The geographic and ethnic diversity of the Philippines resulted in distinctive oral storytelling traditions, including song, riddles, poetry and legends. Each group told their own legends, and while Spanish and American colonialism had a great impact on native storytelling, many precolonial stories have also survived due to the efforts of scholars and native storytellers alike.
Creation Story from the Igorots
The Igorots tell a creation story that accounts for the different languages and skills of the ethnic groups in the Philippines. According to their legend, the primary god, Lumawig, cut reeds and spread them throughout the earth. Each pair of reeds grew into humans who spoke a different language and taught that language to their children. Lumawig attempted to teach each linguistic group a certain skill, such as getting salt from the ocean or shaping clay, but many of them had difficulty understanding his instructions due to the language gap. In time, however, each different group acquired the skills they were meant to acquire, providing the foundation for their culture and their role in the economy.
Mindanao Story of the Stars
According to a myth from the Bukidnon province on the island of Mindanao, long ago, the sky hovered above the ground and resembled calcified coral. This changed one day when an old woman decided to pound rice. To prepare for her work, she hung her beads and her hair comb up on the sky. She raised her pestle to pound the rice, touching the sky and pushing it upward. The sky rose high up, taking her comb and beads with it. Her comb became the moon and the beads scattered about, turning into the stars.
Tinguian Story of the Moon's Craters
The Tinguians inhabited Luzon as well, and told an origin legend about the moon's craters. According to their story, the Sun and the Moon got into an argument over who was better for humanity. The Sun bragged about his ability to bring light during the day and pointed out that the Moon would have no light without the Sun. The Moon countered that women preferred her cool light. Enraged, the Sun threw a handful of sand into the moon's face, permanently obscuring her complexion. To this day, we can see the result of their argument in the moon's craters.
Tagalog Story of the Sky
According to the Tagalog, when all humans were innocent, their souls went directly to the sky upon death. But over time, there were too many souls and they had pushed the sky upward, damaging it. God worried that the sky would fall. He asked the angels to hold the sky up until he could repair it. The angels complied. The tallest angel stood in the center of the sky, and the sky held its curve after god repaired it. Since then, the sky has been curved and heaven has been large enough to hold the souls of the innocent.
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- National Commission for Culture and the Arts: Early Philippine Literature
- American Anthropologist: Philippine Literature
- Project Gutenberg: Filipino Popular Tales
- Philippine Folk Tales: The Creation (Igorot)
- Philippine Folk Tales: How the Moon and Stars Came to be (Bukidnon/Mindanao)
- Philippine Folk Tales: The Sun and the Moon (Tinguian)
- David De Lossy/Digital Vision/Getty Images