Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Curious Twist to the Cave Fish Story

Last year, when Liloan Trippers first started, one of the things that Swerver and I wrote about was the story of a primordial fish living under the San Fernando Rey Church. This was said to be the kugtong, a giant fish that can swallow a man whole. It is one of the two reasons cited in this entry about annual disappearances of a bather in the Suba Channel, right next to black fairies.

Swerver expressed doubt that the specie ever existed in history of man. Actually, I found out that it is merely an abomination of the delicious delicacy called pugapo, a type of grouper fish. Doesn't ring a bell does it? How about lapu-lapu? Yes, folks, according to folklore as cited in this blog by Rankm the early Filipinos believed that the kugtong was a giant pugapo or lapulapu, and it swallowed men whole.

So, we could say the kugtong exists but in a smaller scale.

Last night, the co-founder of the Cebu Anime Manga Society that I am currently spearheading made a few comments about the kugtong legend. She lives in Opon, just like Swerver. And just like Swerver, she also been to Liloan many times. She said something about the kugtong that I didn't expect to hear.

One is a detailed description of how the kugtong looks like. She said it's merely a giant lapulapu, but with a twist: it has razor sharp teeth with which it tears apart its prey. Perhaps the normal pugapo does have that, but the kugtong has bigger ones. The other description is that its scales are as hard as the barnacles that stick to the columns that you see partly submerged in water at the pier. To be brief, you can describe the kugtong from now on as a huge, armored lapulapu.

This has led me to speculate on the exact size of the kugtong. Since it can swallow a man whole, it could be as big as a great white shark or perhaps even bigger. Who knows? What we can say is that the kugtong is so big that it ends up living underground and not moving around.

As if this wasn't scoop enough, Ren13 shared another surprising revelation about the kugtong. She said there is a kugtong that lives below the General Milling Corporation compound in Mactan Island, and that she was surprised to read that it is also found in Liloan. This is quite curious because, the way I look at it, there are two kugtongs in the islands of Cebu province.

Now, this is merely my interpretation of the story. At first glance, you will think that it is just the same story spoken in different places. It's entirely possible, because we're dealing with folklore here and not facts. However, I cannot help but speculate that, somewhere in time, there may have been more than one kugtong that traveled the deep waters of the Tañon Strait.

Let us look at the similarities. First, both live in underwater caves. In the case of the GMC kugtong -- which I dub it thus -- its cave terminates right below the GMC compound. The Liloan kugtong on the other hand lives right below the San Fernando Rey Church. Ren13 again shared something with me which she got from her late uncle, that there is a big hole in the basement of General Milling Corporation covered in glass. As the Trippers have heard from some stories in Liloan, there is also a supposed hole in the San Fernando Rey Church.

Swerver tried to interview Fr. Eric Jecong of the local parish but, typical of the Catholic Church, the priest shut the story down and denied the legend. This is the Catholic Church we're dealing with, after all. You can read Swerver's entry here, for a recap.

Here comes the differences. They are quite subtle. According to Ren13, there is rarely an incident that somebody disappears from the seas adjacent to the General Milling compound. According to her, the kugtong is fed by a whole live pig annually to prevent it from swallowing someone whole that year. If that doesn't happen, it's either the GMC kugtong throws a fit and shakes the ground, or -- you guessed it -- some poor soul will disappear from the waters of the Strait.

In Liloan, however, it is already part of folklore that somebody will disappear each year. They attribute it to two reasons: the black fairies or the kugtong, as mentioned in our earlier blog. If the body is not found, then it's the kugtong who has taken that poor soul. If you compare it to the Mactan version of the kugtong legend, the difference lies in the sacrifice. The Catholic Church will not condone such superstitious actions as it is not part of the doctrine, an inaction which one can attribute to the yearly disappearance in Suba Channel if we treat the kugtong as a real, living creature and disregard the black fairy version entirely.

I couldn't help but speculate. Are these two stories separate or just one story that was spread down to other places. How come, however, we don't hear such stories in other northern towns like Danao, etc.? What's curious is that both kugtongs live in similar conditions, yet act differently. Could there be something behind this? Are these two kugtongs separate and are actually long-lost siblings that have been driven to seclusion because of the rise of modernization and advancements in technology?

Come to think of it, how deep are the waters of the Tañon Strait exactly? I seem to have heard vague rumors years ago that companies can drill for oil in its waters. I'm not sure, but isn't that very deep enough indeed, almost like the sea or ocean? Who knows what secrets the Tañon Strait has beneath its waters? One thing is for sure: there are still creatures there, like the kugtong, that live deep down as they are more acclimated to the cold and frigid temperatures of the deepest parts of the sea.

And so, the legend lives on...

- Immortalundead


renren said...

Great post seishi! ^_^v It’s very informative and yet fascinating at the same time. It was a delightful read ;p

I have a different theory though, hehe. They’re not long-lost siblings. Instead, they are the missing ending of the folklore tale of two star-crossed lovers in Liloan. Nyahahaha! Dli nako feel ang siblings ra cla...haha! ^^


When her daughter fled together with a poor man, the mother of the girl who was grief-stricken and so ashamed prayed to Bathala to bring back her daughter and at the same time placed a curse on them stating that they can never be together again. The family of the girl found out where they were and sailed to Liloan. They forcibly separated the couple and the woman was brought back to their place (Mactan island) while they punished the man severely and his body was thrown in the sea (Liloan). She was so in love with the man and when she found out what happened to her beloved; she ran to the sea in despair and drowned herself. An engkanto took pity on their fate and turned them into fishes. Unfortunately, the curse of the mother was so strong and so until this day, they’ve never seen each other again. But they never lost hope that maybe the curse will be broken...someday...;p

Hahahaha! Nayabag nako. Nah, it’s just a product of my overly active imagination or brewed from my psychotic episodes. Don’t mind me ;)

SpinnakerMD said...

hi sir, you might be suprised but this kugtong story is really true, it was around 1979 when I saw a kugtong fished off the waters of iloilo strait. it was brought to a funeral parlor near our house to be preserved. it looked like a giant pacific grouper, it had scales the size of the 1972 philippine peso. its about the size of a large petrol drum. fishermen claim that kugtongs make burrows on limestone walls and you can determine their presence because you can hear it growl underwater.

Anonymous said...

I like the story when I studied BSN in Bohol I've heard of that story. In Bohol there's a barangay there called Barangay Kugtong accdg to my local Relatives there