IN a certain town there once lived a couple who had never had a child. They had been married for nearly five years, and were very anxious for a son. The name of the wife was Clara; and of the man, Philip.
One cloudy night in December, while they were talking by the window of their house, Clara said to her husband that she was going to pray the novena [nine consecutive days of praying], so that heaven would give them a child. "I would even let my son serve the devil, if he would but give us a son!"
As her husband was willing that she should pray the novena, Clara began the next day her fervent devotions to the Virgin Mary. She went to church every afternoon for nine days. She carried a small prayer book with her, and prayed until six o'clock every evening. At last she finished her novenario, but no child was born to them, and the couple was disappointed.
A month had passed, when, to their great happiness, Clara gave birth to a son. The child they nicknamed Idó. Idó was greatly cherished by his parents, for he was their only child; but he did not care much to stay at home. He early began to show a fondness for travelling abroad, and was always to be found in the dense woods on the outskirts of the town.
One afternoon, when the family was gathered together around a small table, talking, a knock was heard at the door.
"Come in!" said Philip.
"No, I just want to talk with your wife," answered a hoarse voice from without.
Clara, trembling, opened the door, and, to her great surprise, she saw standing there a man who looked like a bear.
"A devil, a devil!" she exclaimed.
But the devil pacified her, and said, "Clara, I have come here to get your son you promised me a long time ago. Now that the day has come when your son can be of some service to me, will you deny your promise?"
Clara could make no reply at first. She merely called her son; and when he came, she said to the devil, "Here is my son. Take him, since he is yours."
Idó, who was at this time about seventeen years old, was not frightened by the devil.
"Come," said the devil, "and be my follower!"
At first Idó refused. But he finally consented to go, because of his mother's promise.
The devil now took Idó to his cave, far away outside the town. He tried in many ways to tempt Idó, but was unable to do so, because Idó was a youth of strong character. Finally the devil decided to exchange clothes with him. Idó was obliged to put on the bear-like clothes of the devil and to give him his own soldier suit.
Then the devil produced a large bag full of money, and said to Idó, "Take this money and go traveling about the world for seven years. If you live to the end of that time, and spend this money only in doing good, I will set you free. If, however, you spend the money extravagantly, you will have to go to hell with me." When had said these words, he disappeared.
Idó now began his wanderings from town to town. Whenever people saw him, they were afraid of him, and would refuse to give him shelter; but Idó would give them money from his bag, and then they would gather about him and be kind to him.
After many years he happened to come to a town where he saw an old woman summoned before a court of justice. She was accused of owing a sum of money, but was unable to pay her debt and the fine imposed on her.
When Idó paid her fine for her and thus released her from prison, the woman could hardly express her gratitude. As most of the other people about were afraid of Idó and he had no place to sleep, this woman decided to take him home with her.
Now, this old woman had three daughters. When she reached home with the bear-like man, she called her eldest daughter, and said, "Now, my daughter, here is a man who delivered me from prison. As I can do nothing to reward him for his great kindness, I want you to take him for your husband."
The daughter replied, "Mother, why have you brought this ugly man here? No, I cannot marry him. I can find a better husband."
On hearing this harsh reply, the mother could not say a word. She called her second daughter, and explained her wishes to her; but the younger daughter refused, just as her sister had refused, and she made fun of the man.
The mother was very much disappointed, but she was unable to persuade her daughters to marry her benefactor. Finally she determined to try her youngest daughter. When the daughter heard her mother's request, she said, "Mother, if to have me marry this man is the only way by which you can repay him for his kindness, I'll gladly marry him."
The mother was very much pleased, but the two older daughters were very angry with their sister. The mother told the man of the decision of her youngest daughter, and a contract was signed between them. But before they were married, the bear-like man asked permission from the girl to be absent for one more year to finish his duty. She consented to his going, and gave him half her ring as a memento.
At the end of the year, which was the last of his seven years' wandering, the bear-like man went to the devil, and told him that he had finished his duty.
The devil said, "You have beaten me. Now that you have performed your seven years' wandering, and have spent the money honestly, let us exchange clothes again!"
So the man received back his soldier-like suit, which made him look like a knight, and the devil took back his bearskin.
Then the man returned to Clara's house. When his arrival was announced to the family, the two older daughters dressed themselves in their best, for they thought that he was a suitor come to see them. But when the man showed the ring and asked for the hand of Clara's youngest daughter, the two nearly died with vexation, while the youngest daughter was very happy.
Fansler's source: "Narrated by Elisa Cordero, a Tagalog from Pagsanjan, La Laguna, who heard the story from a Tagalog friend."
Fansler, Dean S. Filipino Popular Tales. Lancaster and New York: American Folk-Lore Society, 1921.