The Beautiful Witch

Goddess Maria

Mount Maria was the shortest mountain among the ranges surrounding Hacienda de Luna. There were inhabited villages at the foot of the mountain, but none among the villagers dared to build a home midway, or at the top. It's not because living things would not be able to thrive there due to its freezing environment, but because of the scary ancient tales that were carried down to the next generation.

On the way to the mountain, as tales told it, you must pass a big acacia tree where you would see a gigantic, demon-like creature who would blow the smoke of his tobacco pipe on you. If you would not faint in seeing him, let alone that cloud of smoke, then you could pass the first test.

The next test would be walking into a path that would suddenly lead you into a cemetery. Its corpses would suddenly float from their coffins to claw on your neck or block your way. If you wouldn't allow your fear to tear down your bravery and you continue walking through that imaginary path you first saw, then you can pass the second test.

The third one would be to pass by a bamboo tree where its highest stalk would suddenly claw on your neck. It would then lift you high into the sky and suddenly drop you off towards the open grave surrounded by lighted candles.

The fourth one would be seeing a floating woman whose face is angelic, but would then turn into a scary look, sticking to your vision as you continue to walk.

The next would be a path turning into a sea of swords. Bellies of children would be sticking on its tips. A frightening cry of a mother would then be heard, asking you to pull out one of the babies from the sword. If you are strong enough to see the burst of blood and abdominal contents right into your eyes,  you will pass the fifth.

Each failure you commit would increase the severity of your tests. As expected, people would see you in the morning with pupils dilated and absent heartbeat.

Several years ago, there was a man who succeeded in his journey towards the top of the mountain. According to older folks, his desire to end his life made him pass through all these tests. Rumors even had it that once he succeeded,  he was granted to live peacefully on top of the mountain. These supernatural friends had then become his protector.

Manong Isko, the man who earned the favor of the mountain goddess,  had once built his home together with the villagers. Yet, due to a tragic event that caused the death of his wife and his children, he chose to dissociate with them.

He fought his way towards the top of the mountain amidst the horrible challenges. For him, living alone would be much safer and comfortable than to be with these neighbors who never cared to save his family from tragedy.

It happened thirty years ago during a rainy season when a tornado fell on a creek above the mountain. The moving destructive vortex of violently rotating winds, having the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud and advancing beneath an extensive storm system pulled up a massive amount of water from the overflowing creek. It later smashed those tons of water on the creek, resulting in a great deluge the moment it reached the plain. The violent force of the water then washed those houses by the creekside towards the sea.

Among those unfortunate lives the calamity claimed were Manong Isko's wife and their two sons. Only one survived, and it was her two-month-old youngest daughter. Miraculously washed into a dry bank,  the villagers found her unharmed. The violence of the flood did not spare anyone who lived a few meters away from the creek, and the survival of this helpless infant was a miracle. The villagers could only point one possible reason--Goddess Maria saved her!

When the event happened, Manong Isko was not around. He was at the home of the de Luna's, and his family's lives lay only at the mercy of his fellow villagers. However, he learned later that none of them dared to wade into the raging flood to rescue the affected people, including his family. All of them were just too afraid to risk themselves.

With great pain and humiliation, he buried his family alone and did not return to the village anymore. The villagers saw him climbed up and down the rough terrain afterward towards the mountaintop with his horse every weekend.

Beside the fence of Hacienda de Luna, a few years later, the villagers saw him paving a wider path enough for a big truck to pass through towards the top of the mountain. However, no one dared to set their foot on it until years later. Among the later generation, a few brave men invaded Goddess Maria's scariest territory, the mountain top. There, they saw the haunted house of Manong Isko, making them believe that he had become one of those supernatural dwellers of the place.

A few years passed, and Manong Isko got himself a hired team who worked with him with some pieces of machinery and equipment. The road construction had become faster and more efficient. Having his proposal for a new road paving and construction approved,  the district government allocated a budget for the development of his self-made lime path into a broader, asphalt road.

The government's objective was also for the Hacienda de Luna, which provided the municipality's essential commodities like corn, coconut, fruits, and vegetables. The wider road expansion benefitted them, especially during the harvest and planting seasons.

Nevertheless, no one still dared to cross the road during the night time. All because Maria, the goddess from which the mountain got its name, would make her scary appearances.

For many years back then, once every week, the whole village area would vibrate due to what they believed that Goddess Maria was navigating down the creek through her ship. They would hear one prolonged blast or two to three short blasts from her ship horn, that would signify her coming over.

Marilyn Lucero

Edited: 10.10.2019

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