The Origin of Sex Differences: A B’laan myth

01 LucaCambiaso Circa1560

Once upon a time, there were no men and women, only people. This is how the difference came to be.

Before there were people, there was the Supreme Deity, Melu. Melu had two assistants, Fiu Weh (the good spirit) and Tasu Weh (the evil spirit). Fiu Weh and Tasu Weh served as sort of the yin and yang of creation.

When Melu decided to create people, he assigned the job to Tasu Weh. Tasu Weh created people out of clay, and he gave them sex organs. But rather than split the sex organs fifty-fifty among his creations, he gave everyone both. The penis he put on one knee, and the vagina on the other.

When Fiu Weh went down to survey creation, he noticed that the people Tasu Weh had created weren’t doing any work. They were too busy having sex — with themselves. It felt sooooooo good that they wouldn’t stop, not to hunt, not to plant, not even to build shelters for themselves.

“This isn’t working,” Fiu Weh told Tasu Weh. “Maybe you should give each person only one sex organ, either a penis or a vagina. Both seems a bit too much.”

But Tasu Weh refused.

“If you want to make a person with just a penis, and another with just a vagina, go ahead! I’m not changing mine.”

So Fiu Weh made two people, Adnato and Andawi. To Adnato he gave only a penis, and to Andawi only a vagina. And Fiu Weh looked at his work, and saw that it was good.

Because the the pair weren’t completely distracted having sex with themselves, they could pay attention to feeding and clothing and sheltering themselves, so they thrived. Since that time, people with penises have been called men, and people with vaginas have been called women.

  • The B’laan are one of the indigenous peoples of Southern Mindanao in the Philippines.
  • My retelling is based primarily on a story recorded in Folk Literature of the Philippines, Vol 2: The Myths, compiled and edited by Damiana L. Eugenio. She got the story from Cesar Lutero’s 1986 Master’s Thesis, Blaan Folk Literature. I’ve embellished the story a bit in the retelling, and mashed it up with another B’laan creation story, but it’s still basically the story Dr. Eugenio records.
  • The other creation story (the one with the names of the first man and woman) is mentioned briefly in “Creation Myths among the Early Filipinos” by Francisco Demetrio. It’s available on JSTOR if you belong to a subscribing institution or have a MyJSTOR account. In that version, the first man and woman are created by Melu and Fiu Weh.
  • The illustration above is Group of Figures by sixteenth century artist Luca Cambiaso.

7 thoughts on “The Origin of Sex Differences: A B’laan myth

  1. A charming story. Unfortunately, I was the victim of a different sex myth when I asked my dad where I came from. “I planted the seed,” he said, then left the room. It was some time before I figured out that my family didn’t come from a line of farmers!

    1. Haha! I saw a comedy video once where a kid asked his parents where he came from. The answer (accompanied with the appropriate stressed-to-be-asked-this-question face): “We found you in a garbage can. Now go away.”

    1. I believe it’s an undersketch (well, a planned undersketch/study) for one of his paintings (though I don’t know which one). It’s his most famous undersketch, though there are a few more running around. The others aren’t as angular as this one. It’s my favorite.

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