Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tuko and the Birds - Filipino Folktale

The Philippines consists of 7,107 islands spread in the western Pacific Ocean of Southeast Asia. According to legend, a giant once hurled a huge rock into the sky. It fell into the Pacific Ocean and broke to bits, creating the Philippine Islands.

The tokay gecko, a large lizard found throughout Southeast Asia, is called a tuko in the Philippines. Legend says that whenever a tuko swallows anything, it calls its name five times. This fable of tuko is still favorite tale of the Filipino people.

Once on the Philippine island of Luzon, a little house stood on top of Mount Pinatubo, overlooking the bay and its city of Maynilad. Over the years, its thatched palm roof blended with growing trees. All the people forgot about the house except the birds, which used it to practice singing.

The people living by the water enjoyed evenings with birdsongs, carried down the mountainside. The children playing with sand, the women washing the cooking pots, and the men fishing with nets upon hearing the birds, they knew it was time to go to bed.

One night, the birds were awakened by an ear-shuttering sound of “TUKO! TUKO! TUKO! TUKO! TUKO!”

“What was that?” They chirped all at the same time.

Suddenly, something dreadful crouched by the door. The creature was the size of a young crocodile, similar in looks as well, except it was covered with orange-spotted scales.

“What are you?” trembled the pigeon.

“I already told you five times,” snapped the creature. “I am Tuko the gecko, and I’ve come to sing with you.”

The birds looked at each other, “How did you find us?”

“My ears followed your singing,” responded Tuko.

“Can you sing for us?” asked robin.

“TUKO! TUKO! TUKO! TUKO! TUKO!” a dreadful sound pierced the birds’ ears.

He screeched all night. The sleepless birds collapsed in the morning.

He continued his screeching for the whole week. The weary birds couldn’t sleep or sing. The people of Maynilad were tired, too. Without the birds’ singing, they didn’t know when to go to bed.

“He needs to go,” whispered the talon.

“But how will we make him go?” chimed in the parrot.

“We’ll think of something,” responded the eagle. He spent the morning circling the island of Luzon until he spied a wasps’ nest dangling from a branch of a tall tree. “This might be Tuko’s favorite snack.” He snipped the hive and carried it back to Mount Pinatubo.

“Tuko I brought you something,” called the eagle.

The creature woke up from its nap and his tongue flicked, “Zap! Zap! Zap!” All wasps were gone.

“I see that wasps must be your favorite food,” said the talon.

“Oh, no,” responded gecko. “I like rhinoceros beetles best. They’re nice and chewy.”

“Good to know. I may get you some,” replied the eagle with a sly smile. He knew exactly what to do and where to find it. He flew to the other side of the island to a gum tree. He pecked the trunk with his beak. Sap oozed from the holes in the bark. He caught the milky liquid in half a coconut shell. With the shell full of sap, he returned to Mount Pinatubo and formed the rubbery sap into five rhinoceros beetles. He lined them on the stump and called for Tuko.

“Beetles! Beetles!” yelled happy gecko. He popped one beetle after another. When he pushed the fifth beetle, he mumbled something. His tongue was stuck to his teeth with getah gum. Tuko tried to dig with his feet, but they stuck to his teeth, too. He tripped and tumbled down the hill. He rolled faster and faster down the mountain. And never was heard from or seen again.

The same day, in the evening, the birds opened their beaks, and rejoice to sing. Down the mountain, the people were happy to hear the birds’ singing again. They knew when to go to bed and get a good night sleep.


Source: Tuko and the Birds by Shirley Climo

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