Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Saragangka Bagyo Profile

Saragangka Bagyo 
God of Storms

The name Saragangka Bagyo, strikes fear in the hearts of ancient Visayans, for he is known to be a wild, uncontrollable, unpredictable deity who really doesn't take sides that much. The name Saragangka Bagyo could be roughly translated as (Shielded Winds of the Storm or The Armored One of the Storm or Armored Wielder of Storms) is one of the fierce gods in the pantheon of Visayans in Panay, his name is even mentioned in the epic poem of Hinilawod. The Visayan islands are no strangers to big, impenetrable typhoons since the Philippines is near the equator and flanked by several seas and the Pacific Ocean, therefore making archipelago close to the breeding grounds of storms and typhoons, therefore it was natural for Ancient Visayans to thought of this storm god as an intimidating, fear-inducing deity. He is described as a god of awesome appearance, large physique and multiple wings which can cause the clouds and winds to mix and create a chaotic phenomenons like typhoons and tornadoes, with sharp blackened teeth or a black beak and claws on his hands and feet (while others say he has a body plated with armor or a shield, which the Hiligaynon term "sagang" which means to protect, shield or defend, and a giant staff to stir the heavens like a large cooking pot and create the

hurricanes below). In some myths, he turns into a large bird and disturbs the sky with the flapping of his wings, which causes the foul weather below, and people, especially virgin maidens who disappear during stormy weathers were thought to have been kidnapped by Saragangka Bagyo and taken in to his place in Ibabawnon to be his bride or his slave. They also thought that a ferocious god like this need live sacrifices to be appeased, using livestock and in worse cases human lives, like those of war prisoners or captive maidens. He is the most feared god of fishing villages and sailors, for typhoons can destroy whole villages by the sea with his powerful winds and large waves from the sea, capsize travelling boats of any shape and size, leaving many dead bodies along the coastline upon his wake.

On the other hand, Babaylans thought they could appease the god and appeal him to save their village from upcoming storms with offerings and prayer, they also would try to convince this deity to bring forth misfortune to other warring towns whom they have a grudge against, in return for sacrificial offerings of live sacrifice (usually large, fat livestock owned by the datus like carabaos, deer and wild hogs.) The babaylans would often cut the animals open, take the lean meat for the village to consume and leave the fatty and best parts for the god, like the fat, liver, heart, brain, intestines and the large bones. Sometimes he is also believed to accompany other weather deities like Ribung Linti in hunting down evil spirits in the sky, and he is said to have a close relationship with the ants because of a legend involving these tiny creatures earning his respect. Saragangka Bagyo is not seen in a bad light most of the time, sometimes he is also regarded as a hero god, for his strong winds protect town in high places from intruders and pirates, destroying the ships and decimating the armies of men with his fury who try to plunder the towns who sought his protection.

When the Spanish colonies started to appear around the Islands of the Philippines, the foreigners tried to eradicate all signs of pagan worship, and in the Visayas it was no different. Many gods and goddesses were replaced by Christian worship, and the idols of these deities were replaced by altars of saints, the Blessed Mother and of Christ. The Spanish however was not able to affect all of Panay, for they had hardship going to the mountains of inner lands due to the harsh weather and difficult landscape. The ancient Sulodnon thanked their weather gods, Saragangka Bagyo included, for they were spared from the Spanish invaders who have occupied the lowlands and the shores of Panay, and until today they are continued to be amazed by this storm deity's might and power.

Related story
Children's Folktale: The ants and the storm god

Once Upon a Time, the storm god, Saragangka Bagyo was bored in his heavenly home and decided to fly down to earth. He passed through a forest looking for something to pass time. He first passed a group of wild boars, and he told them he is looking for the strongest animals in the forest who can endure his test and they will be rewarded. The boars agreed, and the storm god unleashed his fury and they were all blown away, dying as they fell to the ground. Next, he came upon a group of eagles and told them the same thing. The eagles agreed to accept his challenge and huddled themselves on a big tree, the storm god turned into a big bird and with one flap of his wings, the tree uprooted and fell down, crushing the eagles. Next he came upon a school of fish by the stream and told them the same thing, the fish accepted and hid under the rocks, the storm god changed into a giant bird again and blew all the water out of the stream, leaving the fishes flopping helplessly, and he ate them all. It seemed that no one in the animal kingdom could survive the god's challenge, and the animals started to flee, making sure they do not come across him. Finally, he came across a colony of ants living in a mound under a mango tree, and gave them the same challenge. The ant queen was wise and knew the tactics of the storm god, so she accepted the challenge. First the storm god summoned the winds, and the ant queen ordered her children to go inside the mound, so they were unharmed. then the god changed into a bird and tried to peck and claw them out, but the ant queen ordered her children to go down deeper into the earth, so they were safe. The god became angry and impatient, he summoned all the storm clouds and created a heavy rain, and flooded the forest. The storm god thought he had finally drowned the little ants but to his shock, he saw all the ants floating in leaves and crawl up the nearest tree or plant they could cling on. Finally, the deity admitted defeat and praised the ants, he spoke some magic words and the ants felt something grow on their heads, it was a pair of antennae! Then the storm god told the ant queen, these are his rewards for earning his respect and that the antennae on their heads will tell them if a storm is brewing far away, thus giving the ants enough time to look for a shelter to protect themselves from the storm.

Storm God
Art by Yu Cheng Hong

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