PHILIPPINE FOLK TALES AND LEGENDS

The Origin of Rice

There was a time, many, many years ago, when rice was not known to our people. At that time  our ancestors lived on fruits, vegetables, birds, and wild animals which they caught while  hunting in the mountains or the forests. Tilling the soil was still unknown. And poultry and hog   raising was not yet a part of their way of living.

 Because our people depended on the food which nature provided and not on what they   themselves grew or raised, their stay in one place was only temporary. When there was nothing  more to be hunted or gathered in a certain place, they would go to another region where there  was plenty of food. Thus, they traveled from one place to another.

 But our ancestors were proud, thankful and happy. They were proud of the things they had --  their brown skin, the race to which they belonged, and the customs and traditions which they  practiced. They were thankful to Bathala1, their god. And they were happy in the manner of  living which they led.

  On a typical day, the men could be seen going to the mountains or the forests to hunt, while the  women and small children could be seen busily engaged in such useful tasks as fishing and  gathering of fruits and vegetables. After a day's work, all wild animals that had been killed in   the hunt and all fruits and vegetables that had been gathered, would be divided equally among
  all the groups of families which  made up the balangay2.

  One day, a group of hunters went out to hunt deer. In their desire to have a good catch, they   traveled far and wide until they reached the Cordillera Mountains. Having traveled so far, and    feeling dead tired, they decided to take a rest under a big tree. It was nearing noon and all of   them were hungry.

  While resting in the shade of the tree, they saw, not far from where they were, a group of men  and women whose features were quite different from those of ordinary mortals. The hunters  realized that they were gods and goddesses who lived in that part of the mountain. All at once   the hunters stood up and gave the deities due respect. The gods were glad of this gesture. In
 return, they invited the hunters to join them in their banquet.

 The hunters helped in the preparation of the food. They butchered the deer and wild boar and  then placed them one after another over the live coals.

  In a short while, a servant of the gods got some bamboos and placed them over the fire. The   bamboos contained small, white kernels shaped like beads. Soon after, the cooked kernels were   placed in saucer-shaped banana leaves. The table was laden with roasted meat, cooked  vegetables, and fresh fruits. Other bamboos were brought in and these contained what looked
like pure water. The hunters soon learned that the crystal-like substance was not water but,  rather, the wine of the gods.

  At first, the hunters were reluctant in joining the feast after seeing the small, white kernels.

  "We do not eat worms," the chief hunter said.

  The gods smiled. "These white bead-shaped kernels are not worms," replied one of the gods. "They are cooked rice. They come from a certain kind of plant which we ourselves grow. Come  and feast with us. After we have eaten, kill us if you find anything wrong from eating rice."

 After hearing the god's words, the hunters did not argue anymore. They feasted with the gods. They were satisfied and happy, not because they were fed but because of the energy they felt   after eating cooked rice. Their weak bodies became strong.

 After the feast, the hunters thanked the gods.

 Before leaving, every hunter received a sack of palay3 from the gods.

 "This is palay," explained another of the gods. "Pound the palay, winnow and clean it very well. Wash the rice with water and place the washed rice between the internodes of the bamboo with  enough water to be absorbed by the rice. Then place the bamboo over the fire until it is cooked.   The sick will become strong and all of you will be satisfied after eating. Preserve some of the   palay for your seedbed. Start planting during the rainy season. During the dry season, you can  harvest the palay. Go now. Introduce the palay in your village and teach the people how to till  the soil. You will progress and this will stop you from wandering from place to place."

 After thanking the gods, the hunters left for their village. They followed the advice of the gods.   They introduced the eating of cooked rice in their village. They taught their own people how to    till the soil and plant it with palay. After many years, the practice of eating rice and the art of  planting rice became widespread. Other balangays soon adopted the practice of planting rice.

 Since then rice became known to our people. And along with the tilling of the soil, our people also learned to raise animals and to construct permanent dwelling places.
 
NOTES:

  1. Bathala was believed to be the supreme being and the creator of the world by pre-Spanish0 Filipinos who practiced an animo-deist religion. "Bathala" is the name used by the Tagalogs while Cebuanos use "Abba". However, "Bathala" is the most commonly-used name. Not all pre-Spanish-era Filipinos believed in Bathala as there were already Filipinos at that time who practiced the Islamic faith. The word "Bathala" was so generally known that the early Christian missionaries and colonizers decided to retain it as the native translation of "God" ("Dios"). Confusion may arise since modern dictionaries often translate "God" (as in the "God of Abraham") as "Bathala" although one dictionary commented that "Bathala" is used in a vulgar sense. Normally, modern Filipino Christians translate "God" as "Diyos", which is derived from the Spanish "Dios".
  2. "Balangay" means "village".
  3. "Palay" means "rice plant".
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