Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Libulan as a female diwata,
based on GMA Network's INDIO. 2013
Sketch by Egz Soco

Libulan in myths of Visayas is portrayed as a man, but some say moon is a female aspect of the sun so she is a woman in other myths like the Tagalog folktales, however a controversial explanation of Libulan's gender is that of a hermaphrodite or a crossdresser, which is something of a taboo in today's society, but in the olden days, males who are described as " two spirit people" by Native Americans are seen as a seat of power and holds respect among the community, it may be true also for ancient Visayans during the olden days, as male babaylans garbed in female fashion were regarded in high esteem by the baranggays. These crossdressing men in our culture are sometimes regarded as witches or shamans and some are even babaylans due to the power they hold due to their mystical nature, much like Libulan, a deity cloaked in mystery and controversy.

Among the 3 male god children of Lihangin and Lidagat, Libulan was the soft-spoken, well-mannered, of them all, he was also said to be more effeminate and the most eccentric of the 3, having a body made of copper and unlike his brothers, Likabutan or Liadlaw, who were depicted as musclebound or large deities, he was depicted as more slender and soft and graceful, and was much closer to their only sister Lisuga. Libulan is seen as timid and shy, and doesn't like to display his full glory for long periods of time and he is also moody, and that is how the ancestors depicted the phases of the moon, and some say he sometimes hide because he doesn't want to be eaten by the monster Bakunawa. Libulan was also the last of the 3 brothers to be shattered of Makaptan's Lightning bolts, even though he pleaded for his life and told the deity that it was his brother's idea to storm the heavens. 
(L-R) Licalibutan, Libulan, Lisuga, and Liadlaw
Artist: Le Fou

Libulan's patronage is observed by crossdressing babaylan men of the community, although they do feminine things (considered by during those days), like cook, sew, clean the house and carry palay and clean them, they can be considered as the first special segregated class of those ages (think celibacy of priests and vow of chastity of nuns) they are to be respected, and not be forced to marry, they are allowed to wear women's clothes and do womanly chores, and they are revered for their magic knowledge especially in healing and prophecies. Libulan’s sacred animal is the pawikan or Philippine sea turtle, due to a story of a water spirit who turned into a sea turtle who cared for Libulan when he was growing up after he fell from Lihangin’s arms, and feathers and newly woven garments were his choice offerings. The ancient Visayans also believe that sea turtles only lay their eggs on beach shores during nights of the full moon is because Libulan is gracing them with his presence.

It was once said in one myth, a man who has been ostracized by the society due to being "useless" went to the top of a mountain and prayed to the god Libulan before leaping to his death, the deity took pity on him and saved the man from plunging to his death and taught him the tenets of his sacred mysteries. Libulan promised the man that as long as he follows his rituals and remain celibate (read: virgin) he will never lose his powers and everyone in the barangay will respect him.

Libulan as a Female Diwata
in GMA Network's Indio, 2013
Sketch artist: James/Squeegool

Unfortunately when the Spanish conquistadores arrived they saw these crossdressing shamans as a sign of evil and influenced by demons, and they made sure that everyone who will be converted will be warned of this evil, they actually told the natives that all their rituals and their unusual customs as " evil", barbaric and wrong in the eyes of God, and they scared the natives to drop all the usual rituals including dances and traditional folktales that their ancestors taught them, even though some still survive today. Because of this, Libulan's image was tainted from a mysterious diwata into a deceiver of men and they punished his followers, although some managed to escape and continue to practice his rituals in secret until the modern age.

Libulan as portrayed by Rachel Ann Go
GMA Network's Indio, 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment