Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ibalong - Bikolano epic

Ibalong is an epic from the Bicol region. It tells of the story of the land of Ibalong and the exploits of three heroes, Baltog, Handyong, and Bantog. 

Ibalong is an actual ancient settlement, the first Spanish settlement in Luzon. It is located in the present-day town of Magallanes, Sorsogon (named after Ferdinand Magellan, “discoverer” of the Philippines).The Ibalong Festival is celebrated annually every August in Legazpi, Albay (named after Miguel L√≥pez de Legazpi). The festival features people parading in masks, street dancing, and portrayals of the battles described in the

A long, long time ago, there lived a chieftain from Samar named Handyong. He has a son named Baltog. Handyong told Baltog of the miserable life of their people in Samar. There were many enemies who would come every now and then to destroy their crops and kill their animals. The people were dying of hunger. There is not enough food to last them until the next harvest. Therefore, Handyong charged his son to find a new homeland for their people.

Handyong gave his blessing to Baltog. That night Baltog sailed out on a small boat that would take him to a place called Kabikulan [the Bicol region], which he hard was a good place for his people to live. But out of the sea, Baltog encountered a strong wind and huge waves that destroyed his boat. He had to swim to safety and almost drowned before he reached the shores of Kabikulan.

He began to explore Kabikulan, reaching as far as the land of Aslon and Inalon which have jurisdiction over the mountains of Asog, Masaragam, Isarog, and Lignion. There he found a rich land and called it Ibalong. He returned to Samar to tell his father of the land that he discovered. So they and their people migrated from Samar to Ibalong.

In Ibalong, Baltog was the first to cultivate its field and to plant them with gabi. But one night, a monstrous, wild boar [as big as an elephant] known as Tandayag saw this field and destroyed his crops. Upon knowing this, Baltog decided to look for this boar with all his courage and patience. At last, as soon as he saw it, he fearlessly wrestled with it with all his might. Though the Tandayag had very long tusks, he was able to pin down the monstrous, wild boar and break apart its very big jawbones. With this, Tandayag fell and died.
Tandayag the wild boar and Baltog. (Photo by Erik Crisologo Liongoren)

After this fight, Baltog went to his house in Tondol, carrying the Tandayag’s broken jawbones. Then, he hung it on a talisay tree in front of his house. Upon learning of the victory of their Chief Baltog, the people prepared a feast and celebrated. The very big jawbones of the dead boar became an attraction for everyone. Thus the tribes of Panikwason and Asog came to marvel at it.
Baltog with the jaw of Tandayag. (Photo by Erik Crisoslogo Liongren)

Handyong also helped his son clear the land of monsters. Together with his men, he fought thousands of battles, and faced many dangers to defeat the monsters. As warriors, they first fought the one-eyed monster with three necks in the land of Ponong. For ten months, they fought without rest. And they never stopped fighting until all these monsters were killed.
Handyong fighting the monsters. (Photo by Jude T. Bautista)
Handyong and his men made their next attack against the giant flying sharks called Triburon which had hardy flesh and saw-like teeth that could crush rocks. They continued fighting until the defeat of the last Triburon.

Then Handyong and his men tamed the wild carabaos. They even drove away the giant and very fierce Sarimao which had very sharp fingernails. Using their spears and arrows, they killed all the crocodiles which were as big as boats. With all these killings, the rivers and swamps of Ibalong turned red with blood. It was at this time that the savage monkeys became frightened and hid themselves.
The beautiful but deadly Oryol, (played by Jenine Desiderio). (Photo by Jude T. Bautista)
Among the enemies of Handyong and his men, the serpent Oryol was the hardest to kill. Having a beautiful voice, Oryol could change its image to deceive its enemies. To capture it, Handyong tried different ways. But Oryol escaped every one of it and disappeared.

Oryol and Handyong. (Photo by Erik Crisologo Liongoren)
Handyong fights Oryol. (Photo courtesy of Jude T. Bautista)
So, alone and unafraid, Handyong decided to look for Oryol in the heart of the forest. He followed the beautiful voice and was almost enchanted by it in his pursuit. Days and nights passed until Oryol came to admire Handyong’s bravery and gallantry. Then, the serpent helped the hero to conquer the monsters, thus restoring peace to the entire Ibalong.
Oryol falls in love with Handyong. (Photo by Erik Crisoslogo Liongoren)
In one of the areas of Ibalong called Ligmanan, Handyong built a town. Under his leadership and his laws, slaves and masters were treated equally. The people planted rice and because of their high regard of him, they named this rice after him. He built the first boat to ride the waves of Ibalong’s seas. Through his good example, his people became inspired and came up with their own inventions. There was Kimantong who made the plow, harrow, and other farming tools; Hablom who invented the first loom for weaving abaca clothes; Dinahong, an Agta, who created the stove, cooking pot, earthen jar, and other kitchen utensils; and Sural who brilliantly thought of the syllabary and started to write on a marble rock. This was a golden age in Ibalong.

Suddenly, there came a big flood caused by Unos, with terrifying earthquakes. The volcanoes of Hantik, Kulasi and Isarog erupted. Rivers changed their direction and the sea waves rolled high. Destruction was everywhere. Soon, the earth parted, mountains sank, a lake was formed, and many towns in Ibalong were ruined.

Then, appeared the giant Rabot, half-man and half-beast, with awesome and terrifying powers.People asked who will fight against Rabot. So Bantong, the third hero was called. He was a good friend of Handyong. He was ordered to kill the new monster in Ibalong. To do this, he took with him a thousand warriors to attack Rabot’s den. But using his wisdom against Rabot, he did not attack the giant right away. He first observed Rabot’s ways. Looking around the giant’s den, he discovered that there were many rocks surrounding it, and these were the people who were turned into rocks by Rabot.

Bantong also learned that Rabot loved to sleep during the day and stayed awake at night. So, he waited. When Rabot was already sleeping very soundly, Bantong came near him. He cut the giant into two with his very sharp bolo and without any struggle, Rabot died, So, Ibalong was finally at peace.
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The Bikolano epic "Ibalong" is adapted as a musical play by Tanghalang Pilipino, the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It ran from February to March 2012. It will be run again on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from August 30 to September 30 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater) at the CCP. For details, check the website of Tanghalang Pilipino.

Trixie Esteban as the young Oryol. (Not in the epic but I just couldn't resist.--Sir G) (Photo courtesy of Tanghalang Pilipino)


The above story was created using the legend as found in the blog SEO Bicol and collated with details from KapitBisig.Com.
Pictures are from the play "Ibalong" produced by Tanghalang Pilipino. Photos taken from the blog of Jude T. Bautista ( and Erik Crisologo Liongoren on the blog Spotlight Theatre Atbp. (
User “Biron” (2009). “Ibalong Epic”. SEO Bicol. Accessed: August 12, 2013. Retrieved:

“Ibalong Festival”. Wikipedia. Accessed: August 12, 2013. Retrieved:

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