Loves of Long Ago


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            Hello everyone! Kumusta ka! Welcome to today’s episode! Depending on when you’re listening to this, it either almost is, is, or will soon be the month of February, because that’s how time works. But the important thing is, that this is the month defined by a singular day: Valentine’s Day. The day of commercialized love… if you are inclined to be cynical. Look, I could go off the rails about it, or I could just embrace the chance for some themed episodes. I’m going to go with the latter for everyone’s sake.

            Now, does this mean we’re done with the origin stories? No… Or at least, I’m not sure. I found one more I think I want to do a retelling of, but I need to do a little more research before I decide. After that, I need to take a brief hiatus (meaning I’m likely going to skip one posting), and then I’ll get into what I think I want this podcast to be, going forward.

            Just to get it out there, I think the scattered nature of what I’ve been doing is the best way to do it, for me, at least. It’s the most authentic. Yes, it’s a bit of a brain dump, but one, that’s how I tend to think. And two, it’s something I can do without getting too emotional about not seeing my family like I didn’t last Christmas. But back to the point, this podcast is going to stay a bit scattered and all-inclusive if you want to be nice about it. We will still do story time. Mythological retellings, legends, myths, and fables because I think it’s interesting and a fitting tribute to my grandfather. But I’ll also make episodes that profile noteworthy Filipinos, events, and academic literature. And that last one may be a bit specific, but keep in mind I already have some books picked out. So just bear with me.

            And I’m hoping to get a bit more into the history of the Philippines, but that’s going to be a process when you realize how much is there... So how that goal incorporated into the larger picture is still to be determined. But I think I can manage it. Somehow.

            Also, there will interlude episodes that are now defined as episodes in which I explore specific concepts through the lens of a soul that feels lost, longing for the island chain she wasn’t raised in.

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            Yes, it’s a lot of ground to cover, but I didn’t think this sort of thing would ever truly be over. At least, not when I started. I was kind of envisioning a never-ending journey. Because that’s what life is. That’s what the future is, that what the past is, and in many ways, that’s what the present is. There’s always going to be another dimension to explore.

            It sounds daunting, but like I said, I’ll have one missed post to figure it out. Next week, I’ll be able to tell you if we have one more origin story or not, so we can then establish when that missed post will be.

            But this month is going to give me a chance to give you a little bit of a taste of what is to come.

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            The Filipino tradition is full of love stories, both historical and mythological. When you consider that it’s a culture that values connections and connectedness, and romantic love is a form of that.

            Romantic love is a staple of modern media and traditional stories. Not that I heard any about the latter growing up, but I imagine that this is the norm no matter where you are or what culture you were raised in. There’s just parts of your world that have to exist relatively unseen for a while. For the sake of time. Simple as that.

            But when you have a podcast, you can get more into it. With that in mind, I dug up an old tale from before the Spanish invasion. It’s got love, but it’s not a love story. Exactly. And it’s kind of like an origin story, but it’s not. I think this is a nice transition of sorts. Or, at least, it’s not as abrupt as it could have been.

            So here’s my retelling of The Legend of Minggan.

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            The giants and spirits who make up our world used to live more outwardly. This used to be their world, after all. Before we all took it over. In many ways, they are still here, but they have taken on different forms in recent years.

            Minggan was one of those giants who lived in the before time. He lived alone in what we know as the Sierra Madre Mountain range, and he was separated from everyone else. Giants are few and far between already, but Minggan was even more alone. And it’s hard to say why. Or if he had ever had a family. The terrain was not so ideal for a giant. They could live there well enough, but with so many other options out there for them, many simply choose to live elsewhere. And Minggan simply chose to stay.

            I do not doubt that love is one of the reasons why stayed. You see, Minggan was in love with the mountain spirit goddess called Mariang Sinukuan.

            She was something of a constant companion to him. As in they existed in the same area, going about their day to day lives together and yet still distinct from one another. But at the same time, they did not have any negative feelings for each other. Minggan was in love, and the mountain goddess was, at worst, indifferent. Minggan doubted she was capable of hatred. She was always warm and inviting. You see, it was her who breathed life into the mountain, and all the plants and creatures therein.


            And so surrounded by the life, the giant felt like he knew her. He felt the warmth of her all around him, and she had never pulled any of it away. He could see her beauty everywhere he went, and in the winds, he heard her laughter.

            His heart grew fonder of her, and he came to love her more and more. But she was a goddess, and he only a mere giant. So he tried to be gentler about it. At first, he said nothing to her. Instead, he would climb the mountains and bring her gifts of giant fruits and vegetables loaded up in is wheel barrow, and he would carry them from his garden to the mountaintop, straining from the weight of the goods and his own nerves.

            He wasn’t sure if this would work. Hesitantly, he only tried it once, and then he waited to see what her reaction would be. He waited for a while, but it seemed as if she did not react at all. She certainly did not rebuke him. With that in mind, he continued to make his pilgrimages. Rising just before dawn, armed with his produce, he would climb that mountain and leave her gifts like potatoes the size of boulders and fruits far bigger than we can even imagine. He hoped she found these tributes valuable in so far as they were nourishing. Undoubtedly, nature could yield better under her direction, but certainly his gifts were not nothing. Or, he hoped that she did not think they were nothing.

            And if she did, she did not say it. Her warmth did not pull away from him. The plants grew as they always grew. And the animals went about their daily life. Minggan remained hopeful, resolving to continue on until he was rebuked.

            Alternatively, she could come to love him, which is what he was hoping for.

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            One day, as Minggan made him his trek, Mariang Sinukuan approached the giant and made it clear she could see what he was doing and what his intentions really were. Now this did not surprise him, as he was not subtle about it in the slightest, but all the same, he blushed. And waited to see what else she would say.

            And at first, the goddess said nothing. The confirmation of her suspicions did not evoke a reaction. At least not outwardly. And so they waited as moments ticked by.

            Finally, a twinkle rose up in the goddess’s eyes. And she told him that it was very possible that she could come to love him. Minggan lifted up in hope, resolving to do whatever it took to win the goddess’s love. Now that he was an option, there was nothing he wouldn’t do.

            The goddess smiled and began to explain that he could only win her heart if he overcame a challenge. And it was straightforward challenge: the giant needed to prove his love for the goddess by making her one dream come true.

            “It is not known,” the goddess said, “but I yearn to have water creatures in my kingdom. They are lovely and fascinating being. But I can only admire them from afar. I want you to change that. I want you to stop the river from flowing, so the water accumulates here.”

            To do that, the giant knew, he would have to bring up large boulders and drop them into the water, stacking then until the elusive substance had nowhere to go but backward. It sounded daunting, but it could be done. He knew it. He had lifted great weight before out of love for this goddess. He had done it every day now, in fact.

His chest filled with pride. It had been like he was training for this. In time, they would be together.

            He started downward with his wheel barrow in hand before the goddess stopped him.

            “And you must do it,” she added, “before sunrise.”

            Minggan’s heart stopped. The sun had to be about to rise any moment now. And sure enough, as he stood there, a ray of light struck the ground by his feet.

            And with that, he had failed.

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            There is something I want to add to this story. It’s more like an explanation than an addition, however. Because this story includes an aspect of traditional Filipino courtship that might be worth discussing.

            In part because, I remember elements of it in what my cousins were doing with the women that are now their wives, and we are in a part of the Philippines that is fairly Westernized. Now, I don’t say Westernized in a subjective way or as an attack. I mean that as factually as it can be. But if I try to justify that, I’m only going to be digging myself deeper into that hole.

            Basically, there are stages to courting in Filipino culture. The first one can be boiled down into something like “figure out what your odds are before you put yourself out there.” You don’t want to seem arrogant by assuming that person could fancy you only to have egg on your face when you fail.

            So in this phase, there’s a lot of (quote) accidentally meetings or hanging out with the same group of friends, and those friends might tease a potential couple all while couple tries to figure out how the other is reacting to the mere idea of being together. And if it goes well, great.

            What we see in the story—given the isolation of the characters—is a different interpretation of this phase. In which a suitor offers small tokens or deeds to further test the waters. Give her gifts, and see what she does. If he is rebuked, well, he can just say it was a misunderstanding. No harm and no foul. Everyone can move on with their lives.

But she’s interested, she can just meet his affection with some of her own until he feels confident enough to make a move.

            It’s like asking without asking, and if you actual ask, then you aren’t risking anything.

            The next step is to see visit each other’s family. That’s part of the sorting process rather than being an achievement. At least, I always thought of meeting the parents as being a big step, but in the Philippines, you don’t want to commit until they’ve met your parents. With family being such an important part of Filipino life, you need to be sure that a potential long term partner can fit into your world, and you can fit into theirs.

            With that in mind, I wonder if the challenge in the story is meant to represent this. I mean, a god could block the river instantaneously, but while a giant might be close second, he definitely doesn’t have that same power. And so Minggan is reminded of this in a way that crushes his hopes rather thoroughly.

            I mean some things you can’t get over. No matter how much you love the person. But then again, I might be over thinking it. That’s always a possibility.

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            This has been a production of Miscellany Media Studios. Thanks for listening! If you like what you heard, you should subscribe, we’re on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Player FM, and other players. Find us and transcripts at or on Twitter @miscellanymedia for updates on current and future projects. As well as cat pictures.