Maria Cacao : The Legend told by Dalaguetnon migrants
By: Koki Seki

The two versions of the Maria Cacao legend told in the Barangay Coro of Dalaguete, have as narrators Mr. Roque Entia and Mrs. Clumbia Fajardo, whose lives are framed by various experiences of migration.

While the Entia version presented in this issue focuses on the boat motif, the Fajardo version focuses mainly on the lending motif.

The interesting motif added in the Entia version, which cannot be found in the other versions, is a story about the father of Maria Cacao, which inevitably adds new color to the character of Maria Cacao herself. Mr. Entia explains the father of Maria Cacao thus:

Maria Cacao was a daughter of Tata Cero, who is the father of my great-grandfather (apohan sa akong apohan). He got an engkantada, who used to live near the cave of Dingayop pregnant (gipa-angkan ni Tata Cero). He could have a relationship with a supernatural being (dili ingon nato) because he possessed supernatural power ( maayong laki). His power (kalaki) enabled him to be invisible, walk on water, jump to the top of  coconut tree, and he was also able to dwarf himself and stand on a cogon leaf.

During the time of Tata Cero, there were many savage people (loog) just wearing the G-strings (ikugan) in the cave of Dingayop. Those uncivilized people, who have not been baptized (tawo nga walay bunyag), were quite abusive (abusado) and often hurt the people. One day, the people living in the vicinity of the cave asked Tata Cero to protect them from those pagan people. Tata Cero admonished those loog not to harm the people (ayaw’g hilabti), and further eliminated them (nakapuo sa mga tawong loog). When Tata Cero become sold that he needed two canes to walk, he was killed by the lunatic giant (higanting buang), who used to sit on a huge rock (dakong bato) at Barangay Coro, and smoke a big tobacco (inunay). At that time, Tata Cero was on the way home from Church, and he was without the amulet (anting-anting) which he left at home.
Maria Cacao, the daughter of Tata Cero, lived near the cave of Dingayop. In the mountain of Dingayop, there is a spring (tubod) from which the water for the people of whole Dalaguete originated. In the past, especially when the rain was very strong, people sometimes heard at midnight a roaring sound (daguuk) from the river of Dingayop. In those occasions, the people used to say “Maria Cacao’s boat is passing”. Then the people saw the glaring light from the direction of the river, which was emanating from the golden boat (barko nga bulawan) of Maria Cacao. The people even heard the whistle (pito) of the ship. The boat was huge, and, every time it passed, the turbid like tuba (fermented toddy from coconut palms).

The boat of Maria Cacao carried cacao, which she used to sell in Manila and even in other countries. The people in Manila, who saw the golden boat which carries the name of “Dalaguete, Cebu”, thought among themselves that the people of Dalaguete must be very rich. Every time the boat went out to the sea, the bridge at the mouth of the river in poblacion was destroyed. This was because of the mast of the boat hit the bridge.

One day, an American car dealer came to Dalaguete, and asked the people “Where is the house of Maria Cacao, the very rich woman (dakong datu) of Dalaguete, Cebu?” That American came to Dalaguete to collect the payment for two dozens of cars which Maria Cacao had bought in America by credit.

There is a huge rock called dakong bato in Barangay Coro. Long before, when it rained strong the people saw that the surrounding of dakong bato became so bright. This is because Maria Cacao’s golden ship used to dock at this place. The cave of dakong bato was, and still is, an adobe of so many engkanto. In the past, the people used to borrow kitchen utensils from the engkanto in the dakong bato. At fiesta time, the people brought their containers in front of the cave, and they came back the next morning. They could find complete utensils inside the container.

Nowadays, the people do not borrow the utensils anymore from dakong bato. It has also been a long time since Maria Cacao has died.

As an interesting element of the Entia version presented above, the role and identity of Maria Cacao’s father, Tata Cero are worth mentioning. Tata Cero is projected as a sort of protector of the village people. He is said to have supernatural power (maayong laki). This gives him an identity which is intermediate between ordinary mortals (ingon nato) and supernatural beings (dili ingon nato). This ambivalent character of Tata Cero is also indicated in the story that he was stronger than lo-og, but weaker than, and killed by, higanteng buang. Lo-og are ordinary mortals (isig katawo, parehas nato), but as they are not baptized people, they are somehow different from the local Christians. On the other hand, higante, which is quite common in the folklore in the Philippines, is a supernatural being (dili ingon nato).