February 24, 2024

New Malaysia Times

Blog News Impose Expose

Dayak community forgoing ‘ngabang’ tradition for a good cause


KUCHING, May 30 — Gawai Dayak in Sarawak is often associated with various activities such as beauty pageants and ‘ngabang’ (Gawai open house).

And although this is the second year in a row that the Dayak community has to skip such festive gatherings, they accept that it is a sacrifice everyone has to make in the fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the activities that I’m going to miss the most is definitely the gathering with all my relatives at my grandparents’ house in Kampung Stass in Bau.

“I will also miss the ngabang because this is the only time we can go around and catch up with not only our relatives but also friends,” said trainee medical officer Grandy Mina Mihim.

Grandy, 26, said she will also miss the ‘Kumang Gawai’, a contest to choose the festival’s beauty queen.


“That is also the only time we get to see our Bidayuh beauties showcasing their traditional costumes from their respective sub-ethnic groups,” said Grandy, who was a contestant of past pageants.

Grandy said she will also miss local delicacies like Bidayuh food.

“I can imagine the taste of ‘pogang’ (lemang), which is eaten with ‘tikasuom’ (fermented fish) sprinkled with chillies and lime,” she added.

Nevertheless, she fully agrees with the state government’s decision to impose the Movement Control Order (MCO) throughout Sarawak from May 29 until June 11. Gawai Dayak is celebrated on June 1.

“This is a global pandemic and cases keep increasing from day to day. Thus, it is better to (stay home) take care of ourselves and family than going out and be infected with the virus,” she said. 

School teacher Angela Ritikos, 57, shares Grandy’s sentiments, saying she will definitely miss her family gatherings as those were occasions for family members to come home to Kuching.

“Although I’m not happy with the lockdown, I honestly feel that it has to be done. We have to protect ourselves, our loved ones and save our community,” said Angela, who has two daughters working in peninsular Malaysia.

Former beauty queen Angela Martin, 43, said this year is the second time she will be missing the joy of celebrating Gawai with her parents in Kampung Sungai Pinang Baru in Simunjan.

“What is certain is that there will still be Gawai celebrations in the coming years, so it would be wiser if we all can just stay safe and stay at home during this Gawai celebration,” said Angela, who is an organiser of beauty pageants.