Mariang Makiling

by José Rizal (Translated by Austin Craig)

 

 

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Mariang Makiling

By José Rizal

(This story is a favorite in my town)
 

Mariang Makiling was a young woman. She lived somewhere on the beautiful mountain Makiling, between Laguna province and Tayabas province. No one knew just where or how she lived. Some said she lived in a beautiful palace surrounded by gardens. Others said she lived in a poor hut made of nipa and bamboo.
 

Maria was tall and graceful. Her color was a clear, pure brown, kayumanging kaligatan, as the Tagalogs say. Her eyes were big and black. Her hair was long and thick. Her hands and feet were small and delicate. She was a fairy-like creature born under the moonbeams of the Philippines. She flitted in and out among the woods of Makiling. She was the ruling spirit of the mountain, but she seldom came within sight of people.
 

Hunters sometimes saw Maria on the night of Good Friday when they went out to trap deer. She would be standing motionless on the edge of some great cliff. Her long hair floated in the wind. She sometimes approached them. She would salute them gravely, then pass on and disappear among the shadows of the trees. They never dared to question her, to follow her, or to watch her.

She liked best to appear after a storm. Then she would scurry over the fields bringing back life to the fallen plants, and setting everything to rights. The trees straightened up their wind-blown trunks. The streams went back into their beds. All signs of the storm disappeared as she passed.

Mariang Makiling had a very good heart. She used to lend the poor country folk clothing or jewels for weddings, baptisms and feast days. All she asked in return was a pullet as white as milk. It had to be dumalaga; that is, one that had never laid an egg.
 

Sometimes she appeared as a simple country girl and helped the poor old women to pick up firewood. Then she would slip gold nuggets, coins and jewels into their bundles of wood.
 

A hunter was one day chasing a wild boar through the wild grass and thorny bushes. Suddenly he came to a hut in which the animal hid. A beautiful young woman came out and said:
 

"The wild boar belongs to me. You have done wrong to chase it, but I see that you are very tired. Your arms and legs are covered with blood. Come in and eat. Then you may go on your way."
 

The beauty of the young woman charmed the man. He went in and ate everything she offered him. But he was not able to speak a single word. Before the hunter left, the young woman gave him some pieces of ginger. She told him to give them to his wife for her cooking. The hunter thanked her and put the roots inside the crown of his broad hat. On the way home his hat felt heavy. So he took out a number of the pieces and threw them away. He was surprised and sorry the next day when his wife discovered that what they had taken to be ginger was solid gold. The supposed roots were bright as rays of sunshine.
 

But Mariang Makiling was not always kind and generous to the hunters. Sometimes she punished them.
 

One afternoon two hunters were coming down the mountain, carrying some wild boars and deer, which they had killed during the day.
 

They met an old woman who begged them to give her a quarter. They thought that was too much to give, so they refused. The old woman said that she would go and tell the mistress of these animals, and she left them. This threat made the hunters laugh heartily. When night had fallen and the two were near the plain, they heard a distant shout -- very distant, as though it came from the top of the mountain:
 

"There they go-o-o-o!"
 

Then another even more distant cry replied:
 

"There they go-o-o-o!"
 

That cry surprised both the hunters, who could not account for it. On hearing it, the dogs stuck up their ears. They uttered low growls and drew nearer to their masters. In a few minutes the same cry was heard again, this time from the mountainside. On hearing it, the dogs thrust their tails between their legs and came close to their masters. The men stared at each other without saying a word. They were astonished that the one who uttered the cry could travel so far in such a short time. When they reached the plain, the fearful cry was heard again. This time, it was so clear and distinct that both looked back. In the moonlight, they could see two strange, gigantic shapes coming down the mountain at full speed. Both hunters ran as fast as they could with such heavy loads. Still the strange creatures came nearer.
 

The men, coming to a spring called bakal, threw down their burdens, and climbed a tree; the dogs fled toward the town. The monsters came up, and in a few seconds devoured the wild boars and deer and went back toward the mountain. Only then, did the hunters recover. The more courageous took aim but his gun misfired and the monsters escaped.
 

No one ever knew whether Mariang Makiling had parents, brothers and sisters, or other kin. Such persons spring up naturally, like the stones the Tagalogs call mutya. No one ever knew her real name. She was simply called Maria. No one ever saw her enter the town or take part in any religious ceremony. She remained ever the same. The five or six generations that knew her always saw her young, fresh, sprightly, and pure.
 

For many years now no one has seen her in Makiling. Her vapor figure no longer wanders through the deep valleys. It no longer hovers over the waterfall on the serene moonlight nights. The melancholy tone of her mysterious harp is no longer heard. Now lovers are married without getting from her either jewels or presents. Mariang Makiling has disappeared.
 

Some blame the people of a certain town who not only refused to give her the customary white pullet but even failed to return the jewels and clothing borrowed. Others say that Mariang Makiling is offended because some landlords are trying to take half of the mountain.

 

Mt. Makiling is an inactive volcano, located between the provinces of Batangas and Laguna in southern Luzon. Its highest peak is at 1,130 m above sea level. The mountain has rugged and steep, particularly near the peaks, whereas the lower slopes have broad, radiating, well-drained ridges separated by narrow valleys. Other portions have relatively flat or rolling terrain in the open and cultivated/occupied areas.

Most of its total land area of 5,907 is now a part of the Mt Makiling Forest Reserve under the jurisdiction and administration of the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Mt. Makiling is host to native and exotic species of plants classified into 225 families, 949 genera, 2,038 species, 19 subspecies, 167 varieties, many cultivars of flowering plants, 34 species of mosses, 67 species of fungi, 29 species of fern and 42 species of liverworts. Recorded in the mountain are 44 mammals such as wild boar, deer, monkey, bats and rodents; 241 bird species; 69 reptiles such as lizards and snakes; 21 amphibians such as toads and frogs; and leeches.

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