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A Bisaya legend of how a sago tree came into existence

A Bisaya legend of how a sago tree came into existence

Every culture has its unique legends and most of these legends were used to explain things surrounding them.

These legends usually circle around how certain plants or animals were discovered or came into being.

Sometimes, they also explain why some creatures or plants are not found in the area.

For example here in Borneo, we have a legend of how paddy was discovered or why there are no tigers on this island.

Here is a Bisaya legend of how a sago tree was discovered as recorded by Benedict Sandin in his paper The Bisayah and Indigenous Peoples of Limbang (1972):

One day, there was a very poor Bisaya man who went into the jungle to look for anything to eat, as no one in the village would give him food.

After he had wandered for about 10 days in the jungle, he nearly died of starvation until he came across a woman who spoke kindly to him.

After staying with her for sometime, they got married.

(Now here is where things in their marriage get somewhat bizarre.)

When it was time to eat, the man was served sago pellets by his wife which came out from her private parts.

On seeing this, the man asked his wife, “Why do you give me dirty stuff?”

To this the woman answered, “You may kill me if you wish.” Furious, the man killed her with his knife.

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But before she died, she advised him that whenever he wished to eat sago, he should make a small hole in the ground so that the sago pellets could easily come out from the earth.

After she had finished giving her advice, she died instantly in the hands of her husband.

Immediately after she had died, a small sago tree grew from that spot, becoming the first sago tree to grow in that part of Limbang region.

Think about this legend the next time you are having your sago.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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