Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hidden treasures of Temburong, Brunei

By Tony Alabastro

Temburong's Heritage Art and Cultural Gallery is housed in one of district's oldest buildings, a government office built in the 1950's.

Brunei's second smallest and least populated district is peopled by Muruts, Kedayan Malays and a handful of foreign overseas workers. With a 9,160 population as of Dec 2008, seven persons live per square kilometre in the 1,303 sq km district.

According to the cultural gallery, the Muruts, who named some of Temburong's hills, rivers and villages, came from the Indonesian tribes that migrated to Borneo a thousand years ago.

The Malay Kedayan helped in the spread of Islam in Temburong when they settled in 1916, after the first world war, in search of better life, worked in the rubber plants and sago industry in Batu Apoi.

Chinese tionghua came in the 1920s to work in Temburong's rubber plantations. More Chinese were imported from China, Malaysia, Singapore until the decline of the rubber plantations forced the sending back of the Chinese labour force. Those who stayed started small business and settled in the capital, Bangar, and in Puni, which now produces salted egg.

The best dishes in Temburong are udang galah (king fresh water prawn whose head is bigger than its body) and also known as Bruneian lobster; Wajid Temburong or pounded Temburong hill rice slowly cooked in palm sugar and coconut cream then tightly wrapped lengthwise in fresh green Nyirik leaves, and cendol Temburong, a dessert of pandan green starch noodles, palm sugar and coconut milk.

Temburong has nine longhouses, where immediate and extended families live together under one roof.

Team Philippines led by Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Alexander B Yano, a retired four-star general, finds these hidden treasures during a one-day-two-nights outreach programme in Brunei's second largest and least populated district, where seven persons live per square kilometre.

During a courtesy call, he tells Temburong District Officer Awang Matusin bin Otrang Kaya Sura Haji Tuba that Philippine technical cooperation to Brunei in rice production can be expanded to Temburong.

Laila padi has been planted in three areas, and 1,000 hectares near the border will be developed, says Awang Matusin. He says he is the first Temburong-born to be named district officer in the district where he was raised.

"For the past 50 to 70 years, the district officers came from Bandar Seri Begawan," says Awang Matusin, a former schoolteacher.

"The Filipinos in Temburong are well behaved and well-educated," the District Officer told the ambassador, and Armed Forces and Defence Attache Emmanuel Cacdac. They are accompanied by May Abrera, senior nurse at the PIHM Hospital, who has been in Brunei for 21 years, and the only remaining Filipino at the Sultan Hassan Secondary School, Elibeth Lamberte-Rombo, who has been teaching maths for 15 years. She is also an active officer of the 26-year-old Filipino Association in Brunei, which is older than the establishment of the Philippine Embassy.

Awang Matusin initiated the Excellence Village Award, which in 2005-2007, was won by the Belais dan Buda-Buda Village Consultative Council. The village has a tourism destination with a recreational park. Mushroom is cultivated and chicken are reared in farms there.

Other winners were the village consultative councils of Amo, known for its handicraft, and Sibut, where tourists go to the red water falls at Tasek Buluh Aie Merah, and dragon fruits are produced.

"Temburong is the only district implementing the one kampong one product concept" in its 17 kampongs, Awang Matusin says.

Juriani Udan, acting nursing officer, PIMM Hospital, member of tourist information centre, member of Persatuan Lun Bawang Murut Brunei, introduces Team Philippines to the homestay programme in Temburong.

Homestays are offered at the Iban longhouse along Jalan Batang Duri in Kg Sibut, Amo. Its facade is made of concrete following a fire that hit the place.

Salmah Ampiri, homestay chief coordinator, translator and emcee, says visitors can have a glimpse of Iban life and culture at the longhouse at along Jalan Batang Duri in Kg Sibut, Amo. The longhouse offers overnight stays, a day visit, cultural night, daily visits, handicrafts, Iban mock wedding, ngajat dance, Iban food like chicken cooked in bamboo, food wrapped in leaves, fishing, and visits around the village.

Visitors sleep on the open veranda on mattresses and pillows. They are served local vegetables like banana shoots and palm shoots. The evening activities include cooking with us, eating on the (ruai) veranda. Fishing on the river infront of the house costs $1 an hour. We use traditional fishing rods, using bread mixed with flour as bait, says Salmah.

In Kg Tanjong Bungar, the top rice producer in Temburong, is a 20-year-old longhouse occupied by 12 Iban families.

Rosalind Anak Jalak, weave pua kumbu, a traditional multicoloured cloth, using a handloom, in the wooden longhouse with satellite dishes and washed clothes hung outside to dry on the veranda in Kg Tanjong Bungar.

Mathews Ak Janlita, the son of ketua kampong Awang Janlita @ Jonlita Anak Mingan, entertains visitors and offers an Iban headdress for Ambassador Yano to wear.

At the end of Jalan Batang Duri waits the temuai, the 10 to 15-foot longboats, powered by 20-30 horsepower outboard motors, glide along the glass-smooth river to the interior at Ulu Temburong, Brunei's first national park.

If the water is shallow, the longboat's flat bottom scrapes the sandy and gravel-strewn river floor. Male passengers have to alight and push the vessel to the deeper part of the crystal-clear river.

Thick, green and undisturbed foliage grow robustly on both sides of the riverbanks. The man-made structures along the way are the Outward Bound Operations Centre, the National Forestry Park buildings, and the Brunei Darussalam Field Studies Centre near Kuala Belalong, where Brunei's lowland tropical forest is studied. A helipad and a concrete bridge are being constructed across the river at the end of the water journey and where the climb to the canopy walk above the trees tops starts.

Kindergarten teachers Ruvie T Lamberte and Lea V Tungala and Joyce, a beader and Alive supporter, and nurse Luisa Balgos make sure Team Philippines feel at home in Beth's Bangar residence, during the upriver river journey across 25 rapids, up the mountain and over the treetops.

From the Temburong riverbank starts the 385-metre wooden canopy walkway that leads to the foot of a 250-metre high aluminium canopy walkway. The ascent is higher than the 110-story Empire State Building in New York, once the tallest building in the world, at 381 metres.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

No comments: