Chapter 5
Mythological Links
According to the Yami creation myths, we have seen that the first tawo descended from heaven onto an island of the human world. Most of the Yami identify this island with Irala, but some of the Yami believe that creation took place somewhere else and trace their origin from the Batan Archipelago. The archaeology of the Bashi area, the material cultures and the linguistic affinities between the languages of the area support the theory that the Yami have a common cultural heritage with the rest of the Bashiic cultures. The oral heritage of the Yami has preserved the records of contacts with their long-lost relatives who still live in the southern part of the Bashi Channel. The stories which tell about Yami, Ivatan, or Itbayat tribal interactions not only furnish important data pertinent to their contacts, but actually provide an explanation for the sudden termination of good relations leading to the complete isolation of the Yami from the rest of the Bashiic cultures. In this chapter I shall concentrate on the narratives of Yami mythology indicating a common mythic background with the Batanes, or containing information on the contacts of the Yami with the Ivatans and Itbayats. I shall also include the stories of several informants from Ivatan and Itbayat concerning their knowledge of the Yami and their contacts with them.
Among the Yami narratives the adventures of Simina-Vohang, in the creation myth of Ivalino, and the story of the Iratay culture hero Siapen-Mitozid, are of special interest here. The story of Simina-Vohang is the ancestral story of Ivalino, which was founded about sixteen generations ago. Ever since, the lineage has intermarried countless times with other lineages and the story has been adopted by the other villages, where it is represented by some of its component themes and motifs, almost always caught in between other stories, and presented in a different order.
It is not at all surprising that the Yami like the story of Simina-Vohang. Being very eventful, it is a good story to tell, especially for someone who can "let himself go," gesticulating and imitating the action and the voices of different protagonists. The myth is an amazing seafaring odyssey in the true sense of the word. While it is a folkloric monument to the vivid imagination of the Yami, it also presents such striking similarities with the adventures of Odysseus that the temptation to speculate regarding the diffusion of this theme is very hard to resist. In this chapter, however, the seafaring story will be analyzed mainly for its relevance to the link between the Yami and the other cultures of the Bashiic area. When necessary, themes from other Yami stories or from other Asian folk narratives will also be mentioned.
The story starts with an Ivatan boat arriving on Irala. Simina-Vohang, one of the crew members hears about the widowed daughter of Simina Zugzug, mother of two, who is very pretty and who has turned down all her suitors. He proposes to her, but she is not willing to join him unless her late husband's loincloth, jacket, and silver bracelets fit the suitor well. Simina-Vohang tries on all three items and they fit him perfectly, so the widow decides to follow him to Ivatan. On the way, she sings a song praising her handsome new husband. After that, she removes his headgear, only to realize that he is bald. Surprised, she exclaims: "Your head is like the moon." They sail south and reach the landing place of Ivatan. There is a big crowd waiting for them, including Simina-Vohang's former mother-in-law, Sinan-Vaknang. She is jealous of the pretty new wife and of her well-woven outfit. She tries to copy the patterns of the Yami clothing, but she does not succeed, so she puts a curse on the wife. This passage is interesting because the mother-in-law calls the new wife "Yami." It happens very seldom that a Yami uses this word when referring to his or her own people. It is always other people or magic creatures that call them Yami. In this instance, however, the narrator cites the Ivatan mother-in-law, so the use of the word is legitimate.
Simina-Vohang had a daughter from his first marriage. Her name was Shi-Vaknang. According to the use of technonomy, the name of her father, at this point in the narrative, must have been Siamen-Vaknang. "Simina-Vohang" means the "late bald." Here "bald" probably derives from "moon" and is the nickname of the hero. While the couple lives in Ivatan, they have two sons. According to this version of the myth, one is called Si-Jarehmet, the other Si-Karasidan.
When famine arises in Ivatan, the couple decides to return to Irala where food is always plentiful. Simina-Vohang makes a wooden box; for her daughter and leaves her to the mercy of the waves, instructing the box to float to the beach of Tabedeh on Irala. The name of this child, Vaknang, is one of the few ancient names that have survived in the Itbayat folklore. This name does not occur only in the Yami myths, but is still commonly used among the Yami. Another ancient Itbayat mythic name, Orayen, is also still in use on Irala.
The story of Simina-Vohang continues with the family's departure from Ivatan. On the way they come across a great number of islands and land on many of them. Most of these islands are imaginary places born out of the incredibly constructive fantasy of the Yami. A few places, however, have correspondents in reality. For instance, on one island they meet an old woman who has a long "pendulous breast" which she throws over her shoulder whenever she runs. As mentioned by Barton, this motif is known among the Sakai of the Malayan Peninsula, where the old woman is known as Genduy Lanyut, Granny Long-breast (qtd. in Beauclair 1974, 88). In the Yami story her name is Ivohos, and in some variants the place where she lives is an island of the heaven called by the same name. Actually, Ivohos is the name of the small island next to Sabtang which used to be uninhabited, but today shelters a few cattle-breeding farmer families.
The word the narrator uses for "island" during the sea-journey is mahataw, an ancient synonym of the word pongso. One of the townships of Ivatan is also called Mahataw, but there are several explanations for its name. According to local folklore, it was named after a person who lived there and who was known to be maha a tawo. In this expression maha is "crazy," a is a linking particle, and tawo means "person." According to Scherer, the real sense of the name comes from the root hataw, which means "to float" (qtd. in Beauclair 1906, 37). On the beach near the township of Mahataw, there is a huge rock which, at high tide, is surrounded by water and appears to be floating (Hornedo 1987). This seems to be an acceptable explanation, especially since the Yami also mention islands that "float" on the surface of the ocean and can move away from those who want to approach them with unfriendly intentions. In the creation myth of Iranmilek, the inhabitants of such an island are called Ipza, which refers to bloodthirsty foreigners. The description of the iron-wearing strangers seems to be a combination of two elements: the first is a traditional Iranmilek theme about people who suddenly appeared from the underworld bearing iron weapons and who taught the Yami how to kill with them. The second is probably the description of the armor used by the Spanish at the time of their conquest of the northern Philippine islands. Both names, ipza and vorilow, seem to mean "foreigner," having a connotation that implies the white man. Hornedo notes that in Ivatan the word ipola means "stranger" or "cultural outsider" (1987). It may be related to the Yami word Ipza, which has survived in the myths but is not in daily use any more.
Simina-Vohang and his crew also reach an "island of the goats." Some researchers have thought that this island might be Jikey, the smallest of the archipelago, next to Ivohos. This belief apparently is a result of the fact that in 1687 William Dampier found the island being used as a grazing ground for goats (Beauclair 1974, 84). In my opinion, there must have been several such islands in the archipelago. In Siapen-Mitozid's legend there is a chant that mentions the island of Kavinezan, a grazing ground for the ancestors' goats. There is no island now named as such in the archipelago. At present, the islands Mavodis and Siayan, though otherwise uninhabited, are used as grazing grounds for goats and cattle.
The seafaring part of the Simina-Vohang story harbors plenty of interesting Asian cultural elements. In one version, the drifting (rather than traveling) party reaches an island on which the Ikaldong people live. The Yami steal some of their property and intend to escape by boat. The Ikaldong chase them towards the shore, but when they look at the ocean the Ikaldong all die. Inez de Beauclair has examined this theme and remarked that: "Ikaldong means a place closed in Batanes. There is a description for a people in Mindanao, Southern Philippines (Cole 1913, 83), who live in a crater like valley, and who believe that it was death to look upon the sea. It is possible that the Yami before coming to their present island, have heard of these people (1974, 99). Hornedo notes that kaldong in Ivatanen means "pigpen" (1978).
In the many versions of the story, throughout their journey the crew lands on many more islands. On one island there are only flies, but no people. On another, dwarf people live who are so small and weak that if they want to break an egg they have to climb a tree and throw it down from there. The inhabitants of another island have no anuses, so they cannot eat food. They can only delight themselves by smelling their dishes. Other islanders are people of great strength, such as those on the imaginary island of Imananioy, where the people are so strong that they throw large coconuts at each other when they fight. Their bananas grow as large as the Yami's boat, and the Yami are allowed to have some. Hornedo notes that in Eastern Mahataw there is a place called Mananioy (1987).
In the version transcribed in part 3, one of the destinations of the journey is the household of the god Si-Tozyaw, where the travellers want to obtain food and gold. The Yami reach his place in heaven and are invited to join a feast of his clan. Here the Yami outwit the god and all others who are present at the feast by making chickens fly over the heap of food. The gods, who abhor dirt, consider the food polluted and give the amassed delicacies to the Yami. The idea of cheating, stealing, and misleading others occurs in many of the Yami stories. In older times, apparently, it was considered somewhat of a virtue to take advantage of others. Within living memory, the Yami practiced the "stealing of fields," by which they meant the forced takeover of irrigated and cultivated land from persons who were too old and too weak to fight back, or from families who did not have enough men to put up resistance. Such actions were considered a "sin," however, and those who practiced them usually met a sinister fate. I was once taken to work on a piece of land at a place called Ji-Kavatwan, which is halfway between Yayo and Iraty, right next to Ji-Rakazang. The place was known to have been an ancient settlement. Its people were thieves and robbers who not only intercepted people from other villages who dared to pass by, on land or on water, but also plundered the neighboring villages. For their sins, they were all exterminated. Siapen-Mankeran of Yayo explained that long ago, on a stormy night the tawo do to, the Supreme Being, must have felt utterly upset with the sinners because he let water and earth distroy them. The topography of the place seems to confirm the legend. Apparently, due to strong torrent action and great wind velocity during a typhoon, a massive landslide occurred which simply buried the settlement of Ji-Kawatwan, leaving no survivors.
During the sea journey, theft does not always remain unpunished. It already has been described how the angry god retaliated by bewitching the elements, which finally wrecked the boat of the escaping Yami. In his story, Siapen-Manabey, the narrator, mentioned that those who could obtain gold by passing the test imposed by the god became rich, while those who stole other people's belongings just remained thieves. To this day, the descendants of the sira do avak, "the lineage from the middle," are rich because their ancestor succeeded in uprooting a seedling that concealed gold beneath it. The ancestor of the narrator, a companion of Simina-Vohang, was the first to steal the bananas of the god Si-Kompow, so his descendents in the sira do zawang, the "valley lineage," to this day are considered thieves in the village of Ivalino.
The Ivatan origin of the inhabitants of Ivalino is not a matter of pride. This legend proves them to be late-comers to the island of the Yami, and they are not supposed to share the mythic benefits of divine creation. Consequently, in Ivalino it is difficult to find informants who will publicly tell the ancestral story. In March 1984, Siapen-Manabey agreed to tell me the story of his family, mainly because I was ready to go to Ivatan, and he was greatly intrigued by my planned visit to the land of his ancestors. He asked me explicitly to look for those who might be his long-lost relatives on that island. The sad end of this interview has been mentioned in chapter 3.
His story contains plenty of information that substantiates not only an Ivatan link but also further southern contacts of the Yami. There are many themes from Indonesian and Polynesian folklore, but it is impossible to tell exactly how, when, and where they found their way into the Yami oral heritage.
The second of the two myths mentioned before is The Voyage of Siapen-Mitozid to Ivatan, another famous Yami narrative that is part of the ancestral story of Iratay village, and elaborates on the close relations which once existed between Irala and Ivatan. The story includes material of great importance concerning the historical ties of the Yami with the Ivatans. All those who are students of Yami culture seem to agree that the events described in this story mark the end of the intentional contacts between the Yami and the rest of the archipelago. This myth can be divided into three stages. The first describes the regular visits of the Yami to Ivatan, the second the conflicts that lead to the deterioration of their friendship, and the third, why they return in spite of bad relations and what happens then.
According to several variants of the story, the Yami had visited the Ivatans for many years. During their visits, they distinguished themselves by their strength and their wrestling skills, for which the women of Ivatan admired them. Siapen-Mitozid especially was known for his enormous strength and Si-Vakag, the leader of the Ivatans, put him to the test several times. As a test, Siapen-Mitozid had to catch a big strong cow, tie it up, and carry it back to Si-Vakag's house. Then he had to haul ashore a huge shark hooked by Si-Vakag. On another occasion, he had to carry a huge bamboo back to the village. Impressed by his great strength, Si-Vakag made him his friend and invited the Yami to continue visiting with them.
The second stage shows how the Yami abused the friendship of the Ivatans and cheated them. It is recorded in the myth that at some point Siapen-Mitozid offered in exchange a big stone covered with gold foil, passing it for pure gold, and cheated Si-Vakag. The Ivatans found they had had enough of the exhibitions of Yami superiority in their games and in wrestling. They also became jealous at the great success the Yami had with their women, so they asked them not to come to Ivatan any more. Meanwhile, back in Irala, Siapen-Mitozid had an argument with Si-Jawong, his cousin, concerning a mozong, a boat ornament. The argument led to a feud, and Si-Jawong challenged Siapen-Mitozid to fight. He accepted the challenge, but his son, Si-Ripow, had no pagad, armor made of water buffalo hide, to wear. This terrific war gear; could be procured only from Ivatan. So, Siapen-Mitozid gathered a crew and they prepared for sailing. When they pushed their boat into the water, the boat crushed a seashell. This was a very bad omen and some tried to persuade Siapen-Mitozid not to sail, but he could not be persuaded to change his mind, and the large, eighty-person boat sailed off to Ivatan.
On the way, when they passed Itbayat, they saw black water pouring from the island into the ocean. It was another bad omen, and the people of Itbayat also warned the Yami not to go on to Ivatan. But again Siapen-Mitozid could not be persuaded, and they sailed on to their destination. From the moment of their arrival, the Ivatans were very hostile, and the Yami were afraid to approach the landing place. Si-Vakag ordered the women to remove their clothing and dance naked on the beach, to lure the Yami ashore. Finally, the Yami could not resist the temptation any more. They landed and pulled their boat up on the sandy beach. The Ivatans attacked them and destroyed the Yami's seacraft.
A fight broke out and the Yami killed a lot of Ivatans. Siapen-Mitozid, stabbed in his buttocks by a child, could not stop the bleeding and died. It is worth noting that the description of death by bleeding from a stab in the buttocks "occurs in the folklore of the Tempasuk Dusun of Borneo" (Beauclair 1974, 82). Similar folkloric elements are to be found also among the Solomon Islanders and the Kalinga (Beauclair 1974, 82). In the fight, all the Yami died except for Siapen-Mitozid's son. In some variants, Si-Nipog, another companion from Iraralay, also survives. The two hid in the jungle, a woman who discovered them helped them with fire and food to stay alive, and when they were presumed dead by the Ivatans, they stole a boat and returned to Irala (Beauclair 1974, 83).
The story supplies much valuable information on Yami beliefs and ways of thinking. The narrators usually take great pleasure in telling about the slyness of Siapen-Mitozid, whose cheating of the Ivatans comes forth as an act of quick wits and also bravery. Though the Yami today admit that "such things are not nice to do," these traits of his character are definitely not perceived as "sins" that may have caused his tragic end. The real errors of Siapen-Mitozid, which foretold his tragic end to Yami listeners of the story, are of a different nature. In the opinion of any Yami that I asked, when the boat crushed the seashell the party should never have boarded the craft. One does not put out to sea when such a terribly bad omen occurs. When the black water of Itbayat is also ignored, most Yami know that this story can not end well for Siapen-Mitozid.
As Siapen-Mitozid and his crew watch the dancers on the shore, the narrator interjects the fact that, while all this is going on, a man-catching vongkow, the master demon of all of the Yami spirit world, is keeping an eye on the landing party from the top of the mountain. Because the bad in one's life can come only from the representatives of the ghost world, any Yami listener who grew up in the traditional Yami way realizes, at this point in the narrative, that Siapen-Mitozid is as good as dead. All that is left is to see exactly what kind of death he will die and whether anybody will survive the expedition. As a confirmation of such misgivings, when the party lands on Ivatan, they see a wild torrent pouring down the mountain, though it is not raining. This is a taztazmamo, an apparition foretelling the death of someone. To confirm the sentiments and ill-expectations of the listeners, during the fight Siapen-Mitozid kills a pregnant woman. Because pregnant women are the source of countless taboos among the Yami, this is seen as a final act of despair, reminding one of the magic sheep of Kavinezan, who could foretell the hero's fate and who noted his "words of despair" well ahead. Now the end of Siapen-Mitozid cannot be far away. After the child of the slain mother stabs him in the buttocks, he tells his son about his approaching death. In one of the versions, he finds refuge in a cave where he dies. From his dead body, like the scorpions rising from the blood of slain Medusa, six poisonous wasps arise and sting the Ivatans (Beauclair 1974, 80).
The story of Siapen-Mitozid is unknown among the Ivatans today. As a matter of fact, the younger generation of Ivatans do not even know about the existence of the Yami. The oldest generation has little or no knowledge about the island and the customs of the Yami.
In 1958, one of the Dominican fathers of Ivatan who lives in the town of Mahataw translated a document for Inez de Beauclair which refers to the hostility between the Yami and the Ivatans. This document is dated May 1, 1802, and states:
To the northeast of Itbayat is the island of Diami which can be seen during very clear weather from Itbayat. It is inhabited, and the people have the customs and language of those of the Batanes. A long time ago, the people from Diami and those from Batan had communications, but these were suspended when a tataya (boat) came from Diami, and those from Vasay (Batan) killed all its passengers except one, who could leave with the tataya, and reached Itbayat, from where he was able to return to the island of Diami. Since this event all communications were suspended. Notwithstanding the long time since this incident happened, it seems that the people of Diami have not forgotten it, for ten years had not passed before some people from Batan, who reached Diami, were robbed of all their belongings and one of them was killed by the people of Diami. It is said that the island is very populated. (Beauclair 1974, 86)
There is no way to tell exactly if the incident described above is that of Siapen-Mitozid. According to the genealogies recorded by Kano, the last fatal voyage of Siapen-Mitozid to Ivatan must have taken place in the middle of the seventeenth century, immediately before the first Spanish missionaries appeared on the island (qtd. in Beauclair 1974, 82). That this happened before the arrival of the Spanish can be deduced from the fact that in one of the chants Siapen-Mitozid calls the inhabitants of today's Basco "Ivasay." This pre-Hispanic name of the settlement usually occurs in traditional stories. The Yami have never heard about Basco since the present name was given to the town in recognition of the Spanish Governor-General, Don Jose Basco y Vargas. It should also be mentioned that the Yami no longer know that Vasay was only a settlement, for they use the name in their stories as a synonym for all of Ivatan. Sometimes they use the name "Ivatan" in the sense of the Filipino "Batanes," including all the islands of the archipelago.
From the stories collected on both islands, it is clear that the feud between the Yami and the Ivatans was not forgotten for quite a long time. In 1984, on Itbayat, Mr. Inocencio Ponce told me that his grandfather once drifted to Yami, from whence he returned unharmed. He asked me many questions about the Yami, whom he definitely considered to be related to the Itbayats. When I asked him if he wanted to send a message to the Yami, he agreed. In his short speech, which is recorded in part 3, he called the Yami his long-lost relatives and prayed to God that some day they could meet again. Towards the end of his message to the Yami he said, "Let's forgive each other." First, I thought that this was meant in a general Christian sense, but soon I started having my doubts and asked Mr. Ponce to tell me the story of his grandfather's drifting to Irala. At first he refused, but finally, on the last day, actually at the last minute before my departure, he came and wanted to tell me the story. It turned out, as one can judge from the following text, that his grandfather's safe return really had nothing to do with Yami hospitality. The text of his story was transcribed, translated, and mailed to me by Mr. Orlando Hontomin of Basco:
Grandfather Nicolas Carillo crossed the sea from Itbayat to the mainland, to Basco, but because of bad weather he and the crew drifted into the China sea. When the weather got worse, the banca capsized and all the crew died except grandfather Nicolas Carillo and another companion. They both swam towards Hami. Nearing the place, he noticed that his companion was nowhere to be seen, so he reached the place alone. On walking ashore he saw a road leading to a group of people. But when they saw him, they were greatly surprised and started running after him with bolos, big knives. Grandfather Nicolas Carillo ran as fast as he could and when he saw a thick pandanus thicket he jumped into it and stayed right there. He started removing the thorns from all over his body, since he was naked. He was at this business the whole day. Towards night time he went to the sea shore and there he saw pieces of wood which he took with him again to the depth of the thickets and started tying them together to make a raft, for he intended to leave the place and proceed to what we now call Mavodis. Perhaps he wanted to go to Itbayat, but since he had no food he planned to pass by Mavodis. The second day he went into the pandanus thicket and got five ripe pandanus fruits, tied them to the raft, and then left the land of the Hamis. Towards noontime he depended solely on the current and sometimes he had to swim.
"Did he have oars?" "No, none at all." He simply got in the raft. The following day he saw no vision of land and again depended upon the current the whole day. The next day he saw what he thought was a ship. Coming closer, he saw that it was a big vessel, a pragata, but it did not come from Itbayat. He did not know where it came from. After a while, when he saw the boat coming nearer, when he believed they could now see him, he stood and later started swimming again. The crew in the big ship did not get him at once. They were scrutinizing him. Later, they made signs to him to show them that he was still alive. Then they lowered something to ride in. When they left he did not know where they were going. When crew questioned him later (he did not know the language) he told them he was a "person from Batanes," so they brought him to Manila and from there he came back to our place.
I succeeded in following up on another story about drifting to the Yami. The informant was Juan Fabro, and the person who was involved in the story was his grandfather:
My grandfather Marcelino Fabro went on a voyage to Cagayan. On the return from Cagayan to Ivatan, there was no favorable wind in the direction of Ivatan. Floating in the current, after a long voyage they reached a place called Yami. They were close to the shore already when they were met by a boat with six men who circled around the ship. As ordered by my grandfather Marcelino Fabro, each member of the crew was to arm himself with a piece of wood and guard the edge of the ship.
"If anybody allows anyone to board, God give me the power to punish you."
While they kept circling around them, they showed them that they would not let them board. Reportedly, they said, as they pointed to the sail: "No clothing, no clothing." They were in G-strings.
That is why when they kept circling they were not allowed to board. Later on there was wind that took them away from the island of Yami and slowly moved them farther away. While they were moving away, a stronger wind came. After they had stayed a long time on the sea, for three days they came closer to, and finally reached, Ivatan, where they related the story of what had happened to them in Yami. That's all that I know about it.
An elder, Pastor Fainza of Mahataw, who also knew Marcelino Fabro personally, gave a fuller account of the event. Here is the translation of an interview with him, in which questions were asked by Bernardo Hornedo of Mahataw, Batanes:
I am Pastor Fainza, born in 1898 on the sixth of August. His mother was Salvadora Federa and his father was Rafael Fabro. Their first child was Marcelino Fabro. The wife of Marcelino was Soriana. Their eldest child was Nicolas Fabro, the next was Catalino and the third was Eulogia.
Marcelino Fabro was chosen as a chief in this community and his opponent was Don Lino Fagar.
- "What did they call the leader of the community then?"
- "Mangpos." (Title of the leader)
- "How many terms did he serve?"
- "It took a long time, because it was he who determined the boundaries of the municipalities of Basco, Mahataw, Ivana, and Oyogan. Later on, the Americans came, who managed us and determined the boundaries of Basco, Mahataw, Ivana, and Oyogan again. He was the one who made the final agreement between the leaders of Basco, Mahataw, Ivana, Oyogan, Sabtang, and Itbayat. When he agreed, everything was all right."
Concerning the stories of their travel, he was the leader of the ship. They went on a voyage during the time of trips to Appari. There were several ships called pontin which they made in the town of Vasay, in Ivana, and we also had ours. The boat of Basco was docked at our shore here. That of Ivana they kept there in Ivana. When the boats were finished they could not launch them or remove them on land by themselves, so people from San Carlos used to go to help them. Likewise Ivasay brought their boat to rest on our seashore because they could not do it in Vasay. They brought them ashore with the help of ours from San Carlos. So when we were the ones landing or grounding our boat, the two sides would come and help us because that's how it was agreed. We in San Carlos had as captain Don Marcelino whenever they left for a voyage.
Once, when they moved out to sea, they were left floating at the back somewhere in Sabtang, where they could not reach land. Marcelino said, "Pull up the sail and the auxiliary sail and we shall depend upon the mercy of God and the current of the waters."
It happened that they were swept along by the current and blown about by the wind to this so-called Yami. When they were sighted by the inhabitants of Yami, the Yami immediately moved out to sea and went to get whatever they could get. What they wanted was the sail and the auxiliary sail for clothing.
- "What was the order of Marcelino?"
- "Now that these people from Yami are moving out to sea, all of us will get our firewood and if anyone holds onto the edge of the boat, you hit his fingers," he said. When they reached anyone who held onto the edge, he was hit by them. It was not long before a favorable wind came and they fixed the sail and the auxiliary sail and moved out very fast. When they left, it was a straight way and they came ashore at our shore and then were safe.
These are stories about people who were lucky to survive the unreliable waters of the current. The record of boats lost in the treacherous waters of the Bashi Channel, and the list of people who lost their lives during crossings between Ivatan and Itbayat, are very long. Apparently there is a major fatality in the channel every year. Not only the small falowa of the natives of the province go down, but big ocean liners as well. In 1985, a large commercial ship was underway from Manila to Basco. It had over 600 people aboard. Reportedly, "the Marcos-Faberes vessel sunk with loads of commodities for Batanes about 30 miles southwest of Basco on October 14. Many of the passengers died while some were rescued by ocean liners that carried them to Tokyo. Some were rescued by U.S. Navy helicopters and brought to Laoag and Manila" (Hontomin 1985).
The current so often referred to is the Kuroshio, the Japan Current, which emerges where the two largest bodies of water of the Orient, the Pacific Ocean and the China Sea, meet. It flows north, passing Ivatan, Itbayat, and Irala, creating unexpected and unreliable water movements in the whole area. The dangers of the dreaded waves among those islands must have been known to many Western seafarers as well. Melville chose to make Captain Ahab's ship go down right there, in the Bashi Channel, leaving only Ishmael alive to tell the story.
From the examples cited it is safe to conclude that the feud between the Yami and Ivatan lasted for well over a hundred years after the arrival of the Spanish. With the passing of time, there were occasional cases of drifting when the Yami did not show a hostile attitude any more and the Ivatans or Itbayats returned to their islands unharmed.
Dominga Castor of Itbayat tells a story according to which her great grandfather, who drifted to the Yami, had an interesting conversation with them. "Once our great grandfather drifted in a boat to the Island of the Yami. It is said that the Yami asked them, 'Is our osaxbang tree still alive in Kanioyan?' 'We do not know because we have no fields there and we never go there,' our people in the boat said. Actually, that osaxbang tree is still there where they said it was. It is a very thick one, but it has decayed."
After the end of the sixteenth century there were probably no intentional contacts between the Yami and the rest of the archipelago. As time healed the wounds left by earlier events, such as the ones precipitated by Siapen-Mitozid, the feuds subsided and slowly changed into nostalgia for long-lost relatives. Because I showed the Yami hundreds of slides of Ivatan and Itbayat, these islands and their inhabitants stepped out of the realm of magic stories and became another kind of reality for the Yami. Many of them begged me to take them along to see the mythic land. As mentioned in chapter 3, I took a Yami friend, Si-Mogaz, along to Ivatan and to Itbayat in 1986. Being familiar with the stories of the ill-fated visits, he was somewhat nervous about the trip. The Ivatans and Itbayats received him warmheartedly and called him a "relative." When he was asked to sing some of the Yami songs, he chanted a rawod, which was recognized by some of the Itbayats as an ancient form of their folkloric heritage, one that disappeared about the time when they were young. They could still remember, though, that the chants were called rawod. Dominga Castor of Itbayat told my Yami friend the story of her great grandfather, the one who asked the Yami about the old osaxbang tree. At the end of her narrative she told Si-Mogaz, "That tree probably is a child of the old one, probably they replanted it, and you, you are probably the grandchild of the knee." There is no question in my mind that the expression "grandchild of the knee;" has the same meaning to her as in the Yami creation myths. This term is one of the very few reminiscents of the early creation myths that have not survived on Itbayat and Ivatan, but which have been carefully preserved in the luxuriously rich oral heritage of the Yami of Irala. As a gesture of peace and good will on the part of the Itbayats, and as a sign that the historic feud between the long-lost relatives had come to an end, Si-Mogaz, the Yami, was allowed to marry a girl from Itbayat, with whom he returned almost "victoriously" to Irala. The Yami were extremely excited at the news and came in crowds from all villages to see "the person from Itbayat." They were interested in hearing her language, and soon many of the Yami women made friends with her. Sinan-Mogaz was the happiest of all. Her son, in a place where there are no more women to marry, finally had a wife, and she could even talk to her daughter-in-law in Yami.
Ever since the return of Si-Mogaz from Itbayat, more and more young Yami have become interested in intermarrying with their own kind from across the Bashi Channel. Now that good relations have been re-established after several centuries, it remains to see how beneficial they will be for the quickly disappearing folklore and rapidly changing Bashi cultures.