Skip to main content

The Legend of the Tomato Plant

Precy enjoys sharing Filipino legends. She also helps in learning to speak & appreciate the Filipino language & Ilocano through writing.

The legend of the  first tomato.

The legend of the first tomato.

The tomato that we got so used seeing at the produce aisle has earned its place in our kitchen and became an essential part in different cuisines. Eaten either raw in salads or included in dishes, tomato provides the antioxidants and vitamins K and C that the body needs.

Tomatoes may not be appealing to some, but it is fascinating that this red and somehow heart-shaped fruit is loaded with lycopene which is connected to many health benefits such as heart health and lowering hypertension. It also provides the other three carotenoids alpha, beta-carotene and lutein. It's like tomato has so much love to give through all these health benefits making its origin more intriguing. And when it comes to origin, there's an interesting Philippine legend that according to this legend, the first tomato plant was named after a loving and caring mother who endured every hardship for her kids.

The Legend of the Tomato Plant

There was once a woman named Kamalia who lived in a remote island. Kamalia was blessed with kids but she wasn't as lucky when it comes to her husband. Drinking and betting was all he did amongst other vices. He doesn't help Kamalia in any way. Kamalia seemed to not have any luck at all.

Because the family barely gets enough money to get by for food, Kamalia decided to take any work she could. She became a laundress to one of their neighbors. She would wash their laundry by hand and it would take her the whole day to get done. Her pale hands from being soaked on soapy water often gets cuts that stings. It may sound easy but it was a hard work that Kamalia endured for her kids. She can't bear hearing her kids weep every time they were hungry and there was nothing to eat.

But when Kamalia's husband found out the she was doing hand-laundering, he got furious and took the money Kamalia earned. He didn't only do it once. He would always take the money from Kamalia every time her wife would do some work. Thing is, he only spends the money on his vices. It has been a usual sight of him sitting with his friends with a bottle or two of liquor on a table until they finished it only to get more. If not, he's somewhere else playing cards with money involved hoping he will win. Kamalia knows all this but she would only get hurt whenever she wouldn't give in to her husband every time he asks for the money.

There were some neighbors that felt sorry for Kamalia. They knew the unfortunate situation she was in. Often they would give Kamalia food and would hand out old clothes their kids no longer need so Kamalia's kids will have other clothes to wear.

Finding this out only made Kamalia's husband enraged. He don't appreciate the good deeds the neighbors did. He doesn't like his family accepting food and hand outs. He doesn't like any kind of help from their neighbors.

"Don't you ever accept any help from the neighbors again, or else, you'll get it from me," said Kamalia's husband.

Because of that, the neighbors never again offered help to Kamalia and her kids. They stopped sharing their food and they stopped giving them clothes that although may not be brand new but are still good and wearable. They don't want Kamalia again to get yelled at or get hurt.

Kamalia's eldest felt sorry for their mother. And because of their situation and knowing her mother being unable to keep the money she earned, she took a job as a shoeshiner in town. But her father found this out. Just like what her father did to their mother's earnings, he also started taking the money she earned. He spends all the money on his vices as expected until there's nothing left for the family. Because of that, the family rarely eat.

Because of all the hardships and having nothing to eat, Kamalia weakened and got sick. But before Kamalia passed away, she managed to tell her children to bury her in their yard. Honoring her wish, Kamalia was buried where she wanted to be, in their yard. Not long after that, a strange plant with round and reddish fruits took root.

The neighbors and her kids got curious on how a strange plant appeared in the yard. Being curious of the peculiar plant's ripe fruits, they picked and ate some, only to like the juicy and sweet red fruits that were filled with small seeds.

The unusual red fruit is filled with tiny seeds inside.

The unusual red fruit is filled with tiny seeds inside.

The kids let the unusual plant grow in their yard. A lot more seedlings took root too and they watched these plants grow. Kamalia's children learned to sell the ripe fruits to the town's people. Bit by bit their way of living changed just like what their mother told them before she passed on. With the money they earned, they were able to buy enough food to eat. They are now able to have meals on the table. Not only that, their father changed too. He felt regretful for all the wrongdoings he had done to Kamalia and the kids. He loves the kids now and is making up for all the impropriety he had done in the past.

The peculiar plant that gave Kamalia's kids a new chance in life was named kamatis. This was derived from Kamalia's name and her strength to endure everything in life for the sake of her kids. Since then, and until now, kamatis or tomato has always been a part of many Filipino dishes giving the needed flavor.

Being named after Kamalia and the hardships she endured because of her love for her kids, the strange plant was named kamatis.

Being named after Kamalia and the hardships she endured because of her love for her kids, the strange plant was named kamatis.

Tomato or kamatis took its part in Filipino cuisine being an important ingredient to some well loved dishes such as the soured dish sinigang. Tomato is also made into a dipping sauce along with chopped ginger and chives, perfect for broiled fish and meat aside from being eaten raw.

Related Articles