May 27, 2010

Pre-Gawai Reflections

Today I am delighted to share an old Kodak box camera photo belonging to my friend Robert M.. Retired Colonel Rizal Abdullah (Robert Madang) came from Lachau of Sarawak and is now part of the Kedah society..He continues to take great photos (with upgraded cameras of course) and write.

He had this one  brilliant opportunity to take a photo of his brother Linggir who was making parang in the traditional style sometime in the 1960's..He wrote

Mr younger brother Linggir doing the "Ngambuh" (making parang, duku etc). Is "ngambuh" still practised in long houses? In my long house Lachau, the practise is gone. People buy their parang/duku at the nearby bazaar. The quality? Questionable!!

May be many people say that a picture is worth a thousand words (quoting from Confucius ). I would say this picture is worth a fortune to an archivist or a beloved sibling. I would like to thank my good friend for allowing me to use this in my blog. With a grateful heart Sir!

Just before Gawai I am sure one would become nostalgic and think of the past and how far the indigenous people have come. In 1958 my grandfather (TPK) carved out a little bit of Bukit Aup to manufacture the first machine made bricks in Sarawak and provided jobs for the Ibans in the vicinity. My Foochow clansmen and women lived alongside the Ibans in peace and harmony. When three of his sons passed away the brick factory went into disuse as no one wanted to take over. Only the land was left after a decade or two. It was only very recently that my large extended family sold off the property and as the saying goes  our last roots have now been pulled out of Sibu. None of my immediate male relatives reside in Sibu now.

Today Aup has indeed produced Iban lawyers and engineers and several teachers and other professionals. The padi fields are still there. Many of the rubber trees are still standing. The Chinese used to rent the rubber land from the Ibans and tapped the trees. In less than one generation they made enough money to send their children overseas or move to Sibu or Miri. They perhaps also used their savings to buy a piece of mixed zone land. One of my cousins even rented  a few  acres of padi land from an Iban landowner in the 1950's. Now this family is in Kuching.

Today cars can reach the various longhouses right under the ruai. The community spirit is still intact. But needless to say progress is still not complete. A quantum leap must still be made.

In many ways many Linggirs of modern day Sarawak have a lot to catch up as good education and fair opportunities and even having a chance to become modern farmers might be still illusive. If it is survival of the fittest than many of our brethrens are not able to run to first base to a certain degree. The goal posts of modern days have been changed (or as I often say - they keep changing) and survival in the jungle and survival in the concrete jungle are totally two different things. But I am glad that several are now overseas earning a decent income to provide for their children's tertiary education.

There are so many challenges ahead of every one. The vicious cycle of poverty must be broken first.

I support  "No Child Left Behind" campaign!!

My Gawai wishes to all my Iban friends who grew up with me in Aup and Sibu - Jugah - Yat - Bulla - Peter - Catherine and others...oh yes.. don't forget :  Agi idup agi ngelaban!

Photo courtesy of Rtd Colonel Robert Rizal Abdullah


Ann said...

Selamat Gawai to you. have you learned to make the Fire water, tuak?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann

Long ago I had one Sifu who taught me well and ever since I have been doing a few batches every now and then. But now I have stopped for a few years because there is no more need for fresh tuak and I can get one or two bottles of good tuak off my relatives.
No one to appreciate the tuak now ...not like before. Taste buds have changed/

Ann said...

People want to be refine and drink wine?

I don't drink wine, don't like the taste. Not that I am good.

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Hahahaha....(shhh) I am not very sure about that...But I have men who drink only whiskies and women who like Port..I have a few friends who insist on making cocktails...

tuak has become more a ceremonial drink than ever. I still like a few sips of very good and old tuak every now and then.

But good tuak is always excellent for ka cang ma and steaming of chicken.

The commerically labelled tuak (rice wine) made in Taiwan may not be as good as the tuak made by the Iban ladies I know!!

Ah Ngao said...

"The Royalist" brewed locally not bad le...,i tried before.i don't really drink much becoz ,just taking a glass my face turns red like a red-face duck very fast(siao lee)...hehe

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao
That's a nice brand. I have one bottle and was kept there for a long time. No occasion to drink.

Finally someone decided to have a go and finished it. Nice. really nice.

Some people just turn red when drinking. It means the body cannot take it. Good for you too.

I know so many people drink themselves silly and the wives have a hard time managing them and their after effects. That's one kind of abuse too.

Ah Ngao said...

yes Sarawakiana, drink sampai peng it's okay,but drink sampai turn amok ! - that's the danger zone .Wishing you & family a very happy and peaceful Gawai ...!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Ah Ngao...

Safe driving and visit some houses...

Happy Gawai too...

Ann said...

alamack, Tuak made in Taiwan.

You better go back to your in law's longhouse and learn to make the real McCoy Tuak, and don;t forget to pass it on to you kids, no matter whether they live in California or perth.

Next time, it will be made in mass Made in China.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Taiwan has a good history of native wines made from all kinds of good rice. And tourists enjoy them because they are well bottled and labelled.

that's the difference between our tuak and their tuak...

Give something a good brand and it sells. My friend's tuak is better than most of the sake I have drunk (pardon me my Japanese friends...).

Come and drink my tuak Ann...or may be I could do some mystical brewing in Auckland!! The peaceful spirits of the earth would only be too happy to help out and make my tuak strong and good....make a man a strong man and make a woman a good woman...cheers.

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