Bata Mama and Bata Bahi, a tale from Bukidnon as retold by Carmen Ching Unabia

This is a story about the love between siblings. Particularly, in the case of Bata Mama, who, despite his young age, braved difficult odds and frightening circumstances in order to take care of his little sister, Bata Bahi. It is a picture of the importance of familial relationships to many Filipino cultures and how families should stick together.
This story was taken from the book Treasury of Stories - Filipino Myths and Folktales by E. Arsenio Manuel and edited by Gilda Cordero Fernando. The book was illustrated by Carlos Valino, Jr. In his foreword, Manuel describes this book as "a collection of thirty-three Philippine-Asian traditions that have come down from the remote past. It was written in the hope that a new generation...may discover the charm, the depth, and the variety of these ancestral narratives." The story itself is classified under "Tales with a Moral Message" and is described by Arsenio in the section introduction in the following manner:
Bata Mama and Bata Bahi (Little Boy and Little Girl), the Bukidnon Hansel and Gretel, is a rather unique one. more beautiful than any of the European versions cited by Aarne-Thompson (1963). Aside from its literary quality, the story gives us an insight into an unexplained aspect of FIlipino psychology: the antipathy, bordering on hatred, of step parents for step-children. In Philippine creative literature, such unkindiness/cruelty to children elicits an intensely protective behavior from the blood kin.
A detail that should be noted in Bata Mama and Bata Bahi is the use of a knife embedded in a fruit. Another is the planting of the crab's claws in the earth as in the Filipino version of Cinderalla first noted by Fansler (1921, 1965). These are Philippine motifs contributed by the Bukidnon to the folktale. The identification of native elements should merit closer attention from folklorists and scholars.

The storyteller, Carmen Ching Unabia, has written books on Bukidnon folk literature and is a former Dean of the Central Luzon State University.
Bata Mama and Bata Bahi were brother and sister, seven and two years old. When their kind father, the first datu died, their mother married his brother, the second datu. The stepfather was cruel and punished the children for everything they did.
One day, the stepfather said, "Dear wife, let us move to another place and leave the children behind for it is difficult to feed and raise them."
"But they are too young to live on their own," the mother protested. "Once in a while, Bata Bahi still suckles my breast."
"Whether you like it or not," the datu said, "we are leaving them. Or would you rather that I had them killed?" The mother wept but she was afraid of her husband so she quickly packed their belongings.
The datu called Bata Mama and Bata Bahi. "Take this basket to the fields and fill it with (gabi) leaves," he ordered them. "Do no come home until the basket is full, otherwise I shall hang you upside down." As soon as the children left, the datu said to his wife, "Cook our food, dear wife--let us have chicken for our last meal."
Silently, the mother prepared the meal. While they were eating, the datu warned his wife not to leave any food for the children and to put out the fire in the stove. When the datu was not watching, however, the mother hurriedly wrapped some food in banana leaves. She pressed her breasts and filled a bottle with milk. Together with a small knife, she buried the chicken and bottle in the ashes of the stove.
The datu and his wife set out on their journey. While they walked, the mother secretly unrolled a skein of abaca threads on their trail. The datu did not notice this, for women walk behind their husbands.
In the wide gabi field, the children had already gathered all the young leaves they could find. Still the basket was not full. "What shall we do now?" said Bata Mama to Bata Bahi. "There is nothing more we can find." They sat down. They could not go home for fear of their stepfather hanging them upside down.
After a long time, Bata Bahi began to cry. "I am hungry," said Bata Bahi, "Let's go home." Bata Mama pitied his little sister so he said, "Let's go home, then, even if we get hung."
As the two children entered the yard, they falt that it was unusually quiet. There was no one in the house. Not an object, not even a piece of cloth was left behind. "Where is mother?" said Bata Bahi, "I want to suck milk," and she cried and cried.
Bata Mama tried to look for something to eat. He went to the stove, but there was not even a live ember. Bata Mama leveled the ashes with a stick. He found some chicken pieces wrapped in banana leaves, the bottle of milk, and the knife. "Come Bata Bahi, here is some food mother left for us to eat." As they could not finish all of it, they buried the remaining food in the ashes again. They waited for their mother to arrive, but the sun set and evening fell and still there was no one.
At midnight, Bata Bahi began to feel afraid and started to cry. "Bata Mama, the witches will come to eat us."
"Let us just sleep here," said Bata Mama, "Anyway, the witches will find us anywhere we sleep." They decided to lie down across the door in a straight line. Their heads were in opposite directions, and the soles of the two feet were touching. It was very dark.
In the middle of the night, they heard the witch's footsteps. Bata Bahi trembled with fear. "Do not cry," said Bata Mama, "The witch will surely find us if you do."
They heard the footsteps climbing up the ladder. They kept very still. Bata Mama kept close to his sister, the knife held securely in his hand.
It was pitch dark and the witch's clammy hands began to touch the children's bodies. He said, "This is the head and these are the legs--what long legs! This is indeed a long one! And then it has--another head!" The witch was puzzled. "This must be the true witch!" he cried, moving back. Immediately, Bata Mama stood up and screamed as fiercely as he could, "I will eat you!" And the witch fled.
Morning came. "Where shall we find our mother?" asked Bata Bahi. As they crossed the yard, Bata mama noticed a trail of abaca fibers leading to the road. "They must have gone this way," said Bata Mama. "Let us follow the abaca wherever it goes." Bata Bahi was too young to walk a great distance, so Bata Mama had to carry her on his shoulders. Now and then, they would come upon a spot where the datu and his wife had cooked and they would always find some food and milk in the ashes.
After a long time, the trail of the abaca fibers ended. Then began a trail of ashes. The children felt the ashes and they were still warm. "Let us walk faster for they must be near," said Bata Mama. But after following the ashes for a long while, the children go lost. Aimlessly, they wandered in the thick forest. Finally, they came upon a balangas tree. A lot of its fruits had dropped to the ground. Bata Mama noticed that there were footprints of wild pigs on the ground around the tree, so he said, "Let us climb up the tree and eat there in case the wild pigs return."
As soon as they reached the higher branches, a herd of wild pigs of different sizes arrived. They fed on the fruit on the ground and left, all except one, the biggest and fattest of them all.
Bata Mama though hard how he coudl kill the pig. He selected the biggest and ripest fruit and stuck his knife into it, then he dropped the fruit. The wild pig immediately snapped it up. The knife got stuck in its throat. Squealing horribly, the pig died. "Now we got a big pig," said Bata Mama to Bata Bahi, "How do we cut it up and cook it?"
"Bata Bahi, stay here while I look for someone to help us with the pig," said Bata Mama, "There must be some people living nearby. Don't try to follow or you will get lost."
So Bata Mama went to look. In the distance, he saw a wisp of smoke and went towards it. Upon reaching the house, he called out, but no one answered; so he climbed up the ladder and peered inside. In the hut was a sleeping giant snoring loudly. Bata Mama took a stone and struck the giant's forehead. "Wake up, Apu!" he said, "For I am here."
The giant got up. "Ah, so that's why I was having such a nice dream of eating a young datu," said the giant. Bata Mama replied, "Do not eat me, Apu, for I have a big fat pig under a tree which I cannot butcher. And I need fire."
The giant got up and followed the boy to where the pig and his sister were. Bata Mama and the giant brought the dead pig to the river bank. The giant began to cut up the pig and throwing all the meat into the river. "These parts are no good," he explained.
The children watched the giant quietly. They noticed that ever time the giant threw some meat into the water, a big crab came to take the pieces away to its hole under the rock. When all the meat had been thrown into the river, the giant took the intestines and told Bata Mama, "Wash this--it is the only part that is fit to eat. I have to go downriver for I have other things to do."
The giant left. Bata Mama was washing the intestines and Bata Bahi was playing in the water when suddenly the crab bit the little girl's finger and she cried. Bata Mama got angry. "You foolish crab!" he said, "why did you bite my sister?"
"I want you both to come to my house," said the crab, "for when the giant returns, he will eat you both. He just went downriver to see if the pig's flesh he threw away has been caught in his trap."
The children entered the crab's house, which was very beautiful. "You will never be hungry here," the crab said, "for I have so much food. You are safe from the giant in my house."
The giant reached his trap and found nothing. "Where did the meat go?" he wondered, retracing his steps, but he could not find the slices of meat. So he thought, "I'd better eat the children."
When he reached the place where they had sliced the pig, the children were no longer there. He sniffed here and there, then under the rocks. He said, "So that's where you're hiding. I'll get you out."
He put his arm into the hole of the crab. Immediately, the crab cut it off with her sharp claws. The giant was shocked. "Well, don't I have another arm?" he said, reaching in with his other arm. The crab cut that arm, too. The giant said, "Well, don't I have feet?" and he placed one foot in the hole. The crab cut the foot. He placed the remaining foor inside and the crab snapped that off, too. Then, the giant said, "I'd better put my head inside and eat them right there." So he pushed his head inside the hole. Quickly, the crab cut his head and the giant died.
When the giant failed to come home, his wife sent their son after him. "He must have gotten plenty of food and couldn't carry it," thought the giant's wife. And so, the son went to look for his father. When the son reached the river, he saw that the giant was dead and so he ate his father's body. Then, he sensed the children. "There must be human beings here," he said. He smelled them under the rock. The son put his arm inside the crab's house and the crab cut it. The giant's son placed his other arm in and the same thing happened. He stuck in his feet, then his head, and then he died.
The giant's wife became tired of waiting for her husband and son, so she decided to go herself. "Perhaps they ate everything right there, that is why they could not return," she thought. When she reached the river, she found the body of her son and ate it. Then, she smelled the children under the rock. She reached under the stone with her arm and the same thing happened to her. The crab cut off her arms, her feet, and her head. So the wife of the giant died.
"Bata Mama and Bata Bahi," the crab said to the children. "For the meantime, live here with me. You may continue to search for your parents when you are grown up." The children lived with the crab until they grew up.
One day, after many years, the crab said, "Now Bata Mama and Bata Baha, we must leave this place, for I shall soon die. I will go to the source of the river and await my death there." The children were filled with sadness for the crab had been like a mother. "But before I go, I will leave you my claws. Plant the claws wherever you decide to live and a tree will grow. The tree will give you everything you need. One of the things it will provide you with is a set of powerful gongs. As for your parents, they will come to you one day. And you will know it is the, for there will be a very heavy rain." After these words the old crab took off its claws and, following the crab's instructions, they continued the search for their parents.
The brother and sister asked at the house of an old woman whether anyone had passed that way. The old woman replied that a datu and his wife had, but that it had been a long time ago. "They went in the direction you are facing," the old woman said. The children thanked her and went on. One week after, Bata Mama said, "Bata Bahi, let us build our house here." So they planted the claws of the crab. A big kingdom came to be. They climbed up the beautiful palace and found all they needed in it. There were gongs of different sizes and clothes fit for a prince and a princess. Then and there, they became Donya Maria and Don Juan.
The people living across their palace were surprised. "Who is this powerful datu who was able to build a palace in one day?" the asked each other. And they decided to visit the dwellers. Among the many visitors were the wicked datu and the mother of Bata Mama and Bata Bahi.
When Don Juan saw all the people marching towards the palace. he beat the gongs. The people were welcomed with all kinds of delicious food and gong music. As soon as the datu and his wife were within sight of the house, however, a heavy downpour began. The rain was so strong that it created a big hole in the ground. Don Juan and Donya Maria exclaimed, "They must be our mother and our stepfather!"
Don Juan continued beating the gongs. It rained harder and harder. The wicked datu was blinded with rain. He could hardly struggle through the mud. The children's mother, however, did not find any difficulty getting to the palace. She quickly reached the stairs although she was very wet. Donya Maria welcomed her mother with elegant warm clothes. When the mother learned that Don Juan and Donya Maria were her children, she embraced the tearfully.
Meanwhile, the datu had stumbled in the rain and crawled in the thick mud. He could hardly make it. Walking on his hands and knees, the datu finally reached the gate and fainted. They found him shivering in the mud, sobbing with fear. Don Juan stopped beating the gong and the rain ceased. Donya Maria gave the datu warm water to drink and he kissed the hem of her skirt and asked for forgiveness. After that, they all lived happily together.

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