Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Lidagat in GMA Network's Indio, 2013
Sketch artist: James/Squeegool

The ancient Visayans thought of Lidagat as the only daughter of Magwayen, the ruler of the seas, and when she was born, her mother gave her the powers over the watery domain. She is often pictured as a beautiful woman of the seas, some pictured her as having a body made of water, waves for hair and fish and merfolk for company, while others thought of her sharing the same appearance as the merfolk or a mermaid. She is widely venerated in ancient times as the goddess of sealife and therefore, the goddess of fishermen as well. It is said that when fishermen pray to her, and they received a bountiful catch, they used to toss a large piece of fresh meat to the sea to give thanks for blessing them with abundance. She was also venerated by the early Visayan sailors who ventured out to other islands of the Philippines, together with their families in ancient constructs known as the “balangay” they prayed to her for calm waters and that they may approach land safely, without having to experience the misfortune of facing tsunamis, sharks, or whirlpools. Her sacred animals were the shark, dolphin, butanding or whale shark and the dugong. There was an old Visayan belief that seeing dolphins travelling near the boat or frolicking on the sea is a sign of good luck and safe voyage, and that killing these delightful creatures without asking permission first from Lidagat would incur her wrath.

Lidagat portrayed by Sam Pinto
GMA Network's Indio, 2013
Lidagat is also popularly known in stories as the wife of Lihangin, Kaptan’s only son, and although during the early times of creation when Magwayen and Kaptan were not in good terms with each other, their children eventually fell in love with each other, and their marriage ended the fights between the 2 deities. She eventually gave birth to 3 gods and a goddess, namely; Licalibutan, Liadlao, Libulan and the only goddess among them, Lisuga. 

According to some stories Lidagat, died of broken-heartedness when her husband Lihangin passed away unexpectedly while defending the heavens from early monsters, and she died not long after, leaving her children under the care of their grandparents. Her mother Magwayen, was so affected by the loss that she followed Lidagat’s spirit in Sulad and became the ferrywoman of the dead just to be able to visit her daughter everyday. 

Lidagat’s worship was very important to ancient Visayans in the past because most of the villages in the olden days relied heavily on fishing. Fishing is an important industry in the Visayas, which is a group of islands, and they would use the fish in ancient times to trade for other goods with neighboring kingdoms or foreigners like the Chinese, who also had a sea goddess whom they venerate and has qualities and attributes similar with the Visayan deity, Lidagat. When the Spanish came to the islands in 1500’s and propagated Christianity, her worship diminished and was replaced by Catholicism, but some of her fishing rituals survived until now in the modern age. She will forever be remembered in the Visayan Creation Myths, but for the Visayans who live near the sea still honor their beloved sea goddess with rituals for fear they might have a bad catch when they anger her and many of them still practiced the rituals of throwing fresh pieces of meat on the sea as her share for the day after they have a catch.

Related Story: Lidagat, mother of all marine life

Most stories say that when Lidagat died her soul immediately went to Sulad but not many of them say what happened to her body. According to some folklore of Visayan islands, in the beginning there was no fish that lived on the sea, only sea monsters, merfolk and minor water spirits like the undines. When Lidagat died, her body gave birth to fishes and marine life, fishes came out of her pores, her hair gave birth to seaweeds, her teeth and eyes gave us the different types of seashells in existence today and her womb gave birth to other marine life found in the oceans. Her last breath also gave birth to minor gods and goddesses of the water, who was supposed to take her place as the protectress of the sea.

Additional myth: Lidagat and the Mermaid
One of the original sub-families of undines, the sirena or the mermaids were quite popular in Visayan myths, they are moreof the subservient type of water spirits and followed Magwayen's bidding, even caring for Lidagat and feeding her their breastmilk when she was but a babe, and growing up with mermaid companions while her mother wages war against Makaptan. When Lihangin and Lidagat were secretly meeting each other behind their parents' back, Lidagat had a mermaid companion whom she trusted the most, her name was Bagwiyan, she acted as her confidante and lookout during these meetings, her back turned as the couple spent time saying sweet nothings to each other. On one of these meetings however, sensing Magwayen is approaching, Bagwiyan turned to Lidagat to warn her and gazed at Lihangin for the first time, and in an instant she too was smitten with the air deity. At first, she kept these feelings to herself, but soon enough she can't hold it any longer, and decided to make a plan to steal Lihangin's affection for herself. She preened herself all day long, making sure she was pretty enough for Lihangin and told Lidagat she cannot accompany her for she has important things to attend to, stealing a magic charm from Lihangin's baul, a shell that grants power of shapeshifting to whomever wields it, and made her way to the spot where the couple meet everyday. She wore the charm and she turned into the image of Lidagat and met up with Lihangin. Little did she know that Lidagat, took courage to go by herself to the same spot and found the two of them being " sweet" with each other, incurring the goddess' wrath. Lidagat shook her hand and waves tossed and turned, hurling the poor mermaid like a little bangka, shaking off the magic charm from her neck. Lidagat hurled the charm so far and turned it into the first giant clam, and people said that the pearl it produces still contains magic from the diwata and therefore were highly sought for by maidens of the islands. Lidagat then cursed her former friend, taking away her beauty and gave her scales all over her body, turning her colorful fins into gray, her pearly white teeth into sharp rows of canines and incisors, and made her nose into a big snout. "From now on, everyone will know of your betrayal, no longer will they find you beautiful, but rather be feared as a monster of the sea!" Lidagat declared, as her former friend turned into the first man-eating shark or in Visayas we call, Bagis. 

KATAW. Jesuit Fr. Francisco Alcina's illustration of a male and female "catau" (kataw) - merman and mermaid - in his 'Historia de las islas e indios de Bisayas' 1668 manuscripts. (Photo credits: Prof. Rolando Borrinaga)


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  2. where can i find the full story of lidagat?