Philippine Folk Tales | Annotated Tale

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A GREAT many years ago some Tinguian left their little village in the valley early one morning and made their way toward the mountains. They were off on a deer hunt, [1] and each carried his spear and head-ax, while one held in leash a string of lean dogs eager for the chase.

               Part way up the mountainside the dogs were freed, and the men separated, going different ways in search of game. But ere long the sharp barking of a dog called all in his direction, for they believed that he had a deer at bay. As they approached the spot, however, the object did not look like a deer, and as they drew nearer they were surprised to find that it was a large jar. [2]

               Filled with curiosity they pressed on, but the jar evaded them. Faster and faster they ran, but the object, disappearing at times and then coming into view again, always escaped them. On and on they went until at last, tired out, they sat down on a wooded hill to rest and to refresh themselves with betel-nut which they took from brass boxes attached to their belts.

               As they slowly cut the nuts and wrapped them in the lime and leaf ready for chewing, they talked of nothing but the wonderful jar and the mysterious power it possessed. Then just as they were about to put the tempting morsels into their mouths they stopped, startled by a strange soft voice which seemed to be near them. They turned and listened, but could see no person.

               "Find a pig which has no young," said the voice, "and take its blood, for then you will be able to catch the jar which your dog pursued."

               The men knew then that the mysterious jar belonged to a spirit, so they hastened to do as the voice commanded, and when they had secured the blood the dog again brought the jar to bay. The hunters tried to seize it, but it entered a hole in the ground and disappeared. They followed, and found themselves in a dark cave [3] where it was easy to catch the jar, for there was no outlet save by the hole through which they had entered.

               Though that was many years ago, the jar still lives, and its name is Magsawi. Even now it talks; but some years ago a crack appeared in its side, and since then its language has not been understood by the Tinguian. [4]

               Sometimes Magsawi goes on long journeys alone when he visits his wife, a jar in Ilocos Norte, or his child, a small jar in San Quintin; but he always returns to Domayco on the hillside near the cave.






[1] It is a common sight in a Tinguian village early in the morning during the dry season to see a number of men armed with spears and head-axes leaving for the mountains. They usually take with them, to assist in the chase, a string of half-starved dogs. Often a net is stretched across the runway of game, and then, while some of the hunters conceal themselves near by, others seek to drive the game into the net, where it is speared to death.

[2] Ancient Chinese jars are found throughout the interior of the Philippines and are very closely associated with the folk-lore of the Tinguian. Some of the jars date back to the 10th century, while many are from the 12th and 14th centuries, and evidently entered the Islands through pre-Spanish trade. They are held in great value and are generally used in part payment for a bride and for the settlement of feuds. For more details see Cole, Chinese Pottery in the Philippines, Pub. Field Museum of Nat. Hist, Vol. XII, No. 1.

[3] This cave is situated in the mountains midway between Patok and Santa Rosa. In this vicinity are numerous limestone caves, each of which has its traditions.


[4] Cabildo of Domayco, the envied owner of this jar, has refused great sums offered for its purchase, and though men from other tribes come bringing ten carabao at one time, they cannot tempt him to sell.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Magsawi
Tale Author/Editor: Cole, Mabel Cook
Book Title: Philippine Folk Tales
Book Author/Editor: Cole, Mabel Cook
Publisher: Curtis Brown
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1916
Country of Origin: Philippines
Classification: unclassified

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