Author Archives: chumakov

The Story of Pina (Philippines)

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

“Con el nopal en la frente”

Araceli Del Rio

“Con el nopal en la frente”

Translation: “with a cactus on the forehead”

There is a phrase,”con el nopal en la frente,” used when a person who looks very “Mexican” and by Mexican I mean native looking, and they don’t speak Spanish. And people will say, ‘she says she doesn’t speak Spanish, “con la nopal en frente.”’ This is like saying, “she says she doesn’t speak Spanish and she practically has a cactus growing out of her forehead.” Cactus being one of the utmost symbols of Mexican culture. It’s on the flag. It’s tied heavily into stories. Into meals. It’s everywhere in Mexico.”


“I think the meaning of this is pretty clear- there is a huge current of judgement and people basically despise people who leave behind their culture, as they try to assimilate. Especially when children and adults stop speaking Spanish. You are heavily judged and shunned. I have heard and used this phrase when I grew up as a Mexican in Los Angeles, referring to other kids and people who wanted to assimilate too much.”


Analysis: This is a folk metaphor, pertaining specifically to Mexican immigrants in the US who attempt to assimilate by casting aside their native culture. It is also a way of stereotyping by Mexicans based both on physical characteristics and a common perception of loyalty to the country of origin. While sometimes these stereotypes might judge too harshly- for example, a person might be of Mexican descent generations back but doesn’t identify with the culture anymore, or looks ‘Mexican’ but is actually Middle Eastern, etc., they also are a response to betrayal Mexicans and Mexican-Americans feel when members of their own culture deny that culture.

“Comen frijoles y erutan pollo”

Flor Speakman


“Comen frijoles y eructan pollo”

Translation: some people eat beans but burp chicken

“In El Salvador, this is used to describe people who are very pretentious or fake. They try to show off stuff they don’t really have, or pretend to be higher than their actual social class. This expression is pretty disdainful and is meant to put them down, deflate their egos.”

Background: This is told amongst the people of El Salvador, whether in the country or abroad. As humility is very valued in the country, as there are not too many material resources and it is considered somewhat poor, this is one way to mock those who become prideful.


Analysis: This is a form of folk speech that mocks people who try to put on airs and pretend to be above their station. As humility is valued in El Salvador, this is one way of enforcing this mentality. However, it is also mocking those who lie about their station and pretend to be more than they are rather than the actual rich and influential. This signifies that striving to succeed is not as looked down upon as pretending to be there already and being falsely proud.

La Siguanaba

Flor Speakman

La Siguanaba:

“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.

Sunken head remedy

Iliana Cuellar

“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.