Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dalat - The "Balau" Town

Sago Trees along Jalan Oya-Dalat

It was in 1992 when I first heard about Dalat. It was totally an unknown town and of course really a stranger to me.

My first time at Dalat in 2002, it was just a cowboy town, where the town just make up of a row of wooden of shop house just at the riverbank of Batang Oya. This town was the biggest town on that area, which collecting the farms products on its surroundings before trade it to other major town. Than just imagine, how good business for the traders!

It was not come to five years where everything seemed changed, following the declaration of Mukah as a new Division. The new modern shop houses born and the cowboy town of Dalat were abolished. The only building to mark the site of the existing cowboy town is a Buddhist Temple. I believed that the temple built by the first generation of Chinese traders which now is part of the permanent folk of Dalat. Don’t argue on that, please! In fact, the first time travelers will not able to differentiate among Melanau, Chinese, Iban or Malay on languages. Most of them spoke on Dalat Melanau, which is quite different from other Melanau languages. This is so special about this town, where the real Malaysia live in harmony among them. With the modernization of the town, rivers and canals are still maintaining its popularity as the major mode of transportation by the locals. The have their own cars of course, but the rivers are still giving their important roles to the locals. Apart from roads, other basic infrastructures are developed as well. This is how the story of sago or “Balau”plays his roles as the activities that gearing up the modernization of Dalat.

Travels from Oya to Dalat (Oya is another cowboy town, a sub-district to Dalat), travelers will see nothing other than Sago trees. It was a beautiful view indeed! 15 km of road, the smooth driving on this paved road spoiled by various types of crossings. It is reported that total numbers of crossings are about 25 numbers, including of culverts and bridges. They are built higher than the road level, so that the local farmers still can use their boats in the canals and rivers.

Before the authority changed the crossings to a parmenant structures, the crossings are made of belian wooden which were built higher than these permanent structures. So, I cannot imagine driving on the 15 km of roads with not less than 25 bumps. I am not joking indeed!

To visit the sago farms and trees is just too easy. The travelers just can park their vehicles on the roadsides and enjoy the view of farmers pouring their very best effort on their Sago Farm. Most of them are traditional farmers; however nowadays planting sago is no more their only daily business. In fact, it was reported that sago farmers in Dalat has their own association to protect their welfare. Of course, I have to agree on this. They are small farmers, very hardworking to run this family-based business. In fact, some of them use the road side earth drain to transport their sago logs to the factories. This part is headache for me to think! Why should they use this orthodox way of transportation, where the roads are much easier to use. Than I get the answer, it should be much cheaper to use the drains and rivers compare to the land transports. I guess.

During high tide, the travelers even can see the small boats on the left and right side of the road. This is their most suitable time for them to transport their sago log. Otherwise, they have to wait another twelve hours for the high tide to come again and transporting their sago naturally. It is totally an amazing natural view, which in my opinion sooner or later will be extinct from their daily activities. And of course it will just become a history to the Dalat. Hence, for those to enjoy the scenic view, this is the time to snap on your camera and frame it nicely for the reference of future generation. It is not an easy to transformed Dalat from a cowboy town to a modern City, maybe.

I was shocked when my local friends informed me that the outsider farmers as far as Mukah, prefer to sell their sago logs to factory in Dalat. It is believed that this factory can offer them much higher than other factories. For a log, normally in 3 feet long, thaey will paid for about RM 6.50. For a tree of sago, they will get not less than ten logs which mean that they will get more than RM 65.00 for a tree. For me it is not worth, compare to their effort and tiredness. Anyway, I believed that their income should be much higher than my naïve calculation; otherwise this business will be bankrupts.

Another shocked is that, the information that the qualities of sago products in Dalat are much higher than other district. I am not daring to too descriptive on this matter, or otherwise I will stir up other people business. Anyway, I don’t like sage, that is the real truth.

Another product of sago is sago worm or “siet”in local Melanau. Most people will see this as taboo, but for Sarawakian, this food is a must try dish in this central region of Sarawak. It is not easy to buy, as you have to book earlier. It is totally special, a worm will needs about forty days before its ready for harvesting. I still finding a local farmer to bring me on the processing of the worm and write it in details later. However, I believed that it will be an interesting trip.

Crossing the river of Batang Oya, just on the opposite side of Dalat Town is Brunei. I am not joking! Anyway, it is not the country of Brunei, it is actually a small village known as Kampung Brunei. No other way to reach the kampung through land vehicles. Boats and “perahu tambang” are among the popular mode of transport to the kampung. A private wooden ferry operates to transport the vehicles to Kampung Brunei which could bring two cars in a single trip. The fare is not cheap, but the villagers have no choice other than paying RM 10.00 for a trip. No insurance and no warranty! Anyway a bridge now is under construction, and the kampungs on the opposite side of Dalat Town will enjoy the benefits.

In order to promote Dalat as a tourism place, the government spent million of RM to develop the riverbank to a beautiful waterfront. Maybe one day, Dalat will have a beautiful waterfront as what we have in Kuching City. This is just a matter of hope and reality.

When the time comes, the younger generation shall know that “Balau” is the industry that promotes this cowboy town to a riverbank city. There is an annual event, Pesta Balau that I cannot remember the schedule, which I believed an effort by the government to remind the younger generation the important of sago industries in Melanau community!

The transformation of Dalat from Cowboy Town in 1990's (photo below) to Modern Town of Balau (photo above) in 2008.

Note: I tender my million of thanks to Mr Mokthar who supply me the modern photo of Dalat, and Mr Chritopher who supply me the photo of Cowboy Dalat.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009



This time, no photos to show, no words and sentences to describe.. it is just a naive poster that I myself could not flag it, even on the streets...... For the one and only State I stay, the one and only Country I loved, the one and only World WE have,...I just too tired to think and too thirsty to live in peace.......

wHy CAN't WE LOVED...........


STOP "killing" each other!

Note: The word "killing" on this has a deep meaning. Killing is not means only by taking away other's life.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dayak Selakau - The Lost and Found Tribe in Sarawak (Part 3)

Gold Arawana Reveals the Gawai Celebration of Dayak Selakau

"Panyangahant" give his offering (Babuis/Nyangahant) to their God (Jubata) on Gawe. In front of him is "Pabuisant", a traditional altar for the offering

Gawe In Selakau Tradition

This is my third publication about the lost and found of among the smallest tribe in Sarawak. Before going further on writing, I just to make it clear that my description on this matter is just very basic information. Being one of the tribe, lives and grow in kampong, it just a matter of sharing information and experience on the beauties of Dayak Selakau traditions and culture. Either it is considered as primitive in this modern world, I do believe that there must an appreciation to the olden believes. This is actually the real world that later on creates a better world to the younger generation.

As for Egypt, it was remembered as a great civilization because it was documented. It might not proper documentation, however still readable and understandable by the historians even after thousand of years in mystery. Therefore, for this smallest tribe in Sarawak, it is crucial for the professional journalist on proper documentation so that it will not extinct by the modification and modernization of its surroundings culture. Hence, for the readers, who think to take this article as a reference, I suggest that further research being made for confirmation.

For Dayak Selakau, there are lots of Gawai. This is the way they expressed their gratitude to God. This include from birth to circumcision (as a mark that a boy is becoming a man), marriage to medication, and finally to death. As for all the Gawai, it’s not much different on the foods and preparation. The protocols are almost similar to all of the events. However, I believe that there are differences on the offering. Gawai in Selakau can be categorized into two type based on how grand it will be celebrated. It is called Gawe Kayak (means big celebration) and Gawe Kenek (means in medium celebration). Gawe kayak normally celebrated in longer period, longer offerings and means that more guests and expenditure. For Gawe Kenek, it is on the opposite of the Gawe Kayak and normally only attended by closed neighbors and relatives.

The celebration including of preparation normally will takes about one week. The grand celebration, however will take about 3 nights and four days. When the head of family has decided on the date for his Gawe, he will meet the “Pengarah Uma”, whose normally is the head of the village. Pengarah Uma than will conformed on the date and called a meeting (normally in night time), two days before the events (Ari kayak).

In the meeting, Pengarah Uma or his representatives will distributed the responsibilities to the villagers. It is actually a simple concept, men responsible for collecting the bamboo and women responsible to collect a plant called by the locals as “abuant” and “daukng minyak”. These three natural equipments are the compulsory equipments for the event. The meeting than decided on who will be the “penyangahant” (man responsible for offering ceremony). Panyangahant for gawe kayak normally needs two people, one on living room called “samikh” and another one in “biik”.

The date of events for gawe consider as on the evening before the grand celebration. This is called as “Umarek Gawe”. From the early morning, the villagers assemble at the organizer’s house and start to move on their activities as have been decided in the previous meeting. For those not in the working committee, they have other important task to do. The men normally will assist on preparation of pig (or enyekng in Selakau language), chickens (or Manok in Selakau language) and temporary huts as well as food preparation. Pig is a symbol of “Gawe Kayak” which differentiates it from “Gawe Kenek” which celebrates without the pig. It is a must for the offering ceremony in addition of seven numbers of chickens. Its actually significant to the more foods needed for more guest estimated. That’s why, for Gawe Kenek, pig is not a compulsory. For the women, they will cooperate with each other to produce rice flour. In olden age, they used a primitive way of producing flour, using a wooden bowl called “asukng”. Nowadays, this tradition is almost extinct as they can easily buy the ready-made rice flour from supermarket.

On the evening time, the villagers again cooperate to each other for preparation of dinner and traditional foods. The men are traditionally related to the external works including of cooking and preparation of “Poek”, a traditional Selakau food. Poek are made of glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk in bamboo. For the women, they will prepare another traditional food, “tumpik” and “Bontokng”. Tumpik is actually sweet rice flour cooked in hot oil, meanwhile bontokng is rice packed in leaves and cooked in bamboo. As I mentioned earlier, this three traditional foods are compulsory!

After dinner, “Panyangahant” will give his offering and the guest will served with the traditional foods. For most cases, the event continue with drinking session, where the guest are serve with “Langkau”, a local rice wine. Nowadays, they even extent their event through a merrier session, the “Life band”. This especially when they organized Gawe for human, normally on wedding, circumcision, “batenek” and etc…

The next morning, they wake up early, in conjunction of another session of food preparation. This time of course in bigger amount. Pig and chickens blessed and slaughter for the offering. The pig will be divided into parts, which will be distributed to the guests after the offering. When all the compulsory items are ready, the villagers than prepare for “Pabuisant”(an altar for the offering ceremony). “Babuis” means the offering ceremony, which take about one or two hours which I myself cannot remember. On this session, the household and paddy blessed for their good return.

After lunch, another special session, “Baajakng” take place. Baajakng means distribution of foods and pig to the villagers, normally based on their rank in community and relative to the house owner. The Gawe celebration is considered finished and they end it up with drinking session or gambling.

On the evening, the closing ceremony (or “Barakat”) takes place. It is another simple offering ceremony, but normally attended by the closed relatives.

The Challenges

The Gawe celebration looks naive and primitive for other races especially in this modern world. Some may believe that one day; these events will be extinct to the younger generation as the modernization of the cultures and religions. In fact, most of the equipments are from the natural resources which finally will be not easy to find especially in town. So, for the Selakau family in town, they celebrate Gawe following the modern foods and equipments, no more “poek”, no more “tumpik”, no more “bontokng” and no more “panyangahant” of course. “Langkau” is replacing by beer and liquor which are easier to buy in town. Either the eldest forget to teach the younger generation on the offering words, or the youngster refused to learn is another perplexity.


Even though on this modernization of human civilizations, our origins shall be remembered and known by the younger generation. My English is not too good for detail description, and I am not a professional photographer who can take very good photos, and I am not a good journalist that can elaborate the stories in a better ways. Hence, I do believe that one day our younger generation will ask and point their eldest for not documenting this unique celebration. And before the time comes, it is better for the authority to really pave the way to retain this lost and found celebration.

Special thanks to my brother, Stephen Mathias (Iyus), who contributes me the photos. The photos were taken during Gawe Bataah (a thanksgiving ceremony of newly born baby) in December, 2008.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

15 BOMBSHELLS of 2008

2008 Christmas has gone. The celebration of the biggest event in the world is always the milestone for the year end. For those who already grab their dreams and efforts with flying colors, they have very reason to thanks and say good bye to 2008 and begin the New Year with a big smile. For those who failed, they also have very reason to celebrate the New Year and hope that their efforts will be worth in 2009. Of course, they also have to thank 2008 for giving them good lessons for cogitation and improvements for better life. Some even have already their calendar on what and when to do checklist for 2009. The Year of 2008 being classified by the Chinese calendar as the year of Rat. On my understanding, rat means coward. They will be around in the dark, eats whatever they can and ran away in the lights or in the appearance of cats. The Ox year of 2009 hopefully will give better life to those who do not like the rats! For English calendar, which used as international calendar, January is always the month of planning, June is the month of reviewing and December is the month of measuring the performance. So, whatever it is, either you believe it or not, either you like it or not, 2008 has appeared to create histories and bombshells.

Some may said that 2008 leaves them with great memories, but personally I think most will say that 2008 is the year of bombshells. I try to reveals some of major shocking in the history for 2008. Anyway, there are of course other important things for others. So, please do not try to compare on it!

1. Bombshell 1: Malaysian General Election

March 2008 will be remembered by the Malaysian for the shocking result of Malaysian’s 11th General Election. Many would predict that the ruling government will easily won and form the new government. Some even predict that they will topple Kelantan; the only state government belongs to the opposition. However, the result has turned the traditional strong fortress of BN when PR win in five states namely Kelantan, Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Penang. They even lost their two-third majority in parliamentary seats; thanks to their partners in Sabah and Sarawak who still give the strong support to the BN.

The political change following the general election portrayed the ruling government either from BN or PR being more transparent, and it has been able to fulfill its commitment to bring a better service to the peoples.

In Sarawak, who will have their next state election is the interesting parts to watch. So, either the general election will expand the results to Sarawak is a big question marks. Anyway, the strong two-coalition system hope will really give a better future for Sarawak.

2. Bombshell 2: Scenario in Leadership

The General Election also leaves a big impact on the leadership scenario in Malaysia, both on BN parties and PR parties. The leaders for opposition was traditionally from DAP but now changes to PKR who won more seats on the elections. Other parties are decided to change their leaderships following the election. However, the most interesting parts are the sacrifice of UMNO President and our beloved PM who decided not to contest UMNO Presidency post for the next election. This will give way to other members, who traditionally will become the next PM. The same scenario happened to the opposition when DS Wan Azizah sacrifices his seats and position to give way to his husband, DSAI.

I am not a political analysis and also not involved in any of them, so I better not to too descriptive on this matter. However, as a Malaysian, to know on the ongoing politic scenario in my one and only country is a must and interesting. For the smooth transition of the powers, I have to pay my respect to all the leaders. Thanks for the peace!

3. Bombshell 3: Volatile of Fuel Price

The volatile of the global fuel price has forced Malaysian Government to jack up the National price. The interesting is that, this is the highest in the Malaysian history! Luckily after a few months in suffers, the Malaysian enjoy the good news for the drops of fuel price significantly. This is again a big surprised as the price being reduced for seven times this year! Another history created for Malaysian Book of Records! Depression on financial crisis is expected to have big impact on the coming year ahead. Cheaper price of daily needs shall be the top wish lists, and lowering on the fuel price has yet to see on the lowering on the good’s price. However, the effect of the fuel price still strongly affected the good’s price and excused of old stock cannot be acceptable by the layman. And the consumers still have to suffer on this. Hope the Ox Year will come with good news on this matter.

4. Bombshell 4: Victory of Barrack Obama

The “world leader” has their presidency election in 2008 where Barrack Obama, a black has won it to become the first black president. Before, many predict that blacks will never occupy the white house, but this election has broken the rules. His victory even has shown to the world that US has their equality in racial. For Malaysia, with build up from more than 30 ethnics, this might be a good lesson. US have formed their country for hundred of years and Malaysia is just for less than seventy years. There is still a big for improvement in our national unity. However, whoever the Malaysian are the will proud of our peace and harmonic country. This is for sure.

5. Bombshell 5: Landslide of Bukit Antarabangsa

This not the first time for the landslide to cost life and billions of RM. Unfortunately, care have not been taken to prevent it to be happened again and again. However, that is not fair to point on each other to what have been happened. This is the power of nature, when the “mother of disaster” has shown her anger. I do believed that there is nothing wrong to develop the hills area, as long there is balancing on the engineering laws and the nature desires. Anyway, I also do believe that we have our expert on this. And I am nobody to talk more on this.

6. Bombshell 6: Terrorists attacks on Mumbai

Everyone knows that it is almost impossible to eliminate to these senseless atrocities as long as there are bigoted people who used religion and racial sentiments for their agendas. I not try to point on one race or one religion. Terrorist is not pointing only to one race or one religion, please! What happened in Mumbai in 2008 is a strong indication that young people have to brain-washed to do things they perceived as right despite the general condemnation of killing innocent civilians and destroying public utilities.

In global, those who concerned with world affair would like to see a lowering of conflict among the countries. There must be a big prayer throughout whatever religions that one day the world will realize that human race is better off talking rather than fighting each other. It would be more worth if the world together in fighting the cross-border disease and general human issues on global warming etc. The most important thing is this world is all about sharing, and there is no other place proofed to be a better place to stay than on the peace world!

7. Bombshell 7: Corridor

There were four or Corridors throughout Malaysia, launched by our Prime Minister for mega developing on certain areas of the country. As for Sarawak, 2008 has been a very significant year which has brought one of the most important events in anal of Sarawak’s history – the launching of Sarawak Corridor Renewal Energy (SCORE). SCORE which heralds the advent of the second wave of development for the state was launched by YAB PM in Bintulu on February, 2008. This gigantic development area stretches from Similajau in Bintulu Division to Tanjung Manis in Mukah Division. SCORE hopes will offers great investment and job opportunities both to the locals and foreigners.

So, it was actually a history for Sarawak. I cannot remember either this is the biggest fund for Sarawak since independence. Some says that it just another politic gimmick! Whatever it is, hope that this mega project will really develop the central region of Sarawak, which was no doubt needs more attention for developments.

8. Bombshell 8: Kidnapped of Malaysian Vessel

I was shocking as I was personally thinks that pirates being extinct! I try to imagine the modern pirates, which might be totally different from my favorite popular pirates’ heroes, the Captain Hook and Robin Hood. It was not funny, anyway.

The real cause of the kidnap is unknown. But for sure they do it for money of course. In Robin Hood era, they do it because of life strain. Being in poverty, nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep, meanwhile the rich having their prosperous parties, good foods to eat, and castle to sleep. History has taught us that oppression will lead the weak become stronger. Have I written a sentence about the Goth?

However, on what happened to our vessels also happened to other countries. The most important is that this lead to a stronger co-operation between the countries for the peace!

9. Bombshell 9: Olympic Games

Either it was shocking or not, personally our athletes’ performances are still far behind the expectations. Many predict that Malaysia will bring their first Olympic gold medal at least in Badminton. Unfortunately, our champions are acting at China where the athletes have to fight not only against the home champs but also against their home supporters. However, for real champion should fights, handle their emotion, and win! I do believed that our athletes have try their very best to win their events. After all, RM 500k as consolation for the gold medal is not a small amount! Anyway, congratulations to Datuk Lee Chong Wei for at least bring the silver.

What shocking me is the absence of other popular sports like squash and bowling which I predict our athletes in better performance on these. This matter is just too high lever for me to think, so for our athletes all the best for other tournaments in 2009!

10. Bombshell 10: World Badminton Superseries Masters Final

I am just too happy to watch the live telecast on the Final of World Badminton Superseries Masters Final which was held at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Our champions won all the three finals, Men’s Single, Men’s Double, and Women’s double. A feeling that was last appear when we win Thomas Cup in 1992 (if I not mistaken). This hopefully is the sign of revival of Malaysian Badminton squad. Judging on our champions’ age, these might be the best squad so far to bring back the title to Malaysia.

However, the absence of the China squad on the events are perplexity to the real performance of our squad. Whatever it is, hope that the title of “Jaguh Kampung” which is significant to most of our champions will be deleted permanently. A real “Malaysia Boleh” is yet to born, anyway.

Finally, these five bombshells are the high profile and well known by the public. I don’t have the rights to write on it. Anyway, anything happened have its own impact and root course, I guess…

11. Bombshell 11: The Return of DSAI to Parliament and Court
12. Bombshell 12: Datukship Awards
13. Bombshell 13: Pulau Batu Puteh
14. Bombshell 14: Altantuya court case
15. Bombshell 15: Malaysian Judiciary

So for my wish lists, I wish that may this New Year will bring inner peace, benignity and kindness to all humankind.