Tuesday, March 2, 2010

THE LEGEND OF INOPACAN (in my years of research)

(Click the image to view actual size and find your place in the Poblacion area)
 Inopacan – [Leyte] (demonym: Inopacnon) *(n.) A coastal town in the western part of Leyte province. The original site of Inopacan was in Binitinan (now Brgy. Guadalupe). Due to the frequent invasion and pillage of Moro pirates and the wrath of monsoon storms making it bad to moor their galleons in the area, they transferred the village to the present location of this town, which was then called Kanamokan, meaning, “place of mosquitoes” because of its pesky namok (mosquito). 

The relocation was intended to spare early Spanish missionary priests and the native settlers from the attacks of Moro marauders. Besides, the present location is along the seaside and the mooring galleons were well guarded by the Cuatro Islas (four islets): Digyo, Mahaba, Apid, and Himokilan. The place is strategically a good place for hiding galleons from the wrath of habagat (south or southwest monsoon winds). Nearby the town proper is a place where the ships and fishing boats would take refuge during bad weather even to these days. The people called this place Tinago from the word “tago” meaning “hidden.” Thus, “tinago” means “the hidden place.”

*Much of the documents that could be a good source for learning about the history of Inopacan were destroyed when the town hall as well as the parish church and its convent were leveled into rubbles as the Japanese war planes bombed these buildings during the World War II. But based on the account of Inopacnon elders and records from neighboring towns, Inopacan was once a barangay of Hindang. with Fernando Polistico (a Boholano) as the first appointed Capitan del Barrio, and was succeeded by Francisco Espinosa, and lastly by Agustin Kudera before Inopacan became a town on December 06, 1892.

*The name Inopacan came from the legendary person known as “Inong pak-an,” which means “Inong who have wings” or “winged Inong.” Inong was a mythical man who according to legend was a person who can ran very fast and jump up high over the trees and could hop from one place to another as in from hill to hill. Hence, he was thought to have wings. His story happened before the Spanish came to this place. His supernatural abilities is similar to olden esoteric arts called kamal or ilmu which was practiced by the early Muslim aristocrat in southern Mindanao. Kamal is taught by special masters and was effectively limited to members of the aristocracy. Inong could be a rajah or a sultan under the aristocratic lineage of either the endatuan or dumatus. This fit to his description being a leader of a pack of local warriors. He and his men protected the local villagers by driving away Moro bandits and the much dreaded giant serpentine snake that once lived in a cave. 

The cave has an entrance opening at the tip of a cape now called “bay sa has” (literally means as “the house of snake”, a seaside limestone cave where the giant reptile used to live). The huge serpentine snake was dreaded by the local villagers because it attacked their carabaos, cows, goats, pigs, dogs, and other animals especially when the snake was hungry. Even the fishermen who were on their sakayan (outriggered rowing canoe), or baroto (small frail rowing boat), or the Muslim pirates who were on their pankos (sailboat) were not spared from the attack if they happened to pass by near the mouth of the cave. 

Until one night, under the light of a bright full moon, the snake was seen playing the trabungko, a brightly illuminating crystal ball. The snake tossed it up in the air while skimming the surface of the sea between the islets of Cuatro Islas. It is believed that the ball was a mystical amulet and has birtud (magical power), and Inong was among those who saw the snake playing the trabungko.

The entrance of Bay-sa-has (house of snake) at present. (Photographs credit to Ms. Eldeross Kirong)
The long search for the trabungko could be one of the reasons why Inong came to this place. Because of his desire to acquire the mystical ball, Inong chased the giant snake by hopping from the shore his boat then to the islet and to another boat as if he had some sort of flying skill. Using his sword and shield and with the show of his supernatural strength, Inong fought the ferocious giant serpentine snake. After a long fight, Inong disappeared along with the giant snake. Because of their subsequent disappearance, everybody thought that Inong succeeded in killing the giant snake. Few had told that Inong got the trabungko and lived a quiet life in a cave in the jungle on top of Mt. Sacrepante overlooking the nearby plains. Others accounted that they saw him on the hilly karst of Bontoc in Brgy Bulacan in the northeastern part of Hindang where many caves are can be found; or most probably, he went back to his origin in Mindanao bringing home the treasured trabungko.

The Inong Pak-an Festival

There were some accounts of succeeding great tambalans (a.k.a. albularyo, referred to as the local shaman or quack doctors) before World War II that they happened to have an encounter with Inong in the mountains and network of caves in Inopacan that are connected with the caves in Bulacan, Hindang and to the Cuatro Islas. These tambalans told that they had to pass a test, such as solving a puzzle, complete a tahas (task), or face a fight of strength with Inong, in order to receive more magical power from him. This kind of ordeal is typical to that of a special master who taught or passed knowledge of kamal to others.

 *Years later, back to the cave in the cape, there were few big snakes left in the Baysahas long after the giant serpentine one was gone. Mostly were sawa (boa constrictor). The snakes were quite big but no longer giant, but still these creatures were feared by the local villagers. According to old folks, it was during World War II that the big snakes were gone because the Japanese occupation armies annihilated them by trolling in the sea carcasses and other big chunks of meat stuffed with bombs. The snakes took the bait and were killed by the explosives. Nowadays, no more sightings of big snake in Baysahas is reported. The cave still exists now, though its opening is already narrow and partly covered with stones and sands.

The Inopacan bridge that crosses over the subang daku and subang gamay

Welcome to Inopacan. DALI KAMO! DUAW KAMO!



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Author of Philippine Food, Cooking, and Dining Dictionary. A lexicographer since the age of 14.  Filipino Linguist. Blogger with 11 blog sites. Researcher of food culture, pop culture, places, structures, transportations, churches and whatever interest him about the Philippines. Visual artist. Photographer. Traveler who had been to all four corners of the Philippine archipelago, and still setting more footprints. 

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