It was a cool autumn’s eve, and I wasn’t sure if the chill was from the temperature or the story that my fiancé’s mother was telling. “How do you think Pineapples came to be?” she asked us. We all sort of shrugged, and she went on to tell us a couple of the great myths and traditional stories that were told little children in the Philippines.
There was once a young mother who raised her son alone on a farm, deep within the country side far from the nearest town. There were many chores to do around the household and farm, so the mother asked the boy if he could help her do some chores. At one instance she asked him to get the Bolo (A bolo is a large cutting tool similar to a machete, the primary use for the bolo is clearing vegetation, whether for agriculture or during trail blazing) and help cut the bushes now growing too close to the rice fields that they were cultivating. The son replied that he could not see it, and so she went to look for the bolo and then went on to cut down the bushes herself. The next day, the mother again asked the son to do some chores, whom once again replied to her that he could not see what she was asking for. This continued for some time, with the mother working very hard to keep up with the household chores and their farm duties until one day the mother grew very sick and became bedridden. She asked the son to cook some soup and rice for her. But alas the son said he could not find the ladle and pot for which to cook the soup and rice with. The mother grew angry and said “I wish you had so many eyes so you could see”. The boy disappeared soon after that and the mother became very worried. Until one day while crying in her garden she noticed a new plant had started growing and as she moved closer to inspect it she noticed that the plant’s fruit looked as if it had many eyes. The woman gasped, realising that her wish had come true, here was her son, with so many eyes he could not miss a thing. And so dear children, next time you look at a pineapple be reminded to think of how it came to be.
I’ve re-written what was told that night, so I apologise for any discrepancies. I’ve always been drawn to fables and myths but it was so interesting to hear some Filipino ones. I am Australian-Filipino so it’s so nice to hear some traditional stories. Read on if you’d like to hear the story of how the Coconut came to be…
There was once a young maiden who lived in the forest. This girl was very beautiful but also very poor. Her mother and father wanted her to marry a rich man to take them out of their poverty ridden lives. But the young maiden did not want to for she had fallen in love with a handsome farmer. But the parents strongly disagreed because the farmer was also poor. The maiden and the farmer loved each other so much that they met secretly in another part of the forest. One day the parents caught them. The parents decided to hide the girl. But the farmer would not relent looking for her. It had been many weeks when the farmer had decided to give up looking for the girl, he felt so extremely that he killed himself in front of her parents on their very doorstep. The girl, who was locked up in the attic, could see from her window what had happened and grew very morose. She cried for days on end and would not talk to her mother or father. The parents felt very bad so they buried the man in their backyard. The girl visited the grave every day leaving flowers and vowing she would never marry anyone else. One day a small green plant started to grow in the area where the man had been buried. The girl tended the plant with tender, loving care as it grew into a tree. The tree began to bear fruits. The father of the girl climbed the tree to collect the fruit and gasped as he opened the husk and to his amazement saw what looked to be a small head, two eyes and a nose. The girl wailed even more, knowing that it was her lover now a Coconut Tree.
I was conflicted with the meaning behind this story, but putting the story into a cultural context, it must be pointed out than when these stories were made, arranged marriages were common. The message my mother-in-law believes it means is that you cannot force love, that parents shouldn’t interfere with their children’s love lives because the only truth can come from the heart.
And finally, here is the story of how the Apple came to be…
On an island far from the mainland there lived a dog. Now this was not any ordinary kind of dog. For the dog gave birth to three human daughters. One day a ship passed by the island, by this time the three daughters had grown up to be beautiful young maidens. The captain of the ship saw the girls playing while bathing in the ocean. He decided to take them to the city. The youngest daughter asked “What about Inay (mother)?” But the eldest daughters did not want to take the dog with them. The captain replied that there was not enough room to take the dog with them. So he took the three maidens aboard. Many years passed, and by now the first two daughters were married to rich and influential men. The youngest daughter was also married, to an ordinary man but a kind one at that. At this time the dog was searching for her daughters, it had taken her a long time but she had finally located her oldest daughter. But when she arrived her oldest daughter pretended not to recognize her. “What is this filthy dog doing in my house” screeched the oldest daughter to her servants. She knew it was her mother but turned her away. And so the dog, went to find her second daughter. When she arrived the daughter offered her to stay for a day or two but no longer for fear her husband would be coming back soon and she did not want him to know her mother was a dog. The dog stayed for two days but was not treated well. She left her second daughter’s house with a heavy heart. Finally, the dog found the youngest daughter who welcomed her with open arms. The daughter hugged her close and told her husband that this was her mother and that she had missed her very much. The husband did not ask how the dog could possibly be her mother, but accepted seeing the love in both of their eyes, even the daughter could not explain how. The dog told the youngest daughter about her travels and what had happened when she visited the other daughter’s houses, they had been so ashamed of her that it had broke her heart. The dog was growing very old and weary now and had gotten quite sick. The youngest daughter took great care to make the mother feel comfortable, safe and well-fed. But the dog knew she was dying and told the daughter “When I die, bury me near your front door to remind everyone that I was always welcome in your home”. The youngest daughter frowned thinking of her mother passing but agreed to her wishes. One day the daughter went out to the market, but when she got home she found her mother dead on the floor. She cried and did as her mother requested, she buried the dog near the front door. Soon after a plant grew from where she had buried her mother, and a fruit was produced. She named this fruit “Apple” because that was her mother’s name. As time went by, the plant grew into a tree which bared many fruits. So many fruits that the youngest daughter had to do something with them so she sold them to the local markets. The apple fruit became very popular and some of the people had heard stories of how the fruit came to be, so they nicknamed it ‘the fruit of love’. The other daughters heard about the youngest daughter’s success, both whose husbands had passed away and hadn’t really treated them well, came to the daughter’s house with little pride. They were ashamed that they had treated their dog mother so. The youngest daughter being the loving person once again as she had treated her mother, welcomed them with open arms.
The meaning of this myth, was to teach people that no matter who you are, where you come from, what your parents did for a living or look like, you should accept them for who they were and accept yourself for who you are. Don’t be ashamed about where you came from. What a deeply meaningful and beautiful message.
I hope you enjoyed these Filipino stories, do you know of any interesting myths? I’d love to read them from all over the world, from any time period. I’d love to hear them from you. xoxo Lariana