Sagada Folk Tales: The Legend of Lake Danum

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Lake Danum/Banao in its glorious greenery. (Flicker Image)

Way before this placid little lake became a subject of  boundary issues and there was no dissent whether to call it Banao or Danum; long before cows grazed its now dwindling patches of green, and before flocks of tourists did jump shots against a mesmerizing fiery backdrop of the sunset,  this place was once a plain plateau, a waterless mesa en route to barter places with our lowland brothers. Now the story of how the lake came about has varied through the years. But I will attempt to retell it the way my grandma awed me with the tale the best way I can.

“A man was on his way to exchange his pig with some lowland products that were scarce in his highland home. Presumably he would have been on his way to Besao where traders would convene. As he was passing through what is now the expanse of water that we know as the lake, he spotted an old lady sitting on the ground.

This lady requested the man to spare some of his time so he could help her get rid of the lice on her head. This generous man obliged without any qualms. He then realized that it was not just lice that was populating the old lady’s head. There were little snakes and worms and all sorts of poisonous insects. He was a bit alarmed but he slowly removed these little critters till her head was free of any parasite. He did so meticulously and without the slightest hint of disgust. When he was done, the old lady gave the man a bundle of pine needles and straw with the advise that he put them in his granary for the night. He was puzzled with this strange suggestion but he never questioned the woman and did as instructed. The next morning, he was greatly bewildered to find his granary overflowing with the finest rice.

Now this man lived in  small village and naturally everyone was curious, if not envious of the good fortune that has befallen him. His neighbor immediately set off in the same direction carrying his fattest pig. He saw the old lady in the same place. He scornfully obliged when she made the same request that he remove the lice from her long locks. How he reacted when he saw that the woman’s head was a little jungle of insects and snakes! He spat, cursed and shuddered in disgust. By the time he was done removing the vermin from her head, he was a picture of revulsion and contempt. Nonetheless, she gave him the same bunch of pine needles and straw. When the man turned towards home though, he stood immobile on his spot then gradually changed into a wooden post. The woman then magically disappeared.

Not very long after, a man and his son were out gathering wood. When they saw this stout wooden post in the middle of the field, the man slashed it with his bolo and out gushed water that overflowed in all directions. The pair had to run fast towards higher ground to save themselves from the angry waters. Gradually, the water ebbed and calmed to what we see it now. Lake Danum.”

They say that bit of the very same post still stands erect somewhere within the lake. Maybe one of these days, I’ll endeavor to find it.

 

***Danum is the Kankana-ey and Ilocano term for water. Translating the name to a redundant Lake Water.***

Of Stories to be Retold…

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“So tell me more Lola.” (KNN)

It’s been a year since my favorite local historian left to join her forefathers after a century of a life well-celebrated. I remember her not with grief but with continued awe of how she graciously led a life with purpose. Though I cannot help but be unpleasantly reminded of one unjustifiable failure that I should have managed to complete while she still breathed the gusts of the highlands.

When my pen was more cooperative and my mind thirsted for knowledge and preservation, I once vowed to myself to put into paper the rich local folktales that my grandmother kept vaulted in her retentive mind but willingly and gladly shared without much prodding. I started with a sentence or two of the lovelorn yet reckless An-ananga and his princess of unparalleled beauty then stopped for reasons unknown. I don’t even recall where I kept that lazy draft.

Alas! Now my foolproof source is no longer here and I definitely cannot rely on this 30-year old, withered mind to recollect and revive the colorful lives led by those vibrant characters. It is tragic that I failed to immortalize them while she was still alive but it will be more of a misfortune if I do not attempt to do so.

The plights of the gutsy An-ananga, the exploits of the brave Sadsadyokana, and the wit of Pal-pal-ama against the sneaky Oto-ot deserve to be retold. These tales are great reminders of our local culture’s richness and it would be such a shame to let them be drowned in the advent of modernization and technology.

Where to start? I have no idea.20171126_142711.png

I need to go back to those years when this once young mind savored the evening story-telling with the grandma. With the imaginary warmth of the dying embers of the ‘dapwan’, I go back and start with, ‘A long, long time ago…

 

…to be continued.