OCEAN AMBASSADORS




The Turtle and the Fireflies

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any, many years ago, the turtle was a carefree, flit- footed creature who loved to travel, walking many, many miles to see the country. Still, he took pride in the fine house he had built for himself near the beach and would return there often to rest between his travels.

One day, the turtle came home from a long trip well after the sun had hidden behind the mountains. He picked his way carefully in the dark, comforted by a strange sparkling light that beaconed to him from afar. He went about his usual evening chores when he got home, his conscious mind not quite taking in the fact that the light that brought him safely home seemed to be coming closer. As he got ready to go to bed, however, he happened to glance out of the window and saw thousands of fire-bearing winged creatures - "fire flies" -- seemingly intent to set his house ablaze. It was the first time he had ever seen such a sight and he was, to say the least, very frightened. Quickly, he ran out.

"I have to save my house," he cried. Bracing himself against the wall, he started to carry his house on his back. It was heavy, and he could do no more than crawl slowly out of harm's way. Burdened by his heavy baggage but unwilling to leave it behind, he headed for the sea and found to his great delight that his load felt many, many times lighter. Since then, the turtle, still indulging his wanderlust but unwilling to leave his beloved house behind, would travel often by and spend many days and months in the sea, where he could move about so much faster, farther and more freely than he could ever hope on land. (based on a folk tale from Mindoro)

The Inky Fate of the Cuttlefish and the Squid
Once upon a time, Bathala created many ocean creatures and called them to a meeting in the Dark Sea. The fishes came hurrying, then the sting ray, the crocodile, the crab. They were all there - all except the squid and the cuttlefish.
"Let's wait a while for our friends the squid and the cuttlefish," Bathala told the assembly. They waited a half hour, and they did not come. They waited an hour, and still they did not come.

Finally, Bathala said, "The meeting will come to order. I have decided to appoint officers who will guard our sea and keep it clean and orderly. I called you all here so you will know who these officers are and respect their positions."
He then named the sting ray sergeant-at-arms and equipped him with a whip-like tail. He appointed the crocodile as cadaver carrier and made the skin on his back coffin-like. He made the crab a soldier and gave him strong forelegs.
Just as Bathala was about to announce his next appointment, the squid and the cuttlefish arrived, demanding to know what the meeting was all about. This angered Bathala, who thundered: "Presumptuous creatures! How dare you come in late and interrupt me so rudely? Be seated and be quiet! You are not to speak unless I give you permission!"

Shamed, the duo decided to leave amid loud laughter from the crowd. "That was so humiliating!" the cuttlefish whined. "How could Bathala do that to us?"
"How dare they laugh at us," the squid fumed, adding, "Let's get even. We'll go get some mud and give those arrogant fools what they deserve."
And so they took some mud, carried it in their pouches and went back to the assembly. There they pelted mud on everyone, and smeared mud on the appointment papers that Bathala had just signed.

Bathala was raging mad. "Imbeciles! I'll punish you!" he roared. "From hereon, I'll make you and your children carry mud all your lives, your load so heavy that it will severely slow you down!"

Chastened, the cuttlefish merely nodded, accepting his fate. But the squid was unrepentant and shouted angrily, "We were provoked! They laughed at us! They sneered and they heckled!"

Bathala was angrier than he'd ever thought possible. He said, very softly but firmly, "You, squid, are an ingrate. You forget who you're speaking to. For that, I'll mete you another punishment: I'll turn you and your children into midgets, never to grow tall in either size or stature."

And all of Bathala's words came to pass.

(Based on a folk tale known to both Visayans and Tagalogs)

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