Ilocano Epic: “Biag ni Lam-ang”

Biag ni Lam-ang is an epic poem of the Ilocano people dating from the pre-Hispanic era of the Philippines. It was one of the famous Ilocano epic. The story is a mix of adventure and romance with exciting and unpredictable outcomes. The title translates to “The Life of Lam-ang” and the story reveals the details of this man’s birth and life. This epic was written down in 1640, allegedly by a blind Ilocano bard named Pedro Bucaneg.

The epic poem showed some of the earlier customs, culture, tradition and belief of the Ilocano people of the Philippines. It was recited and written in its original Iloko, the poem is believed to be a composite work of various poets who passed it on through the generations. It is originally written in the Ilocano language but as time goes by, it has been translated to different languages.

Main Characters of Biag ni Lam-ang

  1. Don Juan – father
  2. Namongan – mother
  3. Lam-ang – son
  4. Ines Kannoyan – love affection of Lam-ang
  5. Marcos – diver
  6. White Rooster – friend of Lam-ang
  7. Gray Dog – friend of Lam-ang
  8. Bercacan – monster fish

Theme: Bravery, when displayed positively, makes one honourable

Setting: NALBUAN (now part of in the Northern part of the Philippines)

Origins of the place

  • The term “Ilocano” was derived from the words “i-“(from) and “looc” (cover or bay), which when combined means “People of the Bay”
  • The Ilocanos are the third largest ethno linguistic group in the Philippines.
  • The Ilocano dialect is related to the languages Indonesian, Malay, Fijian, Maori, Hawaiian, Malagasy, Samoan, Tahitian, Chamorro, Tetum and Paiwan.
  • Today, the Ilocano dialect is the third most spoken language in the Philippines.


Summary of Biag ni Lam-ang

Don Juan and his wife Namongan lived in Nalbuan. They had a son named Lam-ang. Before Lam-ang was born, Don Juan went to the mountains in order to punish a group of their Igorot enemies. While he was away, his son Lam-ang was born. It took four people to help Namongan give birth and asked that he will be given the name Lam-ang. He also chose his godparents and asked where his father was.

After nine months of waiting for his father to return Lam-ang decided he would go look for him. Namongan thought Lam-ang was up to the challenge but she was sad to let him go. During his exhausting journey, he decided to rest for a while. He fell asleep and a dream about his father’s head being stuck on a pole by the Igorot. Lam-ang was furious when he learned what had happened to his father. He rushed to their village and killed them all, except for one whom he let go so that he could tell other people about Lam-ang’s greatness.

Upon returning to Nalbuan in triumph, he was bathed by women in the Amburayan river. All the fish died because of the dirt and odor from Lam-ang’s body. There was a young woman named Ines Kannoyan whom Lam-ang wanted to woo. She lived in Calanutian and he brought along his white rooster and gray dog to visit her. On the way, Lam-ang met his enemy Sumarang, another suitor of Ines whom he fought and readily defeated.

Lam-ang found the house of Ines surrounded by many suitors all of whom were trying to catch her attention. He had his rooster crow, which caused nearby house to fall. This made Ines look out. He had his dog bark and in an instant the fallen house rose up again. The girl’s parents witnessed this and love of Lam-ang. The parent’s agreed to a marriage with their daughter if Lam-ang would give them a dowry valued and double their wealth.

Lam-ang had no problem fulfilling this condition and he and Ines were married. It was a tradition to have a newly married man swim in the river for the rarang fish. Unfortunately, Lam-ang dove straight into the mouth of the water monster Bercacan. Ines had Marcos get his bones, rooster crowed and his dog barked and slowly the bones started to move. Back alive, Lam-ang and his wife lived happy ever after with his white rooster and gray dog.


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