Mangita And Larina





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

of sunshine.



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.





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