Bidayuh Adat and Traditional Healing Practices

Modernization and education is killing the Bidayuh Adat and Traditions. A seventy year old Priest from Kpg Serasot lamented how their Adat and Traditions there are surelybeing killed by their “educated sons and relatives” who now believe in various Christian Churches with the majority Roman Catholics early this morning when I went to observe them doing a healing practice, called NGIBAYUOW.

Having their break at 3.30 am.

He was intrigued by the younger generation attitude of taking the easy way out in life and that the old system is too much burden for them. Yet when they got sick and modern medicine failed them, then they would seek help from them who are able to perform the old rituals.

It is a common dilemma faced by the Bidayuhs now. Going for “civilization” and discarding their “shameful past”, unabashedly described by missionaries, as “paganism” not knowing that TOPA is a BIDAYUH word for GOD meaning that even before the Birth of Christ we were worshiping GOD in our ways and methods. Our forefathers believed in GOD by oral Traditions since time immemorial. My belief has been founded on GOD, the Almighty, who is called TOPA which is possibly one of His 99 Names as believed by many Muslims. It was founded by my illiterate mother, who was the High Priest of my village and by my illiterate father, who was a Warrior, Headman and a Priest in one till his death in 1986 at the edge of 82. They knew GOD told by their parents through oral traditions. Many attempted to convert me to Christianity but how can I tell my parents to be wrong in their beliefs when one of the TEN COMMANDMENTS is “HONOR thy father and mother”. In their wisdom they have raised me amidst all odds to survive this far. Yet current common wisdom wants me to tell them that they were wrong when even now we are still debating the right to use word “ALLAH” in Malaysia. While their generation have kept us to where we are to-day, should we openly condemned that they were wrong in their beliefs and ways of life?

But back to the story, I told the wise old man that I had only a few regrets on the actions of forefathers. One was our actions in choosing a person, we called “PININUH”, we always gave it the title to a person occupying the lowest position in the village thus downgrading an essential vital post to a very low status. In fact the breakdown of the old belief in my village started when the last “PININUH” died, conversion to Christianity then becomes a choice. He agreed that this has to change. Now for the whole Bau District, there is only one man to turn to for a Traditional burial ceremony for the Krokong, Jagoi, Biratak and Biroih stock. The Tringgus has a Traditional Healer who will do the ritual while BIGUMBANG has a Priest who can do the same. In fact he told me that it is perfectly compatible amongst the Bijagoi, Krokong stock, for the High Priest or any other Priest to perform the ritual for the dead. This opinion is yet to be confirmed with the Biratak people.

The other regret I have is the practice of using evil charms to harm or kill a rival or whoever is better off. This has led to our current state of affairs where many would suffer in the future if our Old Adat is gone. Once gone, these type of sickness will inflict unnecessary ailments and death amongst the BIDAYUHS again.

In fact I told him that my experience, as Western Trained Doctor, has shown there are THREE categories of Illnesses:

(1) Illnesses which can be treated by modern medicine for which I and other doctors have been trained to do;

(2) Illnesses where modern medicines can only help to lessen the harm/pain to the patients/families; and

(3) Illnesses where modern medicines does not know what to do and tell the patients that everything is normal.

Yet my five years of observing and following closely the Bidayuh Traditional Healers and Bidayuh Traditional Healing practices, I have met many cases where rejects (those who suffer because Doctors they have met failed to heal them) got healed after undergoing Traditional Healing practices in the hands of the experts. To relate all cases observed will be too long for this article but they are people where our Mental Institutions failed to help now lead a normal life.

In fact, all Priestesses are alive and well to-day after undergoing the initiation process, “KIBALIH”. Yet many of their children inadvertently killed their own mother prematurely by asking them to convert to Christianity. In fact the old man told me of cases in the Bijagoi area where the priestess died within a few weeks of their conversions. He told me of one current invalid priestess where her children had asked for his help. Yet earlier, they had asked their mother to convert because they were told that their father would recover from his illness if only they could get their mother converted. But after she did convert their father died anyway and then their mother got sick and now told by the doctors, she has cancer! Will Traditional Healing help? He said it is too late, but I reminded him it may not be so. What they can do now is to do the Bidayuh I’Ching, called NGASA, and seek divine advice what is the best of action to heal her if her children agree.

Based on my numerous observations and personal experiences, it is will be a VERY BIG loss to the community, the State, nation and the world when the all Bidayuhs get converted to Christianity or other world religions because we will eventually lose our ability to do the Traditional Healing Practices. Who can cure a person who appears to have a “STROKE” after walking in a SUNNY SHOWER/RAIN? Only a Traditional Healer conversant in getting rid of the invisible NET can!!! Those who would be caught by the invisible net, “JARING”, either die or cripple for life, diagnosed only as suffering from strokes when actually they can be healed immediately by the expert Healers. I have seen a number of cases already.

Our Traditional knowledge is actually compatible with modern ways if only we care to continue on and accept that we are different and have something to tell the world with humility and dignity.


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5 responses to “Bidayuh Adat and Traditional Healing Practices

  1. Rabak Mikabuh

    How interesting, while certain segment of Malaysians was arguing with the use of the word “AL**H” which they claimed has been used by Sarawak Natives for almost a hundred year. This argument is not entirely true as that religion was started about 1400 years ago in the middle east, those people called GOD AL**H. As we can see, we call GOD Almighty “Topa” in Biatah, Jagoi & Singai dialect. In Bukar & Sadong dialect, they call “Tampa”. This was and is perhaps how Austronesian peoples described GOD in ancient time. We call GOD as Topa or Tampa perhaps more than 15,000 years ago.

    While searching in the internet using the word Topa, I came across an article briefly mentioned that Maxakali ethnic group that reside in present day Minas Gerais State in Brazil, an American Indian tribe also called their GOD as Topa.

    Is this coincidence? I don’t think so. Perhaps, more than 15,000 years ago, a group of Austronesian peoples (those living in Borneo, some of them started to call themselves Bidayuh recently) who worship Topa the GOD Almighty migrated to the Americas and become American Natives which the European called Red Indian.

    Some anthropologists who carried out studies on human migration to the Americas has found evidences that the American Natives have links to those people from South East Asia. Migration probably took place more than 15 thousand years ago.

    • partistar

      Thanks for the information. The Almighty have many names as there are many tongues speaking their own dialect. New religion wants conformity to exert more credibility perhaps. As one who believes in TOPA, everybody is welcomed to use it and “Blessed are the meek who accepts God’s name in his own “linguo franca” or language, which is a living one art, words changes over time while the old one wasted away to extinction.

      Update on the patient, he is getting better. This morning he could sit and eat. Hope in a week he will be more mobile. I will see him again on Friday or Saturday.

  2. mahani

    dear dr. rubis,
    may i please have your email address?
    thank you

    • partistar

      The patient further improved and the day I saw him on Thursday, he could climb the stairs up to his first floor. He was smiling all the time asking his wife to serve us refreshment. On top of that he pressed to accept RM10 as a token for gratitude. I gave three weeks supply of Lanoxin….

      How our medical system failed to help is really beyond my comprehension. His SOB has always been attributed to COLD and asthma and the system continued to give him medications for asthma only. He had seen a number of GPS as well and none gave him anything for his Heart Failure…

      Common on Idris Jala, move on the KPI for our Medical System as well. Needs overhaul in the criteria for the qualification to become “DOCTORS” as well. The curriculum for medical institutions need to be look into. I have seen so much unnecessary medications shown to me for Hypertension and diabetes as well.

      E-mail address I will reply you by e-mail direct to your e-mail address.


    fantastic submit, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite experts of this sector don’t understand this. You should proceed your writing. I’m sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

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