February 2, 2014

Bakonawa, Minokawa, Mikonawa

Artist unknown -- if you recognize this image please contact me!

In Visayan mythology, the Bakonawa is a titanic dragon-fish that tries to swallow the moon; in some versions, there were originally seven moons, and the Bakowana was able to eat six before the gods and mankind stopped it.

In Bagobo mythology – the Bagobos being a tribe of southeastern Mindanao, and possibly a coastal power before the coming of Islam and the rise of the Maguindanao – the Minokawa is a titanic bird that ‘lives beyond the sky’ and tries to eat the moon.

I’m starting to suspect that the proper rendition for the latter is Mikonawa, as I’m finding on some webpages, because it’s the same creature. The myth is very similar, and later highland Bagobos turned the dragon-fish into an eagle because they were no longer living on the coast and so could form stronger associations with eagles, such as the large Philippine or Monkey-Eating Eagle, than with large fish or sea serpents. The early American missionaries who recorded these Bagobo legends however got it down as Minokawa, which may have been a transcription error. I don’t think they had tape recorders in 1916 :-).

For Hari Ragat, though, I described them as entirely different creatures. Both try to eat the Moon because of their legacy of hostility against the gods and man, being children of the Serpent Goddess who was slain at the creation of the world when she attacked Aman Bathala.

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