When life started, people believed the whole land is flat and it holds the water, the vegetation and all animals including those that fly above. The people lived in satisfaction. This went on for so long while the deities busied themselves with their sky world affairs.
One morning, while the deities were having breakfast, one of them thought of going down to the land for a visit. So, this deity called the attention of the others and asked their permission, “Dear fellows, for so long, none of us went down to the land for a visit. May I beg your permission to go down and walk there?” Everyone realized that none of them had gone down to the land. At the breakfast table, they discussed and agreed they would all go down to and take a walk on the land after finishing their breakfast. So, they did. They stayed on the land until dark and afterwards, returned to the sky world.
Two days later when the deities were having breakfast, their topic for discussion was about their visit to the land. Each one shared subjective observations, impressions, ideas, suggestions, opinion and proposed recommendations. It took them until dark to finish their deliberations before they came up with a conclusion and a decision of unity of action. Their appointed secretary summarized what transpired as follows: “Life on the land is good and enjoyable. However, living such a kind of life is monotonous, creativity is hindered, and the prospect of fructifying creation is absent. A new beginning needs to be redesigned.”
Being satisfied with their fruitful discussion, the deities feasted late into the night. With the day’s tiresome deliberations and having feasted so much, they forgot to close the faucets after they washed. They also failed to check the water flowing to the toilet after they flushed. While they were sleeping like logs, water from the lavabos kept flowing, faucets were broken and toilets were clogged. Next morning, they were all astonished to receive the news that the land was completely flooded. So, they hastily built a huge ark and went down to the flooded land to save every floating creature they found alive. All creatures, including people, were kept in the huge ark for an unknown length of time.
When the broken faucets, clogged lavabos and blocked toilets of the deities were renovated and secured for good, the great flood on the land began to subside. The deities then opened the huge ark and let the people decide when to go out because dry land will soon appear in a very short time. It came to be that as soon as the sun brightened the day, dry land started to be seen far away.
A group of people got the courage and jumped out of the huge ark. They brought with them animals and plants to venture out into the dry land. When the huge ark floated away to a far distance, these people became the first group to settle the dry land. However courageous they were, they were at a loss on how to start a new beginning. The deities noticed the confusion on their monitoring screen, and among themselves, said, “One of us should go down to the land and show them how to start a good beginning.” So, one of the deities flew down to the land to accompany and guide this group. While the waters continued to be absorbed, this group realized that the land they occupied were the mountains, hills and valleys. It came to be that they became the highland dwellers. When they finally learned to build terraces to plant their rice, they also learned to protect the forests and watersheds. They realized their livelihood and existence depended on maintaining a good balance of their environment; they believed that the wisdom was endowed on them by a supernatural being. They found it worthy to name the supernatural being as “Kabunyan.” He who lives in the sky world but walks with his people to protect and guide them, yet fair in exacting justice, when people are dishonest to their fellow human beings as well as to all living beings including the environment.
The second batch got out of the ark when they finally saw the appearance of a wide track of dry land. This group of people had the collective memory of having once lived on a flat land. They came out to be the dwellers of the plains. Holding on to their collective memories, they entertained the belief that the flood had gone away, thereby life on the plains could again be perpetuated for eternity. Alas! On their monitoring screen, the deities noticed a fault in the belief the second group was entertaining. So, the deities agreed to send one of their own to give warning and guidance on the people’s reasoning. While this deity walked with the people and constantly gave them guidance and various warnings, they asserted their endowed free will and gave the name “Bathala” (from the Tagalog word, bahala na) to the deity who granted them the freedom of choice.
Those who stayed in the ark made up the third group of people. They saw the appearance of dry land, but they held onto the belief that water owns the land. They entertained the idea that flood stays forever, as it was and will always reclaim the land. They maintained the ark and embraced it as their home. When the ark finally disintegrated and was nowhere to be found, they built small barges and boats to keep them afloat. On the monitoring screen of the deities, they saw that the group was entertaining a belief that is partially right. So, one among the deities came to live with them. That deity accompanied them to find some means for a sustained living while respecting their freedom of will and continuously guiding them to the right perspective of their belief. The people named their deity, Umboh Tuhan(also known as Umboh Dilaut, the “Lord of the Sea”).
From then on, as each of these groups of people witness how calamities affect them every now and then, their belief is either reinforced or refuted while the deities continue monitoring the initiatives of human beings. However, there is one sacred arrangement that the deities made and wanted to be respected. Human beings need to interact absolutely with each other fairly as they interplay harmoniously with the rest of creation.@RC26/11/2020>
About the Author
Ric Cuyob is half-Benguet and half-Bontok, and belongs to the Kankana-ey ethnolinguistic of the Cordillera. He lives in Brussels with his wife, Alice, and their daughter, Marivonne. _____________________________
*To the memory of the victims of Typhoon Ulysses in November 2020 and all victims of previous typhoons and floods in the Philippines.