By Abdon M. Balde Jr.
TO THE MAGICAL MOUNTAIN & THE LAKE OF BATO
There is a legend set in the magical mountain that once stood where one could now find Lake Bato. In the magical stone mountain called Bato, there lived a beautiful maiden named Tacay who was under the care of Onos, the god of whirlwind, thunder and lightning. She would wander around the trees and the forest at the foot of the mountain. One day, a hunter named Kanaway fell on a ravine and was on the verge of death when Tacay found him. Tacay took him in a cave and healed his wounds. To make a long story short, they fell in love with each other. Kanaway said he would go down to the village and inform his parents that he would marry Tacay. Onos learned about it and warned Tacay not to appear on the appointed day. A nymph like you cannot marry a mortal like him, he said. But Tacay was relentless. On the appointed day, Tacay went down the mountain to meet Kanaway. Before Kanaway could come near Tacay the earth began to shake and a lightning flashed in front of him. Tacay saw this and thinking Onos would not hurt her, rushed to embrace Kanaway. Lightning rained on the lovers who were in a tight embrace. This was followed by a very strong thunder, then a huge whirlwind enveloped the mountain. Suddenly, the magical mountain crumbled and in its place was a lake. A beautiful hyacinth grew and an immaculate white flower the people called Tacay float on the lake’s placid waters.
My wife and I arrived at Lake Bato past noon in 2005. We came to a place where the fishermen leave their boats and there was a small kiosk at the end of the foot path. I interviewed some folks and was informed that the sinarapan or tabios—the smallest commercially available fish in the world have grown thin. The larger fish, the tilapia, the mud fish and the cat fish start to eat them, a fisherman said. Just like in Lake Buhi. The lake at 28 square kilometres is much bigger than Lake Buhi—which was only 17 square kilometres. I surveyed the shores of the lake, as far as I could see—and in a later time I would also go to the other shore in the town of Libon—and I failed to see a big boulder that could attest to the crumbling of the stone mountain. If there ever was a stone mountain here, there would have been traces of boulders, stones or even sandy soil. But there were none. It’s all muddy and sticky clay around the shores of Lake Bato. My presumption was that the storyteller must have confused Lake Bato with Lake Buhi.
On the other side of Lake Bato I could see the outlines of the long range of mountains. Before those mountains would be the plains of the town of Libon. Beyond those mountains should be the sea. That would be my next destination.