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Neo-Mythology: Sinukwan and Mariya (Mythic Short Story)

Updated on February 2, 2015

Aring Sinukwan

In a time when the people still feared the spirits, there lived an immortal named Sinukwan. Sinukwan had lived for so long and he had found out that nothing in the Earth was interesting to him anymore. Because of this boredom, he decided to transform himself into a normal man to see things in a different perspective.

He was the fastest, the strongest, and the smartest among the men in the neighbourhood where he chose to live, but no one suspected him to be a god. However, even though he felt tiredness, sensation and emotion, his knowledge as a god prevented him from living life like any other human. Because of this, he decided to go to the mountains to find a spring of red water called Ala-ala that can make anyone, human, beast, or god, to forget or to remember.

Sinukwan, the nuno, and the well of Ala-ala

Once he had located the well, he was immediately greeted by a nuno. (Nunos are very small creatures in the shape of humans that live inside ant hills, the term can perhaps be translated as elf in English). The nunos are peaceful beings who took care of Nature. Where mortals do not live, they were the ones to plant the trees and to fertilize the soil.

“Great Sinukwan, this well is Ala-ala, the memory of Nature. We nunos had protected it for a long time and we know its secrets. To what do we owe the pleasure of a god visiting us?” The elf smiled while it spoke with its squeaky voice.

“Little one, I wish to forget everything. All I want to retain are the memories I had since I transformed into a mortal.”

“Very well,” the elf replied. “All you have to do is to whisper that to the well and feed it a drop of your blood. Then, you would have to tell a virgin girl that you will forget who you were before and tell her that the only way to regain your lost memories is to drink water from the well. After that, feed the well a drop of her blood and by then you would have forgotten what you wish to forget.”

The beautiful Maria of the Taga-ilog

Sinukwan did what the nuno instructed. He whispered that which he wished to forget to the well and he cut himself to drop blood on it. Then he went down to the village to find a virgin girl. When he saw the weaver, Mariya, he told her that he was a god who wished to forget being immortal. When at first she did not believe him, the god changed his appearance to resemble Mariya, herself, looking into her own eyes. (Mariyang Sinukwan)

At last she believed him, so he told her that she was the key to returning his memories.

“I desire to momentarily forget being immortal. But I would not want to be locked in this human form forever. So, before you die, make sure that you tell me everything and I shall reward you handsomely.” The god commanded with lofty power.

“I will do as you wish, great god.”

Mariya went with the god into the forest. They stopped in front of a well with reddish water. The red water separated from the rest and accumulated in the middle of the pool where it formed into a shape of a woman’s head. The head opened its mouth and Sinukwan took the hand of Mariya, cut it, and dropped blood to the spring.

Sinukwan, a mortal

They went back to the village and from that day on, Sinukwan had forgotten about his immortality and his conversations with Mariya along with it. He lived as any normal mortal would and he got to enjoy the hard but satisfying life of a human.

One day, he noticed that Mariya, the weaver, had always observed him. He noticed that she was beautiful. He wanted to make her his wife but she refused him. He kept sending her gifts and offering her services but still she refused. This went for a long time, but with persistence on the part of Sinukwan and with great hesitation on the part of Mariya, her defences crumbled and soon they were married.

They lived happily in their simple home but unfortunately war ensued. Neighbouring tribes wanted to expand their territory and soon Sinukwan was fighting in the battlefield. Because of his unnatural strength, his people made him their leader. But also because of this, the god of war Laban, saw him, the god Sinukwan fighting in a war.

Laban, the god of war

Laban changed his appearance to look like a warrior and approached Sinukwan to greet him. But the god, having lost his memories, did not recognize him. Instead, Sinukwan fought the war god. Since Laban was caught off guard, he was almost killed in their duel. But with superior combat skills, he managed to escape death.

Laban was overcome by fury. He did not know that Sinukwan lost his memories. He called on all of his minions to tell them the rage he felt for Sinukwan and he asked them to spy on him. When he found out that he took a mortal for a wife, he laughed in contempt.

“He has gone soft,” he thought. “He has fallen in love with a mortal whose life span is not even one blink of an eye. A filthy ephemerid for a wife? What has become of him?”

He ordered his servants to manipulate men into catching and imprisoning Mariya. Now, Laban is with the invading tribes and Sinukwan’s tribe was about to lose the war. One by one, Sinukwan’s comrades fell and soon they were greatly outnumbered. Most of their wives and children were captured to become slaves, and one of them was Mariya.

The adarna bird

Mariya was put in the hidden prison built by Laban. Everyone of the guards there had their tongues pulled out and their ears deafened by the god of war himself, so that Mariya couldn’t speak to nor hear from anyone.

Sinukwan was overcome by grief. He refused to sleep and searched for his wife with eager desperation. One day while searching for his wife, he found a place with many human-shaped rocks. He decided to sit there for a while until he regained his energy.

Suddenly, a mysterious colourful bird roosted on a tree branch right above him. When it started to sing, Sinukwan could not stop his eyes from closing.

“Sinukwan,” a voice called to him.

He opened his eyes. He can tell that it was nighttime since it was dark. He saw a woman standing in front of him and he tried to stand up. To his horror, there was no ground below him—they were suspended in midair!

“Sinukwan, you are in my abode. I am Tinap, the goddess of dreams. You were escorted here by one of my adarna birds. (The adarna is a bird whose feces turn humans into stone and whose voice makes anyone that hears it fall asleep.)” Tinap reassured him.

“Why have you brought me here?” Sinukwan was still afraid of the goddess.

“I happened to hear your name, ‘Sinukwan,’ from a woman who visited my realms of dreams. And your name is a very interesting one.” Tinap smiled to the ground. Then she looked Sinukwan in the eyes. “She wanted to speak to you. Her name is Mariya.”

“Let me speak to her! Please.”

“I will give you a favour only if you give me a favour in return.”

“Anything!”

“All I want you to do is to capture a monster that prowls in my realms. Its name is Bangungot. I want you to close its mouth with ropes and tie it down so that instead of being an infernal pest, it can become my pet.”

Tinap, goddess of dreams, and the monster Bangungot

As soon as he heard the goddess’s request, he started searching for the monster. He at last found it in the darkest and deepest corner of Tinap’s territory. He tried every weapon that he had to weaken the monster but it could not be wounded. Neither could Sinukwan subdue it with his strength.

Bangungot pawed him and he cried in pain. When the monster was atop Sinukwan and was about to take a big bite out of him, Sinukwan with firm resolve and bravery shouted with anger.

“I will not die fearing you, monster! Not a drop of fear in me!”

The monster winced at the noise. Sinukwan saw this. Then he started shouting again. The monster withdrew from the sound. At last, Sinukwan found the wretched creature’s weakness. It did not take him long to tie it down and to give it to Tinap.

Happy to have gotten rid of Bangungot, the goddess allowed Sinukwan and Mariya to speak to each other in a dream. Even though they could not have passed any messages with each other through the walls of Laban’s prison, when they slept at the same time, Tinap let them meet in her abode of dreams. They embraced each other and then Mariya told Sinukwan about his immortality and how drinking from the waters of the well of Ala-ala would give him back his memory.

A god once again

Tinap agreed to let an adarna bird to accompany Sinukwan when he finally awoke to the well of Ala-ala. When he took a sip from its waters, he immediately regained all the memory he had lost. He called on all his servants to help him free Mariya from the prison Laban built. When they had at last freed Mariya, the angry Laban showed himself in front of Sinukwan. Sinukwan called on the war god to stop the battle at once and he explained to Laban how he lost his memory. Laban, pacified, put an end to the war. Peace was regained in the lands.

Sinukwan stayed as a god and some say that he made Mariya immortal and that she now lives in the mountains where the spring of Ala-ala can be found. They say she bore three daughters, whom the god of nomenclature Palayao has named Malagu, Mahinhin and Matimtiman.

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