Art by James/Squeegool
Deity of Thunder and Lightning
This weather deity is found in the Sulodnon pantheon in the island of Panay, the ancient Visayans think of Ribung Linti (Linti means “ lightning” in Hiligaynon) as the deity who is responsible of ushering in the rainy season and the master of lightning and thunder. He is also seen as one of the warrior/hero gods, they believe that his appearance is that of an able-bodied fighter or hunter and that the thunder was his booming voice and that his lightning was his “bangkaw”(bamboo spear) and his “binangon”(war blade) that he hurls towards unseen, dark forces and evil spirits that stay in the sky before the seasons change from dry to rainy. It was Ribung Linti’s job to let the people know that the rains are coming by flashing his lightning across the skies and shouting as loud as he can, so that people may start to go back to their homes and take refuge.
The people of yore believe that aside from announcing the start of the rainy season with thunderstorms, Ribung Linti is also fighting off any lingering evil spirits in the skies, who managed to enter the island by riding the warm winds of “summer” (known as dry season in the Philippines) bringing bad luck to the people below. It is said that he hunts them in the stormy skies, throwing his mighty “bangkaw” at these mischievous, evil beings, and the people below can see this “spear” in the form of lightning streaking across the sky, followed by a loud thunderclap which they believe is the voice of the lightning god himself, shouting with glee as he pins his enemies. He is a beloved deity of the Ancient settlers in Panay, because it is with his presence that they can finally start to prepare for planting season, since thunderstorms are one of the first heavenly signs that the rainy season is just in the horizon. Other cultures in Western Visayas, believe that Ribung Linti is the leader of the “ heavenly parade of weather gods”, and that he is the first in line to cross the Visayan heavens when the god of seasonal changes, Pahulangkug opens the door of the rainy season in Ibabawnon (Upper World) . Ribung Linti is thought of as the master of this parade, clearing their path of evil spirits, guiding other weather deities, the winds, and the rain spirits on their heavenly path as they water the world once more. They also believed that of all the evil spirits in the skies and earth, Ribung Linti particularly hates the malicious tree spirits, and the evil dwarves, living in places called the “ bongsod” (termite/ant hill) and when lightning strikes the earth, the ancient people believed he is hitting one of these two malignant entities.
There is even an ancient children’s bedtime story. The good dwarves of the earth, built a vine ladder for a year just to reach Ibabawnon and appeal to the lightning god for mercy, for he sometimes hits their homes with his lightning, thinking they were also malignant spirits who would harm the people. Ribung Linti was impressed with their dedication and for making the effort to visit him in his heavenly abode, that he told the white dwarves, that in order for him to avoid hitting their homes the next time the rainy season comes around, all they have to do is raise their little roofs of their houses (some say umbrellas) so that he would see them. The dwarves were happy and the next time the rainy season came about, they did exactly what was told, and today these little “ roofs” or umbrellas are what we now call as “uhong” or mushrooms that grows especially on termite hills after a thunderstorm.
Aside from striking down evil spirits, Ribung Linti is also invoked by ancient babaylans as a god that grants them divine retribution on their enemies, criminals and most of all… blasphemers. It is said that the word “lintian”(those who would be hit by lightning) is a term in ancient times used for people who were marked as blasphemers of the society, people who disobeyed the laws of the gods and nature and would do blasphemous things like, stealing sacrifices and things offered to the gods from the altars,drinking the sacred “tuba” (wine from coconuts), defiling a babaylan, or betraying the datu and their community to their enemies. Nowadays the term “ lintian or lilintian” is a derogatory, cursing word in the modern Hiligaynon vocabulary and it’s use is frowned upon by Ilonggos all over the nation, they would even spank their children’s mouths when they hear them using that term to their friends and relatives. And on the other hand, Ribung Linti is also invoked as a deity who protects his patrons against accidental deaths by lightning, fire and storms.
When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in Visayas, they propagated Christianity and banned the natives from worshipping their own deities, and instead gave them saints they could venerate to help them with their everyday lives. Ribung Linti’s worship was replaced with the veneration of St. Barbara who is also a patron against lightning, fires, and storms and accidental deaths. Today, only a few untarnished Sulodnon communities in mountainous regions of Panay still have high regard for this lightning deity and still have him in their pantheon, and thus the beliefs in Ribung Linti continues to thrive on the hearts of these people for more years to come.
|Ribung Linti portrayed by Steven Silva|
GMA Network's Indio, 2013