Nanga Beguang 2008: The recently completed cement pavement makes an additional Gawai cheers for the folks
Gawai this year was fun as always - a brief period of festivity amidst an overdose of Gawai drinks would fit the description. Though I had to struggle with every glass of drinks offered at each bilik the Gawai spirit prevailed (including the hangover the next day).... Our longhouse may not have the modern facilities and amenties that the other modern longhouses enjoy but everyone here would not let that spoil Gawai this year. Our guests enjoyed the hospitality that the Nanga Beguang folks have to offer. The joy of homecoming especially for those who work overseas and outside was evident - making up the variety of Gawai here - fireworks, firecrackers (pom pom pom as Lingam woud say), techno music amidst traditional sounds of the traditional Iban songs. This has been my home as a young boy and I am happy that those I grew up with have become tuai biliks now. Many have succeeded in their own way - working in Miri, Bintulu, Kuching and some offshores and overseas. We have two medical doctors originating from the longhouse, teachers and engineers. I remember playing Soldier and Kominis with the more rugged boys using make believe guns made of tree branches. Its always good to meet up with them to share a couple of drinks or two or three or ... *hic*.
Yup...this blog allows me to share in pictorial descriptions on how the family spent Gawai this year. Maybe the existing setting would not be the same one day as development slowly creeps in to Nanga Beguang. Everyone seeks a better standard of living and the challenge for the present administration is on how to distribute it. Our representatives like Member of Parliament YB Alexander Nanta Linggi and DUN YB Datuk Ambrose Blikau has been working hard with the new Song District Officer, Selamat Jati Yanjah who has just reported for duty and I forsee better days ahead. He was my colleague when we were at the State Planning Unit before he went off to do his Masters in Australia.
Priceless childhood experience: Shania and cousin Amanda walking through the kebun (fruit garden) and pegung (fish pond). In some countries one has to pay some fees to enjoy this setting.
Teach Us How to Fish: My brother in law, Johnady, trying to (nyala) catch some fish at the pegung - he does have his own style at releasing the net
Picnic: A picnic outing was arranged at Sungai Beguang, the origin of the Nanga Beguang settlement. My late great grandparents and late grandpa first home and the original Nanga Beguang Settlement (20 minutes from the present Nanga Beguang) was located here in the late 1940s.
Living Skills: Samuing (yellow short) and Jo (red short) helped us with the nyala expedition - its proof that we did catch some fish
Wooden Stove (Dapur Kayu): I likened this to a time machine - though grandma has her modern cooking stove, she maintained this traditional dapur which I used to play with as a boy. I would help to shift the fire wood and wait for the water to boil (water from the river or rain at that time) or wait for the rice to cook. One would have to go to the Sarawak Cultural village to see this setup.
Source of Power: Uncle Umpang refilling the generator which generates electricity for the house. It can provide electricity for about 18 hours - guzzling about 5 gallons of gas. The price of gas per gallon is RM12 here (before the price hike on 4th June 2008) so during this Gawai the price of lighting can reach up to RM60 per day. A week of festivity translates into RM400. Multiply that with 40 plus doors in our longhouse with each bilik having its own gen set.
Formula One Drinks: Red Bull? After taking a few swipe or two at this drink I realise its a different Red Bull from the one racing in the Formula One Team but who have heard about Intellectual Property and Trademark rights here.
Stroke of Midnight: Ngirup Ai Pengayu - amongst the longhouse celebrants at 12 midnight
Sandau Ari: On Gawai morning some of the biliks with have their sandau ari ceremony which involves animal sacrifice and the reading (and interpretation) of its liver
Traditional Sacrifice: The animal to be sacrificed - My Singapore friend, Danny (the star of last year's Gawai) would believe that this was made of rubber. Being an adopted family member of Nanga Beguang folks, his presence was greatly missed - he was unable to make it here this Gawai as he is a lecturer now and Singapore does not have Gawai holidays. Probably I will suggest Danny can have an Open House for them - Nanga Beguang's Consul General!
Longhouse Surgeons at Work: The animal is opened up and its liver is extracted (ngulih ke ati)
Spiritual Interpretation: Aki Nyawai - an experienced longhouse elderly would perform the liver reading ritual. The state of the liver can determine one's future depending on its shape and structure
Sandau Ari Final Phase: Ngait ke piring Remaung: The ceremony will predict what lies ahead for whom the ceremony was held - in this case my Uncle Solomon Minggu. He would have to hang the piring aka 'bamboo basket' on the roof of his bilik.
Flying Eggs: Inside the 'basket' are eggs that Uncle Solomon will have to throw in the air to offer to the Petara (God or Heavenly Powers in the sky depending what one's belief is) - and for those below to catch. I remember my own Sandau Ari before I went to study in Semenanjung Malaysia. The roof then was made of wood then and I would be able to climb it and roll down the eggs.
Visiting Time: Then the visiting starts (for those who survived the 31st May drinking) and one gets to witness the miring ceremony (blessing) 'piring bilik'.
Surprise Cocktail: Time to show what you have: Each bilik usually likes to show what they have to offer. Be it the latest cake recipe or special drinks that comes in unique bottles. So if there are 40 plus biliks - one needs to know when to wave the white flag or silently crawl back to your own bilik. Believe me that it easier said than done as on the way back there is a tendency when you pass by the bilik you have already visited you may be pulled in again to drink one for the road
Cultural Tunes: Occassionaly the bilik will also have some cultural activities - the bergendang activity as seen in the picture above
Rainforest Festival material: I think the World Rainforest Festival organisers don't have to look far for performers as this bergendang activity requires teamwork skills of sort. Usually its a way of calling the the others in the longhouse to join in the activities. No invitation cards, SMS or emails needed in those days. In the video clip above it has a different meaning now as the bergendang is for the purpose of fun and merry making. If the players can perform a perfect beat they get rewarded with tuak drinking but if they miss a beat they will also be penalised with tuak. Gosh....
Dance Steps: When the drinks kick in the sounds of traditional engkerumong and gongs can cause one's legs to perform the ngajat (dance)
Nyabung: Another traditional sports (a bloody one) is nyabung (cock fighting) which I participated in but its more out of curiousity. My late grandad was one of the famous nyabung experts during his hey days. This activity will never be short of enthusiasts amongst the longhouse folks. News of the nyabung will attract the nearby longhouse dwellers to come and bring thier best birds against one another for high stakes. In the above picture you notice the guy with the red cap is the 'tuai sabong' - some sort of a referee who will decide which is the winner of the fight or if its a draw
Winner Takes All: The winning bird, though bleeding is being cared for as the owner opens the taji aka spurs (fighting blades).
Lunch Time: Family members converge on the bilik after their ngabang (visiting) , ngajat (dance), bertaboh, nyabung (cock fighting) activities
Piring Terabai: In the evening or at night the berdara/miring (blessing) ceremony known as 'piring terabai' is performed. The significance of this miring as compared to the miring bilik is that usually the piring (offerings) would be placed at the place where the terabai (war shield) are usually placed
Ngabang Continues At Night: And the visiting continues....with more Gawai drinks consumed
Berterang and Weddings: Occassionally with family members present for Gawai it would be the best time for a wedding. In this case, the couple above decided to get married that very night
Connectivity In The Rural Setting: For a place that's almost out of reach - I appreciate the availability of GPRS or 2G provided by CELCOM which allowed me to keep in touch with the Office. I was in constant contact with Greg Harris (Oxford Business Group) who was in Jakarta via email (accessed through my Ericsson P1i handphone) for one of our ongoing project. The signal was very weak but the mails and SMSes squeezed through. Amazing what technology can do - really.
Poco-Poco Steps: I don't get it. I am not sure how the famous poco-poco dance came to Nanga Beguang but the music and songs played non stop during the midnite hours of Gawai. I distinctly remember felt the beat of those poco-poco steps as I was crawling back along the tanju. Of course the music is quite addictive and I heard it again when my sister and cousin were practising the steps in the morning before we left
Cousin Jasmine and Sonia - I promised them that their photos will be in my blog