This is interesting! I have not participate in any of this ritual to summon the Gods for rain. This olden traditional method need to be documented if it is to be carried out. We hope the Iban community of Mallang longhouse will invite us for this ritual.
MIRI: Residents of Sungai Mallang Atas in Bakong, Baram are mulling whether to revive an ancient practice of the Ibans to appeal to the rain gods for rain should the dry spell persist.
The nearly two-month drought has severely affected rural communities.
One of the hardest-hit areas in Bakong is the longhouse under Sylvester Kakok which is over 50 km or an hour’s drive from the city.
The store of rainwater in drums, tanks and small containers had been used up weeks ago, so the residents had resorted to streams and rivers for water.
“But these are running dry. Streams, even if there is some water left, are too filthy to use as the stagnant water is so contaminated that even hardy fish like ‘ikan puyu’ and ‘ikan beratok’ cannot survive in it,” lamented Juliana Esah Kakok.
She said the traditional way is quite unlike cloud-seeding, which is a scientific method applied by people in urban areas.
“This is only our plan and suggestion if the drought is prolonged. If we get desperate and distressed – we may have to turn to our ‘petara’ for help to shower us with rain,” she said.
Disclosing their plan to The Borneo Post during a visit to the longhouse recently, Esah said the traditional practice known as ‘besampi ngangau ke ujan’ is a complicated ceremony with many traditional requirements.
The ceremony has to be carried out early in the morning before the sun rises to a quarter of the sky.
Just as one must be properly dressed to meet a king, the participating women must be properly adorned in traditional costumes to ‘meet the petara’. It is accompanied by traditional gong music produced by longhouse folk.
The ‘besampi’ (praying ritual) ceremony would see an elaborate ritualistic gathering to appeal to the ‘petara’ (god) for rain.
Esah said they first had to locate a suitable and sacred place for it, such as an old burial ground.
Such a burial ground is located in Sungai Mallang Baroh, about 45 minutes’ walk from Sungai Mallang Atas. The sacred site is believed to be a century old.
“This is where our forefathers used to come to pray for rain whenever there is a prolonged dry spell, and it is said that it had proven to work on many occasions.
“So we hope it would still work if we ever perform the practice one of these days if drought continues,” said Esah who is Anam’s sister and also the Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK) secretary.
Upon reaching the sacred site, the longhouse folk would put their offerings on it and recite prayers, followed by some lengthy incantation which culminate in the slaughtering of a chicken as a sacrifice to the petara, after which its head would be buried there.
A simple feast would follow later at home where everyone would be served rice, drinks and other delicacies.
According to Anam, they had requested for water from the authority in Bakong, but as of now they had yet to get the much-needed commodity.
The two-month drought has inflicted hardship on the rural communities, especially longhouse folk.
They had heard of the so-called ‘cloud-seeding’ but to their disappointment when it came, if it did at all, there were just scanty drops that merely wet the roof of their longhouse and the parched and cracked soil.
Anam had invited Assistant Minister for Water Supply, Sylvester Entri Muran, to visit Sungai Mallang Atas on Aug 8, so he could see for himself the hardship and problems faced by the residents there.
“Seeing is believing so the honourable will better understand our problems,” Anam said, adding that no minister or agency had visited the village.
The Meteorological Department when contacted yesterday said the dry weather is expected to continue until September.
The spokesman said this time the dry season would not be as serious as that experienced in 1998.
“The temperature reading in Miri today (yesterday) is 29 degrees Celcius, so the weather is normal and cool,” he said, adding that 37.4 mls of rainwater was collected in Miri from Wednesday to 8am yesterday.
Last Saturday, I went to Bakong with Benjamin Chai to send some flood relief item. We went there under the Mercy Malaysia banner. The flood situation in Bakong is at its worst and most of the victims are worried about their paddy fields.
We urge the government to extend their assistance in term of giving away free paddy seedling for their coming planting season.
Mercy Malaysia sent basic items like toothpaste, tooth brush, baby pampers, women sanitary towel, soap, blankets, bath towel, mosquito coil, canned food and other stuff.
What happen to the urban Ibans?
During my days as a volunteer, I hardly noticed any Ibans involvement in helping the flood victims. Maybe they are too busy politicking and forgotten that their own race are in need of assistance.
Thank you to the Malays, Chinese, Orang Ulu and Indians volunteers who have come forward to assist the flood victims in Ulu Niah, Suai, and Bakong areas.