Some time ago, I posted about using patterns from Greek mythology as helpful labels for Hari Ragat. A Hari Ragat GM could run adventures, and players make characters, that were either Herculean, Achillean, or Odyssean in theme. To help HR players and GM’s, and to give you a taste of what the source material is like, here are summaries of three epics with those themes:
Ibalong, a Herculean epic
The Ibalong of Bicolandia relates how Bicol was made safe for human habitation, just as Hercules went around the Greek world quelling all sorts of monsters. The heroes Baltog, Handyong and Bantong travel to the land of Ibalong, where like Beowulf they take on one supernatural threat after another.
First a giant demon-boar named Tandayag ruins Baltog’s crops, so he hunts it down. In an echo of Hercules’ encounter with the Nemean Lion, Baltog kills Tandayag with his bare hands, likely because no weapon would work. Baltog was later succeeded by Handyong, who campaigned across Ibalong taking on various enemies, including ‘Tiburones,’ giant flying sharks and mad buffalos. Handyong’s most formidable foe was the snake-goddess Oryol, but in classic sword and sorcery style she falls hard for the hero, and turns against Chaos to aid him.
As an aside, it’s interesting that the flying sharks have a Spanish name; Tiburon is shark in Spanish. What were they really called? Some suggest Pating Pakpakan, which literally means winged shark in Tagalog, but the Bicolanos speak a different tongue. But, what’s another Filipino monster that flies and has sharklike qualities? The Bakunawa. So I’m speculating that the Tiburones of Ibalong were based on the Bakunawa, and in Hari Ragat that’s how I’m rendering them: as Larval Bakunawa. I’ll need to find a native name, though.
The final enemy in the Ibalong is Rabot, which is only described as a half-man half-beast, which could turn its attackers to stone. It was slain by the youth Bantong, the young lieutenant of Handyong who by this time is the aging ruler of Ibalong.
Darangen of Bantugan, an Achillean epic
The Darangen (Lay) of Bantugan celebrates the most famous Maguindanao hero Bantugan. Like Achilles he’s a peerless champion and paragon of nobility, but he starts the story a wronged man. Bantugan’s elder brother is the Sultan of Bumbaran, but driven mad with jealousy at Bantugan’s popularity with the people, he orders the whole kingdom to shun the champion. Shamed by this, Bantugan exiles himself.
He goes out in style, though, taking up his shield and his kampilan hung with hawkbells and exiting the city dancing. His adventures in exile however get him mixed up with a sorceress who steals his soul, and his other brothers travel to the Underworld to get his soul back. They do so just in time, for Bumbaran is being invaded by its old enemy Miscoyaw.
Bantugan, newly awakened from his out of body experience, summons his diwata/tonong spirit guardians to aid him in battle. The spirits fly him on his shield to Miscoyaw’s armada which is about to land on Bumbaran, and the hero jumps onto the enemy deck with flashing sword. Miscoyaw and his giant guardsmen almost overwhelm Bantugan, forcing him overboard, but one of his spirits either takes crocodile form or summons a crocodile, and with one flip of its mighty tail sends Bantugan sailing right back onto the deck!
The enemy of course is routed, and Bantugan returns to a royal welcome in Bumbaran. He marries a bevy of princesses, including one the one who with her magic parrot helped find his soul. He doesn’t live happily ever after though. I’m not sure if the tragic ending of Bantugan was tacked on after the arrival of the Spaniards, or the Maguindanaos merely changed the villain to Spaniards later, but Bantugan gets into a rivalry with a Spanish general over a princess, and the Spaniards invade.
Bantugan goes out to meet them in his warship, but this time his spirit fail him and his ship is sunk. Their magic however turns Bantugan, the ship, and everyone on it into a rock. Bantugan and his warriors are said to still live in that rock, which is now Bongos Island in Maguindanao.
Hinilawod, an Odyssean epic
The Hinilawod is the epic of Panay, celebrating the exploits of the goddess Alunsina’s sons Labaw Donggon, Humadapnon and Dumalapdap. Like the Odyssey, this epic is full of fantastic journeys and magical encounters, and revolves around the theme of courtship. Odysseus should be glad the brothers never got near Penelope, though, for they were real Casanovas, able and willing to court goddesses who were already married, and get away with it.
Labaw Donggon goes on adventure first, aiming to court the famed beauty Angoy Ginbitinan. When he reaches her kingdom, Angoy Ginbitinan’s father demands that as part of her bride price Labaw Donggon slays the monster Manalintad. This he does so with the aid of his magic belt. He then courts another beauty, on the way fighting and defeating the hundred-armed giant Sikay Padalogdog.
The hero’s next love is a married goddess, Malitong Yawa Sinagmaling Diwata, whose husband is Saragnayan the ‘lord of darkness.’ I seem to remember Theseus or his companion wanting to carry off Persephone from Hades, and this was the level of Labaw’s gumption. After a long voyage Labaw Donggon reaches Saragnayan’s island, and going into the god’s house, demands his wife. Saragnayan of course is enraged, so they fight, but this time Labaw Donggon is defeated and imprisoned.
But Labaw Donggon’s sons mature quickly – Philippine demigods tend to grow to adulthood within mere days or months, this theme repeating from Ilocos in the north with the Biag ni Lam-ang to Mindanao – and they go in search of their father. Abyang Baranugon, one of the sons, defeats Saragnayan and frees his father.
Meantime, Labaw Donggon’s brothers Humadapnon and Dumalapdap also swear vengeance on Saragnayan and set off on a voyage to his land. Along the way Humadapnon falls under the spell of the sorceress Piganun, just as Odysseus was enchanted by Circe and Calypso. Fortunately Humadapnon’s comrade Buyong Matanayon remembers a charm against black magic: burning some ginger in the hearth breaks a witch’s power. He casts some ginger into the fire, knocks Humadapnon senseless, and escapes carrying him.
More wonders follow one after another – this story would’ve made a great inspiration for a Harryhausen flick. There’s a fight with an eight-headed serpent, the Balanakon a two-headed serpent, Uyutang a monstrous bat-thing with poison claws (makes me think of the Ropen of New Guinea), abductions, and a duel (over a woman of course), where the combatants find out they’re both sons of Alunsina and the goddess divides the woman into two new persons to satisfy them both.