By Marivir R. Montebon
The consolidation of the patriarchal relations and the formation of classes is symbolized by the creation of the ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil.’ This was in contradiction to the tree of life which was symbolic of the whole, under the era of the goddess worship of the ancient religions.
The untold past of women, before the birthing of the Philippines as a colony of Spain through the Catholic religion, was such that they were equal with men. They were respected and had performed family, community, and spiritual duties that made up for a fair and egalitarian society.
Before the Filipinos worshiped the god of Abraham, there were gods and goddesses that preserved the families and tribes of our Malayo-Polynesian race.
Hingyoon was one warrior goddess who defended the women of the islands of the pintados and pintadas (tatooed women and men) of the Visayas islands in Central Philippines.
She protected the women during times of slave raiding and slave trading, and also oversaw them in times of planting, harvesting, trading, and exchange. She was also the goddess who protected in the women in times of calamities.
Hingyoon was revered during the time of Queen Juana (native name unknown), wife of Rajah Humabon in Cebu (old name Sugbo).
Humabon ruled Sugbo when Ferdinand Magellan set foot in the islands of the Visayas, first landing in Homonhon island which is part of Leyte province and later moving to Sugbo where the famous ‘Magellan’s cross’ was planted.
Upheaval upon upheaval, the goddess Hingyoon became less revered and was overtaken by the Virgen Santissima Maria (Holy Virgin Mary).
Catholic religion, as expressed in the pulpit, schools, sacraments, rites, and in daily living, ordained the Spanish priests to redefine women as subordinates, confined to either the home or the convent. They shaped a new consciousness of women as supportive or subordinated to men.
In times of war and peace, the real enemy, said the Spanish missionaries, was the woman who did not follow the Catholic doctrine. They were the perpetual threats to men more than the enemies in war. This was the constant bombardment of
thought among natives.
Among the rules which women had to follow included keeping her chastity until marriage, staying at home doing house chores, conducting herself in accordance to the wishes of her family, and upon marriage, her husband.
Massive religious indoctrinization took the form of the regular recitation of prayers when the Spanish school system was established in 1863 in Cebu. As a result of the formal instruction, the Catholic religion was embraced by many Filipinos in the absence of a fully understood faith.
Catholicism alienated the Filipinos from their previously held tribal orientation on animism, kinship, and oneness with nature. The once respected babaylans were ostracized, dismissed as witches or minions of the devil, and killed. The Spanish cultural changers also inculcated that women must suffer in patience, silence, and prayer.
Through three centuries of Spanish rule, the collective thought of the goddess Hingyoon eventually faded.
Transnational feminist Ninotchka Rosca said that the diminishing and dying of the goddesses can be described as part of the class struggle for the symbol systems of a given society.
Citing the study of feminist Gerda Lerner, Rosca said that the consolidation of the patriarchal relations and the formation of classes is symbolized by the creation of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
This was in contradiction to the tree of life which was symbolic of the whole, under the era of the goddess worship of the ancient religions.
I never knew Hingyoon from the bed time stories I had with my mother and grandmother. She was far erased in my time. Professor Phoebe Umbay Sanchez, a good friend and professor of History and Sociology at the University of the Philippines Cebu College, generously told me about her in a frenzied effort to pursue an assignment.
I am now consciously retracing our forgotten goddesses.