Old Beliefs Of The Filipinos

Respecting their myths the Filipinos differ in little from other human

families whose civilization is incomplete. They had in former times

the same tendency to create gods and spirits for particular hills,

woods, seas, and lakes, to endow the brutes with human qualities,

to symbolize in the deeds of men and animals the phenomena of the

heavens. Even now the Monteses tell of a tree that folds its limbs

around the trunk of another and hugs it to death, the tree thus

killed rotting and leaving a tube of tightly laced branches in which

are creatures that bleed through the bark at a sword-thrust or an

ax-cut. These creatures are mischievously alleged to be Spaniards. The

Tagalogs believe in Tic-Balan, an evil spirit who inhabits fig-trees,

but is kept off by wearing a certain herb, and in a female spirit

of the woods, Azuan, who is kept away from the house in times of

domestic anxiety by the husband, who mounts to the roof and keeps up

a disturbance for some hours.

In their feasts and ceremonies the natives have hymns and prayers

to the rain-spirit, the sea, the star-god, the good birds, and the

winds. Little has been done toward the preservation of their myths,

for the Spaniards, during their centuries of control, suppressed

learning, except as it pertained to religious studies, and tolerated

but scant liberty of opinion. The friars, against whom the people

nursed so strong a hate, stood for all that was harsh, narrow,

tyrannical, and unprogressive. In order to gain money and maintain

their political ascendency they engaged in commerce, became owners

of real estate and buildings, including saloons and dance-houses,

debased their churchly functions, discouraged attempts at progress,

practically forbade the printing of secular books and papers, making

illiteracy, with its attendant vice, poverty, and superstition,

universal; and when Dr. Jose Rizal urged his reforms in the church and

civil service, he was shot, though not as a blasphemer, but because

his secret order, the Katipunan, with its Masonic ritual and blood

initiation, was thought to be dangerous to the public peace.

The change from this mediaeval condition to that of the nineteenth

century, with its impatience of title, caste, form, and ceremony,

its trust in equal right, its insistence on freedom of belief,

came suddenly. In shaking off their ancient political and religious

bonds the Filipinos may lose some of the quaint and poetic records of

their ancient faiths; for the first progress of a nation after a long

sleep is a material one, and art, literature, all the more delicate

expressions of national taste, history, and tendency, have to bide

their day until the fortunes of the nation are assured. In this period

of reconstruction let us hope that those fables and dreams will not

be forgotten which tell, more truly than dates and names and records,

the ancient state of the people, and afford us a means of estimating

the impetus and direction of their advance.

The influence of Christian teaching is plain in some of the songs,

plays, and stories of the natives, especially in the plays, for in them

the hero is often a Christian prince who defeats a strong and wicked

Mohammedan ruler, and releases an injured maiden. Change the names and

the play becomes a modern English melodrama. In several of the islands,

however, the impress of Spanish occupancy is slight, and customs are

still in force that have existed for hundreds of years. On Mindanao

are still to be found the politic devil-worshippers, who, instead of

seeking to ingratiate themselves with benevolent deities, whose favor

is already assured, try to gain the goodwill of the fiends. Their

rites are practised in caves in which will be found ugly figures of

wood and an altar on which animals are sacrificed. The flesh of these

animals is eaten by the devils, according to the priests, and by the

priests, according to the white men. The evil spirits who appear in

the half-darkness of these caves, leaping and screaming, goading the

company to frenzy, are priests in disguise and in demoniac possession.

Tagbanuas tear a house down when a death occurs in it, bury the

corpse in the woods, and mark the grave by dishes and pots used by

the deceased in life. These implements are broken. Among our American

Indians the outfits supplied to a dead man are in sound condition,

as it is supposed he will need them on his journey to the happy

hunting-grounds, while the Chinese put rice and chicken in sound

vessels on the graves of their brethren, believing they will need

refreshment when they start on the long journey to the land of the

shades. Tramps know where the Chinese are accustomed to bury their

dead in American cities. When food is placed before an Otaheite corpse

it is not for the dead, but for the gods, and is intended to secure

their good offices for the departed. While a Tagbanua corpse is above

ground it is liable to be eaten by a vampire called the balbal that

lives on Mindanao, has the form of a man with wings and great claws,

tears open the thatch of houses and consumes bodies by means of a

long tongue, which it thrusts through the opening in the roof. These

Tagbanuas do not believe in a heaven in the skies, because, they say,

you could not get up there. When a man dies he enters a cave that

leads into the depths of the earth, and after travelling for a long

time he arrives in the chamber where Taliakood sits,--a giant who

employs his leisure in stirring a fire that licks two tree trunks

without destroying them. The giant asks the new-comer if he has been

good or bad in the world overhead, but the dead man makes no reply. He

has a witness who has lived with him and knows his actions, and it is

the function and duty of this witness to state the case. This little

creature is a louse. On being asked what would happen if a native

were to die without one of these attendants, the people protest that

no such thing ever happens. So the louse, having neither to gain nor

lose, reports the conduct of his commissary and associate, and if

the man has been bad, Taliakood throws him into the fire, where he

is burned to ashes, and so an end of him. If he has been good, the

giant speeds him on his way to a happy hunting-ground, where he can

kill animals by thousands, and where the earth also yields fruits and

vegetables in plenty. Here he finds a house, without having the trouble

to build one, and a wife is also provided for him,--the deceased wife

of some neighbor usually, although he can have his own wife if she is

considerate enough to die when he does. Down here everybody is well

off, though the rich, having had much pleasure in the world, have

less of it than the poor. After a term of years the Tagbanua dies

again and goes at once to a heaven in a deeper cave without danger

from fire. Seven times he dies, each time going deeper and becoming

happier, and probably gains Nirvana in the end. Occasionally a good

spirit returns as a dove, and a bad one comes as a goat; indeed,

a few of the bad ones are doomed to wander over the earth forever.

A common belief is that the soul is absent from the body in sleep,

and if death occurs then the soul is lost. "May you die sleeping"

is one of the most dreadful of curses.

Among the Mangyan mountaineers it is customary to desert a person

who is about to die. They return after his death, carry the corpse to

the forest, build a fence about it, and roof it with a thatch. These

people seem to have no word for god, spirit, or future life; they do

not worship either visible or unseen things, and are the most moral

of the Filipinos. The lowlanders also desert their dying, and after

death close all paths to the house, leave the skeleton of the defunct

to be picked clean by ants, and change their names for luck.

When an islander in the Calamianes province dies his friends ask

the corpse where it would like to be buried, naming several places,

and lifting the body after each question. When the body seems to

rise lightly the dead man has said, "Yes." It may then be buried, or

placed in a tree in the desired locality, with such of its belongings

as the family can spare, and the mourners watch around a fire that

night until all the logs are consumed. The dead man walks about in

the ashes, leaving his footprints, and sometimes shows himself to

his relatives. Singing and feasting follow for several nights, and

the house of the dead is then abandoned.

The holes in the marble cliffs of San Francisco Strait formerly

contained the coffined dead of the tattooed Pintados, who sacrificed

slaves at the funeral that they might attend their relatives in the

next world. Fear of the spirits of these rocks was but partially

overcome when a Spanish priest smashed the coffins and tumbled the

bodies into the sea, for the strait is still haunted and the burial

rocks are good places to keep away from after dark.

Among the Moslem Moros it is a sure passport to heaven to kill a

Christian, and when one remembers how the people have been robbed,

tortured, and oppressed by nominal Christians, this item of faith

is not surprising. The more Christians he kills the greater will

be his reward. He bathes in a sacred spring, shaves his eye-brows,

dresses in white, takes an oath before a pandita or native priest to

die killing infidels; then, with the ugly creese, or wave-edged knife,

he runs madly through the street, killing, right and left, until some

considerate person shoots him. In the rage for blood he has been known

to push himself farther against a sword or bayonet that had already

entered his vitals in order to stab the man who had stopped him. When

they hear of his death the relatives of the fanatic have a celebration,

and declare that in the fall of the night they see him ride by on

a white horse, bound for the home of the good, where no Christians

ever go to vex the angels. These people are often fatalists. They

will drink water known to be poisoned with typhoid germs, and when

epidemics come they declare them to be the will of God, and refuse

to take the slightest measure against infection. They believe that

when a strange black dog runs by cholera follows on his heels.

Yet, like our Indians, the better Tagbanuas and Calamianes try to

heal the sick through the aid of drugs and charms and incantations,

and they have their medicine man or papalyan. There is in the forest a

strange little fellow, known as the man of the wood, who has the power

of giving to these doctors the art of healing. He rushes out upon one

who walks alone, seeking power, and brandishes a spear, finally aiming

it at the breast of the candidate, and advancing his foot as if to

throw it. If the candidate runs he is unworthy, but if he stands his

ground the little man of the wood drops his spear and gives a pearl to

him. This pearl is never shown to anybody. It is looked at secretly at

a patient's bedside, and if clear the physician will prescribe, but if

it is dark, or has taken on a stony aspect, he resigns the case. The

"drugs" are similar to those used by the Chinese, consisting in part

of powdered teeth and bones and other animal preparations. Charms are

in common use as a protection not only from disease but from murder

and misfortune, and in the fighting between the Americans and the

natives about Manila many poor, half-naked creatures, armed with bows

and arrows, had ventured fearlessly into the zone of fire, believing

themselves to be safe because they wore an anting-anting at the

neck. This object, like an Indian's "good medicine," is anything,--a

little book, a bright pebble, a church relic, a medal, an old bullet,

a coin, a piece of cloth, a pack of cards. It is the faith that goes

with it, not the object itself, that counts. Even Aguinaldo has

been invested by his followers with superhuman power. Just before

he resorted to arms against the Americans the natives knew that the

time for rebellion had come, for a woman in Biacnabato gave birth

to a child dressed in a general's uniform, and above Tondo a woman's

figure crowned with snakes was painted in fire upon the night-sky.

In details of their faiths the tribes differ, but there is a prevalent

belief in a principle of good that the Moros call Tuhan. The sun,

moon, and stars are the light that shines from him,--he is everywhere,

all-seeing, all-powerful; he has given fleeting souls to brutes

and eternal souls to men. The soul enters a child's body at birth,

through the soft space in the top of the head, and leaves through the

skull at death. Their first men were giants, and Eve was fifty feet

high, but as men's minds grew their bodies became of less account,

and they will shrink and shrink until, at the world's end, they will

be only three feet high, but will consist mostly of brains. Comparing

a brawny savage with an anaemic scholar, one fancies there is reason

in this forecast. The Tagbanuas have no Adam and Eve. Those of them

who live beside the ocean say they are the children of Bulalacao,

a falling star that descended to the shore and became a beautiful

woman. The gods of these people are like men, but are stronger,

living in caves, eating an ambrosia-like boiled rice that has the

power of moving. Their gods sometimes steal their children.

Old Testament traditions are commonly accepted by the Moros, who

believe in No (Noah), Adam, Mosa (Moses), Ibrahim (Abraham), Sulaiman

(Solomon), Daud (David), and Yakub (Jacob); but creation myths are

locally modified, and some tales of recent emergence of islands out

of the sea are probably true. In all volcanic districts mountains may

be shaken down and hills cast up in a day. Siquijor formerly bore the

name of the Isle of Fire, for the natives say that in the days of their

grandfathers a cloud brooded on the sea for a week, uttering thunders

and hisses and flashing forth bolts of fire. When the cloud lifted,

Siquijor stood there. The geology of the island supports the tradition.

The future is differently conceived by different sects and families,

some panditas teaching that the soul, having come from God, will

return to him at death; others that it will sleep in the earth or

the air until the world has ended, when all will be swept on a wind

to a mount of judgment, where saints and angels will weigh them,

and souls heavy with sin will fall into hell; others that there is

no hell of fire, because there is not coal enough to keep it going,

but that every man is punished until his soul is purified, when it

rises to heaven, glowing with light and color; others that men are

punished according to their sins; liars and gossips with sore mouths

and tired jaws; gluttons with lame stomachs; jealous, cruel, tricky

people with aching hearts; abusive and thievish ones with pains in

their hands; others that one finds hell enough on earth in fear,

illness, disappointment, misunderstanding and Spaniards, to atone

for all the mischief he is liable to make.

Okikurumi Samayunguru And The Shark Old Esther Dudley facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail