Most of you are probably familiar with these myths and stories when you were still a child. And I’m also sure you almost believed it was true or wished you were brave enough to do it and live it yourself.
Having grown up in a far-off, ultra laid-back, Shire-like countryside as a kid, I was not so much impressed then by stories of Peter Pan or Voltes V. I thought that those stories were just for city boys and not for a barrio-bred like me. I was more influenced by Captain Barbel, Panday and the ninjas of komiks or Zimatar and Kapitan Radam of DZRH dramas. They were the childhood fantasies that consistently inspired me to become a hero. One who can triumphantly fight evil with a sword and a horse or flies the sky like the masked-caped crusader. One who wields power of invisibility and tremendous strength that always saves the world from monster or alien dominion.
But in between searching for that elusive magic barbell and the ermitanyo (hermit) who will teach me kung-fu, I tried a few other quests for becoming the long-lost hero of my beleaguered imaginary kingdom. Here are some of them:
I have read several versions of this story and was always fascinated by it. Believe it or not, I was tempted once to go on a Hobbit-like adventure to find the end of the rainbow and hence, the proverbial treasure.
I remember, it was one gloomy morning when I saw the colorful spectrum of colors in the sky and decided that it was the best time to go on my self-proclaimed, bold undertaking to go for it, come back as a rich boy and live my childhood happily ever after.
Armed with a slingshot hanging around my neck , a bamboo stick tied to my waist and a pocketful of guavas and dulse-kurumbot on each sides, I was convinced I’m really up for the challenge.
Too bad, I was barely two steps from the door when the rain started pouring and all I could do is regretfully watch the rainbow slowly fade in the horizon and all my foolish hopes with it.
The magical stone from the banana flower. Another legend that engaged me was about the ‘mutya ng puso ng saging’. Supposedly, during full moon, a magical stone will come out of the tip of the banana flower. This stone, they said, can be your anting-anting or amulet. It will give you superpower like invincibility and invisibility. All you have to do is stand beside the banana tree directly below the dangling flower with mouth wide open like an idiot waiting for the stone to fall. Easy ha?
Now, who wouldn’t be enticed with such promise of indomitability? Besides even the older ones, whom I heard during drinking sessions, were seriously talking about it. So I presumed it must be the real deal.
After searching for the appropriate banana tree, I convinced my younger brother to come with me with a promise that in case the stone missed my waiting mouth, he can be an alternate. Actually it was just my excuse not to roam the fields at night all by myself.
Full moon came, we were ready to embark on our journey to heroism which was about a kilometer from the house in the middle of a small forest. We were already halfway through when that familiar sound of the howling dogs tore the silence of the night and send chills up our spine. Hairs raised, we both retreated, and ran back without looking only to find out that the howling came from the neighbor’s transistor radio.
We ended up listening instead to ‘Gabi Ng Lagim’ drama and forgot about the mutya.
The bird that lays the magic egg. There was another story that aroused my ever-growing interest in magic and powers. It was about a particular bird that lay a magic egg. I don’t know its common name, but we called the bird tagkaro. It was gray- brown colored that resembles a dove or a pigeon. It is nestled usually on the ground and when it did, you can’t easily recognize it because the colors blended with the soil, like a chameleon does.
It lays eggs like any other bird but not all of them are magical, so they say. You can only get that egg if the bird, while in its delivery state, is extremely startled. Then the last egg that popped out before it could fly will be the magic egg. Allegedly, it will give you luck and any wish that you would want.
I can almost see myself as the best player in our games of siatong, jolens and tatse or the fastest runner in agawan-beys once I get hold of that egg. Heck, I can also make myself invisible during a taguan game. I desperately need to get the magic egg.
Again, my brother and I set out on another heroic exploit. First we have to find the nest. It’s not really difficult because the bird usually leave its trail in the bushes and on the ground.
With twigs and branches in both our hands while lying on the ground, we patiently waited for the bird to come home to its nest to deliver what we wanted. Several hours later and after consuming all the sumans we brought, it did come.
We waited until the bird finally positioned itself to lay the first egg, and then BOOM! We slammed the ground together with whatever we were holding to create a tremendous noise. The bird flew in haste and in horrendous surprise!
All that was left where it laid was a familiar piece. Not an egg but a bird sh*t!
The enchanted spring. Anywhere in the country, especially in far-flung villages, there’s always a place that people believed to be inhabited by ‘other beings’, by mystical entities. It could either be a house, a mountain, a tree, a stone or anything that looks dark and sinister. It could be sacred, haunted or enchanted. And there will always be stories surrounding its mysticism with varying degree of mystery, horror and absurdity. But still most of the time, folks avoided them or at least give due courtesy whenever they have to pass by inevitably (thus tabi po, tabi po!).
For us, there was this small spring at the foot of a rocky cliff by the sea. It looks harmless during daytime. In fact it was a source of water for most of the households. And mothers often do their daily laundry there. The water was flowing freely out of a small cave of stones. It taste sweet too, a perfect natural water.
But when nighttime falls, no kids ever dared to wander near the place. It really looks very ominous and ill-boding in the dark. And there were stories that an engkanto actually lived there and does not allow anyone at night to disturb his peaceful abode. Those stories really kept us from playing or going there after the sun sets.
Unfortunately, I was doomed to go through the most horrifying 15 minutes of my life.
One time, it was a barrio fiesta and our house was full of guests. The celebration, as expected, went further deep into the night. And our water reserves in tapayans won’t definitely suffice for obvious reasons.
The time of reckoning came. As I have feared most, I was the one tasked to fetch additional waters being the older of two boys. And my father didn’t accept no as an answer in those terrible times.
Summoning whatever courage I have (and with my b*lls up my neck), I reluctantly braved the pitch-black darkness whistling while alternately half-running, half-walking on the road less travelled at night, wary of the creepy shadows of the trees and the eerie chirping of nocturnal insects. It was the longest mile walk I’ve ever made in my childhood life.
Upon reaching the spring, I started reciting ‘tabi po! tabi po!’ continuously without stopping until both buckets in my hands were full.
The moment I was ready to go, I raised my head and consciously tried to look towards the inside of the dark cave.
I saw a pair of tiny green eyes glowing and definitely staring back at me!
The next moment I found myself running like a headless chicken back to our house.
The next day, the story was of course altered and different. I became the first and only boy among the group to have survived the enchanted spring at night. The heck, I didn’t tell them the truth. Engkanto my a**! Maybe it was just a lizard.
The anthill and the elf. Again, never giving up with the search for the magic stone I found another opportunity. This time it was closer to home. Actually it was just a few meters away from our backyard.
There was this mound of soil shaped like a small mountain that we observed no weeds or grass ever grew around it.
Finally we found a ‘nuno sa punso’! Another shot at the evasive stone!
We were made to believe then that you can offer foods, fruits, clothes or any fancy toys besides this supposedly elf dwelling and once it is pleased with your sacrifices, it will show itself to you and make all your wishes granted. I only have one in mind– a magic stone!
So we did make the periodic offering – once every morning, of varying kinds. Sometimes guavas, sometimes left-overs from our breakfast. I even tried offering my favorite plastic squirt toy gun.
And the morning after, we will comeback to check if the foods were consumed. Hell, it really was devoured by the elf. Nothing was left there except for some ants feasting in its place. I didn’t know that duwendes liked guavas or fish too.
It continued for a few days and yet no elf showed itself to grant our wishes.
Until one morning on our visiting time, we heard noises as we approached.
It was our pet dog and cat fighting for its own share of the free meal!
And I never found that magic stone or the pot of gold ever.
But those adventures made my childhood more memorable and exciting.
And always worth going back to, if I can.