THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE of the Trinity holds that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases —the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as “one God in three Divine Persons”.The trinity doctrine is not unique to, nor original with, Christianity. It has deep Pagan roots, dating back to at least two centuries BC, and has been prominent in many Eastern religions ever since.
Many who believe in the Trinity are surprised, perhaps shocked, to learn that the idea of divine beings existing as trinities or triads long predated Christianity. Marie Sinclair, Countess of Caithness, in her 1876 book Old Truths in a New Light, states: “It is generally, although erroneously, supposed that the doctrine of the Trinity is of Christian origin. Nearly every nation of antiquity possessed a similar doctrine. [The early Catholic theologian] St. Jerome testifies unequivocally, ‘All the ancient nations believed in the Trinity’ ”(p. 382).
James Bonwick summarized on page 396 of his 1878 work Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought: “It is an undoubted fact that more or less all over the world the deities are in triads. This rule applies to eastern and western hemispheres, to north and south.
“Further, it is observed that, in some mystical way, the triad of three persons is one. The first is as the second or third, the second as first or third, the third as first or second; in fact, they are each other, one and the same individual being. The definition…applies to the trinities of all heathen religions.”
“The Puranas, one of the Hindu Bibles of more than 3,000 years ago, contain the following passage: ‘O ye three Lords! know that I recognize only one God. Inform me, therefore, which of you is the true divinity, that I may address to him alone my adorations.’ The three gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva [or Shiva], becoming manifest to him, replied, ‘Learn, O devotee, that there is no real distinction between us. What to you appears such is only the semblance. The single being appears under three forms by the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, but he is one.’
“Hence the triangle was adopted by all the ancient nations as a symbol of the Deity . . . Three was considered among all the pagan nations as the chief of the mystical numbers, because, as Aristotle remarks, it contains within itself a beginning, a middle, and an end. Hence we find it designating some of the attributes of almost all the pagan gods” (Sinclair, pp. 382-383).
The Bukidnons are one of the traditionalistic ethnic groups in the southern Philippines. They inhabit the northeastern part of Mindanao, the second largest island of the archipelago. The term “Bukidnon” (mountain dweller) was derived from the Cebuano language but nowadays, it is accepted by most members of the ethnic group referred to.
There are seven different tribes in the province namely: Talaandig, Higa-onon, Bukidnon, Umayamnon, Matigsalug, Manobo and Tigwahanon.
Ideas from Hinduism entered Mindanao and Sulu, for trade took place between those two places and the Indian empires. Thus the Bukidnon creation myth has three divine persons. Dadanhayan ha Sugay has ten heads all drooling saliva; this looks like an extravagant version of the four heads of Brahma. Diwata na Magbabaya who looks like a human being (one head, two arms, two legs) may be a version of Siva who is so depicted. Agtayabun seems to be a composite of Siva and Vishnu. He has the Garuda’s hawk-like head and also the dancing motions of Siva, Lord of the Cosmic Dance.
Beliefs may vary among the different tribes, but here is a creation story, featuring the aforementioned trinity, documented and presented by Carmen Ching Unabia in 1986.
Creation of the Universe
In the beginning there was only a small circular space of intense brightness called a banting. It was surrounded by a rainbow. And only three beings existed.
Two of them sat facing each other in the narrow confines of the banting – one was good, the other evil.
One was the supreme planner, a good Being that looked like man. His name was DIWATA NA MAGBABAYA which means “pure god who wills all things”.
The bad Being also had a human body but he had ten heads, continuously drooling sticky saliva. His name was DADANHAYAN HA SUGAY which means “lord from whom permission is asked”.
These two were held up by a third Being suspended above them who had a hawk-like head, powerful wings and a human body. The hawk-like Being was continually flapping his wings in order to balance the banting because of the two Beings in it who were constantly bickering. The beating of his wings produced the wind. Only the winged Being could cool the heads and thus he was their guardian. His name was AGTAYABUN which means “adviser” or “peace-maker”.
One day Diwata Magbabaya, the Planner Being who looked like man, thought of enlarging the banting. To steady it, he created the earth – the banting was in the sky – so that the poor being could rest.
Diwata Magbabaya was a good planner. He knew, however, that he would have need of the soil on which the Ten-Headed Being was always so difficult to convince. The god with eagle wings immediately saw the problem. Swiftly, he swooped down and scooped some soil from under the Ten-Headed Being.
The Ten-Headed Being was startled and furious. “Why do you get what is mine without my permission?” He asked. “Don’t be angry” said Diwata Magbabaya. “I have a plan. And it is good for all of us. If you will let me use some of your soil. I will steady the banting and enlarge it. Then there will be enough space to stretch our legs and walk around so that we do not quarrel all the time.”
And so the earth was created. The hawk-like Being could at last rest his wings.
But the soil with which the earth had been made soon became extremely dry. Again Diwata Magbabaya looked longingly at the sticky saliva drooling out of the many-headed Being’s Ten heads. “If you will let me use some of your saliva we can beautify the earth.” the god planner suggested. The Ten-Headed Being was only too flattered to become part of any beautification project. And so he consented. Diwata Magbabaya took some of the saliva and mixed it with the soil. A great rain fell, for endless days water flowed over the earth. When it receded the Beings saw that various shapes had been created. There were mountains, hills, valleys, plains and canyons. Enough water still remained for streams and rivers which flowed into a big hole called the ocean. Lush green grass, trees and flowers sprang from the earth and enveloped it. The earth had indeed become beautiful. The three Beings were delighted.
They called the place HALDAN TA PARAISO which means “Garden of Paradise”.
The supreme planner had a new idea. Since we can’t always be here, wouldn’t it be wise to have Beings like us to watch over the earth?”. The winged Being thought it was a great idea and the Ten-Headed Being grudgingly agreed to it.
The three walked around the beautiful Garden. They gathered some earth to serve as the flesh, and water to serve as blood. They cut some fine rattan to serve as the veins and arteries, and the soft wide wood of the andalugung tree to serve as the bones. The Being moistened the earth with water trying to form the figures, but the soil kept crumbling.
Again Diwata Magbabaya looked towards the Ten-Headed Being and the sticky saliva drooling from his many mouths. “Can we have a little to mould these figures?” he asked. Afraid of being left out of the interesting operation, the Ten Headed Being agreed to mix some of his saliva with the earth.
Now Diwata Magbabaya stood up, put his arms on his hips and told the Ten-Headed Being, “You can make the figures. But you must copy me exactly“. The Ten-Headed Being was not quite convinced but he had no argument at hand and so he resentfully did as he was told.
Soon seven figures, each with only one head and no drooling saliva, were finished by the Ten-Headed Being. The three beings were pleased with the result. Diwata Magbabaya put the figures side by side. “Let them alone for a while,” he told the two others. “I shall go up to the sky to think further how to perfect them.”
While the Supreme Planner was gone, however, the Ten-Headed Being decided to work on the figures on his own. He had a few ideas himself. When Diwata Magbabaya happened to look down from the banting he was horrified to see that six of the seven figures were already beginning to move. He rushed down at once.
“Didn’t I tell you not to touch them while I was thinking how to perfect them?” Diwata Magbabaya scolded the Ten-Headed Being.
“What makes you believe you alone can make them perfect?” answered the Ten-Headed Being. “Why do you think only you know how to create?”
‘Maybe not,” said Diwata Magbabaya. “But so far it’s my ideas and plans that have enabled us to create the earth. And it was after my image that the figures were made.”
“Indeed,” said the Ten-Headed Being. “But all the materials used were mine. You had none. Therefore I have as much right as you to do what I want with them.”
Each Superbeing had his point. Each could defend his own arguments. As usual the hawk-like Being with the wings served as judge and head-cooler. Since neither one would give in it was agreed that there should be an armed duel. The victor should be recognized as ‘the greatest’ and could decide what to do with all the figures.
Out came the swords and the duel began. The two opponents struck swords as if each were the final blow. Their flashing blades produced the lightning. The combatants were able to go around the world fighting. The wind referee declared a recess and they went to paradise to appraise their wounds. But neither combatant suffered a single scratch!
So the duel continued. The battle became even fiercer and more furious. Whenever the Being’s feet landed on the ground a loud thunderclap was produced. They battled each other so fast and furiously that they went around the world seven times.
After the seventh round the three again retired to Haldan Ta Paraiso to examine their bodies. And each one was still unscathed. But this time the swords and metal scabbards on their belts had all melted. They slid down their bodies, sank into the ground and became the metals found under the earth.
Since neither the Good Being nor the Bad being could win nor lose they decided to settle the matter amicably. Diwata Magbabaya said, “Since you have already begun work on the six figures, just finish them. But let me work on one figure left.”
Thus it was that the six figures that were finished by the Ten-Headed Being became incantus or guardian spirits.
The talabugta was assigned to look after the soil for cultivation. The ibabagsuk was in charge of the growing plants.
The bulalakaw became guardian of the water and all its living creatures.
The mamemelig was to watch over the forest. The lalawig had as its special charge the beers and their honey.
The mamahandi was to guard over whatever wealth man acquired, therefore his cows and carabaos, his crops and his farm house.
Like all the creatures made from the efforts of the Superbeing, the incantus contained both good and evil qualities (as does man). They take care of nature and will give of its fruits. But they expect respect and gratitude in the form of prayers and sacrifices of pigs and chickens. The six creatures take quick offense and send drought or flood, or pestilence or sickness to those who do not thank them or seek their permission to build a house, or harvest to the field, or to cut the first slice of meat.
Diwata Magbabaya also finished his figure. As a distinguishing feature he endowed it with intelligence. He had created the first human being. To the first man was entrusted the Haldan Ta Paraiso.
The small bits of clay cut off from the seven diwata as they were being carved were not wasted. They became other living creatures. Those scooped from the ampits became birds, fowls, insects and other flying creatures. The clay sliced from the backs of the figures became the food that had to be carried on one’s back such as deer, wild pigs and the like. The bits cut out from between the fingers became the fished and other water creatures that are caught with the fingers. Those cut from the crotch became the animals that one has to ride astride such as horses, cows and carabaos.
Caithness, Marie Sinclair, Countess of, -1895: Old truths in a new light / (London : Chapman and Hall, 1876)
THE SOUL BOOK, Demetrio, Coredero-Fernando, Zialcita, GCF Books 1990
Carmen Ching Unabia, THE BUKIDNON BATBATNON AND PAMUHAT: A Socio-Literacy Study, Vol II Part I , 1986