Mindanao Folklore

Maranao folktales, fables, myths, and legends have real as well as imaginary settings.  The real ones--Egypt, Medina, Baghdad, Johore, Sumatra, Bandiarmasin, etc.--might be places voyaging ancestors have either visited or heard of and then told to generations of storytellers and listeners.  The imaginary settings, on the other hand, are characteristic of the poetic fancies of a people who live in a time similar to the Homeric Age of oral stories, songs, and poems.


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The Agamaniyog Folktales is a collection of popular stories in the oral tradition around the Lanao region.   Agamaniyog is the most frequent imaginary setting of the popular Maranao folktales and fables.  Loaned to both Malay and Maranao languages, agama is originally a Sanskrit word for "religion." The Maranao extended  the meaning of the word to include a town or village which had land, people, a mosque, wealth, and power distinct from those of its neighbors.  Niyog is the Philippine word for "coconut," and so agamaniyog means "land of coconuts."   In many folktales, agamaniyog is a land of splendor and glory, and a variety of plots and characters are woven into its fabric in stories that either merely entertain or teach lessons about good and evil. 

Many of the Agamaniyog tales and fables combine pathos, humor, and moral lessons.  The three selections that are presented here are typical of the story-telling tradition in the region.

(Source: The Agamaniyog Folktales. Mindanao Art and Culture, Number One, 1979.   Marawi City: University Research Center, Mindanao State University)

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A Lesson for the Sultan

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Long ago in Agamaniyog, the best-known, wealthy couple were Solotan sa Agamaniyog and his wife, Ba'i sa Agamaniyog.  They were so wealthy that they owned almost half of the land in Agamaniyog.  They had large herds of cows, carabaos, and horses.  One morning, when the couple went down to the lakeshore to pray, they happened to pass by the small hut of a poor couple, Lokes a Mama and Lokes a Babay, who were quarreling and shouting at each other.

The quarreling couple blamed each other for their misfortune in life.  Lokes a Babay blamed Lokes a Mama for being lazy and not knowing how to raise a family and to make a good living.  On the other hand, Lokes a Mama put the blame on his wife who, he said, did not know how to be thrifty.

Overhearing the quarrel, the Sultan and Ba'i of Agamaniyog stepped in and admonished Lokes a Mama and Lokes a Babay.  When they got home, the Sultan and Ba'i of Agamaniyog talked about the quarrel between the poor couple until they themselves began to argue.  Solotan sa Agamaniyog blamed Lokes a Mama for being incapable of making life prosperous for his family.  Ba'i sa Agamaniyog put the blame on Lokes a Babay.  She said, "If Lokes a Mama were well managed by a good wife, he could be a good husband who could make a good living."

The Sultan and Ba'i could not keep from arguing, each one insisting at being right, until their argument resulted in a serious quarrel.  Each swore that he/she could reform the poor couple by managing one of them.  In the heat of their argument, the Sultan and the Ba'i of Agamaniyog agreed to part ways.

The Sultan brought Lokes a Babay to live with him and Ba'i sa Agamaniyog in turn went to live with Lokes a Mama.  Before she left the torogan (royal house), she said, "Someday Solotan sa Agamaniyog will pick up the leftovers of Lokes a Mama."  The sultan smiled and swore that, as long as he had the strength and the means, such an event would not happen.

The Sultan offered his new companion everything she wanted.  Lokes a Babay demanded to have livers of a cow and carabao to eat every day at every meal, and these were given her.

One day the Sultan of Balantankairan came to visit.  Solotan sa Agamaniyog was very embarrassed at the dry welcome that Lokes a Babay showed his royal visitor.  She served neither his visitor nor him.  It was at this time that he became convinced that Lokes a Babay was lazy and capricious.  He also realized that his wealth had gradually vanished.

Meanwhile, Ba'i sa Agamaniyog could not even climb up the small hut of Lokes a Mama because it had no ladder.  When she told him to make one, Lokes a Mama answered that he had no tools.  She said, "You're really silly. Why don't you have any?" She gave him her knife and told him to use twigs if that were what it would take to make a ladder.  Once inside the hut, Ba'i sa Agamaniyog told Lokes a Mama not to come near her, because in reality she was not yet divorced from her husband but had only a temporary arrangement with him.  She asked him for food, but Lokes a Mama could not offer any.   She told him to gather ferns from the forest for dinner.

Ba'i sa Agamaniyog would often send Lokes a Mama to the forest to gather plenty of firewood.  Sitting by the window one day, she saw a huge tree that stood out from the others.  She asked Lokes a Mama about it and learned that it was kaya-o sandana (sandalwood), a very useful tree.  She told him to cut down the tree, chop it to pieces, separate the branches from the trunk, and store all the pieces under their hut.
The Sultan of Balantankairan was looking for sandalwood.  Lokes sa Mama told him about the sandana stored in his hut.  He said that in Agamaniyog no one would find such a tree except the one he had.  The Sultan, very much interested, said he was willing to pay any price provided there was enough sandalwood to fill his boat.   He said he was willing to leave behind all that he had in the boat, including his seven maids and seven servants.  Lokes a Mama immediately led the Sultan to his stored sandalwood and the Sultan took all aboard his boat, paid Lokes a Mama generously and left.

Ba'i sa Agamaniyog and Lokes a Mama became rich. A beautiful torogan was soon erected, and Ba'i sa Agamaniyog ordered two kanter (beds).  She bought a sultan's tobao (headdress) for Lokes a Mama and changed his name to Maradiya Dinda. She was always surrounded by her seven maids, and Lokes a Mama, now Maradiya Dinda, was always escorted by his seven male servants.

One morning Solotan sa Agamaniyog found a tobao and was told that it was Maradiya Dinda's.  Taking it with him, he went up the torogan of Maradiya and saw him lying in bed like a sultan, while on the side was his former wife, whose demeanor teasingly reminded him of the good fortune they had before they were separated.   Upon seeing him she said, "My dear Solotan, do you remember when I said that someday you will pick up leftovers from Lokes sa Mama?"

Blinded with tears, the Sultan hardly found his way out and went home. He then became sickly and nearly died from all his heartaches.

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Monki, Makil, and the Monkeys

There once lived in the sultanate of Agamaniyog a couple named Monki and Makil.  Their house was built near the forest.  Monki and Makil were hard workers.  They planted rice, mango, lanzones, guava, sugarcane, and many kinds of fruits and vegetables.  Whenever the fruits and rice were ripe and the sugarcane had grown tall, a large number of monkeys would come.  They would eat all the rice, sugarcane, and fruits, and destroy the remaining plants.  One of the monkeys' leaders was Amomantaragaga.  He was a very big monkey, and Makil feared him.  The monkeys became a problem of Monki and Makil as well as of the people of Agamaniyog.

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One day Monki and Makil carried out a plan.  Makil let his wife place a piece of white cloth over his body, cry a kandidiagao (a cry of grief), and say, "Why did Makil die? He was very good to all the people! He planted sweet fruits and plenty of sugarcane."

When the monkeys heard Monki's cry, they decided to help her.  The leader of the monkeys said, "We shall help Monki, because it is really true that Makil was a good man.  He always planted fruits for us."  So all the monkeys went to the house of Monki.  The leader of the monkeys asked her, "What can we do? Can we help you? Please tell us how we can help you!"

Monki replied, "Oh, my friends, Makil will not die if you help him sit up."

So they helped Makil sit up.  The leader asked, "Can you tell us what else we can do to help you?"

"Oh, my friend monkeys, you are very good to me!" continued Monki. "Makil will not die if you help him stand up."  So they helped him stand up.

"What else can we do, Monki?" asked the leader of the monkeys.

"Oh, my friend monkeys, if you give this kampilan (long combat sword) to Makil, I promise you that we shall plant more sugarcane just for you," said Monki.  When Amomantaragaga saw the kampilan he became wary and went out of the house.   As soon as Makil received the kampilan, Monki closed the door and Makil killed all the monkeys in the house.  Only Amomantaragaga escaped.

One day Makil and Monki had another good idea.  They made a litag (bamboo trap) in order to catch Amomantaragaga.  Early in the morning, they went out to see if the trap had caught the monkey.  In fact it had caught an animal, but it did not look like a monkey.  They were annoyed when they came near and found out that the animal was a heron.  This heron was called Tatalaonga.

"Why are you here, Tatalaonga?" asked Makil. "I'll kill you because you are the reason why I did not catch Amomantaragaga."

"Oh, datu, please don't kill me," pleaded the heron. "If you set me free, I'll go and kill Amomantaragaga myself!"

So Makil set the heron free.  Tatalaonga asked Makil to make a raft from pieces of sugarcane.  When the raft was finished, Makil brought it to the river, and Tatalaonga perched on it.  Drifting along, Tatalaonga passed Amomantaragaga by the banks of the river and invited the monkey to go rafting with him.  The two continued down the river on the raft.

Tatalaonga took a piece of sugarcane to use as a pole to move the raft, and then he took another one and gave it to Amomantaragaga, who greedily ate the pole.  The monkey ate one cane after another, until only one piece was left.  At that instance, Tatalaonga flew away and left Amomantaragaga to drown in the river.

Monki and Makil and the sultan of Agamaniyog and his people were happy to be rid of the pestering monkeys.

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Tiny Bird

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Long ago in the land of Agamaniyog, there lived a couple who made a living by hunting wild animals and birds with the use of traps.  It was their habit to set their traps late in the afternoon and visit them early the next morning.  The husband's name was Lokes a Mama;  the wife's name, Lokes a Babay.

One night, while Lokes a Babay was fast asleep, Lokes a Mama went out alone to visit the traps.  He found that his trap, which was set up on a tree, had caught a tiny bird, while Lokes a Babay's trap, which was set on the ground, had caught a fat deer.   Lokes a Mama thought of cheating his wife.  He took the fat deer and tied it on the branch where his trap was set, and he took the bird and tied it on his wife's trap.   Then he went home to bed.

He woke his wife up very early in the morning and told her that it was time to inspect their traps.  So together they went.  Lokes a Babay was surprised to see a big fat deer in the trap up the tree, while her trap on the ground had caught a very small bird.  Without saying a word she brought home her catch and built a cage for it.   Lokes a Mama, on the other hand, brought home his catch and cooked it.  He enjoyed his meals of deer meat for three days without offering anything to his wife.

After three days, Lokes a Mama invited his wife to set their traps again.  So they went to the same place and set their traps on the same spots.  The wife could not climb a tree, so her trap was again set on the ground.  That night Lokes a Babay pretended to fall asleep.  At midnight she heard her husband go down the stairs.   She had an idea about his purpose but did not bother to follow him; instead, she forced herself to go to sleep.  In her sleep, she dreamed that her pet bird would lay montias (precious stones) if she would feed it palay (rice) every day.

The next morning she was again awakened by her husband and invited to see their traps.   She told him to go alone, pretending she had a headache.  When her husband had left, she fed her pet bird some palay, and--wonder of wonders!--she saw a shining little diamond laid by her pet bird.  "I'm rich! I'm rich! I'm rich!" she kept on saying.  Then she hid her precious stone and went back to bed.

From then on, she would feed her pet bird regularly so that every day she could pick up a tiny stone from the cage, and her husband would not know about it.

One day she told her husband, "I can no longer stand the way you treat me as a wife.  I know you have been cheating on me.  For this reason, I agree to a divorce.  From now on, we will live separately and not disturb each other's lives."

Lokes a Mama felt guilty but only for a moment because he had been wanting to divorce his wife.  Lokes a Babay bade him goodbye and left to lead a new life while Lokes a Mama continued his game hunting.

Lokes a Babay built a torogan (royal house) in a nearby settlement.  She had guards and slaves to serve her.  When Lokes a Mama heard of her good fortune, he wanted to reconcile with her, but every time he went to see her, the guards would stop him at the gate.

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