The Real Legend of Araceli’s Name
Ever since Jose Rizal’s legend of Calamba town’s name became known to schoolchildren, most legends about the source of any Philippine place’s name followed the same trend: the origin is based on the name itself. So you have Antipolo being named after the tree tipolo, Batangas from batangan, Bicol’s Magayon for Mayon, Marinduque from the tale of star-crossed lovers Marin and Duque as examples.
The published so-called legend of Araceli, Palawan’s name, accepted —and incredibly, believed— , by many is of the same pattern. According to the ‘legend’, the name came into existence when some Muslim traders came to the place looking for pepper, which was a regular part of their cuisine. The locals indicated there was none, by saying, ‘ara sili’. The term ‘ara’ is Cuyunon for none or no, and sili is Tagalog for pepper. So ‘ara sili’ literally translates to ‘no pepper’. The strangers took it to be the name of the place and it was known to be that ever after. That is, according to the ‘legend’.
This story was plausible enough to be believed by many, which is, as I stated above, simply incredible, but it has several flaws. The first flaw was that ‘sili’ was a Tagalog term, the Cuyunon equivalent being ‘catumbal’. Therefore the correct reply should have been ‘ara catumbal’, the Tagalog language being largely unknown, much more used, at the time. Thus, to use ‘sili’ to mean pepper was out of place, if the replying individual was a Cuyunon, which was eminently reasonable, because no Tagalog settlers were present in the community in sufficient numbers (if any) to influence the Cuyunon residents to use the term. Rizal’s story has had influences way beyond what he may have thought then.
Second, at the establishment of the community, the predations of the Muslim raiders countering the Spanish colonization of the islands were still rather prevalent. The Muslims of the Sultanate of Brunei* were making all efforts to blunt the coming of the Spaniards by regularly attacking coastal communities and destroying the Spanish influence. Therefore, at the sight of approaching Muslim vintas the residents normally will run to the interior, leaving the ‘pirates’ to ransack the place. If the Muslim traders came as in the ‘legend’, there should have been nobody to welcome them, much more tell them no pepper is available.
The third flaw is that the ‘traders’ and the residents would not have understood each other, the visitors speaking Tausug/Maranao/Mappun (whatever)** and the locals speaking Cuyunon. So if they communicated by signs, signals and other non-verbal ways, the ‘ara sili’ reply would not have been made. Pepper will be very difficult to describe via hand signs, and to say ‘ara sili’ in signs will be as difficult. I wonder how they understood each other if ever they made the exchange that ‘ara sili’ were mentioned in reply.
Last, the story was so overly simple and so flawed it seems to have been concocted by an elementary school student. The actual story of how this ‘legend’ came about went like this:
- citibank credit card woes
- requiem for a beloved mother and president
- for my father, on FATHER’S DAY
- The Real Story Behind Araceli’s Name
- I Should Have Taken my Father Fishing
- My First Fish
- My Earliest Attempts at Fishing
- thoughts via a fishing vacation
- PCSD under DENR? Oh no!
- mining-bashing in palawan
- exxon in sulu sea
- Hello world!