Image of a copper kettle

“The Whistling Kettle”

Image of a copper kettle

Once there was a kettle in a large department store in a city. He was well sculpted and his body was so shiny he can pass as a mirror. His spout was perfect curve with a small opening at the end. His handle was sturdy and he could carry a good amount of water. He does not have a whistle but he has been bragging that he can shout as much as the whistling kettles do, once he is put to use. His name is Whiffle.

One day, while he was daydreaming of how he would serve his master with best tea infusions, a farmer came by and eyed the kettle interestingly. After making certain that kettle was indeed fine, the farmer made a bargain and count his money from his purse, and bought Whiffle.

It turned out, the farmer lived in a faraway village. There was no electricity, no water pipes in the house, there was not even a gas stove! The farmer and his family live in small hut, with cogon grass as roofing, all other materials of the house were made up of crude logs. The house was a single-room space with an earthen stove in one corner where other kitchen utensils are neatly placed on a small table. On the other corner of the house, Whiffle saw stacks of paper boxes where the meager clothes, blankets and other sleeping materials of the family are neatly piled.

Whiffle looked around some more. But he could not see any tea pots or ceramic cups! So, where will they put the finest tea that I am going to brew?, he asked himself problematically.

His question was answered the very same day.

At about 4:00 PM, some ruddy boys with entered the tiny hut rather energetically, waking Whiffle from his stupor. The smallest of the three boys was the first one to notice the kettle.

Wow! Look, we have a new kettle!

Whiffle learned later on that his name was Boyet. Boyet almost ran to the corner where Whiffle was sitting and excitedly run his sticky little hands over the kettle.

The two bigger boys- Ching and Denver stood near Boyet and were also looking appreciatively at Whiffle.

The next scene was something Whiffle will remember his entire life. Two older girls, Ami and Myla and the boys took Whiffle together with other empty containers, ran down a winding trail to a nearby river and there, from a crude man-made well, using a coconut shell-bowl, scooped water and filled all the containers.

Whiffle was also filled with water from the well. Then the children again began their trek back to the house. Once or twice, they stopped along the way to catch their breath.

Back at the hut, the older girls started a fire at the earthen stove. One of them took Whiffle and sat him on the three stones that serve as a platform for the earthen stove.

Achoooo!

All at once, the sooth and the smoke from the wood made Whiffle sneeze and smoke and cry at the same time.

Oh no, what are you doing to me?

Whiffle’s shiny body started to darken and his bottom became hotter by the minute and all the while, he kept asking questions to himself.

Where are the tea that I am supposed to brew?

Why did they have to use some smoky woods to burn?

What will happen to my shiny body once they are done with me?

Old black kettle heated on an earthen stove

The poor kettle was so unprepared and to his horror, as his body started heating up, he saw that his body was also starting to be smeared by the smoke.

Oh, no, no no! Whiffle cried, he could not believe he was turning uglier by the minute.

But the children did not seem to mind. They continued poking on the earthen stove, making sure the fire does not die down. Then when the water inside the kettle almost started boiling, one of the boys took some black powder and starting scooping them into the kettle.

Feeling doomed, Whiffle decided that he was the unluckiest kettle in the world. Now, his dream of serving the best tea to princes and princesses all vanished into thin air. So, he clamped his lid tightly and refused to budge even when the water inside him started dancing.

The black powder, which Wiffle later on learned was native coffee, starting whirring inside the him. The water on the hand started dancing and mixing with the coffee powder. Whiffle tried to ignore the aroma that was brewing but as the fire continued to heat his whole body, he started spewing at first and then, the most amazing thing happened.

Whiffle started whistling. “Whiiiiiissssst… whisssttt… whissssttt.” He could not contain the aroma, the hot feeling of the water and the coffee powder. They aroused Whiffle so much he could not stop whistling. “Whisssssttt, whissssstttt…”

When he thought he could no longer contain the pleasure of whistling from pure delight, one of the girls took him carefully from the top of the stove and brought him outside the hut. Only then did Whiffle noticed that the farmer and his wife were seated under the mango tree together with other farmers. They just came from the fields.

Using more bowls made from coconut shells, each of the farmers poured the coffee from Whiffle and stirred in generous amount of brown sugar while recounting their work for the day while complimenting how good the coffee was. By the time the farmers finished drinking coffee, Whiffle recovered from his initial shock and started feeling proud about how he fared in his first coffee brew.

From that day on, Whiffle learned and enjoyed brewing native coffee every single morning- he was the first pot the farmer will look for when he wakes up in the morning. He served coffee anytime of the day every time there are people who come and visit the house. He served coffee to the community chief when he came by one time. He served coffee to hundreds of guests during festivities in the house. He did not serve kings or any other royalties but Whiffle became the most important kitchen implement in the house.

In turn, the he became more efficient and hardworking. He made sure the water and the coffee powder are well mixed in his body before the water boils. He also made friends with the earthen stove and the logs that were used as firewood. He even appreciated his now- pitch-black body as a result of being repeatedly being used in the earthen stove. He looked forward to the early evening coffee discussions of the farmers who drop by the house. He liked the feel of the visitors who timidly and carefully hold his handle while pouring their coffee.

But most especially, he loved the early morning conversations of the farmer and his wife while they are drinking coffee.

One morning, the farmer was looking remote when he woke up. He picked up Whiffle and looked at him solemnly. Whiffle was instantly awake and got ready for his usual routine. But this time, instead of refilling the kettle with water, the farmer did the most unusual thing. He carried Whiffle to the river and without saying a word, he used the sand to wash the inside of the kettle. When they got back home, the farmer took the lid of the kettle and settled him upside-down in one of the wooden racks.

Still not understanding, Whiffle looked around bewildered.

Why is the farmer not kindling the stove? And why is the wife now waking up early as usual?

Whiffle was still wondering when the wife woke up and the usual morning conversations started.

Farmer: I already washed the kettle and put it away for now.

Wife: (clearing her throat) That is good. We will save a lot if we do not drink coffee and buy sugar.

Whiffle’s mind was racing. He could not understand what was happening. And then all of a sudden, he remembered all the early morning discussions that the farmer and his wife were having in the past months.

Their eldest daughter, Helen was in the university and she was graduating within the semester. And though the farmer and his wife tripled their effort to work in the farm, they still did not have enough money to send to their daughter who was living in the city. So, they had to cut back on every other expense they could think of.

Whiffle stayed in the wooden rack every day. The days became weeks and the weeks became months. The farmer and his wife still had their usual early morning discussions, but no coffee. Many friends and visitors still visited the house but no coffee. The evenings became colder, but still, the farmer and his family did not drink coffee.

Old kettle and basin

Every single day that passed by without brewing some coffee, Whiffle became more and more desolate. Meanwhile, the family became more serious and silent and the days went by. The supplies in the kitchen became more meager and soon, cobwebs and dust from the earthen stove started covering Whiffle’s body. In no time at all, he started believing the entire family has forgotten about him.

Then one day, after being away for almost a week, the farmer and his wife came home with their daughter from the city. Immediately after resting a bit from the long journey, the farmer took a black powder from his bag and started to walk towards the wooden rack.

Whiffle could not believe his eyes. The farmer was holding a bag full of coffee powder! And what is more, he was reaching out for him!!

The farmer almost cradled the kettle and said, Thank God, now we can drink coffee again.

The farmer and his wife hugged briefly, murmured some prayer of thanksgiving and the wife started kindling the earthen stove. The farmer meanwhile washed Whiffle thoroughly and poured water almost to the brim. He mixed the generous amount of coffee powder and almost reverently, put the kettle on top of the stove.

Whiffle then brewed the most delicious coffee he ever brewed in his life. Then when the coffee was ready, many neighbors and friends came by to the hut. They drank coffee, brewed some more and drank again. The neighbors were congratulating the farmer and his wife. Their daughter graduated from the university and has started a new job in the city!

Whiffle, brimming with tears of happiness both from brewing coffee again and from the good news he heard from “his” family, continued brewing.

And he brewed for the many years that followed. The family was able to buy some gas stove in the recent years and they simultaneously use it and the earthen stove to brew coffee. But Whiffle believes he brews better with his friend- the earthen stove. Through the years, his handle cracked and his lid was deformed a bit but he still brews the best coffee.

Until now, Whiffle is still brewing- and you are welcome to partake- if and whenever you pass by the farmer’s house.


Helen Biangalen-Magata is an indigenous woman and a mother of two boys. As a child, she loved listening to stories, mostly from her grandmother Talebya and grandfather Joaquin. When her parents wanted to teach her something, they told stories. If they wanted to encourage her, they told stories. If they want to reprimand her, they told stories. Short stories, long stories, funny stories, love stories, and inspirational stories, she listened to them all.

Helen sees stories out of the most common things and events around her. She wants to tell stories that convey the strength in the weak, the beauty in the ordinary, the power of the poor, and the love in this broken world. Short stories, long stories, sad stories, stories about humanity and reality, she tells them all.

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