The Conversion Of Amambar

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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