“The Monkey and the Turtle” is a famous fable in the Philippines which has some variation from one storyteller to another. Here is one variation which is believed to be from the Blaan people.
One morning, a monkey and a turtle who were close friends talked about their situation. After a while, the monkey said, let’s go to the forest and make a trap for wild pigs.” The turtle agreed. When they came upon a Dakit tree, they saw the tracks of wild pigs. “Let’s make a trap here.” said the turtle, pointing to a base of the tree.
“No, let’s make one trap up the tree because pigs go there and gather fruit,” said the monkey.
“No, let’s stay down here because the tracks are here.”
“All right, you make your trap here while I make one up the tree.”
So the monkey and the turtle went their separate ways. After setting their traps, the monkey said, “Let’s return after two days. Wild pig should be here by then.”
But the day after the traps were laid, the monkey went back to the dakit tree by himself. The turtle’s trap had a pig, his has a bird. The turtle was right. To save face, the monkey brought the pig from the turtle’s trap to his own and replaced it with the bird caught in his.
On his way home, he met the turtle.
“Where have you been?” asked the turtle.
“I went to the river to take a bath,” was the reply.
As agreed, on the day after the traps were laid, the monkey and the turtle went to the dakit tree.
“Let’s hurry so we can get there early. Last night, I had a good dream. Our traps must surely have something in them,” the monkey said.
The turtle was surprised to find a pig up the tree and a bird in his trap which was set on the ground. He knew the monkey tricked him and told the monkey so. The monkey insisted that he had nothing to do with the result of their catch. Without saying another word, the monkey and the turtle went home with the pig and the bird respectively.
When they came near the monkey’s house, they decided to fight it out.
“Wait,” the monkey said. “I’ll build myself a fort.” He proceeded to make a fort out of banana leaves. He believed them impregnable.
“Shoot first,” the turtle said. “After all you challenged me to this fight. If it were true that my trap caught a bird, pray that i will be killed at once.”
The monkey took careful aim while his family watched from behind the banana fort. The turtle was hit. The monkey rejoiced.
The turtle cried, “You hit my back but I’m protected by my shell. Can’t you see I am alive?”
The monkey was dismayed he was a good sport. “Then shoot,” he called from the fort.
The turtle took careful aim and when his arrow found its mark, he heard a monkey cry. One of the monkey’s children was killed.
“No, I was not hit. It was one of my children,” lied the monkey.
The monkey’s turn to shoot came but the turtle was not afraid, His shell was very thick. The arrows bounced.
Each Each time the turtle released an arrow, it hit the monkey. One by one, the monkey’s wife and children died.
“Why don’t we become friends again?” shouted the monkey from his fort. “I’ll tell you the truth. Your trap caught the pig. It’s yours.”
The monkey and the turtle reconciled once more. If the monkey did not shout after the last of his children was killed, the turtle would have killed him too. They sealed their friendship by partaking of nama from the monkey’s chew box.
Sometimes later, the monkey felt lonely because his wife and children were dead. “Please keep me company,” the monkey pleaded. “We can go to the river and fish.”
They left for the river to fish. At the river bank they saw a banana stalk. “Let’s cut this in two,” the monkey suggested. I’ll take the upper half because the leaves and the fruit are too heavy for you.”
The monkey and the turtle went to their respective kaingin and planted their respective parts. The ext visit to their kaingin brought happiness to turtle and sadness to the monkey. The turtle saw his plant heavy with fruit. The monkey’s plant had wilted.
The monkey volunteered to get the fruit for the turtle. When he was up there, He did not care to go down any more. He ate everything. He was so full that he slept with a banana in his mouth. This made the turtle very mad.
Silently, the turtle planted bamboo stakes around the banana stalk. When the monkey turned on his side, he fell and was at once impaled. Helpless, the monkey agonizingly died.
The turtle feasted on the monkey. His ears were like good buyo leaves, his tail were like betel nut, and his brain tasted like superior lime. He chewed the concoction and was pleased with himself.
On his way home, he met a pack of monkeys who were on their way to the kaingin. They saw the turtle’s black teeth so they asked for some of his nama. He hesitated for a while because he was afraid the monkeys might harm him. Then a wonderful idea struck his mind. He turned his back and wrapped some of his nama in a leaf from a wild tree that grew by the roadside. He told the monkey to open the package only when they reached their kaingin.
The monkeys did as bidden. When they reached their kaingin they gathered around the package and looked forward to a wonder nama. After chewing some, many threw up; others felt weak and dropped dead. Those who did not partake the nama realized that what their companions chewed was a monkey. They decided to run after the turtle and kill him.
The monkeys found the turtle near the riverbank. The turtle was subdued at once. The monkeys laid him on flat stone. Each monkey beat him with a stone. They saw how turtle enjoyed it. “Go ahead, continue beating me so I’ll turn out wide and flat; then I will be able to lick you all with my tail.” So the monkeys decide to throw him into the river. This seemed to frighten the turtle. Seeing how pale the turtle was, the monkeys were sure they decided on the right thing. So into the water the turtle went with a splash.
“Ha-ha!” The monkey heard the turtle laugh. “Don’t you know that i can live in water?”
The monkeys were very mad. Then it happened that a deer was drinking upstream. They asked the deer to drink to drink all the water there so they could get the turtle.
The deer promised to help the monkeys. He asked them to put a stopper in his anus. They used a corn cob to close the orifice.
The monkey waded toward the turtle while the deer drew water from the river. When the monkeys could almost make it to the turtle, tabkuko pecked on the corn cob and out went the water again. Thrice the deer drew the water; thrice did the tabkuko remove the corn cob. Three monkeys drowned.
The tabkuko incurred the monkeys’ wrath because they never succeeded in laying their hands on the turtle. They seized the bird and twisted its neck. The bird writhed in pain and felt its end was near. “You won’t kill me that way. Can’t you see you’re even making me beautiful? See how red my bill is? The harder you twist my neck the redder my bill becomes. But if you want to kill me, pull the feathers and leave me on that stone near the river. In a week’s time you will see worms feasting on my body.”
The monkeys stripped the tabkuko of its entire plume and left it on the stone. After a week, they saw what looked like worms all over the tabkuko’s body. They thought it was rotting. When the monkeys left, the bird stretched its wings and examined what it knew would turn out into beautiful feathers.
But the turtle did not go unpunished. When he went out of the water, he met a red-tailed lizard. He wanted to have a tail as red as the lizard’s. The lizard told him that he only had to climb a red tree and jump from it. The lizard offered to bring him up the tree.
So up the tree they went. The turtle held on to the lizard’s tail as hard as he could, but he slipped! Down he go with a hard crash. His lizard friend went to him but he was beyond help; its shell was broken into a thousand pieces. And while the sun hid behind a tree, the turtle died.