The Visayans tell many stories which have as their hero Juan Pusong, or Tricky John. As the name implies, he is represented as being deceitful and dishonest, sometimes very cunning, and, in some of the stories told of him, endowed with miraculous power. The stories are very simple and of not very great excellence. The few which follow will serve as samples of the narratives told of this popular hero.
I.Juan Pusong was a lazy boy. Neither punishment nor the offer of a reward could induce him to go to school, but in school-time he was always to be found on the plaza, playing with the other boys.
His mother, however, believed him to be in school, and each day prepared some dainty for him to eat upon his return home. Juan was not satisfied with deceiving his mother in this way, but used to play tricks on her.
"Mother," he said, one day, "I have already learned to be a seer and to discover what is hidden. This afternoon when I come home from school I will foretell what you have prepared for me."
"Will you?" said his mother joyfully, for she believed all he said, "I will try to prepare something new and you will not be able to guess it."
"I shall, mother, I shall, let it be whatever it may," answered Juan. When it was time to go to school, Juan pretended to set out, but instead he climbed a tree which stood near the kitchen, and hiding himself among the leaves, watched through the window all that his mother did.
His mother baked a bibingca, or cake made of rice and sweet potato, and hid it in a jar. "I will bet anything," she said, "that my son will not guess what it is." Juan laughed at his mother's self-conceit. When it was time for school to close he got down, and with a book in his hand, as though he had really come from school, appeared before his mother and said: "Mother, I know what you are keeping for me."
"What is it?" asked his mother.
"The prophecy that I have just learned at school says that there is a bibingca hidden in the olla." The mother became motionless with surprise. "Is it possible?" she asked herself, "my son is indeed a seer. I am going to spread it abroad. My son is a seer."
The news was spread far and wide and many people came to make trial of Pusong's powers. In these he was always successful, thanks to his ability to cheat.
II.One day a ship was anchored in the harbor. She had come from a distant island. Her captain had heard of Pusong's power and wished to try him. The trial consisted in foretelling how many seeds the oranges with which his vessel was loaded contained. He promised to give Juan a great quantity of money if he could do this.
Pusong asked for a day's time. That night he swam out to the vessel, and, hidden in the water under the ship's stern, listened to the conversation of the crew. Luckily they were talking about this very matter of the oranges, and one of them inquired of the captain what kind of oranges he had.
"My friend," said the captain, "these oranges are different from any in this country, for each contains but one seed."
Pusong had learned all that he needed to know, so he swam back to the shore, and the next morning announced that he was ready for the trial.
Many people had assembled to hear the great seer. Pusong continued to read in his book, as though it was the source of his information. The hour agreed upon struck, and the captain of the vessel handed an orange to Juan and said: "Mr. Pusong, you may tell us how many seeds this orange contains."
Pusong took the orange and smelled it. Then he opened his book and after a while said: "This orange you have presented me with contains but one seed."
The orange was cut and but the one seed found in it, so Pusong was paid the money. Of course he obtained a great reputation throughout the country, and became very rich.
III.Juan Pusong's father drove his cows out one day to pasture. Juan slipped secretly from the house, and going to the pasture, took the cows into the forest and tied them there. When his father was going for the cows he met Juan and asked: "Where did you come from?" The boy replied: "I have just come from school. What are you looking for?"
"I am looking for our cows," said his father.
"Why did n't you tell me that before," asked Juan. "Wait a minute," and he took his little book from his pocket and, looking into it, said: "Our cows are in such a place in the forest, tied together. Go and get them." So his father went to the place where Juan said the cows were and found them. Afterwards it was discovered that Juan could not read even his own name, so his father beat him for the trick he had played.
IV.Pusong and Tabloc-laui. Pusong had transgressed the law, and was for this reason put into a cage to be in a short time submerged with
it into the sea.
Tabloc-laui, a friend of Pusong's, passed by and saw him in the cage. "What are you there for?" Tabloc-laui asked.
"Oh!" answered Pusong, "I am a prisoner here, as you see, because the chief wants me to marry his daughter and I don't want to do it. I am to stay here until I consent."
"What a fool you are!" said Tabloc-laui. "The chief's daughter is pretty, and I am surprised that you are not willing to marry her."
"Hear me, Tabloc-laui!" said the prisoner. "If you want to marry the chief's daughter, let me out and get in here in my place; for tomorrow they will come and ask you if you will consent. Then you will be married at once."
"I am willing!" exclaimed Tabloc-laui. "Get out and I will take your place!"
Next morning the chief ordered his soldiers to take the cage with the prisoner to the sea and submerge it in the water.
Tabloc-laui, on seeing the soldiers coming toward him, thought they would make inquiries of him as Pusong had said.
"I am ready now," he said, "I am ready to be the princess's husband."
"Is this crazy fellow raving?" asked the soldiers. "We are ordered to take you and submerge you in the sea."
"But," objected Tabloc-laui, "I am ready now to marry the chief's daughter."
He was carried to the sea and plunged into the water, in spite of his crying, "I am not Pusong! I am Tabloc-laui!"
The next week the chief was in his boat, going from one fish-trap to another, to inspect them. Pusong swam out to the boat.
The chief, on seeing him, wondered, for he believed that Pusong was dead. "How is this?" he asked. "Did you not drown last week?"
"By no means. I sank to the bottom, but I found that there was no water there. There is another world where the dead live again. I saw your father and he charged me to bid you go to him, and afterwards you will be able to come back here, if you wish to do so." "Is that really true, Pusong?" asked the chief. "Yes, it is really true," was the reply.
"Well, I will go there. I will have a cage made and go through the way you did."
So the next morning the chief was submerged in the water, with the hope of coming back. When a considerable time had elapsed without seeing his return, his servants searched for Pusong, in order to punish him, but he had escaped to the mountains.
V.The Enchanted Prince. There was once a king who had three young and beautiful daughters named Isabel, Catalina, and Maria.
In the capital city of the kingdom lived a young man known by the name of Juan Pusong. He had as friends an ape, named Amo-Mongo, and a wildcat, whose name was Singalong. The three friends were passing one day in front of the palace, and, seeing the three young ladies, were greatly charmed by their beauty.
Pusong, who posed as a young aristocrat of considerable learning, determined to go before the king and declare his love for the Princess Isabel. The king received him favorably, and offered him a seat; but Juan refused to sit down until he should know the result of his request.
The king was astonished at his manner, and asked him what he wanted. Juan replied that he had presumptuously allowed himself to be charmed by the beauty of the Princess Isabel, and humbly requested the king's consent to their marriage. The king had the princess summoned before him, and in the presence of Pusong asked her if she would accept this man as her husband. She dutifully expressed her willingness to do whatever her father wished, so the king granted the request of Pusong, who was immediately married to Isabel.
When Amo-Mongo saw how successful Pusong had been, he presented himself before the king, as his friend had done, and requested the hand of the Princess Catalina. The king, somewhat unwillingly, gave his consent, and these two were also married.
When Singalong saw to what high positions his friends had attained, he became desirous of like fortune, so he went to the king and obtained his consent to his marriage with the Princess Maria.
All three of the king's sons-in-law lived with their wives at the palace, at the king's expense. The latter seeing that his daughters' husbands were lazy fellows, determined to make them useful, so he sent Pusong and Amo-Mongo out to take charge of his estates in the country, while to Singalong he gave the oversight of the servants who worked in the kitchen of the palace.
Pusong and Amo-Mongo went out to the hacienda with the intention of doing something, but when they arrived there, they found so much to do that they concluded that it would be impossible to attend to everything and so decided to do nothing.
The latter, after merely looking over the estate, entered the forest, in order to visit his relatives there. His fellow monkeys, who knew of his marriage with the princess, believed him to be of some importance, and begged him to save them from the famine which was devastating the forest. This Amo-Mongo, with much boasting of his wealth, promised to do, declaring that at the time of harvest he would give them plenty of rice.
When Pusong and his companion returned to the palace they were asked by the king how many acres they had cleared. They replied that they had cleared and planted about one thousand acres. The king was satisfied with their answer, and, at Amo-Mongo's request, gave orders for a large quantity of rice to be carried from the storehouse to the spot in the forest where his son-in-law had promised the monkeys that they should find it.
On the other hand, Singalong during the day did nothing, and as the king never saw him at work he disliked his third son-in-law very much. Yet every morning there were great piles of fish and vegetables in the palace kitchen. Amo-Mongo, knowing that his brother-in-law usually went out at night in order to bring something home, contrived to get up early and see what there was in the kitchen, so as to present it to the king as the result of his own labors. In this way, Amo-Mongo became each day dearer and dearer to the king, while Singalong became more and more disliked. Maria knew that her husband procured their food in some way, for every morning he said to her: "All that you see here I have brought." However, the king knew nothing of all this.
When the early harvest time came, the king commanded Amo-Mongo to bring rice to make pilipig. (Rice pounded into flakes and toasted, a dish of which Filipinos are very fond.) Amo-Mongo did not know where he could find it, but set out in the direction from which he had seen Singalong coming each morning, and soon came to an extensive rice-field bearing an abundant crop. He took a goodly portion of it and, returning to the palace, had the pilipig prepared and set before the king and his household. Every one ate of it, except Singalong, who was the real owner, and his wife, who had been secretly notified by him of the truth of the matter.
Maria was greatly perplexed by what her husband had told her, so she determined one night to watch him. She discovered that, as soon as the other people were asleep, her husband became transformed into a handsome prince and left the palace, leaving behind him his cat's dress. As soon as he had gone, Maria took the cast-off clothing of her husband and cast it into the fire. Singalong smelt it burning and returned to the palace, where he found his wife and begged her to return to him his cat's dress. This she was unable to do, since it was entirely consumed. As a result, Singalong was obliged to retain the form of a prince, but he was afraid to appear before the king in this guise, and so hid himself.
In the morning, Maria went to the king and told him the truth about her husband. Her father, however, thought that she was crazy, and when she insisted, invited her to accompany him to Amo-Mongo's farm, in order to convince her of her error. Many people went with them, and Amo-Mongo led them to the farm, which was really Singalong's, but told them that it belonged to himself. Besides other things, Singalong had planted many fruits, among them atimon and candol.
Amo-Mongo, seeing the diversity of fruits, began to eat all he could, until he became unable to move a step. Whenever his wife urged him to come away, he would take an atimon under his arm and a candol or so in his hands, until at last his wife, angry at his greediness, gave him a push which caused him to fall headlong, striking his head against a stone and being instantly killed.
Then Singalong, who had secretly followed the crowd from the palace, showed himself to the king in his proper form. After making suitable explanations, he led them to a fine palace in the middle of the hacienda. There they all lived together, but Pusong and his wife, who in former times had treated Singalong very harshly, giving him only the bones and scraps from the table, were now obliged to act as servants in the kitchen of the king's new palace.