The Tambuli by Alvaro L. Martinez

Nanoy sat on one of the big boulders on the hillside overlooking extensive rice fields below. To his ears came the sound of the tambuli, long and mellow. Three times it sounded and he knew that it was Kuya Endong who was blowing the horn, calling back the carabaos and cattle from beyond the creek.

How he longed to have a horn which he could call his own- one which he could carry along with him and show to his friends and playmates! He had long dreamed of having one which he could blow as much as he wished. But his father had time again said that he was too young to own a tambuli. To the hill people, the tambuli was a precious piece of property. They used it for gathering their domestic animals together, and, on stormy nights, in locating a lost or belated member of the family.

He recalled the day when he received a severe scolding and spanking from his father on account of a tambuli. He had sneaked into his father’s bedroom and, placing a chair near the wall and standing tiptoe on it, had reached for the tambuli which was hanging from a bamboo peg. He had carefully taken it down and out of the house, and, once in the field, began blowing it with all his might. The sound which he produced scared the carabaos and caused them to run away instead of gathering them together. His father, coming home from the cockfight, caught him unaware, and putting him over his knees, beat him till he shouted for mercy. He was then given a long sermon and made to promise not to touch the tambuli again.

But Nanoy was not daunted by this. So strong was the fascination of the tambuli over him that the spankings and the warnings did not deter him from learning how to blow it properly. HE continu4ed to go to his father’s room and get the tambuli from its hanging place. He would sit for hours softly blowing it. Patience brought him his reward, for he soon found himself capable of producing the desired sounds. But this made him long all the more for the tambuli which he could claim as his own.

The shrill voice of his mother stirred him from his silent reverie and sent him scampering down the narrow path. He found his mother standing at the head of the stairs, shading her eyes with her hand.

“Where have you been, Nanoy?” she greeted him.

“I have been calling you for a long time.”

“I was just down there, Inay,” Nanoy replied with downcast eyes.

“Run down to Dikong Juan’s house. You are wanted there. They have killed a cow and Dikong’s Juan wants you to help in skinning it,” came his mother’s command.

Nanoy’s face lighted up with a smile. There was a twinkle in his eyes. A cow. A sudden thought entered his mind, which made him happy. Away he went, his legs carrying him at top speed, while his heart beat in wild expectations. He found the house in great excitement. Every one was busy. In the yard lay the cow with its throat cut.

“Get that sharp kampilan from the batalan,” commanded his Dikong. With what ease and willingness Nanoy did all the work, for his father was a believer in the need of preparing children for the struggle for existence early in life. How skillfully he helped remove the hide! How adept he was in cutting! His hands were guided by the great purpose brewing in his mind.

At last the work was ended. The beef had been distributed among the different members of the family. The things which ad been used were cleansed, and the space where they had worked was cleared of refuse. Nanoy had helped in all these.

“Now, Nanoy,” his Dikong called out. “What do you want in return? You have been very helpful this morning, and I am giving you a chance to name your reward.”

Nanoy blushed and fumbled with his clothes. But his eyes were set on the pair of horns which hung dangling from the beam of the shed in front of the house. His Dikong divined his thoughts and patted him on the back, smiling.

“So you want one of those horns, eh?” his Dikong said, looking him in the face.

Nanoy nodded.

“Go and get it then,” Dikong Juan said.

Nanoy did not wait for a second command. He was off, and in a moment was standing on the bamboo bench beneath the shed where the horns hung. He looked them over and after much hesitation made his choice. Jubilant he ran home after thanking his Dikong, and went to fetch his sharp knife and his father’s chisel. He knew where the chisel was hidden, and did not meet with any difficulty in obtaining it.

The days that followed were busy days for Nanoy. He did everything required of him promptly, for he wanted some spare hours with which to finish his work on his horn. Of course he had to do it in secret and with caution; otherwise, it might be taken from him. His progress was slow, but after many days the horn began shaping itself into a tambuli. The workmanship was crude, but it was a tambuli for all that. To Nanoy, it was a precious treasure.

“It would help your Itay find his way home,” she replied.

“Would you take my Tambuli again if I had one, Inay?” he asked.

She shook her head. Nanoy stood up abruptly and was gone. After a while he came back and stood beside his mother. A long, mellow sound issued forth from the tambuli eagerly pressed to his lips. Then came another, longer and louder. From the distance came the reply. On and on, again and again, Nanoy blew his tambuli, each time to be answered by his father. The sound of the tambuli from the field came nearer and nearer.

“My son, you have done well this night,” said his father, clasping Nanoy in his arms.

Nanoy said nothing, but held his Tambuli, made of the butchered cow’s other horn, closer to his breast.


Anonymous said...

kids should read this book , to know there limits and also to work hard for what they loke ^^

Anonymous said...

i love the tambuli ... you should also try reading "The story of a letter" by carlos bulosan :]

earn online!