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Asuang Steals Fire from Gugurang

Story: Damiana L. Eugenio (From The Myths: Philippine Folk Literature )
Art: Li Julian
Long ago when the world was still young the good and evil gods were not yet enemies as they are now. They were friends, each living separately in a mountain (Bolod, Bicol). One report even said that they were brothers. Gugurang, the good god, was living inside Mount Mayon, and Asuang, the evil one, inside Mount Malinao. As gods they had control of the welfare of the people. But Gugurang was more powerful than Asuang who was merely a subordinate; the former was the chief deity (cagurangnan) of the Bicols.

Now Gugurang was given full control over the people, who learned to look up to him for protection or for advancement. Whenever the people disobeyed his orders or wishes, he would cause the pit of the Mayon Volcano to rumble terribly. The people in time took this as a sign of warning, and accordingly, mended their foul ways. Or if their sins were beyond forgiveness Gugurang would make the volcano erupt to wipe out the sinners.

Gugurang then became the symbol of the good (an mga marhay) ready to punish the bad (an mga maraot). When the people saw fire (calayo) flowing out of the crater of Mayon, they would grow afraid. They would then offer a sacrifice (atang) to him to appease his wrath. The Baliana, priestess, officiated in the ceremony. Always when they committed wrong, there would be loud moaning of the earth followed by an eruption of fire and lava (abo).

Now, Asuang had no fire in his abode inside Mount Malinao (to the north of Albay). He wanted to be as powerful as Gugurang, at least. If the people aroused his wrath, he wanted to subdue them by a fire or rumbling in Mount Malinao (this was still whole then). He entreated Gugurang to give him some fire but Gugurang emphatically refused.

"How dare you ask for my fire! " Gugurang thundered. The earth trembled. "Don't you know that when the fire in my seat is carried by hands such as yours the whole world will be set on fire?"

"But I will be very careful," replied Asuang.

"Be careful! I myself with all my power cannot handle it."

"But how can you threaten the people with it?"

"It is not my will that does it. It is someone else's that you or I do not know nor will ever know. But the rainy days are coming and I need fire to make me warm in Mount Malinao."

"Why," answered Gugurang, "you have lived there for many years and this is the first time that you have asked me for it, what will you use the fire for? Look at your people; they can live without it."

"Well, it is time for you to give them fire now."

"Give them fire!" burst Gugurang. The earth shook and the people were more afraid. But soon Gugurang quelled the commotion. Asuang himself was frightened. He never saw him that way before.

"They are not fit to have it yet! They must make themselves worthy."

"Well, am I not worthy?"

"You! you lay god! Look at your ragged mountain and compare it to Mayon which is the most beautiful in the world."

Asuang argued with him for a long time but Gugurang would not budge an inch. Asuang suddenly discovered, which before he had not, that Gugurang was all-powerful. Asuang narrowed his eyes and smiled with sinister import. He decided to oppose him from now on.

"You want to be the omnipotent power," Asuang cried. "But between us two there is not much difference. Why must I live in a humble place like Mount Malinao while you sit here gloating over your power unlimited and unchecked?"

"Stop!" The earth shivered as Gugurang stamped his feet on the ground. Asuang only smiled this time. That made Gugurang angry all the more. He struck out but before his blow could land, Asuang had vanished already. Gugurang was greatly amazed at this—the new power of Asuang in making himself invisible.

Then from a short distance in the room came the voice of the evil one, "If I cannot get fire in good will, I will in bad—I will steal it."

"Try—and before you can do that I will cut your mountain in twain."

"Then let there be war between us," countered Asuang. Thus the good and the evil became enemies from that time on. Motives were many to prove that Asuang was ambitious. It could not be doubted that the power to rule intrigued him. He determined to oppose every move of Gugurang. He gathered around him evil counselors and evil spirits whom he sent to the earth to turn the people to evil ways. After that, there was much immorality, lawlessness and crime. Gugurang in no time found out that it was Asuang who was causing all these things.

He sent pestilence to the barrios and for a moment the people turned to the omnipotent for protection. Gugurang asked them for another atang or sacrifice and warned them to follow his commandments strictly or be exterminated by floods or eruption. Against Asuang himself Gugurang was powerless to do anything. It seemed that in the twinkle of an eye Asuang came to possess hidden powers hitherto denied him.

Gugurang particularly guarded his fire lest his enemy make good his threat of stealing it. He assigned his trusted helpers (catambang) to guard the symbol of his power. He was afraid, besides, that if the fire were to go out of its confines the world would be consumed in a mighty conflagration.

But in spite of the precaution taken, Asuang was able to enter and locate the guarded object, and with many guiles and wiles, he bribed the guards with gold (bolauan). The temptation (sogot) was too sweet to be denied. Hence Asuang obtained possession of Gugurang's fire. Putting it inside a coconut shell he started with it.

Gugurang in his throne suddenly noticed that everything around him turned black, and that there were cries in the bowels of the volcano. But outside, the world was on fire. Every barrio that Asuang passed caught fire. Asuang!" Gugurang cried. And with this he flew into the air pursuing the thief. While terror reigned among the people who were powerless against the conflagration, Gugurang and Asuang raced for supremacy. Gugurang must get the fire back, or else he would be left without any power at all. All the air around grew hot but still they went madly on. Asuang was nearing his seat and if he could get there before Gugurang, it would be lost for the good god would then be under the spell of the devil.

Asuang braced up for the last stride and just as he was about to descend Mount Malinao, Gugurang caught up with him, snatched the fire in the coconut shell, and vanished with it. Asuang was greatly surprised. He could not make himself invisible, as he would. Gugurang on reaching Mount Mayon returned the fire to its place, and everything was bright again inside. Now before doing anything else he set about stopping the conflagration. He bade the heavens (calangitan) to rain continuously. And there was rain. And the big fire was under control. The people at once offered atangs, because they were convinced it was Gugurang who had caused the fire because of their wickedness.

Then Gugurang punished the guards by chaining them to the precipices. Then for his revenge on Asuang—he ordered Lightning (Linti) and Thunder (Dalogdog) to strike hard against Mount Malinao that was defying him. Asuang attempted to bribe Linti and Dalogdog. What is the use of your serving a master when you don't even receive any reward?" Asuang asked. "Why don't you join me? Here you can have what you want. You can be your master."

Linti, quite taken, asked, "You mean what you said?" Sure," the wily Asuang answered. It is true we are driven like slaves," said the thunder.

At this Gugurang sent his thunderbolt. Boom! Crash! For several minutes the world sank and bobbed and sank again. All the mountains creaked. Then a mighty crashing was made amid the din. Gugurang then ordered the lightning and the thunder to stop. All was over in a few minutes.

Then the people noticed that what was once Mount Malinao was but half now. They thanked the omnipotent for destroying the abode of the devil. (To this day one who sails the Tabaco Bay will still see that Mount Malinao seems to have been cut while Mayon stands majestically unimpaired.)

The people for a time believed that Asuang was killed, but later his influence was doing havoc with the populace. Incidentally, the people got fire, for the enterprising few kept some embers to keep themselves warm during the rain that followed the conflagration.

1 comment:

Allen Yu said...

This is a great story about the Mayon! Ive never even heard of this before. Thanks! you did well translating it...