Friday, December 17, 2010

The dance of birds

The last two days in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, from August 7 to 8, 2010:
A wedding invitation

Imelda, her family and I had our last dinner together. We talked about how I missed my Malaysia Airline (MAS) flight from Tawau to Kota Kinabalu, just because of getting wrong information from Isabella, Imelda’s work in Beaufort, Isabella’s hectic days in Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Uncle Paul’s works in church and Joshua’s plan to come back home for good. Suddenly, Uncle Paul said he had received a wedding invitation a week ago. He and Imelda’s mother were invited to the wedding reception at Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) Center in Penampang. The reception would start at 12 pm and finish by 6 pm. Since I never saw a Kadazan reception, Imelda asked me whether I was interested to go there.

“Dency, would you like to see the wedding reception?”

“Of course I want to. I want to know and see how they conduct the reception in the traditional Kadazan way.”

“Hahaha, they will drag you out to dance the Sumazau. Believe me.”

Sumazau. Cool!”

“Aiks. You are so excited to know about that. I know you like to dance traditional dances. I saw you danced when we were in the first year undergraduate study. It would be nice to end up your trip by dancing the Sumazau. Then, it will be a complete journey for you in Sabah. Plus, now you know how to drive in KK (Kota Kinabalu) Town. In the future, you can drive around KK without my helps.”

“Yeah, agree with you. Thanks a lot, Mel.”

“No problem. Don’t forget to buy a small souvenir for me in the USA.”

“I will. No problem for that.”

Brenda, Imelda’s cousin, interrupted our conversation. She, with her pity face, asked me to buy a small gift for her also. Imelda and I laughed at her act, and I promised to fulfil her wish.

The Sumazau dance

The morning service at St. Catherine Catholic Church, Inanam ended at 10.30 am. Imelda, Brenda, their auntie, one of their cousin and I, went to the Terminal that is 20 minutes drive from the church. We would like to eat the best San Yuk in Inanam. After satisfying our stomachs with the dark ketchup kolo mien and pork soup, we sent Imelda’s auntie to her house. Then, we made a journey to the KDCA Center using the new road that is behind of Imelda’s kampong. The journey took around 35 minutes to reach the KDCA Center, which is located along the Penampang-Kota Kinabalu road. I was sleeping along the way, and only woke up once we arrived there. I saw a large building and other small buildings next to it. There was a signboard showing the name for each building. The biggest building is the ‘Hongkod Koisaan’ or the Unity Hall, while the rests are an open stage and an office for Unduk Ngadau (Miss Kadazan) Committee Board. The wedding reception would be held in the Unity Hall. The time was almost 12.30 pm. Four of us hurried to the front of the Hongkod Koisaan. There, a group of ladies in black and gold Kadazan traditional attire waited at the front door. After Imelda had signed the guests’ book, we were ushered into the hall by a beautiful, young sumandak (lady in Kadazan).

The hall was decorated with black and gold balloons. Even, the stage was decorated with black and gold ribbons. It was a great wedding theme. All of us sat on a row of chairs on the left side of the stage. While we were waiting for the groom and bride entering into the hall, I asked Imelda about the newlywed couples. Imelda explained that the groom is her brother’s friend. He is a Sino-Kadazan with his father is a Chinese, while his mother is a Kadazan. The bride is a pure Kadazan lady. In addition, by watching a slide video show in a big slide, we found out that the couples have been together for eight years, and they got married a week ago. While watching the slide show, a group of gong players hit their gongs, playing the Kadazan welcoming song.

Suddenly, a woman approached all of us. She asked whether we wanted to try the Sumazau dance. Imelda declined her offer, and instead she asked me to dance. I did not want to dance alone. Imelda asked Brenda, and her other cousin to join me to dance. The lady gave a cloth sash for each of us. Then, she brought us to the middle of the hall and met with other male dancers. I noticed that the male dancers wore sashes made from wood reels. Before we started dancing, we were thought how to dance by a group of old dancers. Male and female dancers faced each other. The dancers moved their feet in small movements and spontaneously moved their heels up and down to the beat of the music. While dancing, they spread up their hands and moved it up and down just like birds spreading their wings to fly. A big difference between the movements of male and female dancers was the male dancers bent their elbows, while female dancers just bent their cuffs.

After they had danced for around five minutes, we were asked to make two lines, one line for men and the other for women. I was partnered with a Chinese man from Malaya, while Brenda with an Indian man also from Malaya. When the gong players hit their gongs, we started to dance following the old dancers. I faced my male partner. Since, he was not used to dance, I led him. He just followed my movements. I giggled at him as he told me to wait for him. We danced less than five minutes. Once we were done, we greeted and said kotohuadan (thank you in Kadazan) to our partners.

Black and gold

Next, a music band played a Kadazan romantic song. After that, a Master of Ceremony announced the arrival of the bride and groom and their family members. Parents from both sides entered into the hall and followed by their children, in laws and great grandchildren. All of them wore the traditional Kadazan attire. Then, the bride and groom entered into the hall. Like others, they wore their traditional costumes. The bride hair was coiled and decorated with beautiful, sparkling hair accessories. Her husband wore a nice, black Kadazan long sleeve coat that embroidered with gold trimmings. Both of them walked and smiled to all guests. Then, they sat together with their family on round tables that were placed opposite of the stage.

An old bobohizan (a Kadazan priestess) asked the couples to the stage and sat on a mat. The bobohizan prepared a bowl of chicken legs soup, a bowl of rice and two glasses of tapai (Kadazan rice wine). First, she blessed the couples and, then the food. After blessing, she told the groom to feed his wife, and the wife also had to feed him well. Both of them have to finish all the food. Then, the bobohizan served them tapai. They drank with their elbow crossed, the man would bring the small glass to his wife’s mouth and his wife did the same thing. The blessing ceremony would end with the Sumazau dance from the two newlywed couples. They danced with joy as two birds flying in the sky. It was a wonderful day for the groom and the bride and also to everybody in the hall. What about me? I felt happy because I have successfully completed my trip in Sabah and celebrated it with dancing the Sumazau- the dance of happy birds.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Little Sarawak in Tawau, Sabah

Trip to Tawau from July 29 to August 3, 2010:

The first meeting

On the fifth day, in Tawau. My Dayak Murut assistant, Didarcus and I would change our sampling site to Kampong Iban Merotai. It is located about 30 min drive from Tawau Hill Park. First, we needed to see Didarcus’s adopted father. He is an Iban Sabahan, who married with a local Dusun woman. Along the way to Kampong Iban Merotai, I saw vast oil palm plantations that are belonged to the Sime Darby Malaysia on the left and right side of the road. I assumed that the Sime Darby is the biggest investor in oil palm industry in Tawau Division. According to Imelda, the Sabah state government subleases out many lands to this conglomerate that is based in Kuala Lumpur. By 8.00 am, we reached our destination. Didarcus parked his car in front of a blue large house. The house is located at the roadside and next to it, is a yellow Catholic church. We went out from Dirdacus’s car and stood at the front, small staircase. We were greeted by a group of dogs, which I assumed belonged to Dirdacus's adopted father. Dirdacus called his adopted father.

“Uncle Henry, oh Uncle Henry. This is Dirdacus.”

Suddenly, an old, bulky man with white hair showed himself at the veranda.

“Ba You, Dirdacus. What do you want Dirdacus? Long time I did not see you.”

“Sorry uncle, you know. I’m a married man now, and I spend more time with my family. By the way, I bring a lady from Sarawak. She wants to ask where she can catch murai kampong in Iban Merontai.”

“Ah! Come in and we can have morning coffee together. I want to know about this sumandak (lady in Dusun) from Sarawak.”

Both of us took off our shoes and climbed up the staircase that was adjacent to the veranda. We sat down on a sofa. Uncle Henry excused himself as he wanted to tell to his wife about our present. After a while, he and his wife brought in a kettle of Tenom coffee and a plate full with biscuits for both of us. While drinking, Uncle Henry asked about my attention, including my personal background. I told everything in Iban language. He was so surprised that I could speak in Iban remarkably well.

“Apu!! Nuan indu bidayuh tang nemu mai jako Iban. Ba dini nuan belajar endu?”

(Wow!! You are a land dayak lady, but you can speak Iban, fluently. Where did you learn my girl?)

“Aku bisi ada ba Sri Aman. Diau ba Sri Aman nyau ka sebelas taun Uncle. Nemu aja, kawan-kawan ku maioh iban. Nya meh aku nemu jako bahasa Iban.”

(I was born in Sri Aman. Stay there for almost 11 years, Uncle. Hence, I have so many Iban friends. That’s why I can speak in Iban.)

Our conversation went on for 30 minutes. During that period, Uncle Henry and his wife mentioned that they always saw two pairs of murai kampong flying in their orchard behind of their house. I was delighted to receive the good news from them. I was so eager to start my work. Uncle Henry and his wife told us to wait for them, before going to their orchard. They needed to change their clothes, and looked for their parang (machetes). We finished our coffee and then straight went down to the ground. Less than 10 min walk, four of us were in the orchard.

Fruit season

End of July is the beginning of fruit season in Sabah. The peak fruit season in Sabah is not congruent to the peak fruit season in Sarawak. The latter always occurs at the end year, when the rain season begins. When I entered into Uncle Henry’s orchard, the first thing I saw was, many red, yellow rambutan fruits hung on trees. Uncle Henry told me that his dabai tree was bearing its fruit. I should say to myself that I was so lucky that I could eat all those fruits before going back to the States. Uncle Henry and his wife let both of us did our works, while they picked some fruits for us. Not long after, we saw murai kampong flew over the orchard. The birds sat on branches of an old tree that was located in the middle of the orchard. Dirdacus and I started our works, and both of us worked till almost time for lunch. Uncle Henry’s wife called both of us to stop for a while and have lunch together with them.

Begulai Sejalai (Together as one)

We stopped for a while and entered into their house. To our surprise the menus composed of a wild boar soup, boiled eggplants with spicy red sambal, cooked dabai, vegetable and fried fishes. They even took out their tuak and put next to the food. It was just like a small Gawai for all of us. Auntie Bibi, Uncle Henry’s wife, was so happy that a Sarawakian woman visiting them in Kampong Iban Merotai. She did not mind to cook so many dishes for both of us, as they seldom receive visitors. For them, our visit had made their life merrier than ordinary times. I thanked them so much for their hospitality. The foods were very delicious. All of us were so full just like a snake eating a fat cow. Auntie Bibi opened a bottle of tuak (Dayak rice wine) and poured into our glasses. It is an Iban way to serve their visitors. While waiting for our food to get digested, I asked about the small Iban community in Kampong Iban Merotai from Uncle Henry.

According to him, his grandparents were originally from Betong and Kapit Division in Sarawak. They went to Tawau during 50’s and looked for jobs as loggers in timber companies. At that time, timber industry was the largest industry in Sabah. The migration occurred till late 90’s. Many of the Iban loggers married with local ladies here. Some brought their wives, and their offspring were born to be Iban Sabahan. With the increasing of Iban people in Tawau, they gathered in one area and established an Iban kampong. They named the new establishment as Kampong Iban Merotai. Once they settled there, they managed to purchase or acquire lands in Merontai, including other areas in Tawau and Sandakan. Two long houses were built, but only one remains tostand till. The other was demolished, as it was located within the Tawau Hill Park area. Uncle Henry added that, few of the new generation of Merotai Iban, met their spouses from Sarawak and moved back to Sarawak. I asked him again whether the Iban Sabahan can speak in Iban, fluently. Uncle Henry just chuckled when he heard at my question.

“Dency, bala kami ditok maioh ari area bukai. Nuan nemu jako Iban ba Betong ni sama munyi jako Iban ba Kapit, Bintulu, Miri ngau Kuching. Kami ditok sigi bercampur jako Iban. Bisi sekeda kami ditok jako campur ngau bahasa Sabah. Enti kami pulai ngagai menoa kami ba Sarawak, berjako Iban ngau bala kami, sidak ketawa ninggar jako kami. Sidak padah jako kami ndak ga bunyi baka orang Iban Betong, ndak ga baka orang Iban Kapit. Siko anak indu ku, skula ba menoa Kuching din, di tundi bala kawan Iban ya laban jako Iban ya ukai jako Ibah amai."

(Dency, many of us came from different areas in Sarawak. You may know that Iban slang from Betong is not same with Iban slang from Kapit, Bintulu, Miri and Kuching. We here speak mixed Iban. Few of us mix Iban with Sabahan language. When we come back to Sarawak and speak with our relatives, they will laugh at us. They say that we do not talk like Betong Iban or Kapit Iban. For example, one of my daughters, she continues her study at a polytechnic college in Kuching, become a laughing stock by her Iban friend because she cannot speak in real Iban even though she speaks in Iban with them.)

“Oh pia. Aku tok sama ga baka anak indu nuan deh. Apai ku ari menoa Bau, indai aku ari Siburan. Tang sigi ndak sama slang. Enti aku pulai ngagai menoa apai ku, bejako ngau bala kaban menyadi aku, bisi ga kluar mimit jako indai aku.”

(I see. I’m just like your daughter. My father is from Bau while my mother from Siburan. My father’s slang is different from my mom’s slang. When I come back to my father’s kampong in Bau, and speak with my relatives, I will mix a bit of my mom’s slang.”

“Kitai orang Borneo tang sigi baka nya. Nyau bercampur jako kitai. Aku gaga ati ga ninggar nuan lancar mai jako Iban. Aram meh kitai ngirup. Aku ngarap ke nuan lulus dalam periksa nuan ngau mai pemansang ngagai menoa kitai tok. Oh haaaa!”

(We are Bornean and we can speak many languages and slangs. I’m so proud that you can speak in Iban remarkably well. Lets bottom up. My wish is that you will pass on your exams and bring back all the knowledge that you learn and share with our people. Oh haaaaa!)

Uncle Henry, Auntie Bibi, Dirdacus, and I raised our glasses, and we drank together. An Iban, a Dusun, a Murut and a Bidayuh gathered together as one in Kampong Iban Merotai.