A Tale Fit for a DemiGoddess


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            Hello everyone. Kumusta ka! Welcome to today’s episode. And it’s a myth retelling. Which is my favorite type of episode to do. Or so I think.

            But it’s been a bit of time since our lase one. So let me give you a bit of background information if you’re new here. My grandfather was known for being a storytelling, or a keeper of the old Filipino beliefs and traditions, at least while he was alive. He passed away when I was a child: a child who was being raised in another country, far away from him. And his stories.

Sure, there’s something tragic in that. Or that’s how I think of it now. But not then. Back then it was easier to not think of this part of my life, the stories within, or anything that was already lost in the face of such an intense loss looming over the horizon. That being the loss of my father.

            And it probably didn’t help that of all the cultures and stories I was hearing, none of them were from my part of the world. Not even from my islands but literally from my part of the world.  I mean, I can vividly remember all the time we spent studying Greek mythology in what was called social studies but also seemed more like history with a current events element. And then we moved on to Roman and Egyptian mythology, and that’s what I knew mythology to be.

            That’s not even mentioning all the pop culture. I was a child when Disney’s Hercules came out. And that seemed like the beginning of some sort of larger trend. And we’re not innocent of this either over here. Another Miscellany Media Studios called The Oracle of Dusk is meant to be something like callback to The Oracle of Delphi: a character of the ancient Greek mythology. So while that might have been a perception, it wasn’t an unfounded one, and hey, even a belief is enough sometimes.

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            So yeah, now we’re doing this, I guess. As a sort of correction. And you know, there are a few places out there where you can find the Filipino myths and legends, but you had to know where to look. Like the internet. Like The Aswang Project, an online repository of Filipino, myths, legends and folklore, that is immediately available through a quick Google search if your podcast app of choice doesn’t like embedded links in the show notes or I didn’t set the links up correctly. Either way.

            And their entries are usually complete with citations, if you wanted to trace back or find more along the same lines that maybe didn’t make it onto the website yet or—at least—isn’t where you would expect it to be. And I do usually try to trace back. With the help of librarians and local book sellers. I think it’s better to focus on primary sources, but today, though, while The Aswang Project listed a book from a familiar person, one of a series I had been able to buy a book from before, I had a little bit of difficulty getting a copy this time. I mean, to be blunt, delivery-wise, it’s late. Super late. But I really want to do this story. So yeah, if this episode disappears off the feed, now you know why…

            But I don’t want to wait. On the other hand, this is a story I really want to tell. It’s not just that mythology matters to culture. But that this is also a really fun thing for me to do. And Filipino mythology is full of cool figures that young people who have been born into this tradition probably should be hearing about.

            And so, today, I’ve got a myth to reimagine. Last episode, I talked about the three daughters of the Tagalog god Bathala. They were his daughters for a mortal woman, the legend goes. But they appear in other traditions as well. In different forms and with different parents. But there are enough similarities there for you to realize that you are looking at a familiar face in a new space.

            So with that in mind, we as a podcast community originally met Mayari in the Tagalog tradition as one of the daughters of the supreme deity Bathala, but in the Pampangan tradition, she has a different story beyond mere goddess of the moon. Or not so mere goddess, I mean, she’s also the goddess of—among other things—war and revolution.

            Keep that in mind.

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            Long before the tragedies of our days, particularly the ones manufactured by our own hands, the universe still knew great sadness. That feeling predates us, though we may not realize it. Really, for it to be, all that is required is a sense of loss, and the gods and goddess who watch over us knew that quite well.

            For there was a time when Bathala went away. When he retreated from the world that he created. Some say, he died. Some others say that he simply wandered the cosmos in despair after his wife’s passing, but truly, it cannot be said. It is not the charge of mortals to hold the divine accountable for their comings and goings. But we do know that he was gone and that he appointed no replacement in his absence.

            There were two clear candidates, however. You see, there were two deities that had been entrusted with essentially fueled all of creation: the soul of it all you could say, and that was the light. Apolaki was the god of the sun, and Mayari, the goddess of the moon. Both of these celestial orbs warmed the earth, fueled its growth, and lit the paths of all who walked upon it. Certainly, it was thought by many, that Bathala would wish for one of them to take his place. After all, they had dutifully and unfailingly watched over the many things he had laid at their feet and tended to all of their responsibilities. Undoubtedly they could be trusted with more.

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            But plans that look so simple seldom truly are. And indeed, this one soon went awry as well. For the two deities stood as equals before Bathala left, and that arrangement worked very well. Back when Bathala was there to watch over them, however. While it was assumed that his is how it would always be, Apolaki did not wish for it to remain that way. Now he liked Mayari well enough, but he did not wish to rule with her. He watched to watch over creation alone, unchallenged.

            However, he kept silent and respectful at first. And in Bathala’s absence, the two watched over all of creation solemnly. They ruled side by side with peace and without complaint until it became very clear that Bathala would not be coming home so soon.

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            And on that day, the day that they had to accept this difficult truth, Apolaki puffed out his chest and loudly proclaimed, “We cannot both rule like this. What does that do? Two gods sharing power only means that there is none. And if there is no power then there is no action. I tell you, dear Mayari, that we must think of the world below. We must be its caretakers, and we cannot do that as we are. Say, one day, we find that we cannot agree on something. Well, then what can we do? We cannot act without the other in agreement, so we cannot act at all, and then the world will fall apart as we bicker.”

“Now certainly,” Apolaki added, “as the one who realized this fatal flaw, I am the one most fit to rule. And I trust that you agree and that you can see my wisdom.”

            Now his words were unexpected, and Mayari briefly pulled back in surprise. In all of that time, they had not had a single disagreement, not before that moment. Certainly there was was no cause to believe there would be a problem later.

            Mayari kept calm and remained posed. “Dear Apolaki,” Mayari replied. “If there were to be problems and we could not agree, certainly we could discuss and talk through them. Together we would work to find something much better than either of us could imagine. It would not be our pairing that would undo all of creation. Pride and ego are the duo to avoid, not we.”

            As gentle as her words were, Apolaki would not be persuaded, and Mayari was aware of that. And so when he rejected her reply, she did not offer another one. But for the sake of creation and her convictions, she held firm and refused to be subordinate to him.

            With both gods so set in their paths, there was only one possible outcome, was there? As horrible as it was. For you see, while we must avoid it, violence can be the ultimate adjudicator: it can find and enter any conflict and its decision is impossible to resist.

            Legend has it Apolaki struck first with a long bamboo club, and Mayari only fought back with one of her own out of necessity. But truly, I don’t believe I don’t think we could ever know. It was clear from Apolaki’s desires that this should come to pass one day, but the details are harder to see. Any of them, for that matter. For when Apolaki and Mayari fought it was not with a full understanding of what could be lost.

            And there was a loss. One that came surprisingly soon. Blessedly soon for the rest of us. With one swift blow, Apolaki struck Mayari in the eye, destroying it, and as blood poured from her face, the bright red snapped him free from his delusions of grandeur. Apolaki faced proof of what his desires could do, of the damage that could be done, and he backed down.

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            Now, I should tell you all one other truth. In many ways, violence destroys not just the victim but the one who wielded the club. Apolaki found that he could no longer bear to look at Mayari and her missing eye. Guilt had stripped away not only his pride but his ability to be close to a woman he once loved. And so, the natural order was restored. Apolaki and Mayari both ruled over the moon. Both the sun and the moon watch over us, overhead—but at different times. And Mayari did not escape the fight unchanged either. The moon could never shine as brightly as the sun again with her vision damaged.

            And now, both watch over us in their own ways and at their own times and do the best they can, regardless of the circumstances.

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            This has been a production of Miscellany Media Studios. Thank you for listening. Follow us on twitter @miscellanymedia for updates on developing projects like Aishi Online: an audio fiction show about existing on the social internet.


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