It always stumped me how the first man and woman could fit in separate nodes of a bamboo. For a time, feminists even argued that the female was on the top node and came out first, the male on a lower node.
If they were so small, how did they grow to human size? Then a friend who liked to cook said, when the bamboo split, the air made the figures grow, like yeast makes dough rise. And that was that. Actually a gossipy bird was the cause.
In the beginning of time, it is said, there was only the sky and the sea. A bird of prey flew between the sky and the sea without finding a place to rest. For there was no place to alight in the sky and nowhere in the sea.
Tired of flying continuously, the bird thought to create a quarrel between the sky and the sea. Flying upwards, the bird said to the sky: The sea has said that it wishes to rise and submerge you with water.
And the sky said: If it does so, that will be unfortunate, for I will hurl upon it rocks and islands that it will have to go around these and there will be too little space for the waves to rise high enough to drown me.
The bird reported it at once to the sea, who became so angry that it started throwing its waves up with such force and determination that the sky began to fear. It raised itself up a little higher to keep from being submerged.
Do you see what it is trying to do? said the bird, flying from the sea to the sky. Whereupon the aroused sea redoubled its vigor and rose up to even greater heights. And the sky, no longer able to contain itself, began to throw down many rocks and many islands which thundered to the bottom of the sea. With their weight the sea subsided to its former level, for with the rocks and the islands, it could no longer rise to any great height.
A bit of earth
The bird of prey gleefully flew down, finding rest at last from its continuous and wearying flight, upon a bit of earth.
While the bird rested on the island, a length of bamboo with two nodes was washed to the shore by surf, roughly hitting the feet of the tired bird. The bird moved farther down the shore to avoid it, but again the bamboo was washed ashore to where the bird was, again hitting its feet.
Thereupon the maddened bird pounced upon the bamboo and began to peck hard at the nodes. The strength of the pecking split open the piece of bamboo. And, lo and behold, a brown sturdy creature was revealed sleeping in the hollow of the first node. And from the other node, a creature with supple limbs and flowing hair stepped down. And they stood on the vast and quiet island—the first man and woman upon the world.
The man (whose name was Silalak), approached the woman (whose name was Sikabay). He said, now surely we must be wedded together so as to multiply and fill the earth with children. But the woman appeared stricken at the proposal. How can we marry? We shall be punished by our gods Maguay and Malaon.
Do not be afraid, the man told the first woman. It is all right for us to marry. But if you have any doubt, let us ask the fish in the sea. Agreeing on this, they walked to the edge of the sea and asked the silvery tuna who replied that it was all right, they had also married, brothers and sister together, and had multiplied greatly, as the man and woman could see, and they had not been punished by the gods for it.
But still the woman did not want to marry her brother for fear of the wrath of their gods. If you are still uncertain, said the man, then let us see what the birds have to say. And they walked into the cool of the forest to ask the opinion of the doves resting in the trees. The doves gave the same reply as the fishes, saying that it was good that the man and woman should marry and beget children, for they themselves had done so, for which reason they had multiplied so much on earth, and the gods had not been displeased.
But still the woman would not marry her brother for fear of their gods. She said if she was to marry, it would only be after asking some god of their own, and if he said yes, then they would marry, but not before.
So the first man agreed that they should ask their own god Linok who was the god of the earthquake. And Linok replied that is was all right, it was understandable, it was proper that they should marry in order to enlarge the world with their children, and never would the gods rage.
At last, the first woman was convinced, because the fishes and the birds and Linok, the god of the earthquake, had said so. And the first man and woman were wedded by Linok. And they were happy, it is said.
A little later, the woman became pregnant, and gave birth all at one time to a large family of boys and girls. These children, however, grew up to be idlers, doing nothing but eat and sleep all day. They did nothing worthwhile to help in their sustenance, and much less did they help their parents to earn a living. The time came when the children could no longer be supported, but still they never would do a stroke of work.
Thereupon the parents became enraged and decide to throw the children out of their house.
The father took a fat stick, and on entering the house and seeing them all still playing and idling, began to shout: Get out of this house or I will beat to death each and everyone! And the children scampered away in terror, never having seen the father so angry.
Some of them fled outside of the house of their father; others ran into the bedroom, some stayed in the living room, though cowering. Still others went to the kitchen, hiding themselves among the unwashed pots and the chimneys.
So it came about that from those who entered the bedroom came descendants who were lords and chiefs, and therefore respected. Those who stayed in the living room came the warriors and the nobles who were free and paid nothing. And from those who hid behind the walls of the house descended the slaves.
Those who fled to the kitchen and hid among the sooty pots spawned the Negritos, who lived in the mountains of the Philippines. As for those who left their father’s house and never returned nor were ever heard from, came all the other peoples in the world.
This is the story of the creation of the earth and the beginning of mankind according to the Bisaya.
From the “Boxer Codex” (1590), author unknown, translated by Carlos Quirino and Mauro Garcia (1958)