written by: ciel s cantoria
• edited by: Sarah Malburg
• updated: 1/5/2012
Philippine literature abounds with fascinating tales of legends and mythical stories of how the Earth, and everything in it came to exist. Primarily, they’re entertaining since they could amuse, inspire and sometimes scare; but mainly, they impart lessons on how to live well with other people.
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A Storytelling Tradition
Many of today’s youth get straightforward answers to their queries about the how and why of things, by simply researching on the internet. Hence, they never had the experience of hearing quaint but fascinating explanations in the form of folklores and myths. The following are examples of stories comprising the popular myths and legends of the Philippines, which are kept alive to this day, as a way of instilling moral values in the minds of the Filipino children.
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Why Do the Moon and Stars Appear Only at Night?
A long time ago, when the universe was still young, the sun and the moon were married to each other. One day, the moon asked her husband, the sun, to keep watch over their sleeping children, since she had to gather food for the family. The moon, reminded her husband not to go near the young ones, for they would get burned by his intense noon day heat.
The sun, however, couldn’t keep from bending over to kiss the little ones – but as his wife had feared, the children slowly started to melt. Although the sun wanted to hide from his wife, his brightness always gave him away. His wife, the moon, became cold to him and endlessly blamed him for deforming their children. She often harped about his self-centeredness and feelings of self-importance, just because the entire universe revolved around him.
This occurred until one day, the sun's fiery temper got the better of him – he struck his wife's face to stop her endless nagging. Again, he felt sorry for having done so, since his action had left the moon with scars and pockmarks on her face.
Since then, the moon and the sun became estranged, and the former took her children with her as far as she could, to get away from the sun. She and the children showed up only during the night when everyone was asleep, so they wouldn’t notice the pockmarks on her surface or the imperfection of her children, the little twinkling stars.
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Why Does a Rainbow Appear After a Drizzle?
One day, a woodsman found a beautiful star fairy lying unconscious near the river bend. He discovered that her wings were broken and readily surmised that she must have fallen unconscious upon hitting the ground. The woodsman brought her home and did everything he could to nurse her back to life. The star fairy finally regained consciousness and thanked the woodsman for saving her life.
However, she was still weak and her wings were still broken, although the woodcutter improvised some form of brace to help the wings heal properly. Months passed and the inevitable happened, the woodsman and the star fairy fell in love with each other. The lovers decided to get married so they could raise a family and have children.
But alas, the day came when the fairy’s wings started fluttering on its own, so the woodsman had to remove the improvised braces. As soon as the wings became free, the star fairy was carried off to high heavens and the woodsman never saw his beloved star fairy again. He was so devastated that each day he went to the river bend, hoping that his wife would be there with her wings once again broken.
The star fairy was back at the star kingdom and could see her beloved husband pining every day for her at the river bend. However, the king had taken away her wings as her punishment for straying too far away from the kingdom. She can only have them back if she learns how to behave like a real star fairy.
One day, the king chanced upon the beautiful fairy crying and looking forlorn as she watched the river bend below. Looking down, he also saw the woodsman near the river bend who was also looking equally forlorn and with tears streaming down his face. Now the star king couldn’t stand the sight of the lovers' hopeless situation but the union between an Earth creature and a star fairy is strictly forbidden and impossible.
The king finally came up with a bright idea; he stretched out the tails of his multi-colored g-string (this is not the risqué version) so that it would hang down until it formed an arch that would reach the river bend. He told the star fairy that she could go down via the multi-colored arch to visit her beloved woodsman but only for a few minutes. Otherwise, the arch would disappear and she could never go back. If she stayed too long on Earth she will become a mortal and will soon die. It turned out that the fairy is already more than a thousand years old, basing on Earth’s life period.
Therefore, if you see a rainbow after a brief rain shower, it means the star king took pity on the lovers again and had let down the tails of his colorful g-string. The drizzle is actually the star fairy’s tears, while the woodsman called the multi-colored arch “bahag hari” or the king’s g-strings.
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Why Does the Philippines Have 7,000 Islands?
At a time when there was only a single great mass of land between the great sky and an equally great water, a large prehistoric bird got bored of circling around the same area for millions of years. It had made several attempts to fly as far as it could, to discover what lies beyond the far horizons. However, the big bird was always forced to go back, because there was no other land on where he could rest his tired wings.
One day, the bird came up with a clever idea. The scheming bird told the water that the sky was irritated by the way the water keeps on copying the sky’s hue. If it decides to don a blue color, then water also becomes blue, if the sky is clear and white, the water becomes clear and neutral too. The sky hates it the most that the water imitates even the former’s dark mood, because the water also turns gray and somewhat murky. Water of course became indignant upon hearing this; and it heaved a deep breath to which great amounts of water rose up in the form of gigantic waves, high enough to reach the sky and fill its clouds with water.
The sky was puzzled at the water’s behavior because it seemed that it was intentionally pelting the sky. The scheming bird approached the sky and told the latter that the water was resenting the fact that the sky often made the decisions on what color they had to have. Even if water wants to try other colors, the sky keeps on reflecting itself on the water’s surface.
Sky, of course, was furious upon hearing this that it let out loud roars of thunder and flashes of lightning that hit not only water but also the large mass of land. It drained out all the waters carried in its clouds while water continued to pelt huge waves against the sky. All these affected the great mass of land because it slowly softened and weakened as sky and water fought against each other’s might.
Soon enough, the great mass of land started to break into little pieces much to the delight of the big bird. Sky and water saw what had happened, and as a result stopped fighting and tried with all their might to bring back the pieces of land together. It was too late because there were about 7,000 pieces of land that were too far away from the main land. The bird of course finally fulfilled his wish of travelling far and wide, beyond the horizons.
Continue reading on page 2 for more of the myths, folklores and legends of the Philippines.
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Hudhud Hi Aliguyon (The Tales of Aliguyon)
In the mountainous hinterlands of Northern Luzon, a young boy named Aliguyon was raised well by his father and he grew up to become a smart and intelligent leader. He also had the skills and prowess of a brave and stalwart warrior that children of the villages often looked up to him as a role model.
Now their tribe had a long standing feud over territorial boundaries, with another tribe in another mountain. To settle it once and for all, Aliguyon challenged the leader of the other tribe to a duel. However, the leader did not accept the challenge personally but his son, Pumbakhayon did, since he was an exact match to Aliguyon’s capabilities.
Thus, the two warriors faced each other in a battle they were not prepared for. To Aliguyon’s surprise, his adversary was as skilled and adept as he was. Accordingly, there was only one spear used because Aliguyon’s initial attempt to slay Pumbakhayon with a single but powerful thrust of his spear was not successful. Pumbakhayon was able to catch the spear and used the same weapon by throwing it to Aliguyon with an equally forceful might. The latter had no other course of action but to catch his spear and hurl it once more to his opponent.
This duel lasted for three days with nothing transpiring but the swift exchanges of hurls using only a single spear. On the third day, the two young men decided to stop the senseless exercise and agreed to talk things over. It became obvious to both of them that they were equals in every aspect despite belonging to a different tribe. They have come to respect each other’s skills and intelligence, thus realizing they are capable of settling their issues wisely. Therefore, the duel ended in a treaty and the two young men became close friends.
Their tribes and the people all lived harmoniously and peacefully. They emulated their leaders as they settled their differences by recognizing that each tribal member deserves to be accorded with respect regardless of tribe or stature.
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Why Do Pineapple Fruits Have Many Eyes?
There was once a pretty little girl called Piña, who was loved dearly by her mother to the point of spoiling her. As Piña grew older, she had become lazy, inconsiderate and self-centered. Yet the mother didn’t mind her daughter’s behavior, because she wanted Piña to depend on her forever.
One day, the mother fell ill and could not bring herself to cook food for Piña, while the young girl kept complaining that she was hungry. This time, Piña's mother had to stay firm for the young gril's sake. On the other hand, Piña forced herself to go to the kitchen, grumbling and resentful that her mother was sick. The girl half-heartedly set out to cook “lugaw” or rice porridge the way her mother instructed her.
While in the kitchen, Piña kept asking where her mother kept the things she needed.
“Mother, where is the rice keeper?” The mother had to shout her answer several times over because Piña took ages before she could find whatever it was she was looking for.
“Mother, where are the woods for the stove?”
“Mother, where’s the soup ladle?”
Mother, where’s the salt?”
Mother where’s the bowl?”
Note that to all of Piña’s questions, the sick mother had to shout at the top of her lungs, which only made her feel worse. Feeling weak and exasperated with Piña’s unending questions, the mother finally lost her temper and let out a curse: “Heaven forbid child! But I call on all the gods to put eyes all over your face so you can see the things you’re looking for.” Tired and weak Piña’s mother fell asleep.
When the mother woke up, the house was dark and quiet. She called Piña but there was no answer. The mother willed herself to investigate where Piña could be, but the mother only found the unfinished cooking task. The mother was saddened by the thought that Piña decided to leave her, because she was sick and could no longer take care of her daughter.
As she was about to leave the kitchen, she tripped on something that was lying on the floor, all the while thinking that it was one of Piña’s many things. She picked up the strange looking object, which was shaped like a human head with tufts of leaves atop its crown.
The mother had an uncanny feeling that the brown circles scattered all over the object reminded her of Piña’s beautiful brown eyes. Horrified, the mother remembered that she let out a terrible curse on her daughter before she fell asleep – in fact, she called on all the gods to put eyes all over Piña’s face. Thus, the strange looking fruit was called “pinya” or pineapple, since Piña simply vanished into thin air.
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The Story of Maria Makiling
Travelers coming from Manila going to Southern Luzon will notice a mountainous mound of thick rainforests looming up ahead. The shape of the mountain takes the form of a woman lying peacefully on her back. Every home-bred Filipino can easily recognize this as Mount Makiling and the sleeping form of the woman is that of the mountain’s goddess Maria Makiling.
The mountain is actually an extinct volcano and it has relatively remained unharmed through its years of existence. Thanks to Maria Makiling’s vigilance in protecting the mountain’s ecosystem. Those who trek to the mountain are told and forewarned that Maria’s spirit often roams the woods and is capable of doing harm to those who harm any of the living creatures that live on her mountain. To the locals, she is known as a “diwata” or goddess of nature. She rewards those who heed her warnings but will severely punish those who ignore her.
A hunter tells of his experience while in pursuit of a wild boar who had tried to attack him in the deep forest of Mt. Makiling. As he was about to strike the cornered boar, a beautiful lady with golden-brown skin and long flowing black hair appeared and admonished him not to kill the wild pig. She patiently explained with a kind voice that the attack launched by the boar, was only to protect the mountain against intruders, who may one day take away all the trees in its forest.
The beautiful lady invited him to have supper with her and a place to rest for the night. The hunter felt humbled that despite being caught red-handed by Maria, she still found it in her heart to be gracious. Nevertheless, the hunter made a vow to Maria that he will no longer hunt any of the living creatures in Mt. Makiling ever again, nor take down trees from its forest.
Pleased at what she heard, Maria gave the hunter a “salakot” or buri hat filled with ginger, to take home as present for his wife. Upon reaching home, he immediately opened his back pack, to unload the heavy burden off his back. The “salakot” fell off with a heavy thud and revealed golden nuggets instead of ginger.
However, there are stories about hunters losing their way in the forest and unable to find their way back home. Others, however, were fortunate to be chanced upon by mountain climbers and hikers; albeit incoherent and unable to remember their names or where they live. The only thing they can remember is a beautiful lady who gave them food and shelter for the night.
Filipino literature is rich with myths, folklores, legends of the Philippines and the origins of the many things that can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted. There are also tales of heroism, love, compassion and promises that were fulfilled even after life. Although some stories like the legend of Maria Makiling tend to scare, they had at least, served the purpose of keeping the rainforest well-preserved with its ecology still intact.