Is the Dragon the Bakunawa?

Genevieve Asenjo, PHD

Okay, I have to admit that after Alice in Wonderland, How to Train Your Dragon is the second movie I’ve watched in 3-D. Same movie house in my neighborhood mall. Don’t know what’s with global economic crisis and Hollywood’s adventure movies in 3-D in Philippine malls, but they both came with “free” box of pop corn and bottled juice drink. No, thanks palangga, beloved, I said. Passed it for good because you know, I never liked pop corn especially when it’s already huyot. Ah, that condition when something supposedly delicious, and therefore enjoyable, is no longer - like it’s patay, dead!

What was labelled “free” was actually an add-on in the ticket price. Duh, like the movie is about fighting dragon for the Viking dude. Coming-of-age blah-blah that ends in brotherhood: oh yeah, let’s go for equality and world peace. Not that I’m not a fan, say of Bono (hmmm, the hunk of U2, in case you don’t know), but it was so pirit, pilit -- imposed that it was contrived, not organic. 

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And so let’s just talk of dragons, instead.  

Dragon, popular mythical character – always there in any adventure story way before I’ve heard of George Lucas or 3-D. Remember your grandmother’s “Sang una nga panahon…” (Once upon a time…). Lovely creature that spits fire to the hapless prince-hero on the way to save the beloved princess tucked in some underworld by some evil, jealous suitor. Malaw-ay, ano pa abi (Ugly, what else). Remember, too, the hero has to answer a riddle. Paktakon, you guess, for a price and that reputation as maalam (intelligent). 

"Pogi" point (mark of being handsome, attractive) in the early times, when perhaps, like in the movie, dragons surround us, and they are feared that they have to be killed. Pamatyon!

And so I remember bakunawa. Your Visayan mythical creature, palangga, said to be the cause of eclipses. Because this bakunawa, serpent-like with wings you can ride, eats the bulan, the moon, and so darkness on earth and mankind fears for his fortune. Eats bulan, as in lamon (devour, swallow), and we rushed outside with our palanggana (water basin) for a glimpse and to create sounds with the hope it will sleep, and the moon will be left up there. What a spectacle! Not until news that this appearance, this phenomenon, is actually an omen of a forthcoming disaster. Hala ka (Be warned)! And so we behaved, palangga, tama na ang binastos (Enough, be coy, no more bawdy remark/sexual reference).

Salamat sa Diyos, thanks God, there is Science. But don’t be fooled. Dragon remains a powerful symbol. Look at China. Yes, the dragon-dancing Chinese. It’s spitting fire and America is rambling, collapsing. Okay, you might say, an old dragon whose tail is still a kick-ass. Uh-uh. Indi mag-ugot (don’t be angry), don’t make away (quarrel) with me; just read this somewhere. You know me, pasaway (deviant). Oh, exactly like that Viking boy. That’s why he befriended a dragon and proved to his Tatay (father), the Barangay Captain (chieftain), and the whole barangay (village) that dragons are mayo (good), mapinalanggaon (loving), masaligan (reliable) creatures meant to bulig (help) men and women toward a malinong (peaceful) and mainuswagon (prosperous) co-existence. 

Whew, this sounds like your politician’s campaign ad, huh. Now you know, palangga, why the movie’s a turn off. Dragons are right there, galupad (flying) toward your face, before your very eyes - kay 3-D man bala (because it’s in 3-D) but ambot lang, a (I don’t know why), the magic’s not there. Like it lacks imagination in graphic and production designs. Not as spectacular as, I might say, that memory of bakunawa sighting.

But okay, we can’t turn back time. No time as well for kasubo (sorrow, loneliness).  Never mind if Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of My Heart” is one YouTube sensation. It was sad enough the pop corn was huyot and the bottled juice drink was, ew, sugar-y. Got to cut down on that, you know. So let’s answer the pamangkot (question), which could also be the paktakon at this moment: Is the dragon, the bakunawa?

I remembered, asked around, searched online and off line, and here’s what I realized: their dragon is also our dragon, and yes, our Visayan bakunawa. Like Viking is Norwegian, right? Now it’s Hollywood. That leads us to the punto, point, that you can make tudlo-tudlo (point with finger), like it’s your original 3-D straight to your face, and this time not only to your very eyes, but hopefully as well utok, brain: that no one solely owns dragon but the Universe. 

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