Rh. Wilson Begat ready to welcome DPM to Gawai Open House

BETONG, July 8 (Bernama) — The Rh Wilson Begat anak Bakir, a 21-door Iban longhouse in Penom, Ulu Paku, about 30km from here is set to leave its footprints in the state’s records of important events and happenings, come Monday.

On that day, the 85-year-old traditional longhouse will be the first longhouse to host a national-level Gawai Dayak 1Malaysia open house.

Previously, events like this were held in venues in cities and major towns.

The longhouse too will be honoured with the visit of a very important guest none other than the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who will be the “Tuai Pengabang” or the guest-of-honour.

Other distinguished guests expected are Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim.

According to Deputy Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Joseph Salang, one of the organising chairmen, in all, about 3,000 guests are expected.

“We will have canopies with CCTVs set up in the longhouse compound to accommodate the big number.

“The two-hour celebration will showcase the Dayak hospitality, culture and traditions and delicacies,” he said.

The merry-making would remind Malaysians of the existence of traditional communal festival like the Gawai Dayak, celebrated on June 1 every year, in Sarawak, he said.

Longhouse chief Wilson Begat, in his 70s, is still over the moon that his longhouse was selected for the big do out of the 210 longhouses in the Betong District.

“This is a cause for celebration and our longhouse will be made famous by the occasion.

“We are absolutely thrilled, very happy and are ready to roll the red carpet to welcome all our guests to this biggest event that we have ever hold,” he told Bernama in a recent interview.

Recalling the past, Begat said his forefathers led by their chief Libau anak Garan started to build the all “Belian” (Borneo hardwood tree) longhouse in 1923 and occupied it in 1926.

“We are the fourth generation. We are very happy with life here,” he said. Such longhouse is rare these days. People would rather build concrete longhouse which looks like any urban terrace houses due to the cost and time involved as well as the scarcity of the “Belian” materials.

Rh Wilson Begat has more than 70 giant foundation posts, the smallest of which is as big or even bigger than the domestic cooking gas cylinder, along its entire “ruai” or public gallery area.

The Ruai is big and spacious and can easily accommodate, from end to end, about 14 badminton courts but the “tanju” or outer open verandah is atypically small.

It enjoys round-the-clock electricity supply from the state gridline but the folks are contented to rely on a mountain stream for water supply.

It is also the first longhouse in the state to enjoy its own power supply through its now defunct cooperative, the Penom Electricity Supply Society, in the early 1950s.

The inhabitants tap rubber or plant paddy for living while some are venturing into oil palm growing. Others work as civil servants or as private sector employees.

Its most illustrious son is none other than the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas.

Begat said Sir Anthony Foster Abell, the third Governor of Sarawak (1950-1956) under the British administration, had also been a visitor to his longhouse.

Meanwhile Deputy State Secretary Datuk Ose Murang described the coming event as “a most unique experience as it will be held, for the first time, in an authentic and traditional longhouse right in the heart of Sarawak.”

He said there would be stage performances by dancers and famous artistes from the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu communities including internationally-acclaimed “Sape” maestro Jerry Kamit.

“A highlight and a sight to behold will be the colourful parade by 15 winners of traditional beauty contests organised in conjunction with the Gawai and they represent all the three communities,” he said.

On whether next year’s open house would be held in either the Bidayuh or Orang Ulu longhouse, Ose said he would leave it to next year’s organisers to decide.

“But already leaders from the two communities are very excited about the prospect. There are already a lot of anticipations and this augurs well for us, the 1Malaysia and our tourism industry,” he said. — BERNAMA

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