The Nameless Nymph

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
Jose Rizal

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
With Sampaguitas
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 poemMutya ng Pasig” or “Nymph of the Pasig River”.

Nymph of the Pasig River
Nicanor Abelardo

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;

My spirit,
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).

Mutya Ng Pasig (The Nymph of Pasig River) By Fernando Amorsolo [from MutualArt.Com]
Mutya Ng Pasig (The Nymph of Pasig River) By Fernando Amorsolo [from MutualArt.Com]
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.)

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Luna says:

    Those are really lovely poems, whether or not about nymphs 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mati Serrano says:

      Yes, they are lovely.
      I don’t have a good explanation as to why they’re practically unknown even to us Filipinos.
      Personally, I think it would be great if there was a collection of local literature dedicated to deities. That would expand the collective mythology to a greater degree.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. SilverHakai says:

    Speaking as a Sensitive, I can say that yes there is/are nymph/s in the Pasig River, as with most bodies of water like the Marikina River. It is no different from some of our famous land forms, like Mt. Makiling. I can even further state that some areas of the Pasig and Marikina rivers contain what can be called as “portals” (similar to Mt. Banahaw).

    Hmn… You know what, this topic is actually making me think about natural land/water formations and mysticism inspired/related to nature. Possibly a new blog entry in the future, maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mati Serrano says:

      There are?! That is cool–at least, I think so.
      Makes me wonder if Balagtas, Abelardo, and other certain poets possess sensitivities like yours. I sure don’t so I won’t be able to make those connections but it would be great to actually see Philippine mythology expand and be as detailed as its Greek, Egyptian, and Japanese counterparts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Alex Madrigal says:

    I just saw this well composed article for my rizal subject. I got curious what rizal mean about the pasig “nymphs” and thought maybe its a writing for his lady at that time (i don’t know which one). Although, i saw your enthusiastic approach about river nymphs dear author. I must say all the locals here that lives near the ilog pasig believes there is really a woman or “something” in the river. I’ve heard stories and news in tv that the river claimed the lives of people here whether adults or kids drown in the river. They called it the sirens of ilog pasig. I live near the area and apparently the river is just a few blocks from our house. The most common area where tragedies happen is near the delpan bridge or as we call it “molye” (i don’t know why). Other people says that they felt like someone or something was dragging them down while they were swimming in the river.
    That’s all i wanted to tell the story as it may help you for future articles or references and my lolo, lola and neighbours warned me about the river even i was a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard of stories of people drowning in Pasig. A number have claimed they felt someone tugging on their foot or leg; some even felt a strong pull from beneath the water. Reasons for such range from the actual pull of the water, lilies or the other aquatic plants, or strings of trash. But there have been stories that mention the feeling/sighting of a hand in the dark water. I’ve always been fascinated with such stories and remain curious about them.


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