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Published on September 24th, 2009 | by Legazpi City


Ibalong: Bicol’s Folk Epic-Fragment

Ibalong, the sixty stanzas that remain of a full-length folk epic that is today little known even in Kabikolan itself, was presumably jotted down in its complete Bicol narrative by Fray Bernardino de Melendreras (1815-1867), a Franciscan missionary in Ginobatan, Albay, from a minstrel referred to in the epic as Kadungung and who could be the same wandering bard described years later by another Franciscan, Fray Jose Castaño (b. 1854), as “Homero de Ibalon.”

Put afterwards into Spanish by Melendreras in Ibal, a 400-page manuscript in verse on the ancient custom of the Indios of Albay, its sixty-stanza portion was later included in a treatise on the Bicol Region by Castaño in 1895 as un pequeño fragmento inedito en verso. But because no credit was given to Melendreras by Castaño in the work, students of the Ibalong have since presumed that it was recorded and translated by Castaño himself.

Until a copy of the Bicol original is found, it would seem that what is left of the Ibalong – at least its sixty stanzas – is only the text in Spanish.

Fragmentary that it is, but just like any epic, the Ibalong portrays deeds in heroic proportions. Its three culture heroes – Baltog, Handyong, and Bantong – share glory in freeing Old Bicol of predatory and foraging beasts, of the sarimao and other monsters.





Cuenta, Cadugñung la historia
Delos tiempos de Handiong
Con esa lira de plate
Dulce encanto de Aslon.

Cadungung, kindly narrate to us,
Historic times of great Handyong,
Sing with your lyre of silver tone
The sweet enchantment of Aslong.


Que solo cantar tu puedes
Tanta belleza y primor
Tantos ocultos misterios
Como encierra esta region

For only you can put in song
Such beauty and renown that bring
The mysteries that now enshroud
This glorious land of long ago.


Canta, y dinos su reyes
La prosapia y valor
La guerra, que sostuvieron
Hasta vencer a la Oriol.

Sing, then, and tell us of its kings,
Their proud past and their valiant role
In war which they fought snake Oryol
Until they had defeated and its fall.


Dinos tambien por tu vida
La historia del viejo Asog
La del joven Masaraga,
La del vetusto Isarog.

Do tell us also all about
The life of the old Asog,
Of the still young Masaraga,
And ancient moss-covered Isarog.


Que tu fuiste el tierno vate
El mas dulce seductor
De cuantas vieron el lago
Que a la Tacay sepulto.

As tender bard enticing high
Seducer sweetest that is why
Among those who had seen the lake
In which was buried Fair Takay.


Canta, pues antentos todos
A tu hermosa narracion
Sentados aqui nos tienes
A la sombra de un daod.

Then, sing to us now you are free
We shall listen to lovely song attentively
Out in the shade, right where we sit,
Here underneath the Dao Tree.



Oid pues, hijos del Bicol.
Dijo Cadugῆung veluz,
Los hechos del viejo suelo
Patria hermosa de Handiong.

You Sons of Bicol, listen then,
Responded quickly Cadungung,
To the great deeds in this old clime,
This beautiful land of king Handyong.


Es el Bicol una tierra
Llana, feraz, de aluvion;
Del mundo la mas hermosa,
La mas rica en produccion.

The Kabicolan is a realm
With fertile fields of wide plains,
Fairest in the World, that nature gives,
The richest in what planting yields.



Fue Baltog el primer hombre
Que esta tierra habito.
Oriundo de Botavara,
De la raza de Lipod.

Baltog was the first hero known
Who pioneered this lovely place,
He was of Botavara land
His birth Lipod, which was his race.


Al Bicol llego siguiendo
Un jabali muy feroz,
Que sus sembrados de linza
Una noche destruyo.

Arriving Bicol he did scour
Because of great fiercest boar
Destroyed his linsa plants one night
And he pursued it furiously.


Cuando le tuvo acostado
Al suelo tiro en lanzon,
Y con sus brazos herculeos
Las quijadas le partio.

Baltog then downed the hunted game
Without his thrown lance, he just came
When he had cornered it, in combat fair
Herculean arms he broke its jaws.


Cada quijada tenfa
Una vara de largor
Y los colmillos dos tercios
De la asta de su lanzon.

Both arms extended was the length
Of every jawbone in its stance
Believed at once its curling tusks
Two thirds length of his mighty lance.


Al volver a sus Estados
Las dos quijadas colgo
De un talisay gigantesco
En su casa de Tundol.

Returning home from hunting spree
He hung the jawbones on a tree,
A big talisay there it would be
Near Tondol house for all to see.


A los viejos cazadores
Causaron admiracion
Estos trofeos gloriosos
De su rey el gran Baltog.

Old hunters then, did praises sing
In honor of their Great Baltog king
To see such wonders chase could bring
For glorious trophies to people bring.


Fueron a verios las tribus
De Panicuason y Asog;
Y dejeron que, en sus dias
No hubo jabali mayor.

People of Panikwason and Asog tribe
Arrived to view enormous hog
Said in their days saw not a boar
As big as that killed by Baltog.


Le llamaron Tandaya
De los montes de Ligñon
Por su exacto parecido
Con el monstruo Behemot.

They called it the Tandayag boar
Of Lingyon Hill there its fold
Because its likeness exactly told
The Behemot monster bold.



Despues de este vino al Bicol
Con gueteros Handiong,
Quien de monstruos la comarca
En poco tiempo limpio.

Soon after this to Bicol came
The grand Handyong, with warriors band
Resolved to destroy their very stand
All monstrous creatures of the land.


Batallas para extingirlos
Mil y mil el empeño
De todos siempre saliendo
Con aires de vencedor.

To wipe them, battles fought galore
Handyong whom truly they adore,
In all the thousand victory he fought
Against all monsters they conquer.


Los monoculos trifauces
Que havitaban en Ponon
En diez lunas sin descanso
Por completo destruyo.

Three-throated beast with just one eye
Had made inhabit Ponong’s dryland
For ten restless months they attacked
Till he had destroyed and all did die.


Los alados tiburones
Y el bufalo cimarron
Que por los montes volaban
En menos tiempo amanso.

The winged sharks that ploughed the deep,
Carabaos roamed in their wild style
Cavorting happily in mountainsides
He did imprint his taming marks.


Los buayas colosales
Como los balotos de hoy,
Y los fieros sarimaos
Al Colasi destierro.

All the gigantic crocodiles
The size of bancas of today
Fierce Sarimaos with their wiles
To Culasi exiled away.


Las serpientes, que tenian
Cual de serena la voz,
Del Hantic en la caverna
Para siempre sepulto, Oriol

The serpents whose voice did enthrall
Like the siren’s tempting call,
In Hantic’s wide cavernous hall
Forever they were buried all.



Pero no pudo vencer,
Por la mas maña que se dio
A la culebra sagu
Conocida por la Oriol.

However, he could not defeat
Even to used cunning and deceit
Against the snake’s sagacious wit
The most elusive one, name Oryol.


Esta culebra sabia
Mas que el famoso Handiong
Y a sus ojos fascinaba
Con afable seduccion.

More learned and wiser than Handyong
Whose fascinating eye, lovelier to see
As if it were a sweet gesture
Beckoning him seductively.


Mil lazos Handiong le puso
Y de todo se burlo,
Los nudos desenredando
Con sagacidad mayor.

Handyong bound it a thousand ways
It only scoffed and mocked around
With its crowned sagacity
It always untied the knots.


Con palabaras seductoras
Muchas veces le engaño,
Que en eso de fingimientos
Era gran maestra Oriol.

With seducing words, he was told
So many times Handyong was fooled
That in pretending she was called
Oryol, the great teacher of deceit.


Cuantas veces por el bosque
Sin descanso la siguio
Creyendo de la serena
En la seductora voz!

How many times without a rest,
He searched her in to the woods,
He thought that what had lured him on
Believing the voice of a siren there!


Los trabajos del gran Hercules,
Las conquistas que gano,
Todo hubiera fracasado
Por la influencia de Oriol.

The task of renowned Hercules,
The gains that gave immortal seat
Could have been failures and defeat
If interfered like creature such Oryol.


Peromera inscontante,
Ella mismo ayudo
Para vencera a los monstruos
Que infestaban la region.

But inconsistent in its act
Oryol itself did help Handyong
To all the monsters must conquer
That have infested the Bicol land.


Luchaban con las buayas
Brazo a brazo, y vencedor
De combates tan tremendos
Sin menoscabo salio.

Together they fought victoriously
Against the giant crocodiles they won
After the battles and onslaught
No scratchy wounds to him was wrought.


Los pongos y orangutangs
La miraban con horror,
Porque las aguas del Bicol
Con su sangre coloro.

The pongos and orangutans
Watching the fight filled with horror stung,
With color due to crocodiles blood
He tinged the Bicol River red.


Eran monos pendencieros
De conocida valor
Pero el gigante los hizo
Retirarse al Isarog.

Those wild monkeys which were troublesome,
Whose valor was widely spread,
The huge Handyong drove all away
To Isarog’s mountainous dome.



Y libre ya de alimañas
Quedando asi la region
En dar leves a su pueblo
Como suno interes penso.

Now that the land set free at last
With no more beasts of prey to kill,
He established better people laws
To serve his people interest and will.


Handiong y sus compañeros
Plantaron con un bolod
Linzas, que dieron sus frutas
Tan grandes como un pansol.

Handyong’s companions to his call
They planted linsa on a hill,
Producing tuber roots and all
The giant size of a pansol.


Tambien en un sitio bajo
Sembraron el rico arroz
Que Handiong largos siglos
El sobrenombre llevo.

Then also in a lowland site
They sowed along rich-yielding rice
That many centuries along
Known by the nickname Hinandyong.


Hizo la primera canoa
Que por el Bicol surco;
Menos el timon y vela
Que fueron por Guinantong.

Handyong the first to build a boat
To Bicol River navigate on high
Except its rudder and its sail
Kimantong’s doing and supply


Este invento los arados,
El piene y el pagolon,
La ganta y otras medidas,
El sacal, bolo y lando.

Besides he invented the plow,
The harrow and the roll in tow,
The ganta, other measures, too,
The bolo, hoe, and yoke for cow.


Los telares y argadillos
Fueron obra de Hablom,
Quien con asombra de todos
Un dia al rey presento.

They say that the loom and bobbins
Hablom one day worked hard to make,
To the surprise of everyone,
To king Handyong he gave away.


Invento la gorgoreta,
Coron, calan, y paso
Y otros varios utensiles
El pigmeo Dinahon.

The earthen jar, pot, bowl and stove,
And utensils I can’t recall
The pygmy called Dinahong
Had invented all the workmanship.


El alfabeto fue Sural,
Quien curioso combino,
Grabandola en piedra Libon,
Que pulimento Gapon.

Surath had mystically combined*
(*Sanskrit – “perfectly combined”)
Carve in stone the exotic suratin
Encountered in place called Libon
Then, was polished later by Gapon.


Hicieron ciudad y casas
En disegual proporcion,
En las ramas suspendiendolas
Del banasi y camagon.

They built a houses with city zone
Unequal proportion of various sizes
And hanging branches they were prone
Of trees banasi, and kamagong.


Que eran tantos los insectos,
Tan excesivo calor,
Que solo en el moog podian
Pasar el rigor del sol.

With swarmiing insects all around
And with the burning sun to beat,
Its only at the moog seat
Where they could go to bear the heat.


Y leyes mando muy justas
Sobre la vida y honor
A los que todos sujetos
Estaban sin distincion.

The laws and orders just made for all,
Upon their life and honor laid
He said equality to all the subjects
No distinction made both high and low.


Todos su puesto guardaban,
El esclavo y el señor,
Respetando los derechos
De prosapia y sucesion.

In what position to him endowed
The slave and master truly showed
Respect for rights of heritage
And of succession as bestowed.



Hubo entonces un diluvio
Promovido por el Onos,
Que el aspecto de esta tierra
Por completo trastorno.

Then came a deluge on the land
Caused by the Onos force of old
So that the features of this earth
Were completely changed to behold.


Reventaron los volcanes
Hantic, Colasi, Isarog,
Y al mismo tiempo sentiose
Un espantoso temblor.

Volcanoes Hantik, Isarog,
Culasi also burst so quick
And was felt simultaneously
The whole ground quake convulsively.


Fue tanta sacudida,
Que el mar en seco dejo
El istmo de Pasacao
Del modo que se ve hoy.

So mighty was the jolting sway
To its bottom the sea gave way
Effecting isthmus in the fray
At Pasacao as seen today.


Separo del continente
La isleta de Malbogon
Donde moran las sibilas
Llamadas Hilan, Lariong.

A torn part of the mainland formed
The islet known as Malbogong
Inhabited by witches strong
The so-called Hilang and Laryong.


El caudaloso Inarihan
Su curso el Este torcio,
Pues, antes del cataclismo,
Desaguaba por Ponon.

The waters flow of Inarihan
Its course due East ran up all wrong,
So that before this cataclysm
Flowed to Ponong, where set the sun.


En Bato se hundio un gran monte
Y en su sitio aparecio
El lago, hoy alimenta
Con su pesca a Ibalon.

In Bato a big mountain sank
That generated water tank
A lake came up which now supplies
Fish consumption by Ibalong folks.


Del golfo de Calabagñan
Desaparecio Dagatnon,
De donde eran los Dumagat
Que habitaron en Cotmon.

From the gulf of Calabangan
Where all Dagatnong has-been wiped out
From which had come the Dumagat
Who had inhabited Cotmong.



Fue este reino poderoso *
En los tiempos de Bantong,
Compañero inseparable
Del aguerrido Handiong.

Soon this kingdom grew powerful
To golden era of Young Mantong
Who was a faithful Prince companion
Of battle-wary Old Handyong.


Le mando alli con mil hombres
Para a matar a Rabot,
Medio hombre y media fiera,
Hechicero embaucador.

Handyong gave him a thousand men
To kill Rabot to rid this land
Who was half-human and half-beast,
Magician, liar, that plagued the land.


Todos lo que alli abordaron
Antes de esta expedicion
En piedras convertieron
El encanto de Rabot.

All the brave men, traveled in quest
Who dared to near its lair at least
Had turned at once to solid stones
By the sheer magic of the beast.


Bantong supo que este mago* (mago-magician; magi-wizard tantrik;
Era un grande dormilon, vivo-smart; wise-sabio)
Haciendolo asi de dia (Bantong known-supo; since-que;
Sin ninguna precaucion. This one**-este; magi-mago) **pronoun

Being magi, Mantong had rightly guessed
That this Rabot observed heavily slept
Without precaution lay along
And that it did this all day long.



Alla llevo sus soldados
En un dia de aluvion,
Y antes que el despertara
De un tajo lo dividio.

One floody day, watched by his men,
Mantong did go, his job to do,
Before the waking time was due
One stoke cut Rabot into two.


Asi y todo daba gritos
Con tan estentorea voz
Que lo oyeron de los mangles
De bognad y camagon.

From the bold shout warriors of Mantong
Rose a loud dying cries so taut
That rang throughout the mangrove swamps,
The bunga, kamagong, no doubt.


Le llevaron a Libmanan
Do fue a verle el gran Handiong
Y ante su vista asustado
Por largo tiempo quedo.

The corpse was brought to Ligmanan
Where it was seen by great Handyong
Truly shocked him very terribly
That remained in him for long.


Pues jamas el hubo visto
Un viviente tan atroz
De figura tan horrible
Ni de mas tremenda voz.

For surely he had never seen
A more atrocious living thing
Horrible form which caused a sting
And voice much louder than its ring.


Aqui suspendio Cadugñung
Su primera narracion
Dejando para otro dia
De continuarla occasion.

And here Cadungung did stay
The first part of his ancient lay
To leave a continuation way
The occasion of another day.



A long, long time ago, there was a rich land called Ibalong. The hero Baltog, who came from Botavora of the brave clan of Lipod, came to this land when many monsters were still roaming in its very dark forests. He decideed to stay and was the first to cultivate its field and to plant them with gabi.

Then one night, a monstrous, wild boar known as Tandayag saw these field and destroyed the 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. Baltog was unafraied. He was strong and brave. Though the Tandayag had very long fangs, he was able to pin down the monstrous, wild boar and break apart its very big jawbones. With this, Tandayag fell and died.

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, came the tribes of Panikwason and Asog to marvel at it.

The second hero who came to the land of Ibalong was Handyong. Together with his men, he had to fight thousands of battles, and face 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 and his men made their next attack against the giant flying sharks called Triburon which had hardy flesh and sawlike teeth that could crush rocks. They continued fighting until the defeat of the last Triburon.

They tamed the wild carabaos. They even drove away the giant and very fierce Sarimao which had very sharp fingernails. And 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.

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.

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 pursiut. 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.

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 period in Ibalong.

Then 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 were asking 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 hear him. He cut the giant into two with his very sharp bolo and without any struggle, Rabot died, So, Ibalong was at peace once more.


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