By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — In Barangay Cagubatan in Tadian town of Mountain Province, village folks are taking care of what they call enchanted eels. They believe the creatures guard their spring which irrigates rice fields and help them have a bountiful harvest.
Legend say the first enchanted eels were two beautiful maidens who were not allowed to go out or mingle with other people by their parents. Until one day, during a canao in the village, the ladies were able to join the festivities when their parents asked them to fetch water from a nearby spring. They hurriedly filled the water containers in their house and rushed to the feast.
Canao, is a traditional thanksgiving feast in many Cordillera villages.
But the parents realized what the women did so she emptied the containers and went to ask their daughters to again fetch water. The ladies found out what their parents did so they decided to go to the spring and not go home that day.
And so the parents and even the entire village went to look for the ladies the following day but found only their native garments near the spring where they fetch water. They saw two eels in the spring.
That night, the mother dreamed where she was told the eels were her daughters. The following day, the couple went to the spring and pleaded for their daughters to transform to their human form. But the eels said they would rather be eels because they could mingle with people fetching water.
Before, people wanting to glimpse the eels whistle and dip cockroach or meat of fresh water shell in the water. But today, the eels desire more modern food, with preference for hotdog chunks.
Village folks say they do not know exactly how many eels are in the spring today. But they believe the two ladies who turned into eels are still there. They say the younger and smaller eels are the ones who usually show up. The older and bigger ones are rarely seen these days.
From Metro Manila, you can take a bust to Bontoc, the capital town, which will take you eight to 12 hours. In Bontoc, there are vans going to Tadian town center where you can ride an FX to Barangay Cagubatan where the eels are.
Tourist from the Ilocos provinces can also visit the place via the Ilocos Sur-Mountain Province road. One can ride a van from Brgy. Vitalag in Tagudin to Cervantes, both towns of Ilocos Sur. The route is about 8 hours from Manila. From there they can either ride a bus or van going to Tadian traversing the Aluling Bridge, touted the “longest bridge” in the country, that took 35 years and 6 presidents to complete.
Both routes offer scenic pine forest and agricultural landscapes, and nostalgic upland villages.
Tadian collects P20 environmental fee from visitors who wish to see the eels for maintenance.
While in Tadian, you might also want to visit the healing springs of Kayan East village, some 10 to 15 minutes away from the town center. The water from the springs are said to cure skin diseases. Visitor are required to register with the barangay office. They can bring home as much as 40 liters of spring water.
Water from the springs are called ‘Danum Kabunyan’ (water from God). # nordis.net