PENAMPANG (Sabah) -- Over the years, local residents and tourists have been flocking to Hongkod Koisaan (which means the Unity Hall in the Kadazan language), the venue for the state level Kaamatan festival held every May 30 and 31.Continue reading at: New Itinerary For This Year's Kaamatan Celebration..
Regular or repeat visitors already familiar with the traditional houses, the multipurpose hall and the handicraft and food stalls erected around the vicinity know what to expect during the two-day programme.
However, this year the organizer, the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA)of Sabah, has decided to go for a major revamping, therefore visitors to the event can expect a refreshing change, both with the itinerary and the facilities for the harvest festival.
CULTURAL VILLAGE TO BE PROMOTED THROUGH TOURISM PACKAGES
The renewal literally starts at the doorstep, with visitors greeted by the 'KDCA Cultural Village' arch which leads them to a hanging bridge with a man-made pond underneath.
After crossing the bridge, there is a new open stage on the left, and just further up, a handicraft outlet awaits those interested in bringing home souvenirs. It would be hard not to notice the new cafe next to it.
Also, some of the traditional houses now sport a new look.
"Renovation work on landscaping and those on traditional houses started about two months ago."
"Most of the houses have been given touch-ups, but we even went to the extent of demolishing one of the houses, namely the Tambunan house, and erected a new one," said KDCA Secretary General Suman Yasambun.
CENTRE TO BE USED EVEN AFTER KAAMATAN
While some may think that all the preparations may be too much, compared with previous years, there is actually another reason for it.
After the Kaamatan celebrations end, the KDCA Cultural Village will be promoted as a tourism destination through a joint venture company to generate year-round economic activities at Hongkod Koisaan.
KDCA and Tombituon Enterprise had jointly established KDCA Cultural Village Sdn Bhd to manage the Cultural Village, which would largely promote the 11 traditional houses through daily activities for visitors and tourists.
"Over the years, local and international tourists alike have been crowding this place during the Kaamatan state-level event.
"KDCA is embarking on this new area of advancement, we want to use these traditional houses for money-making activities," said Suman.
At the same time, they also hope to provide an educational avenue for students and younger people, to remind them of traditional cultures and their ancestor's activities through demonstrations to be held at the houses.
"Most of the youths nowadays are not familiar with their own cultural background, so if we introduce this tourism product, it can also give them some knowledge and maybe they will get to know traditional rituals or tools used from the olden days," he explained.
UNDUK NGADAU ON BOTH DAYS
On the itineraries, the highlight of the celebration is the Unduk Ngadau or the Harvest Festival beauty pageant.
George Mijin, the programme head for the state-level Kaamatan celebration, said that previously the event was held on the second afternoon with results expected at the end of the day.
However, this time around the first round will be held on the morning of the first day and the 15 short-listed finalists will continue on to the finals on the second day.
"The beauty contest is usually held inside the multipurpose hall, but this year we will hold the first round on May 30 at the open stage to accommodate a bigger audience."
At the same time, George said that this year's state-level Kaamatan celebration will also showcase, for the first time, a 'menabib' demonstration, which is the ancestral art of making 'lokub'(rope) using rattan.
This rope, back in the old days, was tied onto the buffalos' pierced nose and used to pull the animal, he explained.
"This demonstration is specifically requested by our KDCA President, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, and the art originates from Tambunan, his district of origin," he added.
Another new element that the public will get to see this year is the symbolic 'moginum orang tatana' ceremony during the launch of the celebration, which is unique to the district of Kuala Penyu, which is the district chosen for the launch of the next Kaamatan festival, said George.