Sunday, July 22, 2012

Maranjak Rungus Longhouse - Living the past in the present

VISITING Maranjak Longhouse Lodge at Kampung Bavanggazo, Matunggong, 40km from Kudat, Sabah, has always been an eye-opening experience for me because of the people’s lifestyle and culture which are a throwback to the days of yore.

It never ceases to amaze me that in the old days, a village could be made up of a couple of longhouses with hundreds of people living together in harmony.

They planted padi or went hunting together. There were births, deaths and marriages but all the celebrations and mournings were held within the close-knit community.

At that time, one longhouse could be housing more than 70 families with their own space and rooms, much like the modern terrace houses, but with communal halls built on stilts.

According to Jackson Utaray Sogunting, construction of the Longhouse Lodge Maranjak was based on the concept of the traditional Rungus longhouse.

“It is not occupied by any families now because it is solely for visitors but concept is the same. You don’t see many rooms as the design follows the traditional longhouse.

“I’m sure it’s unique to our guests although there are still quite a number of longhouses in the area that are occupied by our people,” said the 47-year-old who is a relative of the Lodge’s owner, Maranjak Malarag.

Jackson said the idea was to show guests the Rungus lifestyle of yesteryear and their ingenuity in building homes with their unique architecture.

The Rungus longhouse is different from the Murut longhouse as the former is lower on shorter stilts, and pudgy, being wider.

Jackson also said the community wanted to ensure the younger generation know about their traditional architecture and preserve it for posterity.

“It’s a heritage worth keeping,” he added.

In the past, building materials were gathered from selected hardwoods in the jungle, bamboo plants and palm fronds. The abode could be added on as new families arrived.

During my first visit to the longhouse several years ago, I saw a contraption outside the building that looked like a bubuh (fish trap).

I later learned the contraption had a more sombre function. It seemed back then that the punishment for incest was a slow agonising death – by drowning.

The perpetrators were placed in the bubuh and thrown into the river or sea. Any offspring from the illicit liaision were also subjected to the same fate.