Sunday, January 13, 2013

omaca-an, bakunawa and other(ing) monstrosities

as mentioned in the previous post, this series of collaborative close- and over- reading of folk narratives intends to explore and to speculate and to investigate the text (and may, in the process, expand and extend the context of the concerned text and interconnect it w other texts, but i'll try my best not to do so). quoting dennis aguinaldo of [tekstong bopis] in his [prelude]: "This coming project, that's what it's all about. Over-reading unheard voices, over-drawing the shadows, a godawful merry clanging. Taking what we can get."

the sequence of drawings above shows the first few scenes of raja solaiman's encounter with the omaca-an. solaiman and his brother, raja indarapatra, decided to cleanse lanao of monsters, so that people can live in the province. after clearing their designated paths, solaiman is first to arrive at the rendezvous point he and his brother set beforehand. there, omaca-an, the "big giant," attacked, provoked and agitated him to the point that he cut the giant into pieces and the pieces became new, replenished giants. eight giants defeated solaiman. indarapatra avenged him and defeated the giant using tempered attacks until it "fell like a big coconut tree." and humans thereafter began to people the island.

now, how did i came up w the illustrations? this is when we fill the countour the shadows project and listen to utterances the voices, well, mutter. i think this is also how the lovecraftian monstrosities were re-imagined and re-envisioned in [yogblogsoth], by being keen on clues within the text. or, even related texts, if not other versions. and i am also thinking, maybe this is the time the carcosite becomes a hangout of horrors. anyway.

now, why the tikbalang look? well, according to "Rajah Indarapatra Slays Omaca-an, A Big Giant," included in damiana eugenio's "Philippine Folk Literature v.3: The Legends" from "Lanao Progress v.6 no.12, p. 8 in victoria j. adeva's 'Maranao Folk Literature' (m.a. thesis, u.p., 1978)," omaca-an "neighed" at solaiman. in [another version] titled "The Legend of Lanao Lake," the omaca-an "was so enormous that when he spread his arms sideward, they spread as far as thirty kilometers apart." thus, i dropped my initial idea of omaca-an being a body-builder of some sort as i thought of, what, tentacular arms; also, he fell like coconut tree, thus the big hair and the lean physique (and this coconut tree reference was also why i opted neither to portray the monster as a centaur nor something serpentine like the hydra, which, as we all know, bears similarity to omaca-an's ability to grow another self upon being mutilated by an other).

in the same way the lovecraftian mythos pave many possibilities in imagining the horror (i.e. the other, the not-human), our folk stories (as in the repulsion felt towards the omaca-an and the bakunawa) never described in detail how horrible horrible monsters look. so, we would rather slay them and opt not to understand them, communicate, negotiate with them, because trying to do so will probably result to consequences such as being the omaca-an's dinner or losing the last moon forever into the dark of the bakunawa's gastrointestinal labyrinths (there was a version stating that there were once seven moons, and it was during the last remaining moon that the people came up w a way to drive the bakunawa back into the depths of the sea).

(and here we remember the nietzsche-monster-abyss reference when the other then is mystified, an evil incarnate whose annihilation meant the survival of indarapatra's people (actually, bantugan's, because this is a maranao folk story; the brothers could have been sent to do the mission of clearing lanao of monsters) and shall be obliterated, else it obliterates us. be the killer, or be killed, etc, etc)

omaca-an's might and magic was first faced by solaiman because indarapatra was busy with another other: the opposite sex. within the text, indarapatra is shown as a charmer of at least three women: 1.) the nymph he married while his brother solaiman waits for him at the rendezvous point; 2.) the baliti tree dwelling female demon who told him what happened and where omaca-an is; and, 3.) since we usually call our homeland 'motherland,' the province itself.

thus, there are types of the other that we find tolerable. remember that though lanao was then uninhabited by humans during the reign of the omaca-an, there were nymphs and indarapatra married their queen during those the fight of solaiman and omaca-an. the dweller of the baliti tree helped indarapatra, maybe because there is some sort of alliance between these feminine, not-human, perhaps divine inhabitants of lanao. and indarapatra's marriage could have been insightful of this alliance-building with these various types of other, and maybe through these connections, indarapatra knew what he would do and not do to defeat the omaca-an.

the story's silence on the conspiring mortals and elementals against the omaca-an that allegedly ate people (there are sources saying it is cannibal, if it is, then it is human? that eats fellow humans? anyway) is one thing, but what's more interesting for me is, not really solaiman's lost ring that haunts the waters of lanao, but his lost sword. his defeat ended w eight omaca-an ganging on him, one omaca-an humiliating his corpse, putting his chopped head for public display, throwing his ring and sword (note that indarapatra looked for these, instead of retrieving his brother's head), while the other seven omaca-an copies [?] never heard of after.

if the gang of omaca-ans had possession of the sword, and they mutilate each other, what a powerful army they might become; they might even reclaim lanao; they will. remember that, unlike the bakunawa, the omaca-an is sentient. it can speak and reason, and it knew the royal lineage of the rajas he faced (perhaps it has an intelligance network, who knows). also, it is cunning, and he could have played dead at the end of the narrative. maybe there are some sort of sequels somewhere, maybe there are not and we have to find out for ourselves whether omaca-an(s) live(s), or the rajas have slain the last of their kind.

(either way, let us continue exploring and getting lost, if we were mistaken in our assumptions, at least we tried. had the omaca-an worn a different face and/or sported a different identity elsewhere, we may or may not know. p.s.: this accompanying text to my illustration is supposed to serve as a caption or a justification of why and how come i drew what i drew, but it has become rather lengthy and kinda cluttered. i'll try to stick to simply justifying and captioning how i arrived at more upcoming illustrations derived from folk narratives. p.p.s: given the chance, i'd like to rectify. modify this omaca-an's satyr legs to human legs. sighs. i shall reimagine omaca-an one of these days. i swear to indarapatra.)

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Spawn of Lake Hali