28 April 2011

When swearing peace doesn't mean "I forget"

A friend ask me if it is indeed true that the Dusuns are so forgiving that they swear-peace and forgive and forget when they have done so. Well, in the olden days at least, rivaling parties swore-peace (mitaruh/mitoruh) to publicly acknowledge that they were not enemies anymore. But did they actually forgive and forget? Or did they just do it to 'move on'?

My take is the latter. Although I dare not say that the Dusuns are grudge-holders (I might get killed for saying that), they definitely have long memories. That includes good and bad things. An elderly man from Bundu Tuhan told the friend and me a story about the swearing-peace between the Bundu Tuhan and Kinsaraban people of the past. (Bundu Tuhan and Kinsaraban are two places adjescent to each other, and they used to be enemies, in the sense that they took the heads of each other's people).

The man said that there was a mitaruh ceremony done in the 1890s to stop the war between the two places. A person (and allegedly, he was a bad guy) who passed by the villages was sacrificed for that purpose. The ceremony didn't really work though. Although they stop taking heads, they were still enemies in many aspects. For instance, they won't let their people marry each other because those who married still got jinxed! A series of unfortunate events involving marriages between the two groups led to the second swear-peace ceremony in the 1900s (presumedly mid 1900s), to reinforce the first one. And the most hilarious thing I heard with regard to that was that the place in which the second mitaruh took place was called Pinonorian do Kinsaraban (literally translates as "the place in which the Kinsaraban people were defeated")! Obviously, the Bundu people still wanted to feel superior even when they had agreed to make peace, not war (no offence, my anscestors were also Bundus!)

Anyway, the various Dusun groups are now friends, maybe having had realized that they are so small in numbers in this big bad world that they need to stick together :). I still dare not accuse them (that would include myself) of being grudge-holders, but I supposed deep down, they forgive but not forget! (Perhaps, just careful by nature).

19 April 2011

The Rainbow Taboo

I was driving home with the kids two days ago when they spotted a beautiful rainbow and started yelling excitedly. It was no ordinary rainbow; big, bright and disconnected, or so it looked. A large part of it was totally hidden in the clouds. The contrasts of blue, colourful and white were just too beautiful to ignore. In their excitement, they pointed their fingers to the rainbow and without realizing it, I shrieked "DON'T".

I was as surprised as them with my reaction. "Why are you acting weird, Mom?", the eldest asked. "I...ah... it was just an old habit that dies hard", I ended up saying that. And very true indeed, when one grew up having been fed with a lot of taboos, one just stored them all inside, and when the occasion calls for it, the taboo-reaction just came out.

"It was the rainbow taboo", I told them. My late grandmother was a strong believer in it. She said if you point your finger to the rainbow, you're going to lose it. "Obuntung" (the meaning of which, till now I haven't discovered). Of course I never believed in that, but it is a taboo and it is one you should practice, shouldn't it? The kids rolled their eyes, but decided not to point their fingers at the rainbow anyway. And so I've passed down another taboo to the young ones...