Bugan and Kinggauan: Ifugao Marriage of a Goddess with a Man

Kiangan is the oldest town in the province of Ifugao.  American anthropologist H. Otley Beyer considered this Kiangan Ifugao myth “one of the best specimens of Ifugao Literature.” He believes that it probably originated as a simple origin myth but that in the course of time it was elaborated and developed until now, he thinks, “it is worthy of its little niche in the world’s literature.”

The Story of Bugan and Kinggauan: Or The Marriage of a Goddess with a Man

The wife of the god Hinumbian is Dakaue. She has no children except a daughter called Bugan. This Bugan was with her parents in Luktag. Let it be noted that these divinities of the highest region of the Skyworld do not see directly that which takes place in the lower spheres, but the first calls the second and the second the third, etc. According to this order, the first or principal god known as Bungongol, charges or gives orders to his son Ampual, who in return orders his son Balittion, and the latter orders and charges Liddum of the lowest sky region, or Kabunian. This Liddum is the one that communicates directly with the Ifugaos.

The said Bugan, daughter of Hinumbian, was at that time a maiden, while in Luktag, and her uncle Baiyubbi told her to go down and amuse herself in the third region, Hubulan. So, according to the wishes or her relatives, she went down to Hubulan where Dologdogan, the brother of Balittion, was. The said Dologdogan had gone to Hubulan to marry another Bugan. The first Bugan, daughter of Hinumbian, had been advised to marry in Luktag, but she did not wish to do so, and so they told her to go off and divert herself in Hubulan. Having settled down in this sky region, her uncles advised her to get married there, but neither did she wish this. In view of her attitude on this question, Dologdogan exhorted her to descend to Kabunian, and go take her abode in the house of Liddum her relative and the son of Amgalingan. The said Liddum wished her to marry in Kabunian, but she also refused to do this.

Banaue Rice Terraces by Architect-Gillesania via DeviantArt

Near the house, or the town, of Liddum, (whose wife is called Lingan) there was a village called Habiatan, and the lord of the village also bore his name. Such being the case, the said Habiatan went to the house of Liddum, and, upon seeing the young Bugan in the condition of maidenhood, he asked Liddum: “Why does this maid not marry?”

The former answered him: “We have counselled her to do it, but she does not wish to do so. I, upon seeing that she did not wish to get married nor to follow my advice said to her: “Why dost thou not get married?” She began to laugh. I replied: “Then, if thou does not wish to get married in Kabunian, it were better for thee to return to thy people and to thy family in Luktag, but she answered: ‘That is not necessary, and I should like to stay with thee in thy house—and I shall take care to get married at my pleasure, when I see or meet someone of my liking, and then I shall tell thee.’ ”

Habiatan after hearing this story of Liddum, said to him: “According to this I shall take the young Bugan to my ranchena and house in Habiatan to see if she wishes to marry my son Bagilat.” Liddum rejoined: “If Bugan so desires, it goes without saying that she can accompany thee at once.”

The maiden having been consulted, assented, and went off with Habiatan to his house and village. Having arrived at the said place, and after Bugan had observed somewhat the young Bagilat, Habiatan asked her whether she desired to marry him.

She answered: “How am I to wish to marry him (Bagilat), grim and fierce as he is, and making use of such an extraordinary spear! Moreover, he never stops— but is always running around in all parts of the Skyworld, through the north and the south, through the east and the west.” She told Habiatan that she did not wish to marry his son Bagilat, the lightning, because through his effects he harmed plants, fruits, and possibly might injure even herself.

Anito II by gromyko via DeviantArt

Then said Habiatan: “Thou art somewhat fastidious, and I see that thou couldst with great difficulty get married in these regions; it would be better that thou return once more to thy land.”

She answered that she did not desire to return anymore to her people, and that accordingly she would betake herself to some other point more to her liking. This dialogue being completed, she went down from the house of Habiatan, and, casting a glance at the four cardinal points, she saw that the weather was clear and calm, and descried on the Earth a place called Pangagauan, over (or on) Umbuk, where there was an Ifugao called Kinggauan—a young man unmarried, naked, and without a clout (which he had thrown away because of its age); because he was engaged in making pits, or wells, for catching deer with a trap (according to the custom)—and there he had a hut. Upon seeing him Bugan exclaimed: “Oh! The poor man! And how unfortunate!” And hiding the occurrence from Habiatan, she determined to return to the sky region of Luktag in order to manifest to her father, Hinumbian, that it was her desire to descend to the Earthworld in order to get married with that poor Ifugao.

The paternal permission having been obtained, she made ready the necessary provisions—consisting of a vessel of cooked rice and a clout (or bahag). In this fashion she proceeded to Kinggauan’s hut and entered it saying: “Who is the owner of this hut?”

“I,” answered Kinggauan, “but I am ashamed to approach thee, thou art a woman and I am naked.” She replied: “Never mind! Because here I have a clout for thee.”

But he did not approach for shame; and so she threw him the clout from afar in order that he might cover himself. The surprised man expressed to her his astonishment, saying, “Why dost thou approach here knowing that the appearance of a woman, when men are engaged in such an occupation, is of evil omen for the hunt?”

And she replied to him: “By no means shall it come to pass as thou thinkest, but, on the contrary, thou shalt be extremely lucky in it. For the present let us eat together, and let us sleep this night in thy hut. Tomorrow thou shalt see how lucky we are in the hunt.”

Who am I? by tatagirL via DeviantArt

The following day, upon going to visit the pits, they actually found them full. Kinggauan killed the quarry and spent the rest of the day in carrying the carcasses to his hut. He kept alive only two little pigs, a male and a female, which he delivered to Bugan that she might tie them in the dwelling place while he was bringing in the rest of the dead game. On the second day Bugan asked the solitary one: “Why dost thou dwell in such evil places?”

Kinggauan answered her: “Because my parents are so parsimonious in giving me what I need.”

Then said Bugan to him: “Let us go to Kiangan,” and he consented. Leaving, then, the dead game in the hut, they carried with them only the two live “piglets.” Kinggauan carried the male one—arriving at the above-mentioned place on the nightfall of the second day.

Having arrived at Kiangan, they took up their lodging in the house of Kinggauan’s mother—the man entering first and then Bugan. The mother of the former was surprised, and asked him: “Who is this woman?”

The son answered: “I was at the hunting place and she presented herself to me there and I do not know whence she comes.”

The aged mother after having looked at them a while—when seated— addressed herself to Bugan and asked: “Who art thou? How dost thou call thy self? From whence dost thou come?”

The maiden replied that her name was Bugan, that she was the daughter of Hinumbian and Dakaue, and that she belonged to the sky region of Luktag. But the reason for her descent to that terraqueous region, and of accompanying her son, was her having seen him so poor and deserted … “for which reason I took pity on him and came down to visit him and furnish him with an abundance of game” … and she added that on the following day the mother should send many people to collect the dead game which they had left in the lonely hut of her son. By a coincidence, the mother of the young man was also called Bugan, with the addition of na kan.ta.lao.

During all this, the young couple had already been united in the bond of matrimony—without any of the prescribed formalities—at the place called

Pangagauan, and Bugan gave birth to a vigorous son to whom she gave the name Balituk. The little pigs, also, which they brought, gave forth their fruit. The child grew a little, but did not know yet how to walk. His mother, Bugan, as a being from the Skyworld, did not eat like the rest of the people of Kiangan, but desired only boiled rice, birds, and meat of game. The people bore her much envy because of her being a stranger; and, because they knew she did not like certain vegetable of theirs, they strove to make her depart from their town and to betake herself to her birthplace of Luktag in the sky. Their envy toward her increased upon their seeing the abundance of her fowl and pigs. With the object of disgusting her, and of driving her away, they attempted to surround her house with certain garden stuffs, greens and fish. With these they succeeded effectively and made Bugan sick with an intense itch and fever, for which reason she abandoned that house and went to another place, while her husband moved to a rice granary. But they persecuted her again in her new place of lodging, surrounding it with the vegetables and other things spoken above, and causing her nausea in a stomach accustomed to other food.

“Balitok” by Mervin Malonzo. Featured in Alternative Alamat.


In view of such wearisome tricks, Bugan proposed to Kinggauan her desire to return to her land with the new blossom of spring, their child. Her husband answered her, “I should well like to accompany thee, but I am afraid of ascending to so high a place.”

“There is no reason to be afraid,” replied Bugan, “I myself shall take thee up in the ayud (kind of hammock).”

She accordingly strove to persuade him, but Kinggauan did not lay aside his fear; then she attempted to take him up bound to a rope, but neither did she effect this. During these labors, she soared aloft with the child to the heights of Luktag, but upon perceiving that her husband had not followed her she went down again, with her son in the band which the Ifugaos use for that purpose. After conferring with Kinggauan, she said to him, “Thou seest the situation, I cannot continue among thy countrymen, because they hate me unto death. Neither dost thou dare to ascend unto Luktag. What we can do is to divide our son,” … and seizing a knife, Bugan divided her son Balituk in the middle or just above the waist, and made the following division. The head and the rest of the upper trunk she left to Kinggauan—that it might be easier for him to give a new living being to those upper parts—and she retained for her the lower part of the trunk unto feet, for the entrails, intestines, heart, liver and even the very excrement, she divided them— leaving the half for her husband. The partition having been completed, Bugan mounted to her heavenly mansion, taking with her the part of her son which fell to her lot, and, giving it a breath of life, she converted it into a new celestial being retaining the very name of Balituk.

On the other hand, the parts which she had left to her husband, on the earth, began to be corrupted and decayed, because he, Kinggauan, had not been able, or did not know how, to reanimate it. The foul odor of the putrefied flesh reached unto the dwelling place of Bugan in Luktag, and this having been perceived by her, she descended to Kabunian in order to better acquaint herself with the happening. From Kabunian she saw that the evil odor issued from the decomposition of the parts of the entrails which she had left on the earth in charge of her husband, and which he had not reanimated. Then she broke forth in cries of grief, pity, and compassion—and, descending to Kiangan, she severely accused Kinggauan, saying unto him, “Why has thou allowed our son to rot? And why has thou not quickened him to life?” Upon which he answered that he did not understand the art of reanimation.

Bugan endeavored to remove the greatest possible portion of the corrupted part of her son. Consequently, she changed the head of Balituk into an owl a nocturnal bird called akup by Ifugao—whence the origin of the Kiangan custom of auguring evil from this bird, and the offering of sacrifices of fowl to Bugan, in order that no harm should come to them, and that the said fowl should not return to them.

The ears she threw into the forest, and for that reason there came forth on the trees certain growth like chalk, half spherical (certain species of fungi). The nose she threw away and changed it also into a certain species of shell which attaches itself to trees. Of the half of the excrement she made the bill of a small bird called ido, from which the Ifugaos augur well or ill, according to certain variation of its song.

From the putrefied tongue she produced a malady, or swelling, of the tongue in men, which is cured with a hot egg, or with a chicken, which they offer to their mother, Bugan.

From the bones of the breast she created a venomous serpent. From the heart she made the rainbow. From the fingers she made certain very long shells, after the form of fingers. From the hair thrown into the water, she created certain little worms or maggots. From the skin he drew forth a bird of red color, called kukuk. From the half of the blood she created the small bats (litalit). From the liver she drew forth a certain disease of the breast. From the intestines she formed a class of somewhat large animals, resembling rabbits or rats (anuminl). From the bones of the arms she made pieces of dry or rotted wood that fall from trees upon passers- by who approach them.

The Balituk that Bugan reanimated is in the sky region of Luktag.


ALSO READ: IFUGAO Origin Myth: The First Man & Woman

SOURCE:  H. Otley Beyer, “Origin Myths among the Mountain Peoples of the Philippines

2018 © The Aswang Project

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Jordan is a Canadian documentary director/ producer. He made the 2011 feature length documentary THE ASWANG PHENOMENON - an exploration of the aswang myth and its effects on Philippine society. Currently he is in post production for "The Aswang Project" web-series, which will feature 6 myths from the Philippines. The TIKBALANG, KAPRE and BAKUNAWA episodes are available to watch on YouTube.