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Folklore on Numbers versus Wisdom

In the history of the country’s struggle against foreign invasion, Filipinos have often been either outnumbered or ill equipped. A lot of encouragements to boost morale were used to keep the mettle of ancient warriors steadily on fire. These were through written literature and recited verses in prose or poetry. This folklore on numbers versus wisdom is an example.

This folklore, centering on the intellectual abilities of the giant ant (hantik), the lion, and the mudfish, shows not just strength in numbers, but also the advantages of wisdom over numbers. Numbers, as this folklore shows, always makes a strong impression especially in battle. It starts with a conflict between two kings in the forest; the king of giant ants and the king of the jungle.

It is common knowledge that the lion is king of the forest. However, in this local folklore, the king of the giant ants arrogantly belittled the lion’s threat when they fought over territory. The lion claimed exclusive rights to all the jungle, to which the giant ant king merely shrugged his shoulders, and the folklore even depicts the giant ant king as a nonchalant instigator, picking a fight against the forest’s most feared king.

This folklore may seem quite familiar, except for the introduction of the mudfish. In this folklore the mudfish does not have the royal stature as the ant and the lion, yet is introduced as a sage of the swamps—a territory despised by both kings. The mudfish counsels against the proud giant ant king, but only incurred the wrath of the same. The giant ant even threatened to kill him after the lion gets killed.

Giant ants (hantik) are respected in the countryside. They are fiercer than regular ants and often larger in number. Thus, in this folklore, the solo king of the jungle stood no chance against the millions of giant ants that clung to the lion’s limbs and body, and even its innards.

The next target was the mudfish. Resting amid the still alga and fungi on the water, the folklore pictures the mudfish peacefully waiting for the giant ants to come and attack. Initially, the giant ants were able to walk on the alga’s surface to where the mudfish was. But with one steer of the mudfish the alga beneath the giant ants started breaking and they all drowned.

Numbers sometimes mean the majority of fools are on the same side. The struggles of minority Filipinos have probably been encouraged by folklores such as this.

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