Dogs unearthing springs: A recurring motif in Kidapawan origin legends

A tribal chieftain took his dog to a hunt. As he went deep into the woods, the dog suddenly stopped on a spot and began digging. Curious, the chieftain observed the creature and allowed it to continue. Soon, water began seeping from the spot where the dog was digging. Overjoyed, the chieftain moved his people’s settlement to the area, and the area would later on become a Baranggay.

In my sojourns among obscure bits of Kidapawan historiography, I have come upon this intriguing motif in the origin legends of several Baranggays.

It was always one of my past times during my days as a student to read up pieces of historiography about the localities I have called home, mostly in the Kidapawan area. This, I must say has a singular attraction to it. Reading about National or International history will definitely promise dramatic narratives, but they have a foreignness about them if you’re not a resident of the strategic places where these historical events unfolded. Reading about the past of your own place, however, makes the narratives strangely more familiar: it gives you the sense that you yourself are part of these stories. But at the same time it also gives you a new way of looking at the things you have come to know.

In some of these readings, I say, I came across the recurring motif of the dog discovering a spring. This has a pronounced curiosity about it, because it comes in spite of many difficulties. On the first degree, the historicity of the stories is doubtful, as they are largely oral in source. As such, they must be treated with a skeptical eye, one which is prepared to dismiss the tales as folklore. On the second degree, my sources  on these stories themselves are rather shady, consisting mostly of accounts of interviews with tribal elders made available online.  I can thus not ascertain even the folkloric authenticity of the stories. On the third degree, there is painfully very little academic background to these accounts, and no peer review can even ascertain if my sources are indeed the result of honest research, or if they are mere figments of the authors’ imaginations or political motivations. To see a recurring motif in the origin legends certainly strengthens the likelihood of  folklore, but it also strengthens the tribal authenticity of the stories.

Thus far, I have encountered three locales with this origin, and interestingly enough all three have a Manobo past. Two of them are in Kidapawan, and one (which was further split into two Baranggays) is in nearby Makilala.

The first account of this I encountered was on the Baranggay of Mua-an, just at the foot of Mount Apo, along the shores of the boiling Lake Agco. The account was by local journalist Psalmer Bernalte, uploaded in what seemed to be an LGU commissioned website that could no longer be located, and it unfortunately did not cite its sources. The account described (I use here the past tense because the source is now gone) the dog Mua-an, owned by Datu Lumayon of the local Manobo settlement. It is to this dog’s digging that the locality attribute the oldest of the hot springs it is famous for. When the place was elevated to the status of Baranggay, the people decided to name it after the dog.

The second account I encountered has a much more reliable background, that of Baranggay Amas. It comes from the 1997 MA Thesis of Marilyn Jara, tucked among the many theses in the Ateneo de Davao’s College Library. In the thesis (which explored the myths and legends of the Manobos in Sitio Puas-India, Amas, Kidapawan), the origin of Baranggay Amas is associated with an Apo Mampolinog. Strangely enough, the story doesn’t seem to have a direct connection to the origin of the Baranggay itself: Apo Mampolinog is described as having four sons, Acas, Malang, Angcanan and Sugcawan. Mampolinog takes his dog to a hunt one day and the dog discovers a spring. Thereafter, the land of Apo Mampolinog was named Amas, from the initials of his sons’ names. I need to say that Bernalte’s own body of research included a history of Amas as well, and it had a different story: the place is named after a semi-heroic figure named Datu Amas.

The third account, which I encountered just recently, is that of the Bulatukan area in the Municipality of Makilala. The area is composed of two Baranggays, Old and New Bulatukan, and there are two versions of the legend with slight variations. The accounts (with one mentioning the alternate telling of the other) appear on each Baranggay’s website (here and here). In the Old Bulatukan version, the dog Bulatukan is said to be owned by two datus, Mamalo and Tagaliong. In the New Bulatukan version, ownership of the dog is attributed to a Datu Butuwan. In both cases, Bulatukan unearths a water source, which grows to be a river, and the locale is named after the dog.

It isn’t difficult to imagine why these legends are recurring. The mere sight of a dog digging up a spring already inspires thoughts of a romantically accidental origin. The sight of Mua-an and the hot springs is particularly spectacular, what with all the steam. If not historically accurate (which isn’t altogether unlikely), the scenario must have at least been caused by the storyteller witnessing a similar event.

What is unfortunate however is that these fanciful origin legends, historical they may be or not, are barely known to the locals. The people of the area, I lament, are sadly without any hint of historical appreciation. It is a sad fact that there is no statue in lake Agco to commemorate Mua-an (something that would be an interesting tourist attraction, I must say), but it is even sadder that the locals probably don’t even know who Mua-an was.

And so, as I continue to hound for any bit of local history I could unearth, I cannot help but wish that the springs I uncover would be used by my hometown to quench the thirst for identity of its soul.

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2 Comments on “Dogs unearthing springs: A recurring motif in Kidapawan origin legends”

  1. bong cordova says:

    well, guilty as charged. but thanks for this article. never did know that mua-an was a dog.

    • Lefthandedsnake says:

      Of course sir. But I reiterate my disclaimer, these studies are not backed by peer review, so I cannot vouch even for their folk authenticity.


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