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The Devil's Bridge


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

You may say what you please, but it is certain that the Evil One
never appeared in the Philippines until after the Spanish had taken
possession of the islands. At least, this applies to Luzon. And,
strange to tell, he has not been seen there since the Spanish
left. Some will have it that he was smitten into a despairing
bashfulness during Weyler's administration, and that when the governor
went home with a couple of million dollars in his valise--the savings
from his salary--the Devil went home likewise, awe-struck. His Satanic
Majesty's last recorded exploit occurred in the view of three men,
of whom one may still be alive to vouch for it. They were farmers
of Wild Laguna, a few miles above Manila, and on one memorable day
were cutting wood in the ravine near by,--a deep gulch through which
babbles a stone-choked stream. This glen has precipitous sides, but is
so thickly overhung with green that it is almost like a verdant cave.

While they were resting--and the Filipino's ability to rest is one of
his striking qualities--they were startled by the hurried advance of
something, or somebody, on the bank. There was a swish and crash of
undergrowth, a hobbling stamp, and something that sounded like the
smiting of leaves with a club. At first the farmers thought that a
water buffalo had run away from some plantation and was angry because
he could not descend the craggy sides and reach the water. Then came
a volley of expletives in an unknown tongue, and in a voice so deep
and harsh that the hair of the three heads bristled, and three pairs
of eyes goggled with fright. The farmer who was good crossed himself;
the one who was bad turned white and tried to remember how prayers
were said; the one who was betwixt-and-between clung to the stone on
which he was seated and held his breath; for a tall, lank personage,
with overhanging brows, slanting eyes, long chin and nose, and
wrathful aspect, was striding to and fro on the edge of the ravine,
looking at the opposite bank as if trying to decide whether or not
he could leap that distance. He was scowling, gnashing his teeth,
and brandishing his arms. Any Spaniard might have done as much,
and brandished a sword besides; but the terrible thing about this
gentleman was the great length of tail, with a dart at its tip, that
he was flourishing among the bushes, for only one being, on the earth
or under it, was known to have a toil like that.

As if to leave no doubt, the stranger, in stamping on the ground,
lifted his leg so high that the watchers could see that it ended,
not in a foot, but a hoof. It was Satan himself! The farmers did
not dare to tremble, but each shrank within himself as far as he
could and thought upon his sins, the worst of the trio with the least
compunction, because he was not conscious of any immorality in robbing
Spaniards. As he tramped back and forth, the devil now and then looked
up into the branches, as if guessing the height of the trees. Presently
he stopped before the tallest, levelled his finger at it, and cried
with a stentorian voice a command in words that belong to none of the
forty or fifty languages and dialects of the islands. Then the souls of
the spectators fell, like chilling currents, and their hearts swelled
like balloons and arose into their throats, and there was no joy in
them; for the great tree bent slowly down and swung itself entirely
across the chasm. Its reach was great, and Satan skipped along the
trunk as spryly as a cat on a fence, his arms and tail held out for
balance and twitching nervously. Half-way over he spied the three
spectators and stopped. Their circulation stopped also. He grinned
from ear to ear, showing two rows of tusk-like teeth, shook his fist
playfully, and shouted a laugh so loud, so awful, that they believed
their last moment had come. But it had not. Their hair turned white,
to be sure, and they took on fifty years' growth of wrinkles; but the
Devil was after bigger game. He scampered over the arching trunk,
disappeared on the farther side, and hurried off at a run toward
Manila, where a certain rich lawyer was rumored to be dying. From
later whisperings it appears that His Majesty was not late.

The strange part of the incident is that, although the tree was thus
ill-used to serve the Devil's convenience, and is marked along its
bark by his cloven feet, it was not blasted, but to this hour is
green and flourishing. The Devil's Bridge, as everybody calls it,
is an arboreal wonder, curving lightly and gracefully over the chasm,
its branches resting on the bank opposite to its root, some of them
growing upside down, but all as green and healthy as those of any
tree that the Devil spared when he was looking for a way to cross
the ravine. Had he waded the stream he not only would have wet his
feet, which would have been unpleasant, but would have touched water
that had once been blessed, and that would have been torture. The bad
farmer did not survive this spectacle by many years, though it is not
related that he reformed. The fair-to-middling one lasted for a while
longer. The good one may yet be in the land of the living, unless he
enlisted under Aguinaldo, which is not likely, because old men cannot
run fast enough to be effective members of the Filipino army.

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