Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Folklore - Myths and Legends: Legacy of Philippine Literature

 Like Lola Basyang relating folklore to children, we imagine a campfire, around it our ancestors exchanged knowledge and recounted experiences, with spices of imagination and superstition. It was a prototype open university. Throughout the ages and countless generations a wealth of native knowledge and folk wisdom accumulated but not much of it has survived.

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Statue of Lola Basyang, the greatest Filipino storyteller for children ranks among the world's famous storytellers like the Grimm Brothers, Scheherazade, Hans Anderson, Aesop and Homer. Severino Reyes, also known as Don Binoy, adopted the persona of a woman we know as Lola Basyang, an elderly woman fond of telling stories to her grandchildren.The statue is in  Bagac, Bataan.


Myths and legends are most popular on the grassroots, enjoyed by both young and old, with the latter usually taking the role of a narrator of “once upon and time” and “in the land of fairies and giants” stories.  And not enough they fill the imagination, proceed to tell hair-raising stories in the world of monsters and spirits. A dog howls, a bat swoops down in high pitch notes, the audience huddles closer…

Imagine Lola Basyang seated in an armchair beside a flickering hearth, children of all ages (and adults, too), begging for more stories – stories so powerful the bond of generations becomes closer and stronger. In make-believe stories the imagination is more powerful than reason, which paves to a realm of mystery and fantasy.  

 Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are the world most popular epics.  From the time of the Greeks to this day, they were passed on from generation to generation through oral tradition.  

Myths and legends open the gate to freedom from realities of life, seeking relief in another world, and when we return, we are transformed and humbled, we are stronger in our resolve and task.  Legends make us giants, and myths give us wings.  

We imagine our ancestors huddled around a campfire exchanging knowledge and recounting experiences, with spices of imagination and superstition. It was a prototype open university.

Throughout the ages and countless generations a wealth of native knowledge and folk wisdom accumulated but not much of it has survived.
 Mark Twain, in real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens, wrote children's adventure, the most popular is Huckleberry Finn.  It has a sequel Tom Sawyer.  He is shown here in academic gown after receiving the degree of Doctor of Literature (Lt.D) 

Homer’s epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were carried by oral tradition of storytelling, so with Aesop’s fables, surviving many centuries and finding immortality in books and media today. And would we look farther than the timelessness of Christ lessons in parables? The Sermon on the Mount, The Prodigal Son, the Sower, The Good Samaritan. 

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, lexicographers and authors who together collected and published folklore. 

These and many more, continue to live in the home, school, and pulpit as they persisted in the catacombs in the beginnings of Christianity. Because Homer, Aesop, Christ and other early authors did not write, it is through oral history, in spite of its limitations and informal nature that these masterpieces were preserved and transcended to us - thanks to our ancestors, and to tradition itself.

Just as the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans – and even the remote and lesser ancient civilizations like the Aztecs and the Mayas had their own cultural heritage, so have we in our humble ways. Panday Pira attests to early warfare technology, the Code of Kalantiao, an early codification of law and order, the Herbolario, who to the present is looked upon with authority as the village doctor. And of course, we should not fail to mention the greatest manifestation of our architectural genius and grandiose aesthetic sense – the Banawe Rice Terraces, which through centuries spawned legends, folklores and myths unique in the culture of the place..
Jules Verne, world's greatest science fiction writer.  Author of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Eighty Days Around the World, among other works. 

On the lighter side, who of us don’t know Lam-ang, our own epic hero, the counterpart of England’s Beowulf? Juan Tamad, the counterpart of Rip Van Winkle? Who would not identify himself with Achilles or Venus? Ivanhoe, Robin Hood, Lapu-Lapu, Angalo – how could boys be more happy and become real men without these and other legendary characters? And we ask the same to girls becoming women without Cinderella and Maria Makiling? On my part, like other boys in my time, boyhood could not have been spent in any better way without the science fictions of Jules Vernes – Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Eighty Days Around the World – and the adventures of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It is the universality of human thoughts and values that is the key to the timelessness of tradition – indeed the classical test of true masterpieces.

 Aesop was an Ancient Greek fabulist or story teller credited with a 
number of fables now collectively known as Aesop's Fables.

And would we say the least about children stories? We can only wonder with awe at the determination of the Grimm Brothers going to the villages of Europe soon after the Dark Ages began to end, and the light of learning began to dawn again, the two scholars retrieving the fragments and remnants of stories surviving the darkest period of history of mankind. And what do we know? These stories, together with the stories from the 1001 Arabian Nights, have kept the flame of human hope and joy alive in cradles, around the hearth, on the bedside – even as the world was uncertain and unkind.

We ask ourselves, if it is only truth that can withstand the test of time. Or if it is only events that really happened constitute history. And if there were any tinge that these stories were based on the culture of a people in their own time, would we not find them, we who live on the other side of the globe and in another time, find them strange?

Rediscovering indigenous knowledge and folk wisdom enlarges and enhances our history and tradition and contribute immensely to the quaintness of living. It is to the old folks that we owe much gratitude and respect because they are our living link with the past. They are the Homer of Iliad and the Odyssey of our times, so to speak. They are the Disciples of Christ’s parables, the Fabulists of Aesop. They are the likes of the natural healers of Fuga Island, a certain Ilocano farmer by the name of Juan Magana who recited Biag ni Lam-ang from memory, Mang Vicente Cruz, an herbolario of Bolinao, Pangasinan, whom I interviewed about the effectiveness of herbal medicine. It is to people who, in spite of genetic engineering, would still prefer the taste of native chicken and upland rice varieties, old folks incanting “baribari” as they walk through the thickets to appease the unseen. 

Severino "Lola Basyang" Reyes
Greatest Filipino Children's Story Teller  


"Lola Basyang" is the pen name of Severino Reyes, founder and editor of the Tagalog magazine Liwayway. From 1925, Reyes wrote a series of stories for children under the title Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang (The Stories of Grandmother Basyang). The original magazine stories have been adapted for comics (komiks), television, the cinema, and published in book form. Severino Reyes was 75 years of age when he wrote the first Lola Basyang story "Ang Plautin ni Periking", which was about a kindhearted kid who had a magical flute and flying carpet. Liwayway andBannawag (Dawn in Tagalog and Ilokano, respectively are published by Manila Bulletin, and their circulation is worldwide, catering to Filipinos abrod. Reyes' works have been widely circulated through komiks, books, movies, stage plays, radio and TV, and continue to the present on multimedia. His works are as immortal as the children's stories compiled by the Grimm Brothers, 1001 Arabian Nights, Hans Anderson's stories, and children's stories of Oscar Wilde. Reyes is a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas. ~

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