Journey brings back memories for Nanga Ngungun folk

PJPA members in a group photo during a stop for lunch at Nanga Tala in Sungai Ngemah. Entili is standing at centre (standing first row, fifth right).

KANOWIT: It was a journey down memory lane when a group of about 50 members of Pang Junan People’s Association (PJPA) made a trip up Sungai Ngemah to Nanga Pang where they lived decades ago.

The recent trip, led by PJPA chairman Entili Garaji, was for the official launching of the association’s house as well as their ‘Tagang’ system.

The longboat journey started at 9am from Nanga Ngungun, where the longhouse residents had resettled some 40 years ago.

Along the way, the group passed by places notable for their folklore, such as ‘Batu Barung’ which locals believe was once a longhouse that turned to stone after a woman violated a taboo.

The Batu Barung tale has it that a woman laughed so hard when a frog jumped into her ‘sarong’, leading to the occurrence of ‘kudi’ (violent weather in Iban) that turned the longhouse to stone.

The group also passed by Pendam Bungkang where 12 Border Scouts perished in an ambush by communist insurgents on Aug 27, 1970 during a routine patrol along Sungai Ngemah.

The ‘ensurai’ (Dipterocarpus oblongifolius) and ‘engkabang’ (illipe nut) trees standing majestically along the riverbank of Sungai Ngemah.

Group members disembark their longboats upon reaching the shallow and rocky passage at Wong Silau.

Further up from Nanga Jagau, group member Nasat Sauh recalled the story of two West Malaysian soldiers who drowned after their longboat capsized in Ulu Sungai Ngemah during the communist insurgency era, adding he was one of the persons who had helped to search for the victims.

Nanga Jagau is another resettlement scheme set up by the Rajang Area Security Command (Rascom) in 1973 in Kanowit, including Nanga Ngungun and Nanga Tada.

Between Nanga Jagau and Rantau Lugai, the group passed by several ‘wong’ (rapids), namely Wong Entekai, Wong Memaloh, Wong Silau, Wong Tarik Ili, Wong Aris, Wong Tibang and Wong Empeliau.

Wong Silau is most notable for the shallow and rocky passage of the rapids.

A new telecommunications tower at Nanga Jagau that was installed earlier this year to provide connectivity to Ulu Ngemah folk.

Multiple beehives sighted on a ‘tapang’ (koompassia excels) tree along the Ngemah River.

The six-hour longboat trip ended at Nanga Pang – left behind by the current Nanga Ngungun residents during the communist insurgency in the 1970s.

“We left behind our longhouses, paddy farms and fruit orchards in Nanga Pang during the communist era in the 1970s.

“We had to leave in order for the government to eliminate the threat, as well as for security reasons,” said Entili.

He even recalled the primary school located just across Sungai Pang which served children from longhouses in Ulu Ngemah.

“I was one of the pupils at the school, which was closed after the longhouse residents resettled at Nanga Ngungun.”

PJPA members transfer plastic bags containing fish fry for their ‘Tagang’ system into the longboats prior to the journey.

A farmer seen attending to her paddy farm in Ulu Ngemah.

A signboard welcomes visitors to the ‘Tagang’ system at Nanga Pang.

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