“Let’s go to the river and fish,” said the monkey to the tortoise. While they were sitting on the river bank, a banana tree floated by. It was a healthy tree with large green leaves and roots, as if it had just been uprooted by a storm.
“Don’t you think we should get that banana tree and plant it?” said the monkey. “Can you swim?” asked the tortoise. “No, I can’t, but you can,” said the monkey. “I will get the banana tree,” said the tortoise, “on condition that we divide it.” The monkey agreed. When the tree was pulled to the bank the monkey said, “I will take the upper part.” He was thinking that it would grow faster since there were already so many leaves. The tortoise had to be content with the lower half with the big ugly roots.
The monkey and the tortoise went home to plant their part of the tree. The monkey planted his in the ashes of the stove. His brother had told him that it would grow faster that way. The tortoise planted his part in a corner of the backyard.
Some weeks later the monkey and the tortoise met again. “How is your banana tree growing?” asked the tortoise. “Oh, it died a long time ago,” said the monkey. “What about yours?” “It’s very tall with green leaves and lots of yellow fruits,” said the tortoise. “The trouble is I cannot reach the fruits. If you will climb the tree and harvest the fruits for me, I will give you half of them.” “Of course!” said the monkey, his eyes dancing greedily.
When the two reached the house, the monkey immediately climbed the banana tree. He began pulling off the fruits and munching them one after the other as fast as he could. “Do let me taste even one fruit,” begged the tortoise. But all the monkey would throw down were banana peels.
The tortoise was so sore he went to the river where there were snails with very sharp shells. He gathered some and arranged them, all the sharp points up, at the base of the tree. After a while, the fat monkey, his stomach heavy with bananas, slid down the tree. He landed smack on the snails. The monkey’s screams could be heard a long, long way.
For a long time the monkey searched for the tortoise. He finally found the tortoise hiding under a chili plant that was abloom with tiny red pointed fruits. Just as the monkey was about to pounce on him, the tortoise said, “Sssssh. Be quiet. I am guarding the king’s fruits.”
“What fruits?” said the monkey. “This is the special plant of the king,” said the tortoise. “Give me some,” said the monkey. “The king will punish me if I do,” said the tortoise. “I am your friend, am I not?” said the greedy monkey. “The king won’t notice if you let me have a few.” “All right, you can get some,” said the tortoise. “Only promise not to chew them till I am a long way off.”
The monkey helped himself to the little red chilis. When the turtle was gone, he put a handful in his mouth. The monkey felt the inside of his mouth burning like a stove and he screamed with all his might.
Vowing revenge, the monkey searched high and low for the tortoise. He searched for days and became very tired. He sat down on the coconut shell underneath which the tortoise was hiding. The monkey called loudly, “Tortoise, tortoise where are hiding?”
“Here!” called the tortoise weakly from under the coconut shell. The monkey looked all around him and saw no one. He thought some part of his body must be joking him. He looked at his belly. “I’m not calling you,” he said to his belly. “If you answer again I will punish you.” Once again he called, “Tortoise, tortoise, where are you?” “Here!” again replied the small voice from underneath the coconut shell.
This drove the monkey crazy. “Didn’t I tell not to answer?” he scolded his belly. He took a big stone and began hitting his belly mercilessly with it. Under the coconut shell the tortoise could hardly contain his laughter.
After a long time the monkey decided to forgive the tortoise. He was going on a long journey and he thought it would be lonely to walk alone. So he went to the tortoise’s house and invited him. The tortoise was happy to see his old friend.
For the journey the tortoise prepared a heavy load of food wrapped in banana leaves which he tied to his back. The monkey brought only a small bundle. “You better bring more food—it’s a long journey,” said the tortoise. But the monkey only laughed.
After traveling for a day the monkey’s food was all gone. From then on each time the tortoise ate he had to give some to the monkey. And that was not all. Every few meters the monkey would stop and say, “Give me some more food, friend tortoise.” But the tortoise would answer, “You just ate. Wait a while.”
The monkey and the tortoise walked along silently for a while. Then the monkey said, “Can’t we go a little faster?” “It will be hard,” said the tortoise, “because I am still carrying such a heavy load.” “Let me help you with the load then,” said the monkey. And he took the load off the tortoise’s back. The monkey walked ahead very fast, leaving the tortoise far behind. “Wait for me!” said the tortoise, walking as fast as he could.
The tortoise was very tired but kept plodding on. Soon the monkey climbed a tree up ahead. There he opened the turtle’s leaf package of food. He ate one half of it. When the turtle caught up he asked the monkey for some.
“Let’s eat in a place where there’s water,” said the monkey. “Just follow, it won’t take long.” Monkey ran ahead.
After a while the monkey climbed another tree and ate the remaining food. Stroking his belly, he rested on top of the tree until the tortoise arrived. “What took you so long?” the monkey asked the tortoise. “I couldn’t walk faster because I was so hungry,” said the tortoise. “Can I have some of my food now?” “I’m sorry there’s nothing left,” said the monkey. “I’ve eaten everything, and as it is I’m still hungry. You brought so little.”
The tortoise was so weak with hunger that he decided to just walk on. Unfortunately the two animals met a hunter. The monkey quickly climbed a tree but the hunter caught the tortoise and brought him home. The monkey laughed at the misfortune of his friend.
By chance one day the monkey passed by the house of the hunter. He saw the tortoise tied to the trunk of a banana tree in the yard. The monkey made fun of the tortoise until he saw how kind the hunter was. Every hour the hunter would come out and give the tortoise plated food.
When night came the monkey approached the tortoise and said, “Let me take your place.” “But I like it here,” said the tortoise. The monkey, however, would not stop begging. Finally the tortoise agreed. The monkey untied the tortoise and tied himself to the banana tree. All night the greedy monkey dreamt of the food the hunter would give him every hour.
When morning came, the hunter looked out to window and saw a monkey in his yard. He thought the monkey was out to steal his bananas. The hunter got his rifle and began shooting. Quickly the monkey untied himself and ran as fast as he could.
The monkey searched all over the fields and the woods for the tortoise. Finally he found the tortoise near a large snake hole. “Now that I’ve found you, I will kill you!” said the monkey. “Not before you see the datu’s belt, my friend,” said the tortoise. “It is so beautiful with its black and white designs. Don’t you want to wear the datu’s belt?” “The datu’s belt? Of course I do! Where is it? Where is it?” cried the monkey. “You watch this hole while I go home and cook supper,” said the tortoise. “The belt is coming out any moment now.”
The monkey watched and the tortoise went home. Soon the snake came out and coiled itself around the monkey’s waist. “Too tight! Too tight!” cried the monkey. The monkey could hardly breathe. But the snake would not be talked to and the monkey died.
The tortoise went back and skinned the dead monkey. He dried the meat and sold it to the other monkeys in the neighborhood. But in taking off the skin the tortoise had been careless. He left here and there parts of the fur sticking to the meat. From this the monkeys learned that the tortoise had killed one of their brothers. So they took the tortoise to their chief.
“For your wickedness you must die!” said the monkey chief. And he ordered the tortoise placed in a mortar to be pounded to death with a pestle.
“Being pounded to a powder is not new to me,” laughed the tortoise. “If I had not been pounded so many times before my belly would not be as flat as it is.” And the tortoise rolled on his back to show his really flat belly. “In that case,” said the chief of the monkeys, “chop him up with a bolo.”
“You’ll be making a great mistake for I can’t be chopped to pieces,” said the tortoise apologetically. “So many have tried, it just won’t work.” And the tortoise showed the deep scars on his back where the bolo could not go through.
“Roast him alive then!” ordered the chief of the monkeys. “Begging your pardon again,” said the tortoise, “But I must confess that roasting just makes me rosier and handsomer. You must try it sometime.” The monkey chief looked incredulous. “As proof look at my shell,” said the tortoise. “Isn’t it red in some parts and black in others? And am I not still alive?” “What can we do with him?” chattered the monkeys. “He cannot be crushed, chopped or burned. Let us drown him in the lake,” said the brightest of the monkeys.
When the tortoise heard this he pretended to be very much afraid. He begged the monkeys not to throw him into the water. Without the delay the monkeys took up the struggling tortoise and threw him into the river. The monkeys watched a long time. They saw the tortoise float on the water holding forth a large wriggling fish. Then all the monkeys tied stones on their waists and dived to catch the fish. They all drowned.
Retold from Therese D. Balayon (1974), Jose Rizal (1889) Dean S. Fansler (1921), Maximo Ramos (1956) and Ernesto Constantino (1982)