The Story of Piña



This piece is inspired by "The Story of Piña", a Filipino myth on the origin of the pineapple. Growing up, this story deeply bothered me. I wanted to create a painting that could be simultaneously beautiful but unnerving to match the origin myth. I painted this inspired by the work of Bao Pham

The Story
of Piña

Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived with her daughter Pina in a tiny hut in the village. They were poor, and the mother worked day and night to make both ends meet. No matter how hard she worked, though, she never got any help from her daughter.

Pina was a lazy, spoiled kid who liked to play in the backyard all day. Whenever her mother asked for help around the house or tried to send her on an errand, she would always find an excuse by saying she can’t find the object that was needed to complete that task. If her mother asked her to sweep the house, for example, she would say she cannot find the broom, even if it was right there in front of her. Needless to say, her mother always ended up doing the work herself.

One day, her mother became very ill. She called out to Pina, who as usual was playing in the backyard.

“Pina! Pina! Come over here, anak. I am very sick. Can you cook some porridge for me please? I am too weak to get up.”

Pina ignored her mother and continued to play.

“Pina, come over here this very instant, or else!” Pina’s mother mustered all her strength just to say this, but it worked. Pina grudgingly stopped playing and went inside the house. She poked her head inside her mother’s room.

“What do you want, Nanay (mother)? You really expect me to cook for you? That’s too hard,” protested Pina, pouting and stomping her feet.

“Pina, it is very simple. Just put some rice in a pot and add water. Once the water boils, let it simmer for awhile. Stir it occasionally with a ladle. Everything you need should be right there in the kitchen.”

Pina reluctantly left and went to the kitchen. Her mother could hear her banging the drawers and cabinets. Then her mother heard her open the back door and sneak out into the backyard. Her mother waited and waited. Finally, she called out to Pina again.

“Pina, did you cook like I told you to?”

“No,” was the defiant response.

“And why not?” was her mom’s exasperated response.

“Because I could not find the ladle,” was her flippant reply.

“Oh, you lazy child! You probably did not even bother to look for it! What am I going to do with you? Here I am, sick, and I cannot even count on you!”

Her mother wept bitterly. In her anger, she shouted, “I wish you would grow a thousand eyes all over your head! Then you can find what you’re looking for. Maybe then you won’t have any more excuses.”

As soon as she said this, there was complete silence. Her mother thought, “She is trying to be quiet so I will forget about asking her again.” She sighed.

She waited a little bit to see if Pina would come back. Realizing the wait was futile, she wearily got up to do the cooking herself. When she looked out into the backyard, Pina was nowhere to be found. She sighed again and said to herself, “That lazy kid probably went to a friend’s house so she did not have to do any more errands for me.”

Exhausted from the exertion, she soon went back to her room for a much-needed rest. Weak as she was, she just tried to do everything by herself, having given up on any help from Pina.

Hours passed by, and then days. Still no sign of her wayward daughter. With a heavy heart, she thought that Pina had ran away for sure.

When she finally recovered from her illness, the first thing she did was look for Pina. No one had seen or heard from her. It was like she disappeared into thin air.

Months passed and still no sign of her. The mother felt bad for her angry outburst, and she feared that she might probably never see her daughter again.

One day, she was sweeping the backyard where Pina used to play. For months now, she had noticed this strange plant growing on the very spot where she last saw Pina. By this time, the leaves of the plant had fully opened. Inside, she saw this strange yellow fruit that resembled a child’s head with a thousand eyes. A thousand eyes…

She suddenly remembered the spiteful words she used that fateful day. With horror, she realized that in the same way her mother’s love had spoiled her daughter, so did her anger unwittingly curse her. Somehow, her daughter had been turned into this plant.

To honor the memory of her beloved daughter, she named the fruit Pina. She took such loving care of it like it was her own daughter. The fruit flourished so well that it bore more and more fruits, and became popular among the village and the entire country. Its name later evolved to pinya, or pineapple in English.

And that’s how the pineapple came to be, according to folklore, named after a spoiled child who was cursed with a thousand eyes…