THE DEER AND THE SERPENT
24 July 2021
This story came from the Bukidnons who in pre-history migrated from present day Indonesia, dislocating the Ati from their settlements in Negros island and taking over their hunting grounds of lush forests in the surrounding plains and river banks. During the succeeding centuries, the Bukidnons were in turn pushed out of their lands by migrations from today’s Malaysia, and the Bukidnons followed the Ati to the highlands.
The Spaniards did not occupy this part of southern Negros during their time in the province as it was then still a dense jungle and considered too remote. It was only in the 20th Century when it was developed, and infrastructure were built connecting the locality to other towns in Negros. Additional migrations soon followed, firstly from nearby areas, then across the sea from the surrounding islands.
In the 1970s, the locality was finally properly settled when the large American-owned Insular Lumber Company transferred its headquarters from Sagay in the north of Negros to nearby Sipalay and Hinoba-an, the town where the Barangay of Sangke belonged.
Aside from employment in the lumber company, the locals were engaged in farming, hunting, fishing, and gold panning along its rivers and streams. Sangke is especially known for its rich deposits of minerals, supposedly with the largest deposits of gold and copper in Negros. When it drew the interest of large mining companies, a “gold rush” ensued, and every family tried their hands on panning for the metal, an activity that remains today even as the large companies have left.
A legend allegedly dating back to the time of the Bukidnons claimed that there was a deer with golden hair sometimes seen roaming the forests. She would tease hunters by first appearing near them, then as they gave chase, disappearing into the wilderness with a giggle. It was for this reason that they called her diwata sang lasang (nymph of the forest). A number of townsfolk had seen her and swore by the veracity of their story.
The Golden Deer was always seen alone. It was said that the reason for this was because she was banished from the community of nymphs for her mischievousness—her extreme playfulness had caused a serious accident to one of her sisters. Until she would have learned her lesson, the gods had taken her power to transform herself back to her true nature. And, as if to add insult to injury, a dragon-like serpent called Magkal was stationed as her guard so she could not wander and play around in the forest at will.