This is a tale told in the lake district of Luzon. At times of rain
or in winter the waters of the Laguna de Bai rise and detach from the
banks a peculiar vegetation that resembles lettuce. These plants,
which float for months down the Pasig River, gave rise, no doubt,
to the story.
Many years ago there lived on the banks of the Laguna de Bai a poor
fisherman whose wife had died, leaving him two beautiful daughters
named Mangita and Larina.
Mangita had hair as black as night and a dark skin. She was as good
as she was beautiful, and was loved by all for her kindness. She
helped her father mend the nets and make the torches to fish with at
night, and her bright smile lit up the little nipa house like a ray
Larina was fair and had long golden hair of which she was very
proud. She was different from her sister, and never helped with the
work, but spent the day combing her hair and catching butterflies. She
would catch a pretty butterfly, cruelly stick a pin through it,
and fasten it in her hair. Then she would go down to the lake to see
her reflection in the clear water, and would laugh to see the poor
butterfly struggling in pain. The people disliked her for her cruelty,
but they loved Mangita very much. This made Larina jealous, and the
more Mangita was loved, the more her sister thought evil of her.
One day a poor old woman came to the nipa house and begged for a
little rice to put in her bowl. Mangita was mending a net and Larina
was combing her hair in the doorway. When Larina saw the old woman
she spoke mockingly to her and gave her a push that made her fall
and cut her head on a sharp rock; but Mangita sprang to help her,
washed the blood away from her head, and filled her bowl with rice
from the jar in the kitchen.
The poor woman thanked her and promised never to forget her kindness,
but to her sister she spoke not a word. Larina did not care, however,
but laughed at her and mocked her as she painfully made her way again
down the road. When she had gone Mangita took Larina to task for
her cruel treatment of a stranger; but, instead of doing any good,
it only caused Larina to hate her sister all the more.
Some time afterwards the poor fisherman died. He had gone to the big
city down the river to sell his fish, and had been attacked with a
terrible sickness that was raging there.
The girls were now alone in the world.
Mangita carved pretty shells and earned enough to buy food, but,
though she begged Larina to try to help, her sister would only idle
away the time.
The terrible sickness now swept everywhere and poor Mangita, too,
fell ill. She asked Larina to nurse her, but the latter was jealous
of her and would do nothing to ease her pain. Mangita grew worse
and worse, but finally, when it seemed as if she would soon die,
the door opened and the old woman to whom she had been so kind came
into the room. She had a bag of seeds in her hand, and taking one
she gave it to Mangita, who soon showed signs of being better, but
was so weak that she could not give thanks.
The old woman then gave the bag to Larina and told her to give a seed
to her sister every hour until she returned. She then went away and
left the girls alone.
Larina watched her sister, but did not give her a single seed. Instead,
she hid them in her own long hair and paid no attention to Mangita's
moans of pain.
The poor girl's cries grew weaker and weaker, but not a seed would
her cruel sister give her. In fact, Larina was so jealous that she
wished her sister to die.
When at last the old woman returned, poor Mangita was at the point of
death. The visitor bent over the sick girl and then asked her sister
if she had given Mangita the seeds. Larina showed her the empty bag
and said she had given them as directed. The old woman searched the
house, but of course could not find the seeds. She then asked Larina
again if she had given them to Mangita. Again the cruel girl said
that she had done so.
Suddenly the room was filled with a blinding light, and when Larina
could see once more, in place of the old woman stood a beautiful
fairy holding the now well Mangita in her arms.
She pointed to Larina and said, "I am the poor woman who asked for
rice. I wished to know your hearts. You were cruel and Mangita was
kind, so she shall live with me in my island home in the lake. As for
you, because you tried to do evil to your good sister, you shall sit
at the bottom of the lake forever, combing out the seeds you have
hidden in your hair." Then, she clapped her hands and a number of
elves appeared and carried the struggling Larina away.
"Come," said the fairy to Mangita, and she carried her to her beautiful
home, where she lives in peace and happiness.
As for Larina, she sits at the bottom of the lake and combs her
hair. As she combs a seed out, another comes in, and every seed that
is combed out becomes a green plant that floats out of the lake and
down the Pasig.
And to this day people can see them, and know that Larina is being
punished for her wickedness.