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The Conversion Of Amambar


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

While roving over the waters that covered the earth the sun god
saw the nymph Ursula sporting in the waves, and was smitten with a
quick and mighty fondness. He nearly consumed himself in the ardor
of his affection. She, however, was as cold and pure as the sea. As
she swung drowsily on the billows she was like a picture painted in
foam on their blue-green depth, and in breathing her bosom rose and
fell like the waves themselves. As she saw the god descending she
was filled with alarm, but as he took her into his strong embrace
and placed his cheek to hers a new life and warmth came to her, and
in their marriage the spirits of the air and water rejoiced. A son
was born to them,--so beautiful a boy that the sun god made a land
for him, stocked it with living creatures, adorned it with greenery
and flowers, and gave it to the human race as an inheritance of joy
forever. This land he called Cebu, and no land was more lovely. Lupa
was the child, and from him came all the kings of Cebu, among them
Amambar, the first chief of the island of whom we have definite
record. In the day of his rule the group had long been peopled,
and the use of tools and weapons had become known. One occasionally
finds to-day the stone arrows and axes they called "lightning teeth,"
and with which they worked such harm to one another in their many wars.

It was an evening of March, 1521, a calm and pleasant evening,
with the perfume of flowers mixed with the tonic tang of the ocean,
birds flying and monkeys chattering in the wood, and a gentle surf
whispering upon the beach. Amambar was walking on the shore alone. He
had gone there to watch the gambols of the mermaids, when a great
light whitened against the sunset. It came from a cross that had
been planted just out of reach of the sea. He put his hands before
his eyes that it might not dazzle him. Then, as the moon arose, he
peered beneath his hands, out over the restless water, and there,
against the golden globe that was lifting over the edge of the world,
could be seen a flock of monster birds with gray wings, and dark
men walking on their backs as they lightly rode the billows, the men
sparkling and glinting as they moved, for they were arrayed in metal
and bore long knives and lances that flashed like stars. Other of
the company wore black robes and sang in unknown words, their voices
mixing in a music never heard by Amambar before. A sparkling white
cloud drooped slowly from the sky. A diamond vapor played about the
cross. Out of the cloud came a melodious voice saying, "Look up,
O chief!" And looking at the cross again, he saw, extended there,
a bleeding figure with a compassionate face that gazed down upon him
and declared, "I am Jesus Christ, son of the only God. Those whom you
see in the ships are my people, who have come to these islands to rule
you for your good." Amambar fell prone on the sand and prayed for a
long time, not daring to open his eyes. When he regained courage and
arose the cloud was gone; the ships had sailed away. He was alone.

The commander of the ships was Magellan. It was one of his monks who
had placed the cross on shore. Landing in Cebu later, he converted two
thousand of the natives in a day by destroying the statue of Vishnu and
putting that of the child Jesus in its place, though he still yielded
to savage opinion in so far as he consented to confirm his friendship
with the king by a heathen ceremony, each opening a vein in his arm
and drinking the blood of the other. As usual, the appearance and ways
of the Europeans smote the natives with wonder. They described the
strangers as enormous men with long noses, who dressed in fine robes,
ate stones (ship-bread), drank fire from sticks (pipes), and breathed
out the smoke, commanded thunder and lightning from metal tubes,
and were gods. Engaging in a wrangle between two tribes, Magellan was
lured into a marsh at Mactan, and there, while watching a battle to
see how great the Filipinos could be in war, he was slain with bamboo
lances sharpened and hardened in fire. Amambar's Christianity did
not endure, for he so wearied of the oppression and rapacity of the
strangers that when a successor to Magellan appeared he invited him
to a banquet and slew him at his meat. But the cross and the statue
of Christ worked miracles among the faithful for many generations.

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