What do you do when there’s a storm ravaging the land?
One online contact of mine thought of appeasing deities. “[So] far praying to Neptune is working. Is there a Pasig River Nymph I can offer some food or something to, so that she won’t feel the need to overflow and drown the neighborhood?” That question from ChaosGhost made me curious, in a number of ways.
I have heard of national hero and poet Francisco Balagtas mention that Laguna de Bay has nymphs in one of his poems, which I still could not find. But I have yet to come across anything that says that Pasig River has even one nymph.
Does Pasig River have any nymphs at all?
Googled a bit and I came across a poem by national hero Jose Rizal. It is entitled “A Orillas del Pasig” or “By the Banks of the Pasig River”.
By the Banks of the Pasig River
Come to the banks of Pasig, oh darling of mine,
Come. For the light of the day is about to fade,
Come right now, only for you my banca’s waiting
By the side of the quite underneath the leafy bamboo shade.
Come to the banks of Pasig, already the moon
Its silvery disc is peeping at the placid lake;
Come for we’ll go together to Antipolo,
Where I alone your black eyes shall so delightfully contemplate.
Come, come, come oh my heaven,
There by the river
My dulcet desire
I’ll sing to you,
To the soft murmur
Of the riverflow
Your very beautiful brow
I will adorn.
A good number of sites claim that it is about a nymph. No offense to the national hero or anyone but – personally – I don’t read anything about a nymph. There’s love, maybe lust, seduction, and an invitation for a delightful boat ride but nothing outright says river deity.
Looked for more results and found a short tale. I have no way to verify its author or date. It’s also the only piece of supposed folklore I’ve found. If this is an actual legend, my guess is this is the tale that inspired Filipino composer Nicanor Abelardo to pen the poem “Mutya ng Pasig” or “Nymph of the Pasig River”.
Nymph of the Pasig River
As the moon peers out
Of his window in the sky;
As the west wind
Caresses to wake up the water;
An image that is white and silky appears,
Hair flowing like the stream;
She’s the Maiden of Pasig,
She’s the Maiden of Pasig.
As she springs out of the foam,
There is a song,
There is a poem:
I was the Beloved,
In the kingdom of love,
When love died,
So did the kingdom end;
Is in the hearts and bosoms of all;
To make me live forever,
Give my love away.
This poem is a kumintang, which is musical poem. It is meant to be sung. But while it is usually sung by a soloist, there are dual roles to play because the poem has two speakers: the narrator and the nymph.
Another interesting note is how the word paraluman is translated. Coming from a piece of literature, it could be translated to a number of things, from “muse” to “princess”, even “goddess”.
From the written words of Abelardo, more inspiration sprung and this time it conceived a painting. Or so the story goes. According to one account, the poem moved national artist Fernando Amorsolo to create the artwork known as “Nymph of the Pasig River” (1936).
Masters alike have breathed life into the river. They have told her tale and shown us her face, the face that continues to launch a million boats. The fairy who guides the ferries is the nameless river nymph of Pasig. (Now if only I’m this good at finding the nymphs of the Laguna de Bay.)