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Book No. 55

To first story in the book press: 2390

To last story in the book press: 2450

Philippine Folk Tales

Cole Mable Cook

Philippine Folk Tales, Mable Cook Cole, 1916


Compiled and Annotated by

Mabel Cook Cole

Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co.



From time to time since the American occupation of the Islands, Philippine folk-tales have appeared in scientific publications, but never, so far as the writer is aware, has there been an attempt to offer to the general public a comprehensive popular collection of this material. It is my earnest hope that this collection of tales will give those who are interested opportunity to learn something of the magic, superstitions, and weird customs of the Filipinos, and to feel the charm of their wonder-world as it is pictured by these dark-skinned inhabitants of our Island possessions.

In company with my husband, who was engaged in ethnological work for the Field Museum of Natural History, it was my good fortune to spend four years among the wild tribes of the Philippines, During this time we frequently heard these stories, either related by the people in their homes and around the camp fires or chanted by the pagan priests in communion with the spirits. The tales are now published in this little volume, with the addition of a few folk-legends that have appeared in the Journal of American Folk-Lore and in scientific publications, here retold with some additions made by native story-tellers.

I have endeavored to select typical tales from tribes widely separated and varying in culture from savagery to a rather high degree of development. The stories are therefore divided into five groups, as follows: Tinguian, Igorot, the Wild Tribes of Mindanao, Moro, and Christian,

The first two groups, Tinguian and Igorot, are from natives who inhabit the rugged mountain region of northwestern Luzon. From time immemorial they have been zealous head-hunters, and the stories teem with references to customs and superstitions connected with their savage practices. By far the largest number belong to the Tinguian group. In order to appreciate these tales to the fullest extent, we must understand the point of view of the Tinguian. To him they embody all the known traditions of "the first times"—of the people who inhabited the earth before the present race appeared, of the ancient heroes and their powers and achievements. In them he finds an explanation of and reason for many of his present laws and customs.

A careful study of the whole body of Tinguian mythology points to the conclusion that the chief characters of these tales are not celestial beings but typical, generalized heroes of former ages, whose deeds have been magnified in the telling by many generations of their descendants. These people of "the first times" practiced magic. They talked with jars, created human beings out of betel-nuts, raised the dead, and had the power of changing themselves into other forms. This, however, does not seem strange or impossible to the Tinguian of today, for even now they talk with jars, perform certain rites to bring sickness and death to their foes, and are warned by omens received through the medium of birds, thunder and lightning, or the condition of the liver of a slaughtered animal. They still converse freely with certain spirits who during religious ceremonies are believed to use the bodies of men or women as mediums for the purpose of advising and instructing the people.

Several of the characters appear in story after story. Sometimes they go under different names, but in the minds of the story-tellers their personality and relationships are definitely established. Thus Ini-init of the first tale becomes Kadayadawan in the second, Aponitolau in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, and Ligi in the seventh. Kanag, the son of Aponitolau and Aponibolinayen, in the fifth tale is called Dumalawi.

These heroes had most unusual relations with the heavenly bodies, all of which seem to have been regarded as animate beings. In the fourth tale Aponitolau marries Gaygayoma, the star maiden who is the daughter of the big star and the moon. In the first story the same character under the name of Ini-init seems to be a sun-god: we are told that he is "the sun," and again "a round stone which rolls." Thereupon we might conclude that he is a true solar being; yet in the other tales of this collection and in many more known to the Tinguian he reveals no celestial qualities. Even in the first story he abandons his place in the sky and goes to live on earth.

In the first eight stories we read of many customs of "the first times" which differ radically from those of the present. But a careful analysis of all the known lore of this people points to the belief that many of these accounts depict a period when similar customs did exist among the people, or else were practiced by emigrants who generations ago became amalgamated with the Tinguian and whose strange customs finally became attributed to the people of the tales. The stories numbered nine to sixteen are of a somewhat different type, and in them the Tinguian finds an explanation of many things, such as, how the people learned to plant, and to cure diseases, where they secured the valuable jars and beads, and why the moon has spots on its face. All these stories are fully believed, the beads and jars are considered precious, and the places mentioned are definitely known. While the accounts seem to be of fairly recent origin they conflict neither with the fundamental ideas and traditions of "the first times" nor with the beliefs of today.

Stories seventeen to twenty-three are regarded as fables and are told to amuse the children or to while away the midday hours when the people seek shaded spots to lounge or stop on the trail to rest. Most of them are known to the Christianized tribes throughout the Islands and show great similarity to the tales found in the islands to the south and, in some cases, in Europe. In many of them the chief incidents are identical with those found elsewhere, but the story-tellers, by introducing old customs and beliefs, have moulded and colored them until they reflect the common ideas of the Tinguian.

The third group includes stories from several wild tribes who dwell in the large island of Mindanao. Here are people who work in brass and steel, build good dwellings, and wear hemp clothing elaborately decorated with beads, shell disks, and embroidery, but who still practice many savage customs, including slavery and human sacrifice.

The fourth division gives two tales from the Moro (hardy Malayan warriors whose ancestors early became converts to the faith of Mohammed). Their teachers were the Arabian traders who, about 1400, succeeded in converting many of the Malay Islanders to the faith of the prophet.

The last group contains the stories of the Christianized natives—those who accepted the rule of Spain and with it the Catholic religion. Their tales, while full of local color, nevertheless show the influence of the European tutors. They furnish an excellent opportunity to contrast the literature of the savage head-hunters with that of the Moro and Christian tribes and to observe how various recent influences have modified the beliefs of people who not many centuries ago were doubtless of a uniform grade of culture. It is interesting, too, to note that European tales brought into the Islands by Mohammedan and Christian rulers and traders have been worked over until, at first glance, they now appear indigenous.

Owing to local coloring, these tales have various forms. Still we find many incidents which are held in common by all the tribes of the Archipelago and even by the people of Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and India. Some of these similarities and parallelisms are indicated in the foot-notes throughout the book.



The dim light of stars filtered through the leafy canopy above us, and the shadowy form of our guide once more appeared at my horse's head. It was only for an instant, however, and then we were plunged again into the inky darkness of a tropical jungle.

We had planned to reach the distant Tinguian village in the late afternoon, but had failed to reckon with the deliberateness of native carriers. It was only by urging our horses that we were able to ford the broad Abra ere the last rays of the sun dropped behind the mountains. And then, in this land of no twilights, night had settled quickly over us.

We had made our way up the mountain-side, through the thick jungle, only to find that the trail, long imperceptible to us, had escaped even the keen eyes of our guide. For several hours we wandered about, lost in the darkness.

On and on we went, through narrow paths, steep in places, and made rough and dangerous by sharp rocks as well as by those long creepers of the jungle whose thorny fingers are ever ready to seize horse or rider. Occasionally we came out of the forest, only to cross rocky mountain streams; or perhaps it was the same stream that we crossed many times. Our horses, becoming weary and uncertain of foot, grew more and more reluctant to plunge into the dark, swiftly flowing water. And our patience was nearly exhausted when we at last caught sight of dim lights in the valley below. Half an hour later we rode into Manabo.

I shall never forget that first picture. It was a weird spectacle. Coming out of the darkness, we were almost convinced that we had entered a new world. Against the blackness of the night, grass-roofed houses stood outlined in the dim light of a bonfire; and squatting around that fire, unclad save for gay blankets wrapped about their shoulders, were brown-skinned men smoking long pipes, while women bedecked with bright beads were spinning cotton. As they worked in the flickering light, they stretched their distaffs at arm's length into the air like witches waving their wands; and with that the elfland picture was complete.

In the stillness of the night a single voice could be heard reciting some tale in a singsong tone, which was interrupted only when peals of laughter burst forth from the listeners, or when a scrawny dog rose to bark at an imaginary noise until the shouts of the men quieted him and he returned to his bed in the warm ashes. Later we learned that these were the regular social gatherings of the Tinguian, and every night during the dry season one or more of these bonfires were to be seen in the village.

After we had attained to the footing of welcome guests in these circles, we found that a good story-teller was always present, and, while the men smoked, the women spun, and the dogs slept, he entertained us with tales of heroes who knew the magic of the betel-nut, or with stories of spirits and their power over the lives of men.

The following 23 stories (stories 1-23 [2390-2412] in the project) are some of the tales heard first around the camp fire of the distant mountain village.



Three or four days’ journey to the south and east of the Tinguian live the Igorot; but so difficult are the trails over the mountains and through the swift rivers that there is little intercourse between the two tribes, consequently each believes the other a people to be feared. Salt, weapons, and jars are sometimes exchanged, but the customs and beliefs are not similar. Each group leads its own life and is governed by its own spirits.

From a distance an Igorot village looks like a group of haystacks nestling among the hills; but viewed more closely, it is found to consist of houses whose board sides are almost hidden by the overhanging grass roofs. The upper part of the house is used as a storehouse, while below, on a ground floor, the family cooks and eats. In one end there is a tiny boxlike bedroom where the father, mother, and small children sleep. After they are two or three years old the girls spend the night in a dormitory, while the boys sleep in the men's council house.

These people have splendid terraced fields on the mountain sides where water is brought from the streams through troughs and ditches. Here both men and women are busy early and late cultivating the rice, sweet potatoes, and small vegetables on which they live. The men are head-hunters and ardent warriors, each village demanding a head in payment for any taken by a hostile village.

Watching over the Igorot, controlling the winds and the rains, and providing good crops and health for the people, is the Great Spirit, Lumawig, who lives in the sky. He is believed to have created the Igorot and even to have lived among them on the earth. He no longer visits them in person, they say, but each month they perform a ceremony at which they pray to him to protect them and entreat him to favor them with health and good crops.

The following tales are told by the fathers and mothers to the children to teach them how things came to be as they are.

[Stories 24-30 (2413-2419 in the project)



About one thousand miles to the south and east of the Tinguian and Igorot is the Island of Mindanao, which is inhabited by mortals and immortals entirely unknown to the mountain tribes of the north.

In the northern part of this great island are the Bukidnon—timid, wild people who, attacked from time to time by the Moro on one side and the Manobo on the other, have drawn back into scattered homes in the hills. Here they live in poor dwellings raised high from the ground. Some even build in trees, their sheltered and secret positions making them less subject to attack.

They are not a warlike people, and their greatest concern is for the good will of the numerous spirits who watch over their every act. At times they gather a little hemp or coffee from the hillside or along the stream bank and carry it to the coast to exchange for the bright cloth which they make into gay clothes. But they do not love work, and the most of their time is spent in resting or attending ceremonies made to gain the good will of the immortals.

In this country the belief prevails that there are spirits in the stones, in the baliti trees, in the vines, the cliffs, and even the caves. And never does a man start on a journey or make a clearing on the mountain side until he has first besought these spirits not to be angry with him but to favor him with prosperity and bring good crops.

The greatest of the spirits is Diwata Magbabaya, who is so awe-inspiring that his name is never mentioned above a whisper. He lives in the sky in a house made of coins, and there are no windows in this building, for if men should look upon him they would melt into water.

About the Gulf of Davao, in the southeastern part of this island, are a number of small tribes, each differing somewhat from the other in customs and beliefs. Of these the most influential are the Bagobo who dwell on the lower slopes of Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines. They are very industrious, forging excellent knives, casting fine articles in brass, and weaving beautiful hemp cloth which they make into elaborate garments decorated with beads and shell disks.

The men are great warriors, each gaining distinction among his people according to the number of human lives he has taken. A number of them dress in dark red suits and peculiar headbands which they are permitted to wear only after they have taken six lives. Notwithstanding their bravery in battle, these people fear and have great respect for the numerous spirits who rule over their lives.

From a great fissure in the side of Mt. Apo, clouds of sulphur fumes are constantly rising, and it is believed to be in this fissure that Mandarangan and his wife Darago live—evil beings who look after the fortunes of the warriors. These spirits are feared and great care is taken to appease them with offerings, while once a year a human sacrifice is made to them.

The following tales show something of the beliefs of these and the neighboring tribes in Mindanao.

[Stories 31-42 [2420-2431] in the project].




About the year 1400 something happened which changed the beliefs and customs of many of the tribes of the southern Philippines and made of them a powerful and dreaded people.

It was about this time that Arabian traders and missionaries began to establish themselves in the Islands, and soon these were followed by hordes of Mohammedan converts from the islands to the south. Among the newcomers were men who became powerful rulers, and they, in time, brought together many of the settlements which formerly had been hostile to each other and united them under the faith of Islam. Those who accepted the new faith adopted the dress and many of the customs of their teachers and came to be known as Moro.

With the possession of firearms, which were introduced by the newcomers, the Moro grew very daring and were greatly feared by the other natives. And soon they began to make long trips on the sea to the north and south, carrying on trade and making many surprise attacks for loot and slaves.

At the time the Spaniards discovered the Philippines, the Moro were a terror to the other inhabitants, and they continued to be so until very recent years. They became ferocious pirates infesting the southern seas and preying upon the rich trade which the Spaniards carried on with Mexico. Stone walls and watch towers were built at advantageous points to guard against them, but bays and creeks which afforded opportunities for lurking, surprise, and attack continued to be frequented by the treacherous warriors.

Since American occupation the waters have been made practically free from their ravages, but on land they have continued to give trouble. The greater part of the Moro now live in the Sulu Archipelago and on the Island of Mindanao. They range in degree of civilization from sea "gypsies," who wander from place to place, living for months in their rude outrigger boats, to settled communities which live by fishing and farming, and even by manufacturing some cloth, brass, and steel. Their villages are near the coast, along rivers, or about the shores of the interior lakes, the houses being raised high on poles near or over the water, for they live largely on food from the sea.

Their folk-lore, as will be seen from the following tales, shows decided influence from Arabia and India, which has filtered in through the islands to the south. [140]

[140] No tales illustrate to better advantage the persistence of old stories and beliefs than do these of the Moro. They are permeated with incidents very similar to those still found among the pagan tribes of the Archipelago, while associated with these are the spirits and demons of Hindu mythology. Finally we find the semi-historical events recorded by the Mohammedanized Malay, the ancestors of the tellers of the tales.

[Stories 43-44 (2432-2433) in the project)




When the Spaniards discovered the Philippines in the sixteenth century, they found the tribes along the coasts of the different islands already somewhat influenced by trade with China, Siam, and the islands to the south.

Under Spanish rule the coast inhabitants, with the exception of the Moro, soon became converts to Christianity and adopted the dress of their conquerors, though they retained their several dialects and many of their former customs. Then, no longer being at war with one another, they made great advances in civilization, while the hill tribes have remained isolated, retaining their old customs and beliefs.

The tales of the Christianized tribes include a great mixture of old ideas and foreign influences obtained through contact with the outside world.

[Stories 45-61 (2433-2450) in the project.



The vowel sounds in the following pronunciations are those used in Webster's dictionary.

Adasen, a-dä´sen

Aguio, a´ge-o

Alan, ä´län

Alokotan, ä-lo-ko-tän´

Aponibalagen, apo-ne-bä-lä-gen´

Aponibolinayen, apo-ne-bo-le-nä´yen

Aponitolau, apo-ne-to´lou

Bagbagak, bäg-bä-gäk´

Bagobo, ba-go´bo

Balatama, bä-lä-tä´ma

Bangan, bän´gän

Bantugan, bän-too´gan

Benito, be-ne´to

Bilaan, be-lä´an

Bita, be´ta

Bontoc, bon´tok

Bukidnon, boo-kid´non

Bulanawan, boo-la-nä´wan

Caalang, kä-ä´läng

Cabildo, kä-bil´do

Cibolan, ci-bo´lan

Dalonagan, da-lo-na´gan

Danepan, dä-ne-pan´

Dapilisan, da-pe-le´san

Dayapan, di-a-pan

Dinawagen, de-nä-wä´gen

Dodedog, dog-e-dog

Domayco, do-mi´ko

Dumalawi, doo-mä-lä-we´

Epogow, e-po-gou´

Gawigawen, gä-we-gä´wen

Gaygayoma, gi-gi-o´ma

Gotgotapa, got-go-ta´pa

Igorot, ig-o-rot´

Ilocano, il-o-kä´no

Ilocos Norte, il-o´kos no´rte

Indarapatra, in-dä-rä-pä´tra

Ini-init, e-ni-e´nit

Kabigat, ka-be-gat´

Kaboniyan, kä-bo-ne-yan´

Kadaklan, ka-dak-lan´

Kadalayapan, kä-dä-lä-yä´pan

Kadayadawan, kä-dä-yä-dä´wan

Kanag, kä´näg

Komow, ko´mou

Kurita, ku-re´ta

Langgona, läng-go´na

Ligi, le´ge

Limokon, le-mo´kon

Lumabet, loo-mä´bet

Lumawig, loo-mä´wig

Magbangal, mäg-bäng´al

Magindanau, mä-gin-dä´nou

Magosang, ma-go´sang

Magsawi, mäg-sä-we´

Magsingal, mäg´sin-gäl

Manama, män-ä´ma

Mandaya, män-di´ya

Mansumandig, män-su-män-dig

Mayinit, mi-i´nit

Mayo, mi´yo

Mindanao, min-da-nou´

Nalpangan, nal-pan-gan´

Pilar, pe´lär´

Samoki, sa-mo´ki

Sayen, sä-yen´

Siagon, së-ä´gon

Silit, se´let

Sinag, se´nag

Sogsogot, sog-so-got´

Subanun, soo-bä´nun

Sulayman, soo-li´man

Tagalog, ta-ga´log

Tarabusaw, ta-ra-boo´sou

Tikgi, tik´ge

Timaco, ti-mä´ko

Tinguian, ting-gi-an´

Toglai, tog-lä´e

Toglibon, tog-le´bon

Visayan, vi-si´yan

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