Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ang Bruha ng Balete / The Witch of Balete

One day, a giant bamboo sprouted from the earth at the top of the mountain. When the bamboo split open, its two halves revealed the first man and woman. They awoke and lived in the mighty bamboo forest that bloomed from the remains of the dead giant.

An old balete grew at the edge of the bamboo forest. The tree became jealous of the giant bamboo. It too wanted to produce new beings and help give birth to a stand of fellow trees. But try as it might, it could not create a man and a woman as the bamboo did.

One day, in desperation, the balete asked an eagle flying overhead for advice. The eagle replied that it could not help, for the answer lay in the ground, and not in the sky where the eagle soared.

The balete went deep inside itself, and with its roots, felt for the truth of creation. Many long years passed as the tree continued its search.

At last, it found the answer. It shouted in exultation. At that exact instant, a bolt of lightning struck from the heavens and killed the tree. The witch emerged from its charred remains.

The first man and woman saw the lightning strike and went to investigate. They saw the witch and invited her to their home. She went with them and regaled them with many tales, for she knew all truths. She also told them how to make other creatures like themselves.

The first man and woman gave birth to many children. The witch stayed with the family for several generations and taught them how to thrive. Eventually, the people of the mountain-forest decided to leave the mountain to seek their fortunes. The witch warned them to stay with her, but they went anyway. Over time, they became corrupted by the world outside.

The witch stayed behind, tasked with guarding the knowledge that the lightning bestowed upon her.



Balete Drive in Quezon City is apparently the prowling grounds of the infamous White Lady. Rumor has it that hapless drivers will suddenly see a woman wearing white, brake too late, and run her over. Then, puzzled by the lack of impact, they would get out of their car and investigate, only to find nothing. When they go to drive away, they'll glance in their rearview see the woman sitting in their backseat.


This story combines the Filipino story of creation (the bamboo one, not the one where god bakes) and the link between the balete and the White Lady. I like the idea of re-imagining witches as forces of good, like Terry Pratchett does in Discworld. Hence, the balete as the unwitting recipient of knowledge / mom to the most charming people in all of Asia.

Summer Book Recommendations