Introduction to Dancing

Author: Ann Sibang / Labels:

I have always loved to dance but never wanted to be a professional dancer. Somehow I ended up being one because, I mean a big BECAUSE, because I don't like sitting in an office and work from nine to five and saying yes sir or yes ma'am five and half days a week :). It is just so monotonous, dancing on the other hand is just perfect.

I was exposed to dancing in a very young age, as young as six years old. Not a typical dance you usually hear like ballet. My exposure was to our own tribal (Bidayuh) dance. There are various types of traditional dances, for example there are dances you only dance for ritual event, dances for the purpose of entertainment and many more. Somehow I was only familiar with two types of dances and there are Rejang Padi or Paddy Dance (ritual) and Rejang Beuh or Eagle Dance (entertainment). My favorite is Rejang Beuh because there are a lot of action (variation) going on and not to mention a catchy music that accompanied the dance. Talking about music, not only that we Bidayuh speaks different dialects due to location (areas) we are from, it very much influence the music too. One can tell where they are from by the sound of music they played. I guess that does not really matter because at the end of the day, Bidayuh is what we are and I am proud of it.

I was then performed mainly for our annual school event and some small event in our village. The training and rehearsal at times can be crucial. Our instructors always ready with a stick in their hand to make sure that our arms are up 45 degrees at all times or else (you know what I mean). When to think about it, it is kind of funny. I used to sulk when the stick landed on my arms but now I just laugh at it and in fact grateful because it is useful to me with the type of dancing I am into now.

I have high respect for our instructors, they are these most experience and influential old ladies and men of the village. Sadly some of them, actually most of them had passed on and there is no one to turn to if anyone were wanted to know more about our culture.

Anyway, I always get very excited each time we were given an assignment. Strange, I never really felt nervous before I get into stage but once I am up on stage thats when all my butterflies roaming around my stomach. That is why I never smile on stage. I tried each time but to no avail. I could literally feel the tremble around my lips when I try to smile. You can see how serious I looked on the picture attached.

After a few years, my dad put a stop to it because he wants me to concentrate on my studies, yeah right like that ever happened ;). But who in the right mind would say No to my dad anyway. I chose to be in a the right mind regardless how serious I am into my studies.

Sinjok Upbringing Part 3

Author: Ann Sibang / Labels:

At times, when I felt so inclined, I would help my mom at our paddy field. It is not an easy task but I found it quite fun. It was difficult because one had to stay under a very hot sun and brave sunburned skin (as sun block was unknown to us at the time).  I could become as dark as charcoal but I relished the time playing in the mud.

Then we moved to Sinjok for good. Everyday, though, my parents still had to walk a total of 8 kilometers back and forth to our plantation. Once in a while, I would join them if I have no babysitter to look after me. I was a spoilt brat then, I know. I annoyed everyone who baby-sat me ;), that's what I did best except there was this one babysitter who was a tough cookie. I was so scared of her I once peed my pants. Anyway, those were the days.

I remember our (my parents and I) walks from our hut (plantation) back to the village. I liked  the part when approaching the village; I could see the village lit up by a number of small lamps in small houses. I always imagined I was approaching a big city of lights.

It was a tiring trek but at the same time it was fun. I would hear my parents talking about our crops and about lots of things. I didn't have to understand every topic or be involved in every conversation, but the sound of them chatting kept me calm. It felt reassuring that my parents are with me. Oh believe me, if my parents are away, I would cry my heart out and that never failed to annoy my brothers and sisters ;). They often have to tell me scary stories about children taken away by evil spirits if they cry a lot just to stop me crying and it never failed.

Siburan (Rais/Sentah)

Author: Ann Sibang / Labels:

From my Aunty Annessa

I know that we Bidayuh also known as Land Dayak, which means people of the land. Originally, land dayak lived in the mountains as the story goes to say that they were driven to live on the remote mountains to protect themselves from the pirates [the Mindanao’s and Balininis] the headhunters; the sea dayak from the coastal areas.

I remember the road to Rais Siburan also known, as Sentah was nothing more than a very steep climbs with about two feet of bamboo slates pinned to the soil as footholds, and when we get near Siburan there was a huge bamboo pipe that can be heard from afar. It was such a hard climb that the water was indeed refreshing. The long house was very impressive, known as Batang Sambu and Batang Sagan , altogether with at least one hundred houses. I also remember the Headhouse, which disappeared when I was a teenager.

Muk Swami forgot her name for the moment, was your great grandmother; famous as a kind of midwife. There is no body quite like her. She had fifteen children, twelve died before reaching adulthood, only three servived; the eldest, Rumbod sindu Nuwim; my dad and Minad the youngest. Gaun was great grandfather, who committed suiside; died fairly young.

Now Siburan Sentah has very few houses with two churches, Anglican and Roman Catholic, which I suppose is a good thing.


Author: Ann Sibang / Labels:

From Wikipedia

Bidayuh is collective name for the several indigenous groups found in southern Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, that are broadly similar in language and culture (see also Issues below). The name "Bidayuh" means 'inhabitants of land'. Originally from the western part of Borneo, the collective name Land Dayaks was first used during the period of  Rajah James Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak. They constitute one of the main indigenous groups in Sarawak and love in towns and villages around Kuching and Samarahan in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Related groups are also found in west Kalimantan. In Sarawak, most of Bidayuh population are found within 40 km of the geographical area known as Greater Kuching, within the Kuching and Samarahan division. They are the second largest Dayak ethnic group in Sarawak after the Iban.

Sinjok Upbringing Part 2

Author: Ann Sibang / Labels:

I remember I ran around topless and was reprimanded by our priest, lol. Hey, I was only 5 years old and being topless at that age (at that year) is harmless fun. I must admit that nothing is more fun that your childhood days. Everything is beautiful and the best part of it is, it all belongs to you. When I say beautiful, it does not mean that I came from a well to do family. 

You see, we were once living in a small hut (beri) in the middle of my dad's rubber tree subsidy and paddy plantation. Oh, not a big plantation, in fact you can even count the number of trees on that small piece of land. We had to live there to look after my dad's plantation because it was subsidies and also it was the first place to be called "home". My father still had to keep his job. He had to ride his bicycle miles away to work and my brothers and sisters had to walk miles away to reach school until we were permanently moved to our village called Sinjok.

To me it was a perfect home. Life in our small house was not all that bad. It was so cozy and warm all at the same time. I like it the most when it rains, the "tack tack" sound on the roof. Though we have no tv, we still get to have our own entertainment. My mom was fun to observe, for example. We all would sit by the fireplace watching her barbeque sweet corn while telling us folk tales. Or at times, we would go to our neighbor's house who owned a tv and just spend few hours watching whatever it is on, while my parents would chatting away with our neighbor. Often I would fall asleep while watching tv and when it is time to go home, my dad would carry me the whole way home or when he is too tired, I would walk with my eyes closed while my hand is held by mom or my dad. 

During the day I got to play by our paddy field and fish and swim in our famous creek called Yang Burung (boo-ruung). Well, not literally swim. It was more like walking under the water with my hands simulating a freestyle swimming movement, as I don't know how to swim. And to this day I am still afraid of deep water. When I became tired I would be lying on our bamboo floor balcony with my head looking up to the sky. I would be looking all over the cloudscape for any imaginary image I could see. My favorite image were angels. It felt so soothing; I would believe that angels are watching over my family and me. I also like to watch tree leaves move rhythmically to the wind, enjoying watching the tree "dance". I would be doing that for a while until I fell asleep (afternoon nap). That was my siesta. Siesta is like a ritual thing for me to do up till now.

My dad used to hunt with friends. Hunting is like the only way he could satisfy our craving for meat other than chicken. Otherwise we had to wait by the end of the month for his salary to buy meat. That is why jungle is like haven for us as it had so much to offer. I mean it offered aplenty in those days. My dad's bagged were reindeer, will boar, anteater, porcupine, fruit bats and many more (no worries we don't crave for those cute exotic animals anymore). Sometimes my dad had to take hours and hours to find something. And we would be waiting anxiously for him to come home with his catch (our dinner), which of course sometimes was no dinner at all. But it was okay as we knew there would be better luck next time. 

Sinjok Upbringing Part 1

Author: Ann Sibang / Labels:

Sinjok is the name of the village in which I was raised. I love my hometown. These memories below are dear to me and I wish to share them to document these experiences of our tribal village as the customs evolve and some disappear in East Malaysia (Borneo). This is how Sinjok was like back in the 1980s. I never realized how much these memories had taught me that love is the greatest foundation to everything until I have found my true love, my husband. I always believe that we should embrace all of our memories, good or bad.

Sinjok is located by the foot of a mountain known as Darud (mountain) Sigindau, an awe-inspiring jungle mountain. When I was 8 I think, I climbed the mountain with church members and it was so green and fresh as we hiked up to the peak which is known as Banglo. We had to make our own trail as the mountain was not conquered by tourist or development (still untouched by any development) which is a good thing. Anyway, we hiked for hours as we meandered to the tallest point. We were tuckered but overcome with the sense of calm and beauty of the peak's surrounding. We sat for ours enjoying our victory which our ancestors sought refuge from enemies. One of an early Bidayuh Biatah settlement was started at the nearby mountain called Darud (mountain) Siburan. They called their first village Rais (country), also best known as Kapong (village) Sentah. So that is where it is all started, Sinjok and the rest of other villages like Tijirak, Siga, Masaan, Sungai Duuh and many more.
Sinjok has two big football field, one located strategically in the centre of the village, and the other is on our primary school ground. The one in the centre was almost the size of an international football field and one of the biggest in the whole district. It was my playground and often a muddy playground. It was also a gathering spot for all ages as our fathers, brothers, sisters and friends all played there. Each game that was held in that field was never without ample spectators. The whole village will be decorated for the occasion and it felt like a little fiesta. The kiddies would be running around with joy. We got excited very easily and those memories I cherish. 

Every now and then a group of missionaries would bring a movie about the life of Jesus and play in on a big screen on the football field. the best and the biggest outdoor movie theatre in the whole Malaysia I believed. The whole kapong (village) turned out to watch the movie and many can even see it from their homes. I recall when I first watched the movie, I could not stop crying at the scene where Jesus was tortured and crucified, it was pretty graphic for a young viewer like me. And guess what? If I see the scene again, I am very sure I will cry again like a little Songek (crying baby) that I am. My brother called me Songek because I cry a lot but I must have gotten the trait from my mother because she often said that her head is full of water. She is pretty generous with tears.


Author: Ann Sibang / Labels:

From Wikipedia

The eastern seaboard of Borneo had been charted (though never settled) by the Portuguese in the early 16th century. The area of today's Sarawak was known to Portuguese cartographers as Cerava. Sawarak had been a loosely governed territory under the control of Brunei Sultanate in the early 19th century, although in the early 17th century Sarawak had her own first and the last Sultan, Sultan Tengah. During the reign of Pangeran Indera Mahkota in 19th century, Sawarak was in chaos. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II (1827-1852) the Sultan of Brunei, ordered Pangeran Muda Hashim in 1839 to restore order and it was during this time that James Brooke arrived in Sarawak. Pangeran Muda Hashim initially requested for assistance but James Brooke refused. In 1841, James Brooke paid another visit to Sarawak and this time he agreed to assist. Pangeran Muda Hashim signed a treaty in 1841 surrendering Sarawak and Sinian to James Brooke. Threafter, on 24 September 1841, Pangeran Muda Hashim bestowed the title Governor to James Brooke. He effectively became the Rajah of Sarawk and founded the White Rajah Dynasty of Sarawak, later extending his administration through an agreement with the Sultan of Brunei.

Brooke was appointed Rajah by the Sultan of Brunie on August 18, 1842; originally this territory was just western end of later Sarawak, around Kuching. He ruled Sarawak until his death in 1868. His nephew Charles Antoni Johnson Brooke became Rajah after his death; he was succeeded on his death in 1917 by his son, Charles Vyner Brooke, with a provision that Charles should rule in consultation with his brother Bertram Brooke. The territory was greatly expaned under the White Rajahs, mostly at the expenses of areas nominally under the control of Brunei. In practice Brunei had only controlled strategic river and coastal forts in much of the lost territory, and so most of gain was at the expense of Muslim warlords and of the de facto independence of local tribes.

The Brooke dynasty ruled Sarawak for hundred years and became famous as the "White Rajahs", accorded a status within the British Empire similar to that of the rulers of Indian princely states. In contrast to many other areas of the empire, however, the Brooke family was intent on a policy paternalism to protect the indigenous population against exploitation. They governed with the aid of the Muslim Malay and enlisted the Ibans and other "Dayak" as a contigent militia. they also encouraged the immigration of Chinese merchants but forbad the Chinise to settle outside of towns in order to minimize the impact on the Dayak way of life. They also established the Sarawak Museum, the first museum in Borneo. 

In the early part 1941 preparations were afoot to introduce a new constitution, designed to limit the power of the Rajah and give the people of Sarawak a greater say in government. While the intention was clearly admirable, the draft constitution contained defects and improprieties, not least by reason of secret agreement drawn up between Charles Vyner Brooke and his top government officials, by which he was to be financially compensated for his gesture out of the treasury funds.

Japan invaded Sarawak and occupied the island on Borneo in 1941, occupying Miri on December 16 and Kuching on December 24, and held it for the duration of World War II until the area secured by Australian forces in 1945. The Rajah formally ceded sovereignty to the British Crown on July 1, 1946, under pressure from his wife among others. I addition the British Government offered a healthy pension to sweeten the negotiations. His nephew Anthony Brooke continued to claim sovereignty as Rajah of Sarawak.

After the end of the Second World War, Anthony Brooke then apposed the cession of the Rajah's territory to the British Crown, and was associated with anti-secessionist groups in Sarawak. Anthony was banished from the country. He was allowed to return only seventeen years later, when Sarawak became part of the Federation of Malaysia. Sarawak became a British Colony (formerly an independent state under British protection) in July 1946, but Brooke's campaign continued. The Malays in particular resisted the cession to Britain, dramatically assassinating the first British governor.

Sarawak was officially granted independence on July 22, 1963, and was admitted into the federation of Malaysia on September 16,1963 to the initial opposition from parts of the population. Sarawak was also a flashpoint during the Indonesian Confrontation between 1962 and 1966.