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Gawea Sowa Raso 2 2013.

Kampong Raso 2 in Lundu district, Kuching, Sarawak will be having their Paddy Festival, called Gawea Sowa starting at around nine in the evening today the 13th June 2013. It is actually a Thanksgiving for normally a good harvest or a good year.

History had it, that it was first done to welcome the first Bidayuh Priestess, a very sick Bidayuh woman, in a semi-comatose condition, who was taken up there somewhere to be initiated by Sinok Bowang. In this village women were dying of a mytersious disease which made the women died at any age until those in the other world pity the people reasoning if let unattended the race would become extinct. Thus it was decided that this woman when left by her husband outside the house one blue day, that she would be taken and became the first lady to be initiated up above. Next morning her husband found out that she was nowhere to be found till a year after when he was planting his Paddy field.

Meanwhile Sino Saya was taken up above and was given the initiation rituals where she was married to her spiritual husband in the ceremony. During her prohibition period she was confined to the house and was told by Sumuk Bowang, not to look down a jar, while some say the toilet. Anyway curiosity finally got the better of her one day, so she looked down against the instruction. Then she saw her husband planting Paddy field alone.

Planting the Paddy in a hill Paddy cultivation is a process where the men normally poke a hole into the ground in front in a specific distance, while the women normally following behind placed the Paddy seeds into the hole. It is called. NULUK, in Bidayuh. Normally it is a joyous one day affair when the villagers would be doing a communal work based on a system called PINGIRIS, where a day work will be paid in a day work on the next farm until all the farms in the area is done. Sex or age does not matter as long one day is [paid by a day doing the work they can do, which either poking the hole, NULUK, or placing the seeds into the hole, MINIEK.

But Samak Saya was doing his all alone at that time. He was doing both jobs, NULUK and MINIEK. Thus he poked the holes and after that is done then he would go back and placed the seeds into all the holes he had made all by himself. His wife pitied him and cried all day till evening. When Sumuk Bowang came home from her farm she saw Sinok Saya in distress and her eyes were swollen with tears. Then she knew that she had looked down but asked her away. She admitted that she did looked down and saw her husband planting Paddy all alone in the farm.

So she was told that she can go down to help him next day. In sending her down all types ropes and materials were used but all could not hold….always broken. Eventually the bamboo skin which was used to cook the glutinuous rice for the the initiation ceremony was used … it held and Sinok Saya was sent down using that as the string…. this is why till to-day this bamboo is used for the small offering plate called TAYA.

Anyway the story goes that on that day, while the man poke the holes she was putting the Paddy seeds into the holes just poked. Thus when the time came for the man to put in the seeds he saw that all the holes were seeded.He must have scratched his head and wondered. Despite that there was no one around the seeds were placed in the holes all morning. Then lunch time he wondered and asked himself who was doing the job…..

Then after lunch he has to sharpened the end on his poking Stick,called TULUK, but fortunately or unfortunately he did it as usual on the stump of the tree that he had felled during the felling season. As soon as he was about to sharpen the end of his TULUK, the sound of “RENGRENG……” similar to the bells and coins attached to the present uniform used by all the priestesses. He scratched his head and wondered and crying in despair. Up appeared his wife who immediately consoled and told him what had happened.

She then told his husband that at the end of her prohibition period of a year she can come down to him but he must get ready all the things he needed for the welcome ceremony …. the Gawea Sowa.

Thus Gawea Sowa could be more than just a celebration of thanksgiving but it is also the time when the blessings from above could be obtained….on the third night you can observed what would be send down from above during the NGUGOH ceremony which will be held at Kampong Raso 2 at around 3-4 am of the 16th June, Sunday.

I will see you there if you can come… i will be the Assistant Priest this time around… next celebration next year onwards, i will be the Priesthood level already. Happy days ahead for of you.

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The stream of Life

The stream of Life

This is an upper reaches of a stream which is currently dead because of logging in its catchment area. Before the sandy patch we were having our picnic and the shallow water the boy is playing in, was a very deep pool of about 8 foot deep teeming with fish. Then there was no fish swimming around us and not even a knee depth of water left.

But as nature always does, it struggles to be alive again. But do we, as human, wants live again when we are down with an illness… to a few pathetic one, they even resign to die as death is our ultimate destination. Some of us age fast because of the environment and status we are in. I remember that in the fifties in my village when an age of fifty were regarded as old, especially for those who had married young, some at the age of their puberty. Now many at fifty are still young. I am still young at the age of nearly seventy but many i met during this annual festivals appeared older than me even though they are just in their fifties.

Thus the stream of life is there but the environment exact their marks on human beings.What are the factors useful youthfulness or longevity?

The Bible has recorded the life of many figures to be over one hundred and fifty. Sarah gave birth to her only son at the age of over ninety…..But what has happened since. In the old days, human survived on organic foods … now mainly on processed foods and instant cooked meals full of unnecessary additives and preservative to suit our taste.

As for taste, i remember my experience of eating fresh river fish amongst a population where salt was non existent in the area in the early 70’s. But two days later then i appreciated the natural sweetness of the same fish i tasted fishy earlier when my salt taste buds were still active. I naturally ate more of the fish then.

So if we consider food alone besides many other factors which affect longevity, do we really have enough food that we need? Frankly I use food pharmacology to stay “young” at almost seventy. If I feel “heavy” or tired, I change my diet to suit my body. I even use the herbs around my garden to control my blood sugar and blood pressure. Experience has shown many useful herbs for these purpose.

Just make sure that you do not feel sleepy after a meal… for if you do,¬† it could mean hyper insulin-ism to control the blood sugar which goes up by the meal you have taken or you are diabetic or about to have one.

What should be our stream of life? Only individually, we should be able to know what keeps us healthy and well. The environment we can create for ourselves is important. Our reaction to the environment we are in is even more important. A quick adaptation to what we have is very, very important as …. Happiness with what we have is the way to enjoy life.

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June 10, 2013 · 8:41 pm

NYOBANG PADANG PAN 2013

NYOBANG is a ceremony to feed the guardian of the defense of a village against seen and unseen enemy. It also can be used to mitigate the local weather of the area to meet the need of the people. It is done in an established Head House when ancestral heads obtained before the Brooke era. During the Brooke Regime till to-day, head hunting in Sarawak was banned and enforced. Prior to this hunting maybe carried out by a village if a calamity occurred such famine or an epidemic if it is foretold that only the ceremony of a new head to be introduced to the Head House is needed. That ceremony called MUKAH in Bidayuh is the highest of this nature. NYOBANG is the second.

MUKAH was done in the original village, Gumbang, in 1974 to stop a strange epidemic which killed over thirty young children. However the people went to a village across the village to “seek” for an old head which was in the Head House. Death stopped according to the Village Elder as soon as that evening when they asked for the Head to be introduced into the Gumbang Head House.

NYOBANG was almost become a thing of the past until we were inspired by the healing story of the Gumbang community in 1974 during my interview with the Elders of the area during the Community Based Eco-tourism Project sponsored by UNDP where my duty was to do the Traditional knowledge survey. While they have special knowledge of healing certain illnesses  which are not effectively dealt with modern medicine on individuals, it was also found that a communal problem of mysterious deaths as occurred at Gumbang village in 1974 could be done inspired to revive the custom of feeding and taking care of the Head House. Nyobang was done both at Kampong Gumbang and Kampong Tringgus under the new funding from Demmark Embassy DANIDA as a follow-up study into the Traditional Knowledge of the respective areas under Krokong Central Committee for Health, Development and Security also known as JKKK Pusat.

Now we are happy to note that Padang Pan has joined Gumbang as the fourth village in our area to carry out the ceremony. It was a joyous occasion for the people who also hosted 23 “official” visitors from Kampong Sebujit(Bulun) led by their ceremony Chief Priest, a warrior Pak Amin. This cross border joint ceremony is now biennial event for Kampong Gumbang, Sebujit (Bulun) and now Padang Pan. Next year the Padang Pan people will be invited to attend the same ceremony at Kampong Sebujit. As of to-night, they will officially become “sister” village status as existed between Kampong Sebujit(Bulun) and Gumbang now. Being ‘sister” villages meant now they are brothers and sisters in spirit and manner where in either village they would protect and help each other when other needed. It is the Bidayuh diplomacy without any paid diplomats. It would not be possible to witness to-day event without UNDP CBET program.

If you are curious to know which are the second and third village which have carried out the Nyobang ceremony since we began the UNDP and DANIDA Eco-tourism projects under their respective Tropical Forests funding, it is as follows.

Kampong Tringgus was the first done by a Priest and his assistants from Kampong Bulung, Botok, doing the ceremony to bring out Tringgus ancestral heads which were left in dilapidated hut just behind one house into their empty Head House built earlier. It was successfully done until one drunk interrupted the ceremony during their consultation period. Till to-day, they have not been able to work together to do another one.

The other third village which carried the NYOBANG ceremony is Kampong Blimbin as a mitigation ceremony to halt four series of bunches of mysterious deaths up to eight in a series. It was an emergency ceremony where a new Head House was to be done within eight days and the ceremony before the Paddy ripened or else more would die according to one Elder whom we consulted. The last of the eight that died on the fourth series was the morning we started the NYOBANG. The guardians told us through our medium that they are now happy at the present “clean site”. Now death occurs as a normal event but not in bunches as when the seven heads were now to an ‘apartment like structure near the old and new graveyard.

The guardian Angels of war must be treated with respect or else they can also bring harm to area. NYOBANG is the time where due respect and feasting with them is done.

Happy Gawea season. Gawea by the way is a Bidayuh word as opposed to Gawai which is Bahasa Malaysia.

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Gawea SOWA – Grogo

This morning the last act, BILAMAK, of 2013 of the yearly festival for the village is over at about 5.30 this morning. During we were linked hands to hands and we moved around the main Altar to the rhythm and beat of the gongs eight times and as well around the group of older Priestesses who could not moved due to old age. In this act anyone who like to enjoy themselves linking hands and move around the Altar is welcome to do so. It is a goodbye act for the celebrants and guests saying that we will are going home and see you next year. We finished just about 5.45 . Then i rest and slept only to wake up ready to empty our baskets of offering to shared amongst all the eight families involved in the Gawea and eight helpers for the event including one High Priest, Asen Pa Segut, from Kampong Duyoh, two Assistant Priests,one from Kampong Serikin and the other from Kampong Raso 2 in Lundu District, One Priestess, Sino Boiek, from Duyoh one Assistant Priestess from Serikin and two helpers from Serikin. With the eight volunteering to help, the event was completed in the spirit of love and joy amongst the celebrants. Thus the event was done with only good omens in sight for the future.
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The youngest Priestess of Kampong Duyuh and Sino Globat of Grogo on the right. Both were not well enough to do the Gawea this time.

Gawea Sowa is done to complete the season of Paddy Planting for the village. Since Malaysia was formed, Kampong Grogo makes it a tradition not to miss the Gawea Sowa. It is also a fixed event for 30th May to 1st June each year. Yet it goes on unnoticed by many people including the village population itself. No one seems to care to know that without the warriors, who are called to come back and celebrate with their great, great grandchildren, there will be no Sarawak or Malaysia as it is to-day.

After the burning of the Bung Baratak in the Eighteen century, the survivors of the massacre and pillage of Bung Bratak by the combined forces of the Sultan of Brunei then regrouped at various safer places. Bung Orad was a place of choice of Babai KULOW, the only warrior of Bidayuh origin recognized by the Third Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Vyner Brooke. Unfortunately even his name on the memorial of Vyner Brooke at the Kuching old High Court Building, has being erased by irresponsible Government directive? Kuching is the Capital of Sarawak since the First Rajah, Sir James Brooke, was installed. on the 23rdSeptember 1841. Their reign continued till they ceded Sarawak to the British Colonial Office in 1st July 1946. Of course, Malaysia was formed later in September 16th 1963.

Gawea Sowa at Grogo began as a tradition some time after 1963, mostly in 1964. This year they almost could not continue for number of reasons. However they did and it was more joyful as many of the new generation came out and not only enjoyed themselves but donated money and drinks. They even volunteered to beat the gongs at ode hours such as three in the morning. It is the first time more come out to support. They make the remaining Priests and Priestesses happier – a treasure many from the village do not realize yet.

Gawea Sowa should NOT be imitated as a new culture unless the Christians who want it to be performed at their village want calamity to befall themselves and the community. It is forbidden to call upon your ancestors to come without proper code and rituals. Two villages which tried it had eight and seventeen people died after the event because not only the ancestors but also the devils who came were unhappy. The first village made all the rituals including the offering Altar, BAWAL, but not offerings done. So their “unseen guests” went home hungry and of course angry…..eight of the village resident died one after the other until “they were satisfied”. The other village a proper ceremony was done by their remaining Elders of Priests and Priestesses of the area but it was just for show to welcome one VIP and the platform upon which the “show” was performed was demolished before the prohibition period was over, 17 people died under mysterious reasons. The eleven or twelfth victim was the wife of a friend of mine who died near the place their ancestors did their Head Ceremony when a sago tree her husband was cutting fell in a “wrong” direction to n apparently safe place where she stood. Without any wind or creeper pulling the sago tree to her direction, it fell in that direction anyway and it killed her.

But we did complete our ceremony at Kampong Grogo this year and if proper rituals are observed in the village, only good tidings and blessings would be enjoyed by all the residents of Kampong Grogo.

Happy Gawea Season. I will be helping Raso 2 village to celebrate their Gawea Sowa starting the 13 June and will finish on the morning of the 16th. See you all there.

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The vanishing breed

The vanishing breed

Bidayuh Priestesses:

Once upon a time in one village the female population is said to be dying one by one until the above decided to help or else the people there will be “extinct”.

Thus one day when one husband was very frustrated with the illness of his wife left her outside the house in an open space called “Awah” or verandah telling TOPA to take her and do whatever He likes, one female Guardian Angel was asked to take her up and initiate her to be a Priestess to save her life. She became the FIRST BIDAYUH priestess.

Ever since anyone who is sickly over a period of time failing to response to all type of treatment but more or less in semi comatose status will be determine whether an initiation process to become a Priestess or as in the case of my mother she was initiated by her parents at the age of two months plus because her two older female siblings died by the age of three months while all her older brothers survived. It was determined that the only way for any female child to survive is for her to undergo the initiation process before the age of three months.

It is sad to-day that parents allow them to die instead as they believe Christianity is closer to God design. So many have been allowed to die in a number of place.

Let us hope that the day will come when the community leaders will come to their senses not to be that cruel and will be prepared to shoulder the Bidayuh way of life as envisaged under what I term as TOPAISM. TOPA has shown us the way, why do we have to abandon it just because we do not really understand what our forefathers were doing?

Happy GAWEA season everyone. Remember to think about the tradition we are about to abandon.

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May 28, 2013 · 9:24 pm

The Priestess

The Priestess

This picture was taken during Gawea Sowa of Kampong Jagoi Gunung. The celebration was held for the first time after many years. it was done under the auspices of a donor country where this village which being abandoned because there is no road connection up the mountain.

An effort is still being made to ensure this old village, the only village still the mountain top remains the pride of the Jagoi people.

It is gradually being refurbished under various grants to make it the current Heritage site for the Bijagoi people. There are still still habitable house there but only one permanent resident remains. the rest are still in other sub villages mainly Penomu and Buoo.

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May 23, 2013 · 1:07 am

Accept the Election results

STAR begs the opposition parties to accept the election results even if proven to be a fraud and stop calling for more and more protests. Since PRU12 we have had many protests and negative statements and remarks made to “blacken” the image of the ruling party as the scapegoat of everything which are not right in Malaysia. In the end, the Opposition pact of the three Parties of PAS, DAP and PKR even lost Kedah. Many felt cheated by both sides as i have only gloom on the streets and villages I have visited so far.

The need to look critically at ourselves is a must especially for PR leaders, especially  who think that they beat BN in Sabah and Sarawak without local partners such as STAR, SAPP and USNO. STAR knows why we lost our deposits in the seven areas we stood. We will move to strengthen our position so that we can seats against whatever odds that will be thrown to us in future elections.

We must not continue the politics of hatred and division by race and religion. No Malaysians have any choice at the time of their birth, but all have 21 years to decide what they can be… a Malaysian who cares each other as neighbors or a Malaysian who look down at others. We should be reminded that all leaders in the past who saw his own race as superior had created havoc to that nation. Even Hilter failed to conquer Europe and Russia based on the superiority of the Aryan race. Even the Hardcore Communists had to adapt to be more inclusive to be successful. Why shouldn’t we learn from the failures of PRU12 and PRU13 where the Peoples Front three parties from Malaya wanted to beat the more inclusive National Front? We cannot afford Malaysians to get more and more polarized like in Malaya now where the main races cannot drink and eat in an ordinary coffee shops like us in Sabah and Sarawak.

Even the great hatred of the people especially the young voters failed to bring victories in the rural constituencies. Even in Saratok, where PKR candidate led in the beginning lost once the intense campaign ended. I am dead sure that if the SNAP component is really built in PR candidate would have won or rather could it be the diehard SNAP loyalists who beat PKR candidate?

The ability of the Opposition becoming the next Federal Government in PRU14 depends very much on whether the Opposition parties can work together under a common pact with a clear understanding of sensitive issues at hand which be exploited by the ruling Parties. Could the loss of Kedah be attributed to DAP Chairman call to DSAI of PKR to state his stand on the Hudud Law in the middle of the campaign….? Should that been said when it only help DAP to seen as the Champion of the Opposition cause but damaged PR from winning marginal seats….like Saratok for instance?

We need an official pact of at least seven political parties to have a common symbol and Constitution to be able to make real chance of becoming the next Federal Government.

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