23 October 2010

Mitoruh- peace making

At my age I should have heard about this long time ago...but because of ignorance, mostly, I've only got to know this recently. Thankfully, a colleague who's also a neighbour at the office is investigating a lot of things with regard to the Dusun communities, and so I learn a lot from him.

Mitoruh- is a ceremony to indicate peace-making between two parties. Most people think that it only involves two warring parties during the head hunting time, about 100 years ago. In which case, two parties who had had enough of being enemies would call a truce. They would swear over some kind of animal or human sacrifice that they would no longer be enemies. Some people insist that the sacrifice must be a buffalo, and that later the buffalo meat have to be eaten, although my friend has evidence that there were cases where the sacrifice was human, obviously cannot be eaten after.

The most interesting story of mitoruh I heard was between human and rogon "jinn". A (another) friend told me that when she was 12, her Chinese grandmother bought a plot of land with the intention of farming. For some reason, nothing seemed to grow on the land. Later, the friend's Dusun grandmother saw that the reason for that was because the rogon refused to 'let go'. The only way to make the rogon relent was to have a mitoruh ceremony. They had the ceremony on that plot of land, attended by my friend's family members of all Chinese, Dusun and Bajau sides. A buffalo was slaughtered, the blood sprinkled all over the land...and then it was left on the land. Apparently, a buffalo offered to a non-human party can't be eaten for it would be 'tasteless'.

So that is mitoruh to the Dusun people...

12 October 2010

The heritage language learning session...

It hadn't been easy to find the time to teach the kids their heritage language. But my eldest, after finishing her national year 6 exam, UPSR, insisted that I really should make time on the weekend. Encouraged by her determination to be able to speak Dusun again (once when she was a little girl, she used to speak Dusun with her Dusun nanny), I struggled to find the time. The sessions turned out to be good...when only the daughters participated.

Last week, the 6 going 7 year old son decided to join in. All because among the three of them he was the one who could memorize all the colour terms (and he thought he was the greatest of them all!). So we started our session with a revision on the past lessons. Then the daughters requested to learn more words. Eldest daughter had her own ideas of how a language should be learned. "Do it in topics, mom", she kept insisting. Second daughter was contented to listen and repeat. But the boy was another story. "Mom, what's "bum" in Dusun?", was his first question. Thinking that if I ignore him he would come up with more such questions, I gave him the answer. To my horror, he went on and on asking, "what's nose-hair,...what's ear-hair..., what's armpit hair...what's poop...what's urine...?" And the girls had had enough that they sent him out of the "classroom". Being the cheeky boy that he is, he said "but I know how to say "private" in Dusun...it's "tontolou" (man's private part), resulting in the girls shrieking disgustedly at him.

Oh my! I have no idea whether his interest in those things is due to him being a 6 year old boy or simply due to him being a male. But undeniably my "classroom" progressed better without the boy.

04 October 2010

The last of the bobolians-tingolig (village protection)

I wouldn't have met her if it wasn't for my colleague who needed somebody to translate for him. He's researching something on the Dusun communities and has been dying to ask further questions on some hypotheses he's been playing with. So I went with him to meet this ancient lady of wisdom and I'm glad I did.

She is 97 years old and bedridden. And yet her memory is still as sharp as I imagine it must have been when she was a practising bobolian (healer, protecter, spiritual messenger, for lost of exact translation). My friend wanted to know about tingolig (protection of the village and of the household) so he asked me to ask her who she invoked when she was performing the ritual...and what she asked for.

So she told me all about tingolig and more...She said she would invoke Kinorohingan (the Creator), to ask him to give some 'power' to the stick, stone and water that she brought, so that they would serve as the protection for the village. I asked her "where is Kinorohingan?", to which she answered, high above. To go there, she said, she had to follow a kondiu (an eagle). She stressed that she wouldn't physically transcend, but rather her words would until she reached him. She would then asked him to empower the stick, the stone and the water, and went back to the earth. She would then bury those three items at the edge of the village, slaughtered 7 chickens as a symbol of gratefulness. Three years later, a goat will be slaughtered at the same spot to renew the protection, and a year after, the same ritual would be repeated. This year she said, she didn't have the physical strength to perform the ritualfor her village, so she requested her komburongoh (the thing in the pic), a sacred object that every bobolian has to have to do the job, sent the komburongoh through somebody to complete the ritual.

She lamented about the forgotten tradition, about the days when the ways of the bobolians were still practised. She had tears in her eyes when she reminisced about the good old days...and I felt a great guilt for reasons I couldn't understand...maybe for being a pseudo-dusun when it comes to traditional beliefs.