Thursday, May 31, 2012

Showcase of cultures at Kaamatan festival celebration

PENAMPANG: One of the best occasions to experience the way of life of the KadazanDusun Murut in Sabah is during the annual Pesta Kaamatan or Harvest Festival celebrations on May 30-31.

During the two-day event at Hongkod Koisaan here, which is the culmination of the month-long Harvest Festival celebrations, the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut people bring the Unduk Ngadaus (Harvest Queens) from their respective districts to vie for the State Unduk Ngadau title.

The celebrations attract throngs of visitors from not only Sabah but throughout the country as well as tourists.

Rosmary Ening, a 63-year-old woman trader from Keningau who takes the opportunity to sell her homemade alcoholic drinks not as ‘Lihing’ (Sosopon) and ‘tapai’, said business was good.

She said she began selling her  Lihing and Tapai at the event venue two years ago, and she enjoys being part of the celebrations as it is among the few times in a year that one gets to see the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut (KDM) people turning out in their traditional attire and performing their dances and music.

“We should always encourage our young to practise this tradition,” she said.

Mariana Ginadung, 57, has been an active participant in the event since 2010 as a cultural performer in one of the traditional houses erected at Hongkod Koisaan.

What she does is to demonstrate traditional threshing of rice for visitors. Such a practice was common until as recent as 20 years ago, but it has been replaced by machinery.

“This was how we separated the husk from the grains. But the newer generation do not know how it used to be done. It is only through such festivity that we are able to show the old practices,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mazin, a 64 year-old man from Tambunan, was there to sell his parangs (machetes) for RM38 each.

“The demand for my parangs is quite good,” he said. In Dusun, parangs are known by the term ‘Dangol’, while for the Kadazans, it is called ‘Dangoh’.

American Robert Pohman, 59, who was among visitors at Hongkod Koisaan yesterday, said the Kaamatan Festival was his favourite event in Sabah.


Pesta Kaamatan now celebrated around world

PENAMPANG: The Pesta Kaamatan (Harvest Festival) is no longer celebrated just in Sabah but also around the world, according to Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

With the assistance of the state and federal governments, the festival is now a tourist attraction as it introduces the culture, tradition and rites of the KadazaDusun Murut as well as those of other ethnicities in Sabah to the world, he said.

Pairin, who is the Huguan Siou (Paramount Leader) of the KadazanDusun and also the state level Pesta Kaamatan main organizing committee chairman, said details about the Harvest Festival celebrations have been spread far and wide with today’s information and communication technology.

This directly means the information has been recorded in a database that will become important reference materials for the future generation, he said in his speech at the launch of the annual Traditional Sports by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at the KDCA grounds here yesterday.

Pairin expressed hope that dying or rarely used practices will be revived for the benefit of all, especially the younger generation.

“As I have said earlier, the state and federal governments have given their full support to the effort in organizing the annual celebration. Other than that, they have also given support to the development of the KadazanDusun Murut community by including them in the country’s development agenda,” he said.

“This include the federal government’s agreement to set up a KDM College in Kampung Kaingaran, Tambunan,” he said.

Pairin said he is confident Musa will continue to lead the state government towards dynamic and realistic development in order to improve the socio-economy of the people in Sabah.


Culture and tradition come together at Lawas Festival

LAWAS Festival or "Pesta Lawas" is a major event in Sarawak. On the sidelines of the celebration held last week was the 'Gerai Komuniti' or 'community stalls'.

Alongside the regatta activities, the Lawas Festival has become the platform that brings together the different races and indigenous groups to showcase their culture and traditions in a creative manner.

Over 20 stalls participated in the gerai komuniti coming from communities of different ethnic backgrounds. Even on the final day of the festival, one could see the gerai komuniti area still bustling with life. It was one of the most colourful areas of the festival as communities from the different areas in Lawas displayed their more cultured side with traditions filled with colours, music and art.

The gerai komuniti not only aimed to bring the different Lawas communities together but also to provide knowledge and information regarding the different traditions, culture and lifestyles present in Lawas.

Lawas, Sarawak's northernmost town usually suffers desertion due to its location, size and infrastructure. But the Lawas Festival is one which attempts to promote Lawas and the unique features of its people.

The 65-year-old Mahidin Mat Zen was in charge of the Kampung Luagan stall which showed handicrafts of women from the Luagan community.

"To me this community project is important because it mainly brings together the different communities in Lawas. This project will bring us together, let us learn about each other from each other's culture and traditions," said Mahidin in an interview with The Brunei Times.

The handicrafts produced by the women of the Luagan community was environment-friendly as the products were made of old newspapers.

Munga Suut is a 38-year-old Lun Bawang woman. She represents the younger generation of the Lun Bawang community, also known as the Murut indigenous group.

Serving as a role model for the next generation of the ethnic group, she sells different products made by the Lun Bawang people.

"The products we have are handmade by our very own people. It is important to show what our culture can offer so it does not vanish," said Munga.

The products sold included a traditional vest-like piece of clothing worn by the Lun Bawang men called the Taklun, which is usually worn during traditional events and gatherings. Also on sale were traditional handicrafts and hats made out of tree barks, roots and rattan.

The Lun Bawang community is not keen on the name Murut which was given by the British colonists in the past.

Albert Ajing, a proud member of Lawas' Iban community, says that the community project is important to expose the traditions and way of life of the small Iban community of 600 people.

"There are only three long houses in the whole of Lawas. To support this event, Iban communities from other parts of Malaysia came to support our presence," said Albert.

For Albert, the community project is not only to expose the Iban community but to also be a source of knowledge for the younger generation to ensure the Iban way of life is kept alive.


Rainforest World Music Festival 2012 a rare opportunity to watch String Sisters perform

KUCHING: The String Sisters will perform at the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in Borneo on July 13 after an almost impossible venture to get the whole band together.

This is a unique opportunity to witness the members of the String Sisters gather together for a concert.

These six lovely ladies on fiery fiddles are Annbjørg Lien from Norway who will join Catriona Macdonald from Scotland, Liz Carroll and Liz Knowles from America, Mairead ni Mhaonaigh (Altan) from Ireland and Emma Härdelin from Sweden.

The Sisters will be joined by some of Scotland’s leading instrumentalists: David Milligan on piano, Conrad Ivitsky on double bass, James Mackintosh on drums and from Norway, Tore Bruvoll on guitar.

It will definitely be feet-stomping stuff with this combination!

Don’t miss String Sisters on RWMF main stage and they will be featured at a day-time musical workshop you can attend. It might be a long time before you get to see these lovely ladies perform together in this part of the world again.

The String Sisters are stars in their own right with a string of accolades. So if you have not bought your tickets to the festival, do so at our Visitors’ Information Centres (VICs) in Kuching, Miri and Sibu or online at

Tickets are RM110 for one-day pass and RM300 for three-day pass for adults while tickets for children between three and 12 years old cost RM55 for one-day pass and RM150 for three-day pass.


Sarawak Tourism Board invites French top travel bloggers to the state

KUCHING: As part of the social media strategy in promoting tourism, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) recently engaged two top bloggers from France.

Marie-Ange Ostre and Sylvie Vollet’s official engagement was a combined effort by STB and Tourism Malaysia’s office in Paris.

A special tour programme tailored specifically to the interest of the European market was arranged for both bloggers.

Marie-Ange, who is well known in the travel and tourism circle, is also a photo journalist for the magazine ‘Reperages Voyages’ in France and her magazine is read and viewed on average by 500,000 people.

Her blog called ‘Un Monde d’ Ailleurs’ recorded traffic as high as 600,000 in July 2011, with an average 285,000 visitors per month and social media score at 44 per cent and SEO score at 64 per cent.

They are both very active in the French social media scene and capture excellent images to share with their subscribers and web contacts.

In 2010, Marie-Ange also won the best travel blog award in Paris.

The involvement of the French bloggers would hopefully be a good opportunity to expand the reach via social media in France.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Celebrating cultural diversity through Gawai and Kaamatan harvest festivals

Petronas through its ‘Planting Tomorrow’ campaign celebrates the cultural diversity of Malaysia, particularly the traditions of the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak, for the coming Gawai and Kaamatan harvest festivals.

The campaign comprises a series of advertisements to be published in Sabah and Sarawak newspapers as well as a music video broadcast on YouTube that encapsulates elements of the two festivals for all Malaysians.

Petronas commissioned a group of youths to produce two pieces of bead artwork – one each for Gawai and Kaamatan – the images to be used to print the advertisements.

The artwork themed ‘Nurture people and they will shape the future’, employ intricate traditional motifs and portray some of the key elements of Petronas’ operations in East Malaysia. They are produced via a technique used by indigenous people for generations.

Mia Palencia, a local talent from Sabah Petronas has in a joint effort produced a music video of the song ‘Kembali’, composed by Mia to educate the younger audience on the significance of the harvest festivals.

Kembali can be viewed on Petronas’ YouTube page

‘Planting Tomorrow’ carries the message that all ‘crops’ – agriculture, business ventures or human capital development – must be nurtured to their fullest potential to yield benefits that could be reaped for generations to come.


Sarawak Rainforest World Crafts Bazaar to feature prominently at RWMF 2012

KUCHING: The 4th edition of the Rainforest World Crafts Bazaar 2012 (RWCB 2012) is slated to once again feature prominently as an important fringe event to the renowned Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF 2012) now in its 15th year.

“RWCB 2012 promises to be even better than in previous years with a greater variety of arts, crafts and creativity focused activities including exhibition sales.”

“We at Crafthub Sdn Bhd as the event organiser, are striving hard to add even greater value and interest to the exciting lineup of the RWMF 2012”, said event director Mrs Heidi Munan during a courtesy call to Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Dato Rashid Khan at his office here yesterday.

Presented with the final was, Rashid happy to note that this year’s event will draw participants from neighbouring states Sabah, Terengganu, Selangor and numerous others as well as from countries as far as Uzbezkistan and Indonesia.

“RWCB 2012 as in the previous three years has played its part as a fringe event to our RWMF further adding to the artistic flavour of the festival. I am happy that this special symbiosis between STB and Crafthub is once again going to result in an even better festival in 2012”, he emphasised.


Diplomats of Drums to perform at Rainforest World Music Festival 2012

KUCHING: The band with 13 members from almost every state in the Peninsula will be at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2012 to present a whole gamut of Malaysian flavours – from dhol drums, Malay percussion and local folk songs.

The band itself is a genre of cross-cultural collaborations. ‘Music without Borders’ is their category, and their music of enduring brilliance and collaborations.

The Diplomats of Drum operates as an organism, truly genetically mutant and their magic is Ear-gasmic and equally enduring.

The band has been voted as Best Live Act by MTV Asia and Asian Musician Magazine three times in recognition of their showmanship, choreography and close rapport with its audiences, and is the only non-mainstream band to have performed at the Beijing Olympics 2008 musical showcase and FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

They are a lethal force with a hodge-podge of percussion instruments, topped with irrepressible infectious fun.

The band plays traditional melodies and rhythms of Malaysia, and fused them with instruments and sounds from other countries.

The band with their amazing sound will perform at the Rainforest World Music Festival this coming July 13 to 15.

Their arsenal is a mixture of ethnic, improvised, self made and contemporary instruments. It is an assortment of shapes and sizes from diverse cultures; the Australian didgeridoo, African djembes and talking drum, Brazilian repenique and surdos, Malay gendang and rebana, the Indian dhol, sitar and tabla, the Scottish bagpipe, slide and acoustic guitars and a whole lot more.

As a band, they have broken down musical barriers to celebrate musical and cultural differences, bringing everything together to create a pure organic sound.


MASwings making ‘community airline’ dream a reality for BIMP-EAGA

MIRI: MASwings is making progress to realise its dream of becoming Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA)’s community airline, said its chief executive officer Datuk Capt Mohd Nawawi Awang yesterday.

Mohd Nawawi said their aim was to provide efficient, safe and affordable transport service to a population estimated at over 60 million within BIMP-EAGA and the rest of the world.

The subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines is providing direct service from Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to Brunei Darussalam, from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau and Tarakan in East Kalimantan, and from Kuching to Pontianak in West Kalimantan. The company launched those operations in February this year.

After three months of operation, the airline decided to take on a new challenge and embarked on Phase 2 of its expansion plan. It is in the midst of preparing to expand to new destinations within BIMP-EAGA.

“I’m glad to announce that we are expanding operations into Balikpapan in Indonesia from Kuching, and into Puerto Princessa in the Philippines from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah by October 2012,” Mohd Nawawi said, adding that the airline was evaluating the possibility of introducing jet service to expand their coverage to destinations beyond the ATR 72 economic range.

“With the introduction of jet service, and the much-waited big plans for MASwings which we hope will conclude by year end, MASwings would see its network reach out to destinations in East Asia and Australasia, focussed on the North-South Axis with hubs in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching,” he said at the closing of the MASwings BIMP-EAGA Golf Challenge Trophy.

Mohd Nawawi pointed out business opportunities within the region would be explored and developed adding there were lots of untapped opportunities in equatorial Asia, comprising a 1.6 million sq km area, nine cities and an eight million population.

“MASwings looks forward to work closely with relevant agencies to develop various travel and tourism products and packages that could increase inbound and outbound tourism in the region.”

He said the airline was poised to jointly promote new products with Sabah Tourism and Sarawak Tourism Board, together with media organisations and travel agents.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Nurturing spirit of Gawai

KUCHING: IT is that time of the year again in June, where familiar smells permeate Dayak villages throughout Sarawak.

The sweet pungent smell of fermented rice wines and gravies of native cuisine boiling in bamboo over open fire as well as sounds of slaughtered hogs fill the air.

A feast prepared and fit for the gods who helped to provide a good harvest for villagers is a must on June 1 when Gawai Dayak in Sarawak is observed.

The rice gods are not really sought on that day, for the ceremonies are mainly symbolic, a part of the culture that should be preserved for the younger generation -- ceremonies like Miring and Ngalu Petara or welcoming the spirits.

When I was younger, my folks in the longhouse in Bua, Engkilili would carry out all these ceremonies during Gawai Dayak and various other Gawai celebrations.

Yes, I said it right, various other Gawai celebrations.

Gawai, which literally means festival in my other mother tongue, Iban, simply means that.

Other than the normal Gawai which I experienced, I was part of my grand uncle's Gawai Kenyalang festival; a festival exclusively for warriors who had killed numerous enemies and only he could decide when the date for the celebration was to be held.

The difference with this Gawai is that a sacred hornbill statue, intricately carved is thought to represent the chief of all the worldly birds and oversees all mankind.

That is what I was told and another important part of Gawai Kenyalang is that, only an outstanding warrior can hold such Gawai and my granduncle was a former decorated Sarawak Ranger.

My granduncle is not around and I never got the chance to listen to all of his war stories. And being half Iban, honestly, I do not know much about my own heritage and I have to really do some research to know more.

Like any celebration, Gawai is the time to give thanks for any success that we achieve, but the nitty-gritty of how it is celebrated makes it different and gives it an identity.

Tourism Malaysia, Sarawak Tourism Board and Sarawak Cultural Village recently launched a tourism package that focuses on Gawai. Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board state director Ahmad Johanif Mohd Ali said many Malaysians outside Sarawak were puzzled with the Gawai celebration and even he was clueless about it.

"The festival is a crowd-puller, but the problem is that it is not promoted. It is sad that such an important event is not widely known in Malaysia."

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Nurturing spirit of Gawai

Proposed ‘Three Rivers Festival’ a major event for Kuching

The ever popular Pesta Kaul, Pesta Dalat and Pesta Balingian are set to become major events with the proposal for ‘Three Rivers Festival’.

The idea, which was conceptualised by Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, will see participation of the communities from Mukah, Dalat and Balingian in organising the event at all the three locations.

“A fund can be set up to organise these events and with bigger capital, it will turn these events into a major event and not just an event for the locals to gather,” said Taib when closing Pesta Balingian at Batang Balingian Waterfront yesterday.

Taib elaborated that having such event on a larger scale and involving participation of the people from around the area would be a great way to promote the economy in the area, while enhancing inter-community ties.

“Therefore a tourism fund for the ‘Three Rivers Festival’ can be set up and the festival can be done annually according to turns,” he said, adding that it was not impossible for towns such as Dalat to manage a crowd of 20,000 with help from the surrounding communities.

Earlier on, Taib in his speech said his politics of development should not be construed as only a change in terms of economic scale.

“Changes within the community are not literally based on economics, but we want the people to change their mindset towards lifting their family status for the better,” he said, reminding that there was no point in bringing development if the people did not benefit and take advantage of it.

Pointing to better road connectivity and communication as a tool that was underutilised, he said the people particularly in the rural areas should use the Internet and Wi-Fi technology to promote their business.

“We understand that there is not much population in the rural areas. We need the numbers for businesses to come and the area to grow,” he said.

This, according to Taib, was why various development projects had been planned, among them the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) where industries would be set up to benefit the locals through job opportunities that offered better pay.

“This formula is the best for Sarawak as our population is scattered all across the state, not to mention those in remote areas. It is impossible to gather everyone in one place or only in major cities,” he added.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Adding value to Sabah handicrafts

FOR an insight into life in Sabah during the bygone days, one only has to look at the traditional houses and hand-made relics being preserved at the Sabah Museum Heritage Village within the Ethno-botanical Gardens at the Sabah Museum Complex.

This is a good place to see not only the unique architecture of the houses built by the indigenious community but also the handicrafts they used as household items in the old days.

The community’s ingenuity in the choice and use of wood and other plant materials is evident in the construction of the houses.

I was informed the houses were built by a particular ethnic group to reflect its identity and ensure the cultural and historical authenticity of the houses.

To emphasise these aspects, the houses are furnished with items from yesteryear, including bamboo water containers, spoons and ladles, among many others.

Occasionally, activities such as handicraft-making demonstrations and sales, cultural dance performances and traditional games are held at the Village – usually during May to coincide with the state-level Harvest Festival Celebration.

The handicraft-makers, however, want more than just demonstrating their skills and selling their wares during this time. They are looking for steady income – and they also want to impart their skills to their children.

Simini Gondilo from Kampung Pelakat Sipitang, has been weaving baskets and winnowing trays since her teens.

“I used to follow my mother into the jungle to look for materials like the right kind of bamboo and vines to make baskets, containers and all sorts of household items,” recalled the 54-year-old of Murut-Dusun descent.

It was through helping her mother that she honed her handicraft-making skills.

However, she lamented that since such items were now produced by factories, making them, especially baskets, from natural materials was no longer popular.

“We may gradually lose interest in making things with our hands. But for me, I keep making baskets because sometimes, I do get to sell them. I have a child who is interested in weaving but you don’t make much money from it,” Simini noted.

The lack of demand means she cannot sell in bulk, so she has to do something else to make ends meet.

She hoped some handicraft dealers would come up with a reasonable offer, saying this might encourage the younger generation to get involved in the business.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Adding value to Sabah handicrafts

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Everland Eco-Farm - Retreat to nature

By Aziz Idris In Miri, Sarawak

It was an invitation hard to resist. I was invited by the Sarawak Tourism Board to cover the 2012 Borneo Jazz Festival and to experience a three-day stay at Everland Eco-Farm in Miri, Sarawak.

As a nature lover myself, I opted for the jungle adventure together with Ian Patterson of, Catharine Tipang, a representative from Sarawak Tourism, as well as two Japanese jazz enthusiasts - Ryuta Suzuki (a freelance writer) and Takao Fujioka (a jazz graphic designer).

It was a bright Sunday morning when all of us met at the lobby of Park City Everly Hotel, Miri (the venue of this year's Borneo Jazz Festival). For Ian, Borneo was like a second home; it was his third consecutive year covering the jazz festival in Miri, as well as the internationally-acclaimed Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching.

At about 9.30am at the hotel lobby, we were introduced to Madam Jean Lain, the wife of Dr Francis Lian, the owner of the Everland Eco-Farm, and a local tour guide, Larry Siga.

We started the journey without any delay as Madam Jean said we needed to arrive at the Everland Eco-Farm before lunch.

"It's approximately 120 kilometres from here and the journey will take about three hours," she told us.

This brought some comforting news to my ears, as this would give me some time to sleep ... or so I thought!

As I was about to doze off, the road suddenly got really bumpy. (We had not even completed half the journey yet.) Even Takao was awoken by the rough ride that sent him bouncing off his seat. Ryuta, on the other hand, was really enjoying it. As a city slicker residing in Tokyo, all his life he had not seen so much greenery before. I asked the driver if the roads would get any better as I really needed to catch up on my sleep. He just smiled and said, "It will be all gravel roads from now on."

After nearly three hours of driving along the bumpy roads, we finally reached the Everland's farmhouse, where we were warmly welcomed by Dr Francis and other local residents.

It was a two-storey farmhouse - cement on the ground floor while the first floor was made entirely out of wood. Every window and balcony was covered with mosquito netting. There were three bedrooms; Ryuta and Takao shared one room with bunk-beds on the ground floor, while Ian and I shared a room upstairs with a shared bathroom with Dr Francis and his wife. Catharine had a room to herself.

Shortly after lunch, all of us went straight to Loagan Bunut National Park, which was conveniently located less than 10 kilometres away from the farmhouse. The park is a protected area. People are not allowed to reside or build houses. Furthermore, it is also illegal to fish, hunt or cut trees. This, however, was not the case for the Berawan in Loagan Bunut.

According to Larry, fishing and hunting are among the special rights that the Berawans still enjoy as a result of an agreement between the tribe and the state government before the Loagan Bunut covering an area of 10,736 hectares was turned into a national park in 1990. Besides the Berawans, there are two other ethnic groups here - the Ibans and Penans. However, only the Berawans have been given the privilege to fish, hunt and utilise the forest resources at Sungai Teru, Sungai Bunut, Loagan Bunut and the park itself.

The lakeside scenery at the park is perfect for photography. Photographers would never miss the opportunity to shoot spectacular sunsets - and that's exactly what most of us did, especially Ryuta and Takao. It was truly a sight to behold as I watched the Berawans use a unique method of catching fish during the low tide.

Environmentalists say that the 650-hectare lake is a must-see in Sarawak. Visitors who want to take a closer look at wildlife at Loagan Bunut are advised to stay at nearby Iban, Berawan or Penan longhouses.

As the first day came to an end, we were extremely exhausted and headed straight to the farmhouse. We had a quick dinner and immediately went to bed without even realising that Dr Francis had switched the generator off at the stroke of midnight.

The next day, we went for a jungle trek through the lush peat swamp forest and enjoyed a tour around the eco-farm.

According to Dr Francis, his company - Borneo Rainforest Vanilla Sdn Bhd - is the pioneer of commercial cultivation in niche crops in Sarawak. Since the company's venture into vanilla in 2007, it has been investing in the cultivation of two other very high value niche agricultural and forestry plants namely, Stevia and Aquilaria (Agarwood) tree.

Besides the commercial cultivation of these three main crops, Dr Francis also has supporting facilities such as nurseries for seedlings production and field research centres for conducting research on these three and other crops.

One of the fruits that caught my attention was the 'Mahkota Dewa', which is said to have many health benefits including treating cancer, arthritis, eczema and cleansing the body system.

"Everland Farm is an eco-farm that aims to integrate a sustainable balance between eco-tourism and agriculture as well as wildlife conservation. Our farm's home stay programme is suitable for anyone who wishes to get away from the hectic city life and relax in a more natural environment," explained Dr Francis, who used to be a geography lecturer at Universiti Brunei Darussalam in the early 1990s.

While at the farm, we participated in a variety of activities such as horseback riding, jungle trekking and bird watching.

Like a horse whisperer, Ian effortlessly was able to 'tame' the horses. Ryuta enjoyed his time bird watching, while I trekked through the jungles.

The peat swap forests around the area were similar to those in Kuala Balai, Belait District. We even spotted a hornbill as we climbed a nearby hill. Ian ecstatically told me that he had been in Borneo three times and that this was his first sighting. Ryuta and Takao were more amazed than him because they had never seen anything like it before.

On top of the farm's foray into agriculture and tourism, half of the land is allocated for forest conservation and rehabilitation. By doing so, Dr Francis hoped that the land would develop and turn into a safe sanctuary for local birds and wildlife.

On the final day, all of us sat at the dining table and exchanged stories. The calm atmosphere at the farmhouse at night was so different from city life and it was hard to experience the simple life there.

The next day, at the crack of dawn, I climbed up a nearby hill and just sat there watching the sun rise over the valley. It was a picture-perfect moment. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me at the time. But I have no regrets, as I was fortunate enough to experience this first-hand. I highly recommend anyone looking for a retreat to nature to come here.

For more information, visit or send an e-mail to

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Tough slog for Sarawak tourism to get four million tourists

KUCHING: Sarawak will have to go the extra mile to achieve the target of four million tourist arrivals this year.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said the state would have to focus on Asian markets to boost arrival figures because of the economic slump in Europe and political instability in the Middle East.

He said although 48 per cent of the total tourists came from Brunei last year, travellers from many regions across the globe had visited Sarawak.

The state registered a record 3.8 million visitors in 2011, generating RM7.1 billion in tourism receipts.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, Rashid said the board must also work to improve air connectivity.

He pointed out that the pulling out of Firefly, a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) subsidiary, from the state also had an impact on the industry’s growth.

“Last time, we still had Firefly and now we shall look at expanding MASwings (another subsidiary of MAS) to help us achieve the four million tourists target.”


Potential for new dolphin-watching products for Rajang and Saribas rivers

KUCHING: Irrawaddy dolphins are potential eco-tourism products for the Rajang and Saribas rivers.

Sightings of the inshore cetaceans in the state have been documented in the Sarawak River, lower waters of the Santubong branch of the Sarawak River, Rajang River, Rajang Mangrove, Saribas River and major estuaries namely Sematan, Bako, Muara Tebas, Bintulu and Lawas.

“We already have dolphin watching as a tourism product in the Santubong area. It could become potential tourism attractions in other sighted areas,” said Sarawak Forestry Corporation biologist James Bali yesterday.

He was one of the invited speakers for a series of public awareness talks at the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre in conjunction with SBC Biodiversity Day.

James said SFC had conducted many surveys including coastal, offshore and aerial surveys to study on Irrawaddy dolphins.

“We currently do not have any information on the species from Sadong River, Igan River, Baram River and Kemena River, due to lack of funds for further research.”

The Irrawaddy dolphin is the most common species and considered the flagship species in Sarawak.

It is a totally protected animal under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998.

Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) associate professor Dr Lee Nyanti, from the Aquatic Science Department, spoke on the corals of Sarawak.

“Corals are important to medicine and pharmacology. For example, drug extract of coral sponges. The antiviral drugs Ara-A and anti-cancer agent Ara-C were developed from extracts of sponge.


Friday, May 25, 2012

‘Adventures of Keling and Kumang’ play at World Harvest Festival 2012

KUCHING: The adventures of Keling and Kumang will be the theme for the World Harvest Festival 2012 play this weekend (May 26 -27).

Festival organising chairperson Jane Lian Labang said that the theme was based on the Iban legendary couple of Keling and Kumang.

The play is about Keling, the Iban hero who found his true love, a beautiful lass, Kumang, after achieving and overcoming a series of feats and obstacles.

The scenes will be enlivened with theatrical effects in an outdoor natural setting which is fronting a lake near an Iban longhouse at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) in Santubong here.

“The play this time around is awesome as it brings greater public awareness to the ideal values of the Iban community as depicted in the legendary story of Keling and Kumang. At the same time, this will be a platform to highlight the Iban culture,” Jane said.

Jane encouraged members of the public to come and watch the play.

A full-dress rehearsal meant for media preview was held last Wednesday.

Show tickets can be obtained at the entrance of SCV on the actual day of the play and they are priced at RM60 per adult each while tickets for children will be at RM30 each. It will be free entrance for children under two.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Prehistoric site discovered in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: A PALAEOLITHIC site believed to be  200,000 years old has been discovered in Keningau, 138km from here.

Archaeologists claimed that the site in Kampung Lipasu in the sub-district of Bingkor could rival the Mansuli site in Lahad Datu, which is 235,000 years old.

Universiti Sains Malaysia archaeology research team head Prof Dr Mokhtar Saidin said researchers, however, had not revealed the exact age of the site said to be a location for making Palaeolithics stone tools.

Excavation began on May 9 and is expected to finish on May 29.

The team, comprising researchers from the USM Global Archeological Research Centre and the Sabah Museum Department, has discovered several artefacts, including an anvil, core stone, hammer stone, chopper and flake tools.

"We believe the Bingkor site could be older than the Mansuli site as there could be more layers beneath the present excavation site," said Mokhtar.

He said this could be an interesting find because the archaeology community initially believed that human population began on the east coast of north Borneo.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Prehistoric site discovered in Sabah

Angling will be promoted to attract visitors during Visit Sarawak Year 2013

KUCHING: Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said fishing and angling would be promoted as an event during Visit Sarawak Year 2013.

“Our fishing grounds are attractive for anglers in the region to spend time and money here participating in our angling activities,” he said at the Sarawak Boat Club (SBC) Fishing Competition 2012 prize giving ceremony Tuesday night.

The Miri Anglers Club has organised competitions that manage to attract anglers from as far away as China, he said.

“This means a lot of interests from anglers in the region to come and enjoy fishing in our waters,” he said.

Abang Johari said he had instructed Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) to include fishing and angling as part of the activities at Tanjung Datu National Park, along with snorkelling and turtle sporting at Talang Talang and Satang Island.

“At Tanjung Datu, we just unveiled an important landmark where we feel is the start of Borneo — ‘Where Borneo Begins’. It’s not far from fishing grounds, meaning we will have two products there,” he said, adding that the national park has much to offer in flora and fauna.

We have to promote angling together with our rich biodiversity, he said.

“I have been working together with Sarawak Forestry in charge of national parks to sell a package that includes the national park as well as angling.”

Also present at the dinner were Youth Development Assistant Minister Abdul Karim Hamzah, Padawan Municipal Council chairman Lo Khere Chiang, Kuching City South Mayor James Chan, SBC commodore Dato Abang Khalid Abang Marzuki, and event organising chairman Vincent Then.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Music lovers can visit Rainforest World Music Festival for an enchanting experience

KUCHING: Thousands of music lovers travel across the globe to Sarawak every year in mid July to attend a unique world music festival.

It is like an annual pilgrimage for these music lovers who come to attend the Rainforest World Music Festival, which has been voted by Songlines, a renowned world music magazine for three consecutive years as the top 25 international festivals.

“This annual event, now in its 15th year, is organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board and is a 3-day celebration of daytime music workshops and action-packed nightly shows. The event this year will be held from July 13 to 15,” said a statement issued by Sarawak Tourism Board (STB).

Under the imposing shadow of Mount Santubong, and in the midst of a virgin rainforest at the edge of the South China Sea, the Rainforest World Music Festival is a unique festival that brings together on the stage renowned world musicians from all continents and indigenous musicians from the interior of the mythical island of Borneo.

The kinship and spirit among music makers and music lovers alike as they celebrate one another in the cradle of Mother Nature is unique to the green haven where thousand-year-old trees reign.

The three-day event, beginning at 2pm everyday features workshops that allow festival-goers to interact with the musicians and experience the music and dance of the different cultures up close.

The nights consist of five-hour concerts that take place on a main stage and smaller ‘Tree Stage’ that carries on past midnight.

Night-time concerts are held on a stage built by the lake, under the open sky and in an informal ambiance, where visitors can sit on the grass lawns and dance to entrancing world beats.

The festival culminates in a huge finale on the final night, where all performers are invited to play onstage as one.


Sarawak records highest number of visitor arrivals last year

SARAWAK recorded 3,795,373 visitor arrivals last year, an increase of 16 per cent as compared to the 3.27 million recorded in 2010.

“This figure was the highest figure ever achieved by the state so far,” said Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg in his winding up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) here yesterday.

According to him, 62 per cent (2,343, 236) were international and 38 per cent (1,452,137) were domestic visitors from Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah with estimated revenue generated from tourism last year at RM7.1 billion thus contributing 13.5 per cent towards the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“In the first quarter of this year, total visitor arrivals to Sarawak maintain a positive growth of 16 per cent recording 998,557 visitor arrivals. Of this, 66.3 per cent were foreigners and 33.7 per cent were domestic.

“The top ten visitor arrivals by countries and regions to Sarawak in the first quarter of this year were Brunei (448,809; 44.9 per cent), Peninsular Malaysia (193,359; 19.4 per cent), Sabah (143,513; 14.4 per cent), Indonesia (99,604; 10 per cent), Philippines (26,294; 2.6 per cent), Singapore (12,588; 1.3 per cent), China (9,876; 1 per cent), Thailand (8,644, 0.9 per cent), United Kingdom (7,800; 0.8 per cent) and India (7,546; 0.8 per cent),” Abang Johari revealed.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

RM37.1m for Sarawak tourism projects

KUCHING: Under the 1st Rolling Plan (2011-2012) of the 10th Malaysia Plan, the federal government through the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia has allocated RM37.1 million for the implementation of 50 approved tourism projects in Sarawak.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said to date, 14 projects had been completed, 14 other projects had been awarded to contractors and 22 projects were still at the stage of procurement process (inviting tender and quotation) and most of the 50 projects were expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

"My Ministry is also coordinating and reviewing tourism project proposals which are to be considered under the 3rd rolling plan of the 10th Malaysia Plan worth RM153 million," he said in his winding up speech at the State Legislative Assembly sitting, here today.

He said among the projects were Bakam Point-Miri, Bekenu Riverfront-Miri, Miri Tourism Corridor, Heritage Trail Kuching, Botanical Garden-Petra Jaya, Sarawak Museum, Digital Billboards-Kuching and Maritime Museum.

Johari said his ministry was looking forward to the completion of the jetty at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) to provide unique transportation experience for tourists to BCCK via the river taxi.

"This initiative gives BCCK the competitive edge amongst other worldwide convention competitors. This project is expected to be completed by the end of this year," he said.

Talking on the Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition (MICE), Johari said there was growing awareness, particularly amongst developing nations, that business events such as association conferences were an essential ingredient in the economic strategy of a destination.


Lawas Fest a cultural showcase

LAWAS: Lawas Fest 2012 from May 25-28 will showcase the cultural heritage attraction in the district with the main stage reflecting Brunei Malay architecture and Lawas history.

The carnival themed ‘Rumah Basar Masyarakat Melayu Brunei’ aims to share the heritage and history of Lawas and Brunei Bay.

A brainchild of Awang Damit Ali Hasan, it would incorporate elements of the traditional ‘bagong’, a boat used to transport people and trading goods in the old days.

Kerosene and pressure lamps would light the backdrop of the stage depicting a scene from the Brunei Malay Sultanate of old.

Across the river, 3,000 participants from Tuaran (Sabah), Brunei Armed Forces, Brunei Youth Council, Pusaka, Landa, Citra Alti, Bekenu and local Lawas contingents would watch the opening ceremony by Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

RTM Sarawak will join in the celebration with its Marketing Expo Roadshow and Gegar Olimpik programme at Lawas Public Town Square.

The main attraction will be Lawas Regatta, expected to be most exciting this time round as some competitors have many titles under their belts.

Pesta Lawas will also feature the popular Lawas Kitchen, Komuniti 1Malaysia bazaar.

Among the entertainers heading for Lawas are Hafiz, Jac Victor, Mas Idayu, Jimmy Palikat, Daniel Lee, Estrange, Bunk Face, Saiful Apek, Herman Tino and Daus.

On the night of May 26, Lawas Town would be awash with people and colour from the floats of 21 contingents and lantern procession by another 25 contingents.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Lawas Fest a cultural showcase

Monday, May 21, 2012

Brunei's Adau Gayo celebration has huge tourism potential

By Sim Y H

With the country's rich heritage, Brunei Darussalam's cultural gatherings can potentially be turned into a product investment focussed on attracting tourists into the country.

One of the biggest local celebrations among the Dusun community, the Adau Gayo, suggested Special Duties Senior Officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs Awang Metussin bin Orang Kaya Sura Haji Tuba, could be made into a significant yearly gathering in the country's calendar such as what is currently being practised by our neighbouring country where the Dusun community plays an integral role in enriching society's history.

The senior government officer explained that with proper management, organisation and fixed scheduling, the once-a-year event that takes place in the month of May to give thanks for the harvest season, can be transformed into an important event highly anticipated by the general population.

"We have an agency that can help in promoting these events should we decide to include it in the tourism calendar," he said in his speech during the opening of the Adau Gayo celebration in Kampong Bukit, Tutong, yesterday.

To achieve this ambition, Awang Metussin also highlighted that a bigger venue should be provided to accommodate a bigger crowd and, instead of carrying out the celebrations in different groups, organisers should consider having one major and all encompassing gathering with cooperation from the entire Dusun community.

"With the existence of such teamwork, we will be able to witness unity and understanding in the Dusun community that we wish to see whilst at the same time uplift our society's culture."

Confident that a bigger celebration would further strengthen relations among the Dusuns, the uniqueness of the culture, its tradition and way of life will be an attraction in itself and that its identity should be preserved and its heritage should be handed down to future generations to ensure its survival in a globalising world.

"In Brunei, the Adau Gayo celebration is observed by the Dusun community and many of them are in the Tutong District. This celebration is indicative that Adau Gayo does indeed belong to the Dusuns," he said.

"Therefore, it is a Dusun identity and as a community, Dusuns should be proud as each community is valued by the way its members are dressed, by their language and by their practice.

"We do not need to copy, need not follow and need not seek a new culture for our society because we already have one ... therefore, defend it, bequeath it to your children and grandchildren because the Dusun community is a community that is recognised as one of Brunei Darussalam's tribal identities," he added.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Group to conquer Mount Kinabalu again to raise Duchenne awareness

KOTA KINABALU: A group of climbers committed towards raising awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy will be back in Sabah this year to conquer Mount Kinabalu for the second time.

Building on the success of their climb in 2011, Coalition Duchenne will bring over 60 international climbers to scale the country’s highest mountain on Aug 25 to raise global awareness on the disease.

The coalition’s founder Catherine Jayasuriya, whose 19-year-old son Dusty Brandom is afflicted with Duchenne, will once again lead the climb.

At the summit of the 4,095m high mountain, the team will raise the Coalition Duchenne flag in honour of the hundreds of thousands of boys and young men worldwide who have the disease, Jayasuriya said.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a progressive muscle wasting disease and is the most common fatal disease that affects children. Duchenne occurs one in 3,500 male births.

“A total of 20,000 boys are born each year with Duchenne, more than 50 each day. Most only live into their 20s. We lose many in their teens,” she said.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Borneo Jazz Festival - An enchanting fusion of music and adventure

The event was an exceptionally rich musical spectacle not to be missed 

Alif aka Chief from Brunei amongst the thousands enjoying the performances

Nita Aartsen, described as the 'rising star' of Classical and Jazz in Indonesia 

Special performance by a local ethnic group at the Borneo Jazz Festival 201

Magnificent drum solo by the 'New Cool Collective' band 

Mr Saxman performing at the event

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to Sarawak Tourism Board

By Aziz Idris in Miri, Sarawak

The Borneo Jazz Festival, now in its 7th edition, has undergone a certain amount of re-branding in an effort to promote its growing stature as one of the leading jazz festivals in the region.

What hasn't changed from previous years is the variety of music on the programme - jazz and it's many splinter genres and blues were performed by veterans from across the globe.

The musical extravagant offers a little of everything, and a capella jingles, groovy fusion jazz, some South African and Latin rhythms completed a diverse and mostly engaging set of performers.

In 2011, the event attracted some 7,811 festivalgoers with 3,668 coming on the first night and 4,143 on the second night. An estimated 20 per cent were foreigners.

Borneo (or Miri to be exact) is a unique setting as it is an unlikely one for a jazz festival. "There's no other place like it on earth," says Datuk Amar Abang Haji Abdul Rahman Zohari, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development and Minister of Tourism.

"The aim is clear, we hope the Borneo Jazz will become an iconic jazz festival in the region, just as the Rainforest Music festival in Sarawak is," he told the international media during a press conference.

He told the Sunday Bulletin that a "substantial number" of audiences are from Brunei (locals and expatriates). The Sarawak Tourism Board is working closely with the Brunei Tourism Board in creating attractive packages not only for the Borneo Jazz but also other events.

The minister believes that with strong "team spirit" between both nations, it will benefit them in promoting both countries as well as Borneo as a whole.

The Borneo Jazz got underway on Thursday (May 10) at ParkCity Everly Hotel with an opening ceremony by the minister. Dozens of local performers from rich ethnics groups beautifully attired provided colourful greetings while traditional musicians performed the 'sape' (a long -bodied string instrument).

The opening band of the festival programme (May 11) to take stage was FVE Project, a local band who ran through an enthusiastic set of jazzy numbers as well as their own jazz rendition of popular nursery rhythms. Miri-born Dean Sim of the FVE Project gave an electrifying performance for his home crowd and family members.

Next up was Nita Aartsen from Indonesia who has been described as the 'rising star' of Classical and Jazz music in the country. She wooed the crowd with her own indomitable style that turned from a sombre-like-classical into a feet-tapping, hip-swaying Latino music with a generous helping of Jazz. At one point it looked as if Nita was smashing her piano to smithereens with her energetic style but her performance was simply phenomenal.

The night breeze from the nearby beach was a perfect setting for jaw dropping performance by 'The Slixs', a German a capella group, comprising six vocals virtuosos which make a band. Slixs brought audiences to their feet, dancing, swaying and some even tried to mimic their sounds. They also performed classic hits from The Beatles, the 'boogie' sounds of the 70's and R&B hits from the 90's including Waterfalls by TLC.

The first night closed with an eight-piece band from the Netherlands called 'New Cool Collective'. They brought their own 'hipper-than hip' jazz sounds to the concert with band members playing different instruments from saxophones to drums, guitars to percussions and piano to bass.

Looking smart with a 'clean cut' appearance, the band wooed the ladies playing their own original music which was fast-paced Jazzy beats and a little intermission in the middle that makes a remarkable build-up towards the end of their set. It was equally entertaining to watch the New Cool Collective band and crowds shouted for an encore performance, which they did with style.

The second night (May 12) opened with a Singapore based band called the 'Tropic Green'. The band is made up of musicians from the UK, USA and Japan, which brings a lot of different influenced jazz sound into the band.

Playing all original materials, Tropic Green sounds were captivating, intriguing amalgam of fresh ideas and jazz performances, which credits Susan Harmer, the Singaporean-born composer and main musician.

Tangora's compositions are characterised by dynamic, propulsive rhythms, orchestral passage with an inherent melodicism, and impassioned soloing. The three-pronged front line bass guitar, piano and strong vocals introduced the melody in most of the numbers, sounding as one voice. Her sumptuous vocals, singing in Spanish, French, Portuguese and a mixture of free flowing lyricism stirred the crowd. She shared the stage with her accomplices and brilliant musicians filled the night air and breezy Saturday night.

Another musician that made a remarkable effect at the Borneo Jazz was Mr Sekpol Unsamran, more famously and affectionately known as Mr Saxman. Born and raised in Thailand, Mr Saxman was joined by the Takeshi Band who played groovy and charming jazz tune. A slower number by Mr Saxman, provided another example of emotive content overriding shows of techniques with his two decades performing on stage.

Next up was Schalk Joubert's Three Continents Sextet, which is an ensemble, made up of seven new generation jazz musicians. Playing on bass was Schalk Joubert himself accompanied by the trombone, Karin Hammar from Stockholm. His percussionist Rich Armstrong hailing from the San Francisco has 'blues' roots that gave an unbelievably diverse sound performance.

Other musicians in the band include Kevin Gibson from Florida, Shannon Mowday from Oslo, Melissa Van der Spy from Holland and Hildegunn Oiseth from Norway. Although the band members hail from around the world speaking different languages, music has brought them together and provided a definite highlight of the festival.

The lush grounds of the ParkCity Everly Hotel by the sea, and spectacular sunsets seared the sky a myriad of colours each evening. One of the many Bruneians who came to see the festival for the first time was Alif aka Chief who commented that it was a relief to attend a live Jazz concert in close proximity from Brunei. "It was a great show. I had fun and definitely coming back next year."

Another Bruneian Jazz fan Fina, brought her colleagues from Norway and Venezuela along to see the concert for two-consecutive nights. "Listening to Jazz music from musicians around the world at one venue is definitely a great experience."

For Marcus and Wafiy from Brunei who came during the second night, said that the festival was amazingly fun especially seeing how the musicians played their instruments with techniques they have never seen before.

To end the festival, all the musicians literally crammed on stage for a twenty-minute jam session and put the seal to the Borneo Jazz 2012. It was an electrifying ending to a remarkable edition of the festival of enchanting fusion of music and adventure.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Gawai a tourism gem

SANTUBONG: The ‘Special Gawai Package’ is expected to put Sarawak on the world map and further stir up some growth in the local tourism industry.

Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the package, which will be available now until June 31, promised an invaluable experience for tourists.

“This is an important event because it is the platform of fostering good relationship and harmony between our multiracial people. In addition, it allows people to experience celebrating Gawai.

“This is also a wonderful attraction for visitors to Sarawak and I’m confident that we can be a popular stop for tourists,” he said at the welcoming ceremony for the first group of Gawai revellers who took part in the package at Sarawak Cultural Village on Friday.

Also present were his wife Datin Amar Ju’maini Tun Bujang, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board state director Ahmad Johanif, SCV general manager Jane Lian Labang, and Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip.

The package consists of various exciting Gawai activities such as miring, lemambang ceremony, ngiling tikai, ngetas pun renyai, traditional cooking and ngabang (house to house visiting).

The Gawai activities will also be complemented with music and cultural dances from the Bumiputera and other ethnic groups in Sarawak.

“This incentive is good because it allows people to stay over at SCV for a few days. The price is reasonable and the experience will be something very valuable.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Gawai a tourism gem

Dayaks to converge in Kuching in June for special Gawai

KUCHING: Dayaks from all over Borneo will be in Kuching for a special Gawai Dayak event organised by Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) on June 16.

The event will kick off with the inaugural Dayak International Golf Competition at Sarawak Club Golf Resort near here.

Around 120 golfers comprising Dayaks from Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Kalimantan are expected to participate as they vie for the SDNU President’s Challenge Trophy.

In the evening, there will be a dinner hosted by SDNU where the prize presentation will be held. The tentative venue is the Ecumenical Centre at Jalan Stampin here.

SDNU publicity officer Ganchai Jinta said the dinner will also double up as an installation ceremony for the newly elected SDNU office-bearers.

He revealed that Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dato Sri Douglas Uggah, who is also Betong MP, has been invited as guest-of-honour for the dinner.