Sunday, May 5, 2013

Kan-Laon

KAN-LAON
SUPREME DEITY 

Kan-Laon was considered the Supreme god who started the chain of events that started the making of the world by Ancient Visayans who live in Negros Island. They also believed that he resides in the upper heavens, and the entrance to his domain can be found in the peak or heart of the Kan-Laon volcano, and in oral tradition was a sacred mountain that he turned into a volcano. In some stories, he is usually portrayed as a dignified, peace-loving elder gentleman who lived in a magical hut on the peak of the volcano itself, living away from society, although sometimes people find themselves on his land. Eventually he disappeared in the heart of the volcano to his own domain, never to be bothered with the mortal world, after experiencing disappointment with the early people disobeying his orders. Others even believed Kan-Laon was a goddess due to the volatile, unpredictable nature of the volcano which reflects the mysteries of a woman. Kan-laon is also regarded as the god of time and cosmic movements, and though there are other gods who share his title, the Negrense people in the olden days believed he is the supreme deity that dictates the course of time, and can change any event that he wishes, although there are not enough stories that tells us that he ever interfered with the lives of the people after disappearing inside the Kanlaon volcano which forever bears his name. 

The volcano itself is a pilgrimage site for the Negrense babaylans, hermits, mangkukulams, sorcerers etc. where they come often to meditate, reflect and connect with Kan-Laon himself. The volcano itself is surrounded by various fauna, and it is not unusual to see a babaylan or two in the old days finding herbs and ingredients for their works that are considered magical, including ingredients for Kamangyan (incense) which they burn for their rituals and worshipping their deities, especially during sacrifices and special occasions. The top of the volcano, where people believed were his house stood before , is said to be a nexus of spiritual energy, specifically positive energy, which was vital for babaylans who were seen as leaders of faith in their communities and by the local healers to be able to do their spiritual works. They trek upwards the sacred areas of the volcano, offer their prayers, gifts and sacrifices as thanksgiving and meditate there to soak up on this good energy from time to time. Kan-laon's worship was so strong and widespread in Negros Island, that even when the Spanish conquistadores came, and introduced Christianity, they found it very hard to totally convert his loyal followers, it even led to babaylans and magic-practitioners to abandon their villages to live on the mountain as hermits, just like the Ati tribesmen of the island who live near the volcano and paid homage to Kan-Laon since time immemorial. Kan-laon is one of the few gods of the Visayan pantheon who's fame still survives and the volcano which forever bears his name still bears witness to the few hermits and atis that make the pilgrimage till this modern age and has also attracted the curiosity and fascination of tourists, both foreign and local through the years. There is even a popular belief around Negros Occidental and Oriental that when the volcano trembles and erupts, it means Kan-Laon's peace was disturbed or there was great sacrilege committed on the volcano itself.

When Kan-Laon left the mortal realm when he entered the volcano, a strange creation came into being and was made to guard the enchanted forests on top of the volcano, so that greedy people will not be able to use Kan-Laon's territory for their wicked plans.

In the peak and impenetrable forest of Mt. Kanlaon there lived the magkupo, the huge serpent with the rooster’s crown and a rooster’s powerful crow, who stayed under the kamandag tree near the crater of the volcano. The magkupo had fins on its sides. It did not crawl on the ground as other snakes did but would move from tree to tree by winding its long body on a tree trunk, ease its head forward to reach another tree where it will coil itself. Thus, it was called magkupo (pronounced with a stress on the last syllable), which means to “stick on” or “embrace.” It hides deep n the forest canopy, waiting to strike or scare away evil people who dare disturb Kan-Laon's peace.

Taken from: A History of Negros Occidental, by Modesto P. Sa-Onoy

The Sentinel Rock: This rock forms the face of the Protector of the Forest,
which has been adapted by the Sentinel Mountaineers as part of their logo.
photo credits: http://talesofthelonelysperm.blogspot.com

Related Kanlaon story: Variant Legend of Mt. Kanlaon
Kan-Laon and the farmers

Once upon a time, in the Island of Negros on the top of Mt. Kanlaon, lived a deity called Kan-laon. He was the supreme being of the Negrenses and they believed it was him who caused the creation of the world and that the mountain (it wasn't a volcano yet.) served as his home. One day, a group of eager tobacco farmers, was able to reach the top of the volcano and was greeted by him. One woman said " Oh great Kan-Laon, we are humbled by your presence, would you allow us tobacco farmers to use some of your land to plant our crop? " It just so happens Kan-Laon was in a good mood and gave his consent to the farmers. " I will allow you to use my land, just as long as you do not plant near my house on the crater." Kan-Laon said. He then drew a line around the top of the mountain and showed it to the farmers and told them they should never exceed this limit. The farmers complied, and they made sure they never went past the line when they planted their crops, and everything went well. One day however, Kan-Laon told them " I must leave you and meditate. So please remember, never stray beyond the line." and with that warning, he disappeared, without giving them a hint of when he will be coming back. For several years, the farmers kept their promise and never strayed, and their tobacco continued to multiply, but soon, almost the entire mountain was covered by their crop and they have nowhere else to plant. One brave farmer dared to plant his tobacco beyond the line, which earned the dismay of his colleagues, causing them to get angry at him. However, days went by and nothing bad happened to him or his crops. "Maybe Kan-laon went to other places and is never coming back!" he said, which prompted his colleagues to join him in planting the tobacco beyond the line. A few more years went by, and suddenly Kan-Laon returned and he was dismayed to see that his home was now a tobacco plantation. He silently waved a finger, and all the tobacco plants dried up, sorted themselves into bundles beside him. The farmers knelt down and begged his forgiveness, and forgive them he did. They also asked him if they can plant their crops again on the mountain, to which Kan-Laon replied " You can only plant here again once I have finished smoking all these tobacco bundles!". With a blink of an eye, a crater appeared from the line he drew around the area, and Kan-Laon proceeded to go down with the bundles of tobacco following him, never to be seen again, turning the mountain into a volcano. When locals see the volcano smoke rising upwards, they tell their children that the smoke coming out of it is coming from Kan-Laon himself, enjoying the tobacco of their ancestors!

Fun trivia: The name Kan-Laon means "Exalted One", for ancient settlers of Negros, others translate it as  "He Who Rules Time" and "The Eternal One" that alone suggest his powerful position as a eternal, all-powerful cosmic deity who is the central to the beginning of the world in Negrense folklore, in short he is the master showman who orchestrated life, both mortal and immortal in the beginning of time.

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