By Abdon M. Balde Jr.


Anyone who looks at the map of Iriga City and the nearby town of Buhi would notice that almost all the names of barangays and sitios carried the names of saints and/or have religious references such as De la Fe, La Purisima, Divino Rostro, etc. This means that the original names of these places have been replaced during or after the Spanish colonization period. What happened here? Were the residents overly religious? Were the names imposed by the colonizers? Or was it an intentional strategy of the residents to erase the history of the places in order to forget a traumatic past? Was it possible that Oryol indeed summoned the monsters from Gagamban and let them loose from her abode between Iriga and Buhi?

These thoughts were very much in my mind when we left the cave at De la Fe. It only changed when the coconut farmer who was our guide offered us lumbod or young coconuts—both as a refreshing drink and a delicious fruit. We walked to his place, and we entered a large cleared area with a big hut where he burned his coconut shells to make charcoal. While we were feasting on the young coconut I noticed a captive bird perched on a twig eating an overripe papaya. “An unusual dove,” I said noting its dark brown feathers, black tails, long beak and piercing eyes. The farmer said, “That’s not a dove, that’s a Korokoro.” Again, I felt the hairs on my nape stood on ends. A Korokoro, so near the cave of Oryol!

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This was what Fray Castano wrote about Korokoro in 1870: “The Bonggos were beings with a human, Ethiopic, and very ugly figure that cast sparks of fire from their eyes upon showing up, burning up everything within its reach out of its intent to consume it. These were the most furious ministers of the Asuang and were always preceded in their vengeance by the nocturnal bird Corocoro launching its saddest and most doleful laments—the unfailing premonition of the close arrival of the Asuang, who had to devour the entrails of a child. The natives therefore tried to hide their children with utmost concern and diligence, guarding them carefully until the Corocoro ceased its wails.”

Centuries after the events related in the narrative of Ibalong, and the KoroKoro still lives near the abode of Oryol! Coincidence? Here is the interesting part: When I went home to my wife’s ancestral house in Tiwi, Albay, I told her about the Korokoro—and was immediately informed that there is a barangay in Tiwi named Corocoro! I said, “Where the Corocoro lives, there also lives Aswang!” Then a relative who happened to be in the house told me that a person suspected as an aswang lives not in Corocoro but in the adjacent barangay named Nagas! “Then I should go to Nagas,” I instinctively said. “Why?” asked my wife. “To look for the person and interview…” I replied. My wife said with a very firm voice, “If you do that, I will not allow you to come home anymore.” I asked why, and her reply was, “Because I could no longer be sure that it’s the same YOU who comes home to me!” Indeed I’ve heard stories of persons with supernatural abilities like Aswang or even Oryol who could enter another body and assume the victim’s identity. Is it still possible in these modern days? I think what is important these beliefs are still very much in the memory of people here.

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