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Maria Sinukuan, The Transgender Fairy Godmother(Mountain Goddesses of the Philippines Part 2)

Updated on December 12, 2017

When the people you love and care about betray you..are you just going to let the laws of karma run its natural course or would you rather punish them according to the severity of their actions?

A Tough Woman

Like Maria Makiling of Laguna, Sinukuan is also described as having long black hair, naturally curled that almost reaches down her ankles and usually wears a white flowing robe. Her appearance is simple and immaculate, an epitome of Filipina beauty. But far more beautiful is the character she possesses; a kind and generous heart. Never was it known of her not to help those who needed it, making her the unofficial godmother of the people who live near the mountain.

The name 'Sinukuan' comes from the Tagalog rootword "sucu/suko" which means 'surrender' or 'the end', thus, sinukuan simply means "one who others have surrendered to". So you get a glimpse what kind of lady she is.

Home Sweet Home

Mount Arayat is an extinct stratovolcano with no recorded eruption, found in the island of Luzon. The volcano is located in a flat agricultural region. Rising to a height of 1,026 metres (3,366 ft), it's last activity probably dates back to the Holocene epoch.

The southern half of the mountain lies within the municipality of Arayat, while the north half is part of Magalang, both in Pampanga. The volcano is a popular Tourist destination, with Angeles City and the former Clark Air Base ten miles to the west.

Contrary to reality, the mountain is believed to be several mountains merging at the center including the tallest two peaks. In Folklore, the mountain was said to have been located in the swamp to its south and was originally part of the Zambales Mountain range, but relocated because of the rivalry against another deity in Mt. Pinatubo who lived there so now it stands alone in the plain fields with no one to bother.

Unsatisfied Customers

Some say she is a #witch or sorceress, while others say she's a benevolent goddess. Whatever she is, you be the judge. Here it goes...

Once upon a time, Mt. Arayat abounded with an unusual bounty of the forests. Aside from the trees that bore exceptionally big fruits all year round, it is said that animals of all kinds once roamed this mountain.

Watching over the needs of the people in the nearby town, she used to regularly provide fruits, vegetables and meat to locals who needed food during hard times. Needy families often woke up in the morning to see these gifts at their doorsteps. They knew it was Mariang Sinukuan who left it there while they were sleeping.

And to show their gratitude and respect they never tried to go to her hide-out in the mountain and considered her home as a sacred place. But such was not always the case. There came a time when the people were no longer satisfied with what the enchanted lady left for them. They wanted to get more.

Compelled by greed, a group of young men decided to go up in Mt. Arayat one day to sought out where Sinukuan’s home was.

They started for the mountain early at dawn and reached the base at sunrise until they found it. Everywhere they looked, various fruits bigger than their fists dangled from the their trees almost touching the ground and different animals and livestock roamed around the fields. So they took a lot from the forest.

The young men were still at awe when out from nowhere came Mariang Sinukuan, but she did not object to any of this. Instead, she only cautioned them not to take any of it home without her permission before departing.

Thinking she won't know the difference if they take more than they should, the young men started to fill their sacks with as many fruits and animals they could get hold of and started for home.

As they were about to begin their descent they felt their sacks becoming heavier until the load was pulling them down.

Punishment for Greed

Putting the sacks down, they soon discovered that all the fruits and meat they were carrying had surprisingly turned into large rocks.

The young men remembered Maria Sinukuan's warning and became terribly frightened. Leaving their sacks behind, they ran as fast as their feet could carry them. But before they reached the base of the mountain, Maria appeared in so much anger.

As punishment for their ungratefulness and theft, she turned them all into pigs.

this part of the story is similar to Circe from the Greek Oddessey
this part of the story is similar to Circe from the Greek Oddessey

However, this was not the last time that people tried to steal from her. The other people in the village were also getting greedy.

Disgusted and fed up at last with the people who did not respond her generosity with respect, she stopped leaving food at their doorsteps. She cursed the land and made the fruit trees and animals in the mountain disappear. The mountain went barren and the people became poor and helpless.

By this, the villagers all agreed to surrender and ask for Maria's forgiveness. But all their efforts and penance did not pay out, as Maria did not allow herself to be seen by anyone ever again.

She Was A Man Once

At present, when people in Arayat are asked who Sinukuan was, they will say she's the woman of the mountain. But it's only a partial truth..

According to the old Kapampangan mythology(native of Pampangga) and the research known to have been gathered by students of Henry Otley Beyer, Mount Arayat is the legendary home of Aung/Aring Sinukuan/Sinkuan/Suku, the sun god of war and death. He taught the early inhabitants the industry of metallurgy, wood cutting, rice culture and even waging war.

from a strong and masculine warrior god to a beautiful fairy godmother
from a strong and masculine warrior god to a beautiful fairy godmother

Apung Sinukuan is sometimes called Apolaki/Adlaw, the representation of the sun, and is portrayed as a ruler of Arayat along with Mingan, a name that in most traditions is that of Sinukuan's wife, but occasionally occurs also as the name of one of his daughters.

He was also the rival enemy of the moon god Apung Namalyari -Apo na Malyari (Mallari) of Mount Pinatubo, ruler of the eight rivers in Zambales located 16 miles away south. He engaged on an epic battle with his rival, who “hurled stones” at Sinukuan. Perhaps this is actually a recollection of Mt. Pinatubo’s pre-Hispanic eruption over 600 years ago.

In one story, Sinukuan was gravely wounded by a giant that resides in Mt. Pinatubo, but in other legends, this giant in Zambales mountain challenged and defeated the king of Arayat. The latter was killed and his son Sinukuan took his place, and later he eventually married the daughter of the lord of Zambales or vice versa.

In varying versions, he was the father of three (sometimes male or female)other dieties, ; Munag Sumala (the golden serpent who represents dawn), Lakandanup (god of gluttony and represents the sun at noon time) and Gatpanapun(the noble who only knew pleasure whose name means 'afternoon').

In many cases, the accounts are clearly mixed with other folk material. For example, the tale of Sinukuan's friends including Carguin Cargon and Supla Supling are taken from the Spanish legend of Lucifer's Ear.

"Not only do these deities live on the two sacred mountains, but they are expressly said in multiple accounts to live within the mountains, i.e., in the Underworld. The golden palace of Sinukuan within Arayat, for example, is featured in many of the legends of this region. Sinukuan's palace, according to the accounts, could generally only be accessed by mortals through magical intervention." --Myths and Legends of Pinatubo and Arayat by Paul Manansala

The waterfalls at Ayala in Magalang, Pampanga is said to be his bathing quarters and it is often visited by tourists and natives alike. It was considered a place of healing where the sick could come and bathe to free themselves of illness.

Sinukuan is said to live at the White rock, a Lava dome possibly formed by the last eruption, where its glimmering properties were most likely to have inspired the legend. In other accounts he was supposedly imprisoned in a cave sealed with a white rock where many legends say the magical entrance to Sinukuan's subterranean palace is located.

the god of war's castle
the god of war's castle

Sinukuan is believed to be able to transform and do as he pleases at will, and comes down only during a time of grace, disguising himself as a mortal man along with his children.

The day he comes back is believed to either be when he responds to the attack of Namalyari on Mount Pinatubo's 1991 eruption or when the time to call his followers and servants - the Colorums(the name coming from a local corruption of Latin et saecula saeculorum "world without end."), a messianic group who waited for Sinukuan to come out of his cave and to find a new paradise on earth for them.

This gender shift from male to female is probably caused by people who viewed the mountain not just a phallic symbol of war anymore, but like a child clinging to it's mother, as a feminine vital source of their livelihood and survival.


actress Mickey Ferriols as Sinyang/Sinukuan in Dyosa(goddess) tv show
actress Mickey Ferriols as Sinyang/Sinukuan in Dyosa(goddess) tv show
Mariang Sinukuan movie, 1955
Mariang Sinukuan movie, 1955

One Last thing

Here's a short story by Karl Gaverza of aswangproject.com


“AAAAAAIIIEEEEE!!”

My sister screams as the thunder roared through the house. I don’t know why she keeps doing that, it’s not like it won’t happen again. Our lives have always been like this, Lola says we are cursed and things have to be this way to atone for what happened.

“AAAAAAIIIEEEEE!!”

She doesn’t let up, but the thunder is getting louder. I look outside the window and the downpour is getting steadily worse, a few more hours and we may have to move to the second floor. I go and check on the food, making sure we have enough to last through the storm.

I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t raining. We moved to Cebu when I was born because of what happened with my mom, but it was raining even there. I always wondered why typhoons would follow our family around, but you get used to the constant rain. Eventually, the sound becomes soothing.

“I’m sorry.”

My mother passes by with candles. The power’s out and she always has to keep a steady supply. She looks at me with tears in her eyes and repeats her words.

I tell her she has nothing to be sorry about, that we’re a family and we can go through this together, but my words fall on deaf ears. She runs out the door and into the storm.

“I’M SORRY! ISN’T THAT ENOUGH FOR YOU?! LEAVE ME AND MY FAMILY ALONE!””

I go after her and drag her back to the house. When I look at her face I can’t tell the difference between the tears and the raindrops.

“SHE’LL NEVER LEAVE US ALONE!”

Her sobs get stronger and I hug her tight. She retells the story of her girlhood. How she went up Mt. Sinukuan and took something that belonged to Her, Mariang Sinukuan. Mom was pregnant with my sister then and she moved as far away as possible to protect her family. But the storms came. The storms always came.
Mom calmed down after an hour and she held my hand.

“Do you know what I stole?”

I never learned the whole story of what happened. Mom would never speak of it, not even when dad died. I didn’t know what wounds this would bring up but curiosity took the better of me. I wanted to know what was so important that I had to live my life under a constant stream of wind and rain. I looked at mom and asked her what was taken.

“A mango.”


Part 3, Maria Cacao from my own home province, Cebu..

Which do you think should better represent Mt. Arayat?

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