Once there lived beside the sea a couple named Juan and Juana. For a long time they were childless. When Juana was at last with child, they were quite happy. But in her pregnancy, Juana would become very restless if she did not have milkfish to eat every day. So one afternoon, when Juan failed to catch any milkfish, he became very sad. Suddenly, Juan heard his name called. He was greatly surprised when he looked down and saw a shiny milkfish wearing a crown. The milkfish identified himself as the King of Fishes and he asked Juan: "Why do you fish only for milkfish?" Juan told him the reason, and his sorrow at the moment.

The King of Fishes pitied Juan and promised "I’ll give you plenty of milkfish everyday. But in return, you are to deliver your coming child to me when it turns seven years old." Because it was already getting dark and since milkfish was becoming scarce that season, Juan finally agreed. The King of Fishes was true to his word. Even after Juana had given birth, Juan continued to bring home milkfish from the sea. Their child was a lovely girl with very black hair. They loved her and were very happy with her. They called her Maria. 

When Maria turned seven, Juan went to see the King of Fishes and begged him: "Have pity on us. Can’t you possibly release me from my promise? We love Maria very much, and we can’t bear to part with her." But the King of Fishes was firm, saying "A promise is a promise." With a heavy heart, Juan went home. Since that day, the couple and Maria never went near the sea.

But one day, while Juan was on the farm and Juana was doing the laundry in the river, there came a big wonderful boat. The people immediately flocked to the shore to see it. Maria was alone at the time and was looking out the window. She became curious and joined the rest on the shore. While she was watching the wonderful boat, a big wave rushed up and dragged her to the sea. Immediately, the neighbors told her parents of the incident. Juan and Juana ran to the shore but they were too late. Maria was gone! Every evening after that, the couple would stand by the shore and stare at the deep. They kept hoping that Maria would return. Years passed and still they failed to see her. But one moonlight night, there appeared before the old couple a lovely creature. She had very long black hair, but — while half of her body was that of a beautiful girl, the other half was that of a milkfish. Then they knew that it was Maria, now a mermaid.
Maria grew up to be a very beautiful woman with long black hair and expressive set of brown eyes. She cannot remember that she once was human for the King of Fishes took away all trace of her memory when she was taken suddenly many years ago. She grew up with other mermaids of her kind at the bottom of the sea who took care of raising her as their own. But every full moon she would rise up to the surface to admire the beauty of the earth which she found herself unexplainably drawn into.

The King of Fishes noticed Maria's restlessness and tried to cheer her up by promising to grant whatever wish she wanted. "I would like to be able to walk like the humans," she asked in earnest. The King of Fishes replied, "I will grant your request to walk like the humans but only while the moon is full." And so it was that Maria was able to walk on the "pampang" during full moon. It was during one of her walks that she stumbled upon a young man who was walking alone in the night. She was not aware of her nakedness and the man was surprised to see her. He didn't seem to mind her nakedness too but instead asked her who she was and where she was going. That was the start of the friendship between Maria and her male acquaintance whose name she later discovered as Ramon. Unbeknownst to her, he was in fact, a siokoy - a male sea creature sent by the King of Fishes.

Their friendship quickly blossomed into a romantic relationship and not long afterward Maria conceived and gave birth to a healthy baby boy who looked very much like his father. They were very happy and would often swim together especially on bright moonlit nights. Maria forgot her sadness and was completely happy. One night when the full moon was incredibly bright yellow in color, Maria was aghast to see a crowd of fishermen gathering around a huge fishnet where to their surprise they have caught a most amazing creature - a boy covered with fish scales and terribly distraught. Maria hid herself behind the bushes where she saw the fishermen lift their prize catch to the shore. To her great shock and horror, they started to hit the creature with their paddles and sticks until the poor thing stopped moving. Maria saw everything but cannot believe what happened. They killed her little boy.

Sometime at midnight, the people of the small fishing village were awakened by an eerie wailing coming from out of the sea. It was so haunting and spine-tingling that nary a soul was able to get to sleep for the rest of the night. The following morning, the villagers were shocked to discover the lifeless body of one of the fishermen along the seashore. His body bore scratch marks all over. He apparently drowned the night before while relieving himself after a drinking session with his friends.

Thus the legend began of Maria Karamot as she was henceforth known because her victims bore scratch marks in their bodies. Every now and then, the sea will claim its next drowning victim for no logical explanation. Sometimes, excursionists and out-of-town vacationers will for no reason become the next unwitting victim of the pristine and inviting sea that carries with it the sorrows and pains of a grieving mother still trying to understand why her child was taken away from her.

This is the horrifying but sad tale of Tiniente Gimo and his family.

Tiniente (Filipinized Spanish for Lieutenant) Gimo was a person of some note in his town of Dueñas in Iloilo, a region in the Visayas. He and his family were considered 'lahi ng aswang' (a clan of aswangs) and he wasn't one to hide the fact. Although he didn't flaunt it, he wasn't shy about it either. He knew the power he held over people and their fear was enough to make him claim the power that his bloodline gave to him.

One of the teniente's daughters studied in a university in the city. During a break, this daughter invited two of her classmates to come to her hometown for a visit. The young ladies agreed, excited at the prospect of going to a town they had never visited before.

They were greeted with enthusiasm by the teniente's family and as was customary in the Philippines, a small party was prepared. The lady visitors were fed and entertained. As the night grew deeper, one of the young ladies asked (let's call her Juana) what the sleeping arrangements would be. Gimo's daughter said that the visitors would be sharing a room with her.

And so off to bed they went. Because they were in a small town, no big beds were available so they all agreed to sleep on mats on the floor. Juana slept in the middle, tucked in between Gimo's daughter and their friend.

The two girls soon drifted off to sleep but Juana found that tired as she was, she just couldn't bring herself to sleep. Filipinos refer to this feeling as 'namamahay', which is when your body and mind are still in the process of adjusting to a new environment and thus cannot perform a certain routine. This was what prevented Juana from sleeping. It was also what kept her alive.

The party went on outside even as the night deepened but to Juana, instead of fading away, the noise just seemed to get a little bit louder. She heard more people coming, being greeted, there were sounds of suppressed laughter, soft giggles and whispers. "Must be the party for tomorrow," she thought. "They're really throwing a big one."

Since she couldn't sleep anyway, Juana decided to get up and take a peek at the activities through the window. When she lifted the cover, what she saw stirred fear in her heart. On the clearing not far from the house, people were gathered together in a circle – a few women were busy cutting spices and vegetables, some men were talking and drinking while others were sharpening knives. There were children as well. And there, through the shrubs, more people were coming.

In the middle of the circle was a fire and over the fire was a larger-than-usual iron cauldron. If these people were going to cook, they were going to cook something big – bigger than a full-grown chicken or a goat.

Just then, Juana heard Teniente Gimo's voice just on the other side of the wall, talking to another man.

"So which one is it?" the man asked.

"The one in the middle and the other one's on the right," Teniente Gimo said.

"Okay. I'll bring three or four along in case there's a struggle."

"Let's just hit her on the head. Keep her quiet that way."


"And bring the sack to carry her with. We'll take care of the other one."

Juana didn't need to hear any more just to understand what the two men were discussing. The 'one in the middle' they were referring to was her! The fire and the iron cauldron, all those vegetables and spices the women were preparing, the sack… they intended to butcher her and her friend!

Juana's survival instinct kicked in. She debated for a while on whether to wake up her friend or not but the men were coming up the stairs and if her friend woke up suddenly, there's no telling what she would say or do. They could both be in bad trouble if she delayed for another second.

Juana hurried back to the sleeping girls on the floor, pushed Gimo's daughter towards the middle, lay on the girl's right and covered everyone's head with the wide blanket. That way, the heads were hidden underneath. She tried to calm herself to prevent from shaking. Soon the door opened slowly and noiselessly.

Juana didn't know how many men came for Teniente Gimo's daughter that night. All she felt and heard were soft footsteps, a few whispers and a loud thud as they hit the young girl on the head. They were very quiet, as if they were used to doing what they did. They didn't even wake up her friend, who was sleeping so soundly just an arm's length away from Juana. Teniente Gimo's daughter lay moaning next to her.The men quickly wrapped the bleeding girl in the sack and carried her away.

After the men had left the room, Juana got up, tried to wake her friend for the last time, failed and decided to go at it alone. She opened the window across the one facing the clearing where they were presently beating the body inside the sack and carefully but fearfully climbed down.

As soon as her bare feet touched solid ground, Juana began to run. She didn't care where she was passing through – all she knew was that the main road was in that direction. She hadn't gotten far when she heard shouts and screams from the group. They had opened the sack and found out the terrible mistake they made.

Enraged, Teniente Gimo cried for everyone to check the house, find the girl, THE girl they wanted, she who was supposed to be in the middle, she who was supposed to be in the sack, she who was supposed to be the one they should be prepping tonight, she whose throat they should have slit.

Behind her, Juana heard the commotion and simply assumed that people were now climbing the stairs, opening the door to the daughter's room and finding that only one was left behind and the other had run away. It would only be a matter of time before they found out where she was headed. So Juana kept on running over the grass, the rocks, the pebbles that cut her feet, the sharp thorns of the shrubs and the slimy dead things underneath her.

But those who were in pursuit of her were men – grown men, men taller than she, with longer legs, with strength stolen from the other men and women they had slaughtered before her poor friend. As the men with the torches began to gain on her, Juana felt panic rise from her legs to her heart, threatening to turn her legs to stone. She could never outrun these men and if she could hide, where? They probably knew this area very well and could find her easily.

But right in front of her, a tree stood. It was tall enough but not so tall that she couldn't climb it and it looked strong, with a thick truck and even thicker leaves. Juana had no memory of how she managed to climb the tree that night but there she cowered, shaking, mouthing prayers for the Virgin to protect her, to please not let them see her, hear her, smell her.

The voices grew nearer and so did the footfalls. Not only the men came in pursuit. There were a few women as well, some of them holding torches, some gripping a thick tree branch and others, still holding on to the knives they used to cut the onions and the tomatoes. Light from the torches illuminated the branches and the leaves of the tree as the mob passed underneath her. If one of them ever looked up…
But no one did. The crowd of angry men and women who tried to come after her came and went. They couldn't find her. A few hours later, which seemed an eternity to Juana, they came back again, walking this time, tired and hungry, their torches fading but they came a few feet away, no longer passing under Juana's tree.

Although the crowd had gone, Juana stayed hidden in the tree. She waited for the dark sky to turn gray and very carefully, painfully climbed down. No one was in sight and she was too far away to actually hear anything from where Teniente Gimo's hut stood. Besides, it was morning and if they did party on last night, they would be too full and tired to care today. Juana brushed the thought of her other friend, the one she left behind, away and began to run again, towards the main road.

At this point, I no longer remember how Juana got help. Maybe she stopped a passing bus or jeepney or maybe a person with a good soul came across the fearful girl with the wild eyes. But she did get help and she did find her way home, safe and alive. She never went back to the town of Dueñas, not even to see if the tree that saved her life still stood.

As for Teniente Gimo and his clan of aswangs, it is said that the incident devastated him. It was his own beloved daughter after all. They packed up and abandoned their home and moved someplace else. Where he and his family are now is only whispered about and whether they are still hunting and luring human prey, it can only be guessed at. Who knows? They could be in your town.


    Myths and Legends

    This is a collection of stories about mythological creatures and supernatural events.


    February 2013
    January 2013