A Little Book of Filipino Riddles

19K 4 1


Produced by Jeroen Hellingman and the PG Distributed Proofreaders Team, from scans kindly made available by the University of Michigan.

Philippine Studies I

A Little Book of Filipino Riddles

Collected and Edited by Frederick Starr

World Book Co. Yonkers, New York 1909

Copyrighted 1909 by Frederick Starr The Torch Press Cedar Rapids, Iowa

This Little Book of Filipino Riddles Is Dedicated To Gelacio Caburian Casimiro Verceles Rufino Dungan of Agoo, Union Province


Although I had already inquired for them from Ilocano boys, my first actual knowledge of Filipino riddles was due to Mr. George T. Shoens, American teacher among the Bisayans. He had made a collection of some fifty Bisayan riddles and presented a brief paper regarding them at the Anthropological Conference held at Baguio, under my direction, on May 12-14, 1908. My own collection was begun among Ilocano of Union Province from whom about two hundred examples were secured. Others were later secured from Pangasinan, Gaddang, Pampangan, Bisayan and Tagal sources. My informants have chiefly been school-boys, who spoke a little English; they wrote the text of riddle and answer in their native tongue and then we went over them carefully together to make an English translation and to get at the meaning. Many Filipinos know how to read and write their native language, although few have had actual instruction in doing so. There is no question that errors and inconsistencies exist in the spelling of these riddles, due to this lack of instruction and to the fact that the texts have been written by many different persons. I am myself not acquainted with any Malay language. I have tried to secure uniformity in spelling within the limits of each language but have no doubt overlooked many inconsistencies. The indulgence of competent critics is asked. It has been our intention throughout to adhere to the _old_ orthography. Thus the initial _qu_ and the final _ao_ have been preferred.

The _word_ for riddle varies with the population. In Ilocano it is _burburtia_, in Pangasinan _boniqueo_, in Tagal _bugtong_, in Gaddang ----, in Pampangan _bugtong_, in Bisayan _tugmahanon_.

Riddles are common to all mankind. They delighted the old Aryans and the ancient Greeks as they do the modern Hindu and the Bantu peoples of darkest Africa. Many writers have defined the riddle. Friedreich in his _Geschichte des Räthsels_, says: "The riddle is an indirect presentation of an unknown object, in order that the ingenuity of the hearer or reader may be exercised in finding it out.... Wolf has given the following definition: the riddle is a play of wit, which endeavors to so present an object, by stating its characteristic features and peculiarities, as to adequately call it before the mind, without, however, actually naming it."

The riddles of various Oriental peoples have already been collected and more or less adequately discussed by authors. Hebrew riddles occur in the Bible, the best known certainly being Samson's:

"Out of the eater came forth meat, And out of the strong came forth sweetness."

Arabic riddles are many and have been considerably studied; Persian riddles are well known; of Indian riddles at least one collection has been printed separately under the name _Lakshminatha upasaru_, a series of Kolarian riddles from Chota Nagpur has been printed as, also, an interesting article upon Behar riddles; Sanskrit riddles are numerous and have called for some attention from scholars; a few Gypsy riddles are known; two recent papers deal with Corean riddles. We know of but two references to Malayan riddles; one is Rizal, _Specimens of Tagal Folk-Lore_, the other is Sibree's paper upon the _Oratory, Songs, Legends, and Folk-Tales of the Malagasy_. This is no doubt an incomplete bibliography but the field has been sadly neglected and even to secure this list has demanded much labor. It suffices to show how deeply the riddle is rooted in Oriental thought and indicates the probability that riddles were used in Malaysia long before European contact.

A Little Book of Filipino RiddlesRead this story for FREE!