1. ADORA and the MAGIC PORTAL – a myth
Painting by Dulz Cuna
“Mentor an Babayeng Kahoynon”
Acrylic and Mixed Media on Cork
Adora looked beyond the terrain of the valley. There were no forests anymore. Everything was plain.
Months back, people felled the trees in the forest and made them float down the hidden river down the
nearby valley slopes. Birds did not fill the air, their nests went down when the trees fell down. All
around the tree stumps was the burnt ground, an attempt to clean and flat-out the land. Adora was sad.
She reminisced the days when she played in the forest edge. She wondered what was deep down in the
forest. Nanay and Tatay told her not to venture far into the valley forests for there was a strange world
within. People in the village whispered of a portal that appears in the middle of the forest once during
Kadayao (full moon), in the month of May. Many have ventured into that portal and never came back.
Apo Tekari, the old nonagenarian of the village was the only person who came back, but the story of the
land beyond the portal and the place where it was found in the forest was all jumbled up in his mind
that the townsfolk thought of him as daft and senile or must have been enchanted. His story parts told
of a telltale “century-old tree” and birds with kaleidoscope plumes flying hither and thither in the air and
the land green with tropical shrubs, trees which held juicy fruit that glistened in the sun, and a stream of
clear water where wildcats and monkeys drank and played..
Apo Tekari said that there is a secret hidden in that place beyond the portal. The zephyrs told him of a
wonderful woman Babaylan (Healer) who lived there and who had the answers to everything there is,
and who knew of many things. It was told she lived in the past, the present and also in the future. She
was a magical healer and it was said she could reverse back time and correct it.. But Apo Tekari said he
never met her. The zephyrs whispered again that she only appears when she is really needed. When Apo
ventured into the portal it was only out of whim and curiosity. The zephyrs also said that he must go
back to the world outside the portal before the dawn breaks else he would never go back again to his
world and turn into a wildcat or monkey, for that happened to the curious people who dilly-dallied time
within the portal. So Apo Tekari hurried out of the portal before it disappeared in the forest.
Apo Tekari’s story was the same over and over again and Adora thought of it to be the village’s
susumaton (oral tradition). Apo Tekari grew old with the story all these years and he said he had never
2. chanced upon the portal again in all his treks deep down the forest at full moon. All he had now were
the memories and the anecdote he tells over and over again..
Now the forests have been razed down to the ground and all that was seen were the stumps of trees cut
down and the scorched ground left from the forest fire. Adora could not do anything but stare at the
sight with moist eyes. If the forest is gone, then the portal is also gone, that is, if the story of Apo Tekari
is true. The stream that run into a cleft in the field was still and murky. There were no more lily pads on
the water, or dragonflies that hummed from the lotus bloom to bloom--it was a visage of desolation, of
the bare and dry, black earth..
Adora was about to doze off in a nap late that afternoon. She was in the little shack that her Tatay built
as an outhouse beside the edge of the forest as a storage for rattan twines and nipa leaves that he
gathered for livelihood, when she saw a glimmer off the slope of the plain. It grew larger and larger by
the second. She glanced up at the sky and saw a huge moon looming. The light on the slope had an oval
shape and Adora could not help but be drawn to it. So she sauntered towards it, stumbling and tripping
effortlessly near the light. It was the Portal!
Peering within, she saw patches of blue sky with tall, green forest trees of a landscape in the hazy core
of the oval light. She stepped in and entered. Immediately, a cool and rustling breeze brushed against
her hair and cheeks whispering a word of “Welcome.”
In front of her was a tropical forest with a very large, century-old tree with will-o-wisps that circled
around its withered bark. The little lights looked like its leaves and some clumped together in bunches
on its branches. This must be the very old tree Apo Tekari told in his story, thought Adora. She was
mesmerized by the stray lights that floated around the tree. She made a move closer and felt its sparkle
in her skin.
All around the old tree were tropical shrubs that had fragrant flowers on them. Thick blooms like ginger
flowers and orchids hang from branches of tall rubber trees and banana fronds. A pond flowed into a
stream and was lined with lily pads and lotus blooms, skimming dragonflies played with the green frogs
that settled in the pads like sentinels. Lotus blooms opened up to catch the gentle spray of rain from the
treetops. On the branches, birds of different colour filled the air with birdcalls and tweets. Here and
there, flying or swaying from branch to branch were parrots, macaques and hornbills. It was a magical
wonderland of a rainforest..
Then something stirred in the old tree that loosened the clump of silvery will-o-wisps in the
branches..some of them floated like dandelion seeds around the old tree. From within its rough bark a
beautiful lady appeared. She was not old and aged like the bark of the tree, but youthful. She was all
aglow with the light of the tree and in her hand she held a golden egg which she handed over to the
Adora, who was rapt with wonder. “Come..” she whispered “take this and place it in the field in your
world to roost. When it hatches, it will heal your world.”
Adora received the golden egg and carefully wrapped it with her bandana (scarf) and held it closely to
her bosom. “Remember, when your world will be healed, give all you can to take care of it.. believe in
3. the power of light and make a difference.” With this, the magical lady slowly receded back to the tree in
a faint glow of light. Adora was arrested in silence by the awesome moment. Then the breezes started
to gently push her towards the oval portal, it was time, it said to go back to her world before the sun
rises and do what the Babaylan lady told her. Adora took a deep breath of the magical air of the
rainforest and exited the portal to the dark, ravaged and stump ridden slopes of her world.
Adora laid her bandana on a stump near the dark murky river. She placed the golden egg on top and
watched Kadayao moving on to her moonset. She waited beside it, all prepared for the hatching of the
The egg moved and a little hole appeared followed by a crack. Then a very large bird of iridescent
feathers came out and spread its colourful wings as if to oblate the coming of the dawn. The awakened
sun peered glowing in the horizon and the bird let out a shriek and flew up into the air encircling the arid
land with its flight. Then the rain came. It was the soft gentle rain of dawn. It watered the land and
stirred the river. Green sprouts sprung from the ground and spread like green washed carpet over the
slopes. In a moment shrubs appeared full of buds and flowers. Tall trees shoot up and loomed on the
plain, then all of a sudden, the whole rainforest came back, alive and green again…!
The colourful bird of iridescent feathers flew its last circle around the slope and the river came to life
back again with water lily pads spreading from bank to bank. Birds filled and air and nested on the tall
trees as the magical birld flew far into the distant peaks. Adora could not believe what was happening,
but at the back of her mind, the whisper of the Babaylan echoed in her ear: “Believe..and you can make
She went back to the stump where she left her bandana for she was in a hurry to return back to the
village to tell her experience and visit Apo Tekari and tell him that his tale was true and that she met the
magical lady at last. It was a great surprise when she found her bandana for placed on top of it was a
heap of gold nuggets as large as big berries. Overwhelmed she wrapped them and carried them home.
A few years after, the rainforest still thrived. But right on the entrance, near the outhouse is a sign:
“Welcome! This is the Portal Rainforest Reserve, please preserve its ecology and make a difference. By
Order: The Adora Rangers of PRR”
Written on Christmas Eve, 2012
By Dulz Cuna
Mahasarakham, Isan Province, Thailand