Longhouses in Sarawak
Longhouses in Sarawak is normally synonyms to the Dayak tribes compromising of three major ethnics, Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu. When talk about longhouses, many will thinking of the naive settlements on the naive civilizations. It is also link the longhouse to the semi-nomad ethnic in Sarawak. No doubt, many have bad impression on Sarawak, labeling Sarawak as a poor state in Malaysia. In fact, most of the youngsters now shy to confess that they are living in longhouse.
In tourism perspective, longhouse has become the icon for Sarawak, promotes this multi-culture state as one of the most visited state in Malaysia. I myself believed that most tourist came and visit Sarawak for its culture and natural beauties. So, how bad the impression is, the tourist must have the desire to come back to Sarawak for the second, third or fourth visit.
For the Dayak longhouses, Iban still have thousands of longhouses, new and old which is still well maintained by the younger generation. Bidayuh and Orang Ulu which compromising of lot of smaller tribes as well has their longhouses which is still in place to proud of. However, for Melanau, longhouse is an extraordinary...for the youngsters. In fact, I do believed that other ethnics, how develop are they or how fast their civilization is, longhouse is an early form of settlement. For modern settlements, they adopt the concept to terrace houses, shop houses, etc... The concept of the longhouse is still there which proof that the modern civilization recognized that longhouse is a good concept. Hence, the longhouse youngsters shall not shy to confess that they are living in a longhouse. The only leaking in the long houses in Sarawak is the infrastructures. This mostly of the scattered location where Government difficult to provide the infrastructures. Whatever it is, Government should look into how to develop the infrastructures to them. After all, I do believed that Government has the experts that we can relied to. Am I talking too muc? I dont think so...
The Different between Dayak Longhouse and Melanau Longhouse
I never been to any types of Orang Ulu longhouse. As such, I just can compare the Melanau Longhouse and Iban longhouse which are well-known by the others. For a visitor like me, which on and off visit to the longhouses, the only different between the longhouses is the "ruai". Longhouse are normally compromising of four components; "tanju", "ruai", "bilik" and "dapur". The same design for the Melanau longhouse. However, Melanau longhouse has their "ruai" right in the middle of the longhouse where on the right and left of the longhouse are the "Bilik". This means that "tanju" which is normally in front of the Iban's longhouse, are built at the back of the Melanau longhouse. This is my judgment based on my visit to this two ethnics longhouse. Its however might a better description for the original concept of the longhouses by the experts. As I tell you earlier, I am just an on off visitor to the longhouses.
"Rumah Panjang Melanau ini, berusia lebih daripada 100 tahun dan ia adalah pada masa ini merupakan yang tunggal di Sarawak bagi masyarakat Melanau di seluruh dunia. Mengikut sejarah, asalnya rumah panjang ini hanya mempunyai 4 pintu yang dibina sekitar 1872 dan pada tahun 1888 bilangan pintunya telah ditambah menjadikan 26 pintu kesemuanya sehingga sekarang. Ruang Ruai berada di tengah rumah sebagai tempat beristirehat.
Rumah panjang ini dibina secara bermuafakat oleh penduduk setempat ia berukuran 210 kaki panjang dan 40 kaki lebar. Pada asalnya, struktur asasnya diperbuat daripada kayu belian sementara atap dan dinding menggunakan daun rumbia.
Sebelum agama Islam, penduduknya berfahaman animisma (Liko). Menurut kepercayaan setempat, kerja-kerja baikpulih bangunan ini hanya boleh dilakukan oleh penghuni yang dilahirkan di rumah panjang ini sahaja dan sesiapa yang melanggar adat ini akan ditimpa masalah."
"THE ONE AND ONLY"
The longhouses was believed to be built 135 years ago, when the Matu Melanau still practicing the ancient believed known as "Liko" by the locals. It can be prove by the old grave meters away from the longhouse. Nowadays, most of the Matu Melanau are Islam. Even though there is no clear proof that this longhouse built as old as the claimants, the original structures are made of belian (ironwood) logs as the main columns. I don't think that the "Engineers" or the "Architects" really wants this heavy and over design columns as their construction materials. In fact, Matu is a swamp area where they cannot find any belian in their jungle. They nearest supplier shall be from Selangau where the river plays his major roles for the transportation.
Starting from two "bilik" in 1873, its grew to 13 and later to 26 and it is still counting.
The Kg Sok Melanau Longhouse have being gazetted as a historical heritage under the State Museum Department. Located in a remote area of Mukah, the longhouse used to attract tourists from over the world. As reported in a local newspaper, not less than 2,000 tourists came referring to their guests book.
Sadly, most of the interior part of the longhouse now had been damaged with the passing of time. As it is getting older, the only Melanau Longhouse left in Sarawak is rotting away. Hence, special attention really needs from the authority concerns.