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The Story of Bat and Ongan

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THE STORY OF BAT AND ONGAN

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How satisfied could a person be when it comes to love versus distance? Family over certain priorities and duty above everything else? The story that I'm about to share with you was never my story to tell. However, it is a story that only a few people had ever known. The story of a famous place with a legendary history soon to be forgotten.


The story of the Bat-Ongan Cave.


Once upon a time there were a pair of lovers named Bat and Ongan and they were the guardians among men. Bat, with his strength and prowess, when it comes to hunting, has a caring nature and soft spot for the children of the village and the lovely Ongan of elven beauty and features and is also a guarding on the island of Zapatos.


It was a time when mortals and immortals alike were living amongst each other in perfect harmony and, unlike any legends, this will be a story about the lonely lady inside a giant cave and a banished giant on the farthest side of an island. In a quaint little town of Mandaon was a barangay shrouded by a mystery of a fallen star, immortal souls and eternal longing. The place is called Bat-Ongan and in the center of that place was a cave believed to had come from a fallen meteor. It has several entrances and odd-looking stones shaped in the form of a praying lady and a pulpit. Inside the cave was also an altar and the cave was graced with a giant table at the very top. The whole cave was decorated with century-old stalactites and stalagmites that boasts of its riches and historical importance. It is where some of the burial jars were found from the late ancestors of the province and it is also where guanos were being harvested from. Every year during Holy Week (Semana Santa), thousands of devotees would flock all over the area and would attempt to climb the steep slopes of the cave as a way of showing their 'panata' or vow. Aside from that, the cave was also a popular tourist destination because of its mole-like features, statues, and richness in history. It is a marvelous place indeed but not so marvelous when it comes to its legend between the guardians of an island and the cave itself.


An immortal love story --- broken by the greed of men.


You see, Bat was a gentle giant that lived inside the cave. Every day, he would help out the farmers on digging the earth for the crops to flourish and the children liked to be around him. To the village folk, watching Bat playing with their children was just as normal as harvesting their rice on a hot summer day. However, the happiness that Bat receives from connecting with the village was short-lived and, like most people, he was also looking forward to having someone to spend his eternal life with. To him, watching the families grow together was a wonderful feeling and he wanted that feeling so bad that he started to pray dearly into the heavens just so he can find his beloved no matter what she was.


Then one day, he met a goddess while he was out fishing by a river and she was one of the most beautiful immortals he ever met. She was as small as a petite human female but her heart was as big as the island from which she came. Hair the color of a blushing sunset and she can sing as well as any sirens of the sea for she was a siren by birth. She just happened to be passing by and he caught her by mistake while demonstrating to the village folk his prowess in the art of fishing. Her name was Ongan and she, in return, fell in love with him the very moment their eyes met.


The people celebrated the union of the two immortals that very moment for a bond between guardians was sacred and can never be broken by any means. They had a week-long feast complete with dancing and endless music. Bat was finally happy for right beside him is the lady that he will spend the rest of his eternity with. The people began to like the couple even more not only because Bat brought them protection against the wild beasts but also because Ongan was a healer and, every night, she would sing to the children of the village just so they can fall asleep. Everybody was happy and living in the village became even more prosperous and soon, the couple was expecting a little member of the family along the way until a group of foreigners arrived wielding fire and blasting canons that destroy almost anything in their wake.


Amidst their quiet afternoon nap, a canon blasted against the village gates and soon enough, Bat went out of their home to see what was going on. He left his pregnant wife inside the stronghold and made his way onto the village.


"There are many entrances within this cave. Should an enemy come in, I want you to take the closest one to home," he said to her before he went outside.


"But what about you?" Ongan cries to her husband. "I shall do my best to protect you and the people around us, my Love. Now, hide!"


The foreigners spoke of a beautiful, young woman and that their Master would want them to surrender her to them. They started to raid houses and grab every young maiden they could find but to no avail. To appease them, all of the young ladies were brought out for inspection in search of the woman they were looking for but none were as beautiful as the lady of the island of Zapatos.


"Give us the girl or everyone dies." Says the leader of the group.


"What girl are you looking for? These girls," the village chief pointed to the females, "are everything we have!"


"We are looking for the girl with hair the color of sunset and can sing magnificently. Do you know her?" It was enough to make the rest of them tremble with more fear for Bat than that of the invaders. When Bat arrived, everyone in the village cheered him on and hid behind his bulky form. The foreigners shivered with fear and started attacking him but not a scratch was made against the giant's skin. Bat began his usual growling and threw heavy logs and trees towards the enemy. The invaders were terrified and they all ran back to their camp empty-handed.


The next day, more and more men arrived and they laid siege to the whole village while also stealing everything they see of value. Bat stayed up all night and left his wife in the care of the elderly as the week-long battle commenced. It was a fight between a lone giant of a guardian and a long line of mortal men. Soon enough, word got to the enemy that the woman they were looking for was a goddess and their master began to desire her more and more. On the last night of their final battle, he sent some of his men to take Ongan away from their home and so they did. Bat was filled with anguish the moment he felt their bond weakening because of the distance and he began to lose his control and started killing the rest of the invaders rather than to scare them away with his strength.


It was a bloodbath and the scariest one he could ever be.


The people began to hide in fear, both young and old and soon, Bat was on the hunt. He found his wife in the middle of the sea being forced to become a Pirate's bride but he was quick enough to launch giant waves with the help of his unconscious wife. The entire ship sank to their death that day and so did their child in Ongan's womb. The couple was heartbroken and they slowly went back to their home and built a small little chamber for their little one as they laid her to rest and the heaven’s wept along with them. They called their daughter Little Bat- Ongan in memory of their daughter's strength whilst inside her mother's womb. It was one of the darkest days that the couple had to go through but in time, they were finally coming to terms with their grief.


The remaining enemies fled that very night and were never heard from again. However, the memories of the hundreds of lives lost remained in the guardian’s conscience that he hid for a very long time. The harvesting and plantation seasons became sad and quiet; no more laughing children but weeping women; no more endearing lullabies but broken cries coming from a disheartened mother and no more protector of the village against nearby enemies. It was as if the lives of the people had ended along with their child and it broke their connection apart from the people around them.


After weeks of mourning, Bat finally dared to visit the village once more and resume his duties but what he saw shocked him. The village that he loved was in shambles. The crops were untended for months and the people--- the people were greatly afraid of him. The once magnificent bamboo huts and sturdy posts were close to nothing but a heap of wooden mess. The people began to cower and hide behind the trees and never even dared to speak to him. As a result, more and more people began to question Bat's existence within the community and many invaders soon followed in the hopes of stealing his bride away. Bat had no choice but to leave the very place that he protected for many years for them to be safe from him. He then placed his protection inside of the cave to keep them from stealing his lovely wife for it was the safest place for her and their eternally sleeping child. Next, he built an underground river that only Ongan can have access to. He told her that whenever the moon rises, she can come to visit him on her island for he will forever be in shame for what he had done.


Filled with anguish and despair, Ongan turned herself into stone and is forever waiting and praying for the moon to rise closer every night just so she can swim to where her husband is to this very day.


Yes. Ongan was left inside the dark and dreary cave while Bat banished himself into the island of Zapatos and that was the end of a love story between the two guardians leaving behind a memory of a lost, immortal family. The chamber where they buried their child became a part of the cave. Without the tide, Ongan will still be asleep in the eyes of mortal men but is forever protected inside her husband's home. The years went by and people forgot the story of the immortal pair. However, they never forgot the names of the very guardians who watched over them in the past. They named the cave Bat-Ongan in memory of the couple and they also began to acknowledge the existence of Little Bat, who they never knew of, just beside the mystical cave and the place remains standing to this very day.


Whenever the moon rises closer to the Earth, I could not help but imagine the statue coming to life and swimming against the currents of the underground river. I wonder how happy she must be that she gets to spend at least a few hours with her beloved without anybody watching. Does she immediately cry upon seeing him or was it all happy tears instead of sadness? I do not know. Nevertheless, I would still prefer Ongan to be happy despite their dark and unhappy past. In the end, the love between the two guardians were enough to keep their bond from breaking even if it means that she will have to wait for the perfect opportunity in order to reunite with her beloved; even if it means having their daughter sleep for an eternity; and even if his duty will always prevail above all and that love is something that cannot be measured by the closeness of a distance. It’s how the pair would continue facing it together even if the weight of duty would always be heavier than family.


Photo (c) Mandaon Tourism Council

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