Tourists move holidays forward to experience Kaamatan


PENAMPANG: Australians Bruce Collinson and wife Geraldine have always been fascinated with Sabah, especially its culture.

In fact, they were more than willing to move their holiday dates a month early just to learn about Sabah’s culture and enjoy the nature here.

“We have been planning our holidays for about a year, so we browsed the Internet on what was available here (in Sabah) and found out about the (Harvest) Festival — so instead of coming here in June, we decided to move the dates a month early because May is just too hard to ignore.

“Since we love to learn more about the culture and meeting nice and friendly Sabahans, which is a bonus. We find this festival just the best place to be — there are just a lot of things going on, seeing people spending time with their families and going back to where they grew up is just beautiful, plus we do not have this sort of thing back home,” said 50-year-old Geraldine.

She said the experience attending the Harvest Festival, or locally known as Kaamatan, was beyond their expectations, adding: “It is just so colourful. We did not expect to see so many people, but I believe this is what celebration is all about.”

Both Bruce and Geraldine started coming to Sabah since three years ago, and in fact, this is the Collinson’s fourth visit here.

“We have always liked Sabah. There was one time when we were in Italy when I told my wife that I miss Sabah. We are going back to Australia soon but will definitely come here again,” said Bruce, 57.

Along with the Collinsons were 55-year-old Ken McMillan and Jenny, 52, who are first-time visitors to the state.

“Everything is new to us, but so far, we are enjoying it,” said Jenny.

Also among the crowds of thousands of people was Yeap Wen Zhuo, who happened to be in the state to attend a cousin’s wedding.

“Since this is my first time here, I decided to stay a little bit longer. Everything about the local culture is new to me, the unity among the multi-racials is so great here,” said the 21-year-old from Terengganu.

As for 60-year-old Choi Kok Chong, his visit to Hongkod Koisaan here was way better than what he saw on television (TV).

“I used to watch this on TV and was always captivated by the many cultures and the colourful costumes. So this year I made it a point to come here, specifically to enjoy Kaamatan up close and personal,” said Choi who flew all the way from Kedah on May 25.

He had also visited Sandakan the past few days before turning up at the festival.

“I may come again as I enjoyed myself today. This is something that is very unique as we do not see this kind of celebration anywhere else in Malaysia — this is truly unique,” said Choi.

Thousands of people turned up for the festival where they were feasted with not only a large range of local cuisines, but also traditional games and handicrafts, which were put on display at the makeshift booths and the traditional homes representing the districts in Sabah.