Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Have you seen the "sigbin" while in Inopacan.

I remember the time when "radyo baktas" in town, which as usual was anchored by a rumourmonger, spread the news that a boy was attacked by the dreaded "sigbin." The poor boy was found in the middle of the coconut field already blue and black on one side and very pale on the other side, lifeless and seemed to be emptied of its blood. What caused the people to panic and rushed to gather their children in their houses is the alleged punctured bite marks found on the foot of the lifeless child. Everybody was convinced that a “sigbin" attacked the child.

In the 70’s and 80's (even in early 90’s), if you truly came from Inopacan, you must have heard the old story that there was a witch in Sitio Bacungbacung of Brgy. Linao who kept a sigbin as a pet. People in town thought that sigbin is a diabolic creature that follows whatever its master has commanded to do. When it is untethered and released by the witch and allowed to go outside, the sigbin is expected to perform a scary act or a demonic attack on unsuspecting prey in the darkness of the night. By day time, the master would tether this unusually hideous pet and hid it in a cage covered with dark cloth and kept in a secret room.

It was told that sigbin is a nocturnal being; it sleeps at day most of the time and wide awake by night time. It creeps out the cage and could easily pass through the smallest hole or recesses in the wall and could jump high over the bushes in the field, moving very very fast. It never faces forward. When on a stationary position, it would keep its guard by bending its head down below its groin and peeps through between its muscular thighs as if it is viewing the world up-side-down. It has two very big round eyes, the size of a “platito” (small dish plate), that seldom blink. The eyes would keep on staring toward the back and the sigbin would slowly move backward if it needs to change location. When disturbed, it would quickly straighten up and stand up and hop like a big kangaroo; the big hind legs hold the ground while the front limbs are clutching its breast and in split second it would kick the ground, jump fast and quick that human eye could not chance to have a glimpse of it. Instantly, it’s gone to nowhere.

What makes sigbin dreadful is when the master would decide to use the sigbin in taking revenge against those who had disappointed, offended, humiliated, or scorned the witch. The consequence would be frightening. When the night is over, people would hear the morning news from “radyo baktas” that somebody was found dead with a bite marks in the body with all blood sucked out.

Terrified. Yes, I was terrified listening to this story while I was a little boy in my days in Inopacan. My nanay is sternly reprimanding me and my sister if we happen to be not within our mother’s sight. The alarm would last weeks before the situation mellowed down and normalized.

When I was already in my early teens, I remember one afternoon when I saw Nising and his siblings (they are the children of Mr. William Cabigas, a carpenter who has a house at the spillway or that lot in between the two old wooden bridges of Inopacan river) having a commotion near a thick undergrowth of kagingking (a species of thorny and sturdy kind of bamboo). Feeling concerned because the kagingging is in our land, I approached them and asked what they were up to. I was told that they were chasing a skinny sigbin that came to hide in the thicket beneath the kagingking trees. Nising and his siblings were armed with big “tirador” (rubber sling) and round pebbles as pellets ready for firing the suspected “sigbing.” Well, though a bit shaky, I was instantly urged to help them catch the sigbin, I thought anyway that it was skinny and perhaps our number would overpower this hideous creature. I picked a big stick and we surrounded the kagingking tree making sure the sigbin could not pass through away unnoticed. We have the “kagingking” under sieged. Then there was a shout from one of us that he saw the sigbin and the rest of us rushed to gather to his side to help him attack the sigbin. But when we got there, the creature disappeared; it managed to slip and escape through the other side that we abandoned. All of us gave a chase along the coconut and banana field. But the sigbin has gone far beyond our sight. In between gasps, we admitted that we lost it.

The kagingking tree is still there until now. Last year, when I made a round of tour on our piece of land beside the Inopacan river, I was refreshed of the incident when I passed by the tree. That thought gave me goose bumps all over the skin in my head, neck and arms. Thanks and the underbrush is no longer that thick when we chased the sigbin. That big-eyed demon might not be hiding there for sure. But still I had that tingling sensation of panic that what if that sigbin is no longer skinny now and is getting stronger, ready to plunge. Bah, I quickly changed my imagination and simply entertained the thought that the sigbin is certainly very old now and too weak to stage a stupid charge.

But still, I never actually saw the sigbin. Whatever they were chasing, I hope it was not because they described it as a small creature that runs like a dog with a scary face and lost most of its hair in the body. I had in my mind that it could have been a “chupacadabra” a blood sucker that can be lightly considered as the cousin of sigbin. There are reported cases in the Philippines that chupacadabra attacked fowls, pigs, and other farm animals. But talking about chupacadabra here is another story.

Despite my experience, I’m not sure if sigbin is true. Perhaps our folks were too quick in jumping to conclusion by merely judging the situation on sketchy and dubious assumptions. There was no factual basis. Some say that our parents invented the story so that we would not wander around especially at night. Hmm, sounds like a psychological warfare, a traumatic story used in disciplining young ones.

I never heard that there was a follow up investigation conducted by the authorities on the alleged sigbin that killed a boy. By the way, I learned this while I was in college that there was this group from VISCA (Visayas State College of Agriculture) who tried to gather factual information about sigbin for a sort of a special study. They even offered a hefty sum of money to those who can bring them a real sigbin (dead or alive) for documentation. Until now, there’s no news if they already found one. It is the same group who tried to search the species of fabled “nangka” (jackfruit) that would bear fruits underground.

I browsed through the video clips in Youtube but found dubious and fake movie of sigbin instead.

Now tell me, what is your story of sigbin wandering in our town?
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Author of Philippine Food, Cooking, and Dining Dictionary - the first and only published Pinoy food and dining dictionary. The book won the national category as Philippine's finalist to the Gourmand Awards international food writing contest in Yantai, Shandong, China to be held in May 2017. A lexicographer who began to compile and wrote his first vernacular dictionaries at the age of 14. A collector of contemporary and vintage dictionaries, both local and foreign.  A linguist studying the many dialects you can find in the Philippines. A blogger maintaining at least 11 blog sites. A researcher of food culture, Pinoy pop culture, interesting places and structures in the country, local transportations, Philippine churches and other places of worship of any religion and beliefs, local anthropology, socio-cultural issues, and whatever interesting about the Philippines and the Filipinos. A visual artist who uses pencil, watercolor, pen, and fingers as medium of expression - once an editorial cartoonist of local broadsheet and campus publications. Created his first hand-made comics magazine and participated the Marian watercolor exhibits in his hometown parish while in high school. A photographer taking at least 2K photos a week in the field while on travel for almost two decades now.  A poet hiding most of the time. A low-profile historian studying continually the origins, history, and progression of many places in the country. A computer programmer who wrote the codes and designed the software application of his digital Cebuano-English dictionary and distributed it for free around the country and over the internet. A traveler who had been to all four corners of the Philippine archipelago, and still setting more footprints anywhere in the country.  A holder of professional driver's license once took the wheels for UBER. A home cook who loves to enhance, modify, elaborate, experiment if not invent more of  Pinoy dishes and delicacies.

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