Last year through to this year, a lot of weddings happened in my extended family. My 6th brother’s wedding (that’s the wedding of Nathanael to my beautiful sister-in-law, Jennifer), took place in February 2013, during which, I got the chance to organize a traditional Bundu wedding ceremony for the first time. Not without hassles. My mom wasn’t very supportive because being a staunch Catholic, she would rather just stick to the church’s sacrament of holy matrimony tradition. But she didn’t discourage me either, so I got my wish anyway.
I had to find elderly folks to research how the traditional Bundu weddings were conducted in those days. There were a few versions but since there were going to be weddings in the family after my brother’s, I set to experiment with two versions: the panau ceremony (literally means ‘walk’), and the papasalakoi do pinorikot ceremony (welcoming home the bride). So my 6th brother went through the panau ceremony which turned out to be imperfect but meaningful. Why imperfect? Because I, myself, had to be one of the party singing the traditional poetic songs ‘tondiadi’ for the wedding! With my lame karaoke voice, it was a struggle to hit high and low notes with deep emotion. And the lady I was singing the song to (bless you aunty Rusiah), had a stage fright so bad that she forgot her lyrics while singing J. We were saved by the collective spirit of the community in the end…every lady my mom's age ended up backing us up in a harmonious choir!
In August 2013, I got to conduct another panau ceremony for my dear cousin, Tata and her husband Kay. This time around, the experiment took a different turn. Many people were starting to support my ‘fancy activity’ (as they termed it). I convinced my aunty Mairin to sing one part of the tondiadi while one of my late grandmother’s best friend, Mdm Kusoi sang the response part. Turned out to be a bit mismatched because Mdm Kusoi (who we fondly call Ganakau, as it was a name she and my late grandma called each other) is Penampang born and her rites are based on the place she is from. But it went well anyway. We had a bit of an innovation here…instead of walking the bride and groom back to the reception place, they were ceremoniously driven in a car. It’s modern day after all!
Other cousins got married, Andy to Vera, Jack to Iris, Ireneus to Kelvity. The clan is growing bigger, a blessing indeed. And so on 24.05.2014, my 5th brother Jewin married the love of his life, Marion Elyy. The church wedding at the bride’s was followed by a Chinese traditional ceremony, as Elyy’s dad is Chinese. Beautiful…beautiful ceremony it was. Sense of humour defines the bride and groom, and the ceremony was also humorous in many ways. Why, Jewin had to sing his feelings on that day as one of the obstacles he had to go through before getting to Elyy’s bedroom. Imagine how hilarious it was to see the groom, donned in an apron and oversized boxing gloves, singing a church song “hari ini ku rasa bahagia” (Today I feel happy) eagerly so that he could claim his bride! On top of that his 12 male companions had to dance to the song, some of them in ladies dresses as required by the ‘demanding’ and ‘firm’ female protectors of Elyy who were actually only teenagers. Ini kali lah! (This is it- a Sabahan expression to show the intensity of an event, among others). I supposed he must have felt a great relief when he was finally given the most coveted pass to claim his bride.
At the reception night I finally got to meet all my brother’s best friends from the time he was in the university till the time he worked in Penang. Some, I have met before like Fabian William, the celebrated singer and his wife, Nelly. But others, I have only heard of or see virtually like Walter, Johnny, Guns, Aguk, and Brandon. The saying “birds of the same feathers flock together” must be really true. I got the impression that all of Jewin’s friends are just like him! Good singers, loyal, fun, active/dynamic, and a little bit crazy (in a good way). (Well, Brandon did admit that yours truly the big sister has that ‘crazy’ side too ;). Crazy runs in the family apparently.
I conducted my third Bundu traditional wedding ceremony on 31.05.2014. This time around, I followed version two, papasalakoi do pinorikot (Welcoming the bride home). Instead of the groom going over to the bride’s place to get her, the bride was taken to the groom’s home. Since my aunty Dumie of Dad’s side couldn’t make it, I forced my youngest aunty Collesta to sing the tondiadi. This time around, I got aunty Dumie who is in her 70s to check and correct the lyrics that I got from earlier informants. (I thank my cousin Helena for being our instrument via FB correspondence). Aunty Mairin was still doing the other part. On the day of the ceremony, aunts Mairin and Collesta were joined by another aunty, aunt Majulinah (mama Bundu Tuhan) and a dear neighbor Mdm Gundiba to do the singing. Everything was perfect during the preparation…they practiced for about an hour, and I wasn’t worried at all about them not being able to pull it off.
The moment came. Elyy’s family members from Keningau arrived. From my aunty’s place about 200m away, we sent Elyy off to my Dad’s house. The gong beating was beautiful, the four decoys were beautifully made up. We walked over to my Dad’s house, to the waiting guests who were family members and friends, including my Dad’s ex-colleagues while he was a teacher years ago. While Elyy’s family members were served the lihing (traditional rice wine) in suki (bamboo glass), my cousins and I worked fast to cover Elyy and the decoys with sarongs for Jewin to identify after the tondiadi. (At this point, I think my brother was at his wits end waiting for the ceremony to start. Who could blame the cranky groom anyway, after being locked up in his room for two hours throughout lunch time? (On my instruction because I didn’t want him to cheat so that he could choose his bride easily. Didn’t expect us to be too long that the lunch was delayed!).
The aunts took their places and started the tondiadi. The worst thing that could ever happen to a performer unexpectedly happened! One of them forgot the tune, and the rest just lost their confidence! At that point I did something that I shouldn’t have done…I joined in the singing! Then my uncle Paladin (Peter Sanie) got impatient and joined in the singing as well. Then my mum, who can actually do the singing better than everyone else but was just too shy to do it, joined in too! (I am laughing now as I remember it). It wasn’t the perfect singing I envisioned but it was so entertaining I know I can still use it for teaching materials. Well, there are positive sides to everything, aren’t they?
Jewin finally was allowed to go out of his room to identify his bride from the 5 covered ‘ladies’ sitting on the sofa outside of the house. He was about to identify the correct one, but we convinced him that that was not her! (Yes, I cheated there. Why? Because I promised my aunt Magdalena that she could have her little revenge by making the Keningau family drink a lot. They had to drink lihing each time Jewin chose wrongly. Aunt Magdalena said in Keningau during the Chinese Wedding ceremony, the 12 companions had to drink a lot as part of the obstacles so it was only fair that we made them drink too! Point taken…that was an innovation though, not part of the original Bundu ceremony). Jewin chose all the wrong ones before he got to Elyy in the end. The only real surprises for him were to discover that one of the decoys was my 14 year old daughter Arielle, and another was our 18 year old nephew Rob. Rob played along with us just to see his uncle’s reaction. As expected, in reflex Jewin lifted his hand to threaten to slap Rob! (Again, this is an innovation. My ancestors must have turned in their graves to see us include a male decoy in the ceremony. Siou oi komolohingan ‘sorry ancestors’.) Finally, Elyy was found, and the traditional ceremony was concluded by the bride and groom’s sharing a meal. (It was another hilarious moment. I forgot to tell them that they were supposed to eat symbolically only. But because it was past lunch time, both were so hungry they ate heartily!)
It started to rain right after the traditional ceremony was over. Despite that, we had a lot of fun, as befitted a typical Dusun wedding reception- eating, drinking and merry-making. I wish my dear brother Jewin and my new sister Marion Elyy a lifetime of happiness. No marriage is at all time sweet…but the not-so-sweet moments are meant for the couple to learn the meaning of life, to hang on to the love that brought them together in the first place. Let’s believe that love overcomes every difficulty.
As for the video, it was done by Kay Kastum, our bro-in-law, of kastumized creation. He is a pro, evidenced by him winning the My Air Asia X challenge recently. Every one of his videos tells a story that you will definitely appreciate. Well done talented bro-in-law (the Dusun people love bragging about their family and friends, so bear with me!) Also credits to the photographer, my cousin Crys J.P. Her passion in photography is so great she can capture moments very well!
*and so I have to stop writing because I have piles of exam papers to mark…till next time.