What we all think, but not say

I don’t know if I can really call myself a Malaysian or 1Malaysia in [the current] context, or if such labels carry any real intention or meaning with them because:

For one, as a Dayak Iban, and correct me if I’m wrong, there is no provision in our constitution that says a Dayak Iban belongs to [this] land called Malaysia.

Secondly, I can proudly call myself a native of Sarawak, Malaysia, and [even] article 161A or 153 of our constitution placidly says that special attention must be given to [the natives], but in any legal documentation or form, there is no place for me, only Malay [Malaysian], Chinese [Malaysian], and Indian [Malaysian], what a Malaysia.

Thirdly, I’m very afraid that the Ibans [will be] prohibited from using “Allah” in our mother tongue [when no other word] can replace its meaning.

~ Nicholas Mujah, “I don’t know if I can call myself a Malaysian” (The Nut Graph, 15 Nov 2010)


Why do we do the things that hurt us the most?

I think people are addicted to pain. Be it physical cutting or getting punched, which when you think about it, isn’t as bad as emotional pain. You bear the scars on your skin, on your face, but when it’s emotional, you bear it inside, where sometimes, healing takes years, if not never for some.

Then why do we do it? Why do we inflict pain on ourselves that we know will make us hurt so bad, nothing else compares?

I think it’s because we’re sadistic beings who thrive on pain. It pushes us, for better or worse. It brings out the best, or the worst in us. Or it could just be that we are stubborn, mule-headed things that never learn.

Like some people say, to experience is to live. Really? I think some experiences are never meant to be experienced.

Since the world would not give us black and white, but shades of grey that threatens to yank our sanity by the balls in the most excruciating way possible, we walk this earth in search of answers that somehow escapes just when we’re about to grasp it. It’s unfair, it’s hateful, it’s damning.

No one can help you, no one can be straight with you, no one can be honest with you, and no one can tell you the truth that you don’t want to hear.

For fear that they will hurt you.

Isn’t living in feigned ignorance far more painful?

And that is what I’m still trying to learn every day.

The Bidayuh: Sadong – Bukar (Part 1)

This post concerns the first subgroup, the Bukar.

The Bukar is one of the 15 subgroups found in Serian. The difference between the Bukar and Sadong (of which the remaining 13 subgroups belong to), is geographically and a slight difference linguistically. Among the Bukar, language is pretty uniform among the people, while among the Sadong it is the mostly the same amongst themselves.

The Bidayuh were from Bugau (some thought before that living in Tampun Juah), Kalimantan. In the 1500s, they moved to Tembawang Tampun to expand and search for bigger farming land. In the 1600s they moved on to Tembawang Rutoi, in Sarawak.

According to oral tradition, in Tembawang Rutoi, farming is done by permission of the priest (the Tua Gawai) in an elaborate ceremony so as to get the best possible conditions influenced by the gods and spirits. Oneday, Tua Gawai Beh Tiih and Beh Ringah found out that the people had begun burning the fields without their permission. Angered, they decided to move away from Tembawang Rutoi. They eventually settled at Sg. Kuhas in the 1650s.

In the 1700s, they moved on to Gunung Sadong and built a settlement 2/3 up the slope.They called this settlement Bukar Mawang Sambu (Sambu meaning ‘up’).It was called Bukar because when the rivers flood, it becomes muddy, ‘Kakar”. From there the words evolve into Bukar.

Another oral tradition by the elders suggest a different origin. It’s said that the ancestors of Bukar Mawang Sambu came from Sungkung, Kalimantan Barat. They arrived via Tanjung Datu (the tip of Sarawak) searching for new land to settle. They settled for awhile in Santubong, then moved along the Batang Samarahan (until Pangkalan Gantang) and finally decided to settle at Gn. Sadong.

In the 1780s, a group broke away a created a settlement in Bukar Ta’ee (Munggu Babi).

In the 1790s, another group broke away and settled at Sg. Kakeng (Kampung Kakeng).

In the 1800s, the villagers abandoned Bukar Mawang Sambu and moved to the foot of Gn. Sadong. They called it Kampung Lanchang Mawang (Lanchang = swift running water)

Click here for Part 2.


Democratic Republic of Borneo.

Has a nice ring to it, kan?

With all the shit that’s been flying all over the internet, and the dumbasses who voice out opinions that are shallow and xenophobic, the idea of an independent nation of our own feels nice.

Certain people has been talking like they own us. Leaders keep quiet, not wanting to inflame their relations with these people. They promise the earth and the sky, and then they ditch us when things get sticky.

The most cliched sentence I’ve ever heard all the time. “Kerajaan amat prihatin dengan rakyat.”


Recently there has been demands by some Muslim clerics to question the loyalties of non-Muslims. That they should be exiled for breaking the social contract that has been set by the nation’s founders.

Sometimes I’m just at a loss for words.

Sanda Bidayuh

One fascinating facet of the Bidayuh is their propensity for making fun of each other. The Bibukar enjoy pointing out how the Bisadong sound so excitable and brusque, speaking loudly with exaggerated accents. While the Bijagoi/Bisingai also make fun of the Bibukar/Bisadong way of speaking, they are usually known for exchanging their Ls with Rs, and vice-versa. Plus they can be ‘lampang’.

The Bidayuh has no common tongue, like Mandarin for the Chinese. Each group differs markedly from each other. The Biatah, residing in Kuching and Siburan, straddled between Bau (Jagoi/Singai) and Serian (Bukar/Sadong), speak a language that is understood by both sides simply because it contains words and speech patterns that are taken from both. The Bibukar/Bisadong usually can’t understand the Bijagoi/Bisingai language much (and vice-versa, maybe about 30%), and find it hard to learn the pronounciations.

A legend related by former Bidayuh Temenggong of Kuching, Datuk William Nais (Chang Pat Foh, 2004), the Bidayuh from Kalimantan originally spoke a single language, known as the Peroh dialect. They called themselves Dayak Biperoh. But after the migration, they lost contact with each other and developed in isolation.

The Salako-Lara has an altogether different language, sounding somewhat similar to Malay (some people think they are more Iban than Bidayuh). The Bibukar speaks in a somewhat placid manner, a flat sound. The Bisadong (as are those who are closer to them), as they move towards the border, sound stoccato-ish, jerking certain words and dragging the ends. They also speak with extreme enthusiasm, loud and with a certain musicality that some find annoying, other entertaining. The Bisingai is a bit different in that they speak fast, also in stoccato, while the Bijagoi less so, with the Bikrokong being one extreme and the Biduyoh (nearer towards the border) somewhat less so (Some Bijagoi mention it’s not even easy for them to understand the Bisingai). The Biatah, being somewhat in between, depending on how close the villages are to which side, follows more or less the same pattern.

Legend has it that when the Bidayuh broke up and ventured into new lands, effectively isolating themselves from each other, they drank the water from the nearest rivers. It’s said the water adjusted their tongues, making them pronounce words differently.

Personally, being Bibukar, listening to the Bisadong is always entertaining. Very bullish. Yes, the Bijagoi/Bisingai enjoy making fun of us from Serian, but it’s all in good fun. Serious people aren’t taken seriously, remember? I have never heard the Salako-Lara dialect before, and hopefully find someone who does.

I’m lucky I can speak the language, although not fluently. But I try to learn and increase my vocabulary. Seeing as to how this native language faces a lot of challenges when it comes to adapting it into a formal written language to be taught due to its diversity, I believe we must find a way to create a more systematic and uniform system for the words. I’m surprised at how the “defenders of the culture” talk and talk, but ultimately, nothing is done. The people of power are too busy to bother with such trivial matters, and then decry the loss of the language’s purity. It’s the average Joe, like you and I, who are (hopefully) doing something to change that.

The Bidayuh: Bukar Sadong

The Bukar/Sadong populate the Serian area, mainly by Batang Kiri/Sg. Kedup, Tembawang Bukar and the Batang Kayan. They migrated about 600 years ago from Bugau (some say Sungkung), Kalimantan Barat to Tembawang Tampun, considered the origin point for most of the Bidayuh in Sarawak. Tembawang Tampun isn’t far from Mujat and Mongkos, which is now abandoned.

The Bisadong are divided into 15 subgroups who inhabit Serian.

1. Bukar

2. Sambat

3. Mentu

4. Sumpas

5. Temong

6. Taup

7. Engkeroh

8. Riih

9. Gahat

10. Suntas

11. Kujang

12. Prangkan

13. Sangai

14. Daha

15. Tepoi/Biannah

Administratively, at the district level there is a Bidayuh Temenggong. Beneath him is the Pemanca. In Serian, there are 6 Penghulu who administrate 6 areas: Bukar (25 villages), Amo (13 villages), Tebedu (20 villages), Kedup (35 villages), Tebakang (21 villages) and Sadong (18 villages).

Most Bidayuhs are Christians, with very few pagans. In Serian there are 3 Bidayuh Muslim villages, Kpg. Buluh Bedup, Kpg. Darul Iman and Kpg. Darul Falah.

From Tembawang Tampun, they migrated towards what they called Tembawang Rutoi (Sinangkan Guyan) in 1370, which is near Kpg. Kujang Mawang. Now abandoned as the last settlers have moved to Kpg. Temong Mawang in 1750. It is believed that Tembawang Rutoi is the entry and transit point for most of the Bidayuh who came down from Tembawang Tampun into what is now Sarawak.

Today Serian is more accessible with the Pan-Borneo Highway. Yet there are still some areas which are inaccessible, needing river transport. Basic infrastructure is mostly in place, although the electricity and water supply can sometimes be erratic. Phone signals are mostly present in Serian town and in certain higher places within the hinterlands.