In the local dialect (Tagalog),fireflies are called "alitaptap". You can see a lot of them flickering their tail-lights in the suburbs of Los Banos, Laguna (A town soutn of Luzon, Philippines). Apart from us, human beings, they are about the only creatures that used fire. Let us learn about the legend of how fireflies came to use fire.
In the beginning, fireflies were just insects, small and ordinary. They do not have that special fire that kindles light at night. The first generation of fireflies come out only during the day. Like any other creatures, they rest under the leaves and flowers of plants that they come across as soon as the shade of darkness cover the land. So generally speaking, fireflies are scared of the night except for a full moon that brings out a gentle glow in the middle of darkness"
One early evening, they spotted a bush of sampaguita to stop for the night. All of the fireflies sought for their own solace. Some of them hid under the sampaguita's leaves, others under the flower buds, while others hid under its petals.
The pretty sampaguita wondered and asked "But why are you hiding?"
"Why do all of you seem so frightened? Are you afraid of the dark?"
"No, we are not afraid of the dark," the insects answered.
"Then tell me why are you so afraid?" asked the sampaguita.
"We are afraid of the fruit bats." the fireflies answered.
"Why are you afraid of the fruit bat?" asked the sampaguita.
"It's because they eat us up," said the insects. "If they see us they would catch us, and if we are caught that would mean the end of our lives."
"Well, it's really very cruel of the fruit bat to be doing this to you," the sampaguita said.
"Can you imagine just how many fruit bats there are?" complained one of the insects. "That's why were getting fewer and fewer in number."
"Well, if that's the way things are, you'll be finished before time," said sampaguita. "How much I pity all of you."
"We don't even know what is best to do to protect ourselves," said the insects.
"But, I was wondering why is it that you don't come and hide in my tree when the moon is bright?" asked sampaguita.
"Well, if the moon is bright, it is difficult for the bat to catch us," spoke one of the fireflies. "They get blinded by the light that a full moon brings," followed by another of the fireflies.
"Well, that's it. It cannot see the light," reasoned the sampaguita. "I've got an idea. I will tell you just what you should do."
"Well, what? What should we do?" asked every one of the insects.
"The idea is for each of you to carry a torch of fire," said the sampaguita. " Then go in groups when you go out in the night. The fruit bat would be afraid of you. He wouldn't try to get close to you without getting burned."
"That's very true, that's it!" exclaimed the fireflies altogether.
"Guess that's the best thing for us to do, isn't it?" asked one of the younger fireflies.
That was what the fireflies did. One dark evening, each of them carried a small torch of fire to their tails and then they came out together. They were like high flying embers altogether. And the fruit bat did not dare get near them at all.
The fireflies were jubilant. They flew around and around the sampaguita tree.
"Thank you, sampaguita. We are now free!" shouted the fireflies.
From then on, every time the fireflies wanted to go out during the dark night they would each bring with them these small torches of fire then come out together to roam leisurely around the bushes, fluttering from one sampaguita plant to another. That was how and why the fireflies today have light at the end of their tails.
APA: Astorias, N.P. (no publication date) "Myths and Legends" p.11-14
alitaptap - fireflies
sampaguita - national flower (Philippines)
Treasury of Stories, Filipino Myths & Folktales
Filipino Myths & Legends