21 November 2010

Salt and 'I'm sorry'

The Dusuns do not generally say 'I'm sorry' for their wrongdoings especially among family members. There is the word siou (that means 'sorry') but it is mostly used for politeness purpose. One uses it in such a situation as when one accidentally bumps into a person, for instance- sort of like 'excuse me'. But when the wrong deed is graver, i.e involving deep emotion, one just shows that he is sorry by actions.

Offering a pinch of salt and some rice grains to the person that one has offended is one of the ways of doing it. It is not practiced in all communities anymore, but it is still done nevertheless. My good friend's community still does it. She was giving an example of how the other day she offered her mom a pinch of salt for having lost her temper and hurt the mom's feeling. It's like saying "I'm sorry, I have hurt you". The gesture was well received, and the awkward situation they had was resolved.

Now I don't remember if any of my family members ever did practice this. But it is very practical, I think, especially that the Dusun people are not very good at communicating the soft side of their emotions. Would be good if I could get started with this tradition within my own family...

02 November 2010

One of the many taboos

When I was young, one of my mom's 'no no phrase' at home is pataion ku iya "I (will) kill you". According to her, it is especially a taboo to say that when one is holding a knife or any sharp object, because the bad spirits will make the words come true. My mom always tells this story to reinforce her taboo:

"Once there were two people who were mad with each other. One of them who was holding a paka (a kind of grass) leaf said pataion ku iya "I'll kill you" to the other, and threw the leaf at him. The leaf hit him right at his heart like a tandus "spear", and he died on the spot".

That is how dangerous the phrase is according to my mom. Of course, it is still one of her taboo phrases even now that I am much older. In fact all her grandchildren, who now speak different languages are also prohibited to say anything to that effect.

Although when I'm really angry I can have a slip of tongue and say the phrase without thinking (well, only when I am REALLY angry), I can see her point. My present interpretation of it is that whatever you say becomes either bad or good energy. Say something bad and the consequence will be bad, and vice versa. And so, I decided that it is a good taboo after all.