Mystique of CAMPO: The Tales of PUTAT

Childhood in the country is physically challenging and socially engaging because of the vastness of space thus the expanse of the experiences country children indulge. Apparently, this might’ve changed in the era of the internet as parenting styles have changed as well. Parents tend to delight their children with the glory of the gadgets thinking that this should put them at home; be it in the city or in the country. However the lifestyles of the country folks changed, there are still those that remain the same especially how the adults turn to FEAR in order to put their children to behave. This aspect has actually bequeathed the Filipino literature giving continuity to FOLKTALES. The adults tell stories mostly of the scary supernatural that would put their feet steady at home in certain hours – Well, the gadgets can very well do the latter now!

Folktales are stories told anonymously; such have have passed on from generation to generation orally. They might have evolved as they pass from one storyteller to another.

One of the most prominent folktales heard of in Campo, a barrio in Pinamungajan town in the province of Cebu, Philippines is one about a collective of trees called PUTAT. These trees surround a very small pond-like body of water. During the rainy days, the said pond overflows and folks claim that with it comes out fish but no one dares to fish in the pond. Come summer and El Niño, the trees remain as a verdant collective when the rest have turned brown and dry; even the immediate marsh where it stands. It appears to be an oasis of a small size but no one dares indulge in it. No one dares enter to see what the verdant trees are guarding inside.

Folks claim that whoever dared enter the putat came out different. There are claims of people getting inside coming out crazy or insane if not severely ill. There is a story about a woman (or was it a man) who saw a white geese (bird of such type) in the marsh. She was so captivated by it that she wanted to capture it and so she chased it with all determination that she found herself inside the putat and to her dismay, she lost the bird in there. When she came out, she has already lost her sanity. It is believed never to touch anything that belongs to the putat or whoever does so would be gravely punished.

Stories also say that the putat is some sort of portal to the realm of the supernatural particularly of the ENGKANTO (fae world). My great grandmother was one of those who told me stories not because she just wanted me to stay home with her but because she feared it. In the wee hours of the afternoon when only the two of us were left in the house, she would close all the windows and doors locking us both in because according to her there are those who want to take her. She was referring to the supernatural dwellers of the putat. My great grandmother was then living with my grandmother whose house was also facing the mystic trees but it’s not the nearest to it however. I was but a little girl then and she wanted to protect me as well. Truth be told, I understand as I grew up that my great grandmother was already senile considering her old age. Furthermore, her stories are not the only ones heard of in the vicinity; folks living in the barrio also have their own versions and encounters about the putat. Only one thing is common though – FEAR. Such was strongest during the night, hence going home after dark especially walking beside or across putat was really spine-chilling. Stories of the putat might have made children or even adults who believed in them to stay home after dark. Those who who really needed to come out usually go out in numbers; going alone was really terrifying.

There was another story about a farmer who tried to plough the marsh attempting to plant there. He never really finished it as he contracted some sort of inexplicable illness. Folks are told to make sure when they farm, it should not be directly where the putat stands. After all, the soil is really fertile there. The marsh is teeming with kangkong, a protein rich vegetable. Folks benefited from those vegetables as long as they say “TABI” ( some sort of permission enchantment; or "excuse me") and they should only get what they need. Most of all never get inside the trees nor harm them in any form.

Regardless of the paranormal accounts told about the putat, it is indeed a sight to behold. Imagine a group of rich green trees that remain so green in summer and in drought even. These trees form a circle and no other trees or plants live there (not in the next, say, 5 meters or so) to outgrow them. It looks as if nature has sketched this picture and no one should dare trample with it. As I grow older, coming home to the country facing the PUTAT once more, I don’t see it as something to fear but something to respect. I now see it as nature’s MASTERPIECE.

If you are from Campo, do share your PUTAT experience or the PUTAT stories you’ve heard by writing in the comment below.

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About me

I taught Language for 5 years; 11 years for English; 2 years for dressmaking. I've been a school paper adviser for 9 years.