28 December 2010

and this isTuaran

Finally I managed to force myself to go to the Land Department in Tuaran to get my land title. Yay! Land title. It has such a beautiful ring to it. A piece of land by the sea near Rasa Ria Resort that hubby and I bought with the money we toiled and sweated with. And it's MINE (Ha ha, people will think I'm crazy for being so excited about this. But there is a difference between earning a land title and inheriting one from one's family).

Anyway, I parked outside the building and confidently strode into the building, hesitating only briefly before entering a corridor that led to the land office, at least to my recollection of the place 10 months before. Only that it wasn't an office at all but a conference room, full of jolly elderly people. All eyes were on me and I knew I had to say something. "Sini pejabat tanah ka?" (Is this the land office?), I addressed the question to no one in partidular. Everybody answered me at the same time that I couln't really get what they were saying. Then a young man said "Bukan. Pejabat tanah sana di sebelah. Bangunan Urusetia" (No, the land office is at the other side. Urusetia Building). "Mo ambil geran tanah ka?" (Are you getting your land title?), came a question from an elderly lady. Gosh, it must have been written so clearly on my face. When I admitted it, somebody responded, "Oh, sini bukan tempat ambil geran. Sini tempat kasi tinggal harta" (Oh, this is not the place to get land titles. Here is the place that you leave (arrange to leave) your properties). They all laughed merrily again, looking at me, clearly expecting me to laugh with them. The hilariousnes of the situation struck me. There I was trying to get my land title at a place where people leave their properties, and I so laughed with them. Everyone tried to give me the direction to the land office, and I stood listening, not knowing who to listen to. Finally the young man took charge and showed me the way to the right office, all along jokingly asking me whether the land was big and whether I'd care to share it with them. In response, I jokingly told him that it was only a little piece of paper that I couldn't possibly share it with so many people.

In the land office I was asked to produce the slip they gave me when I applied for the title. I have totally forgotten about that. I thought I'd have to go back home and search for that slip, but instead the lady at the counter asked me to give her my identification card so she could try searching for it. Her reaction surprised me a bit because in many offices in KK I had experienced less friendly treatments for forgetting important documents. She went through her files patiently and 5 minutes later found my land title. I thanked her, wished her happy holidays and dashed out of the office. Outside at the parking lot, I bumped into the group of jolly elderlies again. A closer look at them made me realize that they were made up of various races- Chinese, Dusun, Bajau and perhaps more, but they looked so comfortable with each other. I told myself this is after all Tuaran. One of the melting pots of races in Sabah, where most people live in harmony and speak at least three languages.

They saw me, and waved as if I was an old friend. Somebody shouted to ask whether I had gotten my land title and when I shouted back "yes", they cheered like a group of schoolkids. I smiled happily, knowing one day I'd build my home in Tuaran, and wishing that all my neighbours would be good-natured and jolly people like this lot.

20 December 2010

Kinorotuan vs Kinaratuan- why oh why

Each time I go back to my home sweet hometown, I can't help but feel irritated to see the misspelling of my kampung's name on the big signboard at the junction (Ranau-Sandakan Road). There, very glaringly un-dusun is the word KINARATUAN where it should be KINOROTUAN. As far as I am concerned, no one has ever referred to the village as Kinaratuan. The base word is of course ratu that could refer to either the fruit 'wild durian' or the action 'fall' (jatuh). No one knows which although if you spend enough time talking with the entertaining elderly folks they will give you their versions of the stories on how Kinorotuan came to be. The most popular ones I've heard are 1) the place used to be inhabited by ratu(s) and 2) somebody fell from a tree that his falling resulted in the name Kinorotuan. Dissected into its individual unit, the word would be:

ratu (wild durian or fall) - base word
ko---an - the circumfix that indicates a lot of things. When added to a 'noun-like word' it means location.
-in- - the infix that indicates past time reference

When ko---an is added to a base word that has the sound 'a' in the first syllable such as ratu (mind you, only with noun-like base words), the 'a' in that syllable changes to 'o'. Hence, the word kinorotuan.

By logic, version 1) is more believable because it conforms to the morphological system of Dusun as described above. Version 2) is not very convincing, as the only way to make a location out of a verb-like base word is by adding ko---on to it. Thus "a place where somebody has fallen" should have been kinorotuon. (If indeed the story of a fallen somebody had resulted in the name of a kampung, that somebody must have been an esteemed person or an entertaining idiot).

But apparently the people who endorsed the signboard didn't know this. And so the name of my village is still KINARATUAN. I bet I'll forever be irritated by this.

06 December 2010

The guardians of the sacred mountain

Recently an event called Kinabalu Biodiversity Expo was held in my hometown. This expo was indeed significant, as it publicly acknowledged the Dusuns' reverence of the Kinabalu mountain, one they had once believed to have been the residence of the souls of their departed loved ones. (Even now, some might still believe this to be true even though I suspect it is only a small portion of the community). Most Dusuns now still appreciate the symbolism of the mountain; it is still very much revered. The expression "since time immemorial" is an apt one to describe the people's tradition of revering the mountain. And it is not hard to understand why. The beauty of the mountain is breathtaking. From the top, which is quite a struggle to reach, one is presented with a scenic view of the surrounding valleys that the hours of painful climb can easily be forgotten.

My people, the people of Bundu Tuhan, together with the people of Kiau paid homage to the sacred mountain on the day of the expo. 97 of the villagers climbed up the mountain in what people term as "the pilgrimage". A ceremony called Monolob in which a Bobolian (shaman) chanted and slaughtered 7 chickens to appease the spirits of the mountain preceded the climb. And on they climbed, up then down again in the spirit of tradition.

It dawned on me that many descendants of the Dusuns from Kiau and Bundu Tuhan might have taken their role as the guardians of the sacred mountain for granted. They see the mountain, admire it, accept the traditional myths on it, and yet are not aware that they are its guardians. The expo has been good to remind them of this. It's their birthright, being the guardians of the sacred mountain. It is up to them to preserve its beauty, as well as the tradition associated with it.