Sep 4, 2009

The Legend of Alitaptap

(Valley of Pinak, Central Luzon)

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Once, a long time ago, in the valley of Pinak in Central Luzon, one of the islands of the Philippines, there was a deep, large lake rich with fish. There, the people of Pinak fished for their food, and always, there was plenty for all. Then suddenly, the big river dried up. In the shallow mud, there was not a fish to catch! For months, there was no rains. Out in the fields, the land turned dry. The rice stalks slowly withered. Everywhere in Pinak, there was hunger.

Night after night, the people of Pinak prayed hard.

“Dear Bathala,” they would recite together in their small and poorly built chapel, “send us rains, give us food to eat for the people are starving, and there is want among us all.”

Then one black and starless night, the good Bathala answered the prayers of the faithful people of Pinak. For suddenly, up in the skies, appeared a blaze of gold.

“A chariot! A chariot of gold!” shouted the people in fear and wonder.

True enough-zooming and blazing through the sky, was a beautiful chariot made of pure, glittering gold!

The people started to flee in panic, when a big voice boomed from the chariot:

“I am a Bulan-hari, and I have come with my wife, Bitu-in. We are sent from the heavens to rule Pinak from now on. We have come to give you a good life!”

As Bulan-hari spoke, the black skies opened. The rains fell in torrents. Soon the dry fields bloomed fresh again. The large lake rose till it was again deep and alive with fish. The people of Pinak were happy once more under the rulership of the good Bulan-hari.

Soon Bulan-hari and Bitu-in had a daughter. She grew up to be a beautiful maiden. Such long, dark hair! Such lovely eyes under long, curly lashes! Her nose was chiseled fine. Her lips were like rosebuds. Her skin was soft and fair like cream. They named her Alitaptap, for on her forehead was a bright, sparkling star.

All the young, brave, and handsome men of Pinak fell in love with Alitaptap. They worshipped her beauty. They sang songs of love beneath her windows. They all sought to win her heart.

But, alas! The heart of Alitaptap was not human. She was the daughter of Bulan-hari and Bitu-in who burst from the sky and were not of the earth. She has a heart of stone, as cold and hard as the sparkling star carved in her forehead. Alitaptap would never know love.

Then one day, an old woman arrived in the palace. Her hair was long and dirty. Her clothing was tattered and soiled.

Before the King Bulan-hari, Balo-na, the old, wise woman whined in her high and sharp voice.

“Oh, mighty king! I have come from my cave in the mountains. I have journeyed on foot to bring you sad news!”

Bulan-hari asked in fear, “What is it, wise woman?”

“I can see in my crystal ball that the future will bring ruin and sorrow. The warriors from the land of La-ut will come on their mighty horses with their mighty swords and conquer our mighty men. They will destroy our crops, throw poison in the lake, and bring ruin everywhere!”

“Oh, wise woman,” the king replied in despair, “what are we to do?”

“Alitaptap must bear a son. Only he can grew up to be the people’s leader. He will conquer all invaders, and keep the peace in our land!”

At once, Alitaptap! You must pick one of the young men to marry. You must bear a son. He will keep the peace and happiness our people now enjoy!”

But how could Alitaptap understand? The beautiful maiden with a heart of stone merely stood in silence.

Bulan-hari gripped his sword in blind despair. “Alitaptap!” he bellowed in the quiet palace. “You will follow me, or you will lie dead this very minute!”

But nothing could stir the lovely young woman’s heart. Bulan-hari, bling with anger nand fear of the dark future, finally drew his sword. Clang! The steel of his sword’s blade rang in the silence of the big palace. It hit the star on Alitaptap’s lovely forehead!

The star burst! Darkness was everywhere! Suddenly a thousand chips of glitter and light flew around the hall. Only the shattered pieces of the star on Alitaptap forehead lighted the great hall, flickering around as through they were stars with tiny wings.

Alitaptap, the lovely daughter sent from the heavens, lay dead.

And soon, Balo-na’s predictions came true. Riding on stamping wild horses, the warriors of La-ut came likt the rumble and clash of lightning and thunder. They killed the people of Pinak, ruined the crops, poison the lake. They spread sorrow and destruction everywhere.

When it all ended, the beautiful, peaceful valley of Pinak had turned into empty and shallow swamp. At night, there was nothing but darkness, but soon, tiny sparkles of light flickered and glimmered brightly in the starless night.

And so, the fireflies came about. Once, a long time ago, they were fragments from the star on the forehead ob Bulan-hari’s daughter, the beautiful Alitapap.

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