SUPPOSE for a moment that the creatures and heroes which inhabit the legends and folktales we grew up with were true.
Traditional stories often reflect a certain amount of truth about a culture, the times its people were living in and how they lived.
Before writing became the norm in this part of the world, these stories and folktales were oral history and life skills lessons of sorts – imbuing the next generation with the knowledge they would need to live, while honouring elders and ancestors by remembering their contributions.
It is no different for the folktales of the Lun Bawang which have been handed down from generation to generation in Lawas.
Kampung Long Tanid headman Padan Ukab still remembers listening with great fascination to the stories told by his elders when he was a young boy, particularly those told by his uncle, the former penghulu.
“My uncle knew many of the stories by heart, so I learned much from him over the years until he passed away,” the 56-year-old recalled, when met at the village which lies about?three hours’ drive from Lawas town.
From his uncle, Padan also learned about the genealogy of various local families and pantang harta (local observances governing property and inheritance).
The stories have provided him with in-depth knowledge of local history as well as Lun Bawang social and cultural etiquette – absolutely crucial for him in his role as headman.
Perhaps some of his uncle’s passion has also been passed on to Padan as he shares a similar penchant for regaling visitors with tales and legends of the feats of his forefathers, and how local landmarks came to be.
His depository of stories has also grown to include the recent history of the village, known for its scenic rice fields.
“We have lived at this present site since 1962 after a great flood that happened in the years after the Japanese occupation forced us to move.
“The water level was so high that almost all the houses were under water, except for one house and we only started planting Adan rice (a type of wet paddy prized for its aromatic qualities) around the 1980’s.
“We asked a logging company to use their heavy machinery to flatten the land around our village so that we could open wet paddy fields. Before that, it was very difficult to plant wet paddy as we could only rely on manual labour,” he explained.
Long Tanid resident and homestay coordinator Balan Berauk took thesundaypost to see the Batu Yung (translated as Yung Stone) – a unique stone feature, located just next to the old grass airstrip, once used to drop off and pickup supplies and passengers.
It stands on private property but we managed to get permission from resident Roland Baru to see the feature on the edge of a small slope just next to the house he stays in.
According to popular local belief, Batu Yung was one of the locations where a prominent warrior in Lun Bawang folklore called Upai Semareng would stop on his travels to and from Indonesia to refresh himself and sharpen his parang or machete.
Long Semadoh, of which Kampung Long Tanid is a part of, lies very close to the borders of Sabah and Kalimantan, Indonesia – demarcated by mountain ranges and rivers – so traditionally, there have always been close ties between the residents due to shared cultural and familial origins.
Long Semadoh was and is still an important transit point for visitors from the North and East of Borneo on the way to visit family and friends in Ba Kelalan and Bario.
Upai Semareng was a warrior of great strength, mostly likely a giant as the parang he wielded was larger and heavier than those belonging to other men.
Batu Yung consists of three large stones in a straight line, of which two are rectangular in shape and almost perfectly flat.
One of the flat stones is known as Teng (translated as Eating Place or Dining Table) and was thought to serve as Upai Semareng’s table where he ate his meals and entertained visitors.