A Filipino Legend of the Shy Plant Mimosa Pudica
As expected, my uncle was out in his yard tending his vegetable garden one time we visited him after stopping by to their parish yearly fiesta. As always the bitter melons, eggplants, tomatoes and the papait plant are present in his backyard. His papaya tree is now flowering and already bearing young fruits. But there's something new this year in his collection of plants. He had successfully germinated some touch-me-not or what we call as makahiya.
The makahiya or touch-me-not is considered as weed in the Philippines. Seeing the pots of the growing touch-me-not plants is a walk down memory plane as these shy plants has been part of our farm life back in the homeland. Sprouting almost everywhere as they self sow, it could be a nuisance specially with their thorns. I had my share of getting pricked walking aimlessly in the field and vegetable garden as they grow in the path leading in the area. Considered as weeds, we would often dig these shy plants up to clear the area where mushrooms grow abundantly or risk getting prick by their sharp thorns.
A shy plant indeed as its Tagalog name makahiya indicates. But how did this plant earn its name? There is an interesting Filipino legend that goes like this.
A long time ago, there was a young girl named Maria. Maria was twelve years old. She was from a wealthy family and her parents loves her so dearly.
Maria at her young age was a very responsible and obedient child. She obeys her parents all the time. Because she's diligent and kind, people around her loves her. Maria gets along with anyone who would approach her and speak to her. But Maria has a distinct character that is very different from the one's mentioned. She is very bashful.
Talking to people makes Maria feel uncomfortable. She would rather stay at home and she always locked herself in her room just to avoid being seen or being in a crowd.
Maria has a flower garden. She loves being around flowers. There in her garden, she grows all kinds of plants that bear beautiful flowers. She was always patient with the plants and tended them with love. Tending her garden gives Maria contentment and happiness. She can be herself in her garden. There, she doesn't have to worry about being around with people. The townspeople knows about Maria's garden. Who wouldn't? Healthy, beautiful flowering plants grow in the young girl's garden.
A news spread in their town one day about a group of bandit that raided the neighboring towns. The people were killed with their moolahs taken away by the bandits.
So it wasn't a surprise when the bandits came to their town one day. Dondong, Maria's father saw the approaching bandits and had a quick thinking of hiding their daughter Maria in the garden to keep her safe.
Meanwhile, Dondong's wife, Iska, decided to stay inside their home and found a spot to hide while waiting for her husband Dondong to come back. She was so scared hearing the bandits as they forcefully tried to open their door. All she could do at that moment is utter a prayer as she doesn't know what could happen at those very moment.
"My God please, please keep our daughter safe. Keep her hidden from those bandits!" Maria's mother solemnly prayed in her hiding spot. Minutes later, Dondong came back from the garden while the bandits were trying so hard to get inside their home.
Their door broke open and few bandits came in to their home. One of the bandits hit Dondong in the head which caused Maria's father to lost consciousness. Iska tried to ran away but before she could even reach for the door, the same bandit hit her on the head. The bad guys explored their home and took all their goods. Their money and jewelries were also taken. Everything they could take, they took it. They also looked for the young girl but they couldn't find Maria. So they decided to just leave and continue on robbing the neighborhood before getting on the next town to do the same thing.
The bandits were already gone when the couple finally gained their consciousness. They hurriedly went in the garden to check on their daughter but there was no Maria waiting for them. They looked everywhere. They went and looked on each corner of the garden, on every shrubs where Maria could hide but they cannot find her. Did the bandit find Maria and took her away?
"My daughter! They took away my daughter!" Iska said as she hysterically cried to her husband.
Suddenly, Dondong felt he got pricked on the feet. He probably had stepped into something. He gasped as he saw a strange, small plant that is swiftly closing its tiny leaves. This was the first time he saw a plant like this. Dondong knelt and looked at the plant closely. His wife did the same thing.
After a very long time of looking at the now completely closed leaves of the strange plant, the couple believed that it was their daughter Maria. God had transformed their daughter into a plant in order to save her from the bandits. The couple couldn't help but cry and every tears that they shed on the strange plant becomes a small, round, rosy colored flower.
Iska and Dondong took care of the strange plant that they found in Maria's garden since that day. They both strongly believed it was indeed Maria. Why is that? Just like Maria, the sensitive plant seems too bashful to the world around, closing and reopening it's leaves to the touch. Maria's distinct character indeed, bashfulness.
The strange plant got its own name from Dondong and Iska They named the plant makahiya, from the word "hiya," the Filipino word for bashfulness.
Other Names Mimosa Pudica is Known For
Mimosa pudica or known as the shy plant or touch-me-not, has other names it is known for. Some calls this shy plant as sensitive plant, sleeping grass, ant-plant, and shame plant. It is also known as chuimui in Hindi and as makahiya in the Philippines.
Touch-me-not is grown for its curiosity value. Its leaves, after folding inward will droop and re-open minutes later. It is also interesting that this sensitive plant will close its leaves at dark and will open again the next day.
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The legend was translated into English from takdangaralin website.