The rattan is a source of food for woodsmen who run out of food. The swollen basal part contains a considerable amount of starch. It is roasted and eaten. Also edible are the buds which in some species are too bitter to be palatable.
The following legend from the Monteses of Panay tries to explain why these are bitter, and also, why the snails and the deer are tailless.
A deer went to drink in a brook. He found the brook literally crawling with water snails. To his chagrin, the snails challenged him to a race to the nearest waterfall.
“You dare challenge me, the fastest runner in the world?” he sneered. “Just look at my long legs.”
“We know, but still you can’t win over us,” the snails taunted him, wagging their tails. In those days they were equipped with this appendage.
The deer grew so indignant that he stamped his hoofs on their tails and crushed them. Nevertheless, he accepted the challenge. After running some distance, he rested under a tree. To his surprise he saw snails crawling along the brook. Could they have really kept pace with him? His anger mounted and he began stamping at them, crushing their tails.
“I’ll show these upstarts that they can’t beat me,” the deer said, running as fast as he could to the goal. He spent his ire stamping at their tails. Since then the snails became tailless.
Tired, the deer took a bath in the water and lay down to sleep on the banks nearby. The snails gathered around him and in retaliation ate his long hairy tail. The deer has been tailless ever since.
He awoke in pain, and in fright, he dashed to the forest. Running smack into a thicket of spiny rattan, he struggled to free himself but failed. “We will not let you go until you give us your gall for food,” the dear heard the rattan vines speak. The more he struggles, the more he got enmeshed with the spines. He could do nothing but acquiesce to the rattan. He gave his bile which the rattan ate. From then on the buds of the rattan became bitter.THE MYTHS: Philippine Folk Literature by Damiana L. Eugenio Published by the University of the Philippines Press, 2001. Paperback, 513 pages. University of the Philippines Press, E. de los Santos St., University of the Philippines Campus; (+632) 928 2558; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.press.up.edu.ph