The story of Dumalawi is a folktale from the Tinguan people of the Philippines collected by Mabel Cook Cole in her book Philippine Folk Tales published in 1916. According to Cook the major characters in Tinguian mythology are often representative of heroes of times gone by whose exploits have become exaggerated and embellished by continued telling from generation to generation from the people of the “first times”. Cook says,
“These people of “the first times” practiced magic. They talked with jars, created human beings out of betel-nuts, raised the dead, and had the power of changing themselves into other forms.”
Many of the major characters appear in many different stories but their special characteristics, the interconnections and their personality can be discerned in each one. Sometimes they appear under different names but are still recognizable. For example Dumalawi appears in another story as Kanag along with his mother and father Aponibolinayen and Aponitolau respectively, who also appear in other stories sometimes in different guises. Presented here is reworked version of The Story of Dumalawi. This is followed by a few observations that seem pertinent to a complete beginner in Philippine folktales.
The Story of Dumalawi
Aponitolau was the husband of Aponibolinayen and together they had a son they named Dumalawi. As Dumalawi grew from a boy to a young man his father grew very angry and dissatisfied with him and began to think up ways to kill him. One morning he told his son to go and sharpen his knife because they would go into the forest to cut bamboo.
Dumalawi had no idea that his father hated him and wanted him dead so he did as he was told and sharpened his knife. Aponitolau took Dumalawi deep into the forest to a place where bamboo grew. Together they cut many sticks and his father told his son to sharpen one end of each stick into a point. Dumalawi wondered greatly at this but did as his father told him sharpening the point of each stick making them into spears. When Dumalawi had completed this task his father said to him, “Now my son you must throw them at me so we can then find out which of us is the bravest.” But Dumalawi was not happy with that and said to his father, “No, you must throw first if you are trying to kill me!”
So Aponitolau went first and threw the spears at his son who side-stepped them and no matter how hard he tried he could not hit him. When Aponitolau had thrown all the spears at his son and failed to hit him he then told Dumalawi that it was his turn to throw the spears at him. But Dumalawi said, “I am sorry but I cannot. You are my father and I cannot kill you.”
Dumalawi was very sad and full of sorrow because now he knew his father wanted to kill him but he would not throw the spears at his father. They returned home and his mother had prepared dinner for them but he could not eat because he was too upset.
The next day Aponitolau said to Dumalawi, “Today we will go to our house in the field and repair it so that we can shelter in it when the rains come.” So together they went to the house in the field. When they arrived Aponitolau pointed to a place on the ground and told his son to dig there, saying, “When I was a boy I buried a jar of basi there and after all these years it should be good now.” So Dumalawi did as his father said and sure enough found a jar of basi. They drank it together but Dumalawi unaccustomed to strong drink became drunk and fell asleep.
Aponitolau now saw this as a good chance to be rid of his son for good. Summoning up his magical power he created a great storm with powerful winds that lifted Dumalawi into the sky while he slept and carried him far, far, away. Satisfied that he had disposed of his son, Aponitolau went home smiling.
Dumalawi was sound asleep and had no idea that he was being carried away on the wings of a great storm. The storm bore him many miles before gently setting him down in the middle of a great field. Eventually, Dumalawi woke, rubbed his eyes and looked around him. He was astonished to find himself in the middle of a huge field. The field was so big that Dumalawi could see no houses, no trees and no people no matter which way he looked around the field. An overwhelming feeling of loneliness swept over him at such desolation.
To overcome this feeling Dumalawi used his magic to create and grow betel-nuts and they flourished in the field and bore fruit covered in gold. Dumalawi was pleased with this and decided he would scatter the betel nuts around the field so that they could grow into people and become his friends and neighbors. He set about this task in the middle of the night cutting the golden betel nuts into small pieces and then scattering the pieces in all directions. When he had finished he was tired so he went to sleep. Early in the morning he woke to the sound of many people talking and the sound of cocks crowing. Dumalawi then knew he was no longer alone and now had friends and neighbors. He got up and walked around talking to the people and making friends and visited everyone.
As he walked around meeting and visiting people he met a most beautiful maiden named Dapilisan. He had never seen anyone so beautiful and as he talked and chatted with her he became enchanted by her and fell in love. She introduced him to her parents and they talked and chatted with Dumalawi very cordially for a while and then he left and went on to meet other people. Now although Dumalawi was meeting and talking to lots of other people he could not get Dapilisan out of his mind and he saw her face and heard her voice everywhere he went.
At last after he had met everyone he returned to talk to her and asked her to marry him. She wanted to very much but rightly said he must ask her parents first. So he asked the permission of her parents but they were reluctant to give it because they thought Dumawali’s parents might object. Dumawali explained that his father did not want him and had tried to get rid of him. On hearing this they changed their minds and gave their blessing to him marrying their daughter and the two were married.
They had not been married for long when they decided they would hold a special ceremony to the spirits to give thanks. Dapilisan then sent for the golden betel nuts and said to them, “Golden betel nuts anoint yourselves with oil and go and invite everybody in the world to come to our ceremony of thanks to the spirits.” The golden betel nuts anointed themselves with oil and went off to all the towns and villages inviting all the people to the spirit ceremony of Dumawali and Dapilisan.
Dumawali’s mother had no idea where he was or what had happened to him and did not know he was married. She mourned for him and had not eaten since his disappearance. Suddenly she was overcome by the desire to chew a betel-nut. She had thought to fast until he returned but the desire was very strong so she went to a basket of betel nuts she kept. She looked to choose one and then saw that there was one golden one among the others. Taking up that one she was about to cut it in half when it suddenly spoke to her saying, “Please don’t cut me for I have come to invite you to the spirit ceremony of your son, Dumawali and his wife!”
Aponibolinayen was delighted because she had no idea where he was or what had happened and feared her son to be dead. She went round to her neighbors and told all of the people to wash themselves and their clothes and attend the ceremony. So everyone washed their clothes and hair and made themselves look as good as they could. Then they followed Aponibolinayen in a procession to Dumalawi and his wife’s home to attend the ceremony to the spirits. Following along behind came Aponitolau, Dumalawi’s father with a mad look in his eyes.
When the procession reached the river that they had to cross to reach Dumalwai’s home they stopped because it was too deep and swift. Then Dumalawi seeing this on the other shore used his magic to summon alligators who ferried everyone safely across the river to where he was. The last one left to cross the river was Dumalawi’s father, but when he got on the alligator’s back it dived deep into the water and he fell off and was swept back to the bank. Aponitolau struggled back up the bank and shouted and gestured manically at Dumalawi on the other side. Dumawali then sent another alligator to ferry his father safely across to him.
When all had arrived Dumalawi brought food for everyone and Dapilisan his wife passed around a small jar of basi for everyone to drink from. Although there were many guests the drink was passed around and everyone had a small drink from it and there was still plenty left in the jar.
When the eating and drinking had finished Aponibolinayen spoke to everyone saying how thrilled and glad she was to have Dapilisan for her daughter-in-law and she said to everyone, “As is our custom it now time for the marriage price to be paid and we will fill the spirit house with various jars nine times over!, ” and she called on the spirits saying, “Spirits of the springs fetch the jars to pay the price for the marriage of my son, Dumawali to Dapilisan.”
The spirits obeyed Aponibolinayen and they filled the house nine times over with various jars. Aponibolinayen then said to Dapilisan’s mother and father, “The marriage price is now paid for your daughter are you satisfied?”
Then Dalonagan, the mother of Dapilisa said, “There is more to pay!”
“Name your price and we will pay it!” said Aponibolinayen.
Dalongan had a pet spider and called it to come to her and told it, “You my big spider walk around the town and spin a thread as you go. Aponibolinayen must follow on behind and string gold beads upon the thread.”
The spider obeyed Dalonagan. Aponibolinayen called once again on the spirits of the springs and they appeared and strung the thread with gold beads. When this was done Dalonagan pulled upon the tread and it did not break and she declared the marriage price to be paid. Then everyone rejoiced and was happy and when the festivities at last came to a halt they all went home. Aponibolinayen asked Dumalawi to return home with her but he refused. He told her that he and his wife wanted to live in the town he had made with the people he had made and so the story ends there at least for now for now.
A magical place
As someone who has never been to the Philippines or knows very little of the culture and history of its people the world of this story seems a magical place. A place where people have magical powers and turn betel-nuts into humans, spirits obey people, alligators tamely ferry people across a river, and huge spiders spin threads for gold beads to be hung upon and a lot more besides. It also tell how a young man created his world out of nothing, creating his own happiness after being rejected by his father. This is just one of many, many, wonderful folktales and part of a rich and vibrant culture that evolved in the Philippines and deserves to be told for the benefit of the world.
© 10/05/2016 zteve t evans
References and Attributions
Copyright May 10th, 2016 zteve t evans
- Philippine Folk Tales – Project Gutenberg
- Itneg people – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- The Tinguian: Social, Religious, and Economic Life