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Hinilawod c. 1983, by Art Geroche, as displayed at the lobby of the Cultural Center of West Visayas State University, La Paz, Iloilo City, Philippines.

Hinilawod is an epic poem orally transmitted from early inhabitants of a place called Sulod in central Panay, Philippines. The term "Hinilawod" generally translates to "Tales From The Mouth of The Halawod River". The epic must have been commonly known to the Visayans of Panay before the conquest, since its main protagonists, like Labaw Donggon, were noted in the accounts of the Islanders' beliefs and recorded by early Spanish colonizers.[1] One of these Westerners' accounts says that the adventures of this ancient hero of Panay were recalled during weddings and in songs.[2] It was noted that there were still native Mondos of Dingle, Iloilo who worshipped Labaw Donggon even until the last years of teh Spanish rule in the Philippines. These worshippers would stealthily enter a certain cave in Dingle in the evening of a certain day of the year, in order to render homage and to offer holocausts of chicken, doves, rice, babanas, and pigs to the ancient Visayan god.[3]


Hinilawod is a 29,000-verse epic that takes about three days to chant in its original form, making it one of the longest epics known, alongside that of Tibet's Epic of King Gesar. Hinilawod is one of the many pieces of oral literature passed from one generation to the next, changed and morphed by the chanter to one degree or another as he told it to his audience. The Hinilawod is not just a literary piece but also a source of information about culture, religion and rituals of the ancient people of Sulod; showing us that ancient Filipinos believed in the "sacred," in the importance of family honour and in personal courage and dignity.

Hinilawod was first discovered "by accident" in 1955, when Filipino anthropologist F. Landa Jocano became interested in native folklore. He travelled the hinterlands of his home island of Panay with two colleagues collecting folk songs, stories, and riddles. It was during one of those trips to the upland barrios of Lambunao, Maasin, Janiuay, and Calinog in Iloilo that his attention was called to a long and popular tale called Hinilawod. Portions of the story were sung to him and his colleague by an old man called Ulang Udig.

Returning the following year with a radio technician from Central Philippine University, he then recorded a portion of the story on tape in 1956. However, when he returned, in 1957 to make a recording of the complete story, Ulang Udig refused to cooperate. Weeks later, he was introduced to a mountain singer named Hugan-an, who, after much cajoling, allowed herself to be taped recounting both her story and the Hinilawod. It took three weeks to complete the recording of the 30-hour epic poem.

A concise version of the story of Hinilawod can be found in the book Philippine Mythology authored by Jocano.


Hinilawod,[4] recounts the story of the exploits of three Suludnon demigod brothers: Labaw Donggon, Humadapnon and Dumalapdap of ancient Panay.

The Story Alunsina and Datu Paubari[edit]

Kaptan, the king of the Gods, decreed that the beautiful Alunsina (also called Laun Sina, "the Unmarried One") marry upon reaching her maidenhood. Though all the unmarried gods from every corner of the universe tried to win her hand in marriage, she chose to marry a mortal, Datu Paubari, ruler of the Halawod.

Angered by Alunsina's decision, her suitors conspired to harm the newlywed couple. Maklium-sa-t'wan, the God of the Plains, called a council meeting of the gods. The deities decided to destroy the couple's home, Halawod, by flood.

Fortunately for Alunsina and her husband, her sister, Suklang Malayon (Goddess and Guardian of Happy Homes) discovered the evil plot and warned them of it. Before the flood, the new couple sought refuge on a higher ground and escaped the gods' wrath undetected. They returned to the plains and settled near the mouth of the Halawod River after the flood has subsided and lived in secrecy.

After several months, Alunsina became pregnant with triplets. The couple was ecstatic and Datu Paubari prepared the things needed for childbirth including the siklot. When the triplets were born, the couple called them Labaw Dongon, Humadapnon and Dumalapdap.

Immediately after giving birth, Alunsina summoned the high priest Bungot-Banwa to perform the rites of the gods of the Mount Madya-as to ensure that the triplets will have good health. During the ritual, Bungot-Banwa burned some alanghiran fronds and a pinch of kamangyan (incense) in an altar that he made himself. He opened the windows of the north side of the room after the ceremony, and in came a cold wind that transformed the infants into strong, mighty and handsome young men.

The adventures of Labaw Donggon[edit]

When he reached adulthood, Labaw Donggon, the eldest of the triplets, decided to go on a quest to find himself a wife. He heard of the beauty of Angoy Ginbitinan of Handug and wanted her for a wife. He asked his mother to prepare the things he will need for the journey—a magic cape, hat, belt, and kampilan (a large, two-handed sword).

The journey to Handug took several days. Labaw Donggon had to pass by plains, valleys and mountains to get there. When he finally arrived, he asked for an audience with Angoy Ginbitinan's father and asked for her hand in marriage. The father agreed in one condition: Labaw Donggon must kill the monster Manalintad as part of his dowry.

Labaw Donggon agreed and went away to confront the monster. With the help of his magic belt, he was able to kill the Manalintad. He cut off the tail of the monster and brought it back to Handug as a proof of his victory. Angoy Gibintinan's father was satisfied with the proof and allowed Labaw Donggon to marry his daughter.

After the wedding, Labaw Donggon and his new bride started their journey back to his home. Along the way, they met a group of young men who were on their way to Tarambang Burok to win the hand of Abyang Durunuun, sister of Sumpoy, the lord of the underworld. According to these young men, Abyang Durunuun has beauty that equals no other. Labaw Donggon and Angoy Gibintinan continued on their journey. Upon reaching home, Labaw Donggon asked his mother to take care of his new wife and told her that he will be going on another quest. This time he will be going to Tarambang Burok and vie for the hand of the beautiful Abyang Durunuun.

On his way to Tarambang Burok, Labaw Donggon had an encounter with the giant Sikay Padalogdog. This giant had a hundred arms and he won't let the young demi god pass without a fight. And fight they did. In the end, the hundred-armed giant admitted defeat and allowed the Labaw Donggon to pass the ridge.

Labaw Donggon won the hand of the legendary Abyang Durunuun and also took her home to his mother. Thereafter, the demigod went on third quest to Gadlum. This time the object of his desire is Malitong Yawa Sinagmaling Diwata, the young bride of the Lord of Darkness, Saragnayan.

Aboard his biday nga inagta (black boat), Labaw Donggon sailed across many seas on his way to Gadlum. He also traveled across the region of the clouds and the Land of Stones before he found himself at the shores of Tulogmatian, the seaside fortress of Saragnayan, the Lord of Darkness. Upon setting foot on the shore, Saragnayan asked who he was and what was his business. When Labaw Donggon expressed his desire to have Saragnayan's young wife, Malitong Yawa Sinagmaling Diwata, the Lord of Darkness just laughed and told him it was impossible. The young demigod then challenged Saragnayan to a duel.

The duel lasted for years. Labaw Donggon held Saragnayan's head underwater for seven years but Saragnayan still lived. With the help of his pamlang (amulet), Saragnayan defeated Labaw Donggon and imprisoned him beneath his house.

Meanwhile, Labaw Donggon's two wives gave birth to a son each. Angoy Ginbitinan called her child Aso Mangga, while Abyang Durunuun called her son Abyang Baranugon. Both sons went in search of their father a few days after they were born. They arrived in Tulogmatian and asked Saragnayan to free their father. Saragnayan told Abyang Baranugon to go home to his mother when he noticed that the young lad still has an umbilical cord. The young lad took offense and challenged the lord of the darkness to a duel.

Saragnayan accepted the challenge and fought with Abyang Baranugon. The Lord of Darkness was no match for the strength of Abyang Baranugon and was defeated in the process. Abyang Baranugon earned the freedom of his father and took him home.

The adventures of Humadapnon[edit]

Meanwhile, the defeat of Labaw Donggon in the hands of Saragnayan and his subsequent imprisonment angered his brothers Humadapnon and Dumalapdap. Humadapnon swore to the gods of Madya-as and vowed that he would seek revenge on all of Saragnayan's kinsmen and followers. He then embarked on a journey to Saragnayan's land. He took with him a man known for his exceptional swordsmanship, Buyong Matanayon of Mount Matiula. Together they traveled the same path that Labaw Donggon took.

After seven months of staying in Tarambang Buriraw, Buyong Matanayon remembered that they brought some ginger with them. He thought of a plan to break Piganun's spell over his friend. One evening, at dinner, Buyong Matanayon threw seven slices of ginger into the fire. Upon smelling the burning ginger, Piganun ran away from the room. Buyong Matanayon struck Humadapnon in the head, which rendered the latter unconscious. He then dragged his body away from the place and managed to escape.

Humadapnon rose to the challenge and took off his magic cape. He then used it to lift the huge boulder off the center of the village and hurled it back to the mountain. Datu Umbaw Pinaumbaw honored his word and gave his daughter's hand in marriage to Humadapnon. The two were married and a big feast was held. During the wedding feast, a guest minstrel sang and paid tribute to the beauty of Burigadang Pada Sinaklang Bulawan, the Goddess of Wealth and Greed. Enchanted with the story, Humadapnon started on a quest to seek the goddess' hand in marriage.

He met Buyong Makabagting, son of the Datu Balahidyong of Paling Bukid, who was also hoping to win the hand of Burigadang Pada Sinaklang Bulawan. The two fought in a duel and Humadapnon emerged victorious. The defeated Buyong Makabagting helped Humadapnon in his quest. Humadapnon eventually married the goddess of greed and brought her home to his mother.

Below are verses from the first two stanzas of the second part of Sugidanun I (First Narration) of the Sulodnon epic Hinilawod: Adventures of Humadapnon chanted by Hugan-an and recorded by Dr. F. Landa Jocano. The epic is in the original Sulodnon language.[5]

  • Sugidanun I: Pangayaw
    • 2. Himos
Yabon-yabon pay tun-og
Alimbu pa duyamig
Nagparibung domdom
Hangop abi sa domdom.
Ni Buyong Humadapnon:
"Ti, Taghuy, ku magsalakay
Abi ako magmamkaw
Ku magliali ako sa lawdon
Maglibot sa layagon
Bungayong ako sa sarakyan
Waay ako't panimbang,
Waay it panibin-sibin."
Mahinay tumindug
Mahinay tumimbayug
'I ginuong harangdon.
Kambay dato agtunan
Lubayon kamasuswon
Uwa si Labing Anyag
Sanglit may babaylan
Sanglit hay singday.

  • English translation by Dr. F. Landa Jocanon
The dew was still fresh
The morning breeze was cold
There he sat wondering
Till and idea came to his mind.
Said Buying Humadapnon:
"Well, Taghuy, were I to travel
Supposing I do embark
If I scour and cross the seas
Travel around, spread my sails
I would be alone in my vessel
I have no assistant
I have no companion."
And slowly he stood
Meditating he took to his feet
The respected master.
He went and approached
His younger sister
Uwa Labing Anyag
Because she was a babaylan.
An skilled in charms.

The adventures of Dumalapdap[edit]

Shortly after Humadapnon left their home to seek revenge on Saragnayan's family and followers, Dumalapdap embarked on a quest of his own. He decided go to Burutlakan-ka-adlaw and marry the maiden Lubay-Lubyok Hanginun si Mahuyokhuyokon. With him was Dumasig, the most powerful wrestler in Madya-as.

After several months of traveling, the two warriors came face to face with a two-headed monster called Balanakon. The monster guarded the ridge that led to the place where the maiden lived. They managed to kill the monster but were confronted with another kind of monster when they reached the gate of the palace where the maiden lived. Called Uyutang, the monster was similar to a bat with sharp, poisonous claws.

Dumalapdap fought with the Uyutang for seven months. He was able to defeat the monster when he grabbed its ankle and broke it. Then he took his twang daniwan (magic dagger) and struck Uyutang under the armpit. The monster howled in pain, causing an earthquake that broke the ridge they were fighting in into two. Half of the ridge became an island that is known today as Negros, while the other half became Panay.

With the monster Uyutang dead, Lubay-Lubyok Hanginun si Mahuyokhuyokan was free to marry Dumalapdap. He brought her home and was reunited with his family. Datu Paubari celebrated the return of his three sons with a very big feast. His sons left for different parts of the world after the feast. Labaw Donggon ventured north, Humadapnon went south, and Dumalapdap embarked to the west. Datu Parubari was left to rule in the east.

The quest of Humadapnon continues[edit]

Humdapnon was visited by his spirit friends Taghoy and Duwindi in his dream and told him of lovely maiden who lived in a village by the mouth of the Halawod River. The demigod left his dominion to look for the maiden named Nagmalitong Yawa. He brought with him a boatful of crew.

Humadapnon and his men safely traversed a blood-coloured sea with the help of his spirit friends. They landed on an island that was inhabited by beautiful women and headed by the sorceress, Ginmayunan. For seven years, Humadapnon and his crew were imprisoned in the island until Nagmalitong Yawa helped them escape by disguising as a boy. Humadapnon and Nagmalitong Yawa were married soon after in Halawod.

During the wedding feast, Humadapnon's brother, Dumalapdap fell in love with Huyung Adlaw and asked his brother to help him talk to the parents of the maiden. Humadapnon left his new wife and accompanied his brother to the Upperworld where Huyung Adlaw lived.

It took the brothers seven years to come back from their journey to the Upperworld. They arrived just in time for the ceremony that will have Nagmalitong Yawa married to Buyung Sumagulung, an island fortress ruler, in a ceremony. The brothers were enraged and killed all the guests and the groom. Humadapnon also stabbed his wife because the treachery only to feel remorse later on. He asked his spirit friends and found out that his wife only agreed to marry Buyung Sumagulung because her mother, Matan-ayon, convinced her that Humadapnon is not coming back.

Upon learning of this, Humadapnon asked his sister, Labing Anyag, to use her powers to bring Nagmalitong Yawa back to life. Seeing how remorseful he is, Labing Anyag agreed. However, Nagmalitong Yawa was so ashamed of agreeing to marry Buyung Sumagulung that she ran away to the underworld and sought the protection of her uncle Panlinugun, who is lord of the earthquake.

Humadapnon had to kill an eight-headed serpent in his pursuit of Nagmalitong Yawa. Then he had to duel with a young man who spirited his wife away. The duel ended when Alunsina intervened and revealed that the young man is also her son, Amarotha. This son died during childbirth and was brought back from the dead to keep Alunsina company. Alunsina decided that both Humadapnon and Amarotha deserved a piece of Nagmalitong Yawa so she cut the girl in half and gave a piece each to her sons. Each half turned into a whole live person. Humadapnon brought his wife back to Panay.

In theatre[edit]

An abridged version was the first stage performance of the epic during the inauguration of the Cultural Center of Western Visayas on the campus of West Visayas State University in Iloilo City, Philippines in March 1983 under the patronage of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. The cultural group, Panayana performed the epic before the representatives of the First Lady and the high officials of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Art Geroche, a local Ilonggo artist and Staff of the West Visayas State College (now a State University), provided a mural painting (oil on canvas) depicting the epic, for the lobby of the Cultural Center. The painting captures the important scenes in the adventures of the heroes of Hinilawod, in one panoramic view within a six by twelve feet opus of Geroche.

This epic, which is orally transmitted from one generation to another, is still very much a part of the culture of the Sulod Nation in the mountains of Jamindan, Capiz. In April 1999, Alejo Zata recorded the epic as it was chanted by the natives of Sulod.[6]

University of San Agustin Little Theater (USALT) has staged its version of the Humadapnon fragment of the Hinilawod titled "Tarangban" ("Cave"). It first staged the play in 2004.

The production was revised to include the participation of then 17-year-old Manilyn "Tata" Glemer, a member of the Panay Bukidnon tribe in Tapaz, Capiz. Glemer knows how to chant the epic. Research was conducted with Glemer's mother, Gemma, the chieftain of their tribe and her grandmother, Lola Gamak, a binukot and chanter of the tribe.

Since 2006, the late-January Hirinugyaw-Suguidanonay Festival of the town of Calinog in Central Panay (which started in 1988 as an adaptation of the Dinagyang Festival where it was then known as the Sirinayaw, then Hirinugyaw Festival) has used segments and tales of the Hinilawod as performance themes of its competing tribes.[7] Each performance's authenticity is enhanced through the use of authentic Panay Bukidnon (Sulod) costumes, known as Panubok, and the performing tribes' employment of Panay-Bukidnon Manunuguids (Chanters, hence the 'Suguidanonay' in the festival's name) from the Balay Tulun-an Cultural Preservation School in the Panay-Bukidnon settlement in Brgy. Garangan in Calinog's mountainous areas. Of note is the fact that the town itself sits squarely beside the river Jalaur the ancient name of which was Halawud, the river that gave the epic its name.[8]

It had subsequent stagings of excerpts in 2010 for the "Tanghal 4: The National University and Colleges Theater Festival and Conference" [9][10] on Feb. 2 at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and for "Pasinaya Festival" at Tanghalang Huseng Batute of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Feb. 7.

There was also a performance on March 1, 2010 at the USALT auditorium.[11][12]

In 2010, Hiyas Kayumanggi staged their version of the Hinilawod at Luce Auditorium of Silliman University.

In 2011, the group staged their production at Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on September 3 and 4.[13]

In 2013, Ateneo Entablado staged Nicanor Tiongson's play Labaw Donggon: Ang Banog ng Sanlibutan in Cervini Field, Ateneo de Manila University. The production was directed by Jerry Respeto with composers Jema Pamintuan and Teresa Barrozo, costume and set designer Gino Gonzales, lighting designer Voltaire de Jesus, and choreographers Gio Gahol and Elena Laniog.[14][15]

Further reading[edit]