Saturday, January 08, 2011

How places and villages in Sabah derived their names

By Ismail Hj Mansor

Some villages or places in Sabah are named after nature or certain things such as trees, fruits and name of a prominent figure as well as the natural environment.

People in the past who made their settlement tend to call their village or places after something which can be found in sight and easy for everyone to remember.

Some villages especially in the west coast, north, south and the interior of Sabah are found to be named after the local fruits trees abundantly found in that particular area.

There are several types of local fruits found in Sabah such as "langsat", "cempedak" also known as " buah pulutan", "rambai", "belunu", "bambangan" "tarap" , "rambutan", "manga", " pendada" "gasing", "manggis", "nangka", "surapit" and "kandis" to name a few.

Sabahan have to pick one of the fruit trees to be named as their village.

Kota Kinabalu was known as Jesselton but before that is was known as 'Api-Api'. It was named after the fire tree. A tropical tree that abundantly grew along the coastal and swampy area known by the locals as "santing" or "landing". They grow to about thirty metres in height and bear reddish flowers similar to the colour of the flame.

Some people referred 'Api-Api' to the mangrove tree (Rhizophora mucronata) used by the locals as a fire wood or "kayu api" for cooking. It was also used for making charcoal and as a burning material.

Karamunsing, also in Kota Kinabalu, was named after the "karamunsing" tree (Rhodomyrtus tormentosa). Many grew in that particular area and is a kind of a tree which grew up to about three metres in height. It would bear edible fruits suitable for human and bird consumption.

Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu was named after the "aru" tree (Casuarina equisetifolia), a kind of a tree which could grow to a height of about 20 metres and is found abundantly in the coastal area.

Kampung Langkuas in Kinarut in the Papar district was named after the "langkuas" tree , a kind of palm tree. "Langkuas" (Languas galangal) is normally used by the Bajau people and Brunei as well as the Malay community as a cooking ingredient for "rendang" especially during the Hari Raya celebration. Langkuas grows in low-lying areas and can grow to about two metres in height.

Kampung Langsat and Kampung Surapit in Papar were named after the "langsat" (Lansium domesticum) and "surapit" fruits. "Surapit" was also known as jungle fruit. The "surapit" and "langsat" tree can bear fruit once a year.

The "Langsat" tree trunk is suitable for making 'gasing' and some other handicrafts, while "surapit" was a kind of creeping tree as it crept along other tree trunks in swampy areas but is however, already extinct.

Kampung Pulutan in Menggatal, about 15 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu, was named after the "pulutan" fruit which is also known as "cempedak". A kind of jack fruit suitable for making "cucur cempedak". It is also a seasonal fruit, which can grow up to about 20 metres in height.

Some people especially those from Peninsula Malaysia may think that Menggatal is an obscene word. The name could not be stripped away as it was given to the small town since the British era in Sabah. Menggatal about 15 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu and refers to the itchy mango fruit (Mangifera pentandra) that abundantly grows along the Menggatal river in the ancient times.

According to Datuk Haji Abdul Malik Jangkat, a former local leader who was born and resides in Menggatal, there were a lot of mango trees in the past along the Menggatal river bank. Their fruits fall into the river and those who were taking their baths or swimming in the river would get a tickling sensation to their skin.

From then, the local people in that area called the place "Menggatal" which means "mangga gatal", the British pronounced it as "Menggatal".

Inanam was called as it was, which means the place of "tanam-tanaman", it was an area with vast farming of several types of fruit trees and vegetables.

Kampung Bambangan, also in Inanam, was named after the "bambangan" fruit (Mangifera pentandra). "Bambangan" is a kind of local fruit which is brownish in colour and is only available once a year. Its yellowish flesh is used by the locals to make pickles. Kampung Rampayan in Menggatal was named after the "yaan", a grass-like vegetation that abundantly grew in the paddy fields and a wild tree called "rempah" which is found in the village. Both species were believed to have grown abundantly in the village during the ancient times. The word "Rampayan" was derived from the combination of the words, "rempah" and "yaan".

Bukit Nenas, located in the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, was named after the Pineapple (Ananas comosus) which is known as "nenas" by the locals.

Poring Hot Spring, the famous tourist destination in Ranau and Kampung Poring-Poring in Tambunan, were named after the "Bamboo Poring" (Bambusa Schortechnii) that grows abundantly in that area until today. Keningau, in the interior of Sabah, was named after the Keningau tree (Cinnamomum iners) which is also known as "kayu manis". The bark of the tree is normally used as one of the ingredients for cooking curry.

Tenom, also located in the interior of Sabah, was known as an area of vast agriculture. It means "tanaman" or the area of "tanaman".

Kampung Kandis in Papar was referred to the "kandis" fruit tree.

Kampung Serusup in Tuaran was believed to be named after the "serusup" tree (Ardisia eleptica). Another kind of rare tree, which can grow to a height of about four metres.

Jalan Saga in Likas, Kota Kinabalu was referring to the "saga" tree. Saga tree can bear hard red colour fruits which was unedible. Due to the fruit's feature, it was selected as the name for the Malaysian national car, the "Proton Saga" in 1986.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

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