Donna Rosenberg defines myth as "a sacred story from the past" that "may explain the origin of the universe and of life, or... express its culture's moral values in human terms" (1997: xxiv). It involves the interplay of the human and the superhuman, the natural and the supernatural.
As myth, in the words of Daniel Pinchbeck (2007:10), "imparts a structure to space and time" and "weaves a world into being," it creates an identity around which its believers unite. Exploring the myth of a particular culture, then , means understanding its worldview.
Many dismiss myths today simply as vestiges of a primitive (i.e., unenlightened, irrational, irrelevant, worthless) past, finding neither sense nor redemptive value in attempting to understand a worldview that seems so "out of this world." To these people, myths are useful only to the hopelessly superstitious or to the hard–nosed academician armed to the teeth with theories used to tear apart ideologies.
But there are still many of us who agree with Rosenberg who noted that myths are
the source of our most important attitudes and values, the principles by which we live, and the ideals for which we sacrifice our lives. They create meaning out of nothingness, sense out of nonsense, order out of chaos, and purpose out of aimlessness. Myths meet genuine psychological needs. They make a culture's spiritual beliefs and values concrete and understandable. They are a spiritual compass that guides us along life's journey. [1997: xxvi]
In this light, we laud a new work on Bontoc mythology by an yFontok, Antonina "Toni" Magkachi Manochon. She has just successfully defended her masters thesis, "Interpreting Selected Myths and Folktales as Expression of Bontoc Worldview," at the University of the Philippines Baguio. Operating on the theoretical grids of Psychoanalysis (Freud & Jung), Structuralism (Strauss) and Functionalism (Bascom), she unravels the mythological fabric of Bontok culture and gives us an accurate perspective of an often misunderstood indigenous concept of being and becoming.
According to Toni's adviser, Prof. Delfin L. Tolentino, this work is significant for its informed analysis of Igorot myths. Works on indigenous myths, he explained, have usually been geared towards some pedagogical or didactic end, often neglecting a critical and creative treatment of the subject.
Reading the work reminds one of Marina Warner's words:
...myths are not always delusions, that deconstructing them does not necessarily mean wiping them, but that they represent ways of making sense of universal matters, like sexual identity and family relations, and that they enjoy a more vigorous life than we perhaps acknowledge, and exert more of an inspiration and influence than we think. (1994: xix)
I share the hope of Prof. Tolentino and Dr. Elinora Peralta−Imson, thesis reader, of seeing more Igorots engaging in similar researches in order to help preserve and/or develop indigenous culture.
We look forward to seeing Toni's work in book form as the governor of Mt. Province himself, Atty. Max Dalog, was heard to have exuberantly vowed to publish the work soon.
Works cited: Pinchbeck, Daniel. 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007; Rosenberg, Donna. Folklore, Myths, and Legends. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing Group, 1997; Warner, Marina. Six Myths of Our Time: Little Angels, Little Monsters, Beautiful Beasts, and More. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.