The Buried Treasure


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            Hello everyone! Kumusta ka! Welcome to today’s episode. And I’m not sure what the best way to go about starting this whole thing is. Basically, as I said last week, I want this show to include period retellings of myths, legends, and folktales, for one, because it’s my heritage in a more literal sense—it was what my grandfather was known for—and also because I want to make sure these stories can stay alive by finding new audiences.

            But introducing these tales is going to be hard. For now, though, I have a sort of copout. Because, I’m sure you might be wondering… Where did I find these tales when in a past episode I said that it can be hard to find them? I mean, when the library lets you down, it can be pretty discouraging.

            Well, the good news is that booksellers are also willing to help. Or they have a financial incentive to help you.

So, there’s this series of books by Maximo D. Ramos who is considered the “Dean of Philippine Lower Mythology.” But to put that in clearer terms, Ramos was a well-accomplished scholar who devoted himself to these stories, and he published many books that contained. And you can get your local neighborhood bookseller to help you buy these books. All you have to do is ask.

            And so, I’m going to be drawing from his work for a while. We will start with a story, and afterwards, I’ll include some thoughts I had after I first read it. Hopefully that’s a good system. For now, let’s start with the story of “The Buried Treasure.”

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            Perhaps this won’t be so hard for you to imagine, but once upon many times, there was a couple who lived on a small farm, very small, with soil that could barely support the hardiest crops when diligently worked. A couple lived on that farm, and they spent many hours working over it. But when the husband grew sick, the situation grew more dire. After all, one pair of hands alone couldn’t do it, but the wife had to try. So she would leave the home early in the morning and work the field all day, returning long after the sun had set.


            Now when you live on a farm, there are many things you need to do, but weeding the fields took up most of her time. She hated it for the same reason that she struggled so much to do it: it was very physical work, pulling up a plant that did not wish to be uprooted. And she was not a very strong person.

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            One day, as she labored and toiled, she uncovered a few copper coins in the soil. She paused when she first uncovered them, but with so much work to be done, she couldn’t afford to wait. So she set them aside and kept weeding. But every so often, she would uncover more copper coins until she had one hundred on the ground before her. And she did not know from whence they came.

            Now, this was her and her husband’s farm. So the appearance of these coins was without a strong explanation. It was not as if someone could have dropped them while walking along the path. There was no path. There was no need to walk in that direction. And no person who would walk over someone’s crops. And these coins could not have belonged to them, either. They had never had this much in their possession, and if so, they never would have let these coins fall out of their sight.

But if these coins did not belong to them nor to strangers, where could they have come from? The woman didn’t know, but she knew she and her husband were starving. So she took the coins and used them to buy some rice, an act that was not without fear.

            Because what would her husband think if he knew about the money? After all, she could not explain where it had come from. He would likely think she stole it, she feared. So the woman vowed to not bring it up to her husband. No matter how guilty she felt.

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            The next day, she was working in the fields again, closing in on the distant bamboo when she found a silver coin amongst the weeds. And then another. She was confused. But suddenly, the calmness of the farm was interrupted.

            “Do not tell anyone about your good fortune,” a voice said to her. “And you will have more of it.”

            The woman was very scared. Finding coins was one thing, but to hear an unknown voice was quite another. She buried the coins in a familiar spot marked by a large rock. They needed the money, yes, but the woman was unsure if she should accept it. And she did not need to decide right away. The copper coins had given them enough rice to live off of for a while. Without the need for the money, the woman could not bring herself to take it home.

            Every day for seven days, the woman would uncover more coins in her field, but she did not take them home. So instead, she would bury them in the spot. The pile grew, but she did not grow tempted.

            She didn’t want her husband to know what was happening, no matter how distressing it was to keep the secret from him. The woman worried he would not believe her when she swore that she had not stolen the money or acquired in other… distressing ways. It was so much easier to pretend it was not happening at all. For as long as she could, anyway. And that was a different concern.

            These coins were not going away, she thought. So what if he finds them as well? Will he be just as confused? Or will he blame me for spreading them across our fields? And maybe that is why our fields are not doing so well. Maybe it’s the coins These coins that he will blame me for. And where he will think I got the coins? He will think I stole them, the woman feared, and we are being punished for my sin with empty fields and poor crops.

            The woman was a good and faithful wife, but she was not sure if her husband knew it.

            On the seventh and final day, the woman was boiling rice over a small fire in the field. She was no calmer than she had been when the coins first started appearing, but she had not seen any that day.

            Instead, she was graced with the mysterious voice again. “Forget the rice,” it said to her. “You have kept the secret, so there is more treasure in the field for you. Dig beneath the fire, and you will find all the riches you could ever need.”

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            The woman did as she was told, carefully setting the warmed rice and smoldering sticks aside. She started digging at the spot. And after a foot, she found a large clay jar. It very was heavy. She was barely able to hold it, but with two hands, she lifted the jar onto the ground and opened it.

            Sure enough it was full of gold, more gold than she could have ever imagined. It was more than enough gold for her and her husband to never suffer again. The weight of poverty was lifted off of her shoulders. And the joy stifled her fear. She did not take it all right way. She only took two pieces off of the top before sealing the jar up again and reburying it in the ground, covering it back up again with dry leaves.

            Her heart was full, and so too would her home be.

            The woman , however, was discreet with her purchases. The gold in the jar was enough for her to buy anything she could want, but she focused on food and medicine for her and her husband. The sudden satiation wasn’t lost on him, but he was not concerned. It only made sense. After laboring over the soil for years and years, it was about time that it yielded good and bountiful crops.

            The man did not feel the need to question his wife. He only smiled as she took care of him.

            His joy left the wife feeling even guiltier because it was clear to her that he trusted her so much, and yet she was keeping this secret from him. And she was afraid that he would realize something was amiss and accuse her of wrongdoing. She did not want that. She did not want his anger. She did not want to lose him. And as he grew stronger, it seemed more likely.

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            When the man was well, the woman looked at him and said, “Husband, I have a secret.”

            The husband’s brow furrowed. He did not like secrets. He did not think spouses should keep secrets from one another. What good would come from it?

            “Have you been unfaithful?” he quickly asked.

            “No,” the woman promised. “I would never be, and God knows it. But I do have a secret because I was told to keep it a secret from you.”

            “If you are faithful, then you must tell me the secret,” the man demanded.

            And so the woman told him the story. All the events that had transpired around the coins, and to her relief, he believed her.

            When she finished with her tale, the man said with a smile, “That is no problem at all then. We will not tell this secret to anyone, and no harm will be done.”

            But there was harm done. When the couple returned to the spot where the woman had hidden the gold, there was nothing. Not even the clay jar. And when they went to the spot the woman had buried the silver in, those coins were gone too. And nowhere amongst the weeds could she find even a scrap of copper.

            You see, there was nothing that could be found in those fields, though they desperately searched high and low for anything.  The couple simply could not accept that there was nothing to find. For you see, harm had been done. The wife had shared that which should not be shared, and as punishment all of it was lost.

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            My mom was the most independent of all the mothers I saw growing up. And I phrase it that way because that’s how I phrased it when I was younger. When my father died around the time a few of my friends had seen their parents divorce each other. Only one of those mothers refused to date. And it was mine. And sure, death is different than a divorce, but after over a decade, my mother has stayed single. And has thrived for it.

            When my father was alive, she always had her hobbies—sewing mostly—and those friends she would see on nights when it was time for me to spend more time with dad. She never felt compelled to share every little bit of herself with him. As she saw it, or as I think she saw it, it was her right to exist. God had created her to exist. And there was no need to change that. After all, she was important, a treasure, you could say. And there are things involved in maintaining that. And that might include some secret that you keep.

            This is what I thought of when I was reading this story. That in a good relationship partners have to exist distinct of each other. They have to maintain a sense of themselves, including harmless secrets. That’s what my mother did, and that’s what this woman was supposed to do in “The Buried Treasure” but fails to do. She felt compelled to pour out everything to her husband, and in doing so, great wealth was lost.

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