My informant is an international student from the Philippines. She says that in the 1920s, the national language of the Philippines was Tagalog. However, in 1935, the Commission of the National Language decided to change some words of Tagalog to make the language more accessible to people who spoke different dialects. They called this new language Filipino, and made it, along with English and Spanish, one of the official languages of the Philippines. Filipino is now taught though culture classes, in which students memorize and are tested on Filipino folklore.
The following is a Filipino myth explaining the creation of the first people that my informant learned and remembers.
“Shortly after the world was created, there was a thunderstorm. During this first thunderstorm, a lightning bolt hit a bamboo stalk. The bamboo split into two, and the first man and woman came out. The first man’s name was Si Malakas, which translates to strong, and the first woman’s name was Si Maganda, which means beautiful.”
There are a couple of interesting things happening in this myth. The first is the importance of rain, and its role as a harbinger of life. The monsoons play an extremely important role in Filipino life, with agriculture being dependent on the rains.
This myth also underscores the importance of bamboo to the Filipinos. In addition to being used for a myriad of day to day uses, including in housing, furniture, and fish pens, bamboo has great culture significance. Wind instruments made from bamboo are often used in ritualistic ceremonies, and bamboo stalks are incorporated in folkdances such as “tinikling”.
The last thing I noticed about this myth is characterization of the first man and the first woman. The attribution of strength to the man and beauty to the woman shows what Filipino society expects from each gender.
Annotation: There is a Filipino movie based on this story, titled Si Malakas at si Maganda, directed by F.H. Constantino and released in 1972.
This myth was also mentioned in a report about the importance of bamboo by the Filipino Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (http://www.inbar.int/documents/country%20report/Philippine.htm).