I’ve been reading various myths on the origins of different foods lately. It’s an interesting and slightly gruesome genre. So many different countries tell stories of how fruits and grains (staple foods, usually) spring originally from someone’s body — often someone divine or supernatural, but not always. And quite often (but not always) female as well. A Mother Earth metaphor, indeed.
I began this blog with one such story: the Bicolano origin myth for bananas. In that story, bananas sprung from the hand of a enkanto (kind of like a fairy) who had lived as a human so he could marry a human woman.
Today I have one from Aklan, in the Visayas:
The First Mangos
Once upon a time there was a wealthy man named Thunder (Daeogdog). He had a terrible temper, but luckily he had a gentle wife, Mabuot (which I think means “kind”) to balance things out. Daeogdog and his wife had a beautiful daughter named Agahon, which means “morning”.
When Agahon was old enough to marry, suitors came from all around to ask for her hand. Daeogdog picked from them a man named Maeopig, who also had an uncontrollable temper, but I imagine must have been very rich. Agahon didn’t want to marry him — who would want a husband like that? — but her father insisted.
Agahon asked her mother to help her change Daeogdog’s mind, and her mother tried. But the more the two women cried and begged, the more stubborn Daeogdog got. It’s a typical reaction to have, when someone suspects they are making a mistake, but doesn’t want to admit it — don’t you think? Especially when they’re bad-tempered to begin with. I think that Agahon’s pleading, and her mother’s tears, too, must have told Daeogdog deep down that marrying his daughter off to Maeopig would be a bad idea. But he’d promised her to the man, and he wasn’t going to back down.
“He’s the one I’ve chosen,” he told his daughter. “I’ve decided, and you must marry him.”
And so they started the preparations for the wedding and the wedding feast. But Agahon locked herself in her room.
All the guests showed up for the wedding feast — it was a big wedding — but they couldn’t find Agahon. They searched the house, they searched all over the village. Nothing. Finally they found her, dead, near a spring outside the village. She had stabbed herself; the knife was still in her heart.
Daeogdog was beside himself with grief (I told you he knew that he was wrong). Agahon’s parents buried her beside the spring, at the spot where they had discovered her body. The night after they buried her, Agahon appeared to Daeogdog in a dream.
“Don’t cry,” she told him. “I’ve left you something to remember me by. Visit my grave, and you’ll see.”
The next morning, Daeogdog and Mabuot went to the grave, and they found a tree growing on the spot. The tree’s branches were heavy with sweet, fragrant, heart-shaped fruit: the first mangos.
My version of the story is based on the one in Readings in Philippine Literature, edited by Celedonio G. Aguilar.
There’s another version of the story that I read somewhere, I don’t remember where (but by coincidence, it was posted just today by someone else) that says that “mango” means “heart”. I don’t speak Aklanon, or any other Visayan dialect, but I can’t find any evidence that this is true. “Heart” is puso in Tagalog, and kasing-kasing in Visayan.