Enrique B. Picardal Jr

Mount Panamao was once thickly forested and abounded with wild deer and wickedly tusked boars. The old hunters and kaingineros with their superstitions would walk warily in the forests since people then believed in mountain spirits. If a nymph like Maria Makiling were known to have haunted Mount Panamao, it would indeed be a most appropriate tale, but there was no such legend, the old hunters would tell of a plateau where hectares of cacao plantations appeared to be diligently cultivated. The cacao trees were full of fruit. Game was also plentiful here. But the hunters never dared to pick the ripe fruit or kill the fat deer and wild boar. But there was something that the inhabitants of the island learned later from distant Manila, which gave rise to the legend of the island of Mount Panamao. It was the story about the arrival of a strange galleon at the port of Manila and of how the Spanish port authorities stared in eye- popping wonderment at the splendidly furnished vessel with its shining sails of costly silk, everything about the galleon was new from the ropes of abaca hemp, the smooth lines and surfaces of the vessel from bow to stern, the elaborate carvings on the polished cabin panels, to the shimmering sails of silk. And crammed-full in the capacious hold of the ship were sacks of dried cacao seeds, the port officials were astonished and visibly impressed when they met the passengers on the deck of the galleon. The men were richly attired and strutted about with the air of grandees; the women beautiful and elegant in fashionable clothes of costly materials. They were as fair-skinned as and even more aristocratic in bearing than the colonials.
When asked where they came from, the passengers of the galleon answered, “Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao.” And where was the beautifully carpentered galleon built? The answer: “Isla de Panamao.” After a week, the passengers of the galleon sold all the cargo of cacao and returned to Panamao Island.

And mystery after mystery followed of course, some invented and relished nonetheless by Maynila folk. For certainly, the galleon and its aristocratic passengers and cargo of cacao would be the object of a lot of excited talk and speculations. The authorities themselves were said to be nonplused about their Spanish identity. Did they really come from Spain or any of the colonies? But no one had officially tried to identify these visitors from the records of the port authorities during their stay in Manila. And because of the lethargy of the Spanish bureaucracy, further inquiry was not made at all. Only the stories of the mysterious galleon would reach far and wide in the whole archipelago, for gossip and rumor travel on wings and cannot be stopped by anything but the fates, tongues continued wagging of the Spanish officer who, in the delirium of passionate love, deserted his post to follow his inamorata to Isla de Panamao. The man reportedly went mad because no one in the island knew about the galleon and the shipboard of cacao and lovely Girl Dewata. And Punta de Bulalacao! Not a ship was seen, the port itself just rocks, shrubs and trees, and no one, not a single soul.

Even today there is still enough mystery brooding over the mountain when we see it veiled in mists in the cold and rainy months of the northeast monsoon. There are a lot of things that we would like to know about, such as the plateau with cultivated cacao plantations, and the deer and the wickedly tusked boars. Is the galleon going to sail again from Punta de Bulalacao with its fair passengers, or would it be this time a modern ocean-going vessel with a cargo of cacao, the invisible kingdom of the engkantos, and who would believe this tale, But Mount Panamao is there, in the full glare of sunlight. And when the moon is a bright disk in the sky, when in the silvery sheen of moonlight Mount Panamao looks more mysterious than ever, who knows what not to believe?

There is a Maria story in almost every Region in the Philippines. Almost everywhere, the legend is that she’s a beautiful stately lady with fair skin and long locks who speaks in Spanish. She lives alone on a mountain and lends people her cutlery, gowns, golden combs, etc. She’s harvests cacao and delivers them on her Spanish galleon to different parts of the Philippines. She is known to live in waterfalls and other places, The reality is (in my mind) that she is actually the Queen of a Chocolate Conglomerate, is terribly obsessed with the aesthetic and wants to live in a world full of finery and luxury which is why she lends gowns and cutlery to the natives of the lands she abuses of their free resources, she hopes she gets invited to fine dinners and parties just like back in sweet home mother Spain, She has found out the secret to longevity and to everlasting beauty: Not too much sun and hours and hours of sleep which is why she’s seldom seen, and a top secret chemical that comes from the skin of cacao It’s just came up with that on the fly. She parks her galleon in the crests of Waterfall formations and actually uses super advanced technology (she stole from Lemurian civilization, to make her galleon invisible AND flexible to fit arrow rivers), not to mention umber powerful which explains why it goes upstream to the waterfalls. She’s also a PETA sponsor she has her own Natural sanctuary in Makiling, and she a little too vain for her own good (she sets up “apparitions” in different parts of the world and basks in worship). Folklore of northeastern Biliran mentioned a “Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao” Bulalacao Point, Panamao Island. This place is a component of an entire legend- complex that includes a fairy named Maria Benita, which Dr. Rolando O. Borinaga say the Spanish galleons, cargoes of cacao, and even a fabled “city” on top of Mt. Panamao, most of the components are strangely Spanish in label and identification, suggesting that the entire legend evolved during the Spanish era, of course, Isla de Panamao is the ancient name of Biliran Island, which was the site of the first large-scale Spanish shipyard in the Philippines at around 1600. And cacao in this colony was first planted by the Jesuits in Carigara, Leyte, according to the 19th-century French author J. Mallat. The Carigara parish originally included Isla de Panamao, the “city” on the mountaintop probably evolved in the folk mind from the volcanic activity of the eruptive Mt. Panamao, whose peak glowed during dark nights, as described by Jesuit Fr. Francisco Alcina in 1668. The volcano presumably erupted a year later.

Maria Benita (Benighted Maria), the fairy, is associated with the religious controversy involving the towns of Almeria and Kawayan during the early American period at the turn of the 20th century, which saw the diminution of the belligerent town of Almeria into a barrio of Kawayan, a former barrio that was elevated into a town by American officials.

The search then left me with finding the location of Punta de Bulalacao (Bulalacao Point). Natives of Kawayan claim that this geographical point is probably in the vicinity of Barangay Bulalacao, a few kilometers east of the town proper. The place was named after a bird called “bulalacao” in Waray-waray and “buwakaw” in Cebuano, which allegedly glows or sparkles at night, I do not know the bird’s English name, and I have not yet seen one. But it might have also given rise to the “St. Elmo’s Fire” (santelmo) phenomenon in the folk mind; anyway, Barangay Bulalacao does not have a prominent headland that merits to be called a point. Thus, Punta de Bulalacao must be somewhere else, the answer dawned on me a few weeks ago, while I was scanning the Leyte-Samar sections of Spanish-era Philippine maps and trying to firm up additional proofs for my theory on the name of Leyte in an earlier column on the narrow channel under Biliran Bridge, the first detailed map of the Philippines was drawn up by Jesuit Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde in 1744. It was published in Manila in 1749 as part of his “Historia de la Provincia de Filipinas de la Compania de Jesus, the cartographer was apparently confused about where Panamao Island was closest to Leyte. He bent the island and made it appear almost connected to the mainland in two areas – at the center and west of northern Leyte, respectively. He was wrong, earlier, in 1668, Father Alcina, who probably had not traveled through the Biliran Strait on his way to Samar where he served many years as a missionary, was himself confused about the location of Pogot Point (Beheading Point). His narrative placed this on the northwestern point of Leyte, along the western seaboard of the island opposite Cebu. In Alcina’s time, the easternmost part of Cebu across northern Leyte was known to the Spaniards as “Bululaqui.” But the priest, who understood the local language, knew better. He said the word was a corruption of the native phase “buli-lacu” (i.e., buli daku), which is obscene in the Bisayan language. In English, it is “penis [is] big.” In the 1744 map, the northernmost point of Cebu, placed on almost the same latitude directly west of Panamao, was labeled Punta de Bululaqui. Its nearest village, on the vicinity of the present Daanbantayan, was known as Candaya. This village was probably the Cebu extension of the Kan-Daya (of the Big Boat) kingdom in Samar. the basic form of the Maria Cacao legend is that whenever rains flood the river that comes from Mount Lantoy, or a bridge is broken, this is a sign that Maria Cacao and her husband Mangao have either traveled down the river in their golden ship so that they can export their crops, or traveled up the river on their way back. She is supposed to live inside a cave in the mountain and the Cacao plants outside it are supposed to be her plantation.

Contemporary variants of the Maria Cacao legend

One contemporary evolution of the legend is its merger with another common Filipino mythological motif – that of soul-harvesting boats. The new stories suggest that borrowers who fail to pay their loans to the goddess would soon find themselves facing dire consequences, as Maria Cacao’s boat comes to take their souls to the next world, A very specific variant of this new element of the myth was reported in Cagayan de Oro in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong (Tropical Storm Washi), when there were reported sightings of a boat with a woman at the helm traveling along the river and offering to pick up passengers. These rumors were accompanied by a warning not to accept invitations to board the boat, because the woman was supposedly Maria Cacao “collecting souls for the next world.” In his regular newspaper column, anthropologist Michael Tan noted that this “soul harvester” function wasn’t part of the prototypical myth, and associated the evolution of the myth with the social need to invent stories as a means of coping with disaster, creating a context for the sense of despair and, to some degree, offering a scapegoat for the situation. While the story is obviously mythical in nature, it is cited as evidence of how long the production of tableya, has been going on in the area.[1] Tableya is Cebuano for round, unsweetened chocolate tablets made from cacao beans. It is a crucial ingredient in the Filipino delicacies sikwate (hot chocolate) and champorado.


Astounded cartographer the ask for by then left me with finding the domain of Punta de (Bulalacao Point). Legends of northeastern Biliran said a “Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao” Bulalacao Point, Panamao Island. It was scattered in Manila in 1749 as a part of his “Historia de la Provincia de Filipinas de la Compania de Jesus, the cartographer was obviously bewildered about where Panamao Island was nearest to Leyte. Contemporary assortments of the Maria Cacao legend One contemporary progress of the legend is its merger with another customary Filipino unconventional subject – that of soul-gathering watercraft. She’s assembling cacao and passes on them on her Spanish ship to various parts of the Philippines. The fitting response: “Isla de Panamao.” Following seven days, the voyages of the vessel sold all the load of cacao and came back to Panamao Island. Precisely when asked where they began from, the voyages of the ship replied, “Punta de Bulalacao, Isla de Panamao.” And where was the radiantly carpentered vessel constructed? The man purportedly went irritate in light of the way that nobody in the island contemplated the ship and the shipboard of cacao and stunning Young lady Dewata. The old searchers and kaingineros with their superstitions would walk absolutely in the backwoods of individuals by then had confidence in mountain spirits. His story put this on the northwestern inspiration driving Leyte, near to the western seaboard of the island chat Cebu. Everywhere on, the legend is that she’s a dazzling stately woman with touchy skin and long secures who bestows in Spanish. In any case, there was something that the occupants of the island expanded later from far from Manila, which offered a move to the legend of the island of Mount Panamao. Not a ship was seen, the port itself just shakes, briers and trees, and nobody, not a solitary soul. Notwithstanding, the searchers never set out to pick the readied trademark thing or murder the fat deer and wild accumulate.

Reference/ Cited

Rolando O. Borrinaga The legend of Punta de Bulalacao Tacloban City Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 21, 2004
Ben Granali Legend of Biliran – Isla de Panamao (Isle of Mystery and Magic) this article was originally published in Women’s Journal, May 14, 1991, p. 14.
Maria Cacao: Ang Diwata ng Cebu (Maria Cacao: The Fairy of Cebu) Rene O. Villanueva

About the Author:

I am a member of Iglesia Ni Cristo, and a very interested of writing journal, while I’m home hiding my room whole day, playing my netbook, thinking what a good topic to write, anyway, before I forget, my name is Enrique B. Picardal jr, a native Navalanos, I was born on Aries month of April, a humble person, simple, and most of all, not a good looking is always to be blamed as boastful person, but it is natural to be good always and follow away on what is right, I am teaching General Education at Naval State University, and As of now, taking my M.A-history at the University of San Carlos, Cebu City with the Scholar grant on me under the CHED k-12 Faculty transition program, so much for that, I love freedom, freedom to sway a person whatever to do with no intervention of others that could make one fulfill the destiny on his innocent environment..

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