The Legend of Maypajo

Monday June 16, 2014 ()

North of the city of Manila lies Maypajo, a small barrio under the jurisdiction of the municipality (now city) of Caloocan. It was notorious in the past for its tulisanes who waylaid travelers between Manila and points north, and historically it was famous as the scene of many skirmishes between the Filipino insurgents and the Spaniards in the Revolt of 1896.

Connected with the name of this village - Maypajo - is a tragic tale of a mother and daughter, which, as told by an old man of the place, Lolo Martin, runs as follows:

   The Legend of Maypajo

Many years ago, a beautiful woman, barely in her thirties, came to live in the town, and with her was a young maiden, also beautiful, her daughter. No one knew who they were or where they came from. To the simple barrio folk it was enough to know that the woman's name was Aling Sela and the girl's Gayang.

One morning Aling Sela asked Gayang to get a jar of drinking water from the well, the only well in the vicinity, located near a big pajo* tree. This tree had for some time been regarded by the people of the neighborhood with superstitious awe. It was said that during the nights of the full moon, the sounds of merrymaking could be heard coming from the tree. The words of popular ballads, accompanied by the twanging of the kutibeng (a small guitar), mingled with gay laughter often floated through the placid evening air. The barrio folk did not dare to investigate lest evil befall them, and only paused to listen in awe - struch fascination.

*(Pajo is a tree belonging to the mango family. The fruit is similar to that of the mango, but is smaller and remains sour even when ripe, although it is edible.)

Beneath the boughs of this tree was a punso, a small anthill, which, unlike other similar mounds, was always clean. No dead leaves or broken twigs were ever seen on its surface, although no one ever saw anybody brushing them off. Some unknown spirit was thought to inhabit the hill, and people, passing by, always asked this spirit's permission to do so. Even the children were taught to say, "Makiraan nga po?" (May I pass?)

When Gayang did not immediately return from the well, Aling Sela began to worry and went out to look for her. She found her daughter under the pajo tree, acting very queerly, as if she were conversing with some invisible being.

"Gayang", called the mother sharply, "are you crazy?" The girl did not heed the call, but continued to look into space with sparkling eyes, her pretty lips pouting, her fingers nervously entwining, her toes digging into the soft earth, as if some one were flattering or wooing her.

Aling Sela, being a new-comer, did not know anything about the mysterious punso and the equally mysterious pajo tree. She approached Gayang without much ado, took her by the ear, and marched her off with a volley of angry words.

From that time on, the girl acted more and more strangely until her mother became so alarmed that she called the mananawas or witch doctor to cure the peculiar sickness from which Gayang seemed to be suffering. The witch doctor told her that the matanda sa punso-the old man of the mound-wanted Gayang to be his wife and that there was no power on earth to check the will of this spirit. He advised Aling Sela to give up her daughter for the good of the barrio, as otherwise the old man of the mound would be displeased.

But Aling Sela rebelled. Who was this matanda sa punso? She give up her daughter? Never !

The next morning Gayang had disappeared, and the frightened mother ran toward the haunted ant mound under the pajo tree. There, on the ground, she found the girl's clothes, neatly folded. She called frantically and began to beat the mound with her hands, entreating the matanda sa punso to give her back her daughter. But there was no reply and no sign.

The people of the barrio gathered about her and tried to comfort her. The witch doctor told her that all would be well with Gayang, that it was an honor to be chosen to wife by the matanda sa punso. But the mother would not listen and refused to leave the place. Several days passed and the distracted mother was still pounding the stony ant hill with her bare and bleeding hands. She repulsed all offers of food and drink and a few days later died of grief and exhaustion.

After Aling Sela's death, sounds of merrymaking continued to be heard about the tree during moonlit nights, but in the dark of the moon only a voice was heard, a voice resembling that of Aling Sela's, saying in low warning: "Huag kayong lalapit sa may pajo! Huag kayong lalapit sa may pajo!" Meaning: "Do not come near the pajo tree! Do not come near the pajo tree!"

For many years mothers repeated this warning to their children and travelers were told "Huwag kayong dadaan sa may pajo!" ("Do not pass near the pajo tree!") No one dared any longer to go near the tree, even after asking permission from the old man of the mound, and the people moved their houses to a distance from where they could not hear either the singing and playing or the mournful warning voice.

Today, the pajo tree and the mysterious mound are no longer to be found. They were removed by a real estate company. But the place is still called "may pajo" -- Maypajo.


  1. Philippine magazine, Volume 30, Number 1, June 1933


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