In Greek mythology, the Naiads (Ancient Greek: Ναϊάδες) are a type of female spirit, or nymph, presiding over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of fresh water. In Philippine Mythology, particularly within the Tagalog pantheon, Naiad lore falls within the realm of Engkantos. In other ethnic groups, naiad -like stories may easily fall within the category of Diwata, but in Tagalog lore, that title is usually only used when referring to evolved pre-Christian deities and mountain guardians. However, in Maximo Ramos’ “The Creatures of Philippine Lower Mythology” he states, “In a tale reported in 1909, the mythical creature in Botocan Falls was called “naiad,” but its traits indicate that it was probably a mermaid instead.”
The Naiad of Botocan Falls
In the province of Laguna, there is a town named Majayjay, which has a small river on the east, known as the Botocan, with a beautiful fall. This fall is two hundred and fifteen feet high, but you imagine that it is higher, for much of the water is changed into vapor and whenever the sun shines upon the fall, one or more rainbows are seen. The water falls into a rocky basin, then flows away in a red bed between precipitous walls of rocks covered with foliage. In front of this fall just at the edge of the precipice is a big tree covered from top to bottom with inscriptions in an unknown language. At the bottom behind this fall is a spacious cave inhabited by a wonderful naiad. This naiad is a golden princess dressed in a garment adorned with the most precious jewels and gold. In her habitation, she has a servant and also a golden cow, a golden centipede, and many other golden things, for whatsoever the naiad uses is made of gold.
Our ancestors have many traditions concerning the naiad. About the time of the American occupation, a poor little girl living in a barrio of Majayjay was passing near the fall with her mother one twilight when she stopped to wash her feet in a stream nearby. After the mother had passed on, the little girl heard her name called and looking up, she saw the fair naiad. Following her guidance, the little girl stepped into the stream, and lo! The water on which she stepped was changed into golden sand. Upon her arrival at the naiad’s cave she was very much bewildered and amazed at the decorations of her habitation. The naiad gave this poor girl a great –sum of money including bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earrings, saying that she must not tell where these valuables came from. Although the bag of gold was very heavy, yet the little girl went away without any difficulty because the naiad helped her at first in carrying it, but as she proceeded alone, the bag became heavier and heavier until she had to ask for aid. When she reached home, her mother asked her where that money came from, but she said that she must not ask, for it was a secret. Finally the mother asked her so persistently that she could not keep quiet any longer, so she had to tell the forbidden secret, but after so doing, she found no money in the chest where she had hidden her treasure.
Another tradition is that if any man brought a white cock, that is, one with feathers, legs, claws, bills, and other parts all white, the naiad would come out from her cave and would call the man and give him money in exchange for the cock.
During the guerrilla warfare between the Americans and Filipinos, an American captain who was stationed at Majayjay once went to Botocan to take a bath. When he reached the river, he decided first to go to the bottom of the fall; he did so and when he arrived there, he saw the golden centipede. So he dived suddenly to catch him and as the golden centipede was so big that it could not move quickly, the captain caught one of its legs. He made this one leg into two big rings. When the Americans heard about this treasure, many of them went there, and they have continued to visit the falls until the present time; but whenever an American or any foreigner goes there, even if it be Mr. William H. Taft, it rains heavily although the sun shines brightly.
Once a skillful miner came and, slipping up, he suddenly put some magic medicine at the entrance of the naiad’s cave; but although he caught the naiad ‘s servant, she herself escaped. The naiad was seen that night riding on a ship in the air accompanied by innumerable butterflies, and she sailed away to the top of Banahaw Mountain. But she soon returned to her beloved haunt and has often been seen since.
Source: Philippine Folk Literature: The Legends, Damiana L. Eugenio, University of the Philippines Press (2002)
2018 © The Aswang Project
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.
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