Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Magwayen / Maguayan

Magwayen as portrayed by Aubrey Miles
in GMA Network's AMAYA. 2011
First Water and Sea Deity

According to the Ancient Visayans of the South, Magwayen is the first goddess of the sea and water, the female aspect of creation made by Kanlaon to balance Kaptan, the Sky God.

She personifies the great wide ocean that covers the entire world. She is nurturing, calming, and a provider of food for our Malay ancestors who relies on the abundant fish and seafoods to feed their barangays or "community", but is also known to be tempestuous and violent at times, capable of creating giant tsunamis, whirlpools, floods and heavy rains when she gets angry.

The duality of the deity’s nature made some folklorists to believe that Magwayen is a man, as her
amazing displays of anger can cause terrifying effects on the sea. However, many think of her as a woman… for the sea is also known to be motherly and providing, and like any woman, is also capable of unpredictable outbursts as evidenced by her displays of power.

Magwayen as portrayed by Isabelle Daza
in GMA Network's INDIO. 2013
Magwayen is the opposite of Kaptan, who is impulsive, and quick-tempered and sometimes acts without thinking, she is more level-headed, has a cool demeanor yet can also be cold and ruthless especially when angered. In some Cebuano myths, she is pictured to be Kaptan's wife, who left him when they quarreled one day and returned to the sea to cool down her anger, in some Negrense myths, she was Kaptan's rival and each day Kaptan and Magwayen dueled to see who is stronger and who will inherit the world Kan-Laon made, until their children fell in love with each other and wanted to marry, thus ending their battles with the coupling of Lihangin and Lidagat.

She is pictured as a mature, naked woman, carries a " budyong" or a conch shell on her hand and sometimes a baby or accompanied by another sea goddess (which is thought by many to be her daughter Lidagat) and surrounded by fish. Sometimes she is just represented as a vast wide ocean whose waters reach all lands, including underground rivers, which led to the belief that her waters also flow out into the Underworld, and thus, she is one of the few gods who can enter the realm of the spirits. This of course led to her evolution in myths as a goddess of the Underworld pantheon, pictured as a woman wearing grieving clothes, her face covered with dark cloth and functions as the ferrywoman who ferries the souls down to Sulad in her majestic balangay. Her transformation is sometimes credited to the fact that in the creation stories, her only daughter Lidagat, which she gave birth by herself as compared to Lihangin which came out of Kaptan's divine breath, has died of broken-heartedness. Magwayen was so grief-stricken that she even followed her daughter's soul to Sulad and accompanied her for a long time, abandoning her duties as the sea goddess and instead delegating it to various water deities who took her and Lidagat's place in the world, and instead took up the role as the ferrywoman of souls, to be near her daughter.

Magwayen as portrayed by Aubrey Miles
in GMA Network's AMAYA. 2011

Magwayen portrayed by Isabelle Daza as ferrywoman with Malaya (Bong Revilla)
in GMA Network's INDIO. 2013

Magwayen also had a role in the creation of the first man and woman. Kaptan gave her the divine seed (which was a mix of Kaptan's power and a piece of Lisuga) he created and instructed Magwayen to plant it and care for it. She did her work diligently and cared for the plant as if it was her own child, maybe because she misses Lidagat and her 4 grandchildren who were slain by Kaptan. She watered the plant, guided it's growth and even talked to it to relieve her loneliness until one day… the plant, which is a very big bamboo plant, splits open and she was greeted by Sikalak and Sikabay, the first man and woman.
Magwayen was also highly venerated as mother goddess of the sea and as the great provider by ancient visayans all over the central islands of the Philippines. But when the Spanish came and introduced Christianity, the worship for Magwayen was inevitably replaced by the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the great mother of humanity, and in the end she suffered the same fate as Kaptan, whose worship disappeared as time went by. Her fame however endured the test of time and is very much alive in the stories of the Visayan people, and eventually she became one of the popular gods of the Philippines who originated from Visayas that was known all over Asia, and eventually worldwide. She is also one of the few female deities who were thought to have everlasting control of the sea, since the sea is very much a man's world if you compare it to mythologic traditions all over the world!

Magwayen as portrayed by Isabelle Daza in GMA Network's INDIO. 2013.
Magwayen in GMA Network's Amaya. 2011.
Artwork by Richanie Balaga Dancis 
Art by James/Squeegol

  • Magwayen had many magic shells when she was a sea goddess. When Lidagat died and she turned into a goddess ferrywoman, she took that part of the ocean and buried it deep in the Panay Island so that her treasures would remain safe. Today, there is body of water called "Tinagong Dagat"  in Panay. It is a sea that looks like a lake and it sits a top the high mountains bordering I think Iloilo and Antique, and there are fishes there that cannot be seen in a normal sea and when you taste it, the water is salty and it is indeed seawater!
  • Magwayen may have been the ruler of the sea but it was said that she was always contested, Bakunawa was one and also by other giants of the deep. She is said to keep a budyong (a conch shell) that has magical properties to ward off these monsters. Whenever she was challenged she would blow on it 3 times and she would change her shape into something much more bigger to defeat her enemies. Bakunawa tried to steal this magical conch but it turned out that if others try to steal it, it renders itself immovable!

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