Kantada ni Daragang Magayon, Mandirigma

Kantada ni Daragang Magayon, Mandirigma (play) (2000-2001), Winner – Sandiwaan theater component of the Philippine Culture and Arts Festival, National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Performances at Aquinas University (September 2000); National Circuit Tour (Mindanao, Baguio, Manila, July 2001) and Festival of Four Contemporary Plays (Cultural Center of the Philippines, July 2001). 

Read on: Synopsis, Cast and Staff, Songs, Director’s Notes


The traditional Legend of Daragang Magayon, as most Bikolanos know it, goes this way:

Long ago, there lived the tribal chief Makusog (strong), who had an only daughter, Daragang Magayon (beautiful maiden).  Magayon grew up to be so beautiful and sweet that love-struck swains from far away tribes vied for her affection.  But not one of the young men captivated the heart of the lovely maiden, not even the handsome and haughty Datu Pagtuga (eruption), a great hunter and a powerful chief, who showered Magayons’s father with gifts of gold, pearls, and trophies of the hunt.

Daragang Magayon was indifferent to all her suitors, until the arrival of Ulap (cloud). Ulap was the gentle, but brave, son of a Chief from another region.  He had come a long way on foot to see for himself the celbrated beauty of Daragang Magayon.  But unlike the other suitors, Ulap bided his time.  For many days, he simply stole admiring glances, from a distance, at Daragang Magayon as the lovely maiden bathed in the river.

It did not take long for an opportunity to present itself.  After an unusually rainy night, Magayon goes for her usual daily bath, but a swift current dislodges her foot from a slippery rock and plunges her into the chilly waters.  In a flash, Ulap is at her side.  He brings the trembling maiden safely back to dry land.

Love soon blossoms between Daragang Magayon and Ulap. And after a few more trysts with her, Ulap, in the old tribal tradition, signifies his intention of marriage by thrusting his spear at the stairs of Magayon’s father’s house.  Magayon could only blush and coyly cast her eyes downwards.

Sensing that Magayon was in love, Makusog offers no objection to the betrothal.  So, Ulap returns home to ask his people to gather provisions for the wedding feast.

But the news reaches Pagtuga, the rival suitor, who becomes furious.  He suprises Makusog in one of his hunts, takes him captive, and sends word to Magayon that unless he marries him, her father must die and a war would be waged against their tribe.

Magayon, who loved her father so much, could do nothing but give in to Pagtuga’s demand.  Ulap learns of this unhappy turn of events.  So, along with his brave warriors, he hastily returns to Magayon’s tribe just in time for the wedding ceremonies.  In the skirmish that follows, Pagtuga is slain by Ulap.  But the joyous Magayon, rushing to embrace her lover Ulap, is hit by a stray arrow.  As Ulap holds the dying Magayon in his arms, a henchman of Pagtuga hurls his spear at Ulap’s back, killing him instantly.

The tragic lovers are buried in one grave which, with the passing of days, rises higher and higher, attended by thunderous rumblings and earthquakes, with huge boulders sprouting from the crater.  The grave grows into a volcano.  This is what we call Mount Mayon, or Daragang Magayon, the most perfectly shaped and beautiful volcano in the world.

Thus ends the old legend of Daragang Magayon, the beautiful but submissive maiden who is accidentally slain by a stray arrow, while her lover is treacherously killed, not even by his rival, but by a mere underling.

In “Kantada ng Babaeng Mandirigma Daragang Magayon,” the epic poem originally written in Filipino and English by Bikol poet Merlinda C. Bobis, the award winning poet from Albay chooses to rewrite and to re-invent the traditional myth.  In Bobis’ story, Daragang Magayon dies to her name with which she was oppressed and she becomes the “Nameless One” who can assume all names of her choice, or the “Nameless One who Owns All Names.”

In the re-invented story, Daragang Magayon ceases to be the victim.  She is no longer the game in the hunt, but the warrior woman in the struggle against oppression.  She wages war against Pagtuga, the evil hunter in the old legend, not necessarily the male adversary, but as the symbol of oppression.  Daragang Magayon transforms into the “amazona” of Philippine Politics – the female guerilla.  The rebel.  And armed.

Bobis clarifies:  “I do not intend to kill the nurturing mother in subverting the old order by creating this warrior image.  Neither do I consider destroying the concept of physical beauty.  I only wish to see these two images unfetishized beside the other rich and significant aspects of her being.  More importantly, I do not wish to leave out the value of honor in this new ideal of the Catholic Patriarchy, where honor equals chastity, and transforms it into her personal honor which is synonymous with dignity and freedom from being the oppressed or the oppressor.”

The epic, Bobis goes on, does not aim to disempower the man, least of all emasculate him. Daragang Magayon, in this case, is life-giving and death dealing in her power.  She is the womb and spirit come full-circle.

Hazel MagdaraogDaragang Magayon
Arnel EspinedaDatu Makusog
John TorrochaDatu Pagtuga
Becky RazoSirangan
Nesty VillamorUlap
Dan RazoGurang 1
Roniel SalvadoraGurang 2
Rolly HabulinGurang 3
Edren MalaguenoLinog
Monalyn BontoBabae 1 / Asul na Danaw
Ma. Cristina DigoBabae 2 /Magindara
Maricel AstilleroBabae 3 / Berdeng Danaw
Mary Ann SalcedoBabae 4 / Pulang Danaw
Ma. Rosario ReforsadoBabae 5
Laurice ToledoBabae 6
Adele HilutinBabae 7
Robert Allan John AlteaGirero 1
Alvin RamosGirero2 / Pirata
Noel MendinaGirero 3
Pablo PalajosPirata / Pagtuga’s Warrior
Edmund AzupardoPirata / Male Dancer
Carlo ImperialPirata / Pagtuga’s Warrior
Director / Set Design / Production ScriptJazmin B. Llana
Author of Source ScriptMerlinda C. Bobis
TranslationH. Francisco V. Penones
Production ScriptReynaldo T. Jamoralin
ChoreographyJuly Mendoza / Aries Clemeno
Lights DesignerVoltaire de Jesus
Musical DirectionRamil Chavenia
Voice EnhancementKatherine Tranco
Costume DesignPatricia San Jose – Lacerna
Video SequencesPing Peralta
Stage ManagementHerman Carlo N. Garcia
Sound and Music Scoring / CrewIdelfonso Maldo III
Ojee Lucero
Dennis Mirabueno
Sonny Gargallo
Soundboard ManIldefonso Maldo III
Anselmo Geralde
Lightsboard ManAdelbert Diesta
Wardrobe MasterPaulo Ray Cornelio
Set MasterNesty Villamor
Set ConstructionPower Kroo
Set PaintingPasmadong Arki
Properties MasterAlvin Ramos
Songs sung byJulie Ann Abuedo
Ildefonso Maldo III
Ramil Chavenia
Track 1. Prologo
Track 2. Sinapupunan ko’y Buwan
Track 3. Dawani
Track 4. Ay Sirangan
Track 5. Awit ng Tapayan
Track 6. Dulo ng Walang Hanggan
Track 7. Maguindara
Track 8. Epilogo

Director’s Notes

I have always been attracted to The Nameless One who Owns All Names. Perhaps all artists are, and all others who strive and struggle to become, to be free. Daragang Magayon becomes the Nameless One, ‘Warang Pangaran’, in Merlinda’s text, and for me, this is why the reinvented legend compels attention. Perhaps it is only right that the idea surfaces from the depths of fancy in Magindara’s kingdom, only right that Magayon dies to all her old names and becomes reborn via the ritual of sakom in which the mortal women calls her all names — of sand, sea, air, coral, stone, bird, fish, anemone. Magayon’s journey to being the Nameless One is a journey to the self, that mysterious part that could be plumbed by none other but herself, yet a part that allows a bonding with kindred energies like those of the slave women.

I played a lot on the theme of names and naming in this text. I thought it was the magical artistic thread that rendered the entire narrative into one weave. Woman as Daragang Magayon, the beautiful maiden, the delicate virgin. She is named by the village, by the Other, and when she comes into her own self she is burdened to carry the same name and the same conception of her that the Other has attached to that name. Woman as Sadit ni Makusog. Woman as Agomon ni Pagtuga. She has to be what others have named her and the sum of her person is that which is implicated by that name. Because she struggles, she earns the ire of the elders and the disfavour of the other women who become confused by her violation of the norms of the village. Because she struggles, she loses her ascendancy as leader of her people when Makusog is abducted by Pagtuga. But because she struggles, she finds herself, and as the Nameless One Who Owns All Names, she frees the Other — her people — and they join her in the eternal realm of the free. And her legend becomes theirs too.

The male dancer from the present to whom the story is told cannot accept this. He wants back his ‘right’ to the mountain and rejects her history of struggle, her ugly scars and grooves that one sees only on close inspection. And so he is forced to listen by the Fifth Wind That Does Not Sing.

Healing is another element in Merlinda’s text that is highlighted in the play. From the beginning to the end, there is healing — the women healing their wounds, their pain after losing sons, daughters, husbands in the battles with pirate enemies; the women healing Magayon after the death of Sirangan, and then again after the drowning of the Kibang; and then Sirangan as balyana healing the village and Magayon, fully grown to self after the struggle, finally leading her people to an eternal healing in the realm of legend. The last one, Sirangan’s return, was a brilliant suggestion by the Sandiwaan Selection Committee which I worked on to eventually still highlight Magayon’s coming to full flower in the epilogue.

The play does not seek to provide answers. It seeks to question. It is structured such that the questioning does not stop, but heightens, even in its use of two languages (Filipino and Bikol) and in the use of the chorus. The style may be perceived as Western, but what would stop us from thinking that the soraque, the chant of bygone times, could have been such as the one the women recreate in this play, such as the chanting of the Pasyon which inspired the songs of the chorus? Bikol theatre aesthetics will continue to grow and become defined as the Bikol continue to struggle and thrive as Daragang Magayon does in the play. Bikol theatre is Bikol, but it is not Bikol. We are ourselves and others too. We are The Nameless One Who Owns All Names.


“Sandiwaan,” another NCCA project, brought the best of regional theater around the rest of the country, stopping over for a short run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in July. After careful selection, deserving theater companies were given grants to produce full-length plays based on these criteria: basis of material is the opus of a National Artist of Literature or the region’s myths, epics, and other folklore; scripts authored by significant regional writers; and integration of multimedia.

The Sandiwaan awardees consisted of: Dulaang Talyer’s “Bilog,” the retelling of the Panay mythology of creation into a statement of modern man’s quest for romantic love; the Aquinas University of Legazpi’s “Kantada ni Daragang Magayon, Mandirigma,” which transformed the legendary Mayon from a helpless princess into a warrior-savior; the Iloilo Arts Council Foundation Inc.’s “Panayanon,” a series of chants done by the women of Suludnon society; and Mindulani Inc.’s “Mindasilang,”a breathtakingly moving landscape of the Mindanao struggle and the different groups caught in it.

From Cora Llamas, ‘Icons, Awards, and Unwelcome Technological Intrusions’, Sanghaya, 31 December 2002, Manila: National Commission for Culture and the Arts, http://sanghaya.net.ph/welcome/2002/12/31/icons-awards-and-unwelcome-technological-intrusions/

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