In the late ‘50s, the incomparable Argentine author, Jorge Luis Borges, made a descriptive listing of imaginary beings. (This work has been updated, by him, at least twice since.)
The Philippines has it own fantastic bestiary, the more mind-boggling ones particularized in Jose Maria Pavon’s 1838-1839 Las Antiguas Leyendas de la Isla de Negros and Los Cuentos de Esta Isla. The secular cleric put down a “translation and exact rendering of a rare list of extinct animals of this island. According to a document of the year 1372.” The authenticity of the Pavon documents, however, has remained controversial, if not dubious.
But, to the animals; take a look – imagine! – the following:
“The tambalusao. It was, they said, a semi-quadruped, which lived both in the water and on the land. Its cry was a very powerful cackle like that of a goose. When it was hungry, in order to catch its victim (which was always a bird), it threw from its mouth a sticky substance which fastened the creature to the branch. It was of vast size, and shaped like a spiny horned lizard. Its tail was hairy, but its gums had no sharp cutting teeth. However, it claws were horny, sharp and poisonous. Its skin was very black, and it was said to have great peculiarity of leaving like ink in the water through which is passed. At night, its eyes shone like two carbuncles.”
“The mantalario. This was, they said, a bird of extraordinary size, of the shape and from of an extremely large-sized peacock. It swallowed large fruits, such as coconuts and other fruits without chewing them. Its cry made the small birds swoon away and the largest ones to stop stock still…”
“The macupo, or marcupo. This was a very big serpent which was found in one of the highest mountains of the ancient and well-known province of Buglas. …It had a pronounced crest and was quite red in color. It possessed a very active poison, for its expelled breath alone would kill one instantly if it touched him. That tree with which poison was sprinkled would bear no leaves and would be barren. All the birds that alighted on its branches died, and if any beast rested in its shadow it also died. It had a long tongue which had hairs like thorns… it had tusks as sharp as punch, and the end of its tail was forked.”
If these animals did exist here at one point and are now extinct, perforce the present-day Filipino should see to it that none of the fauna (and flora) he now shares the islands with today never meets the fate of those fantastic beings. For even just a bird or mammal that disappears from this terra is one too many.HALUPI Spirits of Reminiscence by Corazon S. Alvina and Felice Sta. MariaNote: for record purposes only.