Philippine Folk Tales 1

The Creation Story

When the world first began there was no land, but only the sea and the sky, and between them was a kite[1]. One day the bird which had nowhere to light grew tired of flying about, so she stirred up the sea until it threw its waters against the sky. The sky, in order to restrain the sea, showered upon it many islands until it could no longer rise, but ran back and forth. Then the sky ordered the kite to light on one of the islands to build her nest, and to leave the sea and the sky in peace.

Now at this time the land breeze and the sea breeze were married, and they had a child which was a bamboo. One day when this bamboo was floating about on the water, it struck the feet of the kite which was on the beach. The bird, angry that anything should strike it, pecked at the bamboo, and out of one section came a man and from the other a woman.

Then the earthquake called on all the birds and fish to see what should be done with these two, and it was decided that they should marry. Many children were born to the couple, and from them came all the different races of people.

After a while the parents grew very tired of having so many idle and useless children around, and they wished to be rid of them, but they knew of no place to send them to. Time went on and the children became so numerous that the parents enjoyed no peace. One day, in desperation, the father seized a stick and began beating them on all sides.

This so frightened the children that they fled in different directions, seeking hidden rooms in the house – some concealed themselves in the walls, some ran outside, while others hid in the fireplace, and several fled to the sea.

Now it happened that those who went into the hidden rooms of the house later became the chiefs of the Islands; and those who concealed themselves in the walls became slaves. Those who ran outside were free men; and those who hid in the fireplace became negroes; while those who fled to the sea were gone many years, and when their children came back they were the white people.

[1] A bird something like a hawk.

The Story of Benito

Benito was an only son who lived with his father and mother in a little village. They were very poor, and as the boy grew older and saw how hard his parents struggled for their scanty living he often dreamed of a time when he might be a help to them.

One evening when they sat eating their frugal meal of rice the father told about a young king who lived in a beautiful palace some distance from their village, and the boy became very much interested. That night when the house was dark and quiet and Benito lay on his mat trying to sleep, thoughts of the young king repeatedly came to his mind, and he wished he were a king that he and his parents might spend the rest of their lives in a beautiful palace.

The next morning he awoke with a new idea. He would go to the king and ask for work, that he might in that way be able to help his father and mother. He was a long time in persuading his parents to allow him to go, however, for it was a long journey, and they feared that the king might not be gracious. But at last they gave their consent, and the boy started out. The journey proved tiresome. After he reached the palace, he was not at first permitted to see the king. But the boy being very earnest at last secured a place as a servant.

It was a new and strange world to Benito who had known only the life of a little village. The work was hard, but he was happy in thinking that now he could help his father and mother. One day the king sent for him and said:

“I want you to bring to me a beautiful princess who lives in a land across the sea. Go at once, and if you fail you shall be punished severely.”

The boy’s heart sank within him, for he did not know what to do. But he answered as bravely as possible, “I will, my lord,” and left the king’s chamber. He at once set about preparing things for a long journey, for he was determined to try at least to fulfil the command.

When all was ready Benito started. He had not gone far before he came to a thick forest, where he saw a large bird bound tightly with strings.

“Oh, my friend,” pleaded the bird, “please free me from these bonds, and I will help you whenever you eall on me.”

Benito quickly released the bird, and it flew away calling back to him that its name was Sparrowhawk.

Benito continued his journey till he came to the sea. Unable to find a way of crossing, he stopped and gazed sadly out over the waters, thinking of the king’s threat if he failed. Suddenly he saw swimming toward him the King of the Fishes who asked:

“Why are you so sad?”

“I wish to cross the sea to find the beautiful Princess,” answered the boy.

“Well, get on my back,” said the Fish, “and I will carry you across.”

So Benito stepped on his back and was carried to the other shore.

Soon he met a strange woman who inquired what it was he sought, and when he had told her she said:

“The Princess is kept in a castle guarded by giants. Take this magic sword, for it will kill instantly whatever it touches.” And she handed him the weapon.

“Benito was more than grateful for her kindness and went on full of hope. As he approached the castle he could see that it was surrounded by many giants, and as soon as they saw him they ran out to seize him, but they went unarmed for they saw that he was a mere boy. As they approached he touched those in front with his sword, and one by one they fell dead. Then the others ran away in a panic, and left the castle unguarded. Benito entered, and when he had told the Princess of his errand, she was only too glad to escape from her captivity and she set out at once with him for the palace of the king.

“At the seashore the King of the Fishes was waiting for them, and they had no difficulty in crossing the sea and then in journeying through the thick forest to the palace, where they were received with great rejoicing. After a time the King asked the Princess to become his wife, and she replied:

“I will, O King, if you will get the ring I lost in the sea as I was crossing it.”

“The King immediately thought of Benito, and sending for him he commanded him to find the ring which had been lost on the journey from the land of the giants.

It seemed a hopeless task to the boy, but, anxious to obey his master, he started out. At the seaside he stopped and gazed over the waters until, to his great delight, he saw his friend, the King of the Fishes, swimming toward him. When he had been told of the boy’s troubles, the great fish said: “I will see if I can help you,” and he summoned all his subjects to him. When they came he found that one was missing, and he sent the others in search of it. They found it under a stone so full that it could not swim, and the larger ones took it by the tail and dragged it to the King.

“Why did you not come when you were called?” inquired the King Fish.

“I have eaten so much that I cannot swim,” replied the poor fish.

Then the King Fish, suspecting the truth, ordered it cut open, and inside they found the lost ring. Benito was overjoyed at this, and expressing his great thanks, hastened ivith the precious ring to his master.

The King, greatly pleased, earried the ring to the Princess and said:

“Now that I have your ring will you become my wife ?”

“I will be your wife,” replied the Princess, “if you will find my earring that I lost in the forest as I was journeying with Benito.”

“Again the King sent for Benito, and this time he commanded him to find the earring. The boy was very weary from his long journeys, but with no complaint he started out once more. Along the road through the thick forest he searched carefully, but with no reward. At last, tired and discouraged, he sat down under a tree to rest.

“Suddenly there appeared before him a mouse of great size, and he was surprised to find that it was the King of Mice.

“Why are you so sad?” asked the King Mouse.

“Because,” answered the boy, “I cannot find an earring which the Princess lost as we were going through the forest together.”

“I will help you,” said the Mouse, and he summoned all his subjects.

When they assembled it was found that one little mouse was missing, and the King sent the others to look for him. In a small hole among the bamboo trees they found him, and he begged to be left alone, for, he said, he was so full that he could not walk. Nevertheless they pulled him along to their master, who, upon finding that there was something hard inside the mouse, ordered him cut open; and inside they found the missing earring.

Benito at once forgot his weariness, and after expressing his great thanks to the King Mouse he hastened to the palace with the prize. The King eagerly seized the earring and presented it to the Princess, again asking her to be his wife.

“Oh, my King,” replied the Princess, “I have one more request to make. Only grant it and I will be your wife forever.”

The King, believing that now with the aid of Benito he could grant anything, inquired what it was she wished, and she replied:

“Get me some water from heaven and some from the lower world, and I shall ask nothing more.”

Once more the King called Benito and sent him on the hardest errand of all.

The boy went out not knowing which way to turn, and while he was in a deep study his weary feet led him to the forest. Suddenly he thought of the bird who had promised to help him, and he called, “Sparrowhawk!” There was a rustle of wings, and the bird swooped down. He told it of his troubles and it said:

“I will get the water for you.”

Then Benito made two light cups of bamboo which he fastened to the bird’s legs, and it flew away. All day the boy waited in the forest, and just as night was coming on the bird returned with both cups full. The one on his right foot, he told Benito, was from heaven, and that on his left was from the lower world. The boy unfastened the cups, and then, as he was thanking the bird, he noticed that the journey had been too much for it and that it was dying. Filled with sorrow for his winged friend, he waited and carefully buried it, and then he hastened to the palace with the precious water.

When the Princess saw that her wish had been fulfilled she asked the King to eut her in two and pour over her the water from heaven. The King was not able to do this, so she cut herself, and then as he poured the water over her he beheld her grow into the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Eager to become handsome himself, the King then begged her to pour over him the water from the other cup. He cut himself, and she did as he requested, but immediately there arose a creature most ugly and horrible to look upon, which soon vanished out of sight. Then the Princess called Benito and told him that because he had been so faithful to his master and so kind to her, she chose him for her husband.

They were married amid great festivities and became king and queen of that broad and fertile land. During all the great rejoicing, however, Benito never forgot his parents. One of the finest portions of his kingdom he gave to them, and from that time they all lived in great happiness.[1]

[1]This is undoubtedly a worked-over story, probably brought in from Europe. Kings, queens, palaces etc., were, of course unknown to the people before the advent of the Spaniards.

The Children of the Limokon

1]  In the very early days before there were any people on the earth, the limokon (a kind of dove) [2] were very powerful and could talk like men though they looked Iike birds. One limokon laid two eggs, one at the mouth of the Mayo River and one farther up its course. After some time these eggs hatched, and the one at the mouth of the river became a man, while the other became a woman.  The man lived alone on the bank of the river for a long time, but he was very lonly and wished many times for a Companion.

One day when he was crossing the river something was swept against his legs with such force that it nearly caused him to drown. On examining it, he found that it was a hair, and he determined to go up the river and find whence it came. He traveled up the stream, looking on both banks, until finally he found the woman, and he was very happy to think that at last he could have a companion.  They were married and had many children, who are the Mandaya still living along the Mayo River.

[1] An origin story of a very different type from those af the Bukidnon and Bagobo. While the others show foreign influence, this appears to be typically primitive.

[2] The omen bird of the Mandaya. It is believed to be a messenger from the spirit worId which by its calls, warns the people of danger or promises them success. If the coo of this bird comes from the right side, it is aa good sign, but if it is on the left, in back, or in front, it is a bad sign, and the Mandaya knows that he must change his Plans.

The Sun and the Moon

Once upon a time the Sun and the Moon [1] were married, and they had many children who were the stars. The Sun was very fond of this children, but whenever he tried to embrace any of them, he was so hot that he burned them up. This made the Moon so angry that finally she forbade him to touch them again, and he was greatly grieved.

One day the Moon went down to the spring to do some washing, and when she left she told the sun that he must not touch any of their children in her absence. When she returned, however, she found that he had disobeyed her, and several of the children in had perished.

She was very angry, and picked up a banana tree to strike hime, whereupon he threw sand in her face, and to this day you can see the dark marks on the face of the Moon.

Then the Sun started to chase her, and they have been going ever since. Sometimes he gets so near that he almost catches her, but she escapes, and bay and bay she is far ahead again.[2]


[1] These Visayan tales reflect old beliefs covered with a veneer of European ideas. The Visayan still holds to many of the old superstitions, not because he has reasoned them out for himself, but because his ancestors believed them and transmitted them to him in such stories as these.
[2] A very old explanatory tale. In a slightly varying from it is found in other parts of the islands.

Why Dogs Wag Their Tails

A rich man in a certain town once owned a dog and a cat [1], both of which were very useful to him. The dog had served his master for many years and had became so old that he had lost his teeth and was unable to fight any more, but he was a good guide and companion to the cat who was strong and cunning.

The master had a daughter who was attending school at a convent some distance from home, and very often he sent the dog and the cat with presents to the girl.

One day he called the faithful animals and bade them carry a magic ring to his daughter. “You are strong and brave,” he said to the cat. “You may carry the ring, but you must be careful not to drop it.”

And to the dog he said: “You must accompany the cat to guide her and keep her from harm.” The promised to do their best, and started out. All went well until they came to a river. As there was neither bridge nor boat, there was a way to cross but to swim.

“Let me take the magic ring,” said the dog as they were about to plunge into the water. “Oh, no,” replied the cat, “the master gave it to me to carry.”

“But you cannot swim well,” argued the dog. “I am strong and can tale good care of it.” But the cat refused to give up the ring until finally the dog threatened to kill her, and then she reluctantly gavi it to him.

The river was wide and the water so swift that they grew very tired, and just before they reached the opposite bank the dog dropped the ring. they searched carefully, but could not find it anywhere, and after a while they turned back to tell their master of the sad loss. Just before reaching the house, however, the dog was so overcome with fear that he turned and ran away and never was seen again.

The cat went on alone, and when the master saw her coming he called out to know why she had returned so soon and what had became of her companion. the poor cat was frightened, but as well as she could she explained how the ring had been lost and how the dog had run away.

On hearing her story the master was very angry, and commanded that all his people should search for the dog, and that it should be punished by having its tail cut off.

He also ordered that all the dogs in the world should join in the search, and ever since when one dog meets another he says: “Are you the old dog that lost the magic ring? If so, your tail must be cut off.” Them immediately each shows his teeth and wags his tail to prove that he is not the guilty one.

Since then, too, cats have been afraid of water and will not swim across a river if they can avoid it.

The Poor Fisherman and His Wife

Many, many years ago a poor fisherman and his wife lived with their three sons in a village by the sea. One day the old man set his snare in the water not far from his house, and at night when he went to look at it, he found that he had caught a great white fish. This startled the old man very much, for had never seen a fish like this before, and it occurred him that it was the priest of the town.

He ran to his wife as fast as he could and cried:”My wife, I have caught the priest.”

“What?” said the old woman, terrified at the sight her frightened husband. “I have caught the priest,” said the old man again.

T hey hurried together to the river where the snare was set, and when the old woman saw the fish, she cried: “Oh, it is not the priest but the governor.”

“No, it is the priest,” insisted the old man, and they went home trembling with fear.

That night neither of them was able to sleep for thought of the terrible thing that had happened and wondering what they should do. Now the next day was a great holiday in the town. At four o’clock in morning cannons were fired and bells rang loudly. The old man and woman, hearing all the noise and not knowing the reason for it, thought that their crime had been discovered, and the people were searching for them to punish them, so they set out as fast as they could to hide in the woods. On and on they went, stopping only to rest so as to enable them to resume their flight.

The next morning they reached the woods near Pilar, where there also was a great holiday, and the sexton was ringing the bells to call the people to mass. As soon as the old man and woman heard the bells they thought the people there had been notified of their escape, and that they, too, were trying to catch them. So they turned and started home again.

As they reached their house, the three sons came home with their one horse and tied it to the trunk of the caramay tree. Presently the bells began to ring again, for it was twelve o’clock at noon. Not thinking what time of day it was, the old man and woman ran out of doors in terror, and seeing the horse jumped on its back with the intention of riding to the next town before anyone could catch them. When they had mounted they began to whip the horse. In their haste, they had forgotten to untie the rope which was around the trunk of the caramay tree. As the horse pulled at the rope fruit fell from the tree upon the old man and woman. Believing they were shot, they were so frightened that they died.[1]


[1] All the events here given represent present-day occurrences, and the story appears to have been invented purely to amuse.

The Monkey and the Turtle

A Monkey, looking very sad and dejected, was walking along the bank of the river one day when he met a turtle. “How are you?” asked the turtle, noticing that he looked sad.

The monkey replied, “Oh, my friend, I am very hungry. The squash of Mr. Farmer were all taken by the other monkeys, and now I am about to die from want of food.”

“Do not be discouraged,” said the turtle; “take a bob and follow me and we will steal some banana plants.”

So they walked along together until they found some nice plants which they dug up, and then they looked for a place to set them. Finally the monkey climbed a tree and planted his in it, but as the turtle could not climb he dug a hole in the ground and set his there.

When their work was finished they went away, planning what they should do with their crop. The monkey said: “When my tree bears fruit, I shall sell it and have a great deal of money.”

And the turtle said: “When my tree bears fruit, I shall sell it and buy three varas of cloth to wear in place of this cracked shell.”

A few weeks later they went back to the place to see their plants and found that that of the monkey was dead, for its roots had had no soil in the tree, but that of the turtle was tall and bearing fruit.

“I will climb to the top so that we can get the fruit,” said the monkey. And he sprang up the tree, leaving the poor turtle on the ground alone.

“Please give me some to eat,” called the turtle, but the monkey threw him only a green one and ate all the the ripe ones himself.

When he had eaten all the good bananas, the monkey stretched his arms around the tree and went to sleep. The turtle, seeing this, was very angry and considered how he might punish the thief. Having decided on a scheme, he gathered some sharp bamboo which he all around under the tree, and then he exclaimed:

Crocodile is coming! Crocodile is coming!”

The monkey was so startled at the cry that he fell upon the sharp bamboo and was killed.

Then the turtle cut the dead monkey into pieces, put on it, and dried it in the sun. The next day, he went to the mountains and sold his meat to other monkeys who gladly gave him squash in return. As he was leaving them he called back:

“Lazy fellows, you are now eating your own body; you are now eating your own body.”Then the monkeys ran and caught him and carried to their own home.

Let us take a hatchet,” said one old monkey, “and cut him into very small pieces.” But the turtle laughed and said: “That is just what I like. I have been struck with a hatchet many times. Do you not see the black scars on my shell?”

Then one of the other monkeys said: “Let us throw him into the water.” At this the turtle cried and begged them to spare his life, but they paid no heed to his pleadings and threw him into the water. He sank to the bottom, but very soon came up with a lobster. The monkeys were greatly surprised at this and begged him to tell them how to catch lobsters.

“I tied one end of a string around my waist,” said the turtle. “To the other end of the string I tied a stone so that I would sink.” The monkeys immediately tied strings around themselves as the turtle said, and when all was ready they plunged into the water never to come up again.

And to this day monkeys do not like to eat meat, because they remember the ancient story.[1]


[1] This tale told by the Ilocano is well known among both the Christianized and the wild tribe, of the Philippines, and also in Borneo and Java. However, the Ilocano is the only version so far as I known, which has the explanatory element: the reason is given here why monkeys do not eat meat. The turtle is accredited with extraordinary sagacity and cunning. It is another example of the type of tale showing the victory of the weak and cunning over the strong but stupid. See “The Turtle and the Lizard”.

The Virtue of the Coconut

One day a man took his blow-gun[1] and his dog and went to the forest to hunt. As he was making his way through the thick woods he chanced upon a young cococnut tree growing in the ground.

It was the first tree of this kind that he had ever seen, and it seemd so peculiar to him that he stopped to look at it.

When he had gone some distance farther, his attention was attracted by a noisy bird in a tree, and he shot it with his blow-gun. By and by he took aim at a large monkey, which mocked him from another treetop, and that, too, fell dead at his feet.

Then he heard his dog barking furiously in the distand bushes, and hastening to it he found it biting a wild pig. After a hard struggle he killed the pig, and then, feeling satiesfied with his success, he took the three animals on his back and returned to the little plant.

“I have decided to take you home with me, little plant,” he said, “for I like you and you may be of some use to me.”

He dug up the plant very carefully and started home, but he ahd not gone far when he noticed that the leaves had begun to wilt, and he did not know what to do, since he had no water. Finally, in despair, he cut the throat of the bird and sprinkled the blood on the coconut. No sooner had he done this than the plant began to rivive, and he continued his journey.

Before he had gone far, however, the leaves again began to wilt, and this time he rivived it with the blood of the monkey. Then he hastened on, but a third time the leaves wilted, and he was compelled to stop and rivive it with the blood of the pig. This was his last animal, so he made all the haste possible to reach home before his plant died. The coconut began to wilt again before he reached his house, but when he planted it in the ground, it quickly revived, and grew into a tall tree.

This hunter was the first man to take the liquor called tuba from the the coconut tree, and he and his friends began to drink. After they had become very fond of it, the hunter said to his friends:

“The coconut tree is like the three animals whose blood gave it life when it would have died. The man who drinks three or four cups of tuba becomes like the noisy bird that I shot with my blow-gun. One who drinks more than three or four cups becomes like the big monkey that acts silly; and one who becomes drunk is like the pig that sleeps even in a mud-hole.”


[1] The blow-gun is a Malayan weapon, which is used extensively in the Philippines. Among certain “wild tribes” poisened darts are blown through it, but among the Christianized tribes a clay pellet is used.

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