Sunday, August 07, 2016

Borneo Highland tales of mystery, legends literarily take flight

KUCHING: The highlands of Sarawak and Sabah are home not only to the most unique communities in Asia but also home to a rich array of mystical tales and legends as well as fascinating heritage sites and attractions.

World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF Malaysia) and the Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo (Formadat) hosted a casual literary evening to share some of the old tribal stories compiled in the ‘Highland Tales in the Heart of Borneo’ book.

The enthralling story-telling took place at China House in the Old Court House here on Wednesday night.

Deputy state secretary Datu Ose Murang, Rurum Kelabit Sarawak president and patron of Formadat Dato Isaac Lugun, Formadat advisor Jayl Langub and WWF programme leader Jason Hon were among the guests.

The book, which was launched in July last year, features an oral history of people living at Long Pa Sia in Sabah, and Ba Kelalan, Bario and Long Semadoh in Sarawak as well as places of interests comprising megaliths, old burial grounds and settlements, and old rainforests of Borneo.

WWF-Malaysia senior Community Engagement and Education officer, Alicia Ng, who works closely with the highland communities on co-management of natural resources and sustainability, through the grassroots initiative Formadat, authored the book.

“WWF’s work in the highlands focuses on working with the communities to deliver sustainable farming and responsible eco-tourism to improve the people’s livelihood. Both require a healthy forest, wildlife and environment… the entire eco-system in short,” she said when addressing the event.

“As such, this event is part of our efforts to promote the highlands through folktales, cultures, traditions and heritage of the Orang Ulu communities comprising Kelabit, Lun Bawang, Lundayeh and Saban.”

The book, she added, allowed readers to catch a glimpse into the community’s past, present and future which are very much intertwined with their natural surroundings in the picturesque highlands.

“It is important to document these stories because they are normally passed down orally from father to son. But the younger generation of today, even those in the highlands, do not know or are unsure these stories exist,” she said.

Ng added that the book could be a reference for nature guides to promote eco-tourism as well as an introduction for visitors and tourists interested to visit the highlands.

“I am happy the presence of this book has indeed raised quite significant awareness about the highlands,” she said.

Asked if there were plans to come up with a second edition of the book, she said they had given thought to it but needed to look into the budget, time and to source for contributors.