Gawai Journey

The Gawai 2006 Exodus

This is a back post. I will be posting as where and when there is an available Internet connection.

And so my Gawai Journey home begins. Throughout the State of Sarawak, the scene is the the same. Hundreds or maybe thousands of Dayaks will be returning to their respective villages or longhouses come Gawai Eve. It is a festive occassion that is celebrated by all in the State to mark the joyous occassion of a bountiful harvest. The event is aptly known as the Harvest Festival by many. A similiar celebration known as Tadau Ka'amatan is also celebrated in Sabah at almost the same date. Not many people in Sarawak knows how the Gawai holidays came about. In the earlier days, I was told, there was no such thing as a Gawai Holiday in Sarawak and we have to thank those people who made this possible.

History aside, my own family is part of this long awaited event. I have not got the chance to go back to the longhouse for two years for Gawai Celebrations as my baby that time was too young to be exposed to the conditions there. My longhouse does not have any SESCO electric supply or treated water(we still rely on gravity feed for water and generator sets for electricity). Furthermore it is beyond any CELCOM, DiGi or Maxis coverage, except for a '011' owned by the village towkay there. So if any complications should arise, it would be very risky for a young lady of her age who is used to living in the city. Now that she is three years old I am ready to let her enjoy the Gawai at the longhouse with her cousins. Furthermore the threat of the Hands, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD) is still there.

Our Gawai celebration is set to be a grand one. Our new longhouse is almost completed, and that was the reason for the whole family to go back. Though its about 80% complete (minus the 'tanju') or verandah of a typical longhouse, the other structures are all in place. It means the 'pangkong tiang' ceremony will be slightly delayed but it does not mean we will delay the 'Partying'. Our longhouse is a Barisan stronghold for most of the 40 years it still lacks the modern amenities and facilities which the town folks or urban longhouses enjoy. Thus without the direct road linkage we had to take a one hour bus ride from my parents house in Sibu to Samaram along the Nibong Tada Road (now opposition area with YB Gabriel Adit winning the 9th State Election here). Arriving in Samaram we would usually use a longboat, but owing to size of our group we had to use an express boat. So here is our journey mostly in pictures:

All aboard the bus

Enjoying the bus ride

The kids enjoy Gawai the most.

The long journey by road was too much for Shania

Samaram is becoming a busy landing point for those in transit from Sibu to the longhouses in proximity. Since ours is just about 40 minutes away by boat ride, we prefer to use Samaram because it is cheaper.

The longboats from the longhouses - picking up and sending relatives

This Express Boat is our ride

Its quite cosy inside provided its not crowded and no one brings any animals (for the purpose of selling in the market or bringing back to the longhouse)

The longhouse view from a distnace

The berthing point

Welcoming dance

Welcoming band

Incidently, there was a 'Ngambi Indu' ceremony held in our longhouse that evening. My cousin Diane was getting married. The guests arriving from Sri Aman (numbering 70) also converged on our longhouse.

Our regular welcoming dancer leads the way to the longhouse

Passing the bridge - linking my grandparents house to the longhouse
The longhouse decorated for Gawai

The killing of a pig at the foot of the longhouse stairs - a traditional welcome still practiced at our longhouse. Most people will think its quite gruesome as blood is splattered everywhere near the stairway.

Guests following the groom's father - try not to step on the blood

Our elders (including Tuai Rumah Richard) led the procession along the whole length of the longhouse, introducing the guests to everyone or 'pintu' there. We have 47 pintus or families.

So if every 'pintu' gives you a glass of tuaks or rice wine, you have to take it what more if the beautiful ladies are there to serve you. Omigosh - 47!! "hic*" and Gawai has not started yet!

After the introductory, everyone settles down at the ruai (living room) of the bride ('indu')

The Miring Ceremony is set to start - though most modern longhouses have done away with this, we still practice it at our longhouse as we believe this is something we shoud not discard. My (extremely religous) friends have constantly debated with me on why there should be a need to stick to this kind of traditional offering since most of us in the longhouses are Christians. They insist that this should be discarded. I constantly remind myself that I will get them to read the 'Da Vinci Code' for their next birthday.

The bride and groom in traditional costume

The 'Melah Pinang' Ceremony (Wedding Ceremony) of Diane and Ignatius. That Bottle of Red Label Johnny Walker looks quite inviting.

The couple sitting on the 'gong' while being blessed with a white 'chicken'. Before my extreme friends start blabbering about this again, I do wish there would be a sequel or a second book on The 'Da Vinci Code'.

After 40 plus glasses of 'tuaks' and some sip of Johnny Walker and God knows what else was served, I did not manage to last the night of Dancing till Dawn (Joget Sampai Pagi). I went back and try to sleep the headache away. I guess my daughter also took the time to relax from the long journey.

I guess this is just a warming up session for the days are to come ahead. The Gawai Eve dinner at our longhouse will be followed by a journey back to Sibu and then to Niah, by road, which is about six hours away to attend my brother's wedding there. The most challenging task is to stay sober on the road. Happy Gawai people - more to come soon!


Wow... you must have enjoyed yourself. Unlike here, this place sucks for now! My working place i mean.

Envy, envy!
GerubiTuai said…
Bendar bala kita begawai neh Igat. Belated Gawai blessing ari kami menyanak Igat. Pooohhh balat ngelaban tuak enti bakanya. Apooo neh Igat enti perut besix pack enggau orang tau nyadi 'keg' package perut neh!

Come back in one piece meh!
Adrian said…
happy gawai
SIB KingFisher said…
girlssssssss........ nice lil young girls...
SIB KingFisher said…
:)... enjoy your gawai... you should use wordpress... hehhehehe...

Apai Salleh said…
I am not at Home, and soI am busy kicking myself. Happy Gawai Des, keep those pictures coming
Wilson Chin said…
selamat hari gawai pangyao :)
it is really nice can go home, i miss my home very much.
Anonymous said…
Im jealous im jealous im jealous