Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Story of Creation (Ifugao)

To the Ifuao’s, Mak-no-ngan was the greatest of all the gods. It was he, they believed, who created the earth and the place of the dead.

The place of the dead was divided into many sections. The most important of these sections were Lagud and Daya. Lagud was set aside for those who died of sickness. They were the most favored my Mak-no-ngan. Daya was set aside for those who died of violence. They remained restless and unhappy, until their deaths were avenged by their relatives.

After Mak-no-ngan created the earth, he made Uvigan in his image. Uvigan, then, was the first man. Mak-no-ngan gave him the entire earth to enjoy. But he remained unhappy just the same, because he was lonely.

Seeing this, Mak-no-ngan made Bugan, the first woman. Then he told Uvigan, “Take this woman and be happy with her.” And for many years the couple lived in innocence, happiness, and peace.

Now, on the earth, there grew a tree which was different from any other. From the very beginning, Mak-no-ngan had warned the couple against it. “Don’t eat its fruit,” he told them, “because it is evil. It will only make you unhappy.”

But Mak-no-ngan’s warning only made Bugan all the more curious about the tree – especially since it was beautiful and its fruit looked tempting. She tried hard to keep away from it, but she could not help herself. Again and again, almost against her will, her feet would lead her to it. And her mouth would water as she gazed at the ripe fruit.

Finally, Bugan could not contain herself any longer. One day, she went straight to the tree, plucked one of the fruit, and sank her teeth into it. It was good. She liked it so much that she was seized with a desire to share it with Uvigan.

And so she went to Uvigan, saying, “Here, Uvigan, taste this.”

Isn't that the fruit that Mak-no-ngan forbade us to eat? Uvigan wanted to know.

"Yes, and it's very good," said Bugan. "It tastes better than any other fruit I've eaten."

"But what will Mak-no-ngan say?" asked Uvigan.

"He doesn't need to know," said Bugan.

"He will, though," said Uvigan. "He's a god, and he has ways of finding out."

"Then why didn't he punish me the moment I plucked the fruit?" Bugan asked.

"Just the same, it's wrong and wicked of you to have plucked and eaten the fruit," Uvigan pointed out. "You should not have disobeyed Mak-no-ngan.

"Well," said Bugan, "I don't see, anyway, why he should have forbidden us to eat the fruit in the first place, unless he wants to save it for himself. But he can't possibly eat all of it. There's plenty and to spare."

"Perhaps you're right," agreed Uvigan. "Let me have a bite of the fruit."

Bugan gave it to him. He took a bite, and another, and another, as his eyes lighted with pleasure.

Nothing happened to Uvigan and Bugan right away. But little by little, they grew discontented and unhappy. And they began to quarrel with each other. For evil had entered their lives.

Uvigan and Bugan bore many children. But they were all unruly, disobedient, and troublesome. And after some years, Uvigan died in deep sorrow, leaving Bugan alone to run the household.

The children of Uvigan and Bugan grew more and more wicked, until Mak-no-ngan could no longer control his anger. To punish them, he caused the rice plants to wither and die; so that, in the end, they had nothing to eat.

Filled with pity for her hungry and suffering children, Bugan knelt on the ground and prayed that they might live. Then, with a great effort, she took hold of her breast and pressed them hard, until two streams of milk flowed to the ground.

Bugan's milk kept some of her children alive for a while, but, as it slowly ran out, she became more and more anxious about the welfare of her children. And she continued to press her breasts harder and harder, until blood flowed in torrents to the ground.

Seeing Bugan's sacrifice, Mak-no-ngan took pity on her and on her children. And so he made ihe rice plants grow once more. This time, however, some o£ the plants bore white grains; while the others bore red grains. The white grains were Bugan's milk, while the red grains were her blood.

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