31 October 2009

Mangasok (Hill rice planting)

Chatting with a recently met fellow chatter at sabahan Flash Chat last night (thanks BD, this is for you :-)), the word 'mangasok' was mentioned. It has been so long since I took part in one. Mangasok is actually an event when a cleared plot of land is planted with rice seeds. It used (and looks like still is in some parts) to be done 'mogitatabang' (working-together) style.

A 'mangasok' is normally begun with some kind of ritual from the host. In my place it is called 'poirikau' (to cause something to sit). In this case that 'something' is a wakid or a basung (large baskets that people carry on their backs that are normally used to carry heavy stuffs). It is symbolic- hoping that the next harvest would be bountiful. A prayer or a chant would be said and the event can then be started.

Two groups are formed. The first group, normally consisting of men or those with a high energy level would punch holes on the ground using sharpened sticks. This is not as easy as it sounds. The sticks are quite long and heavy, usually from freshly cut small trees. The second group, which mostly consists of women will fill the holes with rice seeds. This is called monumpos. Sometimes the 'monunumpos' (people putting the rice seeds in the holes) will make a competition, of who can fill holes the neatest, i.e without spilling the seeds outside of the holes. And it is done standing up, about 3 feet or least from the holes. Not an easy task I'd say.

The mangasok athmosphere is what I miss the most-people bantering, joking, even singing. And when the whole plot (which could be from 1-3 acres) is 'naasakan' (been done with), the group would normally proceed to the host's house or sulap (hut) for a meal. It used to be the host that provided special meals for the people who helped. The last time I participated though, people have started doing it pot-luck style. In my place, it continued on till night- people will have a socializing session, mostly involving one or two drinks. Now, I never did enjoy that part, because intoxicated people scare me (always, there would be one who had a bit too much to drink). But I guess now that I'm older, I am not so scared anymore :-)

Still, the word 'mangasok' brings back nostalgic memories. Thanks BD for telling you were going mangasok today...'mummy' loves that so much!

28 October 2009

Getting to know Bongkoron :-)

In Dusun folklore, there is one character that is always portrayed as the 'baddy'- Bongkoron. He is the exact opposite of Anak-anak, the hero who is always hardworking, obedient, honest, focussed, successful, and the list of positive qualities goes on. Bongkoron, on the other hand, is the lazy one, the one who lies to his parents and friends, and opts for the easy way out, because he is too lazy to do tasks given to him, the one who's always unsuccessful...and needless to say, the one who is rejected in the community.

A friend in FB once wrote on their status, something to this effect= "poor Bongkoron had attention deficit disorder (ADD)". That got me thinking. Maybe that is actually true. ADD, the modern day term for distracted persons, seems to be applicable to Bongkoron. Because he was so distracted, he didn't get to fulfill his potentials in his life. It is just unfortunate that poor Bongkoron lived in a time (hypothetically) when differences in personality and learning styles were not known yet. Or Bongkoron could have been that way because of lack of discipline and will, who knows. Poor, misunderstood Bongkoron...

Come to think of it, many of us are actually Bongkorons in one way or the other. For one thing, too much entertainment can make us Bongkoron. I know for sure that addiction to the internet is one of the factors contributing to 'Bongkoronness'. But having said this, maybe Bongkoron could have changed if only somebody told him to use his time well, to set a particular time to do his chores, to choose a place where he could have avoided distractions in order to achieve a goal, while at the same time satisfy his need for entertainment and relaxation after doing everything he needs to do for his living...(Maybe by empathizing with Bongkoron I am actually trying to defend my own addiction to the internet?).

19 October 2009

The sound of home

I've only recently discovered Sabah's very own latest online radio station here:


and the community that keeps it alive here:


A few days of listening to the DJs' entertaining chats and music had me arrived to this conclusion: that Sabahan.FM is truly home. It reflects the community that I know and grew up in. One that celebrates unity in diversity in the real sense of the words. In the past few days, I've probably listened to more songs in English, Malay, Hindi, Kadazan, Dusun, Chinese, Bajau, Murut, Filipino and almost every other minority ethnic group in Sabah than I ever had before. Amazing!

Home might be merely a small corner in Malaysia, but the internet has made it possible for the sound of home to reach far-flung places, places where Sabahans away from home might feel extremely homesick.

Anyway, one of the songs I have listened to over and over again is called 'sayang itu masa' (the time is wasted). Here goes some of the lyrics:

"sayang itu masa
kalau ditinggal-tinggal
...sudah nokopitunang
bagus makan belanja"

(the time is wasted
if it is left (not used)
...already engaged
why not have the wedding reception"

or something like that.

It is so 'Sabah', and yet one gets the feeling that one is listening to a Dusun song. Well maybe it's the injection of Dusun words like 'nokopitunang'. Or could it be the use of Dusun style expressions in Malay? Words like 'ditinggal-tinggal', or 'makan belanja' that are typical of Dusun expressions? Or could it be the music that is typical sumazau beat? I supposed it a combination of all those.

Speaking of which, is becoming more and more of a trend in the Dusun music industry. Songs like 'Tinggi tinggi Gunung Kinabalu' (As high as the Kinabalu Mountain), 'Nasihat buaya pencen' (advice of a retired 'crocodile') and the like are some examples. (I remember that this started some time in the early 90s, a phenomenon that was interesting enough to have caused me to do a mini research for one of my Malay Letters undergraduate courses then.)

Now I understand that this too is a reflection of the language change that is gradually taking place in Dusun. I won't be surprised if in the future a Dusun song will mean a song with full Sabah Malay lyrics, albeit with Dusun cultural music. In fact the days for that seem to be fast approaching.

09 October 2009

on the Dusun -um- (pengimbuhan)

I came across this blog today- http://www.uskal.net/2009/01/mari-belajar-bahasa-dusun.html#comments. (Forgive me for having not known before). I must say I am so pleased to see that people are actually discussing the language :-). I share the wish of many, that one day there will be a simplified grammar of Dusun for people to refer to.

Anyway, somebody asked what is the difference between 'luyud' (flood) and 'lumuyud' (flood). There is no simple way of answering this, except that to say 'luyud' is the root word (kata akar) and 'lumuyud' is the affixed word (kata imbuhan). For speakers of Malay, we can almost say that:

luyud = banjir
lumuyud = kejadian banjir (membanjir , although membanjir sounds a bit weird).

Most of the time, 'lumuyud' is used to refer to the action as in:

(1) Lumuyud i bawang do Liwogu (The Liwogu river is flooding)

but it can also be used to refer to the river that is flooding as in:

(2) i lumuyud (the one that is flooding = the river that is flooding)

How, then, can we tell the difference of uses?

When a word that has -um- in it is used to refer to the action, it is normally used in the beginning of a sentence like (1) When it is used to refer to an non-action, it is always preceded by 'i' or 'o' that function somewhat like the English article 'the', like in (2). Of course it can also be preceded by words like 'iti' (this), and 'ino' (that), which basically tells that it is functioning like a noun (kata nama).

There you go...I was in my language-teacher mood, hence, this topic :-)

05 October 2009

The cultural centrality of 'ginao/ginawo'

Literally translates "liver", 'ginao (ginawo)' in Dusun has a cultural centrality in the linguistic expressions of the Dusun people. This is hardly surprising, as across the societies in Southeast Asia (as Robert Blust writes in his book "The Austronesian languages"), 'liver words' are really significant. As regards the 'liver words' in Dusun and Malay (in which is 'hati'), some meanings are quite synonymous, but others are simply opposites that even a bilingual speaker can easily get confused. In a way, liver is synonym to 'heart', the locus of emotions. Here are some expressions that I can think of:

1. Agayo (o) ginao ('o' is often dropped in rapid speech) "big liver" = happy, open to a suggestion, an idea etc.
2. Okoto (o) ginao "small liver" = angry, irritated
3. Araat (o) ginao "bad liver" = hurt, offended, angry, worried
4. Osusa (o) ginao "difficult liver" = sad
5. Oruol (o) ginao "sick liver" = 1)angry, annoyed 2)pity (thanks to Kombura for pointing this out)
6. Osoriba (o) ginao "low liver" = humble
7. Mongongoi (do) ginao "fetching the liver" = to win someone's affection

Some of these expressions coincide with the Malay ones, given as follows:
1. Besar hati "big liver" = 1) happy, 2) presumptuous
2. Kecil hati "small liver" = bear a grudge
3. Busuk hati "rotten liver" = ill-nature, malice, 'dirty-feeling'
4. Bakar hati "burn liver" = angry emotion
5. Sakit hati "sick heart" = resentment, annoyance, anger, ill-will
6. Putih hati "white liver" = sincere, pure-hearted
7. Ambil hati "fetch the liver" = 1) win someone's affection, 2)feel insulted/sulky
(It looks like Malay has a way of using the same expression for two contrasting meanings like in 1. and 7. How interesting!)

Now I am wondering whether there is the expression 'rendah hati' = "low liver" in Malay that means "humble", just as the Dusun one. Hmm...talk about being confused.

By the way, there is one 'heart word' (of course heart is related to liver :-)) that Malay has that Dusun doesn't have- 'jantung pisang', meaning "the heart of banana" i.e this one here: