History and Culture
In Bohol, Strange, Supernatural Logs From The Sea
Choose Philippines | Oct 22, 2019
Story and photos by Carine Asutilla
Pangangan Island is a small island found in the town of Calape, Bohol, where the waters are abundant with different kinds of fish and shells. It is made up of eight barangays with a registered population of approximately 20,000 individuals, where fishing is the main source of livelihood. In this small community, locals believe in the batang, a strange log that drifts ashore and is believed to represent a ship owned and boarded by engkantos or spirits from other worlds.
Old residents recall how an illness struck the island back in the 1970s, affecting their children. They believed that a batang caused the problem. Gloria Mozo, a 75-year-old resident, shares how her two-year-old child was affected by an unusual sickness. "It was strange because our children on the island do not get sick easily, and yet, during that time, every home with little children encountered the same problem," Gloria relates in Cebuano.
Her son, Freddie was crying endlessly for days due to fever, stomachache, and rashes all over his body. There was nothing she had done that made him stop crying. She tried different kinds of medicine, both herbs and doctor's prescriptions but those did not offer relief. "Naglibog gyud mi adto nga sakit kay ang mga naigo sa sakit puros mga lalake nga bata,” she recalls, “Giingnan ko ni Mama Sinta nga gakson ra si Freddie kay nagduda na man siya nga dili ingon nato ang hinungdan. Kung gakson ang bata ang mga engkanto maglisud og kuha sa bata." (We were really confused because those who got sick were little boys only. I was told by Mama Sinta to hug Freddie and never let go because she believed that engkantos had caused the illness. If the child is hugged all the time, the engkantos will have a hard time taking the child).
The news spread around the island that another batang was found on the shores of Barangay Magtongtong. Calixto Asna, a 92 year old resident and fisherman in Barangay Magtongtong, shares that it was normal for them to see logs being washed ashore. However, this particular log was so large that the waves could not carry it back to the sea. The residents even tried to move it but couldn't because it was too heavy. They all wondered what kind of wood that was. "Girosaryohan to nila ang batang kay dugay man muhawa. Nagduda to sila nga naay tag-iya to nga batang," Calixto shares. (They prayed the rosary near the batang because it did not leave the shore for a long time. They were suspicious that someone owns it).
At that time, the illness had already spread across the island. The parish priest had decided to have an Aurora or early morning prayer procession around the island with a prayer petition to relieve the children from the sickness. The Aurora went on for weeks and after almost a month, the children got better, but Gloria recalls that there were three children who died. She talked to the parish priest who confided to her that before the incident on the island, there were three men who approached him. Gloria believes that those three men were the engkantos owned the batang."Ingon si Father, niadto sa kombento ang tulo ka mga laki. Wa siya kaila,” Gloria recollects, “Mao pa tong higayuna niya nakit-an ang mga lalake. Niingon sila kang Father nga nagkinahanglan sila og mga bata para sa ilang lugar." (Father said, the three men went to the convent. He did not know them. It was the first time he saw them on the island. They said to father that they need children for their place.) The priest then told the three men that he can't give them the children on the island. He dismissed the three men thinking it was just a prank.
Fr. Pedro Curambao, the present parish priest on the island admitted he heard such stories about the batang but for him, those are just stories. He doesn't believe in engkantos. "These things scare us and we fail to realize that it should not bring us fear because we have God," said Fr. Curambao in Cebuano, adding that what happened might simply be coincidental. He said that during that time, illegal logging was prevalent, hence a possible reason for batangs or logs that drift ashore, coinciding with the period that the illness was also spreading.
He also added that the Aurora done against the batang during that time was definitely not initiated by the parish because the Church does not encourage such things. Sometimes, people agree on themselves to pray together because in difficult times, people always come to God. Fr. Curambao reminds us that sometimes incidents like that come to people as a test of their faith. People are reminded to go back to their faith and pray.