Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Datu Sumakwel

Datu Sumakwel was one of the seven chiefs who, coming from Borneo many years before the Spaniards conquered these islands, settled the Island of Panay. He lived in Sinaragan, a town near San Joaquin, in the southern part of Iloilo Province. His wife's name was Capinangan.

Sumakwel went every morning to the seashore to watch his slaves fish with the sinchoro, or net. One day they caught many fishes, and Sumakwel commanded them:--

"Spread the fish to dry, and take care that the crows do not eat them up."

A slave answered: "Sir, if your treasure inside the house is stolen by the crows, how do you expect those out of doors to be kept safe?" This was said with a certain intonation that made Sumakwel conjecture that there was a hidden meaning in it.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked.

"Sir, I have to inform you of something that I should have told you long ago. Do not reprove me if I have been backward in telling you of the injury done you by your wife. It was due to my desire to get complete proofs of the truth of my statement."

"End at once your tedious narrative!" said the datu, "What did my wife do?"

"Sir," answered the slave, "she deceives you shamefully. She loves Gorong-Gorong, who is at this very moment in your house jesting at your absence."

"Alas!" said Sumakwel, "if this be true he shall pay well for his boldness."

The chief hurried home, intending to surprise the offenders. He carried a fish called ampahan in a bamboo tube full of water, going around by a secret way, so as not to be seen. On reaching home he went up into the attic to observe what was going on, and found that his informant had told the truth.

Gorong-Gorong and Capinangan were engaged in an affectionate dialogue. Involuntarily Sumakwel spilled some of the water down, and, fearing that he would be discovered, seized a spear that was hidden in the attic and, dropping it down, dexterously ran Gorong-Gorong through the body, killing him instantly.

"Oh, Diva!" exclaimed Capinangan, kneeling beside the inert corpse, "How shall I be able to take it away without being discovered by Sumakwel?"

Sumakwel, who had not been seen at all, stayed quietly above, watching what Capinangan would do. Capinangan did not suspect that her husband was there, as he usually did not come home before nightfall. She tried to take the corpse out for burial, but could not carry the heavy body of her unfortunate lover. She must conceal it in some way, and it was dangerous for her to call for aid, lest she might be betrayed to her husband. So she took a knife and cut the body into pieces so that she could take them out and bury them under the house.

After this task was done she managed to wash the blood up. She became tranquil for a moment, believing she would never be discovered. Sumakwel, however, had observed all, and he formed a plan for punishing his wife as she deserved. When everything seemed to be calm he crept down, doing his best not to be seen. At the door he called his wife by name. Capinangan was afraid, but concealed her fear with a smile. "Capinangan," said her husband, "cut this fish in pieces and cook it for me."

Capinangan was astonished at this command, because she had never before been treated in this way. They had many slaves to perform such tasks.

"You know I cannot," she said.

"Why not?" asked her husband.

"Because I have never learned how to cut a fish in pieces nor to cook it," she replied.

"I am astonished that you don't know how to cut, after seeing that cutting is your favorite occupation," said Sumakwel.

Capinangan then did not doubt that her husband knew what she had done, so she did as he had bidden.

When dinner was ready the husband and wife ate it, but without speaking to each other. After the meal, Sumakwel told his wife that he had seen all and should punish her severely. Capinangan said nothing. A guilty person has no argument with which to defend himself. Sumakwel ordered his servants to throw Capinangan into the sea. At that time the chief's will was law. Neither pleadings nor tears softened his hard heart, and Capinangan was carried down to the sea and thrown in.

Time passed by; Sumakwel each day grew sadder and gloomier. He would have been willing now to forgive his wife, but it was too late.

He said to his slaves: "Prepare a banca for me, that I may sail from place to place to amuse myself."

So one pleasant morning a banca sailed from Sinaragan, going southward. Sumakwel did not intend to go to any definite place, but drifted at the mercy of wind and current. He amused himself by singing during the voyage.

One day the crew descried land at a distance. "Sir," they said, "that land is Cagayan. Let us go there to get oysters and crane's eggs." To this their master agreed, and upon anchoring off the coast he prepared to visit the place.

Oh, what astonishment he felt, as he saw, peeping out of the window of a house, a woman whose appearance resembled in great measure that of Capinangan! He would have run to embrace her, had he not remembered that Capinangan was dead. He was informed that the woman was named Aloyan. He began to pay court to her, and in a few weeks she became his wife.

Sumakwel was happy, for his wife was very affectionate. Aloyan, on her part, did not doubt that her husband loved her sincerely, so she said to him:--

"My dear Sumakwel, I will no longer deceive you. I am the very woman whom you caused to be thrown into the sea. I am Capinangan. I clung to a log in the water and was carried to this place, where I have lived ever since."

"Oh," said Sumakwel, "pardon me for the harshness with which I meant to punish you."

"Let us forget what is passed," said Capinangan. "I deserved it, after all."

So they returned to Sinaragan, where they lived together happily for many years.

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