4 Bakunawa: A Re-telling
Bakunawa fell for the moon. Underneath the frothing waves of his cold hearth, he saw the moon through the lapping and ever moving sea. She lit his abyss with a soft glitter of beams and brought the winking stars to him, offering more if he would just swim to the surface and meet with her.
The moon—ever bright and full—called for the serpent to come to her. "Bakunawa, Bakunawa," she whispered in song; and Bakunawa, finally awake from a century's slumber, swam in speed, placing all his strength into his great tail and fins. "Bakunawa," the moon sighed softly, "won't you come and meet me?"
The serpent's head emerged from the sea, creating waves strong enough to capsize tiny fisher boats. "My, you're pretty," he said to her shyly. "Waning and waxing, you have too many faces."
The moon giggled and said, "How would you know? We have just met."
"Oh, but I've seen you before. When Bathala created the universe and gave you light, I saw you beneath the waves before I went to sleep."
"That was a long time ago, yet you still remember."
"Yes, many things have changed, but you, my fickle beauty, didn't."
The moon, then, fell in love with the sea serpent, who spent his days sleeping in his abyss and nights in the surface to meet with her. Bakunawa was strange though. He was lonely, although he lived among his subjects—the fish, corals, and the souls of drowned men; and the moon, as she idled her time with the serpent, realized he was a hermit, albeit forced by man's fear of the endless ocean and a watery death.
Bakunawa's kingdom, fortified by sunken boats, bones of fallen sailors and warriors, and gold and treasures of the world, was quiet and kept him away from men. With all the trinkets, spoiled goods, and weapons, which showered into his abyss from sea battles of men, Bakunawa learned enough of the very creatures Bathala loved—they felt too much and knew too little. Thus, the serpent's heart closed and rejected anything which resembled human emotions. For if he succumbed to what they felt, he would surely perish like the glittering treasures men scattered into the ocean—rusted to decay, buried into layers of sand and rock until Bathala himself would forget they existed; but the moon, lovely and bright, waning and waxing in the dark sky, tickled Bakunawa's heart—a nudge the serpent had dismissed as nothing more but pangs of hunger.
One night he asked his love, "Have you seen the humans up close? I have a cave full of them—white creatures with no flesh. Tell me, do they look like the ones in my cave? Or have humans changed since I slept?"
"Bakunawa," the moon murmured, a gentle note in her voice as pity washed over her, "men are strong, wise."
"But do they look like the ones in my cave?" he persisted.
"No, you have bones—the skeletal remains of man."
"I don't understand."
"Men." Bakunawa sank back into his abyss, listening to the murmurs of his beating heart. Even the moon's voice pulled him to her, like her power over the tides, pulling and pushing it to the shore at her whim; and the serpent felt his heart tickle again.
The next night, the moon asked the serpent, "Is it lonely down in the ocean?"
Bakunawa stared at her through half-lidded eyes and asked, "What is lonely?"
The moon thought for a moment, and replied in earnest, "It is a dark feeling, as if you're incomplete."
"Have you ever been lonely?" asked the serpent.
"I don't think I've ever been lonely. At nights, I have the stars and clouds to accompany me. At days, though the sun rules the earth for a time, he keeps me company still," she said, giggling a little in between phrases.
"Yes, the sun," Bakunawa sighed long, "he tells men to come to the ocean."
"Don't you like it?"
"No, not entirely. The noise they make keep me curious and entertained, less lonely."
"Oh, so you have been lonely?" the moon twittered.
"When the sun is around and I have to wait for night, I get quite lonely. You make my heart feel ticklish," Bakunawa confessed, muttering his last sentence, hoping the moon didn't hear.
A pregnant silence came over them, and the sea, for a moment, stopped moving. The moon quietly, shyly asked, "Do you love me, Bakunawa?"
The serpent gave no reply and swam hurriedly into his abyss. His heart beat fast, loud, and through his scales it glowed red, as if the sun were inside him, pulsing and pounding his entire body. He gave a shout of frustration, and the fish, rocks, and debris around him either swam away or ricocheted to another part of the ocean.
Love. What was this love? Did it make his heart go wild? Make his scales glow red?
He swam to-and-fro, his tail lashing the sunken boats and scattering his gold in every direction. He was angry and confused. He shook his head, glancing up every now and then, peeking through the waves, wondering if the moon was still there.
She was very pretty, hanging on the sky like the coins littered on his seabed. Perhaps, such a beautiful thing, which made his heart pound, should be dealt with according to what his instincts told him to do.
He swam back to the surface, back to the moon, who waited for him to finish their conversation.
"Bakunawa," the moon sighed with a note of relief, "you left so quickly. Did I scare you away?"
"Yes," admitted the serpent. His sharp eyes watched her closely, wondering how he could get closer to her. His waning and waxing moon, lit the night sky with her soft beams, gripped his heart with her rays; and an idea came to him. "I l-love you," stammered the naga, and he leapt to the sky, opened his lake-wide mouth, and swallowed the moon whole.
His belly was full and warm; and the serpent thought he truly was in love with the moon. She tasted differently from the fish, from man's rotting bodies, from his shimmering treasures. She tasted of love—a hot sensation which crept from his belly to his heart, to his entire being.
In singsong he said, "My pretty, pretty moon, I love you."
"Bakunawa," a cry from the distance echoed, and the serpent watched as a giant tortoise paddled towards him.
The tortoise was an island, topped with soil, earth, and life. Sat on its head was Bathala, clothed in red, black, and yellow robes. Attached to his hip was his curved sword in its sheath. His black eyes glared at the serpent, while his thin lips curled a little into a ghost of a smile. The serpent's king and creator stopped short before him and with a quiet yet sharp tone in his voice, severely said, "You must spit her out, Bakunawa. The moon is not yours."
The serpent shook his head. "No, no, no! I love her," he cried.
"You don't know love, Bakunawa," said Bathala softly, staring at the serpent with pity shining in his eyes. "You know very little of the world. Perhaps, it is my fault."
Bakunawa bowed his head a little. "B-but you are never at fault."
"My fault was creating you."
When it was clear the serpent had no words to speak, Bathala continued, "I made you naïve—a naga with the sea as his kingdom but with a seaweed's wisdom."
From the closest shore, Bakunawa and Bathala watched as people beat pans and pots together, making noise and chanting, "Please have pity, return it, return it—the crown of our king!"
"They are asking you to return the moon, great naga," whispered Bathala.
"B-but I love her," came the serpent's meek retaliation, but even in his ears it sounded soft and tired. He sighed long, leapt to the sky, and returned the moon.
The moon shone bright again, and the noise and chants died away, as well as the moon's sweet voice. When Bakunawa called for her, she gave no reply, and the serpent felt the incompleteness which the moon explained to him earlier—loneliness.
Bathala put one consoling hand on the serpent's head. "You do not understand man's heart, naga. That is your flaw."
"Do I need to understand one to rule my kingdom?"
"You need to understand one to protect your kingdom, to bring balance to the oceans."
"What shall I do then, Bathala?"
The age-old eyes stared hard at the naga, and Bathala calmly said, "Go into a deep slumber now, Bakunawa."
Submitting to this command, the serpent swam deep into the ocean and slept. He thought surely Bathala would do something to him; but Bakunawa, upon waking from his slumber, felt light and found himself drifting along the waves of the ocean. The sun was in his eyes, smiling down at him but not seeing him.
He tried to call for his friend, but he was voiceless and bubbles popped whenever he tried to speak. Bubbles, thought Bakunawa in worry. He wondered, then, why the sun and blue sky were so close to him—close enough to be in the ocean!
He called for the sun again, but his voice was the popping of bubbles. It occurred to Bakunawa that Bathala did something to him. When he screamed, bubbles burst and foam from any wave attached itself to him—Bathala had turned the great sea naga into sea foam!
What is he planning, wondered the sea foam as he continuously attracted other sea foam to him.
Years and years passed until the sea foam formed a certain shape and gained weight. He was heavy enough to sink a little. Another century passed when Bathala appeared to Bakunawa and told him, "You're almost complete."
"Complete for what?" asked Bakunawa.
"You will know later," Bathala said and vanished.