The Story of the First Durian

This is a Philippine folk tale about the durian fruit indigenous to Southeast Asia which is known to "taste like heaven and smell like hell." In the Philippines, Calinan is well-known for its durians. See durian for more information on this foul-smelling but tasty fruit.

Centuries ago, Barom-Mai, an old and ugly king, lived in a kingdom called Calinan in the Visayan Islands of the Philippines. Even though Barom-Mai was powerful, he was helpless and desperate in winning the love of his young bride, Madayaw-Bayho. Barom-Mai sought his advisors to help him win his bride's love. Matigam, the wisest of the advisors, told him about a hermit, Impit Purok, who lived in a cave in Mount Apo.

Barom-Mai and his entourage visited Impit Purok. The hermit asked for three things: the egg of the black tabon bird, 12 ladles of fresh milk from a purely white carabao (bison), and nectar from a flower of the tree of make-believe. He said that the egg would soften the bride's heart, the milk would make her kind, and the nectar would delude her into seeing Barom-Mai as a young and handsome king.

The king found the egg with the aid of Pawikan, the king of the sea turtles. Then, he got milk from a white carabao the next morning with the help of his cook. Lastly, Hangin-Bai, the air nymph, led him to her sister, the wood nymph with the magical flower in her hair, to get the nectar. Barom-Mai handed the three things over to Impit Purok. The hermit then asked the king to prepare a banquet after he wins his queen's heart and to invite him as a guest of honor. Impit Purok mixed the three ingredients and instructed Barom-Mai to plant the mixture in his royal garden. The morning after the mixture was planted, a tree grew that had a sweet smell and delicious fruit.

When Madayaw-Bayho was given the fruit, she fell in love with Barom-Mai. The king celebrated by holding a grand feast but forgot to invite Impit Purok. For revenge, Impit Purok casted a curse on the fruit. The curse replaced the sweet smell with a acrid odor and the smooth skin with thorns. This tale says that this is why the the durian smells and looks as it does today.

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