The Sago Palm is a gift from God. Growing wild and in abundance, it a palm highly valued by almost all the indigenous people of Sarawak.
The Melanaus's economy is based on the Sago Palm since time immemorial. An Iban family with five or six sago palm tree is considered rich. Bisayas who have sago palms can beam with pride because they can trade with sago fruits,flour and create food out of the palm. Weddings, funerals and any celebration call for a tree or two to be felled and turn into food for the community.
Today sago palm hearts are also sold in the wet markets. One stem of 3 feet in length is enough to feed 100 people.
During the untimely passing of a very young man recently relatives from Ulu Limbang came together bringing six palm hearts and that provided enough side dishes for three days for about 200 people. Other dishes like chicken with bean curd sheets, pork in soy sauce, fried tapioca leaves, bamboo shoots, all longhouse recipes, were prepared in the small kitchen and its little extension at the back, of course. This is a very economical gotong royong practised by the Ibans. Catering would have cost a bomb!!
The sweetness of the sago palm eased the pain of mourning momentarily. The generosity of relatives reminded every one how communal cooperation is still the jell that binds them together.