Origin Stories of Lake Danom or Lake Banao

The Origin of Lake Danom

There was, it is told, famine in Besao that affected the whole town. The people were so short of food they went to other places to earn food. One bright sunny morning, a man came along the road to Sagada intending to earn food there. As he was passing through the place where Lake Danom is situated at present, he saw a small cottage. Around it was a large area planted with gabi (taro). The man said to himself,

"Well, I had better go there and ask if the owner of those fields will permit me to work for him and in return, I might receive some of that gabi. Sagada is still very far and my family wants me to bring the food as soon as possible so they won't starve to death."

He went to the house, it is said, where he found a woman. The woman was very old, gray-haired, and she lived alone. She was sympathetic when the man came to ask for food so that his family wouldn't starve and she entertained him well. However, when the man began to eat, he discovered that the rice and vegetable bowls were human skulls. Though this was shocking, he went on eating until he was satisfied and full. 

After he had eaten, the old woman asked him to take the lice off her head. When he did, he instead found snakes, centipedes, and other insects in her long hair instead of lice. He still took them off, no matter how terrible they looked to him. For this woman, it is said, was believed to be a goddess.

When the man prepared to go back home, the old woman gave him pieces of husked rice and three gabi roots. She instructed him to put three pieces of rice in three containers when he reached home, and plant the three gabi roots the next morning. The containers he put the rice in were soon full of rice. All around the outside of the house, the gabi plants spread and sprouted.

"Oh what a mystery!", said the man.

The rice and gabi were never consumed and his family was always supplied. It probably was enough to supply the family forever. When they took half of the rice out of the container, it was full again the next day. When they gathered gabi from one whole plot, it was thickly planted again the next morning.

One morning, one of the man's children went out to play with other children with two big pieces of gabi. The child shared them with the others. One child took his share and ran home to give some to his younger sister. His father asked him where he got the gabi and he told his father. The father then went to the man who grew the gabi and asked him where he had got it. The man told him how he got it from an old woman living in a small cottage, somewhere along the way between Besao and Sagada. He was very much interested so he took his son with him and they started out.

On the way to Sagada, they finally saw the cottage of the old woman where the first man got the gabi. They proceeded to the house and found the woman eating, and she invited them to eat with her. They ate, but because the bowls of rice and vegetables were human skulls, the man and his son kept spitting in disgust. They were so sensitive that they showed disrespect in their eating. They even told the old woman she was a very dirty person for having skulls as bowls.

After eating, the woman asked the man to take her lice off and he obeyed. But when he saw that her head was full of centipedes, snakes, flies and other animals instead of lice, he discontinued. He despised her and began spitting. He said it was too awful a job for him and even if he were to be paid, he wouldn't do it. The old woman acted very much embarrassed and suggested he go to the gabi field and dig up some roots so they might have something to take home. The man was happy to do this so he got a sharp rod and began digging for roots. Suddenly, the woman went up to him and beat him with a rod.

Oh, pity him!

He became Lake Danom. His son tried to escape but he was overcome and worse, he was turned into another lake. This is the smaller lake called Lake Banao. It is just below Lake Danom.

This story was written or recounted by Salvador Madalang which appeared in a 1940s collection of Igorot legends done by Roy F. Barton. 

In the source file, there was a note that said:
The present people of Sagada still believe that an old goddess lives in Lake Danom. It is told that formerly, the lake was entirely hidden by bushes, and that only recently, cattle ate them up and the lake became wider.

The Origin of Lake Banao

In the early days when the men of the tribes of Bontoc were still very savage and unknown to the people of the western part of Bontoc -- that is, Besao -- a man from Tetep-an came to Besao to seek food. On his way home, his pig squealed near the place where the present Lake Banao is, which was then a gabi (taro) field. After the pig squealed, a woman appeared and asked him what he wanted. He told his purpose, so she invited him into her house. They then talked about exchanging the pig for gabi and this was agreed upon. But before they concluded the bargain, the woman asked the man to pick off her lice.

The woman's hair was so thick and long that it was hard for the man to part. When he touched her head, there he saw a big green centipede. Realizing now that this woman was someone supernatural, he killed the insect with difficulty, then another, and another -- some of which were like snakes. 

Afterwards, the woman invited him for lunch. To his great surprise, the dishes the old woman used were parts of a human body. For the vegetable bowl, they used a human skull, and for a dipper a human arm and hand, the fingers cupped for the purpose. For getting the rice out of the pot, they used a human scapula. The man was so afraid of the woman but he continued to eat without saying anything and then he went home.

When he got home, people were surprised to hear his story. Not long after this incident, a woman with her child, went to buy a pig to butcher and when she reached that spot, she pinched the pig's ear to make it squeal to attract the woman's attention. However, when she saw the woman's lice, she was frightened by the insects on the old woman's head and she refused to pick them off. And when she and the child were invited for lunch, she refused to eat because of the strange dishes.

The old woman was displeased and told her to go out and gather gabi, which she did. But when she was in the field, the woman told her she would suffer for her conduct, and the gabi field suddenly turned into the deep lake which it is now.

In the beginning, there was a statue in the middle, like a woman calling for help. But when it was cut down, blood gushed out.

The child suffered a similar fate, and was turned into a smaller lake but a few meters below the mother lake.

During the rainy season, people still hear the woman calling for her daughter and complaining that she is filthy because of the carabaos always wallowing there.

During the summer, people also see her come out of the lake and go to a spring nearby, and when she does that, the water in the lake becomes much smaller.

The original story was written or recounted by Isabel Bicaca which appeared in a 1940s collection of Igorot legends done by Roy F. Barton. 

The Legend of Lake Banao

Once upon a time, long, long ago, the people of Maleng Abra, suffered a famine. Maleng is a barrio located on the boundary between the Mountain Province and Abra.

One day, a woman and her daughter started out with a pig to barter for something to eat. They traveled for two whole days. They were so tired that they rested on a plateau between Sagada and Besao. While they were resting, the pig squealed. An old woman then appeared and asked them where they were going. They answered that they were going to find something to eat. The old woman requested them, if they were willing, to remove her lice. They were surprised to find that her lice were really snakes, centipedes, and other poisonous insects, but they said nothing. Soon they had picked them all off.

Then the old woman, invited them to her house for lunch. They were again surprised to find that her utensils were the following -- a human palm used as a plate, a human skull as a pot, and a ladle made of human bones. Still, they did not show they had noticed anything strange and did not say a word. After they had eaten, the old woman told them to follow her to her gabi field. (Gabi is a kind of taro root.)

She gave them whatever they could carry, including some bundles of palay (unthreshed rice). She told them, moreover, that the gabi, and palay would last them until the next harvest, almost five months away.

When the woman and her daughter got home, they put the palay in the granary, and were surprised to see it filled the whole place. They put the gabi in the house, and it filled up all the empty spaces. Their neighbors were surprised to hear what had happened and asked about the story behind it. When they heard the whole story, one of the neighbors called her daughter and the two of them started out to try their luck.

When they reached the resting place, they rested and made their pig squeal. Thereupon the old woman appeared and requested them as she had requested the first travelers. Afraid and too squeamish to touch the centipedes and snakes, these new travelers screamed and wouldn't pick the lice. The old woman did not show any disappointment, but invited them to her house for lunch. The strangers accepted the invitation but when they were served in such strange utensils, they again showed signs of squeamishness and wouldn't eat. Then the old woman took them to her gabi field and told them to take as much as they could carry. They were so greedy that they carried almost more than they could. 

When they got to the place just above the site of the present lakes, the old woman said, 

"For your greediness and impoliteness, you will become lakes so that people will see you and you will be a reminder whenever they travel this road.

The woman then became the bigger lake and her daughter the smaller lake. They are called Mother Lake Banao and Daughter Lake Banao.

The original story was written by Teachers of Besao as part of a 1952 compilation which appeared in The Literature of Besao (1956), a journal entry published in the Philippine Sociological Review, Volume 22.

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