea of blackness.
They heard the forest-birds first, fleeing to the north, shrieking a warning.
The trees told Oryol of a great army of black imps fast on their way
Burning and killing the trees and spirit-friends. She then went to Bakunawa
And the great snake-mother told her: “Everything must eventually change Oryol,
This is our destiny. We are connected to our Mother moon, our destiny is hers.
We must submit. But we must also fight. Face your fate as I must face mine.”
Upon saying this the great snake-mother unfurled her hood and breathed a huge fire
That killed half of the black creatures in a searing heat. She swallowed some
Imps that tried to come close and her anger blackened the clouds above them.
Urok-usok commanded his frightened army in vain. So he went up the rocky mountain
And caused the great rocks to fall on Bakunawa. Her head was crushed and Urok-usok
Continued to let the rocks fall in a surge of strength that could only come from Asuwang.
All these Oryol saw and she was grief stricken and hopeless. She went to Makabari
And told him everything that happened. Makabari pondered for a moment and told
Ki-gurang and Dayang to go to Malasimbo,
The home of their spirit-friends, and ask for help.
Then Makabari said to Oryol: “They are here to kill us. They will spare no one
Not even you my dearest Oryol. Bakunawa and our friends taught us to use
Our pangyari in times of great danger. Let us use it now, my love. Side by side we will
Protect our children and the forest. For did you not tell me, not long ago, that we are
One spirit, you and I? They can have our bruised and beaten bodies but never our spirit.”
Oryol understood all this. And with surging love for each other, their children
And the forest, they went out to face Urok-usok and his army.
The First War it was called. Mountains were levelled and rivers were dried.
Urok-usok had great pangyari from Asuwang and he had the strength of giants.
Lightning and storms were permanent in the forest and fire swallowed the trees.
Oryol caused the earth to move and Makabari called the spirit of fire to awaken
Volcanoes. Urok-usok called the dark animals sarimaw and yawa to subdue them.
But both sides were equal in strength and power, no one lost nor won for seven moons.
Then one day, Dayang and Ki-gurang came back from Malasimbo together with
The powerful katambay, dwarfs, giants, the spirit of the sea and the tawong lipod,
The unseen powers of the earth. Surely, Urok-usok and his army would be defeated.
But Urok-usok was also as wily and cunning as his father Asuwang.
For he has seen the most beautiful Dayang and his eyes forgot the promised treasure
Of his father. He will win this war and get Dayang as his wife.
He devised a plan to capture Dayang and end this tiresome war of the giants.
He issued a three-day truce to Makabari’s side and right there and then tried
To abduct Dayang, daughter of the powerful Makabari and Oryol.
It happened when Dayang was taking a bath on one of the springs
That was still unpolluted by the war. A white deer got caught in the branches
Of a bush near the spring. She felt pity for the poor deer and with her
Ivory hands she delicately let loose the white deer and cradled it on her lap.
The deer immediately took Dayang’s affection and she brought it with her to their hut.
That night, she slept with the white deer under her arms.
Dayang dreamt of a white immensity. Was it light? The sky? She did not know.
With her was a stranger; a man like his father and brother. They were swimming
In the light and happiness overpowered her. The man touched her belly
And Dayang understood what her mother and father only told her about love.
It was beyond time and space, happiness soaked through her skin
Until a black crack in the white immensity pulled her and she awoke.
She was in the arms of Urok-usok and she thought that he was not as monstrous
As her brother had told her. He was beautiful and strong. And she felt happiness
Soak her loins. Urok-usok was also beguiled by her beauty. Never had he felt
This feeling that overcame him. Asuwang never taught him about this.
And he said: “Dayang, the most beautiful. You have taught me how to see beyond
The shadows. Teach me how to love. I am yours. You are my treasure and in
Your name, will do everything even if it includes taking my life.” And she taught him.
For three days and three nights, they went to the wide gullies and rivers
Away from the froth of the war. But back home, a crow told Ki-gurang about Dayang
And Urok-usok. “He has cancelled the truce! He has abducted Dayang!”
He said in anger. He roused the anger of the katambay and without a leader
The army of Urok-usok was easily defeated. When they came back to profess their
Love to Makabari and Oryol and end the useless war, it was too late.
In his blind anger, Ki-gurang struck the shocked Urok-usok in the head and
Was instantly dead in front of Dayang. Her cry echoed in the empty valleys and
She cursed the land saying: “for the blind rage of you, people of this forest, nine moons
Will there be no catch in the river, no tree, no bush, no plant will flower. Nine moons
Will my footfall be deaf. And to you brother, your race will be forever in rage.
Hopelessness be among you immortals of Malasimbo, never will you be pure again.
This land will be consumed by the crows and her black sisters.”
With that, she disappeared towards the caves of the north where the snakes took her.
Oryol and Makabari, the first man and woman of our tribe, looked for her in vain.
In her hopelessness, Oryol took the forbidden fruit in the middle of the forest
And was dead before Makabari could save her. There Makabari took his own life
With the same fruit that killed Oryol. The curse of Dayang
Crept in the forest for nine moons. No tree, no bush, no plant flowered
And the river became poison.
Dayang became pregnant and never spoke for nine moons, even to the snakes of the cave.
And then she gave birth to Maglume with the darkest hair and the reddest lips.
Maglume our first mother opened her eyes in the darkness of the cave, the first sound
She heard were the tongue of the snakes that greeted her and by the time she could
Crawl out of the cave, her mother Dayang laid dead in the forest floor. A white deer
Was sleeping on her cold lap and a smile was etched on her lips.
And so, Maglume was born. From the two races of Gugurang and Asuwang,
She sprung like a wildflower in the field. She had the beauty of Dayang and
The fiery blood of Urok-usok. The lore of the snake-mother Bakunawa dwells
In her spirit and the dark songs of Asuwang still linger in her heart.
But she had control of both. The body she subdued with her spirit and her spirit
With her body. She learned among other things, the secrets of the snakes, the language
Of future events – of what will come to be.
She asked one day, the queen of the snakes who cared for her: “Mother
Why am I different from my sister-snakes? What does the future hold for me
That I am an earth-walker?” With these questions, the snakes writhed as if in pain
And wrote strange writings on the sand. She knew of course how to read
Them but the queen spoke in her mysterious tongue
That only the balyanas of the forest now barely understand.
“A kin will you meet, earth-walker and mountain-shaker. He has the strength
Of the trees and the power of the thunder during a murderous storm. He walks
About with guilt on his shoulders, fed by remorse,
Looking for his sister’s daughter.
Then will you find true happiness and deep agony. But your line will
Be as the stars, countless and beautiful, strong and desirable.” This, the snake hissed
To Maglume and a dream was etched in her mind –