According to the American anthropologist Mabel Cook Cole, compiler of this volume, this collection of folk tales from the Philippines was the first of its kind, at least in the English language. There's a huge variety of stories presented, sourced from both the more traditional tribes, including the headhunters of the rugged mountain regions, and from those "Christianized natives" whose examples bear evidence of their European influence. Most of the stories are from the former, however, with many of these hailing from what are called the "first times", involving mischievous spirits, talking jars, and the antics of personified celestial beings, bickering suns and moons. There are also several origin and "pourqoi" stories, such as an explanations as to why dogs wag their tales (which apparently is to show that they are not that dog who lost a magic ring). Cole also includes what she calls "fables", many which share similarities with European stories, and which are "told to children or to while away the midday hours when people seek shaded spots to rest or stop on the trail to rest".
Here's a story from the Igorot, a headhunter tribe, about how the first head was taken.
One day the Moon, who was a woman named Kabigat, sat out in the yard making a large copper pot. The copper was still soft and pliable like clay, and the woman squatted on the ground with the heavy pot against her knees while she patted and shaped it. Now while she was working a son of Chal-chal, the Sun, came by and stopped to watch her mould the form. Against the inside of the jar she pressed a stone, while on the outside with a wooden paddle dripping with water she pounded and slapped until she had worked down the bulges and formed a smooth surface. The boy was greatly interested in seeing the jar grow larger, more beautiful, and smoother with each stroke, and he stood still for some time. Suddenly the Moon looked up and saw him watching her. Instantly she struck him with her paddle, cutting off his head. Now the Sun was not near, but he knew as soon as the Moon had cut off his son’s head. And hurrying to the spot, he put the boy’s head back on, and he was alive again. Then the Sun said to the Moon, “You cut off my son’s head, and because you did this ever after on the earth people will cut off each other’s heads.”
Cole spent four years amongst the traditional Philippines tribes along with her husband Fay-Cooper Cole who was an ethnologist for the Field Museum of Natural History and whose photographs of daily village life are dotted throughout the collection. The stories were apparently noted down first hand, from around campfires, visits to homes, and also as heard "chanted by the pagan priests in communion with the spirits".
Mar 6, 2019