Monday, February 19, 2007

The Shadow Maiden

In our islands long ago, before the Spanish came, here lived a wondrous kingdom. It was ruled by an old king who had two sons who were already young men. The first, Prince Ma-kusog, was a strong and was a fearsome warrior. The other, was Prince Booton who was a scholar and a poet. When the old king died, Makusog became king and from that day on his kingdom did not know peace. Quarrelsome and fierce, he was always at war with the other kingdoms.
When he was not at war, he made bloody incursions into the forest beside his kingdom, hunting and killing all the animals that crossed his path. Possessing a more merciful heart, Prince Booton would run ahead of his brother during these hunts and scared away most of the animals.
One day, after killing a sacred bird, the guardian of the forest, Diwata Araw-ena appeared. She pleaded to the King and his companions stop and leave the forest alone. Her tears flowed down her cheeks that had the color of sunset clouds and the teardrops fell to the ground like moonbeams. She was very beautiful because she was the daughter of Hadeng Aldaw, the sun and Reyna Bulan, the moon. The two brothers, Ma-kusog and Booton fell in love with her.
The King thought she would make a fine Queen and sent spies to follow her. At the Royal house, he prepared ten baskets of gold and fine jewels. When the spies arrived at sunrise he sent his messenger and some slaves with his gifts to ask for her hand. By sunset they returned still with the gifts and a messenger who was not too happy with his news. The impatient Ma-kusog was told that Araw-ena refuses any man specially one who has too much blood in his hands. Ma-kusog’s heart was stung as if by a thousand bees because men who look strong are actually weaklings and Ma-kusog was one of them.
In the kingdom lived a witch who was known to employ evil spirits and Ma-kusog kept her for occasions like this. Seeing her master burning with rage when he ordered her to punish Araw-ena, the witch resolved to do everything in her power. She summoned the dust spirit that flies with the wind and brought pestilence and the water spirit that flow with the river and harden the skin. With her two companions, they traveled through the forest and found Araw-ena. Taking all the power that could be had from all envy and jealousy in men’s hearts and all blackness and hardness that settled on the bottom from hatred and anger, they succeeded in turning Araw-ena to stone.
Hadeng Aldaw, who was shining that day, saw all this but his infinite patience only allowed him to let his daughter’s shadow to escape. Spending so much of her power, the old witch grew weaker and weaker disappeared never to be seen again. When Booton found the once beautiful maiden turned to stone, he was stricken with grief but he did not lose hope. Every day he went to the stone and talked to it as if it were alive. At night he sang and serenaded to it hoping that his words of love would soften the stone and break the spell.
Many days passed and the words and the songs did not succeed and Booton exhausted, lay beside the stone, until the winds and the forest took pity on him. The grass knew where Araw-ena’s shadow went,
they still had its footprints. The east wind, Sirangan, knows her and called her out of the darkness. The south wind, Amihan, who knew every secret because she traveled at night, had found out how to break the spell. The north wind, Timog, the strongest brought the shadow to the stone. Now everything was ready but they had to consult the west wind, Sulnopan, because he sits around all day doing nothing but think.
The spell could be broken, Sulnopan said, but because too many evil hearts were used, they had to have one good heart. So they all hung their heads in despair and stilled the air not knowing what to do. Until Booton decided to do one final sacrifice for his beloved Araw-ena. He prayed to Gugurang, the all-knowing to make his heart worthy and then he offered it to the winds. The winds took what they needed and did what they had to do and restored Araw-ena.
But it was too much for the young prince and he died at Araw-ena’s feet. When Araw-ena learned of Booton’s sacrifice she felt the beatings of love in her heart that had once beaten in Booton’s heart.
Taking Booton’s body to her mother the moon, Araw-ena asked her to bury the body in Reyna Bulan’s home, the night sky. But Booton’s goodness could not be hidden, it had to shine through. So to this very day, when we look up to the night sky, we can see it---they are the stars that you see glittering in a calm and moonless night..