Other Celebrations in Malaysia
Most native Sabahans consider rice to be more than just a staple diet. There is a certain sacredness attached to it, for it is food given to them by Kinoingan, the Almighty Creator so that his people should never want for food. He sacrificed His only daughter- Huminodun and from her body parts, padi (rice) grew. This was Kinoingan's ultimate act of benevolence and to this day, His people repay the deed by conducting various ceremonies to honour Bambaazon, the spirit of Huminodun as embodied in rice.
A Sabahan native showing the art of making blowpipe darts during the celebration
The most well-known of these is Pesta Kaamatan or Harvest Festival which begins on the first of May and celebrated throughout Sabah. Of major importance to this thanksgiving ceremony is the Magavau - a ritual to invite Bambaazon to the Pesta and is conducted only by the Bobohizan or high priestess. Festivities cannot proceed without the presence of Bambaazon and it is through Magavau that the Rice Spirit is invoked.
In the past, Magavau was conducted in the padi fields on the first full moon night after the harvest. A party of Bobohizan led by the foremost senior, would weave a slow procession through the fields chanting prayers to Bambaazon. A male warrior would walk ahead of this group waving a sword in the air, to ward off any evil that might try to disrupt the ritual. The food offered must be of the best quality. When the spirits come, only the Bobohizan will be able to feel their presence. The spirits will find, neatly laid out for them on banana leaves, the choicest chicken meat, eggs, betel leaves and pinang (areca nut), tobacco and kirai ("rollie"). The finest tapai or rice wine is offered to the spirits.
A second offering arranged in a winnowing tray is placed on a specially built bamboo platform. This is for the spirits to bring back to the spirit world to feed those creatures that would otherwise feed off the padi. Pesta Kaamatan around the state culminates in the state level celebrations on May 30 and 31 every year with Magavau being enacted indoors before the celebrations begin.
PESTA RUMBIA (SAGO FESTIVAL) PESTA KELAPA
REGATTA LEPA SEMPORNA
The Sabah East Coast Bajau community has a unique lifestyle. In their dialect, lepa means "boat". The lepa is usually made of Ubar Suluk or Red Seraya wood. The lepa is a cultural legacy inherited by the people from many generations ago. The existence of lepa is believed to originate from the fishing community who live in Bum Bum Island and used by the Pa'alau people along the coast of Semporna.
The Regatta Lepa has been celebrated every year since 1994 to commemorate the Bajau tradition of building these splendid boats. Semporna comes to life as the colourful sails take to the sea to compete for the prize of the most beautiful lepa. This is judged based on its decoration, local ethnic music and dances performed on board, sambulayang (sails) and tapis-tapis (small flags).
Other attractions include sea sports such as rowboat, sailing and kelleh-kelleh (small dugout boat) competitions, lepa tug of war, children swimming and duck catching competition. The colourful cultural night performance at the end of the day is certainly an event not to be missed.
The Sago Festival is primarily celebrated, annually, in Kuala Penyu, approximately 2 hours drive from Sabah's capital city Kota Kinabalu. Rumbia or sago comes from the family of palmae. It is mostly found in Kuala Penyu and the surrounding districts of Beaufort and Papar. The starch or sago that is rich in carbohydrate is an alternative staple food for the Bisayas and Kadazan (Dusun Tatana) people and is locally known as "ambuyut".
No part of the sago palm is discarded. The locals use the leaves as roofing materials and the branches (known locally as kumbar) for making their house's walls. Floor mats and baskets are just some examples of things made entirely from the plant.
A rumbia information center is located at Kampung Kasugira in Kuala Penyu and it also provides displays of sago and its many uses, handicrafts as well as demonstrations of sago delicacies.
The coconut, an ever-popular fruit of the tropics is celebrated in a special festival at Tomborungus in the northern district of Kudat, Sabah. Coconut is grown extensively here covering an area of more than 5,741 hectares or about 14,000 acres planted.
PESTA RUMBIA (SAGO FESTIVAL)
The festival highlights the coconut industry and recognition of its significant contribution to the social and economic welfare of the rural folks in Kudat. Its launching date coincides with World Coconut Day and a host of exciting activities are lined up for visitors including the highly entertaining coconut shoe race, squeezing coconut milk competition, food and drink exhibition, handicraft displays, coconut fashion show and a wildlife exhibition for the entire duration of the festival.
Highly recommended for visitors to Sabah, this fest is an occasion that is worth adding into a programme to further enhance your holiday experience. Getting to Tomborungus is easy, and with the other tourist attractions in the area, this is one place visitors should not miss. Drop by at the famous Rungus Longhouse at the village of Kampung Bavanggazo, witness gong making at Kampung Sumangkap, handicraft making at Kampung Tinagol and how pure fresh honey is made at Kampung Gombizau.
The Pesta Jagung or maize festival is held in the district of Kota Marudu, about 130 km or two hours drive from the capital city of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu. Just like other agriculture-based celebrations, this fest promises to be another exciting event that should not be missed by any visitor to Sabah.
Maize or jagung is one of the many agricultural products in the state that has provided an important economic contribution to the lives of the mainly Kadazandusun community in Kota Marudu. This event serves to highlight the significance of this plant to the people. Of course there will be plenty of fun too with jagung cooking and planting competitions, cultural shows and the Jagung Fashion Queen!