Suan Eket

Story Type: 

(Narrated by Manuel Reyes, a Tagalog from Rizal province. He heard the story from his grandfather.)

Many years ago there lived in the country of Campao a boy named Suan. While this boy was studying in a private school, it was said that he could not pronounce the letter x very well—he called it “eket.” So his schoolmates nick-named him “Suan Eket.”

Finally Suan left school, because, whenever he went there, the other pupils always shouted at him, “Eket, eket, eket!” He went home, and told his mother to buy him a pencil and a pad of paper. “I am the wisest boy in our town now,” said he.

One night Suan stole his father’s plough, and hid it in a creek near their house. The next morning his father could not find his plough.

“What are you looking for?” said Suan.

“My plough,” answered his father.

“Come here, father! I will guess where it is.” Suan took his pencil and a piece of paper. On the paper he wrote figures of various shapes. He then looked up, and said,—

“Ararokes, ararokes,
Na na nakawes
Ay na s’imburnales,”—
which meant that the plough had been stolen by a neighbor and hidden in a creek. Suan’s father looked for it in the creek near their house, and found it. In great wonder he said, “My son is truly the wisest boy in the town.” News spread that Suan was a good guesser.

One day as Suan was up in a guava-tree, he saw his uncle Pedro ploughing. At noon Pedro went home to eat his dinner, leaving the plough and the carabao4 in the field. Suan got down from the tree and climbed up on the carabao’s back. He guided it to a very secret place in the mountains and hid it there. When Pedro came back, he could not find his carabao. A man who was passing by said, “Pedro, what are you looking for?”

“I am looking for my carabao. Somebody must have stolen it.” “Go to Suan, your nephew,” said the man. “He can tell you who stole your carabao.” So Pedro went to Suan’s house, and told him to guess who had taken his carabao.

Suan took his pencil and a piece of paper. On the paper he wrote some round figures. He then looked up, and said,

“Carabaues, carabaues,
Na nanakawes
Ay na sa bundokes,”—
which meant that the carabao was stolen by a neighbor and was hidden in the mountain. For many days Pedro looked for it in the mountain. At last he found it in a very secret place. He then went to Suan’s house, and told him that the carabao was truly in the mountain. In great wonder he said, “My nephew is surely a good guesser.”

One Sunday a proclamation of the king was read. It was as follows: “The princess’s ring is lost. Whoever can tell who stole it shall have my daughter for his wife; but he who tries and fails, loses his head.”

When Suan’s mother heard it, she immediately went to the palace, and said, “King, my son can tell you who stole your daughter’s ring.”

“Very well,” said the king, “I will send my carriage for your son to ride to the palace in.”

In great joy the woman went home. She was only ascending the ladder5 when she shouted, “Suan Suan, my fortunate son!”

“What is it, mother?” said Suan.

“I told the king that you could tell him who stole the princess’s ring.”

“Foolish mother, do you want me to die?” said Suan, trembling.

Suan had scarcely spoken these words when the king’s carriage came. The coachman was a courtier. This man was really the one who had stolen the princess’s ring. When Suan was in the carriage, he exclaimed in great sorrow, “Death is at hand!” Then he blasphemed, and said aloud to himself, “You will lose your life now.”

The coachman thought that Suan was addressing him. He said to himself, “I once heard that this man is a good guesser. He must know that it was I who stole the ring, because he said that my death is at hand.” So he knelt before Suan, and said, “Pity me! Don’t tell the king that it was I who stole the ring!”

Suan was surprised at what the coachman said. After thinking for a moment, he asked, “Where is the ring?”

“Here it is.”

“All right! Listen, and I will tell you what you must do in order that you may not be punished by the king. You must catch one of the king’s geese to-night, and make it swallow the ring.”

The coachman did what Suan had told him to do. He caught a goose and opened its mouth. He then dropped the ring into it, and pressed the bird’s throat until it swallowed the ring.

[5]The next morning the king called Suan, and said, “Tell me now who stole my daughter’s ring.”

“May I have a candle? I cannot guess right if I have no candle,” said Suan.

The king gave him one. He lighted it and put it on a round table. He then looked up and down. He went around the table several times, uttering Latin words. Lastly he said in a loud voice, “Mi domine!”

“Where is the ring?” said the king.

Suan replied,—

“Singsing na nawala
Ninakao ang akala
Ay nas’ ’big ng gansa,”—
which meant that the ring was not stolen, but had been swallowed by a goose. The king ordered all the geese to be killed. In the crop of one of them they found the ring. In great joy the king patted Suan on the back, and said, “You are truly the wisest boy in the world.”

The next day there was a great entertainment, and Suan and the princess were married.

In a country on the other side of the sea was living a rich man named Mayabong. This man heard that the King of Campao had a son-in-law who was a good guesser. So he filled one of his cascos with gold and silver, and sailed to Campao. He went to the palace, and said, “King, is it true that your son-in-law is a good guesser?”

“Yes,” said the king.

“Should you like to have a contest with me? If your son-in-law can tell how many seeds these melons I have brought here contain, I will give you that casco filled with gold and silver on the sea; but if he fails, you are to give me the same amount of money as I have brought.”

The king agreed. Mayabong told him that they would meet at the public square the next day.

When Mayabong had gone away, the king called Suan, and said, “Mayabong has challenged me to a contest. You are to guess how many seeds the melons he has contain. Can you do it?” Suan was ashamed to refuse; so, even though he knew that he could not tell how many seeds a melon contained, he answered, “Yes.”

When night came, Suan could not sleep. He was wondering what to do. At last he decided to drown himself in the sea. So he went to the shore and got into a tub. “I must drown myself far out, so that no one may find my body. If they see it, they will say that I was not truly a good guesser,” he said to himself. He rowed and rowed until he was very tired. It so happened that he reached the place where Mayabong’s casco was anchored. There he heard somebody talking. “How many seeds has the green melon?” said one. “Five,” answered another. “How many seeds has the yellow one?”—“Six.”

When Suan heard how many seeds each melon contained, he immediately rowed back to shore and went home.

The next morning Suan met Mayabong at the public square, as agreed. Mayabong held up a green melon, and said, “How many seeds does this melon contain?”

“Five seeds,” answered Suan, after uttering some Latin words.

The melon was cut, and was found to contain five seeds. The king shouted, “We are right!”

Mayabong then held up another melon, and said, “How many does this one contain?”

Seeing that it was the yellow melon, Suan said, “It contains six.”

When the melon was cut, it was found that Suan was right again. So he won the contest.

Now, Mayabong wanted to win his money back again. So he took a bottle and filled it with dung, and covered it tightly. He challenged the king again to a contest. But when Suan refused this time, because he had no idea as to what was in the bottle, the king said, “I let you marry my daughter, because I thought that you were a good guesser. Now you must prove that you are. If you refuse, you will lose your life.”

When Mayabong asked what the bottle contained, Suan, filled with rage, picked it up and hurled it down on the floor, saying, “I consider that you are all waste to me.”6 When the bottle was broken, it was found to contain waste, or dung. In great joy the king crowned Suan to succeed him. Thus Suan lived happily the rest of his life with his wife the princess.