Posted by: bridex | August 6, 2007

Waling: A Legend

Since my first post would coincide with the Kadayawan season in the Davao Region, Philippines, i thought it would be fitting to post a Legend which I wrote in 1998, published in Philippine Star in 2000 (they edited it too, shame), and published in the Philippine Orchid Society’s quarterly publication also in 2000.  To the uninitiated, the Waling-waling orchid (Vanda sanderiana) is one of the symbols of the Davao Region, having been discovered in the foothills of Mount Apo by a scientific team commissioned by Sanders in 1882 (hence the scientific name Vanda sanderiana).  I have reproduced the story in its entire, unadulterated, unedited glory, so pardon the grammatical errors and the prevalent cheesiness.

The legend of the Waling-Waling Orchid (Vanda sanderiana)
by Brian Dexter M. Medija

vanda sanderiana - waling-waling orchid - native to Davao City, Philippines
The origins of the Waling-waling elude memory, yet its beauty continues to dazzle those that behold its splendid blossoms, even inspiring awe and wonder as to how such pulchritude came to be. The beautiful Waling-Waling abounds in Davao–on the lush slopes of Mount Apo, the grandfather of mountains.

On the banks of the upper Daba-daba, whose waters meander from the northwest bukids, a people headed by brawny Datu Musukul have set up village, called Dayaw. Musukul’s wife, Waling, gave brightness and beauty to the village.

The sun bled the Apo’s swollen brow, ducking silently behind the old mountain. Little children chased each other while the women shared laughs under the trees. The village’s men gathered for tuba to welcome the closing of another day of hardwork, having tied their kabaws or having brought home the day’s catch. Joyful sounds filled the air in the peaceful balangay.

Then suddenly, like thunder to a sunny day, a man’s loud shriek reechoed in the fields, and the laughs died into silence. A baffling scene greeted their eyes: a rushing horse driven by a man who went out hunting but brought with him not a baboy-halas or usa, but a man hanging limply on his horse.

A strange frenzy caught the village like a fever.

“Mighty Datu! Mighty Datu! A terrible thing has befallen on Ambungan!” cried the visibly shaken man, stumbling as he alighted from his horse. He knelt, breathing rapidly, his blooded hands staining the base of the ladder to the village chief’s house. He had been Ambungan’s mentor and hunting partner since the young man’s childhood.

Staying calm, though arrested by the assistant’s ominous words, the Datu came on his door to investigate. But before he could ask, he saw the man on the horse’s back. Lifeless. Unmistakable sorrow filled the chieftain’s face.

The dead man was his only brother.

“What is it, Hantik, what has happened to my brother?” His eyes stuck on the blood running down the horse’s brown hide–the same blood that filled his veins. It is the blood of their forefathers. A generation lost upon every drop that fell on the dust. Anger filled him.

The chieftain eyed the assistant’s blood-stained hands and chest and he clutched the golden necklace that Ambungan made and gave him for a present. Waling stood worried beside the Datu.

The assistant’s words drowned in his grief. “We were hunting usa near the foot of the Apo when a man attacked Ambungan!” Gasping as if drowning in his own tears, “I had gone down the stream to drink water and I was so far away I was unable to chase after the man.”

Then, looking up at the Datu, whose eyes have gone red in grief and anger, he added, “but I saw clearly… he was wearing a red band around his head… he took the catch and went deep into the woods of the Apo… and he was wearing a red band!” as if to make up for not being able to save the Datu’s only brother.

“Then, he is one of Makalisang’s men!” exclaimed the ever-composed Datu, whose eyes were sobbing, yet his noble stance never wavering. The Queen gasped at the realization. Makalisang’s men are known to wear bands doused in the blood of the people they have murdered.

“Makalisang, time and again you have betrayed me, you have repeatedly infringed into my territory, and now you have killed my only brother!” Musukul muttered to himself. He and Makalisang had agreed that the Apo be divided equally among them, the East side to Musukul and the West side–the other side, to Makalisang. “I have been forgiving to you and your men, but this blow is too much to bear. I shall never allow you to go scot-free this time!”

His left clasp tightened on the golden necklace until it bled, as his right grabbed his shining sundang, and he swore, “Makalisang, you shall pay with your own blood the life of Ambungan!” A bead of blood kissed the bamboo floor.

The people gathered outside the Datu’s balay were stirred. They had known of Makalisang’s reputation as a bloodthirsty warrior who knew no mercy in killing men, women, even children and razing whole villages to the ground. Women embraced their husbands, brothers, or sons–whose lives they will risk in their quest for Musukul’s vengeance. But they were not entirely against Musukul’s plans as they had their own stories to say of the savageness of Makalisang and his men. Many of them have grieved the loss of relatives and family members to this greedy people, and they have lost horses, livestock and valuables, too. And they grieve for Ambungan, whom they admired as a good gentleman who would sometimes help them tend the kabaws and even to daro on the fields or feed the manok when he wasn’t hunting or doing metalwork. The day had gone in grieving too, as the sun sank into the rugged horizon and darkness spilled all over the land.

Meanwhile, Ambungan had been lain on a wooden bed. Then, with a fiery torch, the chieftain lit the dead twigs packed under the bed. Not long after, fire licked the dead man’s body, and dark smoke carried his soul to the heavens.

Moving back into his high abode, the mighty Datu called for Admanun, the village sage and his most trusted adviser, and ordered that a hundred of his men prepare for their attack.

But Admanun shook his head, “Datu, you cannot force yourself to attack Makalisang’s camp, they can easily outnumber you, and you know how fierce they are to rival armies.” Admanun, as with the others, silently recalled the news long ago of heads being cut and placed on spears around bonfires as Makalisang’s tribe chanted all night long to their god, dipping cloth in a large tadyaw filled with the blood of their ill-fated enemies and wearing them around their heads.

Musukul answered, “Even I do not worry about my life. They have violated our pact and now killed my dear brother. I will make sure they pay with their lives for taking away my brother’s–and I will do that even if I had to die!” The fire outside his window burned further, as though it was his fuming rage.

“But it is too much of a risk, Datu. We haven’t had wars for so long and we are ill-prepared for another… and…,” glancing at the beauteous Queen who was silently sobbing, “and what about the Queen? And your children?” Admanun turned to Musukul, “will you be leaving them without the assurance of your return?”

The Queen embraced her husband, “Musukul, my love, I cannot bear to see you go and place your own life on the blades of death!” her beautiful eyes overflowed with tears.

“I have to fight for principles, Waling, I have to assert myself lest they continue to spread tragedy and gloom” Musukul said gently, embracing back the weeping Queen. “Besides, this is for the future, of our children and our people. If I must die, at least I have caused them enough injury to disable their army and thwart their evil scheme.”

The Queen was speechless, tears still pouring from her eyes, but she is filled with admiration for her husband’s heroic stance. Yet his loss continues to worry her. “You know Datu Makalisang is known for slaying whoever trespasses into their territory, and he does so without mercy! Please do not go, Musukul!” she begs.

“I know that. But they have repeatedly overstepped our borders, and stole our horses, our kabaws and manoks, they even killed Ambungan, along with many of our hunters and farmers.

If I had been as fierce, they would have long been banished from the world of the buhi into the realm of kamatayun.”

“Admanun, I entrust my wife and children to you, look after them while I am away,” Musukul told the old man, the latter showing his assent. “Musukul!” Waling could only cry.

His eyes looked far into the darkness, unmoving, as the fiery embers cracked in his ears, “I am fighting back, Waling, and there is nothing that would stop me from upholding what is right. Just wait, my Queen, with Bathala’s aid, I shall return. That is a promise.”

Musukul descended from the balay and joined the men, preparing for the journey to battle.

The moon had flown midway across the raven sky when Musukul and a hundred of his men marched into the thick forests on the way to the other side of the great mountain. The Queen sat by her window, watching tearfully as their torches faded gradually in the darkness, blending with the stars in the heavens. The trek to bloodshed would take five days.

But countless somber days have passed and no sign of victory or defeat has arrived in Dayaw. The Queen was intensely bothered and unable sleep as she had been since the Datu left. “At this time they should already have arrived from the battle,” she said impatiently to Admanun.

“My Queen, lose not hope, the Datu and the rest shall return,” he retorted, “let us wait a little bit more.” The wise man showed no worries, but inside, he feared the fate of the brave chief and his men.

And so did Waling. “I should find Musukul myself no matter what! Right now! I am infinitely worried about him. He could be sick in the forest from days of battle, he would need food and clothing. He would need the dahun for his wounds.” “Kugihana,” she called her young servant, “prepare some clothes, food and dahun, we shall go into the forest to find our Datu.”

“In honor of my promise to the Datu, I cannot allow you to leave, My Queen. You yourself have heard the words from the Datu’s mouth that I should never leave you and your children until his return,” Admanun defended his orders.

Waling acceded, and waited for her husband’s return. But all had been in vain. Two moons have now passed and still no word from her husband. Worry heightened throughout the peaceful balangay of Dayaw as it had been so long since the battle and many a life had been risked in the mission.

The Queen was sewing fine horsehair into a headdress, like the ones her husband wore, when a coal-winged creature landed on the garment, attracted by its beads, colorful like the flowers outside. Her attention swept aside from the work to the perplexing spectacle, she accidentally stung herself with the needle. The garment fell on the floor and the ebony creature flapped its way out the window. Waling glanced at her hurting finger and blood oozed from the wound. She eyed the dark creature, the forests in the background, and then the sobbing sky. She had made an important decision.

One cold evening, the queen had put one of her children to sleep, and, while the aging Datu Admanun lay in deep slumber, she crept down the balay and woke Kugihana. They quickly packed some food, clothes and dahun in a huge cloth, along with other things they needed, and tiptoed into the edge of the village. Then, taking a torch, they crept into the thick underbrush of the forest.

They snaked through the forest for days but they could not see any traces of the Datu or the army. But the Queen persevered. She and her trusted servant went deeper into the moist, dark forest, stopping only to rest.

In the peace of the forest, Waling could feel her emotions bursting from inside her. Tears rained down from her eyes as she moved around the forest shouting “Musukul! My love, answer me, where are you!”

They came upon a wide section of the forest, almost like a clearing. A small stream flowed nearby, boulders covered with velvety green moss were scattered on its banks, and a tall white-stemmed tree with lianas spiraling on its trunk towered way above the canopy, as if to command a view of the forest below. She gazed up to the tree’s body, and climbed it to have a better view of the forest, and hopefully to heighten the chances of finding her lost love. This terrified the young Kugihana, who could barely look as the Queen shakily clang to the giant vines embracing the tree. The top spread seemed to be a perfect place for viewing and so she nestled there where it was shady, moist and windy. She tied herself to the massive branches with ropes to keep her in place and to avoid falling. She sat there for a whole day, her eyes prowling through the lush canopy, her ears attentive for every rustle on the floor or among the trees. She was ever diligent in her mission to bring her husband back into her hands.

That noon, they have almost ran out of food and so Waling called from the treetop, “Kugihana, go and search for food. We cannot continue our search if we do not have food to keep us strong. Go to the bank of the Daba-daba, I like the mangoes there.”

“But, my Queen, the Daba-daba is so far away it would take me long to come back here. I cannot leave you that long!” the servant worriedly complained.

“Speak no more. Go and do as I say. I have enough here to stay on until the morning. By then you should already be here,” the beautiful Queen said.

And so the servant traced back the route to the river. She is baffled by the words of the Queen. There seems to be something strange going on, she thought. Why mangoes? Why that far? True, the Queen favors the mangoes grown on trees by the Daba-daba, in fact she eats them all the time. But she also eats other fruits like the bayabas or kapayas, even the lomboy and the pungent duryan–and they are plentiful in the forest nearby.

But she could not defy her master. “The Queen has her reasons, she is a smart woman and everything she does bears a purpose,” the servant told herself to dismiss the thought and walked on.

While the faithful servant was away, Waling prayed to Bathala like she had never prayed before. She closed her eyes, now blackened by her sorrow, as tears formed rivulets on her cheeks, and prayed. “Almighty Bathala, bring back my beloved Musukul. Guide his path into my arms so he will fulfill his promise and make my life complete again. I will never be at ease until I see him. On these branches I shall nestle, all my life if need be–and beyond, until I see him trudge towards my arms. Let not my efforts be put to waste.” She went on praying through the twilight.

Meanwhile, it was almost dark and Kugihana had gathered mangoes from the trees on the banks of the upper Daba-daba. But she had grown weary from the long trek downhill from the forest and sore after many a fall from the huge mango trees. Stumbling under one of the trees, and, lulled by the cool breeze, her own weariness conquered her and she succumbed to sleep.

At dawn, the Queen’s mournful sorrow reverberated through the forests of the Apo while sooty clouds gathered overhead, as if to join the aggrieved woman. The sky turned gray, concealing the rising sun, the cold wind blew as thunderclaps crackled in the heavens scaring the raindrops from the clouds, as though they were Bathala’s voice.

A lone raindrop kissed Kugihana’s eye, prompting her to awake. But when she opened her eyes, she saw that it was already dawn–the male fowls have intoned their matutinal chorus, as the leaves above her seemed to clap in rave. But it was no time to laze about, as she realized she had fallen asleep when she should have returned to where her master was. She quickly rose, gathering the golden fruits she had reaped the afternoon before, and braved the intensifying rain as she penetrated the forest’s thick undergrowth.

“How foolish of me! How could I!” she scolded herself as she cut through the bamboo grove. “The Queen is short of food and there I was sleeping! Forgive me, Bathala. Forgive me, Queen Waling!”

The rain had grown furious, and the winds had gone harsh. The forest, proud and impenetrable, shuddered at the sudden wild weather. The heavens burst in thunderbolts, and lightning flashes overwhelmed the sun, already choked by the somber clouds.

“Now, even Bathala is mad at me,” Kugihana whispered in fear, trembling under the leaking roof of the forest. “Oh Queen, scourge me, punish me. I deserve your blows. But cast me not away, I shall desire to be with you in your quest and to be of service to you, both as recompense and conviction” she muttered to herself.

The young servant did not realize the speed she went through the forest; neither did she sense exhaustion. It seemed her guilt caused her sinews to numb from weariness. Her speeding legs brought her to where the giant, white-stemmed emergent stood. Then suddenly, the storm ceased, the winds were silenced, the lightning vanished and the quaking canopy lay still. And the sun emerged from behind the clouds, casting rays through the canopy.

Kugihana sensed that she had reached the place and stopped at the very foot of the tree. It it was still cold and dark. A steady, cool current brushed against her face, and, as soon as she directed her eyes skyward, she could all but drop the cloth in which the fragrant fruits were placed. Speech refused to escape her mouth. It was for what she was beholding.

The Queen was not there but her eyes beheld something as lovely as the missing queen–a strange plant in full bloom.

“So beautiful… splendid,” Kugihana was captivated by the strange plant. It had huge, radiant flowers clothed in the color of the Queen’s garments, and it had dark lower corollas, like the Queen’s mourning eyes. The blossoms were firm and sturdy, watchful and unwavering like the Queen. And it had roots that look like they had been tied to the tree trunk, much like the ropes of the missing queen. Kugihana was staring motionless for a long time. It was as if she was beholding the Queen herself.

The great bird’s moan resonated through the cavernous section of the forest to awaken her from the trance. And, as soon as the creature perched beside the unusual blooms, talons bearing a struggling creature that a while ago nibbled on her mangoes, blood rushed into the lady’s veins arousing her into frenzy.

“Oh! The Queen!… I must find her!” Kugihana inched farther from the tree, but still glancing at the beauty perched on its highest spread. Looking away, she searched the bushes and rocks and trees, while shouting, “Waling, my Queen! Answer me, where are you!”

Kugihana searched for two days but she could not find her Queen. Her guilt fueled her aching muscles to search through the treacherous thickets and scurry around the littered floor. And in her search, she kept returning to the giant, liana-hugged tree and could not resist the temptation to look above at the glorious sight. Each time the resplendent

blooms crossed her sight, her guilt would fade away and she is taken into a trance until yhat bird yells to awaken her.

One morning, shaken off anew by the great bird from the trance, she decided to seek help from the village.

With amazing speed she traveled through the dense rainforest reaching the village in two days in a trip that would normally take three or four. Stumbling upon the village entrance of Dayaw, Kugihana called wearily unto the village elder. “Datu Admanun! I have come to seek help! The Queen is missing, please help me find her.”

Her anguished moan reverberated through the fields. Frenzy caught the village like a fever.

Distraught and laden with guilt, the servant kept blaming herself, “I am to blame for the queen’s loss! I left her atop that tree, all alone and short of food!”

The medicinal herbs pierced deep into her bleeding wounds, onto her swollen flesh, yet this pain pales to that which throve inside her heart. “This is all my fault!” These words kept gushing out of her lips like a prayer-chant, and the pain that was in her heart engulfed the entire village.

When she was better, the village sage, face wrinkled by age and sorrow, approached the pained maiden. “Kugihana, we have searched for many days in the forests around the village but we could not find you and the Queen. We are deficient in means and in strength, and I am burdened by age, so I ordered to stop the search.” Only a few men were left in the village and these men were the weaker, older ones, since the ablest hundred have taken off with Musukul.

Shaking his head, he quipped in mourning, “Now, it seems, my wisdom fell off with my hair.” Then tears begin to gather in his weary eyes. “Had I not ordered a halt, we might have found you, and saved the queen from loss.” Tears spilled down the old man’s crumpled cheeks. Infectious grief filled the room.

The frail servant says, “Datu Admanun, let us not lie here wailing. Let us seek out into the jungle, I remember the very spot where I had left the Queen. It is a white-barked tree, the tallest I have seen, and on its highest spray, on which the queen had been sitting, a strange bloom nestles–and it had the most beautiful flowers I have seen.”

Nodding, while inching to prepare, the sage ordered all the able men of Dayaw to ready themselves for the search. Shortly after, they had begun the trek to Waling’s nest, led by Kugihana.

A few days passed and they reached the place. Kugihana pointed at the unusually large tree hugged by sinewy vines, “That is the tree! The tree where the queen perched!”

And they all looked, awed by its sheer size, and, tracing the snaking vines skyward, they were awed the more. Something so strange yet so beautifu greeted their eyes. They beheld the flowers which Kugihana had seen the morning of Waling’s loss.

Their faces brightened, as though they had seen the queen at last. But the great bird moaned at its mate and took off from among the trees, and the people’s faces awakened to the reality. The queen was not there. And their eyes roamed to the neighboring trees. They were astonished.

On almost every tree was the same plant, abloom. It looked like some unseen hand had deliberately placed them on those steep branches. Eyes blackened by grief, their heads ever attentive, it seemed the flowers were looking for something.

This led Admanun to force words out of his stubborn mouth, “What spectacle! What beauty!”

His wisdom returning, he added, “We will never find the queen. But these flowers remind us of her, aggrieved by the loss of her husband and searching untiringly for him.”

“We shall name these flowers Waling-Waling, for they remind us of the queen.”

And so it came to pass and nothing was heard again of Musukul and his troops, nor of Makalisang and his fabled savageness. And the flower, named after the queen, flourished in the forests, just as peace flourished in Dayaw.



baboy-halas – a wild boar
balangay – a baranggay or village
balay – a house, usually on stilts (or on trees) with walls and floor of bamboo and roof of cogon or palm.
Bathala – God, the Supreme Being
bayabas – guava
buhi – the living
bukid(s) – mountain(s)
dahun – leaf of a plant believed to have medicinal powers
daro – tilling the wet soil using wooden ploughs dragged by buffalo
duryan – a spiny pungent fruit whose seeds yield sweet pulp.
kabaw(s) – carabao, or native buffalo
kamatayun – death
kapayas – papaya
lomboy – duhat in Tagalog (not sure about its English translation)
manok – a fowl, chicken
sundang – a knifelike metal weapon with handles made from buffalo horns
tadyaw – a huge earthen jar used as receptacle
tuba – a strong native beverage from fermented coconut sap
usa – deer



  1. Oh, it’s so beautiful!

  2. What a beautiful story of the orchids Waling waling,thank you very much for the story,i love the
    waling waling orchids i love them more now that i know the legend.

  3. […]another great source of information on this subjectis ,,[…]

  4. I loved the way how to write your memorable experience at waling. Some waling place here too in boracay. Waling waling resort in boracay. I hope i can see this photos. It invalid.

    Tanya Gemarin

  5. Maganda tlga ang Waling-waling

  6. […] that’s according to the Legend of the Waling-Waling: …the Waling-waling orchid (Vanda sanderiana) is one of the symbols of the Davao Region, […]

  7. nice article, thanks

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