Philippine Myth: The Origin of Turnips

Philippine native turnips are white crunchy, and watery tubers that are planted after the rainy season and harvested usually in summer. They are among the other watery produce of the land that seem too welcome and supply provisions for a hot, humid Philippine summer time. So how did the term turnip in Filipino start out in the country? This Philippine myth tells us how.

A long time ago, according to this myth, when the islands were newly conquered by Spain, a top-ranking Spanish official in a remote place in the country wanted to know more about the locality. Excited about what the province, under his jurisdiction, was all about he assigned five soldiers with the task of exploring the vast land. The myth says he told them to go up every mountain and hill and go down every ravine and valley. Cross every the rivers and search every nook and cranny of the land. Then the soldiers were to go back and report to him what the land can offer them.

The 5 soldiers went far and wide. The myth says they crossed rivers and climb every high mountain and low hill. Finally, exasperated from the long travel, they sat down to rest. They found themselves amid some kind of a field. A curious-looking shrub was all over it. Not far away were local farmers uprooting the strange shrub. The myth says the soldiers approached the natives and asked for water. Naturally, the natives didn’t understand Spanish. The myth says they just shrugged their shoulders and looked at each other.

The soldiers noted that the shrubs and asked the natives what they were. Not understanding a word, they just handed them a tuber. According to the myth, the soldiers peeled and sliced it in pieces and tasted it. It was crunchy and watery, cool, and a bit sweet. Just what they needed to quench thirst and recharge. So they asked for five more, so each of them could have a whole piece. They told the natives “Cinco mas” and held out their hands. The natives thought the 5 soldiers were telling them the name of the tuber. So they nodded their heads and returned, “Ah, singkamas.”

The myth says that since then, the tuber has been called “Singkamas” or turnip in English.

The Philippine myth on the origin of the Filipino term for a “turnip” may sound funny, but lots of misunderstandings in real life end up just like it.

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