The bell fruit, or the makopa, is a familiar sight in most tropical countries. Its skin ranges in color from white to red, with some varieties having black skin. Its flavor is similar to a pear’s, and its texture is not unlike that of a watermelon’s.
The story goes like this:
There was once a tiny village in northern Ilocos called Samtay. Unlike other areas, it was never devastated by typhoons or droughts. This was because a benevolent anito (spirit) once gifted its inhabitants with a magic bell as a reward for their kindness and generosity. Whenever the townspeople wanted anything (such as deliverance from a storm or famine), they would just ring the bell and whatever they wished for would be granted them.
Such a remarkable object doesn’t stay secret for long. Soon, the envious neighboring villages started planning to attack Samtay to steal the magic bell. Apo Anong, a Samtay elder, was visiting one such village when a friend warned him of the plot to invade his hometown. The old man hurried back to Samtay and took the bell deep into the surrounding forest. He rushed back to warn his people about the oncoming attack, but it was too late. The invaders from the other villages had arrived and angered by the sight of the bell missing from the village square, they ransacked every home. Apo Anong was among those who fought to defend the village and was slaughtered before he could reveal the bell’s hiding place to anyone.
Once the invaders had pillaged Samtay, they left the survivors to the task of rebuilding their village. Without the magic bell, the crops dried up and the rain refused to fall. The villagers suffered from scarcity and hunger for many years, until one of their children ventured into the surrounding forest in search of some wild berries to eat. The little boy stumbled onto an odd-looking tree with juicy red fruits dangling from its branches like little bells. Remembering his grandmother’s stories about the magical bell that once blessed their village, he ran back to tell everyone about his discovery.
When the whole village turned out to see the tree, they exclaimed “Makopa!” (which means “many cups”) at the bell-shaped clusters hanging from it. They dug around it to see if the legendary bell was buried underneath, but found nothing, so they uprooted the tree and replanted it back in the village square. Once the makopa tree’s roots had settled onto Samtay’s soil, the skies darkened and rain fell onto the parched earth.
Sta. Romana-Cruz, N. (1993). Why The Piña Has A Hundred Eyes And Other Philippine Folk Tales About Fruits. Makati, Philippines: Ilaw ng Tahanan Publishing.