Editor’s Note: Continuing this month’s series on Mindanao folklore, we present this week “Manobo Folktales” compiled by Cebella T. Guintaos and published in Tambara Vol. XVII in December 2000. This article was retrieved and encoded as part of a document digitization project of Ateneo de Davao University.
Serpents / Ka Uled
There was an old couple who had no children. They possessed the power of foretelling the future, so their followers believed them. That time there was a famine. All of them experienced starvation and many of them died. The famine became so severe with the burning of forests. All people and animals suffered from hunger. Many also suffered from different kinds of illness.
While the famine intensified, the spirit entered into the old woman.
The spirit through this woman said that something fearful was about to come. It would look frightening but this would help them in many ways. That time really came as told by the old woman, and the people were shaken when they heard a sound.
The old woman saw them, and so she warned them to stop and not to go away. Then that frightful thing approached them.
The old man also looked at it and he saw a big animal with horns and ears. It looked as though it was panting and wet.
The old man touched the old woman, and he pointed to that frightful thing. The old woman also looked at it, and she said that they would just wait for it.
Then she told the people that they should just watch it for God was with them.
When that big frightful thing finally arrived, it was seen as a big serpent.
That was what the old folks called before as “Tendayag.” It looked fearful but it could help the people.
When it got near them, they saw the different types of fish jumping alive around the scales of the serpent’s body.
The old woman said, “You get near it, and you pick up some fish.”
They picked up plenty because their baskets were filled. The serpent continued crawling until it reached the place of Kituved.
Some people followed the serpent. When it reached Kituved, it raised its head to find out if somebody would answer if it would shout.
The people projected that the answer might come somewhere from the Merepangi waterfall, and the serpent went there. It lowered its body, and it really showed how big it was because the earth eroded. That is why that mountain is called “Kimenembag” or eroded.
It left the area and moved towards Merepengi.
When it arrived, it crawled under the waterfall. The foaming bubbles made it obvious that the two had finally met. Blood and rotten leaves of trees floated in the water.
Not long after, one came out and then the other one followed. They came out and talked to each other as serpents.
“We will take off our serpent’s cloak because we are both humans.” “Yes,” said the other one.
And they turned into human beings. Now, they faced each other and each held a weapon. As they faced each other, they stared at each.
One said, “Are you Menelism?”
“Why, are you Bete-ey?”
They both answered, “Yes!”
“Since you are Menelism, you go back to heaven; while I will stay here on earth,” said Bete-ey who was his brother, “for I will help and teach righteousness to the people.”
The Hairless Apo of Mount Akir-akir / Apo At Agkir-agkir Si Wara Bulvul
This Apo of Mount Akir-akir had no hair. The parents of Apo were both walian or healers. After he was born, they soon became weak and sick. They eventually died, leaving Apo an orphan.
In his young age, he lived with his uncle. The wife of his uncle was cruel. When his uncle was away, his aunt would scold him.
His aunt refused to take care of his health. He acquired many skin diseases. He became so dirty that flies would flock to him. He could no longer stay in the house, and he was treated by his aunt as a servant.
His uncle had a cornfield which was being destroyed by monkeys and pigs. There the boy would stay until the afternoon to drive away the monkeys and pigs. Sometimes, his aunt refused to give him food.
As he grew to manhood, his diseases healed but his hair started to fall. Surprisingly, those who pitied him got healed when they came to him. His healing powers grew stronger the more his aunt oppressed him.
By the time he became an adult, his family brought him to the mountain of Akir-Akir. It turned out that the trials he had undergone were actually the test required of a healer. He surmounted all the trials.
That was the time that he acquired the familiar. At first he did not stay permanently on Mt. Akir-Akir. He would go home occasionally. The people in his hometown got used to his periodic disappearances. Then he told them he would no longer come back.
”If you truly trust God, you will come to me because I will be on top of that mountain. When you come, make your offering of betel nut. My friend will tell me what you should do if you ask for help.
The people obeyed all his words. If they had problems, they would come up and make him an offering on the mountain. What looked like a mountain was actually a big palace.
Because he was really human, he did not disappear all at once. Time came when only his arm appeared to them. Then only his voice could be heard. Later, it happened that he could only be heard speaking through a faith healer.
He was called “Apo without Hair.” Because of his experience of cruelty, the gods took pity on him and turned him into a supernatural being.
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