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Calamities, horror stories and folklore

/ 08:27 AM October 23, 2011

This time of the year, news and video footage of the calamities that ravaged several parts of the country have sent local governments, agencies and private groups scampering for possible solutions and interventions.

I went through the collection of the University of the Philippines Press Publications, which we have a branch at UP Cebu. One whole shelf stands out and this is the eight-volume  “Philippine Folk Literature Series” compiled by Dr. Damiana L. Eugenio of UP. The Series consists of Philippine Folk Literature: An Anthology; Philippine Folk Literature: Myths; Philippine Folk Literature: The Legends; Philippine Folk Literature: The Folk Tales; Philippine Folk Literature: The Riddles; Philippine Folk Literature: The Proverbs; Philippine Folk Literature: The Folk Songs and Philippine Folk Literature: The Epics.

Three of the eight volumes caught my attention in relation to the calamities. These could carry much relevance in teaching about the environment if only schools have these books and teachers use them in all subjects. In school programs from Buwan ng Wika to Sportsfest, themes from folklore make interesting and unique presentations.


The volume on myths, simply defined as sacred narratives explaining how the world and man came to be in their present form. An “Introduction” distinguishes myth from legend with which it is usually confused and offers a system of classification of myths, which follows the arrangement of mythological motifs in Stith Thompson’s Motif Index of Folk Literature. The myths are arranged into:  (1) the Gods: their Activities and Relationships; (2) Cosmology and Cosmogony; (3) Topographical Features of the Earth (water and land features); (4) World Calamities (The Great Flood); (5)Establishment of the Natural Order; (6) Creation and Ordering of Human Life; (7) Origin of Animal Life and Characteristics; and (8) Origin of Plant Life and Characteristics.

The volume on legends, simply defined as an account of an extraordinary happening believed to have actually happened, distinguishes it from folktale, offers a system of classification a detailed description with examples of the different types of Philippine legends. The five types of legends given are: heroic/historical legends, about epic and culture heroes, historical personages and persons with extraordinary powers; religious legends, recounting miracles of God and His saints; legends narrating encounters with supernatural beings (aswang, kapre, duende, etc.); miscellaneous legends about sunken bells, buried treasures, etc. and place name legends.

The volume on folktales, defined in this work as fictional folk narratives, which are not considered as dogma or history; they may or may not have happened and are not to be taken seriously. But though they are told mostly for amusement, they perform an important teaching function as well. The tales are presented according to the following types and sub-types:  Animal Tales; Fables (animal and plant); Marchen or Tales of Magic; Religious and Didactic Tales; Novelistic Tales and Jocular Tales, subdivided into Tricktser Tales, Numskull Tales, and Other Humorous Anecdotes.

Within each category, the myths and legends are arranged according to region: Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao. The selections are given in English translation to make them accessible to an international readership. In all volumes, the collection is intended to be national in scope. Care was taken to ensure that it contains as wide a representation as possible of the types and subtypes of the myths, legends and folktales and that it represents as many ethnologuistic groups as possible.

Teleseryes can be enriched if writers use Philippine Folklore as their source.  Since October is also Halloween month, horror stories on screen could be more wholesome and realistic if stories are taken from Myths, Legends, and Folktales.

In the local scene, the most memorable horror movies I have seen as a child were “Ungo sa Parian” and “Ang Singsing sa Saging Tindok”  because they were so natural and simple. Going back to the use of Philippine Folklore is one way of going back to the basics of learning about environmental protection. Using characters from the folklore will also teach people about avoiding crimes. We have so much of our own to learn from in these times of calamities and crimes.

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TAGS: Calamities, Philippine Folklore
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