Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Romancing Sarawak (1)

I don't think I've ever posted anything on Sarawak here. Now that the state election is less than 3 weeks away, I thought I'd write something about this really beautiful state.
Sarawakians account for some of my very good longtime friends.
Besides, it's my adopted state.

Let me tell you about my very first encounter with Sarawakians, rather, with Iban.

Before 1973, I had never met anyone from Sarawak. However, looking back, I might have, in standard one. I remember her -- Juana Masang.
Then, I had not thought about how "different" her name was. But very much later during those reflective moments, I figured she could have been from Sarawak. Although until today, I cannot confirm that.
I never asked her where she was from because, when you're 7 years old, that didn't figure. I never thought she was any different from me. As far as my little mind was concerned, she could not have been from anywhere but Petaling Jaya. Just like me.

I was in my first year of pre-university at UiTM (then ITM). If I had continued my sixth form at a regular school, I don't think I'd ever get to meet this colourful bunch of classmates.

I had never, before that, met an Iban or a Bidayuh, or any Sarawak native or pribumi. It just never happened. PJ and Sarawak were worlds apart. Besides, those days, travel to East Malaysia was not affordable. You'd never think of going for a holiday to Sarawak.

Back to Sarawakians, I do remember a painting by (the late) Hussein Anas of a Kelabit woman, I believe.
It was such a beautiful painting that its somewhat ethereal image still remains in my mind and memory.

I never thought these classmates of mine looked any different, although their names did strike me as a little "strange". And they spoke English and Malay in a very thick accent.
When I first heard them talking, I thought they had been in Germany for a long time.

Of course, none of them had ever been to Germany.
To my surprise and, of course, fascination, they were all from Sarawak. Some, from the interior and lived in longhouses.
Interesting, I thought. So curious, I wanted to know more.
And so began my journey to know more about Sarawak and its people.

Over the two years I got to know them, I learnt very quickly that given the opportunity, anyone can shine and achieve success.

When I continued my tertiary education, I befriended more Sarawakians -- Malays Chinese, Iban, Kelabit, Orang Ulu, Bidayuh and Melanau.

In fact, I learnt a few phrases in the different dialects. Especially how to say "I love you".....

The friends I knew have all gone far and achieved success. They were all so bright and have done their home state proud.

Yaah. Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban!

And of course, how can I forget "Ngap Sayot!"

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