Tulalang Slays the Dragon

(of the Ilianen Manobo of North Central Cotabato)

When the epic opens, Tulalang was seated on the banks of the Livehanen River, a small tributary of the Kulaman River, happily fashioning ornamental knee bands. He seemed to be concentrated on what he was doing, oblivious of the young women who were sitting by themselves, observing him and noting how different he was from other young men of his age, for he was "never irritated" and was "overly well behaved."

After a long time, Tulalang partook of his lunch of betel nut chew. Being an immortal, Tulalang had no need for food and only chewed betel nut. When he had finished chewing, Tulalang began to get ready. He rose and slowly approached his golden clothes trunk and carefully selected the clothes that he would put on. He dressed slowly and painstakingly until he was fully clothed.

He next put on his "tengkulu"-turban and wrapped it around his head. The edge of the turban was decorated with little bells that tinkled when Tulalang moved his head. It was also decorated with embroidery done by Tulalang's only sister who had worked on it in the pitch darkness of the night, working only by the light of her radiant beauty.

Tulalang next put on the rest of his armor – his warrior vest, a breastplate, his Belarew-dagger which he tied to his waist and his Hinepuan-dagger which he wore on the left side. He fastened his daggers to his waist by tying the string around his waist ten times and knotting it nine times. He then sat down on his golden throne and gestured to his shield hanging on the wall and to a spear stuck into the wall. They came to him. He dusted off the shield and slowly shook the handle of the spear. The tinkling of the spear was heard from afar, everywhere, and it was heard by the spirit-guardian of animals, who called out to other spirits for assistance that Tulalang would not live any longer because he made her miserable and disturbed her on purpose.

As Tulalang stood up and got ready to go on his journey, he heard the call of a dove considered as a bad omen. The dove's call was repeated but Tulalang did not heed the omen. He decided that he would not stop his journey, but he pondered on how he could avert the evil that would come of it. He wished that the harm that would come from ignoring the warning of the dove would fall on him alone and not on the innocent people of his kingdom.

He went back to his seat and occupied himself with his hobby of weaving ornamental knee bands. One sunny day, the skies darkened and Tulalang heard a rushing sound. A gigantic eagle had alighted. This monster of an eagle, with its golden beak and dagger-like talons frightened everyone and brought much harm to the people. The eagle hooked Tulalang by his turban and began to light him up, but it could not lift him high because he was very heavy. Meanwhile, Tulalang prepared himself for battle. He grabbed the eagle by its feet and tightening his hold, he held the eagle high in the air and dashed it against the rocks again and again until it died. After a while, however, he decided to restore the eagle to life. The newly resuscitated eagle licked Tulalang's palm as a sign of surrender and declared itself his slave. The eagle said that it would guard Tulalang's house and warn him of any impending danger.

Many days later, Tulalang was warned by the eagle of the approach of two big bands of robbers, one from upstream and the other from downstream. A chief of the bandits summoned Tulalang, challenging him to a fight. Tulalang first partook of his betel chew and then got ready to fight. He gestured to his shield hanging on the wall and to his spear leaning against the wall and, armed with these, he made his way towards the doorway and out into the yard. He saw the two groups of bandits waiting. He announced that he would fight with the group from the downstream region first. He fought fiercely, but no matter how hard he struck them, his spear left no wounds. He could not pierce any of his opponents. Soon he was outnumbered and overpowered.

At this point, his younger brother, Menelisim, took notice of Tulalang's plight. He went out and attacked those from the upstream region. He fought so hard that one half of the opponents were thrown down. The corpses scattered around were like "flattened crops of millet." Blood flowed like a river in the midst of the yard, reaching to Menelisim's ankle.

Tulalang's weapons were destroyed, "powdered like lime," and Tulalang himself was seized and grabbed by the bandit warriors and dashed against the rocks while they mocked him. But Tulalang said that he was still in control and would fight back. He then strained every muscle so that the enemy could not hold on to him and soon they loosened their bands around his waist. Once freed, Tulalang saw his brother still being attacked by the enemy. He slowly stretched out his right hand and grasped Menelisim tightly by the waist. He then slowly enclosed him in a joint of his necklace.

After this, Tulalang ordered his black wooden shield to mimic him, to act just like him, and be his substitute in the fight. This would keep the enemy busy, because he felt that he was going to sleep. So he lifted himself to the top of a flat rock and, unable to fight off sleep, fell down and lay completely stretched out on the rock.

While he was asleep, his spirit-guardian talked to him, and Tulalang asked him how he could conquer his enemies. The spirit informed him that he (Tulalang) would not conquer his enemies because they kept their life's breath outside of their bodies – inside a snake (serpent), a fenced-in snake. Tulalang therefore went to the place where the spirit had seen the serpent and with his dagger he split the heart of the snake in two. He found the tiny bottle containing the life's breath at the very center of the serpent's heart.

Tulalang now prepared to return home. When he arrived, fighting was still going on. The bandits tried to grab his black wooden shield, but when Tulalang held up the bottle for everyone to see, the enemy surrendered and begged for mercy. Tulalang broke the bottle, and all of those warriors were thrown down flat on that yard and died.

Then Tulalang sang his victor's song. Like a cicada, he began to sing on top of a hill, "rolling his tune, trilling his voice," after which he got ready to return to his palatial home.

"Tulalang" , the Ilianen Manobo epic hero, lived on the side of the banks of the Kulaman River in the Arakan Valley. He is the immortal ancestor of the Ilianen Manobo (an ethnic minority group in North Central Cotabato). He gets his name from the heron, Telaweng ("Ardeidae") and is therefore nicknamed "Bird of the Grassy Plain" and later "Heron-Bird of the Kulaman River".

Learn this Filipino word:

kinákalambre ang tiyán