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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Part 3: Gods And Demigods Of Philippine Mythology

This has been brought about by the fact that, like the Greek gods, the Tagalog gods also had off-spring (although they produced only one generation before being wiped from the records by the Spanish missionaries, hence resulting in the two generations of gods recognized by most scholars today). Granted, it is not all that relevant when compared to the dramas and acts of the myriad of deities covered, but one thinks that it is still vital to understanding the greater scope of the folk-lore discussed. Now that’s out of the way, the reader may now continue to the latter half of this primer.

Philippine Gods and Demigods, Philippine Mythology
Image: Marvel Wiki Fandom

As with many other agricultural societies, the Tagalogs had a deity of agriculture - Ikapati. Out of all the gods in the pantheon, she is the kindest and most generous. As mentioned in the previous part, Ikapati is much akin to the Yellow Emperor Huang-ti, as she, too, gave man the gift of agriculture. As a direct result of her perceived benevolence, she became beloved by the peasants below Kaluwalhatian. Her husband is Mapulon, god of the seasons, of whom she had one daughter - the aforementioned Anagolay.

Amongst the many supernatural beings said to enhance fertility, Lakapati is the most prominent - with many a father pleading to her, “Lakapati, pakainin mo yaring alipin mo; huwag mong gutumin (Lakapati, feed this humble servant; do not deprive him of sustenance, lest he fall into hunger)”. Other than the fertility of humans, she also reigned over the fertility of all in nature and the divine beings of Kaluwalhatian. Whilst having a feminine build and character, she is worshipped as a hermaphrodite, symbolising the balance of everything. Later, during colonial rule, she was used as a stand-in for the Holy Spirit because, like Bathala, many were still resistant to the ideas introduced by Christianity, such as mono-theism. It must also be noted that many researchers believe Ikapati to be a possible variant of the fertility goddess.

Much like his wife, Mapulon, the god of seasons, was also very nice towards man-kind. In fact, they(his and Ikapati’s) shared altruism was what brought them together, although it took many years of courting before Mapulon managed to marry Ikapati, leading to the tireless efforts of later Tagalog men to sway their loves to marriage. One method Mapulon showed his power (and ability to use it to the benefit of the people) is when he changes the seasons to whatever is appropriate for the growth of medicinal herbs whenever an individual becomes ill.

Philippine Gods and Demigods, Philippine Mythology
Image: Superpower Wikia

In many ways, Bathala is similar to Zeus, in that they both had an irresistible “love” for mortal women. A notable product of Bathala’s many affairs is Mayari, the goddess of the moon, war, revolution, and equal rule. She was very beautiful, the stories say, until, in their battle over supremacy, Apolaki struck one of her eyes, permanently damaging it. In spite of this, she held no hate over him because of his acts of penance. In the aftermath of the battle, they agreed that Apolaki would rule during the day, and Mayari during the night, defending their respective celestial bodies from the fierce serpent-dragon Sawa. Her sisters are Tala and Hainan.

A deity who remains relevant in popular culture up to the modern-day is Tala, goddess of the stars. She guided men during night-time using the stars and the constellations, whose names have been forgotten in the torrent of Western science during the Spaniard era. Nonetheless, she is still widely regarded as important to the expansion of the Tagalogs to other areas of Luzon and beyond due to her “star directions”.

Hanan, the sister of Tala and Mayari, is the goddess of morning and is used as the mark of a new phase in one’s life (i.e. birth, adolescence, death, etc.). She is also prayed to during the morning (along with Bathala and Apolaki), signifying the start of the day.

Staying true to the theme of amiability and guidance, the next god is Dumakulem, guardian of the mountains and friend of nature (particularly Uwinan Sana, god of grass-lands and forests). Unlike his more violent sister, Anitun Tabu, Dumakulem never intentionally strays someone from the correct path on the mountains, and most of the time, even helps them on their way. He keeps to his principles even if the person passing through actively harms the environment, an action which was most egregious in his eyes. Some legends also say that he caused the various earthquakes which racked the islands, but that it was for a good reason - which was protecting the people from his sister’s fierce storms by creating mountains (of which the quakes were a “side-effect”).

Philippine Gods and Demigods, Philippine Mythology
Image: Part 3: Indefinite transition of perceived realities
When they arrived in the Philippines, several Spanish scholars went about researching the beliefs of the natives and drawing comparisons of the native lore and many of the mythological stories back in Europe. Of course, the very first thing they thought of was the Greek pantheon, and likened it to the Tagalog one. One of the fruits of their labour was Diyan Masalanta, the defender of lovers and goddess of conception, child-birth, and love, who they thought resembled the Greek Aphrodite. Many modern accounts have proven this perspective wrong, however, as the Tagalogs revered Diyan Masalanta as a motherly figure who protected families from the devilish Manisilat, not some hedonistic seductress of gods.

For the Tagalogs, family was vital to the social fabric, and this can be seen in the normalisation of the concept of extended families. In their, and consequently in Masalanta’s eyes, society was a network of inter-laced families and communities held together by the sheer interdependence of all these units on each other (i.e. Family A is a line of black-smiths, whilst Family B is a line of warriors who protect the community and whose weapons come from Family A, whilst Family C is a line of farmers who produce the food needed by all the families to survive, and so on). This view of Diyan Masalanta, and, by extension, love and familial ties, speaks volumes about the collective nature of Oriental civilisation, as opposed to the more individualistic states of the West.

The beliefs and faiths of one culture are said to reflect on the values of that society, and in this primer, one has explored the myriad of cultural norms which seeped into the mythology of the native Tagalogs, such as their collectivism, devotion to those they court, apparent aloofness in every-day affairs (as seen in the “bahala na” school of thought), and others. The reader has also taken a gander at several of the concerns of the average Tagalog, like the frequent storms, earthquakes, the proper cultivation of rice, and much more. Even though this “brief” primer already seems exhaustive, there is still a lot to cover, and so, in direct conflict with the conclusion written in the first half of this text, one shall be writing another part, all about the beings guarding kasanaan and the other minor gods residing on Earth.


About the Author:

An amateur historian with an interest in East Asian and European histories, and a knack for cartography.

Visit my Website: https://­historiaphil.wordpres­

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