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.
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.


May 28, 2013 · 9:24 pm

Gawea message- 2013

We are fortunate again this that we can celebrate another Gawea season in peace and harmony. To me, we have won in every way and in every sense for once again we can congratulate ourselves for being able to celebrate another festival in good health, though politically we may consider that we lost. But have we really lost in our struggle to build a better community and family? Not if you know what I am still doing and hoping for our nation.

The man in the middle of the picture below is my Teacher and master in the Bidayuh Adat. I am learning from him and the others to be a Bidayuh Priest. There is much to be learned of the Bidayuh ways and what I would like to term as TOPAISM. This term comes from the word TOPA who is the Almighty of the Bidayuh people for as long as the Bible story of God, Allah and the others. All our ceremonies which if done once a year is good enough for Him to give us the blessings we need for the whole year.

Just yesterday, I visited a family friends and friend. The wife quickly went to the kitchen when I arrived. We just talked about the Adat and he lamented at his experience about our Adat and the new religion which promises a lot for our people. Soon after i was served rice and a bowl of wild boar meat which they just caught the day before. This time they got two but there were ten of them hunting. What is interesting is that this bounty of the jungle was foretold whenthey did a ritual not so long before they were rewarded. It is the third time they were able to catch wild boar in the area. Previous to this they caught one big one, he said.

Yet all this was known to them through a sign given to them at the ceremony. This village will celebrate in their own small way on the first of June as well. It is called Kampong Puak, Krokong, Bau District. I was born on a farm near this village which is about half an hour walk on a jungle footpath, a place called POTU. It was one of happiest moment in life to listen to him lamenting about why we the Bidayuh do not want to know about our roots and traditions but is ready to “pay others every week for their philosophy” which to him for the Ten Commandments when the Bidayuh had more than ten.

Have a very happy reflecting who we are during this Gawea Season. I wish everyone good health, peace and Happiness. Many may called me Pagan or Athiest but Iam still proud of the ways of TOPA taught to by my mother, the Chief Priestess of my village. Till no great books which I have read can give me the confidence in life compared to what my own parents had given me.

Congratulations, Have a blessed Holidays.


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May 28, 2013 · 1:29 am

The Bidayuh Priests

The Bidayuh Priests

The priests will do the Adat Gawea while the priestesses will do the ADAT BOLIH. Together they can do the Annual festival called Gawea Sowa which is actually an anual Thanks Giving celebration for a successful Harvesting season in the past.

However to-day Gawea Sowa is performed to make the public Holidays of June 1st and 2nd, the days where families can get together for a public Holidays.

In many villages, this season becomes become the days to celebrate and enjoy with no Adat involved except for cultural performances reminiscent of the past.

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May 26, 2013 · 5:48 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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