In the beginning of the world there was nothing but sky and sea. The earth was formless and empty, darkness fell over the face of the deep, and a lone bird, who had been flying for eternity, was hovering above the water. The bird was tired and had no place to land. It had been flying for so long that even it had forgotten where it came from, when it was born. If it flew higher, it would burn; if it landed on water, it would drown. The bird called the vast sky ‘Heaven’ and the formless waters ‘Ocean’.
Sick and tired, it devised a plan. It flew to the Heavens and said, “The water is planning to overtake you, to overflow until there is nothing to this world but sea and water alone.”
Then the bird flew below, skimmed the water’s surface and whispered, “The sky is planning to descend and make the waters disappear. It will make the suns and meteors fall, until you burn into air and there is no more of you. Then the sky will reign this world.”
The sea and sky had existed together, quiet all these years, and so the bird’s report surprised them both. But now each desired to be the world alone. The once-clear water moved for the first time to create the first storm-- fatal tidal waves so high they could almost grasp the sky. And then, the dark sky began to burn, a thousand suns falling through the air like rain.
The war was futile. The Sea swallowed everything the sky hurled at her, and no wave could reach the Heavens. For the first time, there were sounds in the universe louder than the empty flapping of the birds’ wings. But the lone bird fought for its life in the midst of their war, dodging and flying, bruised and almost drowned but never giving up, because it knew that once this was over there would be a place to land.
After a long time, when it was clear no side was winning, the Heavens and the Sea grew weary, and the war stopped. The raging sounds deadened to silence and lo, out of the burning comets came ash and rock floating still above the sea, so many that they covered the face of the water.
For the very first time, the bird landed, closed its wings, and slept for an eon.
When the bird woke, all around him the earth had come alive. Flowers and grass grew bountiful over the new land. He flew, and saw standing in the middle of it all was a lone bamboo tree. A chirping sound came from inside, causing the bird to wonder if there was another bird trapped within.
With just a tap of his beak, the wood broke, revealing two creatures unlike birds at all. They were called man and woman. The man was named ‘Sicalac’ and the woman ’Sicavay’.
Alone in the world, the man asked the woman if they would bear children together, as the animals do, so the race of man could continue and lord over the earth. The woman refused, saying that they were siblings out of the same bamboo.
But then, they asked the fish of the sea, and the creatures said that they themselves married among siblings and multiplied greatly, and the gods were not displeased.
Sicalac and Sicavay asked still the birds of the sky, who said the same.
The woman, afraid of divine punishment, still wanted to ask a god. They went to Linog, the Lord of the earthquake.
The god said that it would be right for the earth to be peopled. Sicalac and Sicavay married, becoming the first parents of humankind.
This short story is a retelling of a central Visayan creation myth which depicts the origin of the first man, the creation of land, and the gods of sky and sea, Kaptan and Maguayen. Learn more about this Philippine myth, along with many others, here.
llana Delgado is a librarian and aspiring writer. Her interests include books, myths, fairy tales, religions, and all forms of stories. She lives in Iloilo City, trying to spin more tales.