Gawai Exodus

Gawai 2008 Nanga Beguang

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

Living Skills: Samuing (yellow short) and Jo (red short) helped us with the nyala expedition - its proof that we did catch some fish

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.

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.

Family Reunion: Time for Uncles, Aunties, Cousins to say grace in ushering Gawai Dayak aka 'Dayak New Year'

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

Sayonara: And finally it was time to leave - due to the packed river transport and express launchs we had to opt for the Semaram landing point again on our return. Everyone left with a heavy heart. Soon the school holidays will be over and the Office will start looking for me to complete some urgent assignments. Its time to go back as family members and relatives go to thier respective destinations. We all came together to this one place we call our home .


So, being a loyal government servant (kuli perintah=kuli rakyat) I'm sure you're very satisfied with the current development because you only experienced the hardship once a year during your Gawai balik kampong ritual.

"Look on the bright side - 100 years ago the Rajah Brooke entourage would take weeks to reach Song from Kuching."

If you're a sincere person to your community, you should make a comparisons of the Sarawak state development with that of the Semananjung states. Because by comparing development during the Rajah Brooke era, when you yourself not even born is something like comparing Bekalalan Apple and an Australian apple. Bear in mind we have been independent for 45 years, blessed with abundant natural resources and yet we are still comparing our state to that of the Brooke's era. Do you sincerely think that we deserved this kind development and progress? What a pathetic way of thinking. But this again a typical of government servant attitude ...a denial syndrome.

Anyway, Selamat Gawai Dayak to you.
Greetings my SNAP commentor. Thank you for your comments and that new term 'denial syndrome' but I reserve my comments. Whatever the syndrome that is overwhelming me or the people of Nanga Beguang, there is peace, harmony and respect amongst the folks. What more can one ask for. If you think its pathetic please just leave my blog alone and go somewhere else with your that 'anger' in you. I don't blog to please anyone and I must thank you for diagnosing my disease which you identified as Denial Sindrome.

Anyway I am publishing your comments because you have been kind enough to wish me Gawai. If you see what this blog has been all about its 'Nadai Nama Nama' - it about Nothing. Don't go mad over Nothing my friend :). Its not good for the health. God bless and Selamat Ari Gawai brader :)
Lady Kiana said…
desmond, selamat ari gawai..
ku cuma heran, nama hal ngetu ba ngemah dulu deh? enda terus ari semaram ke beguang?? ukai ke nyamai and laju gik ka??
Ooha Lady Kiana...amai ko nuan. Lagu agik enti direct ke Beguang ari Semaram tang Moto Chalo nya nangkan Ngemah jak. Kami duai Daddy aja ke Beguang so Chalo enda ngajung. Ia minta perau di Ngemah nganjung kami kia... :) Selamat Gawai
Elsa Gabriel said…
happy gawai 2 u n ur family...
those muddy catwalk seem so very intresting :) and i think the winter cloth guys takut kena sunburn bah...
jingpengboy said…
Nice blog, keep it up! we don't have to keep on comparing with others like our brothers across south china sea, they don't mix alot among different races, and we don't have to be jealous or kiasu. just live our lives happily as we can't control everything, can't have everything our way, can't have shinkansen in our state, infinite etc.

Selamat Hari Gawai to you.

cyrildason said…
Happy Gawai man.. nice shots!!
Uchu Keling said…
Selamat Gawai brader!
headsteadi said…
I am thankful that my kampung is only 45mins drive from Kuching. Yet my in-laws still complained Serian is so far away.

Happy belated Gawai. Hope you have enjoyed your Gawai.
daradesa said…
haha..siap bisi catwalk indah..maia pulai gawai saat ti paling best asai ya macam2 ulah/mensia dipeda lebih agi enti pulai baka kita...cara kitai pulai nyau kak sama(ari kuching ngena kereta then sambung ngena moto ai) mina jauh/jampih jak beza..selamat ari gawai bro