Of Golden Ships and Divine Mediators: Folklore in Small Bisayan Island Communities

Presentation Date: 

Wednesday, October 4, 2023


11th Literary Studies Conference, Universitas Sanata Dharma, Yogyakarta, Indonesia


Small island communities across the Visayas regions of the Philippines are sites of convergence, engagement, and tension among people and entities of different origins and backgrounds. I attempt to determine the provenance and examine the content of folk narratives gathered through linguistic fieldwork in two such communities: (i) the Municipality of Romblon, on the island of Romblon, Province of Romblon (from 28 April-2 May, 2014) and (ii) the Municipality of Poro, on the island of Poro, in Camotes, Province of Cebu (from 8 March-30 April, 2022) and sketch out the ways in which high relative insularity (Baldacchino, 2006; Nash, et al., 2020) may have influenced these accounts. One account is a tale involving a golden ship which allegedly abducts children during Holy Week in Romblon, Romblon (Santiago, 2019). Another tale involves the intermediary named Panganoron who is said to have settled a dispute between the two tribes Tag-Anito and Tag-Maktang in Poro Island (Costas, 1997; Santiago, 2022). Further, I seek to demonstrate that the specific experiences associated with island communities in the Central Philippines are encoded in these two selected folk narratives. The distinctiveness of Southeast Asian island experiences (Andaya, 2006) may also be gleaned from comparing the above case studies with narratives from other sites which have a similar character, such as the island of Batas, Palawan where entities called agta inhabit the mangrove forests (Guieb, 2017) and the island of Cuyo, in the same province where a place called napuro in the local language is said to be inhabited by similar supernatural entities (Lee, 2021, 2022).

Keywords: Island studies, folklore, Visayan communities

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