The Mariang Sinukuan Legend
Mariang Sinukuan is the diwata, or mountain goddess, associated with Mount Arayat in Pampanga, Philippines, and is a prominent example of the mountain-goddess motif in Philippine mythology, other examples being Maria Makiling of Los Baños and Maria Cacao of Cebu.
Sinukuan is associated with the unusual bounty of the forests in Arayat, and with the profusion of animals there. Watching over the needs of the people in the nearby town, she used to regularly leave fruits and animals at the doorstep of locals who needed food during hard times.
At one point, though, a group of young men got greedy. They sought out where Sinukuan’s home was in the mountains, and when they found it, they asked for more than what they actually needed. Sinukuan did not object to this and allowed them to pick a great load of fruit. She warned them, however, not to get any fruits from the forest without her permission.
On their way back home, they decided they would get more. Why not? They asked each other. “She won’t know we took home fruits and animals. They’re so plentiful, she won’t know the difference.” But she did. As soon as they had started picking more fruit, their packs began to feel heavier.
They soon discovered that all the fruit and meat they were carrying had turned into rocks. The young men ran away, but before they managed to escape the forest, Sinukuan appeared before them. As punishment, she said, she would turn them into swine. And so she did.
But the other people in the village were also getting greedy. More and more, they stole from Sinukuan’s forests. Angered, Sinukuan stopped leaving food at their doorsteps. She made the fruit trees and animals in the mountain to disappear. And she also never allowed the villagers to see her again.
A Mariang Sinukuan Tale
My sister screams as the thunder roared through the house. I don’t know why she keeps doing that, it’s not like it won’t happen again. Our lives have always been like this, Lola says we are cursed and things have to be this way to atone for what happened.
She doesn’t let up, but the thunder is getting louder. I look outside the window and the downpour is getting steadily worse, a few more hours and we may have to move to the second floor. I go and check on the food, making sure we have enough to last through the storm.
I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t raining. We moved to Cebu when I was born because of what happened with my mom, but it was raining even there. I always wondered why typhoons would follow our family around, but you get used to the constant rain. Eventually, the sound becomes soothing.
My mother passes by with candles. The power’s out and she always has to keep a steady supply. She looks at me with tears in her eyes and repeats her words.
I tell her she has nothing to be sorry about, that we’re a family and we can go through this together, but my words fall on deaf ears. She runs out the door and into the storm.
“I’M SORRY! ISN’T THAT ENOUGH FOR YOU?! LEAVE ME AND MY FAMILY ALONE!””
I go after her and drag her back to the house. When I look at her face I can’t tell the difference between the tears and the raindrops.
“SHE’LL NEVER LEAVE US ALONE!”
Her sobs get stronger and I hug her tight. She retells the story of her girlhood. How she went up Mt. Sinukuan and took something that belonged to Her, Mariang Sinukuan. Mom was pregnant with my sister then and she moved as far away as possible to protect her family. But the storms came. The storms always came.Mom calmed down after an hour and she held my hand.
“Do you know what I stole?”
I never learned the whole story of what happened. Mom would never speak of it, not even when dad died. I didn’t know what wounds this would bring up but curiosity took the better of me. I wanted to know what was so important that I had to live my life under a constant stream of wind and rain. I looked at mom and asked her what was taken.