August 17, 2011

A Dusun Ghost Story

Since the month of August is also the Hungry Ghost festival month (the Muslim Ramadhan falls on August this year), I'm going to blog about ghost stories hehehe... Alright, it's also because I've ran out of idea for my Sedihrela series and has to resort to “cheap parlor trick” to satiate the insatiable reading appetite of Sunflower's mistress. Sunflower, if you're reading this, you might have to tell your mistress that I might “gulung tikar” on the Sedihrela saga due to poor readership :P.

Ok, let me start. There won't be any particular order or format on how I tell the stories. I'll just say whatever comes in mind. They are bits and pieces and I restrict the stories to only Dusun related ghost stories.

The Dusun Tatana's word for ghost/spirit is rogon. Dusun Tatana are the Dusuns found mainly or possibly only in Kuala Penyu, in the old days at least. Old folks swear that in the old days, before Christianity was spread among the Dusun Tatana, sightings of rogons were quite normal. Before Christianity, the Dusun Tatana practiced their pagan religion. So I guess maybe that was why rogons presence were aplenty in those days. Ok, some smart fellow just scoffed at this notion. Yes, I'm aware that the reported sightings could just be due to the Dusun Tatanas' being superstitious and attributing everything that was out of the norm to paranormal activities. I'm trying to tell a story here, do you mind?! Geez..! You're such a wet blanket, aren't you. I'm retelling a culture's folklore here, not the instruction on how to build a rocket to the moon!! It's like watching a Superman movie, do you think that people could actually fly? But you still watch it, didn't you? Why? Because it is entertaining! Oh?! What did you say? Superman isn't human but is an alien from Krypton. So you believe aliens exist but not spirits? Hoookay! You lost me in aliens... Shoo! Shoo!

Ok, where was I before I got interrupted by that imaginary cynical and opinionated reader? Oh yah! Rogons. They say when the first priest, of course a Westerner, came to the shores of Kuala Penyu and lived among the Dusun Tatanas, he would be visited by an uninvited dinner guest as he sat down to have his dinner every evening. The guest had half human and half skeleton face, it would share the priest's dinner but the food would just slip through its skeleton jaw onto the table. Apparently the old gods of the Dusun Tatana were not pleased with this priest that came to usurp their place and the nightly visits were attempts to challenge and scare the priest away. Heck, I think the rogons thought that the priest was a spirit himself because of his perhaps, blond/red hair and white skin.

My mother said when she was a kid living in Kuala Penyu, one day a relative dropped by and related what happened to him recently. This relative had a paddy field but it was very far away from where he lived. One day, he lost track of time while engrossed in tending to his paddy. Before he realized it, it was dusk and night was fast approaching. He packed his tools and hopped on to the back of his water buffalo which was the Dusun Tatana's "work horse" and also mode of transportation in the old days. Those days, Kuala Penyu was mostly wooded area unlike the Kuala Penyu of modern day. There were no proper roads, only trails and you would go on walking for hours without bumping into someone. My mom said she and her sisters or cousins, did not relish the prospect of walking through the woods whenever they had to visit a relative's house. There would be many graves littered along the trails. She dreaded the "kapir" (pagan) graves the most because the graves would be adorned with colourful worldly materials which was eerie because with all of the things cluttering around, the eyes could not see if anyone or anything was amongst the graves. 

If it was any consolation to my mom's relative, the moon was at its full splendour that night. The relative said the moon was unusually bright, so bright that the leafs to the banana trees that he rode passed seemed to be reflecting the moonlight. It was beautiful he said and the trail wasn't dark but still, he was afraid. To calm his nerve, he sang outloud. He rode passed a beach and admired how sandy white was the beach under the moonlight. He didn't say what song he sang, perhaps it was the ever popular Dusun folk song "Sonsomido". 

Souce : (Credit : Dennis te Pas)
Suddenly his water buffalo stopped dead in its track! "Nokuo karabau diti?"(what's wrong with this buffalo), he thought to himself. No matter how hard he jabbed his heels to the beast's back, it wouldn't move. It just froze there. Then he heard voices, it sounded like two women having a conversation just infront of him. His eyes scanned the surrounding area for the owners of those voices. The voices got louder and louder, then he saw two women emerged from some bushes and walked across the trail. The women did not concern themselves with his presence and continued talking to each other. The relative said although he was within earshot, he could not understand their language and he thought it was strange for anyone to walk off the trail. As soon as the two women disappeared into the bushes on the opposite side of the trail, his water buffalo started walking without any prompting. He said what else could those women be but rogons, even the animal showed respect to them by stopping and letting them pass first. 


The Dusun Tatana would not allow their children to play outside their home during dusk. They say this was the time when the Kalandau or Andau came out looking for human child to spirit away. The Andau is the Dusun Tatana version of the European's Doppelganger.   

Parents would warn children about the Andau. The Andau had very long breasts that they could flip it over to their backs and they liked to fish. They could morph into the likeness of a child's relatives and trick the child into following them. Hence, the child would disappear. 

Such was what happened to a child in Kuala Penyu, they say. He was playing outside and he disappeared. The parents alerted the village chief and the whole kampung (village) went searching for him. They spent the whole night looking for him to no avail. This went on to the following day and night. On the third day, some in the search parties suggested getting the local bobolian (priestess) as this was obviously no ordinary disappearance they said. 

The bobolian came and chanted some incantation and told them that the child was inside an island of Rumbia (Sago Palm) trees. The villagers searched for the child there and sure enough, they found the child. They were befuddled because they had searched that area many times but did not see the child before this and they had to cut down many thorny vegetation before they could reach the child and yet the child had not a cut on him. 

The bobolian told them it was the work of the Andau and that the Andau had shielded the child from their human eyes, that was why they couldn't see him before this. But now the Bobolian had broken the Andau's charm. The parents were distressed when the child seemed not to recognize them and reacted violently when anyone approached him. The bobolian said the child was being transformed into the Andau's kind and it was fortunate that they had found him in time. Otherwise, he would had transformed fully and cross over to the other dimension, where the Andau came from. They say the child had started growing hairs on his body. The next few days, the child was "berubat" (shamanic medicine) with the Bobolian and eventually recovered to his old self.     


The Dusun Tatana believed in Jin. The Jin is invariably described as a huge being, sometime as tall as a tree, horrible looking and could tear a man from limb to limb. In the old days, the Dusun Tatana would refrain from cooking at night, especially if they were in the open when they went hunting. Doing so would attract the attention of the Jin which would come for a meal and the Jin was not someone or something you would want to have as dinner guest. They say the Jin's coming would be heralded by the sound of adult trees being snapped in half as though they were twigs. 

But they also believed that Jin could give them supernatural power. One way of harnessing this power was via the Perigi Jin (Jin's water well). Surprisingly, this wells normally located alongside or near human wells. If one was bathing at the well and out of the blue, water was drizzling out of no where in what could be best described as a very localized rain in a small area, next to the well, than they would say that the Jin was washing himself too. If that person was brave enough, he could go under the drizzling water and shower in it. If he survived and not annoyed the Jin, then that person could gain supernatural powers.    

Other Dusun (non Tatana) folklore

A Facebook friend, Jude Kessey, provided this interesting bits. His paternal grandmother was a bobolian but I'm not sure what Dusun she was. 

Apparently there are three realms, our wordly realms, Libabou (Upper world) and Minorit (lower world). There are good spirits as there are bad ones. Rogon was the general reference to spirits regardless whether they are bad or good but these days, Rogon is simply taken to mean all bad spirits. 

Yolungata - is the long breasted ghost. Perhaps a counterpart of the Dusun Tatana's Andau.

Tompuans - is a spirit that has long hair and wears a long robe. It's appearance is described as luminescence.  Sometime it can be ill-tempered and sometime it serves as a bringer of omens.

Tutumolong/Tompisokisok - is a spirit that makes travellers lost in the wood. 

Barod - is a celestial being that swallows the moon. Only when the Dusuns bang all their gongs would it regurgitate the moon. 

Tompulalangoi - a magical being that would bestow superhuman strength to anyone who dares and able to beat them in a wrestling match.     
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