Friday, October 29, 2010

The Bonggi people in Banggi Island

Trip to Banggi Island from July 19 to 24, 2010:


It was the third night in Kampung Kalangkaman, Banggi. I was writing in my field journal while Freddie was cooking dinner. My other assistant, Patrick was fixing the two zinc roofs that would be used to collect rainwater in a brawny blue basin. When the dinner time came, all of us hovered over two dishes that lay on the cooking table. The menus for that night were chicken meats with soy ketchup and fried eggs with cabbage. In addition, each of us cooked Maggi curry noodle. In the States, it is not easy to find Maggi noodle at any grocery shops or even in supermarkets. The only choices I have are Ramen noodles from Korea, packed noodles from Thailand, rice vermicelli from China and Indomee from Indonesia. Hence, during my summer break in Malaysia, I would treat myself with all Malaysian foods including “kolok mee”, Sarawak laksa and my favourite Maggi noodles. I supposed to decrease my body weight, but I could not resist the temptation to eat any Malaysia foods. I have to make a promise to myself that I will reduce my weight once I go back to the USA.

The leader of Bonggi people

We sat down and talk to each other after dinner. The wind was blowing so hard, and the moon was already engulfed by thick black clouds. We were expecting heavy downpour less than an hour. From afar, we saw a middle aged man approached the Kampong Kalangkaman Hall where we used it as a camping site. He was from the Pengerusi’s house that locates opposite of the hall. The man must be the Pengerusi Gaun Maun. He did not wear a shirt or anything else on his upper body other than a black trouser. He carried a long notebook and waved his right hand to us.

We greeted him, and Freddie carried a chair for him. Patrick gave a cigarette to him. He lighted the cigarette and started asking about my works.

“Dency, how is your work?”

“It's not too bad Pengerusi. We managed to catch murai batu (shama) and other beautiful birds, but we did not find any murai kampong (magpie robin). Even, we did not hear any songs of this bird from the first day until today.”

“I see. I’m not sure whether the bird is here or already moves to other places. Oh ya! I need you all to sign my guest book. This is a way for me to check how many visitors and their purposes to come here. You can start first Dency.”

I wrote down my name, University address, purposes, time we would stay in the kampong and lastly my signature. Freddie and Patrick did ask me to write their names and address on behalf of them, and they would sign after I have done. While I filled intended information in the notebook, the rain started to fall. Pengerusi could not go home, so he stayed with us till the rain stopped.

History of Banggi Island

I took this opportunity to ask him about Banggi Island, Bonggi people, Kampong Kalangkaman and political situation in Sabah especially in Kudat Division. From his story, we knew that Pengerusi is a Wakil Ketua Anak Negeri Banggi or Vice Chairman of the Banggi Native. He began by telling the early history of Banggi Island, which first inhibited by Bonggi and Bajau Laut (Sea Bugis) tribe during the Sultanate of Sulu. At that time, the original name of the island was Panglima Island. The Bonggi people stayed in deep jungle and hills while Bajau Laut (Sea Bajau) preferred to stay near the mangrove forest and small islands around the island. When the North Borneo Company took over Panglima Island from Sultan Sulu, its name changed to Banggi Island after the Bonggi people. Even, the company grouped the Bonggi people together with other Dusun in mainland. The island demographic changed a lot under the company with the addition of other races such as Kedayan, Benambak and Ubian. These tribes migrated from Philippines, and they set up many settlements in the island. In terms of development, Pulau Banggi is still far behind compared to other places, since Sabah joined the Federation of Malaysia.

In the early 90’s, the island of Banggi accepted substantial changes to the basic amenities such as policlinic, police stations and a small district office in Pekan Karakat while schools built in strategic areas. Penghulu Gaun did mention that Bonggi in Kampong Kalangkaman and Kabatangan still lack of many basic amenities compares to the other races. He tried his best effort to help improve the Bonggi people equivalent to those of any races on the island through modern agriculture. I praised him a lot for his determination to help his own people including other races in Banggi. He is such an extraordinary leader, and I adored him so much. The rain has stopped, and the time almost 10 pm. Pengerusi Guan excused himself to go back to his house. When he had arrived at his house, we resumed our conversation. I commended the Pengerusi for his efforts to carry out his duties properly and adequately to all inhabitants on Banggi Island. Freddie and Patrick just nodded their heads agreeing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lost to Simpang Mengayau

Trip to Langkon, Kota Marudu- Kudat from July 12 to 17, 2010:

In the Langkon Estate

I was sitting in Imelda’s office room waiting for her to settle her works in the other department. She needed to meet and discuss some matters regarding the Langkon estate with the estate manager. After almost an hour, she entered to her office room and asking whether I already made payments to my helpers.

“Dency, have you done with the payment?”

“I paid both of them. Even, your assistant got RM15 for helping me to find the two workers.”

“Good. Dency, it’s 4.30 pm now. I apologize for taking so much time to meet with my estate manager. I have big issues with him. We should make a move now, or we will be late to see the sunset. I guess we cannot visit the Runggus Longhouse today.”

“Ah, don’t worry about that. We can visit tomorrow morning.”

Imelda and I said goodbye to all the staff in her office. We immediately jumped into her 4 x 4 Toyota Hilux. It is a rugged and pleasant car to drive. I did use her car to fetch my two helpers at their kampong that is 25 minutes drive from the Langkon Estate. Imelda likes her car, but she prefers to drive an ordinary car. For her, the 4 x 4 Toyota Hilux is better driven by guys. However, that the only vehicle that can be used in oil palm plantation.

The Rungus

Imelda asked me to watch out any signs to go to Simpang Mengayau. She forgot the way to the tip of Borneo even though she ever went there with her family members in the previous year. Along the journey, both of us talked about the Langkon Estate in Kudat area. From her explanation, I could figure out the size of Langkon Estate is almost the half size of the Kota Marudu area. Small Chinese and Rungus oil palm planters take over the other half of Kota Marudu. After 45 minutes driving, we reached the densely populated Rungus area. There are many Rungus kampongs within that area. The Rungus people still retain their unique lifestyle. Some of them still stay in traditional longhouses. Even some of modern houses within that area have traditional front porches. There are three villages that involve in one-village-one industry program. Each kampong will specialize either in gong-making, bead making and honey bee-rearing. Kampong Sumangkap was selected to focus in gong-making. The round shaped gong is an important Rungus musical instrument even to other tribes in Sabah. It is played during festivities and grand occasions such as weddings. Rungus people are also popular with colourful bead-making, and hence Kampong Tinangol was selected as a bead centre in Sabah. Kampong Gombizau plays a significant role in producing Kudat honey-bee both for the consumption of the local people in Sabah, as well as, visitors from outside Sabah.

Miss a signboard

By 5.30 pm, we reached at a junction to Simpang Mengayau. A golden yellow sky already blanketed the Kudat region. Imelda speeded her Hilux so that we could reach the tip of Borneo before the sun went down below the horizon. I as usual still maintained my role as a road navigator. We turned left at the next T junction and headed to north until we could find the following junction to Simpang Mengayau. Along the way, I could see many coconut trees planted along the road, and I assumed that many folks in Kudat involve in coconut cultivation. Among the coconut trees, I saw a Catholic church with its blue roof, a coconut factory as well as many bricks and wooden houses. After 15 minutes driving, I saw a white signboard, but I did not see any signboard to Simpang Mengayau. There is a T junction on the opposite site of the white signboard. I doubted at first, but I just brushed it aside. I assumed that the white signboard could be other signboard to other places. I let Imelda drove forward. The road changed from tar sealed road to gravel road. Suddenly Imelda asked me whether we were heading to the right way.

“Dency, are you sure we on the right track? I drove for about 25 minutes now since the last T junction and yet we did not find any signboard to Simpang Mengayau.”

“Yeah, you just drive. Maybe we will find the signboard. Hei, look at the farms on your left side. The owners killed some of their coconut trees by injecting the trees with chemicals until those trees do not have leaves and fruits. Among the dead coconut trees, they planted with oil palm trees.”

“Kudat was famous with its coconut industry during 70's, 80's and early 90's. The end of 90's, the owners start to replace their coconut trees with oil palm trees as oil palm is more profitable. That is a new trend in here. Everything is about money.”

We just moved on looking for the signboard till we were on a seal tarred road again. Both of us looked at each other. Suddenly I saw the Catholic Church, and I told Imelda that we were circling the area.

“Dency, you suppose to be my co-driver. How come you did not find the signboard? We are getting late now.”

“I did try, but I did not see the real signboard to Simpang Mengayau. Could it be the white signboard? Imelda we must go there to check.”

She increased her Hilux speed, and we reached the white signboard less than 15 minutes. We surprised to know that the white signboard shows the way to Simpang Mengayau. It was in poor condition. Even, the direction to Simpang Mengayau on the white board was missing. Due to that, I missed the last T junction to Simpang Mengayau. Imelda just shaked her head. She complained that the district board should replace the old one to new.

Final Destination

After entering the final T junction, we passed several villages and coconut farms. The sky was turning to gold reddish now. We both knew that, the sunset would be over for other 30 minutes. Imelda accelerated her Hilux hoping that we would reach the final destination on time. Ten minutes were over, and we saw a long white beach in front of us. Far ahead, we saw a big globe above a hill before the end of the tip. Imelda and I looked at each other and smiled. We knew we were approaching the famous tip of Borneo. At 6.30 pm, we reached at the parking area of the Simpang Mengayau Recreational Park. Without wasting time, we packed digital cameras and walked up way to the hill. We shot pictures of ourselves at any hot spots around the area. The sun was going down further. We stopped to take pictures for a while to watch the sun. We were so amazed, and I asked Imelda to capture that scene. The skies at that time looked like a swirl pink and dark blue cotton candy color.

Many tourists went down from the hill to the dark, rocky area which is the end of the tip. We followed them from behind and continued capturing pictures at that area. Wind was blowing hard, and the waves crashed against the dark, hard stones. The salty smell crept into my nose filling my nostril with the ocean scent. I looked around and amazed with God’s beautiful creation. The day was getting over. The number of tourists in the rocky area kept decreasing, but we were too occupied to notice that. It was almost 7 pm and the night blue dark sky was replacing the day sky. The moon shone brightly in the sky. We looked around and found that only both of us and a young Muslim couple at the tip. I was so hungry and asked Imelda to make a move to the parking area. On the way back, we checked all photos that we have taken. Some were in good quality, and some were not. Suppose, we need to attend digital photography courses so that we can take beautiful, lovely photos. Still, both of us satisfied as we managed to preserve memories at Simpang Mengayau, Sabah.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Peaceful River

Trip to Kampong Tamu Darat, Kota Belud from July 8 to July 11, 2010:

Water is life

Water and life are indivisible. All living things including us must have water to survive. Our body needs to maintain about 70 % of water. Without water, our body would stop functioning appropriately. Hence, we cannot survive for more than a few days without it. Water is all around of us- in the sky, on the ground and on the air. It takes many different forms such as water vapour and sky in the sky, flowing water in a river or a water droplet from a sink tap pipe.

Without water

We were staying in a Dewan Makan (Function Hall) for the whole five days in Kampong Tamu Darat. It is a big hall with four toilets, a big stage and two badminton courts. However, the hall is not connected with water supply. The Pengerusi (manager) of Kampong Tamu Darat had a heavy heart to let Freddie, Patrick and I staying in the hall. He was worried that we would have a problem to find water and plus the kampong was affected with Chikungunya disease. The viral disease is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes. After hearing the bad news from the Pengerusi, I was worried and discussed with my two helpers. After a short discussion, we decided to stay at the hall and asked whether there is a river near to the hall. The Pengerusi mentioned about the Kadamaian River that is located 100 m from the hall. Freddie and Patrick were so delighted to know that the location of the river is quite near to the hall. Both of them assured the Pengerusi that we could carry water from the river to the hall. Even, we explained to him that we would sleep in our tents and wearing long sleeves while doing our works. Those two explanations had made the Pengerusi felt so relief and let us stayed in the big hall.

The river

Kadamaian River or in English, Peaceful River is the main water line in Ranau-Kota Belud area. The river begins its life on the side of the Mount Kinabalu where the tall Kadamaian Waterfall feeds it. From the mountain, the river flows along the Kiau Valley, cut across many Dusun villages and becoming the Tempasuk River when reaching the plains of Kota Belud. The Kadamaian River with its granite riverbed stones and clear crystal blue water has becoming a major attraction to any tourists who are interested to join water-rafting activities. Similar to Kimbabangan River in Penampang, the Kadamaian River is protected from any fishing activities by practising Bombom (or Tagal in Penampang area) system. This traditional system is established to make sure that the ecosystem in the river will stay in balance. It imposes a fine of a buffalo on those who are caught stealing fishes from this river.

We depended on the Kadamaian River to clean ourselves, collect water for our consumption and wash our clothes for the whole five days we stay at Kampong Tamu Darat. Every morning before lunch time we would go to the bathing area under the bridge that is connected to the orchards belong to villagers of Kampong Tamu Darat. Piles of granite in varying colors of grey, black and white decorate the bathing area. As the rays of sunlight hit each tiny speck of golden bronze which is carried down from Mount Kinabalu, the bathing area became a beautiful radiant area. It sparkled as it has many tiny gold dusts hiding among the granite stones.

Enjoying moment

We were excited about the moment as the crystal water splashed on us. The chilly water invigorated three of us after spending the whole morning with all laborious works. We swam to the middle of the river and let our bodies floated on slow current water. A group of fries tickled our bodies and fed on the thickened dead skin cells on the surface of our skin. We believed that the little treatment from the small fishes may help improve our skin. As usual, I never missed any opportunities to take many beautiful landscape pictures of the majestic Kadamaian River with Mount Kinabalu as its background. I believed one picture is worth a thousand words and should be shared with others who want to know more about Sabah, the land below of the wind as proclaimed by Agnes Newton Keith in her first novel book. Sincerely from my heart, Kadamaian River gave me the feel of calm and serenity. I have promised to myself that I will go back again to the Sabah Peaceful River.