[This is part of a collection of posts serializing the second chapter of Pasyon, Awit, Legend.]
If the approach to awit and pasyon in Pasyon and Revolution is deeply flawed and fails to achieve its goal of understanding the consciousness of the masses, where can we look if we wish to find a source which can achieve this goal? In the legend of Bernardo Carpio, Ileto located a source with great potential for analyzing actual lower class categories of perception. How did he read this legend?
As mentioned above, Pasyon and Revolution, like all other scholarly work written on the subject, treats the legend and the awit as intimately connected; the legend is seen as the popular continuation of the Historia Famosa. This approach extends to the legend the elite, textual hermeneutic employed in reading the awit. It also undermines recognition of the legend as a ‘hidden transcript’ of opposition to the urban elite who produced, and read, the awit.1
Like other scholars, Ileto not only conflated awit and legend, but he also combined multiple separate legends and variations of legends into an admixture from which little historical insight can be gained. We must disambiguate and analyze the various sources of the Carpio legend, situate them in their original contexts, and recreate how they would have been performed.
To be clear, the narrative of Bernardo Carpio chasing lightning into the colliding mountains is not a legend. This is part of an urban literary tradition, and was an integral aspect of the original 1860 composition. It represented an attempt to proselytize irredentist native beliefs, which were identified with the nag-uumpugang bato, the colliding rocks. The nag-uumpugang bato, two sheer cliff faces separated by a narrow canyon, are a comparatively common geographic feature in the karst topography of the Sierra Madre massif. They feature prominently in many legends and would thus have been identified by the author of the awit with traditional native beliefs.
The earliest version of the legend which I have been able to locate tells of an ‘old man in the cave.’ Ileto and others treat later fragments of this story as part of the Carpio liberator legend. It is a separate legend entirely. Gironiere’s Twenty Years in the Philippines is a source to which we shall return in much detail. It contains an appendix written in English in 1853 by the British explorer H. Hamilton Lindsay. In this appendix Lindsay told of his journey with Gironiere to the cave of San Mateo. He concluded his account by summarizing a legend. No previous scholar has drawn attention to this text, so I shall quote it in its entirety:
They have a curious legend respecting the cavern, which has a singular resemblance to the German tale of the “Three Brothers,” in the Hartz Mountains.
An Indian one day entered the cave to catch bats, with the wings of which they compound some sort of medicine. On arriving at the stream of water he saw a venerable old man on the other side, who offered his hand to help him across the stream. The Indian was rather shy of his new acquaintance, and held out the end of his stick, which the old man took, and it instantly turned into charcoal. Upon this the Indian became anxious to return, and thanking the old man for his politeness, told him he did not mean to go any further that day.
The old man then offered him three stones, and, to remove any fear of their burning his fingers, deposited them in the stream. The Indian took them, and retreated as quick as he could, without looking behind him; and, on examining the stones at the mouth of the cave, to his surprise he found them to be three masses of pure gold. The story did not go any further, as to what use he made of his riches. The old Indian who told me this story said it happened long before the arrival of the Spaniards.2
Lindsay would have heard this legend through an interpreter. We do not have the actual text of the legend, evidence of the texture of its performance, or the context in which it was traditionally performed. What we have is a legend summary. It is nonetheless quite useful. It will allow us to separate the various elements which later became identified with the Carpio legend. As Lindsay’s account was published seven years before Bernardo Carpio entered Philippine literature in the 1860 Historia Famosa ni Bernardo Carpio, we can safely say that the original San Mateo cave legend had nothing to do with him.