The Legend of the Gabi (Taro) as Told in Malvar Batangas - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore The Legend of the Gabi (Taro) as Told in Malvar Batangas - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

The Legend of the Gabi (Taro) as Told in Malvar Batangas

From the 1950s document “History and Cultural Life of the People of Malvar, Batangas1,” we get this obscure little legend about the origin of the gabi, or taro as it is called in English, a crop known for its edible starchy root and edible leaves. It also goes by the scientific name colocasia esculenta2.

The legend is part of a compilation of local history and folklore collected by public school teachers in the early fifties in compliance with an executive order requiring Department of Education districts around the country to attempt to reconstruct local histories in compensation for materials destroyed during the second World War.

In keeping with its mission, Batangas History reproduces this legend so that it is not totally forgotten. It was probably told by one of the “old men and women of the community” who were acknowledged in the document as the source of the information published in the compilation.

The legend was likely told frequently in an era long before gadgets and storytelling was as much a way to pass the time as it was to hand down traditions down the generations. It was probably told not just in Malvar but also elsewhere in the province and possibly even the rest of the country.

gabi plant
Image source: Thierry Caro assumed (based on copyright claims).  No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 2.5,
It is provided in its entirety below except for minor corrections for grammar. Annotations are provided in brackets [ x ] where Batangas History thinks they are necessitated.


Long before the coming of the Spaniards, in our country there lived a brave rajah [a monarch or a princely ruler, the title used in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia3]. Because of his bravery and strength, his subjects called him Rajah Matapang [matapang being brave in Tagalog]. He had an only son named Gabino, which was considered a fancy name during that time. Unlike his father, Gabino was meek and gentle, yet he was strong.

In those days, fighting among the tribes was prevalent. In their desire to gain power and prove their prowess, the rulers of the different tribes often waged war with each other. Rajah Matapang was one of the most powerful during his time. Every time he went to battle, he always returned victorious.

When Gabino grew to be a man, his father was very disappointed in him. He did not join the men when they went to war against other tribes. He was a peace-loving man. Very often, he tried to convince his father that fighting was an unforgivable sin; but his father only laughed. The young men of his tribe scared him and called him a coward.

One day, Rajah Matapang and his men went on an expedition. Only the women, children and a few of the feeble old men were left behind. Gabino did not join them as usual. His excuse was that he would look after those persons left behind.

It so happened that while they [i.e. the rajah and his men] were away, an enemy tribe sneaked into the village and carried away women and children. The old men were easily overpowered, but Gabino fought valiantly to the last to defend them. He was able to kill man of the invaders before he was mortally wounded.

When Rajah Matapang returned, he found his son among the dead, still clasping his sword and shield. He then realized that, after all, Gabino was not a coward at all. Even the other warriors felt sorry for his untimely death, and they, too, realized that he had done more a heroic act that they ever had.

The rajah ordered his son buried in his garden with his sword and shield. Every day, he visited his son’s grave. On his last visit, he was astonished to find a strange plant growing on it. The leaves were broad and resembled a shield. He named it [i.e. the plant] gabi after his son’s name.

Notes and references:
1 “History and Cultural Life of the People of Malvar, Batangas,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
2 “Colocasia esculenta.” Wikipedia.
3 “Raja,” Wikipedia.
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