The Many (Tragic, Cinematic, Lit AF) Loves of Maria Makiling, Laguna’s Beguiling Beauty
WHO hasn’t heard of Maria Makiling, the beguiling goddess of Laguna embodied in myths, legends and folklore, told in tales that excited our young imaginations? These are vivid stories of pathos and loss that — along with Maria’s beauty — Laguna folk embraced as a celebration of the rich diversity of the province’s history and culture.
According to the legend, Maria Makiling was a goddess, a diwata, who guarded the mountain with all the plants, animals and water reserves surrounding it. She was a deity who people run to for help, especially to prevent natural disasters like storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.
She had exquisite and sophisticated features, a real beauty. People admired not just her physical charms but also her heart that was overflowing with kindness and compassion for both human and nature — kindness and compassion that often got abused by humans.
One story said Maria used to live in a community where she got along well with the locals. Whenever villagers called her for help, she would give them a piece of ginger to take home. Without the people knowing, the ginger would turn to gold that they could then later sell to help them in their needs. Greed soon overcame the villagers — they pulled all the ginger plants in her yard as they looked for the gold. Devastated, Maria ran off to the woods and lived in the mountains.
But that’s just one version of the many tales of Maria Makiling. The other stories have to do with romance and heartbreak.
In one story, Maria fell in love just like a typical maiden. She bestowed her deep devotion to a hunter who roamed the mountains of Laguna. They started out as acquaintances but their feelings for each other flourished over time. They soon decided to meet every day, with a pledge of eternal love. But Maria discovered that the man she loved had been married to a mortal woman. Despair engulfed her heart. She swore never to love nor trust villagers again. She kept herself away from people. In her despair, the trees stopped producing fruits, the animals stopped showing up, and the fish in the lake began to disappear.
In another story, Maria fell in love with a farmer. She helped him with daily matters, letting his farm grow richer, for example, than the rest of the farms in the village. But she ended up miserable after the farmer chose to marry a village woman so he could be exempted from being drafted in the army. This wrecked Maria’s heart. She left and was never seen again.
Another story took place during the Spanish colonial period. Three men pursued Maria Makiling. One was Captain Lara, a Spanish soldier. The other was Joselito, a student in Manila. Then there was Juan, a poor and humble farmer. Of the three suitors, Juan captured the maiden’s heart. This infuriated Captain Lara and Joselito that they plotted to murder him. They set fire on the Spanish barracks and blamed it on Juan. As punishment, Juan was executed as an enemy of the Spanish regime. He called out Maria’s name just before the bullet pierced his heart. Maria was in rage. Embracing Juan’s cold, bloodied body, she cursed the two men. Soon after, Katipuneros killed Captain Lara during the revolution while Joselito died from an incurable illness. In great sorrow and agony, Maria was never seen again.
The Legend Continues
It is still believed that Maria Makiling keeps guarding the mountain, which is now named Mount Makiling. If you wander around the province of Laguna, you will notice the form of the mountain resembling a reclining woman. It is also believed that travelers who want to take home fruits from the mountain get lost in their trip because they are being tricked by Maria who would change the path that leads instead to beehives or thick thorn bushes. According to the story, when this happens, the traveler must leave the fruit, take off all his clothes, and wear them inside out to show the goddess that he is no longer carrying any fruit. (Story by Mari Santilles/Lifestyle Laguna)