Michelle De La Cruz
25 Years Old
The Story of Pina
“There is an old story my grandmother use to tell me, it was about pineapples and working hard. I’m sure the details vary, and I am positive the names were ones my grandmother chose because it was names from her favorite books as a child I think… these names were familiar to us in a lot of her stories. It loosely went something along these lines: Once in a mystic jungle near the beach on the sands of the Philippines lived a man and a woman named June, and Mara. They weren’t very rich, they weren’t very powerful, but they were two of the hardest working people in their village, and everyone loved them for it. Every day they would farm and work hard to keep a healthy livestock, to sell back to the village, and the village appreciated how hard they worked. One day, while sitting in their hut, enjoying dinner, Mara turns to June and says (I have great news, you’re going to be a father!) “aking mahal ako ay may magandang balita , ang iyong pagpunta sa maging isang ama” They cried tears of joy, and for the first two years they lived in pure bliss with Pina, their new baby girl. Sadly June grew sick, and when Pina was only two they lost his light from the family.
“Poor Mara had to continue without him. She was a hard working woman who always did what she had to make sure little Pina never grew up without a thing, she worked to always put food on the table and made sure the house was always clean for her daughter. Though she never asked for much from Pina, Mara rarely complained, because she was always willing to do what was needed to have ends meet. As the years passed she began to do everything for Pina. So much that Pina never wanted to do anything for herself. She grew lazy and refused to look for things. Mara would ask Pina to help her with sweeping the hut, but Pina said she could not find the broom sitting right in front of her. Mara asked Pina to wash her clothes, but she said she couldn’t find the soap. Pina was so lazy, she said she couldn’t find things sitting right in front of her nose.
“One day her mother because very ill. So ill she was stuck in bed, crying from pain. She yelled for Pina to help. “Pina, please help me, I am took sick to do it my self and I am so desperate for porridge. “ Pina heard but did not reply. After several minutes of silence Mara grew angered and called for Pina to come to her room. “I’m too weak Pina, please, I need food.” “That’s so much work, I don’t want to make you food,” Pina replied. “Don’t be lazy Pina, all you have to do is put water and rice to boil, and stir it with the ladle every so often. I just need food to eat. Please Pina, I am too weak to make it myself. “ Pina didn’t like hearing she was lazy, so she ran into the kitchen and began banging around drawers and pots. “I don’t see the ladle. This is too hard for me right now. Its not fair!” “It’s in the drawer Pina, it’s always right there! Just look! Please.” Mara sighed and cried to herself, “I wish you would grow a thousand eyes all over your head! Then you can find what you’re looking for. Maybe then you won’t have any excuses!” an hour went by and Mara suspected Pina had been too quiet- she must have run away to play with a friend. Mara pushed herself up from bed and sluggishly went to the kitchen and began cleaning up the tantrum Pina had left behind. She slowly looked around at the mess and sighed, “She probably went to a friend’s house so I wouldn’t make her clean all this up.” She made her food and went back to bed.
“She slept with a fever all night, and in the morning when she woke, her fever was gone. She walked outside and called for Pina, but still no response or Pina. She looked out into the backyard and saw a tree growing from the Pina’s favorite play spot. For weeks she mourned over the thought of her daughter running away because she thought she was so terrible, she vowed she would never make Pina do another thing again. She broke her back cleaning the house, and every night she made Pina’s favorite food, in hopes she would forgive her and come home. One day, she was sweeping the backyard where Pina used to play, for months now the strange plant had been growing and by this time the leaves of the plant had fully opened. Inside, she saw this strange yellow fruit that resembled a child’s head with a thousand eyes. Mara shrieked as she walked towards the fruit remembering what curse she wished upon her daughter. From this day on the Magical fruit was named Pina or Pineapple, celebrated as a reminder to always work hard and not be lazy. As well as reminding you to never wish harm unto others, and learn to control your temper when mad.”
“Sometimes I think I work really hard and really put my all into things because I the back of my mind I don’t want any one turning me into a lazy pineapple. As a kid I enjoyed eating pineapples, this story made me feel like when I did I was eating lazy kids. Didn’t really freak me out though, and to this day that is why some times I am myself lazy, because I ate too much of it right out of pineapples as a kid. My grandma would always joke, pineapples aren’t before work food, they are an after work treat for that reason. If you eat them before you do your work, it will never get done. She used to always say that because pineapple have so many eyes they are good for you to see better… so she would say “Chelle, clean your glasses off and eat some pineapple, maybe then you will see…” it was always a weird thing to my friends, but I still relate this story to why pineapples are my favorite fruit and why I always think of it as a fruit to eat in celebration of a job well done!
“My grandma used to tell us these stories while we cooked. And this was one she chose when ever we wished harm on one other of if none of us helped out she would threaten to wish us into pineapples. Also some times when we wanted to eat pineapples we would make her tell it so we could joke about eating kids and being lazy cannibals… my cousins and I are really weird haha! I can remember most the words in fluent Tagalog, but as the years passed and I grew less fluent it became more and more English .. except for that one line I remember verbally in Tagalog. My grandma would always say that line as if she was saying it to grandpa. I know for sure my grandma changed stuff because she always gave character names but I remember another friend at church told me she had heard of it when she was young. So I think the story exists in other families too. I don’t think my grandfather’s side has that story, though. I remember we talked about that at her funeral reception.”
Origin: as far as Michelle knows, there are many stories based on fruit in the Philippines.
Analysis: This seems to be a cautionary tale for children, as well as an entertaining one that explains the origins of a popular fruit. It is a good bit of narrative family folklore, and although the names were chosen at will by the grandmother, the story itself is fairly well known in the Philippines. As they were immigrants, it was a helpful way to keep oral traditions alive and tie them back to the community they had left. It is a fable, as it tries to impart lessons onto the children that they carry with them: do not be lazy and don’t wish harm unto others rashly.
For another version of this story, please see Philippine Myth on the Origin of the Pineapple, online at http://www.philippinesinsider.com/myths-folklore-superstition/philippine-myth-on-the-origin-of-the-pineapple/
Calvert Middle School Ghost
Origin: Prince Frederick, Maryland, USA
Story: When I was in middle school, I was told this by my friends. This middle school used to be a high school, and there was access to the pool in the basement. There were two guys and a girl who skipped class and went to play by the pool. They all were koking around when one of the guys fell into the pool and hit his head. Both his friends let him in the pool when they saw the blood. Now, his ghost haunts Calvert Middle School, and is looking for his friends who left him. Every time the doors open in the school randomly and no-one is standing there, it is said the ghost has entered the room. When a door slams closed, it is said the ghost has left.
Analysis: This is an urban legend told amongst children in the playground, so it is childrens folklore. It serves as a message against disobedience by ditching class, as an explanation for opened and closed doors, and against disloyalty to one’s friends above all. This reflects the values that children hold, and the pervasiveness of the ghost story means that dying from betrayal from your friends would be a significant enough emotional trauma to result in a ghost.
Баба Яга (Old Lady Yaga)
“A scary old witch who lives in the forest in a hut that has chicken legs. She is usually like a boogeyman figure who will kidnap and eat children if they don’t behave, or if they wander alone into the forest. Baba Yaga is generally malicious, and flies around in a stoop with a broom for steering. She eats children and hapless travelers in the forest, and is said to be immortal. At the same time, if you’re a hero in a legend, she will give you tests and if you pass them, she can’t eat you and must grudgingly point you in the right direction. She is not always immediately evil: often she will pretend to be a kind old lady who is very hospitable, and will offer you a place to stay for the night. But most of her hospitality is a trap: the water with which you bathe might be boiled, the food might trap you in her clutches, and the bed makes you fall asleep so she can prey on you. However, she is often wise and if you can use common sense and get around her sometimes obvious traps, she will aid you in your quest.”
Analysis: This is a legend which also has links in numerous fairytales. Propp identified her as a typical villain figure, or, more often, a test for the main hero that he needed to pass in order to succeed. Baba Yaga does not usually seem an active figure unless she is dealing with children. This is probably used in stories to children in order to make them behave and not wander off into the woods. When it comes to adults, however, Baba Yaga does not seek them out but rather waits for them to come to her. There are many, many different conceptions of Baba Yaga in Russian folklore. Her appearance as an old woman both gives her an appearance of wisdom and age, and might also represent the separation of old women from society and family life in some respects: she is no longer bearing children, nor can she actively participate in household chores. In the village life in Russia, old women were sometimes seen as a burden, one more mouth to feed that had no concrete wisdom to give (being a woman). The idea of old women as witches is also a very popular one in Russia and Europe. That she has a broom reinforces the image. However, it does not accuse all old women of witchcraft, unlike Europe and the US: this is a singular character with a single name, as well known as ‘the boogeyman’ or ‘La Siguanaba’ in other cultures.
Russian ROTC proverb
“Мама с папой говорят, что самое ценное, чему научил воинкомат в университете это то, что в любой непонятной ситуации “Первое- уяснить задачу. Затем принять план действий. Далее приступить к выполнению” Они одновременно смеются над источником сей мудрости и передают её своим детям в минуты, когда те сомневаются о чем либо. ”
Translation: “Mom and Dad say that they had a ROTC coach who’s sole wisdom imparted to all in his charge was that in any uncertain circumstance, “The first thing is to determine the objective. The second – to make a plan of action. The third is to put that plan into life.” They make fun of him to this day but they also pass on his advice to their children who know it by heart.”
Context: The ROTC in Russia was compulsory for everyone in university in the Soviet Union, and had many formal yet inspiring phrases that were drilled into the minds of the students. Some were bureaucratic and redundant in the extreme, and students would mock their formality. However, that same process would also make them remember it more, and perhaps had a grain of wisdom in it as well. The irony was that most of those students would never see war, and teaching them these aggressive, formulaic strategies was rather absurd.
Analysis: This is a proverb because it attempts to teach something valuable, but it is meant to be received with a dose of humor and mockery as well. This too-general, very obvious formalized way to understand any unknown situation is a way that they could repeat the teachings of their commanders without those realizing it was mockery. This points to the Russian people being rather aware of propaganda and feeling a heavy sense of irony in many of the lessons they had to learn in the ROTC.
“When I was a baby, the soft spot on my head caved which I guess just means dehydration. But my mom is very spiritual and she thought that she could take me to a “curandero” which is a spiritual healer (kind of like a witch) who then held me upside down by my ankles, poured honey on my soles, and smacked my feet which is said to be the cure for the sunken head.”
Background: This happened in El Salvador, and as many people cannot afford doctors and hospitals, folk remedies and spiritual healing are the most common forms of treating illness.
Analysis: This is a ritual combined with folk remedy. It is not so much mixing ingredients together for homeopathic remedies that might work physically, but more a ritualistic healing. Holding the baby upside down might have been a somewhat logical response to a caving of the head- sending more blood to that extremity. However, pouring honey on soles does not seems to have much meaning beyond ritualistic and spiritual, and smacking feet also the same in that respect. Lack of access to formal doctors and medicine drive parents with sick children to witch healers.
“When I was little, my great grandfather told this story to us. He was going back home from a bar one night, a bit drunk, on his horse one night. He heard a noise and looked behind him, and saw a creepy woman standing there in rags, with long dark hair covering her face. She called out to him and asked for a ride, but he was scared and kept going. She laughed, and when then he felt a strange presence behind him. He glanced back, and she was sitting behind him on the horse! He couldn’t look at her because he was afraid of dying, so he spurred his horse to go faster and faster to try and throw her off. She scratched at his back and kept laughing madly, until finally her presence was gone as he got closer to his house. When he got home, his shirt was all torn in the back, and his back had bloody scratches on it. Since then he never went on that road in the dark again.”
Analysis: This is a personal twist on a popular urban legend in El Salvador. La Siguanaba is often said to be a woman alone, with long dark hair obscuring her face and trying to lure men and children to her, which resulted in death or insanity. This personal account reflects a deep belief in the legend, and might have blown up drunken impressions on a rural road on horseback in the middle of the night to such a thing. Personal accounts like these keep the legends alive and most people who believe and spread them will reference at least one such person who has personally experienced it.