The Tortoise and the Monkey
by Josť Rizal
The tortoise and the monkey once found a banana tree floating on the waves of a river. It was a very
fine tree, with large green leaves and with roots. They took it ashore.
"Let us divide it," said the tortoise," and plant each of portion.
They cut it in the middle, and the monkey, as the stronger one, took for himself the upper part of the tree,
thinking that it would grow quicker, for it had leaves. The tortoise, as the weaker, had the lower part that looked ugly
although it had roots. After some days, they met.
"Hello, Mr. Monkey," said the tortoise, "how are you getting on with your banana tree?"
"Alas," said the monkey, "it has been dead a long time! And yours, Miss Tortoise?"
"Very nice indeed, with leaves and fruits, but I cannot climb up to gather them."
"Never mind," said the malicious monkey, "I will climb up and pick them for you."
"Do, Mr. Monkey," replied the tortoise gratefully.
And so they walked toward the tortoise's house. As soon as the monkey saw the bright yellow fruits hanging
between the large green leaves, he climbed up and began plundering, munching and gobbling as quick as he could.
"But give me some, too," said the tortoise, seeing that the monkey did not take the slightest notice of her.
"Not even a bit of the skin, if it is eatable," replied the moneky, both his cheeks crammed with banana.
The tortoise planned revenge. She went to the river, picked up some pointed shells, planted them around
the banana tree, and hid herself under a coconut shell. When the monkey came down, he hurt himself and began to bleed.
After a long search he found the tortoise.
"Now you must pay for your wickedness. You must die. But as I am very generous, I will let you choose
your death. Shall I pound you in a mortar, or shall I throw you into the water? Which do you prefer?"
"The mortar, the mortar!" answered the tortoise. "I am so afraid of getting drowned."
"O, ho!" laughed the monkey, "Indeed! You are afraid of getting drowned! Now I will drown you!
And going to the shore, he threw the tortoise in the water. But soon the tortoise reappeared, swimming and laughing
at the deceitful monkey.
Rizal wrote when he was a boy, his mother told him a story about the moth who loved the light so much that
it burned its wings when it flew too close to the flames. What lesson was Rizal's mother trying to teach him?
Tito Carlo says—
I remember when we took up this story in elementary school. Our little primer even had a picture of the tortoise
placing the thorns on the trunk of the banana tree to hurt the devious monkey.
The lesson (moral) of the story seems a bit too adult for a child to learn. Does it teach us that is is
okay to tell a white lie as Tortoise does, when she said that is afraid to drown? Let us see what the story is actually
There is a tagalog proverb that says "Tuso man ang matsing, napaglalangan din". This tells us that monkeys
are tricky creatures but there is always a way to get around devious creatures. In this case, the tortoise played on
the monkey's stupidity—not knowing (or not remembering) that a tortoise
is amphibian and so wouldn't drown.
It also looks like the monkey did not suffer too much for his deceit and greed. What's a little bleeding from
a few cuts? But the monkey did suffer worse than that; the monkey suffered a great loss of face, his ego was demolished
by a weaker and smaller creature. In other words, napahiya nang husto.
What about the tortoise, then? She escaped but lost the fruits of her labor. That was something I could
not accept as a child and even now that I'm older (wiser too, hopefully), losing what I have worked for is almost impossible
to accept. What do we do then, when such a thing happens? I guess there's not much to do but pick up the pieces
and try all over again.
Rizal's story might have been taken from a collection of fables, probably from Aesop's Fables. A fable is
a short story, usually using animal chracters to represent human types, and always ends with a moral or a lesson. Another
way of teaching a lesson is by using proverbs. Here are some Filipino proverbs
"Pag may tiyaga, may nilaga"
(If you persevere, you will win)
"Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo"
(a warning about too much delay in what has to be done)
"Pag ang hirap ay masasal na, ginhawa ay malapit na"
(When worse comes to worst, hope is near)
Can you think of any more proverbs — tagalog, visayan, bicolano, or from other Philippine
What social or personal values do those proverbs indicate, and what does it tell you about Filipinos?