February 12, 2014

A Mortal Ascends to the Skyworld (The Story of Aponibolinayen)

Tell me a good story, and I'll do a favor for you.

I am such a sucker for stories. In fact "searching for a good story" is one of the excuses I tell myself whenever I'm spending a ridiculous amount of time online or with people I don't particularly relate to. Hence I created a new page on this blog called Tales from the Philippines which will be about Philippine culture in the field of myths, legends, folktales, and sometimes history.

Since it is almost Valentines day, the first story will be that of love between Aponibolinayen and Init Init. This story originated from the Tinguian tribe of Abra in Northern Luzon, Philippines. If you can understand Filipino or Tagalog and is  not in the mood to read the story, just watch the video below: 

A Mortal Ascends to the Skyworld
Jocano, F.L. (1971). Myths and Legends of the Early Filipinos, Alemar-Phoenix Publication, 42-46

1. Aponibolinayen Got Carried Away
One day, Aponibolinayen, and her sister-in-law Dinay, went by the river to gather sisiklat leaves. But the sisiklat leaves were too tough to break so Aponibolinayen asked Dinay to help her. However, the sisiklat leaves immediately wreathed her and carried her to the sky.

2. Init-init the sun god
Up in the sky, Aponibolinayen saw a hut near the riverbanks. She went inside and made herself at home. Soon after eating she fell asleep. It was dusk when the owner of the house, Init-init the sun god, arrived and found the sleeping Aponibolinayen. 

(In the book, Aponibolinayen was described as a very beautiful woman having white skin, rosy cheeks, heart-shaped face, long black hair, and young and tender lips.)

Initially, Init init thought of waking her up, but later changed his mind and prepared dinner instead. Meanwhile, Aponibolinayen woke up and left.

3. Finally They Meet

Every morning, Init-init would go away to do his job, then return to his hut after the sun sets. During his absence, Aponibolinayen would go to his hut and prepare food for her and Init-init. This went on for days without them meeting each other. 

One afternoon, Init init sent a star to spy on Aponibolinayen. The star reported to him that the Tinguian beauty was still in his hut. Init init hurried back home and found Aponibolinayen in the kitchen.

4. THE Talk (directly lifted from the book, p 44)

"You can kill me if you are an enemy," she said.
"Could I ever kill a beautiful woman like you?" replied Init-init sitting down beside her

He took out his betel nut box and invited the maiden to chew betel nut with him. It was a custom to offer betel nut to a maiden before asking her name. Aponibolinayen at first refused. However, after some entreaty, she accepted the offer. 

"I'm known as  Init-init," began the sun lord. It is I who lead the sun across the sky. 
"I'm Aponibolinayen," replied the maiden. "I'm the daughter of Pagbokasan of Kaudamon and sister of Owig."

"I'm lonely," continued the sun lord; "will you marry me?"

(Well, that escalated quickly, no? HAHAHA)

After remonstrating, as is the custom of women, she consented to be his wife.

(Well, that certainly escalated quickly. HAHAHA)

5. Init-init Got Served!

One afternoon, Init-init came home early and found his wife cooking. He saw her put some sticks in the pot and then, to his surprise, took out some rice and boiled fish wrapped in gabi leaves. He was amused and amazed as to how the sticks turned into rice and fish. He didn't ask anymore questions when Aponibolinayen reminded him of the rich Kaudamon woman who practiced magic.

6. Take me with you.

During that night, Aponibolinayen begged her husband to take her with him in the sky. Init init protested as Aponibolinayen will melt from the heat of the sun. But his wife insisted that they will bring blankets, sheets, etc to protect her.

7. Aponibolinayen Got Carried Further Away and Back

The next morning Init-init took Aponibolinayen up in the sky, but Aponibolinayen was unable to take the heat and melted. Init-init put her oily remains in a bottle, covered it with sheets and blankets and dropped it to earth.

8. Fatherless baby

On Earth, Aponibolinayen was reunited with her family. A few months later, she gave birth to a baby boy. To find out who the father of the child is, her family invited all the chieftains of the neighboring village and waited as to whom the child would be most attracted to. The plan failed since the child wasn't attracted to anyone.

9. Mom and Dad Won't Approve of Our Love

The family seeked out the advice of a wise old woman, Alokatan. She advised that everyone was invited except for the sun lord. Thus, the sun lord was summoned. Init-init turned himself into a stone and rolled down to the village. The baby boy was immediately attracted to the stone. 

Everyone in the village was shocked and disgusted to find out that the father of the baby was in fact a stone. Aponibolinayen was banished from the village as a result.

10. The Disney Ending

Soon after they were alone, Init-init turned into a man again. They went back to Init-init's house in the sky, and yes - they lived happily ever after.


1. Aponibolinayen was described as having white skin and rosy cheeks which was considered as  beautiful in the literature. I wonder when this mentality had started? The Tinguian tribes are pagan indigenous people so they shouldn't have been affected by the aesthetics brought about by the Spanish conquerors. Perhaps, it was an addition or modification done during the passing of the story through oral means.

2. I was oblivious of the old custom of inviting someone to chew betel nut before asking his or her name, but I am aware that it was a symbol of sexual relationships in some Southeast Asian countries. This is interesting, I wonder how and why it started?

3. Do any of you know the story of the rich old Kaudamon woman who practices magic? I haven't encountered her name yet in other readings.

4. In this story, there was no stigma at all with regards to the marriage of a mortal and god. Why is that?

5. Even back then, the Filipinos have turned to some wise old woman/man for advice. I think it shows our custom of having deep respect and trust for the decision of our elders - which is slowly declining as a tradition nowadays.

6. Why did Init-init show up as a stone? What was he thinking?! Wouldn't it have been easier if he showed up as a gorgeous being? 

What about you? What do you think of the story or the themes presented?



Should you have any reading suggestions, please let me know in the comments and I'll momentarily be the happiest kid in Manila!  

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