29 June 2011

Borrowing the Malay plural system

"Romou-romou matoku lumuyung id pingasku
aiso pinoborosku, aiso tiso pinikianu ku"

(tears of my eyes, running down my cheeks, I had nothing to say, I didn't ask for a single thing)

"tusak-tusak do piginawaan
owongi oh koungkaladon"

(the flowers of love, they unfold with sweet fragrance)

These two excerpts are from two lovely Kadazandusun (KD) songs. And they are living examples of a growing phenomenon in the use of the KD plural; that is borrowing the system from Malay. It's hardly surprising, since Malay is the dominant language, and the younger generation can't help but become hybrid in their use of languages.

In Malay, plural words are mostly formed by full reduplication. Anak-anak, (children) barang-barang (things) etc. In the KD dialects that I know of (and I think I've heard quite a few although I do not claim to know all dialects), plural is indicated by the prefix 0ngo- (also realized as anga-) as in tangaanak (children), ongodungau (cats). Sometimes ongo-/anga- is used with t- in the front as in tangaanak.

Some people told me that there are instances of words that are fully reduplicated in KD like tanak-tanak (child) and tasu-tasu (dog). But based on my experience, this type of reduplication doesn't indicate plural. It is something else...something that people say when they want to downplay the importance of something, or when they want to be humble about something.

But, supposed there are really plural forms indicated by full-reduplication, I wonder which KD dialects would have that?

23 June 2011

Man's Best Friend

When it comes to the Dusun people, it is quite true that dogs are really man's best friends. Go to any Dusun's house at any kampung and you'll definitely see a few dogs outside the house.

This is Gurod, my parents' loyal dog. She's been around for about 7 years. A few times, she had shown some signs of aging and dying, but she has never missed a chance to 'go hiking' (going to the farm up the hill) with any member of the family. She lost the function of a leg as a result of stealing a chicken when she was young and playful. Mom said Bapa hit her so bad with a stick that her leg was broken and eventually became useless. But Bapa denied that vehemently, saying that it was because she was attacked by the other dogs. Both my parents love her like a child though.

This one is Kadiu, which my children have accidently christened 'Cardio' when they were readjusting to the local pronunciation, post-Australia-living. Kadiu is a special female dog that had never given birth to any puppy. She's the most fierce of the pack- the leader of the pack according to Mom. She guards the house jealously, never letting any strangers get in the compound without alerting the household.


This one here is Panda, named so because of his colors. He used to be so cute and panda-like that he was allowed to be the 'inside-dog'. Later, he opted to be an 'outside-dog' like the rest of the dogs. He's been much more lively ever since, though his good look had vanished because of his fondness of playing with dirts.

And these three little puppies here didn't get the chance to enjoy life. They didn't even get names that stuck. (In my parents' household, there is this tradition that a puppy will be called a few names until one of the names stuck). We started calling them 'the three princes-father unknown' but they died barely a month after they were born. RIP triplets.

Finally, we have Tuti, the irresponsible mother of the triplets. She doesn't have a single motherly bone in her body. All she knows is to get pregnant, give birth and leave the puppies to tend to themselves. It's no wonder none of them lived long so far.

Actually there are more dogs in my parents' place but these are all the pictures I have. They keep adopting, tirelessly tending to these dogs- feeding them and taking them to the vets. In return, they get loyal guards, and companions to go to the farms. "At least," Mom said, "I never have to worry about stepping on a snake in the bushes. The dogs take care of that for me".

22 June 2011

The perfect 'tapai'

My mom was becoming very restless. She's been here about a week, with the intent of helping me out with the kids' breakfast and lunch boxes while I recuperate from my operation just over a week ago. So I asked her to make some tapai (rice-wine), since I have some beras pulut (glutinous rice) and sasad (yeast,) leftover from my last effort (that would be months ago). (Being me, I can't help but feel that tradition should be carried out by those who can, no matter that I don't drink alcoholic drinks myself).

The tapai-making session turned out to be an eye-opener for me. Strange, I thought I knew all there was to know about making tapai. Turned out that like any other type of learning, it's a continuous process.

The first comment I got from Mom was "you need a proper cooling-mat" (which would ideally be a recycled sugar or rice sack, the white woven type that normally holds 50kg of rice). Mom said that if you don't cool the cooked rice properly, there's a chance that the tapai would turn sour instead of bitter or bitter-sweet. Because I don't have one of those, she had to be contented with using my rilibu (winnowing basket).

Her second comment was that I was not supposed to store my yeast in the fridge, even though they are in an air-tight container. "The best tapai can only be produced by using properly-dried yeast", said Mom. She took the bunch of yeast out and dried them under the sun-thankfully the sun shone gloriously yesterday.

She cooked 5kg of beras pulut in my giant rice-cooker (and complained that the fragrance of the rice would have been much nicer cooked in a large pot on a hearth over suduon (firewood)). After, she let the rice cool on the winnowing basket, and hours later, after the bunch of yeast were crisp from the sun, she put them in a zipped bag, and crush them with a rolling-pin. (In her own place, she would have used a custom-made pestle for that purpose). She mixed the yeast with the rice well, and stored them in two of my empty jars.

A month from now, the tapai would be good to consume, either as siopon (to be taken straight from the tajau using a straw) or lihing (rice-wine.

Mom's tapai has always been perfect, while mine varies from bitter to sourish. Good thing the lesson she gave had made me aware of the reason for the sourish taste now.

21 June 2011

So, we are from China?

When my grandparents were still around, I used to ask them "where are we from?". And 'ama' (that's my grandfather), with his typical humor, would tell me a story of how there were seven sisters that lived on top of the Kinabalu Mountain, who got blown away by the wind and scattered to different places. "From the seven places, the various races were formed", he'd confidently said. 'Ina' (grandmother) would dismiss my question with "ungka" (don't know), and told me not to ask too many questions. I supposed no one told them of their origins, and that's the way it was supposed to be...from them, I never did learn much about the origin.

Through the years, I've heard many versions of the origin of the Dusun (Kadazaandusun) people. Then I came across two archived articles that mentioned the name(s) of the person/s responsible to bring the Dusun here in Sabah. It's quite fascinating, although the writers themselves wrote that that theory needs further research (and that was in 1858, and 1923 respectively).

According to Crespigny (1958), "...they (the Dusun) revere the name of Kina, their first leader, who having brought them to this land from another, ascended the mountain Kinibalu, and was no more seen of men. They also kept in rememberance the name of Hung-sum-ping, the brother of the Emperor of China, and Malekbatata, from the same country, whose names are connected with a curious legend". I find it interesting that although this piece of information seems so infused with myth, the mention of China and those two names seem real.

Another version ((Hewett (1923)) says that Kublai Khan invaded North Borneo in great force in 1292 (Thanks Tina for noticing the typo. I wrote 1912 earlier) and founded a Chinese Province, in which included the Sulu Islands. (and perhaps from there, the people spread to Sabah?). One evidence given by Hewett that I find curious is "the bamboo bridge over Tampasuk river at Kaung Ulu, a survival of Chinese days. No Dusun nowadays could design such a bridge". I wonder how the bridge looked like. The same author states that from Sulu records, a guy called Ong Sum Ping settled in Kinabatangan River in 1375...and if one relates this with the Dusun legend, that the people originated from Nunuk Ragang (which is very accessible from Kinabatangan), there might be some truth to the claim.

Anyhow, solid research will be needed to explain the genesis of the Dusun :. As it is, I continue wondering...

18 June 2011

Jar cleansing ritual

I learned a new thing again. As usual, from my mom, who like most moms, is a fountain of knowledge.

Mom says that in the olden days, there were a lot of rituals associated with moginakan (family gathering of sort). One of them is the jar cleansing ritual or mongibai. Interestingly, mom, who was born in 1951 had only experienced this ritual once before everybody stopped ritualizing many things.

Mongibai was a ritual performed to cleanse two types of jars, tompok and bagaton (in Bundu Tuhan) that were believed to be inhabited by spirits to make them fit for rice-wine storage. It was believed that if the ritual wasn't performed before filling the jars, the spirits would play havoc with the rice-wine, causing it to become sour. Apparently, the desired taste of tapai in the olden day was bitter (unlike nowadays when people prefer bitter-sweet taste).

At a corner of the house of the moginakan host, low walls would be erected and the jars to be cleansed would be put within the walls. All the best clothes (unused) would be taken out and draped on the walls. Then a bobolian (shaman, priestess) would start the ritual by singing a chant called tibai. Too bad mom can't remember the whole chant, but here's what she remembers:
inumon nopo'd sanganu
(if the host is the one drinking it)
misintobu kinokos
(it would be like sugar-cane)
nga inumon nopo'd sambai
(but if the guest is the one drinking it)
nga misimpaliu gintawos
misingompodu do lansat
(it would be like the bile of the langsat fruit)

and it is from the lyrics that I know bitter-tasted rice-wine was more preferred to sweet-tasted in thosed days...

02 June 2011

This is kaamatan

Borrowing Kay Kastum's song title, this year, Kaamatan (Harvest Festival) was a quiet celebration for me. Instead of taking part in the merry-making of the festival, I opted to hide far from the maddening crowd somewhere in a secluded hotel in KK and entertained the kids. Much that the kids' quarrels drove me crazy most of the time, it was still a nice time for me.

The only thing I did that reflects an aspect of Kaamatan was to buy this belt:

It's called tangkong
I think. It's the one that a lady wears with the kadazandusun costume, among other things. I happened to come across it in one of the booths selling traditional crafts in KDCA, the place where the peak of Kaamatan is celebrated every year. Thinking that all this while I've always been using my mom's, I decided to get one for myself. In fact there was another set of 3 belts that look like a chain of heavy rings that I really wanted. These three are supposed to be worn on the hips. It's just that they cost a fortune: RM1000 for the set! Well, I haven't come to the stage of having that much need for them yet. Maybe when I'm older (some people are just late bloomer anyway).

So that's my Kaamatan buy this year. Maybe next year I'll celebrate, really celebrate the (imaginary) bounty harvest of the past year, giving thanks to Bambarayon (or the Maker or Mother Nature) for good another year :)