Filed under: history | Tags: Biuag, Cagayan, cagayan river, Isabela, Malana, Raymund Villanueva
In my previous blog, I wrote about Biuag and Malana, the Ybanags’ legendary heroes. I resolved to dig deeper into their histories to find out if they were indeed historical figures. My preliminary research told me they were. But the more I read into what people have said and wrote about them, the more I am confused.
I googled both their names and came out with about thirty entries. The following is a summation of what I have:
a. It was not just the northern Isabela Ybanags who revere them as legendary heroes. The southern Cagayan Ybanags believe them to have been born in one of their towns and have fought their great battle somewhere in Cagayan and not in San Pablo. Northern Cagayan Ybanags also regard them as their own. This is pretty understandable because much of the area had been Ybanag country, broken here and there by Itawis villages. There were no provinces, towns, Ilokanos and other peoples there then.
b. There are two towns that claim to be Biuag’s birthplace. The first is Maquila (Cabagan—which then included San Pablo and Sta Maria) and the second is Enrile. Before Cabagan was broken down into three towns, Cabagan and Enrile were neighboring towns. I personally believe that Biuag was born in the first because my source identified a specific barrio where he was born—Tallag. Enrile’s claim only comes from a written epic that I am sure has utilized substantial literary license to weave its story. In the end, though, it does not really matter much. In my research, the early inhabitants of Enrile town have the same surnames as the families who are our neighbors and relatives in San Pablo—Pagulayan, Palattao, Guzman, and others.
c. Malana is said to have been a native of Malaueg, now Rizal town in Western Cagayan. I have found no other written source contradicting this, so I leave it at that.
d. There are even two towns that claim to be the two’s battlefield. One is Rizal (Malaueg) and the other is Enrile. Reportedly, there are two sites along the Cagayan River where there were many coconut trees on both banks. The stories say that the two Supermen hurled coco trees against each other.
e. Nobody knew the name of the lady Biuag and Malana fought over. A source says she was a river goddess, another says she was the daughter of one. Still another says that she was a lady from Tuao who possessed unsurpassed beauty. A newspaper account says that she had lips like those of the Pacific Salmon, or lurung in Ybanag—our most prized fish from the river, now endangered.
f. The epic of Biuag and Malana were first written on barks of trees and bamboo, depicting the two’s heroic deeds. These tales were used as songs by bards during victories in wars, on weddings and other important events and were therefore handed down from generation to generation.
I found a written epic of the two heroes in the internet. I am not sure if this is really the popular version among Ybanags. For one, it had Malana winning over Biuag. When I get to visit San Pablo again, I will ask the old folks if they have other versions. But, again, the most historical version I’ve heard was that, and I quote: “Biuag is believed to have been born in barrio Tallag. He protected the Christianized Cabagueños from the head hunting Kalingas by using amulets and his reputed superhuman strength. Malana succeeded Biuag following the death of the latter. It was Malana who initiated the first revolt in Cagayan Valley.”
But everyone loves a good yarn. So here they are, si Biuag anni Malana:
Biuag was from Enrile, the southern most part of Cagayan. When he was born, his mother was visited by an exceptionally beautiful woman who silently admired the baby. When it dawned on the child’s mother that her visitor was a goddess, she knelt and implored her child with long life. The goddess made no reply. Instead, she placed three small stones around the neck of the baby where one stone protected him from any bodily harm. When he was big enough to swim across the wide river, the crocodiles created a path for him. The other two stones gave him supernatural powers and prowess. He could go faster than the wind. He could throw easily a carabao across the hills when he was only at the age of twelve. He could uproot a big beetle nut as if it were a wood. On account of this display of extraordinary strength, people from far and wide places came to see him.
Despite all these powers, Biuag seemed troubled and unhappy. In the town of Tuao, he fell in love with a young lady with unsurpassed beauty. No one could tell where this lady came from nor could anyone say who this lady was. Biuag wanted to find her. His waking hours were thoughts of her.
There was another young man from Malaueg, called Malana who was gifted with powers similar to that of Biuag. When Malana was eighteen, a devastating typhoon destroyed all the crops of Malaueg. The people were in grip of appalling famine.
Their only hope of starving off came from a very distant place, Sto. Niño. It was very difficult and dangerous to journey the place, because the river to cross was wide and full of crocodiles. Malana understood the hazards of the journey but finally volunteered to take the journey. He loaded cavans of palay to seven bamboo rafts.
The people eagerly waited Malana’s return. Prayers were offered for his safety. When they saw him back, everyone was overjoyed. He distributed the rice to the people and went home.
Upon reaching his home, he found a bow and arrow on the bench. He presumed these were made for him by his father who knew how fond he was of them. Fitting the arrows, he found two tiny stones just like those around Biuag’s neck.
Meanwhile, Biuag was unmindful of the people’s open admiration for Malana. The lovely lady occupied his thoughts. One day, he paid her a visit and found out that Malana was also there. Biuag became furious. He told the lady he will prove to her that Malana was unworthy of her love. He grabbed his famous spear and hurried to the window towards Malana. Malana recognized Biuag’s spear and read it as a challenge. He hurled it back with the message that his powers were not meant for such feats. Biuag laughed decisively and interpreted Malana’s message in a different manner. He said to the lady: “Your suitor is very strong but he is a coward.”
One afternoon, Biuag was taking lift of the young woman when he heard sounds of a thousand bamboo tubes. He saw approaching from a distance great number of people from Malaueg. Leading the group was Malana – tall, broad-shouldered, and handsome, Biuag quivered at the sight of Malana. The latter spoke first: “Now I know why you challenged me. You covet the woman I love.”
The gods forbid anyone from taking anything that belongs to the other, but I am ready to give you a chance. If the lady would allow us, we shall fight for her hand.
The day of the duel was controversial. The news spread fast and by mid-afternoon, the two mountains and the outlaying hills were blanketed with men, women and children who had come to witness their heroes fight each other. Biuag arrived accompanied by the people of Enrile. He climbed the mountain on the eastern part of the river, carrying a big coconut tree and a sharp spear. Upon reaching the peak, he heard the natives cheering Malana. He felt like barking a command to his followers to kill Malana’s people. Malana went up the opposite mountain. From their position, they saw some rafts being pulled up. As these drew near, Biuag and Malana saw the beautiful lady on one of the rafts. Sadness was clearly etched on her face but this only heightened her ethereal beauty. When she was near, Biuag shouted at Malana, “the woman we both cherish is before us. If you are as brave as you claim to be then, receive this gift of mine from Enrile.” Without thinking, he hurled the coconut tree at Malana. Everyone held his breath. The river stood still. The coconut tree flew like an arrow into the air. Malana caught it and unlike Biuag, he hurled it at the direction of Yeluru. Today, thick coconut grooves abound in that place. Biuag became more insane. He plucked the spear from the ground where he thrust it. He aimed it at Malana’s heart. The people were troubled. They knew too well the accurate deadliness of this terrible spear. Malana’s chest was hit but his heart was not pierced. Instead the spear broke into two when it reached the bottom of the river. Malana shouted: “There you are, Biuag, with no weapons whatsoever. It is now my turn!”
Before Malana would finish uttering the warning, Biuag leaped into the river. Gigantic waves dashed against the rocks and shook the mountain where Malana stood. Biuag emerged with the biggest crocodile under his arm. The crocodile opened wide its jaws. Malana accepted the challenges as he leaped from the mountain.
The hundreds of people watching the fight suddenly fell on their knees. They saw a dazzling light that sparkled. She rose into the air and checked Malana’s fall upon meeting him in mid-air. The woman looked down at Biuag and said: “You have shown yourself a coward by getting the help of a crocodile. I am the daughter of the goddess who gave you your supernatural powers. You do not deserve the gift.”
With the magic wand, the beautiful woman gave her blessings to the people below and then flew with Malana in the kingdom of the air and the clouds where she reigned.
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