Bankiva The Philippine Pied Piper





Of nearly six hundred species of birds in the Philippines the

jungle fowl, or bankiva, is best known, and is both killed and

domesticated. Unlike the dove, it does not understand human speech,

but it has a power over our kind that is exercised by no other

animal. Once a year the spirits grant to it this power of charming,

in order that both spirits and birds may be revenged on men, their

constant enemies. When that day comes the Luzon mother tremblingly

gathers her little ones about her and warns them not to leave their

door, for young ears heed the strange, sweet music of the fowl's voice,

which grown people cannot hear. On that day the bird sings with a

new note, and the flock of bankivas choose the largest, handsomest

of their number to lead the march of children. On the edge of the

village he gives his song, and every toddler runs delightedly to see

what causes the music. Babes respond with soft, cooing notes, and will

go on hands and knees if they can. They find the bankivas gathered in

a little ring, spreading their tails and wings, dancing and singing

in harmony, the head bird setting the air. When the children have

gathered, they, too, begin to dance and sing, following the birds

as they go deeper and deeper into the wood. Night falls, and with a

harsh cry the bankivas fly away in all directions. The children are

as if awakened from a sleep. They do not know where they are, and

cannot tell which way to turn. Jungles and swamps are about them,

man-eating crocodiles are watching from the water, poisonous and

strangling snakes are gliding about the brush, the pythons that loop

themselves from overhanging limbs are sometimes thrice the length of

a man. Dread and danger are on every hand. And at home the mothers

sit crying. Sometimes, though rarely, a man or woman totters back

to a village bearing marks of great age, and is sure that he or she

left there only the night before. These wanderers do not know where

they have been. They remember only that the bankiva sang sweetly, and

they followed it, as the children of Hamelin followed the pied piper.





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