UNIQUE BORNEO CULTURE TO EXPERIENCE
By Roger Duyong
SARAWAK: If you are looking for some unique experience, you may well consider coming to Sarawak on Borneo Island for a tribal festival this June 30.
To be held at the heart of the Iban tribe, the largest tribe of the state of Sarawak, the event will be organized by the Iban longhouse folks who operate the Homestay Program.
Located about 30KM from Sibu town, many activities have been lined up just for the event, in line with its Gawai Dayak festival, a harvest festival.
“This festival is pretty new and on the second time this year and we would like to showcase our culture to the outside world who might not find this elsewhere in the world,” announced Mr. Macarthy Gidau, chairman of Bawang Assan Homestay Program.
The Iban race normally lives in longhouses, called Rumak Panjai, where the name of the longhouse chief is to be the name of longhouse. For example, if the chief’s name is Martin, then the longhouse is to be called Rumah Martin and so on.
The longhouse contains anywhere between 10 families with inter-joint family units or compartments. These compartments are called Bilek in the Iban language.
The previous was held at Rh Jimbun James last year, as there are several longhouses involved in the Homestay program and managed to attract local tourists to join the celebration.
Based on the success of last year’s Gawai Macarthy said that it was only appropriate to continue organizing such important event at the centre again.
He said that with 15 trained and listed Homestay Program operators in Bawang Assan Sibu, they have been receiving good supports from other tourism stakeholders in promoting their homestay program to the domestic and foreign tourists. The operators have also been receiving local and foreign tourists to stay at their longhouses.
According to Macarthy, this year’s festival is to be called Gawai Tourism celebration and will be held at Rh Michael Ancho, located a stone’s throw away from Rh Jimbun James, last year’s venue.
To this end he said the organizing committee had decided to introduce various traditional and cultural activities to fill up the Gawai Tourism celebration this year.
“The committee has unanimously decided to introduce many more new activities which will be an improvement from that of last year’s event. One of the highlights during Gawai Tourism 2011 is the Iban traditional mock weeding ceremony.
“This year we will showcase Iban traditional culture, such as berpantun or berdungai (poetry version of the Iban) by the Iban ladies.
“We hope to create several new highlights in each Gawai Tourism celebration that we plan organise at our homestay here. We try to promote any Iban traditional culture and share with the tourists who will be joining our program.
“With this new concept in the offing, we hope the satisfied tourists could help us spread the word to their friends and relatives back home,” Macarthy said.
Among some of the programs lined up during the Gawai Tourism celebration this year include melangan (cleaning or washing your feet before entering the venue), miring, ngajat, berpantun/bedungai, kumang contest and ranyai activities.
The Pengabang ( or visitors) to the Gawai Tourism will also have the chance to see live demonstrations in making the Iban traditional delicacies such as the kuih jala and penganan, weaving technique of the famed pua kumbu, blowpipe demonstration, cooking in bamboo and preparation of making tuak (rice wine).
“We have come out with standard packages to those who want to join our Gawai Tourism celebration this year.
“But, if you want to experience overnight stay at our longhouse homestay, you only need to pay RM110 for accommodation, food and entertainment. For a day trip they only need to pay RM55 per person. They can contact us if they need further details,” Macarthy said, adding that they could contact the Sibu Information Office of the Sarawak Tourism Board.
You can also contact the writer at email@example.com on how to get there.
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