The Legend of Rambutan
What Is Rambutan?
Have you tasted lychee? Well, that is because rambutan has some similarities with lychee having the same color and rambutan being just a little bigger in size and having the rough and hairy beautiful red skin. And the fruit? Sweet like a lychee. But these are two different fruits, just giving you an idea about rambutan just in case you haven't seen or tasted the fruit yet.
Rambutan is the fruit of the rambutan tree which originated from Malaysia, its name rambut means hair in Malay. Rambutan tree grows in Vietnam, in Thailand, in the Philippines and in other Southeast Asian countries.
In the province of Oriental Mindoro where we lived for over 10 years was my first time of seeing rambutan trees when our school's Science Club went for a trip to see a hydropower plant. It was such an exciting and joyful trip with rambutan trees growing on the route that the bus took. As we get closer to our destination, the almost ripe fruits are within reach, hitting the bus windows as the bumpy path becomes narrow. It gave us a closer look and some sitting by the window were thrilled to grab some ripe fruits.
Rambutan is rich in vitamin C, tastes sweet specially when its really ripe and the outside red hairy covering is darker red. It is called rambutan in Malaysia and the Philippines and known as chom chom by the Vietnamese.
Some may be deterred to try the fruit because of its unusual hairy covering but when given the chance, you'll love it. But why does this fruit have this unusual appearance? Here's a Philippine legend that hopefully wouldn't be hard to believe.
The Legend of Rambutan
In a far region of the Philippines, close to Rabba mountain, a couple named Kandoy and Pising lives. Everyday, Kandoy, the husband, would go in the forest to gather fire woods that he would make into charcoals that his wife Pising would sell in the town's market. Being childless, Kandoy and Pising are very devotional couple in hope that they would be blessed with a child.
Kandoy spotted a cave in the center of the forest one day.
"This is the first time I noticed this cave. I haven't seen it before," he thought to himself.
Though he's a little bit hesitant, he still decided to go and check the inside of the cave. He was frightened to see a deer that almost got eaten up by a tiger. Feeling sorry for the poor deer's fate, Kandoy threw a hard piece of wood at the tiger to get its attention. Well he did, and it angered the tiger. Kandoy got its attention and it went after him. Luckily, Kandoy managed to grasped his ax and he wounded the tiger on its neck. With blood dripping from its neck, the tiger fled away from the cave.
He was surprised to see the blood dripping from the fierce animal is not red at all but gray!
"This is the first time I had seen something like it," he thought.
Then the blood drippings dried up quickly and turned into ashes.
Kandoy's attention then shifted to the frightened deer and he decided to approach it. He was shocked the deer changed its form right in front of him, even before he got closer. What appeared to him before as a pitiful deer, now was the most beautiful fairy despite her visible wounds, which he also noticed the white blood dripping from her.
It was hard to believed what he just witnessed for the day. He was both shocked and terrified and Kandoy decided to just run home which didn't happen because the fairy stopped him.
"Thank you my friend," said the fairy. "You just saved me from the black mage. My name is Rodona and I am the fairy who look after this forest. I know you come here everyday to gather woods and branches. I know how good your heart is."
Still Kandoy is speechless, unable to say a word.
"The tiger you just saw is Matesa. She wanted to acquire this forest so she could have a place to do her craft. Matesa wants me dead so she could have my heart. And when that happens, she could have the power over the trees and animals that lives in this forest," added Rodona.
"If she's a mage, why didn't she use magic on me?" asked Kandoy.
"Matesa has no power over the plants, animals and people on this forest, unless she got my heart."
"You're heavily wounded, I think it is better if you come with me so my wife could do something for your wounds," Kandoy said worriedly.
"I am not going to last much longer, and while I still have my power, you and your wife will be blessed with a child. My only wish is that when I'm gone, take my heart out and burn it, and put the ashes in a jar. Hide it inside your home and it will serve as your protection, and the forest as well against the evil Matesa," Rodona said as she takes her last breath.
Kandoy followed the fairy's instructions and she told his wife what happened when he got home. And after nine months, his wife Pising gave birth to a healthy baby girl. The arrival of the baby girl was such a joy to the couple. They named their baby Rabona, a combination of the Rabba mountain and the fairy's name, Rodona.
Rabona grew up to be a happy child and the couple had almost forgotten the tragedy that happened to Rodona in that cave. They decided that their daughter Rabona would never know what happened that day. When Rabona was about to turn sixteen, she saw a white cat in the forest. This cat was a bit unusual as it has thick shades of orange furs. Rabona took the cat home with her.
When 12 midnight strikes, the unusual cat changed its form. Turned out that she was Matesa. Matesa did a ritual to curse the daughter of the couple, Rabona. While the evil mage was on the middle of the ritual, the father got awakened from the mage's whispers.
"Get away from my child!" yelled Kandoy.
"Hahaha! There's nothing you can do Kandoy! Look at what you've done to me. I studied different kinds of other magic just so I could heal my wounds, the wounds that you did when you helped Rodona!" said Matesa.
Kandoy remembered the ashes of Rodona's heart. He hurriedly took the jar and sprinkled the ashes, encircling the mage. Matesa was unable to move as the power of the fairy's ashes wrapped around her. Kandoy rushes to get his ax and thrusted the evil mage. The surrounding was engulfed with a white light and Matesa turned into ashes. Rabona awakened, she was so horrified that she hugged her parents so tight.
Rabona noticed that her hair is getting longer and thicker.
"It's probably because of Matesa's curse," said her father.
They immediately went to Isko, a folk healer that lives in a neighboring town.
"Luckily, the mage hadn't finished the curse. we could still do something to stop the hair from growing, only thing is, we can't restore its thickness," said the healer.
And Rabona's hair became thicker as the healer was unable to do something about it. Her mother Pising would always comb Rabona's long hair. Rabona was also told by her mother to always fix her hair so it wouldn't be an annoyance to her whenever she does her school or house work.
Probably because of these changes that Rabona's attitude changed as well. She became lazy both at doing her school works and house works. She no longer help her mother around. She doesn't even want to fix herself, specially her hair. She became a different Rabona.
"Mom, could you go cook the rice? I don't want to do anything, this hair was such an annoyance. That's why I should just be serve because of this," snarled Rabona.
"Don't lose hope my child. Instead you should go on with life and find ways to overcome this," her mother Pising pleaded.
"Whatever! I'm tired of this! Go away and just fix me something to eat. It's your fault, it's both your fault that I became like this!" yelled the disobedient daughter.
"I'm sorry child that you feel that way. Everything that your father and I do is for you. Alright then, I'll fix you something to eat."
One night, Rabona thought of burning down their house while her mother and father was sleeping.
She carefully piled up some dried tree branches and leaves under their hut. She's careful not to make any noise as that would awaken her parents. When she was about to start a fire, her surroundings shone brightly as if it was daylight. Grains of soil was suspended in the air, circling her, wrapping her just when she saw a beautiful maiden right in front of her.
"I am Rodona."
"Weren't you already dead?" asked the frightened Rabona.
"Yes, I am. But I still live in the heart of your parents. I am connected to you because I gave you to them. I blessed them with a child because of their kindness. I remained in your being but you had failed the test. The battle between Matesa and I didn't end when I died in a cave in Mount Rabba, the battle continued in your heart."
"You changed because of the little trials," added Rodona. "You even thought of doing something bad against your parents. You were supposed to be a gift for them, a blessing. But what did you do? You even tried to kill them!"
Rabona felt so bad to what she heard. She's so sorry and asked for the fairy's forgiveness.
"Please forgive me for what I've done. I wouldn't do it again. I will accept any punishment. I no longer want to be a burden to them. I wish I could turn back time so I could give them happiness," pleaded Rabona.
"It's too late now. Tonight, the earth will swallow you. But because you repented, they wouldn't lost you completely. Prove it that you wouldn't be a burden to them."
And as the surroundings continued to shine brightly, the fairy disappeared.
The following morning, Rabona was nowhere to be found. Pising cried as she saw the pile of dried branches and leaves under their hut with a matchstick beside the pile. They thought that their daughter tried to burn their house. Close to the matchstick, they noticed a sprouting plant with unusual leaves.
"This is the first time I've seen a plant like this," said Kandoy.
The couple took cared of the strange plant. It grew into a tree and bore fruits. Pising wept when she saw the fruits of the tree. Growing on the skin of the fruit looks like thick hairs and the fruit tasted sweet when she tried it.
"This is probably Rabona," said Kandoy. "Somehow, we still have something to remind us of her. I'm thankful we didn't completely lost Rabona."
The fruit was called Rabona, then it was called rabonan which we now call rambutan, one of the sweetest fruit we are all blessed to have.
This Philippine legend of the rambutan is translated from its Tagalog version from pinoyteacher of Wordpress.com
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