Read the story!

The Tompipii is a small songbird which is usually heard in the morning. Its melodious singing has often been associated with the signaling of pending rain in the horizon. Whenever old folks hear the Tompipii singing, they will say, "It's going to rain, all is well with the earth" or "The fruit trees are going to bear fruit". Here is the story of why they believe this to be so. In the days of old, animals were able to communicate with humans. There was once a bird called Tompipii who saved the human race from being wiped out by a devastating drought (dry period) and famine. One day Tompipii said, "This drought is wearing down on everyone's last resolve. I ought to sing to usher in the rain. Surely rain will come down for it cannot refuse the imploration so plaintive in my song". But Tompipii did not know that the bigger birds such as eagle and the crow had overheard his plan. They were jealous of Tompipii’s special ability since they felt the smaller birds were inferior to them. They said to Tompipii, "Huh! Such a little thing like you is able to sing in the rain? You, who are no bigger than man's biggest toe? What silly notion you have!". Tompipii felt sad when he heard what the eagle and the crow had to say. The bigger birds were constantly threatening him. So, Tompipii did not sing.

The drought persisted and the whole area grew very dry. For seven years the drought continued, and many of the animals and people died. The little birds and the butterflies begged Tompipii to sing his rain-song. "Tompipii, oh, Tompipii ! Please sing your special song. When you sing, surely the rain must fall and then water our fruit-trees. Only then will they flourish and become food for us and for the people”. Tompipii thought for awhile and said, "I know I must sing, if I don't, we will surely all die. Animals and people too". Once again, the bigger birds were in hearing distance. They were furious and cried out in derision. "Hey Tompipii! You do not know any better! Once again, you wish to sing? Have you forgotten that you are no bigger than the biggest toe of man's foot? More so than that, you are a braggart! Do you think you are a Rain God? Do you consider yourself the Creator? That you can cause rain to fall from this cloudless sky?" The smaller birds and the butterflies flew frantically in all directions when they heard this. Tompipii was already all poised to sing when the bigger birds swooped down to attack him. The bigger birds took every opportunity to peck away at Tompipii until there were no feathers left on him. Poor Tompipii! He almost died from their attack. After that, Tompipii took a solo flight and crossed the great ocean and was never heard of again.

The drought was now at its worst. Even the people were beginning to look for Tompipii. "Where did Tompipii go?" they said. "We don't hear him singing anymore. We are about to die of thirst!" People were tearing off their bark-shirts called ginonson to lay them on the ground at night. At dawn they would lick the drops of dew that had collected in the bark cloth during the night. It was such a terrible situation to be in. By now, most of the bigger birds had died but the smaller birds remained. The smaller birds could survive because they required very little water to drink.

Everyone kept on looking for Tompipii. Surely he would return since the bigger birds could no longer threaten him. The smaller birds learned that Tompipii had left to live on the other side of the great sea. So, they selected a small bird from amongst themselves to go and look for him. The small bird flew with all its might but the sea was very large. So, it fell into the sea when it could not rest upon a tree or a piece of rock. Tongkuizomot, one of the butterflies, volunteered itself after learning what had happened to the small bird. Tongkuizomot is a kind of butterfly that flies over grass and rice-fields. So off it flew. Its white wings fluttering furiously. It flew across the great sea landing from time to time on the foam that was floating on the ocean. Tongkuizomot was so light that the foam could easily support its weight. Tongkuizomot finally reached land and found Tompipii. "Please Tompipii", it said. "Please return with me to our land. We need you so desperately and you do not need to fear the bigger birds any longer. Most of them have died. Oh! please return Tompipii! The rivers are completely dry and have been overgrown by wild banana trees and moss". Hearing this, Tompipii flew with great speed and urgency alongside Tongkuizomot. Soon he was back in his homeland. Oh, how sorry he felt to see the dying people and animals there! "I must sing, I simply must. For look, there are almost no people left. It is a terrible thing if there were no humans left in this world," said Tompipii.

That night, he began to sing. "Pii-pi-pii', soo-sogit (cool), sii-si-iit!" his song so prayerful; urging on the rain to come and water the earth. How happy everyone was to hear Tompipii singing! "Pii-pi-pii', soo-sogit (cool), sii-si-iit!" sang Tompipii over and over again. From far, he could be heard. So strong was his singing and so familiar even though no one had heard his songs in a long time. "There he goes! The butterfly has done a good job," the people said to themselves. The skies began to grow dark. Suddenly it began to rain! It rained so hard that even the bark-shirts which had been put out to catch drops of dew were washed away. The rain filled the rice fields which had been so dry and everywhere everyone shouted their happiness and thanks to Tompipii for calling upon the rain. It is true then, that it was because of Tompipii’s wonderful deed that people and animals are alive today. The smaller birds gathered together and agreed that whenever they see bigger birds they will band together to fight them off. Today you can see contention between the bigger birds and the smaller birds. They would have nothing to do with each other. The smaller birds remember all too well Tompipii’s suffering at the hands of the bigger birds.

Lasimbang, R. (1999). Kadazan Folklore. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Natural History Publications (Borneo).