Myths have long entertained our world. Whether born from curiosity or need, these stories appear as rainbows on sullen skies; a seed in the hearts of places and people wherein culture blooms. Myths lure us to imagine where and how things begin.
Artwork at center: Si Adlaw at si Mayari
by visionary artist, Lakan Olivares
THE ART OF VISIONARY artist Lakan Olivares for the collaborative cultural show, Pinagmulan (Origin), illustrates ancient Philippine myths, which he claims, have long been obscured in the minds and hearts of modern Filipinos. Olivares, who for years have done art so meticulously with symbols in intricate forms, bares the heart of tales once more through the solemnity of intertwined lines and swirls. For his latest and current show Pinagmulan, Olivares rendered Philippine myths of Creation with the use of metallic gel pens against a number of black-painted, recycled wooden plates.
“The colored lines bring to life memories, symbolizing the illumination of stories and truths that were once hidden by the night of forgetfulness,” he says. Olivares explains further: “What I refer to when I say ‘forgetfulness’ is the forgetfulness of our heritage as a Filipino nation. And this is evident when you look into what is around us. It is expected of us, artists, to find inspiration from our culture, our history. But it doesn’t need to be just the art community seeing the value in preserving it. It has to be a collective effort from all sectors.”
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Shared herein at Lakan Inks: Our Myth finds Sun is a collection of brief descriptions of Philippine mythology on Creation which served as the stories-to-tell for the cultural collaborative exhibit, Pinagmulan (Origin). Five myths of the precolonial Philippine Islands aim to inspire the public to know, remember, and to explore a culture that is colorful and as intricate as the art of Lakan Olivares —
Si Adlaw at si Mayari
In a Tagalog myth, Adlaw and Mayari are the Sun and Moon deities and children of Bathala Maykapal (Great Creator). Adlaw and Mayari (Sol and Luna in Latin) are the sun god and moon goddess in the ancient myths of the ancient Tagalog tribes of the Philippines. As brother and sister, and as children of the Great Creator, Adlaw and Mayari are the symbols of light in the daily lives of people — the light known to provide life, and that which guide their very actions. In acknowledging the two, one must understand and follow the natural cycles of living.
Tala is the Tagalog goddess of the stars. She is the daughter of the Great Creator, Bathala Maykapal and sister of Adllaw and Mayari.
Ang Kwento ni Bohol
Ang Kwento ni Bohol refers to the Philippine myth of the island of Bohol which tells of the demigods that resided in the clouds above the arkipelago. It was said that found in that skyworld was the Tree of Life where through a hole in its roots, the demigods peek to view the ocean world below. It was there where Inang Langit (sky mother), daughter of the sky god, once stood. Misfortune befell Inang Langit however, as she strained to look down and was pulled by gravity. And so down she went to what could have been her death, if not for the birds that flew up to cushion her fall and gracefully carried her unto the back of a giant sea turtle, which too, witnessed her descent.
Having been exiled from the sky world, the animals took pity on Inang Langit, thus, tried scooping soil from the bottom of the ocean to create land for her to live in. Many animals tried to help her, but failed. Later however, a mouse persevered and finally succeeded in retrieving soil from the ocean’s depths. It placed the soil on the turtle’s back and the earth expanded and grew into an island known today as Bohol.
An interesting parallel to this story is that of the Sky Woman, Ataensic of the Iroquois myth of which tells of her too falling from a hole in the sky and later saved by being placed on the back of a large turtle. In the Iroquois myth, it was the muskrat that was able to get soil from the ocean bottom. When the earth was placed on the turtle’s back, it quickly grew to what is now North America.
If one looks closely at the formation of the island of Bohol and America, it can be seen how ancestors of the Philippines could have described both as turtle-shaped, signifying a possessed knowledge in mapping the shape of islands. Another is a version among the Tagalog people where four daughters of the great sky god, Bathala, fell from the sky. To save them, Bathala used rainbow-colored loin cloth to slow their descent to the earth. He did not allow them to return the sky however, hence were left to populate the world.
Darangen is an epic tale of the Maranao people of the Philippines who are also referred to as the people of the lake. It tells of their history and myth wherein King Madali’s brother, Prince Bantugan’s adventures are told as means to impart the virtues and values of their people.
Ang Kasili at ang Kuyamang
Kuyamang is the giant crab in Manobo mythology. It was created by the gods as a companion to Kasili, the giant eel wound around the base of the world. Sometimes Kuyamang would move and pinch Kasili causing him to squirm and create earthquakes.
— MTL with Juhli Jansen
Top photo by Marleena Litton
Images of art courtesy of Lakan Olivares
Pinagmulan runs from August 7 to 22 at the
Art Circle Cafe Makati in Y2 Hotel