Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Duel of Lang Merah and Panglima Tambun

Hidden somewhere at Teluk Gadong, there is ‘harta karong’ (treasure) belongs to Lang Merah, the invincible warrior who once led his fiercest fellow fighters to attack Dungun during the time immemorial. Dedicated his life to pirating, Lang Merah had attacked many harbours throughout the Archipelago. He killed many people, causing chaos at many places, destroyed many ships during the massive robberies he had committed.

According to Dungun’s legend, Lang Merah, the Red Eagle, was the name given by awestruck witnesses of his uncommon ability. He can fly all the way from the fringe of his ship and perfectly landed on his feet at the land far from the point he took off. Some people said, he did not fly. He actually leapt. It was a long distance leap only a real warrior can do. It was a skill attributed to his warrior-ship that gave him the honour to carry the title.

Together with Lang Merah were seven other warrior pirates whom he commanded in his every operation. They were Sabut Timbul, Petir Tunggal, Urat Dawai, Demam Tak Kebah, Buloh Sumpit, Kerisik, and Tegar Maut. Like their invincible leader, each of these men also had their own supernatural specialty, hence their names. Sabut Timbul was said to be able to walk on the surface of the water, named after the fate of a floating dried coconut husk never gets sunk by the roughest of sea currents. Petir Tunggal, the Divine Thunder, can kill his enemies by his mighty thunder-like shriek.

Lang Merah was feared by many for his brutality and his unbeatable fighting skills. Resistance can cause great damage, to body and soul. He robbed every valuable thing he came across. But there was one man who refused to submit to Lang Merah. It was Panglima Tambun, a Dungun warrior of Minangkabau blood whose chest was waving heavily as Dungun’s sea waves when he heard of Lang Merah’s plan to attack Dungun.

Panglima Tambun, also known as Panglima Hitam Tambun or Tok Tambun served as a peace-keeping leader of Dungun under the reign of Sultan Zainal Abidin the third. He was a saint and also an expert of both diplomatic matters and martial arts. Due to his good reputation in religious matters, Mat Kilau, the freedom fighter from Pahang, once met him to deepen his knowledge in theology and Sufism when he sought refuge at Pasir Raja. Mat Kilau afterward met other local stalwarts like Abdul Rahman Limbong of Telemong and Tokku Paloh of Paloh to deepen his knowledge in religious matters before headed north to Kelantan as a man clad in another name, Mat Siam, until he revealed his true identity in front of public in 1970's and the shocking news spread like wildfire.

On the day of Lang Merah’s onset on Dungun’s beach, Panglima Tambun was there. Together with the bravest of Dungun warriors ready to defend their land to the last drop of blood, Panglima Tambun stood by the beach, waiting for Lang Merah – the well-known pirate of the Archipelago to appear. Panglima Tambun was planning to kill Lang Merah in order to stop the enemy’s aggression immediately. Ships of Lang Merah were already berthed by the Dungun’s shore, waiting for the command of their supreme leader.

The sea waves roared loudly, the sky began to darken, clouds blotted the sun – Panglima Tambun with the best of Dungun men armed to the teeth made no step backward. By Panglima Tambun’s wit, they set up a strategy to lure Lang Merah to come ashore. They collected debris and set up bonfire by the beach. Pretended as fishermen grilling their catches for dinner, the enemies fell into their trap. Lang Merah instructed his fellow pirates to rob the fishermen while he waited on his ship. Unaware of the presence of fatal bait, Lang Merah’s men were trapped in their own greed. Battle occurred – the clanks of metal against metal, splatters of sands in the air, shrieks of Petir Tunggal killed nobody, Urat Dawai laid lifeless on the sand, Panglima Tambun’s voice echoed like thunder calling Lang Merah to show himself. Lang Merah’s men were defeated.

Panglima Tambun waddled into the water. From the ship, Lang Merah saw Panglima Tambun stood in the water that covered his knees. Panglima Tambun raised his blood-stained keris into the air and shouted Lang Merah’s name. He challenged Lang Merah to show up himself for a fight. But, Lang Merah did not heed the selling, for he seldom buys. Panglima Tambun then threw his keris with great force towards the ship. It flew, twisting in the air until the blade dived deep into the water.

On the ship, Lang Merah felt like he was being underestimated, because a man he never knew was trying to fight against him unarmed. So far he never met any man as brave as the man far in front of him. Lang Merah knew he was a warlord of great reputation. Lang Merah then heard Panglima Tambun’s voice shouted his name for one more time, challenging him for a duel. Lang Merah accepted the challenge.

From the afterdeck of the ship, Lang Merah sprinted towards the fringe of the foredeck. Within a split second, he was seen leaping high into the air – his knees were bent towards his chest, his back was crouched, his hands were raised like a pair of wings. The rough wind blew his long hair until it looked like dark flames coming out from his head. Lang Merah screamed when he soared the sky, "arghhh!!!", in his sharpest voice, like a beast that rules the sky – like an eagle ready to devour its victim.

Before Panglima Tambun now is a ramrod statue – a man of dark complexion with bloodshot eyes, eyebrows as thick as his small finger, black lips curved downward as if he was frowning, puffed broad chest, a necklace with amulet slung on his venous neck, muscle-rippling arms with a red charm string at his left, his fingers were seemed shaking as if they knew no peace, the water only covered half of his shin.

Lang Merah refused to carry on negotiation. With his full energy, he rammed Panglima Tambun with barrages of strikes. Panglima Tambun swiftly dodged his every attack while delivering his strikes that Lang Merah successfully parried. Once in a while, from far away, witnesses watched Panglima Tambun and Lang Merah fought on the surface of the water. The duel was so great people could not tell who was attacking who. The water around them rippled and splashed into the air whenever either of one of them stomped. When both of them stomped at once, a big wave spread out and hit the beach, budging the debris that sprawled on it. The duel went on in the shallow water the whole night.

After sunrise, Panglima Tambun managed to immobilize Lang Merah. He took control of Lang Merah’s limbs and made ‘resistance’ a word with no definition. Lang Merah finally submitted to Panglima Tambun’s superior fighting skills. He was tied with a rope and later brought to Dungun’s rulers for justice.

Teluk Gadong is said to be one of the places in the Archipelago where Lang Merah kept his huge pile of valuable assets he robbed. He hid them in a cave somewhere inland, later sealed them with big rocks. Whether he did that all by himself is still a mystery to this day. Some say, he hired a genie to do the heavy task, later it becomes the guardian of Lang Merah’s treasures until present days.

Disclaimer: This post is written based on verbal history of Panglima Tambun. This particular version may have been exaggerated to provide better reading experience to the readers. To the present days’ generations of Panglima Tambun, please accept my sincere apology if the story written above disappoints you for its wrongness in facts and storyline. Special thanks to's administrator for bringing back Dungun's history most people neglect. Credit also given to other sources I refer: here and here. This post is a tribute to Panglima Hitam Tambun, the warrior chieftain of Dungun.


  1. i think i can make 'your malay pirate name' app in facebook for this. i'd probably end up with 'Minum Teh Tak Sembelit" or "Sakit Hati Orang Tengok".

  2. The Tea Drinker,
    Ha! Ha! Ha! That's a good idea. Never thought of that. Make funny names. :D

  3. Interesting entry.. history of Gganu kiter..
    Keep it up..

  4. Wan Sharif,
    I'm trying to abstain myself from writing too many personal stories so I came out with this. Didn't found any similar stories in English so I make one. Hope you like it.

  5. ...just yesterday I went to Dungun visited my only left aunt in Gong Pasir blakang spita... only on my way back I'd make it to Sura Ujong with a brief look of the lagoon before heading North via Jalang Pata and steadily make my first-time-drive-through along the new bridge until diverged at Seberang Pitasang's exit to Kay Tee...

    ...if in case I might stumble with a persona of Sir Pök Déng's... it would be great..!

  6. yohteh,
    That was some journey, yohteh! You were indeed near me because my soul is in Dungun's wind, pokok rhu (casuarinas), beach's sand, the blue sky, the clouds with silver lines, the kites, the satay stalls, pisang goreng, kerepok lekor and its sauce... everything!

    So what you think about Dungun? :D

  7. Salam Sir Pok Deng,

    Harap tuan dapat memberikan nama orang yang menjadi sumber tuan. Versi tuan agak berbeza dengan versi yang ada. Apa-apa pun terima kasih kepada tuan kerana sudi berkongsi tentang sejarah yang telah dilupakan oleh warga Dungun.

  8. AWANG,
    Sejujurnya saya hanya menggunakan sumber dari internet untuk menulis entry ini. Saya tidak pernah merujuk kepada generasi Panglima Hitam Tambun atau pewaris Silat Pongok. Saya juga yakin versi saya tidak tepat. Oleh sebab itu saya sertakan penafian (disclaimer) di bawah entry ini tentang ketidaktepatan maklumat yang dipaparkan. Oleh itu saya lebih suka mengatakan bahawa hasil yang ditulis ini hanya sebagai hasil penulisan kreatif yang tidak terikat kepada fakta sejarah. Terima kasih Tuan di atas perhatian Tuan.

  9. at least somebody bothered to spin an otherwise forgotten legend.

  10. tanjung jara gallery wannabe ,
    Dear sir,

    I have gone through your blog. Found that you're very much interested at the story of Lang Merah being beaten real good by Tok Tambun. It's an honour to me if you can tell me the story - the TRUE story of the duel between Tok Tambun and Lang Merah. Mine is very rojak-rojak. :D

  11. Dear SPD,
    Thanks for directing me to this tale of Dungun. Fascinating story if you ask me.Its like watching EPL Primier League games between MU and ManCity with you giving running commentary with everyblow and saves.

    Particular delight was the live telecast of the fight ,the final game I presume,between Panglima Tambun and the Pirate Lang Merah with particular reference to limbs interlockings and immobilization technique used.

    I used to listen to football livetelecast on the radio back in the days before TV came to my kg.The excitement and suspense was immeasurable in every minute of the game with running commentary given by the late Karim Mohd. Later when I watched the actual game when it first appeared on black and white TV ,every shots,running and saves were just a tame affair to say the least.

    Dont get me wrong SPD... Am not in any way implying that you were 'berlebong' define as extreme hyperdramatizing of the actual event so commonly found in people that live by the sea .Even if its so ,there is no shame in it ,as the traits can be found all over the world in people that has close association with the sea ,commonly called Big Fish Stories.But then,of course you are not the berlebong kind , not someone with titled name like yours.

    Of note,people of Ganu were brought up with superlatives story telling capability, to the envy of many people in Malaysia.It was sharpened to perfection as the Ganu people are so wary of big fish stories among them.To convince the listener, the storyteller invariable added superlatives to every verbs as if the each verb is not convincing enough on its own.

    Thus masam (sour) becomes masam keriput ( description of winching face and mouth with sour taste). The yellow color becomes kuning sior , which means the bright yellow that blinded your eyes .Have you come across those sourness and yellowness?? Its pentiful in Ganu kite .

    My grandpa was good with story telling and i rememberd how I was glued for days much like 1001 Nights when he started his storytelling during monsoon season.Tried as I might,this crabhand Gedebe Man of PulauTenggol still haunting me as my trip for chandat sotong to PT draws near .

    You, dear SPD has not calmed my nerve in any way with regards to my fear.Should any untowrds accident were to happen to me ,while me happily swimming ,(without care to the world in PT, with my family jewel ala de naturale foru all sea dwellers gawking in astonishment to see the magnifisique ) and crab hand were to grab it without any mercy for my youtful ignorance in burning the traphole of their forefathers....if ,and only if it actually happen...I wont forgive you !!! though an antique furniture you may say it still has some value in times of needs.


  12. Dear Stopa,

    Panglima Hitam Tambun indeed used his limbs interlocking techniques to immobilize Lang Merah by the Dungun beach -- which tells you why Silat Pongok passed down from Panglima Hitam Tambun to his generations until now is feared for its deadly (but very secretive) locking techniques. I'm not sure about Lang Merah fighting styles. I assume he was more of a beat-the-guy-up-real-good-for-all-I-care kinda guy.

    You sound like Awang Goneng.

  13. hi, di kemaman, ada seorang pak cik y tahu serba sedikit berkenaan kisah ini. dan beliau jga mewarisi silat pongok tersebut.