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Flowers are often assigned to countries as national cultural symbols. With Austria the edelweiss is associated, the Netherlands takes the tulip and Japan refers to the chrysanthemum. The Philippines have several national symbols, for example, the Carabao (water buffalo), the Narra-Tree and a species of jasmine called Sampaguita or kampupot in Tagalog. Let’s have a look on this flower.
Taken only the botanical aspects, the „jasminium sambac" offers no big surprise. It grows as a woody vine or shrub reaching up to 1,2 meters. The plant bears a single flowers or blossom bundles at the top of her branches. The Sampaguita is blooming full-year and has white, small, dainty, star-shaped blossoms, which open at night and wilt in less than a day. Unique however is the distinct sweet fragrance of the blossoms. It does not bear seed , so the cultivation is brought up by cuttings. The Philippines have different domestic species of jasmine growing wildly. But the Sampaguita was imported in the 17th century from Himalayan areas.
In 1934 an American governor-general proclaimed the Sampa- paguita as national flower. However long before it has taken roots in the Philippine folklore and religious rites. It is mentioned in many legends, stories and songs - even in the 70s a rock artist adopted her name. Before independence it was „a bud of hope in the consciousness planted in the days of colonial imposition". It symbolizes a whole series of virtues: fidelity, purity, devotion, strength and dedication. At least in two legends these virtues are reflected:
Legend I - The missing lover
After the death of her wise and successful father a young princess
– called Lakambini – has to take over the regency of kingdom. However,
she is inexperienced- in government administration and there is the danger
that the country could be occupied by other neighbouring rulers. Only the
young unselfish prince Lakan Galing is ready to
defend her country against the enemies.
The young princess falls in love with her
helper. On a hill above the sea, both embrace each another and Lakambini
promises him eternal fidelity marriage: „Sumpa kita" - „I promise
you" .. (the marriage). But Lakan Galing is not satisfied with only
watching and guarding the country, he wants the enemies put to flight.
„If the enemy does not come, then we shall seek them". He pursues
enemy with his ships. The princess filled by
longing and love remains back. Every day she goes to the hill at the sea
in order to hold look-out for her dearest. However, she waits in vain -
Lakan Galing comes back no more.
A short time later Lakambini dies in grief
and des- pair. She finds her last rest on the hill she always held
look-out. Short time after on her lonely
grave grow up a vine with small white, smelling blossoms. The leaves
rustling in the wind echoed the „sumpa kita" of the princess. The
flower then was called „Sampaguita".
Legend II (1) - The unfaithful lover
In a barangay the young girl Anita -
„her beauty was like the beauty of early morning" - and the young
man Ernesto grow up and they fall in love .Let’s take the words of
author: "The beauties of nature and the fragrances of flowers filled
the souls of the young people with longing for love and sentiments of luck
… and they swore their love beyond the grave". Such phrases of luck
in a fair tale announce a strike of fate.
Ernesto has to leave the place and Anita
suspects that „his beauty could attract other girls like a magnet."
Ernest tries to disperse her objections: „I would rather be able to
unlearn breathing than to forget our oath". And he offers her, that
if he should betray her, she could kill him wit a dagger. Time of
departure of Ernesto is coming and Anita keeps the dagger. Time later
Anita gets the information that Ernesto married another woman. „She felt
her throat as strangulated and her heart seemed to burst."
She went to the tree they always and it was her intention to cut into the
bark: „Sinisumpa kita" ( = I curse you). Weakened however, she succeeded
only in writing the short form „Sumpa kita" ( = I promise you).
Then she took her life with the dagger and found her grave under the tree.
Also in this legend, a flower grows a short time later on the grave with
white, pearl kind blossoms. Her fragrance was so sweet thrilling to the
cord. According to the carved short
form „Sumpa kita", people later called
the flower „sampaguita".