Monday, June 22, 2009

Celebrating local Traditions......

Yesterday, dad was invited by one of his Iban friends to go visit his longhouse which is around 45 minutes drive from Sibu town to Sungai Bintangor to celebrate the last day of Gawai; which coincidentally clashes with Fathers' Day. The 45 minutes drive in the country side was fun. I manage to capture the beautiful sunset while waiting for dad's friend to arrive so we can drive to the house together

We had to pass a toll after crossing the bridge.. Freaking RM 3 to cross the river.. Gosh, worse than the toll money we have to pay in K.L.

But the sunset by the country side is magnificent ..... Well, not really. The sunsets in Sibu is always nice. Its just that I always missed it or was just too lazy to take a picture of it.

It was dark when we arrived at the house. And boy, was the air fresh because of the rain and of all the trees around us. And the thing that caught my eye when I walked into the house, besides the beautiful hand crafted house, was this tree.

Wondering what it is for? Try to guess before you scroll down for the answer at the end of the post.

Well, the men went straight to the "bar" and enjoyed the "tuak" (Iban Rice Wine *click*) made by the host and his community.

Then, there was the food. And I thought we were going to be served this for dinner. Leaves? Kuih? HAHA.. Just kidding. The food stuff as shown above are for the Traditional Rituals of the Ibans called the "Miring" Ceremony or better known as Offerings to the gods. Or in this case, because our host is a Catholic, it is to God.

Here is a better description of what "Miring" is about, I found it on a local blogger's blog *click*.

"Miring, or offerings/sacrifices, are usually made and prepared for important functions and celebrations by the Iban community. You can be certain that some sort of miring will be done before the Gawai Dayak, or the Dayak New Year cum Harvest Festival. This ceremony varies in degree of elaboration – the more grand the festivities are organised, the more elaborate and bigger the miring may be. The size of the household or longhouse, too, comes to play. The traditional purpose of the miring is to offer sacrifices and offerings to the Gods and souls of past. Back then, appeasing the various Gods and spirits as well as the departed was necessary to ensure the undertaking flow smoothly."

So here is a rough explanation of what I saw.

It started with the food stuff I shown above being arranged on the floor. Then a Chicken ( a cock) was presented to the host and prayer were said.

Then the chicken was passed to another local to cut the crown off the cock.

Then 8 people were called or asked to volunteer for the ceremony (including the host, there were 9 people) *Please note that "miring" is performed differently in different tribes. Each have their own ways and rituals to follow. The blood from the crown was dabbed on the hands of the others (anyone can explain why?) I didn't really get what they were saying because I for one am not an Iban.

Preparing the tuak.

For our part (the guests), one of dad's friend's Japanese client represented the guests as one of the 8.

Each plate have its significant number of food things. Further information is needed after I find a book explaining all these. Sorry. I am just telling it how I saw it.

The "tuai" rumah ( head of the longhouse).

9 plates of offering.

Next, was the speech of blessing. A neighbour was invited to speak and bless the family and may the host have a plentiful harvest and a blessed life. It was basically words of blessings and good words.


The host and his grandson.. What a nice Fathers' Day moment huh?

The Cock without his Crown... Ouch... its was still bleeding. But the surprising thing was, it didn't struggle, it didn't make any noise.

Then after all the good words, the chicken was brought outside then moments later, a few feathers and the head were brought in and placed on the 9 plates.

After that, a guest was invited to put one of the plates in a basket and was covered with a locally made cloth. Signifying blessings on the room. The other 8 plates were also done in the same matter but in different rooms of the house.

Here is a nice shot... Happy Fathers' Day! To the coolest Grandpa in the world! Unique huh?

Not wiskey. Tuak! Filled in a wiskey bottle... According to the Japanese, its very strong Sake.

After the ceremony. It was time for dinner. Everything was cooked in its native way.

All of the food you can see on my plate are all "Pansuh" cooking except the "Ikan Bilis" salad. Meaning, food cooked in bamboo. Very tasty, very good food. This is a must try when u come to Sarawak and have the opportunity to visit the longhouses. The best dish of the night was the bbq-ed Wild boar meat which I didn't get a picture of but it is Roasted to perfection though it was a bit chewy.

And what goes very well with the "Pansuh" Soup is the Lemang (rice cooked in Bamboo).

After dinner, the drums started playing. Time for Ngajat. (Najat, if you are reading this, its not a dance to celebrate you. LOL). Well, Ngajat is the Ibans' warrior dance.

And this is where the tree comes in. But hold on... Ngajat is inspired, by, yes, nature, as most native dances are. Usually, the women will dance the Burung Kenyiling or the Hornbill dance where as there are many different ones for the men. Like the tiger, boar.... Or even...

The monkey Ngajat as demonstrated by the "Tuai Rumah".

Guests were invited to Ngajat with the locals as well. So here is the story of the tree. As you can see, food is hung on the leaves of the tree which symbolized bountiful harvest. As the men Ngajat around the tree, a native "Parang" or sword is passed to them to harvest the "food". Only till all the "fruits" are harvested and the tree is chopped down thus ending the ceremony of the harvest festival. Too bad I wasn't there till the end due to having to drive back early because my younger brother have school the next day. Besides, the roads were dark and dangerous so it was better to drive back while no one is drunk with "Tuak" yet.

Well, this is my experience. And yes, sorry about the quaility of the pictures. Since my other camera is in the hospital, I had to depend on my compact to capture the event. And guess what, the battery went dead after taking some of the Ngajat photos.. Oh well. Hope you enjoyed reading this post and hope whoever haven't visited Sarawak before will be inspired to visit my beloved state when you have the chance.

I LOVE SARAWAK! Because I love the food! HAHA...
Joking.. I love the culture and of course, it is where I was raised..... Have a great week ahead.

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