Showcase of cultures at Hongkod Koisaan

PENAMPANG: One of the best occasions to experience the way of life of the KadazanDusun Murut in Sabah is during the annual Pesta Kaamatan or Harvest Festival celebrations on May 30-31.

During the two-day event at Hongkod Koisaan here, which is the culmination of the month-long Harvest Festival celebrations, the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut people bring the Unduk Ngadaus (Harvest Queens) from their respective districts to vie for the State Unduk Ngadau title.

The celebrations attract throngs of visitors from not only Sabah but throughout the country as well as tourists.

Rosmary Ening, a 63-year-old woman trader from Keningau who takes the opportunity to sell her homemade alcoholic drinks not as ‘Lihing’ (Sosopon) and ‘tapai’, said business was good.

She said she began selling her  Lihing and Tapai at the event venue two years ago, and she enjoys being part of the celebrations as it is among the few times in a year that one gets to see the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut (KDM) people turning out in their traditional attire and performing their dances and music.

“We should always encourage our young to practise this tradition,” she said.

Mariana Ginadung, 57, has been an active participant in the event since 2010 as a cultural performer in one of the traditional houses erected at Hongkod Koisaan.

What she does is to demonstrate traditional threshing of rice for visitors. Such a practice was common until as recent as 20 years ago, but it has been replaced by machinery.

“This was how we separated the husk from the grains. But the newer generation do not know how it used to be done. It is only through such festivity that we are able to show the old practices,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mazin, a 64 year-old man from Tambunan, was there to sell his parangs (machetes) for RM38 each.

“The demand for my parangs is quite good,” he said. In Dusun, parangs are known by the term ‘Dangol’, while for the Kadazans, it is called ‘Dangoh’.

American Robert Pohman, 59, who was among visitors at Hongkod Koisaan yesterday, said the Kaamatan Festival was his favourite event in Sabah.

“I have been living in Sabah for eight years and I celebrate the Kaamatan every year. It is my favourite festivity, and each year I find the celebration evolving towards betterment. There are more shows, more entertainment and there are so many traditions to be seen,” he said.

Pohman said he often tells his friends from his home country that Sabah has the most “secrets” in Asean while the people are friendly, the food delicious and the weather wonderful.

Ken Chan, 26, from Johor Bahru said it was the first time he experienced the Kaamatan celebrations.

“I find the Kadazan sumazau dance very attractive. The shows that have been organised for visitors here are also attractive. And I like the traditional costumes,” he said.

Frank Petzel, 44, and his partner, Judith Kerschee, 33, also said it was their first time experiencing the festivity in Sabah.

The German couple said they enjoyed exploring in the traditions of various ethnic groups  at Hongkod Koisaan.

Judith, who is an architect, found the designs of the traditional homes unique and fascinating, particularly that of the Murut people.

“I have never been in such a situation. Everything looks so attractive. Such a festivity is very good for tourists and locals alike,” she said.

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