An Excerpt (An Iloko Epic)
Listen then while I narrate at length
The life of Lam-ang
Because his mother conceived him that month.
She did not abstain from any edible fruit:
Tamarind fruits tender and thin as bamboo strings,
Oranges and pomelos;
Butcher fish, stripped bass, fishes of all sorts;
Clams and bivalves big as plates,
Maratangtang and sea urchins;
Sea algae, aragan and arosip;
Shucked oysters, crayfish caught with net;
Blue crabs baited with salelem,
Deer tracked down and killed, boar trapped.
All of these she tasted on her eating binge.
Until Namungan, the woman Unnayan,
Wife of Don Juan Panganiban,
Was done conceiving.
And when they had made whole
A new soul,
Her womb grew bigger.
Listen, my husband Don Juan,
Go check on our bamboo groves
In the mountain of Capariaan.
Then make me my reclining bed
The bed I shall use
Right after giving birth.
Being God-given, my husband Don Juan,
The custom cannot be gainsaid.
So go cut me some mature bamboo shoots.
He prepared to leave and once there
Went around the grove.
Then he hailed the strong winds.
As well as the torrential rains
And cavernous clouds.
Lightning and thunder came in waves,
Hitting the groves again and again
Till it looked like the choicest shoots
Had been cut down by a trained bamboo cutter.
It is unseemly, such a shame
For me to carry you, bamboos.
They thus went ahead, Don Juan behind them.
Having reached the home he came down from,
In the town of Nalbuan,
The bamboos arranged themselves in the yard.
My husband Don Juan,
Let my reclining bed be of hardwood:
This part of molave and gastan;
That part of dangla and guava,
Whose barks have been skinned,
Then buy me a pot, husband Don Juan,
And a stove to heat my bath-water.
And a one-man pot too
For our child’s umbilical cord.
And having procured all these, he trekked
To the blackest mountain, upstream
To fight the Igorots there.
And when her time came
To deliver the blood made whole,
There was not one who was not called:
The masseuse-midwife, the fish-hooker, Alisot;
The diver Marcos; Pasho the rich man.
Since none of them could induce delivery
They remembered the woman
Shrivelled with age,
For she was known for her strong fingers.
The baby started to talk as soon as the
old woman delivered him.
Namungan, my mother,
Let my name be Lam-ang when you
have me baptized.
And let old man Guibuan be my godfather.
Mother, I must also ask you if I have a father;
Whether or not I arose like water vapor.
My son, Lam-ang; if it’s your father you speak of,
You were still in my womb when he left,
Left for the forest, the place of Igorot.
Lam-ang then said:
My mother Namungan, please let your son go,
For I would seek Father whom I came from.
Ah, son, brave-man Lam-ang,
Please don’t go.
For your legs are like bamboo string.
And your hands are like needles.
And you were born, my son,
Even before your ninth month inside me.
All the more brave-man Lam-ang still persisted.
He left for the forest, the place of Igorots.
For he wanted to see the father he sprang from.
For he had with him the stone of sagang,
The stone of tangraban, of lao-laoigan,
A wild carabao’s amulet.
When he passed by a grove of caña vernal,
The shoots bent down
For he also had the amulet of the centipede.
And having reached the river’s ford,
He spied the tallest tree around, a rancheria,
A landmark of tattooed Igorot country.
He cast his eyes around
And saw this root shaped like a stove
And went to wash his one-man pot.
And placed his food inside it,
The pot of mound-dwelling dwarves,
That cannot suffice for more than one traveller.
Having eaten his fill,
The man Lam-ang gratefully rested,
Amiable host to the food, the filling grace.
He rested his shield against his body;
Stuck his spear into the ground by his feet;
Unsheathed his trustworthy campilan from its sheath;
Then fell into a light sleep.
Then came the ghost of his father, saying:
My friends Lam-ang, go quickly instead;
Right now, they feast around your father’s skull.
Lam-ang was jolted out of his slumber
And at once collected his weapons and started to go,
Walking on and on.
Upon reaching the blackest mountain
At Maculili and Dagman,
He went directly to the assembled revelers.
For he had seen his father’s skull facing the East,
Caged in the woven end of a bamboo pole.
Tattooed Igorots, just tell me
What foul thing my father I came from did.
It is only right that it be paid.
Our friend Lam-ang,
It is only right; too,
That you go back to the house
You stepped down from.
Or else, You’ll be the next (to die)
After the man who was your father.
You tattooed Igorots…
I cannot be satisfied (with your number),
You Igorot captain,
You Bumacas so-named,
Communicate (thru a letter) with every single one,
(The members of your tribe):
At Dardarat and Padang,
There in houses at Nueva, Dagodong and Topaan,
There in Mamo-ocan and Caoayan,
There in Tupinao and Baodan,
Sumbanggue and Luya, Bacong and Sosoba.
There in Tebteb and Caocaoayan.
They came, having received these notes (from Bumacas),
In a rush, the tattooed Igorots,
From the neighboring towns nearby,
Like chicken attracted to grains thrown to the ground.
Oh, their number indeed was remarkable
For one cannot keep count of their number.
He then caressed his stone of lao-laoigan,
And jumped but once to an open field,
The man Lam-ang.
And the man Lam-ang made thunderclaps
With his armpits and thighs
As well as with both his arms.
Soon they had crowded around him…
As a moving river (of bobbing heads), so to speak…
The man Lam-ang.
And having completely surrounded him,
They cut loose on him with all their arms,
On the man Lam-ang.
Like a torrential rain at dusk,
The spears fell (thickly) on him,
The man Lam-ang.
He embraced these crisscrossing spears
As one would accept
Betel nuts passed on to him.
And when the tattooed Igorots had run out
Of sharpened bamboo poles, spears, lances,
But could not hit him even just once,
The man Lam-ang said to them:
Now comes my turn,
I unsheath you, campilan, trustworthy weapon.
He struck the ground with this.
And the earth with stuck to the blade of the campilan,
This he ate—
A stick of rice cake
So long and large—
So their incantations would not affect him
Tattooed Igorots, watch me closely now,
He beckoned to the south wind
And with it lunged at once at them.
As though felling down banana trunks,
His bolo bit into flesh two ways, swung left or right,
The man Lam-ang.
They were mowed down in an instant.
Only one tattooed Igorot was left unharmed,
Whom he mocked at, then pinned down.
Now comes your end.
He slashed at his mouth, his eyes;
Cut off his ears, arms and legs.
He then let him loose, the tattooed Igorot,
Who received no mercy at his hands.
That your relatives and tribe may all see you.
And you carabao’s amulet (help me)
For I now bind the lances and spears,
My booty and trophy from the Igorot.
And now I leave you battleground.
The blood flowed from the dead Igorots
Like the Vigan river.
He prepared to leave, the man
Lam-ang, and return,
To his mother Namungan.
And having reached the town of Nalbuan:
Mother Namungan, if I may ask,
What foulness he perpetrated,
The father I sprang from?
My son Lam-ang,
If it is your father your speak of,
We never quarrelled, not even once.