“'Philippine Folk Tales', by Mable Cook Cole. Finished reading 16 Mar 2008. 3/5 stars
I have the opinion that one of the best ways to begin understanding an alien culture is to study their myths, fables and legends. This book is a collection of ancient stories, gathered from just a few of the countless number of native tribes that inhabit the Philippine Islands. Some of the myths explain natural phenomena, or local customs. Some of the stories seem to be incomplete or even mere fragments, as they seem to set up a story, then abruptly end with no resolution (ie the Tinguian stories of the Mistaken Gifts, and the Boy who Became a Stone). There are even a few fables which carry wise morals, ala Aesop (The Man with the Coconuts). Some of the tribes have elaborate myths, such as the Igorot stories of the great God Lumawig, or the Tinguian myths of the spirit goddess Aponibolinayen, and her reluctant demigod husband Aponitolau. Despite the wide variety of stories and myths, one thing seems to be common in all of them – magic betel nuts. My favorites were the elaborate myths of Mindanao, which shows obvious influence from Spain, Arabia and India, and the hilarious Tinguian myths. Most of the legends of the Christianized tribes, by contrast, were simple fables with the most skeletal of frameworks.
The myths are arranged very logically, so that the reader can easily tell similarities between them, and how the different myths must have influenced each other. The footnotes clarify some of the strange customs depicted in some of the stories. I really enjoyed this book. I recommend this book to anyone interested in mythology, or Philippine culture.