May 10, 2011

North Borneo Folklore : Origins of the Dusunic People

I've posted briefly about the origin of the Kadazandusuns or Dusuns before. According to legend, our ancestors came from Nunuk Ragang, which was a huge Banyan tree which was claimed to be somewhere east of Ranau and Tambunan. The Dusuns lived under the tree and the tree provided their daily need. 

Eventually, the Dusuns had to abandon their beloved tree and started spreading all over North Borneo.

That's the Nunuk Ragang on the left. Actually, that's a picture of the Tree of Souls from James Cameron's Avatar. I'd like to think that the Nunuk Ragang was just as beautiful as the Tree of Souls.  

James Cameron must have read or heard the legend of Nunuk Ragang. I can't help but compare the similarities between the Navi and Dusuns. The Dusuns were also sort of driven from their home because of the abundance of their home. Outsiders lusted for the wealth of our land. Now World Bank confirmed that we are the poorest state in Malaysia albeit that we are resources rich. Hey, why am I talking about politics here?? 

A replica of Nunuk Ragang in Ranau
Therefore, Nunuk Ragang was a tree to the Dusuns.  However, according to Momogun Rungus' oral tradition, Nunuk Ragang was actually a person. Momogun Rungus is part of the Dusunic group. According to them Dusun is not our name, it's a term that outsiders coined for us and we just went along with it. They were called the Dusun before but they resisted the name because they said, the name of their people has always been Pasok Momogun or Momogun Bumiputra. 

According to their oral tradition, their ancestor was a man who was maligned by his siblings because of jealousy. He was an enterprising man of multi skills. He could make traps to catch animals and he could make weapons that could be used to protect their community. His siblings became jealous and persecuted him. This man, his wife and his loyal followers were put in a boat and set adrift in the sea as punishment. 

The current brought their boat to the shores of North Borneo. They then went to a place called Pampang Nabalu. The man renounced his kinship with his siblings because they had persecuted him. 

There they continued to be raised by their religious fervor of their worship of Lumaag Nabalu. As their number grew, they agreed that they must have laws to govern their lives and to keep the community in peace. In this, Aki Bobolizan Gomburon (Bobolizan is a priest or priestess) became their leader. Aki Bobolizan Gomburon was said to have inherited the knowledge of their custom and law.

Aki Bobolizan Gomburon enforced the strict "Hukum Gomburon"(Hukum means Law). If someone was found to have committed adultery, the punishment was, they were to be put into a "bubu" (a conical shaped fish trap)  with a large stone. The adulterers had to choose the stone themselves and they were to be thrown into the water. Presumably, the stone would weigh them down to the bottom and they would die of drowning. Quite similar to certain chinese custom if you ask me. If the adulterers were killed intentionally by let's say a spouse, then the killer would be killed too. 

"Hukum Gomburon" was practiced until Aki Bobolizan Guraumanuk received a "Wahyu" (revelation) from Lumaag Nabalu and thereafter "Hukum Gomburon" was abolished. According to the "Wahyu", all sins could be replaced or restituted with the sacrifice of a live through animal sacrifices. The animal sacrifice must be officiated by a Bobolizan. So things got less draconian and profitable for animal traders then. 

And their community grew and grew and grew during the leadership era of Aki Nunuk Ragang (there! He was a man, not a tree). Aki Nunuk Ragang was the most famous of all Bobolizan and he spread their Pagan beliefs. Just before Aki Bobolizan Guraumanuk died, he had another "Wahyu" and he revealed this to Aki Nunuk Ragang. Lumaag Nabalu ordered Aki Nunuk Ragang's three sons to migrate to other areas because all the rivers that flow from Mount Kinabalu to the sea belongs to them, the Momogun.

Therefore, according to Lumaag Nabalu, the grandchildren of the Momogun should choose a high place or mountain, the highest places in any area that they arrived later. On this high places, they were to invite Lumaag Nabalu's spirit through a ceremony called "Momurinait" (to incant the seven names of the main spirits that protect the Momoguns). 

The three sons of Aki Nunuk Ragang were Aki Rungsud (the ancestor of the Rungus people), Aki Longuvai (the ancestor of the Kadazan Penampang people) and Aki Turumpok (the ancestor of the Dusun people).

Lumaag Nabalu came to Aki Nunuk Ragang and told him that outsiders were encroaching the North-East of North Borneo. Concerned for the safety of the people, Aki Nunuk Ragang sent his two sons, Aki Rungsud (eldest) and Aki Longuvai (second son) to capture and defend Pompod Tana (Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas) to prevent further intrusion by the Mizonvaig (sea people).

As the youngest son, Aki Turumpok was relegated as the "Tandon Tongkob" (to inherit the father's residence). "Tandon Tongkob" is a tradition that is still practiced by the Rungus today. Hence, Aki Turumpok inherited Kampung Nunuk Ragang and became their leader when Aki Nunuk Ragang died.

When Aki Nunuk Ragang died, they buried him near a very deep lake. The lake was located in present day Kampung Tampias, in Lubuk Sugut district. According to legend, on the 40th day after he was buried, the people conducted the "Mongupus" ceremony and there in the middle of Aki Nunuk Ragang's burial spot grew a Banyan tree. They said the tree was unusual because it was red coloured and when the leaves were scratched, they would bleed human blood. They worshiped and named the tree Nunuk Ragang because they believed it was the embodiment of Aki Nunuk Ragang(So Nunuk Ragang was a man and a tree!).

Meanwhile, Aki Rungsud successfully captured Pompod Tana and today, his descendants are known as the Momogun Rungus. When they started their journey from Kampung Nunuk Ragang, Aki Longuvai's wife was about to deliver his child. Hence, Aki Rungsud told his brother that he would follow suit after his wife gave birth. Aku Rungsud said he would mark the place that he went through with "kukurungan" (cage) because in all the high places that he covered, he would sacrifice a chicken to invite the spirit of the chief spirit of Borneo that is Lumaag Nabalu as a declaration of their power over the territories they passed.

When Aki Longuvai and his party followed his brother's trail, they made a wrong turn. They came to an intersection which led to two different places. Someone with ill intention had moved the "kukurungan" that Aki Rungsud placed and they unknowingly followed this misdirection. His party eventually found their way to Pinampang or present day Penampang. Their ration had depleted. Hence, they decided to till the land there.

Aki Rungsud became worried when Aki Longuvai failed to reach them after so long. One day, Lumaag Nabalu revealed to him what had happened to Aki Longuvai. Aki Rungsud ordered his men to search and rescue his brother. The men found Aki Longuvai in Pinampang and they invited him back to Pompod Tana. However, Aki Longuvai had a change of heart. He was not keen to live a life of war and fighting. He chose the quite life as a farmer over a life as a warrior. To fulfill the wishes of Aki Nunuk Ragang, he promised his brother that he would send his firstborn son to Pompod Tana to fight with them. Hence, when his son, Aki Bulun was 17, he journeyed to Pompod Tana accompanied by 7 invincible dogs that could beat even a tiger. Blogger's note : There are no tigers in Borneo. 

Aki Rungsud and Aki Bulun decided on the method to split the Pompod Tana territory between the 2 of them. Aki Rungsud would mark his border as far as the sound of his "gong" could travel. Warriors camped at various high places of the Pompod Tana region to listen for the sound of the "gong". When the farthest warriors could not hear the sound anymore, they would drove their spears named "Binorudan" to the ground. 

Aki Bulun and his descendants, known as the Rungus Gonsomon became the master of East Coast Kudat. When examined, the Rungus Gonsomon's dialect is quite similar to Kadazan Penampang dialect and because of the many Rungus words found in Kadazandusun dialects, it is believed that the early Kadazandusuns' original dialect was Momogun Rungus. This validate the idea that the Kadazandusun and Momogun Rungus are kins. 

Pinampang was one of the earliest areas to be developed by the British and they were one of the first to have shops. According to oral tradition, that was how Aki Longuvai's descendants came to be known as "Kadazan". In Rungus dialect, shops are called "Kakadazan" and when Aki Rungsud's descendants wanted to refer to Aki Longuvai's descendants, they said "tulun antad sid kakadazan" which meant people from the shop/town area. 

Meanwhile, Nunuk Ragang area would eventually broke up because Aki Turumpok did not observe or want to know about their tradition or their Pagan religion's law. He was more interested in black magic and the practice of black magic became prevalent in Nunuk Ragang. Nunuk Ragang was cursed, whatever they did, it would lead to hostility and infighting. Nunuk Ragang community eventually perished when a plague spread amongst them. 

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