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Fiction / Short Stories

Lamiraw

Most people don’t know this. The only ones who do are seers, dreamwalkers and those born with the sight like me. Long ago before the age of Man, gods walked the Earth. It was a time when the world was newly-born like an infant, when there was no difference between waking and dreaming. This time was called Lamiraw, the Age of the Waking Dream. In Lamiraw, the gods walked upright on two feet like us. They looked like us except they were giants. Some gods were so tall that their heads scraped the sky. When they walked, the Earth shook with each footstep. When they waded into the sea, their every movement created waves as tall as hills. They sculpted mountains for them to rest their heads on as they slept. Lakes were created when they shed tears. Rivers were formed when they relieved themselves. Hills and mountain ranges were born when, you know. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about because we all do it once a day, sometimes even twice. We all have to do it, even kings, even popes, even gods, although the myths leave out their most intimate and natural bodily functions. 

I was riding a pumpboat at Malajog Beach in Calbayog, Western Samar when I had a vision-walk. When I experience a vision-walk, I am transported to Lamiraw, the age of the gods. While I am in Lamiraw, I feel like I am floating in a timeless space before time and distance held sway and when dreaming and waking were one and the same. 

The last time I had a vision-walk was when I visited the Hundred Islands at Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan. I saw the islands as they were, the children of Lingayen and Benguet. She hid them in the sea as they were born, slick from her womb. She placed them beyond her husband’s reach as he was extremely jealous of any rival to his wife’s affections even if he or she was his child.

This latest vision-walk happened when my pumpboat was rounding the islet called Daraga Island across Malajog Beach in Calbayog, Samar. Daraga means “maiden” in Waray. Daraga Island is about a kilometer from the shore of Malajog Beach. I call it an islet even though the locals named it an island because the entire shore is only about two kilometers long.

Daraga Island is so named because it has two short hills beside each other that resemble breasts, not just any breasts but the ample and pert kind belonging to a maiden in full bloom. One breast is bigger than the other as most breasts are in truth even if no woman would admit this about her breasts. 

I noticed that at a certain angle the hills change into a different image of womanhood. When you are standing from the top of Malajog Ridge, the island resembles a woman’s breasts. When you climb down to the shore, the woman’s breasts become a pregnant belly and a bosom for nursing. 

The sun was setting when we were rounding Daraga Island, the fading light from the sun falling between the hills like a strap between a woman’s breasts. Our pumpboat passed the larger breast—or swollen belly or bigger hill, whichever you prefer—when I saw a peculiar rock formation hiding in its shadow. This rock was in the shape of a man lying on his back, his face looking at the sky, a rock sticking out from his forehead, a rock that felled him like the stone that felled Goliath. 

The sight of that unusual rock which I call the Rock of the Fallen Man made my ears tingle. It is always like that whenever I am about to have a vision-walk, like a flash of lightning before the thunder and the approaching storm.

When I vision-walk, my spirit leaves my body and I am transported through time and space to an earlier age. After I saw the Rock of the Fallen Man and wondered about its provenance, my ears tingled and I vision-walked to Lamiraw when there were two gods, Magayon and Samad. 

Magayon means “beautiful” in Bicolano. Magayon was goddess of the hearth, of the fireplace, of the inner fire that consumes all except the bearer of her blessing. She was as tall as the clouds which she wrapped around her head and shoulders like a shawl. She was beautiful and shapely, the slope from her neck to her shoulders like a slender vase and the curve from her waist to her hips like the handle of a gourd. She was passionate as she was fiery, capable of fierce love and even fiercer anger.

Samad means “wound” or “cut” in Visayan. Samad was god of sculpture. He shaped the islets and islands around his home into delicate shapes, crocodile and bird, fish and clam. Samad was wide as Magayon was tall. He was ugly as she was beautiful for scars spread across his body like rivers branching into tributaries and tributaries combining into confluences. Samad had a dozen pair of arms. When he moved his hands, their movement so swift and precise, his arms looked like they were a hundred in number and his fingers a thousand weaving needles. Samad was proud and arrogant, as confident of his talent as the surety of the sun rising and setting each day. 

Samad courted Magayon. He presented her with islands he fashioned into animals and delicate shapes. He shaped Pawikan Island for sea turtles to nest in its sand. He sculpted a nearby islet, Daraga Island, into the breasts of a maiden gently rising and falling as she slept. He fashioned Daraga Island as a tribute to Magayon’s beauty for she was coveted by other gods across the archipelago. As an artist’s flourish, he intentionally made one breast bigger, perhaps to be anatomically correct but in truth his aim was to transform the image of the island when viewed from a certain angle. Magayon noticed this, raising an eyebrow at Samad’s conceit. While he slept, she made a sculpture of her own behind the larger hill on the island. This sculpture was the Rock of the Fallen Man. 

When he woke up, Samad saw Magayon’s handiwork. Instead of inciting Samad to rage, the sight of the Rock of the Fallen Man only inflamed his passion for the goddess. He now lusted after her, intending to take her when she was vulnerable. 

Magayon always carried a clay pot of embers where ever she went. She hurled the embers at intruders and whoever earned her ire. While she slept, she placed her pot on her belly so she was always ready to reach inside it and hurl embers at offending parties.

The goddess started bringing her clay pot with her after Asuang stole her pot when she set it down. He intended to steal her fire for himself for he was always starved for warmth. When he reached into the pot, the embers recognized only their owner and burned Asuang’s fingers, sending wildfire racing across his entire body. Consumed in flames, Asuang howled and writhed. He fell in the place where Mount Malinao now lies. His corpse is a rocky ruin. Jagged scars trace the wake of the fire that wreathed his body. 

Samad intended to strike when Magayon put down her clay pot. This only happened when she cooked her meals. She would set the pot on the ground while she prepared a nearby spot on the soil where she would make the fire for cooking.

One day, Samad struck while Magayon’s guard was down. His many arms wrapped around her torso and his many hands bound her arms and held them fast. He left her mouth free so he could give her one last chance to submit to him in willing surrender. It was a fatal mistake for Magayon bit down on Samad’s arm, carving out a chunk of flesh. It didn’t matter whether he had two arms, a dozen or a hundred. The pain echoed throughout his body. Samad screamed and his arms let go of Magayon. The goddess pushed free from her captor and reached down into her clay pot. She pulled out the biggest ember her fingers could wrap around. Then she whirled around and hurled the ember at Samad’s head. The stone struck him in the center of his forehead, killing him instantly. Samad fell, his dozen arms flailing at his sides. He fell into the sea beyond what is now the San Bernardino Strait. His body sank into the waters, his corpse becoming the island where the Waray people now live. His fingers jutted out from the sea, becoming the rock formations we see around the island of Samar. 

I exited Lamiraw just as our boat glided to a stop at the shore of Malajog Beach. The prow of the boat broke the sand with a jolt, returning me to reality. Darkness shrouded everything so I could only see the lights from houses along the shore. As I stepped onto the sand, someone shone a flashlight at me, its beam piercing the darkness like a saber. I instinctively sidestepped to avoid the beam of light, thinking perhaps that this stranger holding the flashlight was a fierce goddess holding a glowing ember to throw at me. The stranger approached me, her features emerging from shadow. It was just our tour guide welcoming us back. She had stayed behind when my group stepped into the boat and circled Daraga Island. 

“Maupay na gab-i, sir,” she said, directing her flashlight toward the huts behind her. I reflexively avoided the beam of light as it cut through the darkness and across the sand. Maybe I was still in Lamiraw, I do not know. That’s the problem or mystery with some dreams: You don’t know whether you’re awake or dreaming and everything moves in slow motion and you move lethargically as if you’re wading through the waters of deep sleep.


This literary piece is part of Katitikan Issue 3: (Re) Imaginations.

By Cesar Miguel Escaño

Cesar Miguel G. Escaño lives in Tacloban City, Leyte. Before moving to Tacloban, he was a newspaper reporter for BusinessWorld and a college English teacher at the Ateneo de Manila. He contributes feature articles to newspapers such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Manila Bulletin and magazines such as Going Places and Mabuhay Magazine. He was a fellow for fiction at the 56 th Silliman University National Writers Workshop in 2017. His story, 'Little Star,' was named Honorable Mention at the 2018 Nick Joaquin Literary Awards by Philippines Graphic Magazine. His story, 'An-An,' will be published in the Best of Lamiraw (2004-2016), an anthology of the Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop of Eastern Visayas, by Katig Publications.

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