The creature known as Bigfoot is not limited to one geographical location and in fact goes by many different names in different parts of the world. In North America he is called Sasquatch and lives in the Pacific Northwest, Florida has named him Skunk Ape because he is described as having pungent odor, in Ohio he is known as the Grassman, Michigan native Americans call him Windigo because he can change shapes or disappear, in the Himalayas Yeti, in Sumatra Orang Pendek and in the Philippines he is known as the Kapre.
This story about the Gekin family's relationship with a Kapre is sworn to be a true by its last remaining eyewitness. It comes from the Philippine Mountains, on the Island of Cebu. The Barrio that it happened in is called Mulao and the small family that lives there consists of a school teacher called Sofia, Vivian her oldest daughter, Cirvic the middle son and Vedafe the youngest. Since the death of her husband, Sofia's youngest brother Rustico came to live with them at least when he was not wandering around the Philippine countryside.
The Barrio of Mulao is high up the mountain its a very remote place, 5 kilometers by tricycle and after the road ends another 12 kilometer walk up before you reach the family's house. The Gekin's ancestral home is native and indigenous to the area. It was elevated off the ground on stilts, the side panels were made of coconut wood and the roof was made of tin, that unfortunately leaked whenever it rained. There was nothing modern there, everything inside the house was made from forest materials and during the time no running water or electricity existed.
The people of Mulao accepted the fact that the Kapre lived very near to them on the mountain side and for the most part they feared them. They held the belief that they were nocturnal omnivores or trolls that dwelt in the trees. They stood 7 to 9 feet tall, were cigar smoking, black, very hairy and seldom seen. Unless you happened to see cigar smoke coming from the top of a large tree or had cigar butts thrown at you. However, also unseen because they wear magic belt making them invisible and possess an amulet that empowers them with special abilities to enchant the humans around them. However, Rustico the children's uncle as told by the people of Mulao had a long-term relationship with a Kapre which allowed him to see them directly.
Whenever Rustico had to travel down the mountainside to get to Cebu he would take his niece and they would have to leave very early in order to make all their connections. The Philippine mountains are dark after the sun goes down and the air is cool and crisp. The roads themselves consist of hardened rough clay and the rocks are full of jagged surfaces. When it rains the mud makes these surfaces very slippery complicating any movement up or down the mountain.
Vedafe, the youngest of the three children was quite possibly her uncle's favorite so he liked to carry her on his shoulders when she would tire from the long trek down. At certain points in the journey things slowed way down, Vedafe would grow noticeably tense and the both of them would start scanning the terrain for any signs of Kapre. You see the Kapre don't like to be disturbed and they won't tolerate any intrusions except the passage of a friend, which thank God Rustico was. When going through these areas inhabited by the Kapre, she would often ask her uncle questions about them such as:
Vedafe, "Why do the Kapre hate us so much and why do they like to remain hidden?"
Rustico, "It's not so much that they hate us but rather their experiences with humans that have made them wary of us. But they are often a lot closer than we think but most people can't see them."
"Why can't we see them uncle?"
"Because they have a magical belt that allows them to remain invisible and they also possess a magic amulet that gives them the ability to enchant people. I remember ten years ago while walking on the path down to the river retrieving water I suddenly found myself lost a short distance from our house, an area I had traveled my whole life."
"What happened the, uncle."
"I wandered around for what seemed like several hours when suddenly I found myself standing before a huge Kapre seven to nine feet tall, hairy and black as the darkest night. He was smoking a cigar, just staring at me intently and I knew that at any moment he was going to tear me limb from limb."
“Uncle did you fight with the Kapre?"
"Well, I might have but had been drinking Tanduay all day and must have lost my footing on the loose gravel, tripped and passed out. When I awoke my new friend was still standing there, my bottle in his hand and laughing hysterically at me. There was nothing left to do but that which I hated most."
"What was that uncle?"
"Sharing the rest of the bottle with him but after that we became fast friends." She laughed and somewhere a stone's throw away up at the top of a mango tree a Kapre laughed with her.
Over the next several years Rustico and Vedafe would make that trip down the mountain side on a biweekly basis. Always passing under the mango tree where his friend had made his home and Rustico would always call out to him. "Friend it's just us passing by on our way to Cebu, we mean you no harm. We will go to pick up supplies for our family but later in the week I'll stop by to visit you and bring our favorite drink. Thanks always for watching out for my family and protecting us." As the Kapre started becoming more familiar with his niece, he didn't remain quite so hidden. More importantly he began to take their new agreement to watch over the family seriously.
Slowly as time passed, Vedafe started seeing smoke, twigs and sometimes cigar buts being tossed from the tops of the trees in their direction in a playful manner always accompanied by laughter. You see most Kapre are great tricksters and take special pleasure in such silly antics. She asked her uncle:
"Why is our friend's tree smoking as if it were on fire and why is he laughing while his house is burning?"
To which Rustico said, "He loves to smoke cigars and drink at the top of
"Uncle, when you smoke and drink with him do you climb up that mango tree to sit beside him?"
"No dear child, he really loves me so always climbs down to meet me because he doesn't want me to get hurt." Directly after her uncles statement, Vedafe heard a deep voice growling from the top of the tree, "Not true, I just don't want him to spill even one drop of the remaining Tanduay that he brought for me!" Then the Kapre broke into laughter as did Vedafe as well.
Her uncle feeling slighted ignored their laughter and continued on with his version of the story. "You see these Kapre are very hardheaded and refuse to listen to good counsel and this one especially refuses to cut back on his drinking even a little. I have repeatedly told him it will eventually kill him." Upon hearing this Vedafe laughed all the harder and thought about the many times her mother argued with him about his drinking. Even his friend, the Kapre from high up in his tree laughed hysterically and started shaking it violently and throwing small twigs and cigar butts in his direction. From the Kapre's point of view he could now trust the little girl and more importantly, she trusted him.
One time when Vedafe reached the age of 12 her mother sent her down to the river to wash the family's clothes. The journey required her to walk on a path about 1 kilometer inside a dense forest to a river that sat at the bottom of the ravine with high banks on both sides. As she walked along, she was deep in thought because shortly she would be going to stay in Cebu to attend first year of high school. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye a surge of rushing water came down from higher up in the mountains carrying debris and overtook her. She would have surely died except, as the wall of water hit, she was plucked from the raging current by her 9-foot-tall friend who risked his life to save hers. He carried her back up the trail where he met her mother rushing to the river in hopes of finding her daughter still alive. For the first time, there on that trail, Sofia also saw the creature of legend, the Kapre and she was thankful that he had saved her daughter from harm. From that point forward, after her children ate, she always made sure food was left for the newest member of the family.
Now the last clear recollection that the adolescent girl had of her friend would be when she returned to Mulao from high school in Cebu. Vedafe was feeling very sad because her hopes and dreams about the future and her high school experience wasn't going as planned. You see she was from the poorest type of family and the other students made fun of her. They taunted and teased her because she came from the mountains, had darker skin than they did and couldn't afford the nice clothes they had been provided. After school, she always spent her nights alone, had few friends and felt sad. Unlike them her mom had little money so she was forced to live in a small room in the squatter area of Cebu while attending school.
Vedafe remembered how when she got back to Mulao on a school break it was late in the evening and she broke down crying to her mother and uncle about the bad treatment and indignity she was forced to suffer from the other students. Her mom cried, her uncle was upset but neither was as saddened or upset as her friend who had hidden himself under the house just to see how she was doing. As he listened to the story he began pounding on the walls and the floor underneath and could be heard screeching and crying all night.
Rustico said, "Calm down old friend things will be ok we don't need to worry."
However, the Kapre could be heard crying under the house until the very early hours of the morning. You see Kapre's are no strangers to racism, separatism and persecution. In fact it is for this very reason that they developed their supernatural abilities of invisibility incantation and enchantment to begin with. The one thing Vedafe knew for sure was this Kapre watched out for her, had saved her life and was truest friend she ever had.
When the morning finally broke, she bolted up and looked under the house for her friend of many years, but he was nowhere to be seen. However, what he did leave was a pure white amulet sitting on a bed of leaves. She instantaneously realized it was the last gift from her friend, picked it up and placed it her pocket and never spoke about it again. The amulet he left her before leaving this world had special powers. Those magical powers had been granted to her by her friend the Kapre. It wasn't like the magical powers of three wishes but more like the power that comes from the belief in oneself. The belief that through faith, hard work and diligence that things can change, that the world can be different, and the universe can bend to meet a whole new set of expectations. Expectations where any person on the 7,100 islands can achieve what they envision for their life and what their God given talents allow them to be.
By the time she finished high school, she was accepted into college at the University of Midanao, Davao. She took up accountancy and graduated the top of her class. After, she landed some good jobs, bought her own house in small subdivision, brought her mother to live with her in Davao and raised a nephew and niece as her own children. Later at the age of 28 she married, moved to the United States and eventually put her nephew and niece through medical school as well as raising and educating a child of her own.
Vedafe is 50 now, she is married to a doctor and the two of them plan to return home and retire in the Philippines that they love. Her mother died during Covid and uncle has also since passed, Mulao now has running water and electricity so it's not quite as dark as it once was. There is no longer any sign of the Kapre in that place, if they ever existed at all. The simple truth is that the dark skinned mountain dwelling Kapre were a symbol of prejudice, racism and poverty but also of faith, hope and perseverance two sets of elements that still exist in the Philippines and many places. The Kapre represented one young girl's struggle to overcome the social inequities that that existed her society. Is the story exactly true the real truth rests within the heart of each believer and the Philippine people. Yet still one thing this writer knows is true she still carries the white quail shaped amulet given to her by her friend.
Merci pour la lecture!
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