Caught in the Eye of Durarakit

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The black piglet trotted along the edge of the backyard with his nose down sensing the soil following the scent of urine and chicken dung scattered on his property. Its black stiff hairs are greasy, its back arched and its small belly almost touching the ground, its long ears foolish. It walked aimlessly finding interest in the muddy rain puddles until it reached the unpaved road of Tinglayan, Kalinga. A group of panic riders shouted and it stopped, then a bad wind caught him, and the tires of the jeepney crushed its tender body. Blood pools on the tarmac. Its owners went out from their farmhouse with a sagging roof and made snares at the shocked passengers.

As swiftly as he could, Norton the driver parked his jeep, calmed his passengers, and went out quickly to meet the locals gathering around the severed pig. “I lost break at the sharp curve, sorry didn’t see the pig, Apo, I didn’t mean any bad luck.” He sensed something evil in the place with the darkening of the clouds above him.

The patriarch holding the bloody innards of the pig shot at him. “You have no respect for the mountains and the people!” 

Norton was stunned.

“Count the number of its offsprings, it could have reached three months, we could have full-grown pigs for the festival. Pay it sevenfold.” The elder said within the hearing of everyone.

“That’s too much, Apo, I just barely had two trips this week because of the lockdown in Bontoc. Please let me come back and settle this after I bring my passengers to Tabuk.” His voice trailed off. He went closer and pleaded.

While the driver and the locals were negotiating, my brother Lang-ay who was seated in front gestured and signaled me of the impending time. We were supposed to get off at the first stop but he seemed to give the signal already. It’s three in the afternoon and the sky was getting darker at that hidden part of the mountains. Other passengers went out to talk with the locals while Lang-ay and I went out, too. We pretended to urinate in the bushes with our bags with us but we sneaked out quickly and hid in the shade. We get out from the road and skirted the silver reflections of the muddied rice farms meters away. We stayed hidden until we reached a clearing.

“The negotiation will take longer; they will fine all the passengers for the damage and ask us to stay there at night. Let’s move quickly before they find us missing.” Lang-ay said, and lifted a small basket where a female wild chicken lay quietly inside.

“What if they brought their men to search us, we should have left money before we went. We are inviting curse on this land.” I responded as we crossed the brook, paused to drink water, and moved into the woods again. 

“The penalty of the locals is always above what is required.  Much is being asked and they are not contented with just enough, so don’t worry our forefathers whose heads were taken by this tribe would make up for us.” Lang-ay’s dried-leaf voice rose in slight anger.

Norton sensed some bitterness in the way his brother said those words, so he chose to keep his thoughts to himself. He looks back, and he saw a few houses lit up while the wooden granaries dotting the rice terraces forever carved in the mountains. The darkening clouds made it difficult for them to see where they were heading, but as soon as his eyes adjusted, a sudden surge of excitement overwhelmed him.

His brother Lang-ay made a lot of money from hunting, and when the pandemic broke and the military guarded the borders, the brothers left Bontoc to hunt in the mountains for wild chickens. Deer, cats or honeybees. Anything that would make up for the current loss of his closed barber shop. So, they planned their routes and prepared traps for a couple of weeks. They carried hunting sticks, wires, bolos and wooden charms. They took a one-hour trip going to the village of Sadanga and went hiding in the cold mountains of Sakasakan. They waited there and took the  jeepney meandering the dangerous borders of Tinglayan.

Lang-ay and he used to hunt for civet cats with air guns when they were young. After taking a bath in the Chico River under the steaming heat of Bontoc, they skirted the river ridge and went into the forest. They moved slowly under the shade of trees and crawled into branches trying to sniff for that tangy smell of wildcats. They searched the coffee trees where the cats would frequently eat the ripe fruits and poop out the seeds. If they didn’t find the wildcats, they collected the poop, and washed them in the river and roasted the seeds for coffee. “That’s the easiest way to harvest coffee beans,” Lang-ay said when they were kids. Those were rare moments of shooting civet cats; they are cunning and would race quickly into thick bushes like a shadow of a ghost blending in the leaves, you cannot see them but you can hear their breathing- they were afraid to run fast.

Lang-ay turned into a dirt clearing and sat on a dead pine tree. “We will stay here for tonight.” I gave him a nod and lit the small kerosene illuminating the place. The spot was hidden under thick pine trees, the ground was thin, and white stones jutted out. The view from the ground was dark fingers of trees outstretched and as he stared longer, the sky zooming in – heavy, secretive, and confusing. They camped there in the night eating their food quietly until they were half-asleep in the makeshift hammock. The forest hummed with crickets, cicadas, and the lonely chirping of birds.


In the bitter dawn, the wild chicken, its feet still tied, trodded along with her feathers dapped with morning dew. With its beak down, it moved side to side looking for worms on the damp ground, smelling the earth. It stretched out its wings and saw us across in our hammock. Lang-ay sat in the distance and made a small cut in his palm. I, on the other hand, finding a less painful spot, made a small cut on my index finger. We mix drops of our blood with the rice grains before throwing them off for the wild chicken to eat. “Her familiarity with the taste of our blood won’t make us subject to the laws of their kind,” brother whispered almost like a prayer.

During the day, it would get penetratingly cold. The wind swirled pine needles along the path as they climbed the mountains. The brothers agreed not to speak as they walked on patches of burned areas. They crossed the valley and hid in a small cave. They rested for a few minutes, chewing beetle nuts to entertain themselves. They were careful to spit out the red juice y on the ground. They plowed along a trail into a field of grass muttering only to themselves.

The bamboo rattled in the strong wind. The inner forest of Tinglayan bordering Mountain Province is a dangerous place. Once, they saw a group of hunters coming their way, they hid in the bushes down the hillside of an abandoned granary house. They had brought with them a body of a giant deer they had butchered. Their jaw is red with beetle nut, they are from Butbut tribe. Since the tribal wars among neighboring places were still happening, he and Lang-ay opted to change direction as they might meet others on their way.

They had gone through the tussock of grass and walked quietly against shrubs, creating paths as they trod nearing their destination. While walking, they saw a small house made of wood and galvanized steel, where they suspected the rebels camped. Careful not to make a noise, Lang-ay signaled him to stay low as they observed the surroundings for any threats. It could be anyone coming from different directions, it could be hunters, rebels disguised as farmers, or military operatives guarding the mountains. Lang-ay then raised his palm and signaled Norton to walk in the other direction as he walked closer and went inside They went inside and saw scattered drinking bottles, cans, and plastics. There was nothing inside but only the dusty bed sheets and rotten clothes, old female magazines, melted candles, cooking pans, and broken plates. They raised wooden planks on the floor and saw some animal bones and feathers – this sight made the hair at the back of their neck stand.

“The mamumundok already left the mountains after the Chico Dam struggle. In five, ten or twenty years, I haven’t seen anyone roaming this place, they have given up the fight,” Lang-ay said before we left the place.

In the mid-afternoon they continued walking in the forest, the kind of vegetation as they went higher changed, the path got steeper and steeper and moss clung to the branches of the trees, and a thick fog blanketed the place. They began to lose their way. They tried to walk separately but they ended up in the same place. Lang-ay signaled him not to talk, they looked at each other and were convinced they have reached their destination in the hunted forest. The place was moist and cold and the paths looked the same with webbed trees in an eerie silence. Lang-ay placed fingers in his mouth and whistled, then a bird gave the same sound. He asked me to do the same and we whistled simultaneously mimicking the sound of different birds we knew in our hometown, only then I realized that we had entered the lair of the enchanted witch Durarakit. The Durarakit is a dawn tempest that guarded the wild chickens of the mountains.

Lang-ay gave me the signal, we set the trap around the vicinity. We avoided the wires We used nylon to trap the feet of the chicken and hooked small chains hidden under the dead leaves. We tied the chicken to the big root of a tree and we hid under thick bushes outside the trap. We waited for the chicken to settle and throw rice grains to it.

When the fog cleared and sunset came, the sky burst into yellow and red colors. I fingered the bullet necklace I wore and hoped that it could protect us from the witchery of the Durarakit. He heard it in the stories of the old folks. The Durarakit was an immortal maiden that roamed the forest, and every sunset between night and day, her power was strongest. She would summon the ghosts of the departed in the high mountains. This was the time the wild chickens would come out of their hiding and look for their mate. The chickens had black meat, believed to cure all maladies and strengthen rituals and prayers. When the sky turned red and darkness covered the sun, they would hear the cooing of the wild chickens. A sudden wave of terror came to him as he heard the lamenting sound of their trapped animal. He saw how a group of male chickens went to cover her and simultaneously peck on her head, eyes, beak. she could not move away. He and Lang-ay, unmoving, watched the wild chickens enter the trap. The sky above them turned to blood as the sound of more chickens rushed to mate with others.

Slowly, Lang-ay signaled him to lift the trap as the chickens began to feel exhausted. They became suspicious of our presence. They began to smell the human around, and others bolted and run away very quickly avoiding the nylons. He and Lang-ay, pulled the trap poles and the wires clipped, the net followed and sacked the wild chickens as they let out a wild cry. 

They counted around ten wild chickens in the net, apart from three more chickens tied in nylons. They tried to catch the fleeing chickens but they were quick and their sharp beaks slashedtheir hands. At the center, the trapped chicken lay bloodied and dead. We covered her with soil and quickly tied all the chickens before it got completely dark. Lang-ay signaled him to pick up their bags and run. He sensed a heavy feeling in his heart and when he looked up in the sky, he saw many black matter falling from heaven like the ghosts of the dead floating in the red sky.

“Do not look at them, Laban! Run!” Lang-ay shouted at me.

We trudged into the bushes, kicking and running over dead leaves and branches along the way. We tripped and fell but rose again and ran. My heart throbbed in fear as I gasped for air. The chicken weighed heavily and pecked at my back. Blood painfully spurted. Lang-ay carried the ten chickens single-handedly while holding a small lamp. 

We heard the voices of evil spirits disturbed at their gathering. That and the miserable cry of the chickens trapped in our net. We ran faster across a small clearing, and when slowly the air cleared, we found ourselves on the edge of the river. The rushing of waters in the blue evening calmed us, but the forest was filled shadows of the dead spitting curses on us.

We camped around a big rock near the river and bathed in cold water from the river and wiped our wounds. We started a small fire to cook one wild chicken. We used a small stick to pat its wings and let its blood flow from its neck. We burned the feathers to purify the air and eat its meat in the quiet night. 

“We could have gotten more chickens,” Lang-ay said while setting up his hammock. The night breathes calmly in the sound of the water.

“We nearly died Lang-ay and I felt my soul being hunted by the ghosts of Durarakit,” I said while staring at the wild chickens defeated inside their nets.

“Don’t think about it, this blood sacrifice of this chicken will keep us from harm, just one offering,” he said confidently and proceeded to eat.

His half-brother Lang-ay and his mother were from Abra, a Tinguian lad whom their father from Kalinga met during the 1990 earthquake. Lang-ay’s mother died, and his father married my mother in Sadanga- the bordering town of Tinglayan. Their marriage was part of the peace pact and to hold it true, they made the covenant to stop the tribal wars in their place. He was five years younger than Lang-ay but they created a deep bond. Lang-ay taught him how to hunt and he was the one who stole bullets from their father’s gun and a  necklace out of the bullets to guard them from evil spirits.

“Hunting is a way of fighting the odds in life, Laban,” Lang-ay said to him when they were hunting small fishes in the Chico River. “Whatever we hunt, we eat it eagerly, knowing that we have to risk our life for it, we trust that it will keep our body strong,” he said, showing the golden bunug he was able to catch. This image stuck to his memory, they are hunters of the wild mountains and rivers.


Sigwa A-3 battalion marched with 30 strong men on the Tinglayan border. They searched the mountains beginning from the valleys of Tabuk, Kalinga, leaving the tropical heat of the place and now heading to the low mountains of the border. Commander Janum’s face was finely wrinkled like that of a lizard’s skin, and his body was heavy with guns and ammunition. His razor tongue wets his thin lips as he searched the narrow acre of rice paddies looking for suspicious persons hiding in the tussocks of grass. He then signaled his men to search the area and sniff around the woods they were entering. A crow fled from the trees his men were scourging. Janum frequently patrolled this place and was proud to eliminate the mamumundoks in the area. He dug his boots in the ground and pretended to be lost in his thoughts but he felt the stare of a crow watching him.

Because of the heavy weight of the chickens, the brothers slowed down, traversing the unknown trails of the mountains. They rarely crossed the open ground, hiding under thick foliage, stopping from time to time to check the path and holding their breath whenever reaching the margins of the open land. The air became warmer and they began to feel that they are nearing the road. 

Lang-ay as walking ahead of him when suddenly he stopped in his tracks and said “Get back, Laban, get back quickly!” Without a word, they ran back into the woods as fast as they could. 

“What happened?” he inquired.

“Look, our radio has picked up some signal.” They listened to the choppy sounds and mutterings. “These are army talking, about 30 in number, they are coming our way. I knew it, since tomorrow is the national election they have guarded the border, we cannot afford to get caught” Lang-ay catches his breathe as he places the radio closer to his ears. I can see his feet tremble as we go further in the opposite direction.

“They can round up the place within 50 meters, let’s go back!

They barely left the clearing when the radio signal got clearer and its green light was turned on. Lang-ay opened his bag and they changed into fatigue-colored suits. 

“They are near, do not leave any track and do not speak.” Lang-ay, turned off the radio and went ahead, signaling him to go a separate way. He moved his hands in the direction of the river while he went to the opposite running into the mountains. Just in time, five military men advanced into the clearing and patrolled the place, several others followed and the commander wearing a uniform stuck his boots looking for tracks. They stopped for a moment and cased the surroundings. Luckily, he climbed for the ridges and hid under thick foliage. The wild chickens were naturally quiet inside their nets. Laban held his breath, a foul taste in his mouth, and closed his eyes-. They could not afford to get caught, he remembered Lang-ay telling him,

“The army when they caught you, they will accuse you of being part of the rebels.”

“But we have IDs to prove that we are not,” he replied.

“Laban, balingusen da ka! They will enslave you and will ask you to carry their things for them. You cannot go home until they finish their operation. By that time, you are already dead.” Lang-ay said with finality.

“But, we won’t allow it, we could ask for help,” he tried to rebut.

“Gatan, these chickens are no ordinary animal, they are totems of the mountains, we were caught already in the eye of Durarakit, we need to bring this out from this town before sunrise tomorrow or we will die. These chickens can make or break the destiny of the people – either hunters, soldiers, politicians – or even our election. We will see when we get home.” Lang-ay said with finality.

From above, Laban could sense the air loosen when the army started to walk upstream. He wondered where Lang-ay fled with the big number of chickens on his back. He kept still and closed his eyes for what seemed to be the longest time of his life.

Lang-ay emerged from the path once the patrol team reached the river. They could hear their noise, opening cans for lunch and others taking a bath. They quickly cut the road and ran in the opposite direction away from the wide clearing. They settled on a slope overlooking the wide rice farm, the trees growing in the shattered rock walls of the mountains. They rested and changed to ordinary clothes and they walked a small path going to a small town and from there, they would take a bus going to the city. They bought liquor and transferred it to mineral water bottles and drink it while on the trip. This is no ordinary trip; they needed to keep their spirits high, praying while they drank.


The huge sadness of the Igorot mountains rolled down to the city of Baguio. Laban and Lang-ay reached the city at midnight on Friday, they stopped at Dangwa station. Lang-ay paid their fare and took the chickens tied to their nets. They went bought two eggs from a balut vendor and ate them to fill their empty stomach. He chewed some beetle nuts and felt that he regained some strength. Lang-ay planned to take the chickens to a village where a ritual was being performed.

They took a taxi and loaded the chickens and they fed them with corns. They knew they were late for the rituals; it was the night before the national elections and customarily two pigs had already been butchered while people waited for them in the barangay.

“Stay here for a while, I will sell six wild chickens to them, and the rest we will keep for the next client,” Lang-ay said and carried six chickens and inserted a revolver in his side pocket, “just to make sure,” he said. He got one bullet and handed it to me. “Plant this as a charm at the back of your heel.” Lang-ay went to a place where about 200 were celebrating around a big bonfire. The gongs beating is no ordinary sound, from what he could hear, it’s the beating offered to the ghosts of the forefathers. He saw Lang-ay walk around the big crowd and met with the elders drinking at the back of the host’s house. It took him a few minutes and he went back with a bag of cash in his hand. When he returned, he casually talked to the taxi driver and asked to drive us to the next client. He remained quiet.

 At the next stop, they entered a subdivision where a big wooden house stood surrounded by wide gold fields at the back. He could still see the well-trimmed grasses and luxury cars parked in the far side. “Come with me,” Lang-ay said. The town mayor met us and saw the wild chickens in our nets. “Aye, aye! Here are my babies!” His eyes glimmered and counted the chickens. “Only five, why odd number?” The mayor asked. “We were caught in the eye of Durarakit, it’s all we have,” Laban replied. We walked at the back of the big house where the mambonong, or the elder priest, together with ten more members of the city council, were drinking. At the center, a black pig was butchered, its liver in the hands of the mambonong. “Quick, before the sun rises! The liver aleady foretold a good omen!” Lang-ay gave me a knowing smile.

The town mayor assisted the elder priest and stood against the sun. Lang-ay kept the chickens first until the mayor ran from inside his house and returned with the payment for the chickens.

We stood there watching as the elder priest carefully lift each chicken, one after another beheaded them, blood oozing on his hands and when the eye of the sun lifted the darkness of the night, we were all caught in the eye of Durarakit. The elder priest prayed, and one by one, he threw the head of the wild chickens into the orange sky and when it fell to the ground, it sealed the supposed winning of the mayor in the election that very same day.

The town mayor lost the election. He got only 5 million votes, the other camp got 6 million votes. Lang-ay and Gatan looked at the polls that day and wondered how the wild chickens they delivered from the high mountains of Kalinga came to speak of  power. Sorcery had kept them on their toes as they headed back to the bus station. 

“We captured 13 wild chickens, we offered one to the river, gave six to the winning camp and five to the town mayor. This last chicken we shall keep it alive until the next hunting, not only that we need it to catch the wild chickens, we have signed our blood to its rightful owner,” Lang-ay said as he hid the chicken in a bag. 

“Why the other camp and not the mayor?” He asked.

“He plans to rebuild the Dam that will destroy the mountains and we will help him do it? Is that what you want to happen?” he shot to me. “We nearly missed, we captured enough chickens to win an election and save ourselves, if we cut the numbe by at least one, every one of us will lose.”

When they reached Bontoc, they entered Lang-ay’s shop and he asked him to get water in the Chico River for the chicken to drink. When he returned, he asked,

“What happens if the chicken dies without having to return to the Durarakit?” He asked.

“Remember those ghosts you have seen in the sunset, they will come and hunt us down and wreck our neck the way the elder priests do it with the chickens.” 

Illustration by Randy Constantino

Gatan was speechless for the totems of the mountains could speak life and death on their own. He nearly regreted joining the hunting with his half-brother. He felt cheated that the price of having this big amount of money would bind his soul in penitence to the tempest Durarakit. He got his share and when Lang-ay went home, he prayed that the chicken would live until the next hunt.


Richard A. Giye
Richard A. Giye
Richard A. Giye is a Cordilleran writer. He is a fellow of the BIYAG Benguet Creative Writing Workshop and of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA). The Province of Benguet awarded him the Essayist of the Year in 2022 and Promising Artist for Literature in 2023. He teaches language and literature at Benguet State University.


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