Ipugao Origins 2 - New Days Ahead


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Hello Everyone! Kumusta ka? Welcome to today's episode, which will be part two of the Ipugao creation myth as well as some other odds and ends of interest that I uncovered. Is it going to be everything I could have said? Definitely not. But we're just getting started in the long and very exciting journey we’ve got ahead of us. And yes, if you couldn't tell despite my excitement and need to constantly bring it up, I've got plans for what's coming next, and I think it's all pretty exciting.

But right now, (music cut), I've got a story for you.
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The night was long and quiet. And the man and woman spent it alone, mostly. Hope made for surprisingly poor company in a time like that because it could not offer much of substance and what it did offer seemed to taint the soul. Hope was there with them, but its presence compelled the man and woman to think of the future: an uncertain future that either held within it untold joy or untold horrors. Which it was… was yet to be seen.

The flood had not just wiped the islands clean of life. Rather, it had profoundly changed the landscape. All that had been ordinary was now reduce to little more than dreams. Few possibilities were left. Each knew they had one of two outcomes to face when morning came. Either they'd have a companion tied to them forever linked by a bond forged in these shared horrors or they'd be completely alone.

Hope told them the former was possible, but it's ethereal presence also reminded them how likely the latter was.

While they languished in this uncertainty, the world slept soundly. The expanse around them seemed to breathe softly, inhaling and exhaling as the still fresh wounds continued to throb.

Without the storm’s thunder, everything had gone quiet. But that made for its own noise. The silence was a scream loud enough to awaken Lumawig from his slumber. The storm had been a reminder of his inattentiveness. As it beat down on the world, the constant drumming beat down on him as well trapping him where he lay and making it impossible for him to arise and return to the task of watching over the world. Because of this, his responsibilities continued to be neglected. And there was no other reason for it. It was not right, he knew, but it was also not something he could fight. The world needed to heal, he thought, and if it needed water, he would step aside into the farthest corners of his domain and let it cleanse itself.

Of course, the world could not direct itself. It did not truly understand what its needs were and had summoned a storm far more powerful than was required. There was no need to drench itself so thoroughly, but then again, it had not acted according to need but to a whimsy it could not contain.

This is what Lumawig thought when the rain finally stopped. The cries of the now silent world told him how much time had gone by and how much damage had been incurred.

The sounds of laughter were gone, he realized. The joy had been washed away.

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Those things had been objectively good and valuable, deserving to be cherished, not destroyed. After all, joy warmed the world in its own way, just like the sun did. It gave the plants and animals more life and energy to fuel them. The play of his people created a current to move the expanse of land, sea, and sky in new directions. It created new possibilities and new possibilities meant even more of all the other things that were objectively beautiful.

And now there was nothing.

The loss convinced Lumawig that he had not been wrong for cherishing the people as he had. They were worth all the time and attention he has bestowed upon them. After all, they could have brought the world into a new era, but to usher in that age, they needed his guidance.

He should have given that to them. He was right to give it to them. He should have helped them even more. He should have stopped the storm.

While he hadn't made a mistake at first, he had done so after all. At the very end, perhaps when it mattered most. And that could have been hard to take. But unlike before, Lumawig did not fall into despair. This time, he used it to push him forward.

And so, Lumawig emerged out into the world and surveyed what little was left after the rains. Just as the sun emerged from its hiding place over the horizon.

With the sun’s arrival, the mountains were bathed in light. But the woman's bonfire was still burning strongly and shined brighter than the distant sun. It was this achievement that caught Lumawig's eye. And he looked down upon her and briefly took in the sight of her sleeping form on the mountain’s ledge. The events of the night before explained themselves. The woman had found the strength within her to construct a pyre that towered over her, likely meant to—simply—keep the horrors of the night away, but in her soul, Lumawig knew, she was afraid of very different sort of thing.

And she was not wrong for fearing that beast. When Lumawig had first cut the reeds, he had kept them in pairs, and it seemed as if, as a result, the people had grown together in that way. Human beings needed one another, and that requirement was written in their very souls. Now, they could not be alone. But as Lumawig looked around, at first, he did not see another person he could match her with. Lumawig searched the mountain side, his heart falling into despair with each passing moment. It looked as if she truly was the only one of her community to survive, and while she had a future, it was unclear what it would exactly be. Lumawig turned to her again, and he wondered where he could send her that she could be happy. There were other places, yes, places that had not been so damaged by the water. And ther people in other places had survived the storm, but would she be happy with them? Could she make a life with them with such a strong aching in her heart? And under such a weight, could she complete such a long journey?

Lumawig looked around again, more frantically this time. Moments ticked by, but in time, the man emerged from the cave to face the day, exposing himself to Lumawig’s gaze.

It did not happen all at once. The man slowly made his way out of his hiding place and looked up, not towards the sky but towards the still burning fire. It was right where he last saw it, so it wasn’t a dream after all. More importantly, it had survived the night, he thought. Certainly someone capable of making a fire so strong had the strength to make it through the storm. His resolve was set.

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The man looked at the mountain before him. It had once bore a well-worn path, but the water had washed away the efforts of those who came before. If he looked hard enough, however, he thought he could see the faintest signs of what once had been. It meant he had a chance of making it up there, assuming he could get to that mountain, however. And that came with its own challenges.

Slowly, he moved towards one of the mountain's ledges. It jutted out just slightly towards the other mountain. Not that far, certainly, but it was the closest he could get to the other mountain. And—in fact—the distance was just a few feet. He could cross the divide with a strong enough jump, he convinced himself, though it seemed unlikely. He just needed to be brave. He just needed to try. And what choice did he have. For that reason, while he lingered, he did not stop himself. He took a deep breath.

Lumawig watched this. He knew the man could not make that jump. His legs were weakened from so long in the cave. No, the man was not strong enough. If the man tried, he would just fall. Such were the ways of the world. But to a god, none of that matter.

The man took another deep breath before he flung himself forward. Lumawig reached down just as the man worked up the nerve to make the leap. The man focused on the distant ledge as his feet left the ground while the Great Spirit worked to summon a small wind at his back.

It was as Lumawig predicted. The man could not muster the strength to reach beyond the halfway point, but with the wind at his back, the man made it to the other mountain with a rough landing. He was not deterred. He started climbing.

Meanwhile, the woman lay beside her fire. She was not sleeping, but she wished to be, out of fear of what the day would bring. On the other hand, lying there meant bathing in the warmth of the sun. She had loved doing that in what had been her other life, or so she thought. Her memories were tainted by the despair of the storms. So much of her life had been changed by the storms: obviously her present, surprisingly her past, and inevitably her future. The latter was unclear and overwhelming.

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She listened to the world as she lie on the ground. Her breathing was the loudest thing around her, but occasionally, she would hear a bird calling out for companionship of its own. Though haunting, its song was beautiful, and the woman found herself falling deeper into this other’s plight.

And that’s when she heard it, the sounds of pebbles falling from the mountain side and the grunts of a man straining to lift himself up. The woman couldn’t believe it at first. Her heart leaped, but surprise kept her still. She did not rush to greet the man. She could not believe the man was coming.

And yet, he appeared before her. His head jerking up above the mountain ledge and the rest of him soon following.

In joy, the woman jolted upright, surprising the man who then lost his grip. But Lumawig caught him before he could fall.

When the man saw the woman, he was seized by a force he could not control, and he happily surrendered to the feeling, casting aside all logic. The Great Spirit could take care of the details. As Lumawig was ready to do.

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The sight of another person would be a joyful one, no matter who it was, but in this case, there was more to it than that. For this man and this woman knew each other. They had grown up close to each other, born to families that worked together frequently. And seeds of love had already been planted between the two of them. The waters hadn’t swept that away. For all it had taken, they still had each other. They were not alone, and under Lumawig’s guidance, they could rebuild the world.

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In the last episode, I made it clear that I was taking what came to me as two distinct narratives and forcing them together in a way that would likely make many people unhappy. Or I didn’t add that latter part but still accept it as a consequence of my decisions. Because this shoving together of a story with a staple of the Ipugao identity meant cutting some material and adlibbing others in a way that isn’t perfectly authentic. My point in this has been to reignite these otherwise neglected stories in the same way that Greek or Roman myths get told and retold constantly. Fearing what would happen if someone didn’t usher these stories into the digital and pop culture driven era—I took it upon myself to do the best as I could. Which has not been easy.

On the other hand, I’ve wanted to explore origins as a means of laying down or understanding foundations. I opened up with my beginnings to give you all a sense of where I was coming from in doing this, and it seemed only right that as an extension of that, I should explore how others perceived their beginnings.

With that in mind, I then had to juggle the written story and an understanding of where these people knew they had come from. In this specific example of course. The idea that they are the descendants of a providentially saved couple was critical to their identity, even if some of the details—like the names of this man and woman—were lost to time. This idea comes up in many of their traditions, and that’s what is important. Or to put it in other words, having a loose grip on the past isn’t always a bad thing. Not every detail is relevant as long as you understand the broader picture, which they clearly do. They don’t remember the names of their ancestors, but they remember that this couple overcame a tremendous struggle with assistance from the gods. As a result, they have inherited certain gifts and responsibilities. They have inherited not just a narrative but a role.

And there are signs of this in the way they conduct themselves. It was noted that they had a very complex moral code that they strictly adhered to, likely tied to this belief that they had been chosen or spared by the Great Spirit for some reason or another. However, there’s something reductive about this approach.

The Ipugao had a full society that not only existed but for some time was able to keep the Spanish at bay despite all the gold the community had. This society is known as the Igorot Society, and while referring to this group of people by that name is slightly pejorative, calling this historical entity such does not have the same slant to it. In part, I suspect because this society is the amalgamation of these different tribes and not the assumption that this term should refer to a collective as a solid whole. Regardless, while I acknowledge the potential nuance in this situation, I will still defer to the preferred term I’ve been using across these episodes.

Obviously, I wish the history of this group were more readily available. We’re talking about 2,000 years of history and development that gets shoved aside. Yes, this state—as it were—has an incredibly long history to it, which might be difficult for some to imagine depending on how rigidly you hold onto the history you learned in school. I know this was the first time I’d ever heard about any of this, and that’s with a nod to what little I actually have at my disposal at this moment. I genuinely wish I had more about the Ifugao Society and that I could better fit it all into this episode, but there’s a great deal of slash and burn that keeps happening, so put pin in this for now because I want to get more into this latter.

Before the Spanish came, the Ifugao had a massive society, a plutocracy and not—notably—a monarchy. In a plutocracy, a state is run by a small group or council of people, typically the wealthiest of a state’s citizens. And this wasn’t an uncommon governing structure, but what’s significant here is that the Ifugao Society took this idea and turned it into one of the most prosperous and developed of the region, complete with a scientific calendar and understanding of astronomy that was strong enough to exert influence on their religion. I mention that because it’s a sign that this system they had made for themselves had some sense of growth or direction to it. Some sort of ingrained longevity. Because that may be the only way to get the full extent of this society they had for themselves. It was self-sustaining, both in the present and in the future and even had a way of managing conflicts between the various groups within the society.

And yet, for all this group’s achievements, the Spanish came in, citing a desire for the gold of the land and to covert the native population to Christianity. Those motivations are hard to contend with. Religion tends to be all or nothing when you consider the nature of convictions, and the presence of the Great Spirit might have been close, but no, it was never going to be close enough. You believe in the same creed or you don’t. They have been plenty of wars to that end, so I don’t know why I needed to say any of that.

As for the gold, trade was established fairly early on in this history, but some gold is not the same as having all the gold which is what the Spanish wanted. So obvious thing happened. I.e. colonization.

Which is not news to you, I imagine. But this may be. The Ipugao, or the Igorot in this context pushed back and revolted. Known as the Igorot Revolt

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The Ifugao revolted against the Spanish in 1601, in a revolt spurred and pushed largely by religious issues. Or that’s how the story goes. The problem in saying that is that religious domination and total domination aren’t clearly distinguished because religious life and actual life in this era of history is almost synonymous. It’s worth noting here that the separation of church and state is a relatively new concept.

By order of the Governor-General Francisco de Tello de Guzman, an expedition was sent to the region under the pretense of religious conversion. Once again, the line between pretense and actual reasons are far more blurry than anyone would like in this situation. Sure, maybe—as an extension of your religious convictions which you may have for selfish reasons—you think you have the obligation to initiate other people’s conversions, but on the other hand, if you are controlling the religious narrative—i.e. the thing that affects someone’s eternity after death—you are in a position of power over them. And power is what you need to be a good colonizer and to get all the resources that you want.

At the head of this expedition is Padre Esteban Marin, a respected priest who at least had the respectably of trying to convert people peacefully even going so far as adapting Christian terms into the local language to make this work. Allegedly. But then he got killed so what does it matter. And the Governor-General was then forced to send the army to retake control under the premise of a crusade. Or it was a crusade considering it was a religiously motivated conflict.

A strong expedition was sent to stop the resistance, but it was only able to stop it so far. Accounts describe the Spanish as having retaken political and militaristic control, but the original goal had downplayed as if it had been fallen by the wayside to some degree. This conflict shifted the Spanish’s priorities, and this expedition became about order not complete domination. And this push back is fairly significant. Although where it fits in the larger story, I’m still not quite sure. But all the same, I think it’s a story worth keeping alive.

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