Friday, October 7, 2022

Malaysia Day: Symbol of unity

Secara Rawak

JULAU: The end of July is usually the busiest time for Michael Jarop, the secretary of Rumah Anthony Bau. The longhouse is located in Sarawak’s interior in Nanga Sugai, Rantau Tapang, Mujok and is home to 128 residents of Iban descent.

The father of four has the important role of decorating the longhouse with ‘patriotic’ decorations in commemoration of the National Day and Malaysia Day celebrations.

Jarop, 45, usually gathers as many youths as possible to help him put up hundreds of flags for the celebration.

“It brings about a very festive atmosphere. Despite our location, we are determined to have a celebration as merry as the one in the city. However, the celebration is being delayed for a while this year as a death has occurred so certain taboos need to be adhered to.

“Otherwise, by the end of July, you would be able to see the Malaysian and Sarawak flag hung all over the walls and ceilings of the ruai,” he told Bernama.

The ruai is the place where longhouse residents gather for an evening chat or to carry out communal activities.

Jarop was met at a mobile clinic organised by UMW Corporation Sdn Bhd (UMW) and the Malaysian Medical Relief Society Malaysia (Mercy Malaysia).

Bernama, along with several other members of the media, had followed the mobile clinic comprising volunteer doctors, dentists and pharmacists into the remote area.

NO ENTERTAINMENT

When the group visited the longhouse afterwards, they were told by Jarop that there would not be a Ngajat dance to celebrate the arrival of guests, as was the usual custom.

This was because a death had taken place in the longhouse four days prior to their arrival and as such, any form of celebration is forbidden out of respect for the family of the deceased.

He said that the taboo would last two weeks from the date of death and within that time, members of the longhouse were also not allowed to decorate the house, put up flags or engage in any kind of entertainment including watching television.

“We will have to wait for two weeks before we can put up flags around the longhouse. Then, we will be putting up not only the Malaysian and Sarawak flag but those of other states’ as well,” he said.

He said having the flags up around the longhouse would help rouse the patriotic spirits among residents and visitors.

“We need to appreciate Malaysia Day because it is a symbol of the unity of cultures. Over here, we always remind our youths to commemorate the National Day and Malaysia Day by holding all kinds of activities in celebration of it,” he said.

It is apparent that all the nearby longhouses such as Rumah Mengiring, Rumah Gerasi Kapi, Rumah Entili and Rumah Anthony Gelayan share the same sentiment, judging from the variety of celebratory activities held at the respective longhouses.

APPRECIATIVE

During the trip down a river to the Anthony Bau longhouse from Pangkalan Entabai, Bernama observed that many other longhouses had already hung up and flown the Jalur Gemilang.

Some have also put up the flag on their boats as well as on suspension bridges.

Our group travelled 120km by land from Sibu to Pengkalan Entabai in Julau before taking a boat to the longhouse.

The boat ride was around five hours long and it was the main transportation to the longhouse.

“We have organised plenty of activities such as tug of war, sepak takraw and a competition to see who can dive the longest. We have also invited the residents of other longhouses to join us.

“We would normally receive invitation by other longhouses for both National Day and Malaysia Day celebrations and would fulfil the invitations first before engaging in our own,” he explained.

Jarop said that many from the Iban community around Sungai Mujok took the celebration of both days seriously as they were deeply grateful for the establishment of the Malaysian federation in 1963 and the benefits in economy, education and security that they have gained thereafter.

These included facilities provided by the government like scholarships, hostels and supplementary food programme for the children from schools around Sungai Mujok.

NO LONGER LEFT BEHIND

“Many of the children from the Anthony Bau longhouse are now able to go to school because hostels have been made available. The nearest school is Sekolah Kebangsaan Nanga Ju. If they don’t stay in the hostels, they cannot go to school.

“This is because if the water in the river is shallow, it could take up to two hours to send them to school because we would have to push the boat along. It also exposes us to dangers like bears and cobras because the jungle here is quite thick,” he explained.

Jarop said that many Iban children in the area did well in their education and were working in the peninsula. Some have become teachers, firemen, members of the Armed Forces while others worked in the medical or manufacturing sector.

These children will set aside their income not only for their parents but for the maintenance of their longhouses as well.

“We used to have wooden floors that were prone to damage. Now that many have gone to work, we can all afford to chip in to replace the flooring with tiles.

“The formation of Malaysia has helped us find jobs in the peninsula. I, myself, have worked there and have always been made me to feel welcomed,” he said.–BERNAMA

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