SHE wore grey.
Nearly two weeks after the Taal Volcano erupted, I still think of her as a lady who is not done yet with surprising us.
This anthropomorphic tendency to attribute human qualities to an animal or object is fed by legends. Yet, while the trope of myths surrounding Taal is disobedience, the tales do not find fault only with women, a staple for blame in many creation stories, from the exile from Eden to local upland lore in southern Cebu.
Interviewing upland communities in a study to inventory resources, I was drawn to oldtimers’ explanation that rivers or spring sources that dried up or slowed down to a trickle were cursed by the “hinugasan.”
The phrase refers to a woman washing her underclothes stained from menstruation, which offended the spirits into taking away this bounty.
Taal lore is not misogynist. From taalvolcano.ph is a story of how Lakan Taal guided the community in farming and planting fruit trees everywhere except near the top of a mountain.
One day, Lakan Taal disappeared. Seeking him, some villagers peered over the top of the mountain and discovered it to be full of gems. The people fought over the treasures and forgot Lakan Taal. The furious elder asked Bathala to punish the greedy with an earthquake. Water rose over the bodies and gems.
According to aswangproject.com, professor Dean Fansler, who compiled Filipino folk tales for the American Folk-lore Society, wrote about the tobacco-puffing Nuno, a caretaker of the summit of Taal. The old man allowed the villagers to plant at the base of the mountain but forbade them from planting near the top.
One day, Nuno disappeared. The farmers, emboldened by the tobacco trade, planted on the much richer soil in the forbidden summit.
Summoned by Nuno, an earthquake opened a crater that swallowed all the tobacco plants. Until this day, lore has it that the people are waiting for Nuno inside the crater to finish “smoking all his tobacco.”
A third legend was recounted by Porfirio D. Andal to the American anthropologist Henry Otley-Beyer in 1931, according to batangashistory.date. When Taal was merely a lake flowing into Balayan Bay, a childless couple travelled for two days to a cave near a river at the foot of a mountain, where they found a golden cow, a god that could answer “any question of life.”
Before the cow, the woman prayed. Her husband tickled the cow-god. In their journey back, their banca was swallowed in a great storm, followed by an earthquake. The unbelieving husband is said to be the sulking Taal Volcano.
A people’s disobedience to nature ends in catastrophe. I think a hard-headed woman is another kind of disaster, but these stories are for another time.