The Turtle and The Monkey is a classic Filipino fable retold by one of our young Wellington-based writers, AL. Illustrations are done by Pinoy Stop NZ. If you want to read this in book format, click here.
One very sunny day, best friends Pagong (turtle) and Matsing (monkey) were walking along a river bank and spotted a floating banana tree in the water.
“Pagong, look!” exclaimed Matsing, pointing at the tree in the water. “It’s a banana tree!”
Pagong looked in the direction and his eyes widened. There, indeed in the water, was a floating banana tree. Matsing was already hurrying across the bank, reaching out to get it. Pagong was delighted; he almost loved bananas as much as Matsing did, so he quickly waddled next to Matsing and helped haul the banana tree out.
“Thanks for helping me, Pagong. Can you help me carry it to my home, too?” asked Matsing, his hungry eyes taking in the prize of their hard work, admiring it.
Pagong was confused. He helped out too! Surely he would get some of the banana tree? Pagong sighed and watched as Matsing tried to carry the banana tree by himself, but failed multiple times.
“Sure, I’ll help.” said Pagong. “As long as you help me carry my half to my home.”
Matsing stopped suddenly and dropped the log with a heavy thud, narrowly missing his feet. He turned to Pagong and let out a boisterous laugh. “Your half? What do you mean by ‘your half’?’”
“Well,” started Pagong, “I did help you get that tree out of the water, which, by the way, you never would’ve gotten out without my help. I have as much right to that tree as you do, Matsing.”
Matsing groaned loudly but didn’t say anything.
“We’ll cut the tree in half,” Pagong continued, “and each of us takes one half–”
“I want that half!” Matsing quickly interrupted, pointing to the top half of the tree with the green leaves. “Okay, I guess that’s settled then.” Pagong huffed as Matsing got an axe and chopped the tree in half.
Matsing started to carry the half with the banana leaves on his shoulders to his home, without even saying goodbye to Pagong. He was certain that his half would grow faster as Pagong’s half, as it already has leaves on it.
“Hmph,” Matsing mumbled as he continued his trek home, “I’ll show Pagong. I’m going to grow the best banana tree in town!”
Meanwhile, Pagong dragged the half with the roots on the end to his home. He didn’t actually mind that he got the bottom half of the tree, the one with the roots. He was certain that his tree would grow and bear beautiful bananas. So he walked along happily to his house.
That night, both Pagong and Matsing planted their trees next to their houses. Everyday, they would come home and water their trees.
After some time, Matsing’s plant slowly browned, and died, while Pagong’s tree grew and bore bananas like he had expected.
Matsing grew cold, and envious of Pagong’s tree.
One day, when Matsing visited Pagong, he struck a deal with him. He said that he would climb up the tree, gather all of the bananas, and bring them back down for both of them to share.
Pagong knew that Matsing is a better faster and faster climber than him. He also knew how sad Matsing was when his tree had died, so he agreed. Pagong wanted to see his friend happy again.
Matsing grinned when Pagong agreed. He climbed up eagerly and gathered all of the bananas, but instead of bringing the banananas back down for them to share, he started to eat it while on top of the tree.
Pagong was mad. When he realised Matsing had tricked him, he placed thorns around the tree to try and get back at him. When Matsing clambered down, he yelped and got pricked by the thorns!
Matsing bared his teeth. He felt mad at Pagong for outsmarting him. So, after he got all the thorns out of his body, he chased Pagong and tied him to a tree.
“Hmmm,” Matsing said, grinning wickedly as Pagong fidgeted in his ties, trying to find a way out. “What shall I do with you? Cook you?”
Pagong was horrified, but put on a forced smile, trying to think of a way to talk Matsing out of that horrible idea. “That’s a great idea! Cook me a-and I’ll get the best skin in the land!”
Matsing growled, imagining Pagong with beautiful skin, and shook his head, “No. That’s a terrible idea. What was I thinking? Hmmm, I know! I will cut you up into lots of tiny pieces!”
Pagong bit his lip. Sweat was trickling down his face and he didn’t know what to say. “Uh-h, yes! Do that!” Pagong threatened, “A-and there’ll be more of me so we can spend more time with each other!”
Matsing scowled. He wouldn’t want that either. Suddenly, Matsing glanced at the river and a great idea popped into his mind. “I know… I’ll throw you into the river!”
Pagong fought the urge to laugh. He wondered if matsing just forgot that he is a turtle and could swim in the water. Instead, he gasped and wailed, “No! Please, oh PLEASE don’t throw me into the water!”
Matsing just grinned even wider. He untied Pagong and happily threw him into the river.
Pagong laughed at Matsing as he treaded nicely through the river, on to the other side. “I tricked you, Matsing. I’m a turtle, I can swim, thank you very much! Then Pagong swam away.