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Enchanted by People Of The Land

If you think that the harvest festival in Lawas is no different from other festivals in Sarawak, you are wrong. Brace yourself for a delightful surprise. Despite being situated so far out reach, at the most northern part of Sarawak, Lawas manages to embrace its culture and tradtion close to its heart. Aren't remote areas usually get left out of any excitement? Not Lawas. That's what fascinates me the most.

Lawas is home to the Lun Bawang people, which simply means People of the Land. They are very proud and passionate of their culture and tradition. They truly showcase these deep feelings especially during the harvesting festival, well known here as Irau Aco lun Bawang. Roughly translated, it means the Lun Bawang Festival Day.

I prefer to think of it as a celebration of love actually, I mean , you have Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Earth Day and all the special occasion days to commemorate something with love. Surely harvesting festival is another form of celebrating love for the land and God's abundant blessings. What better time and way to show love and share love but this time?

Lawas residents just celebrated this exuberant festivity last June in a big way. It was a blend of culture, tradition and hardcore hospitaliy that not even the rain could dampened their spirits. It was usually this time of year that we get to see some of the high ranking Ministers visit Lawas.

The amazing part of the Irau was that everybody, regardless of age, size or position in society chipped in their energy and time to make this festival a success. Every year, the Irau gets bigger, better and vibrant. There was even a slogan to go with this year's Irau. It was "Inan Gergan, Inan Nalan", simply meaning "If there's a will, there's a way." How true the slogan rang. It hit straight to the heart of the whole festival. I mean, to make an event captivating and appealing to the public, everybody needs to have a vision, to have the will to pull it through any obstacles that come their way. And guess what? They did just that. They pulled through. One should also remember the support given by the Resident and District of Lawas and the Lawas District Office.

the main venue for the Irau os the football field near town. But to the Lun Bawang it is more affectionately called 'padang'. The padang has always been the center for the Irau since time immemorial. Well, we have seen how thousands of America idol wannabes camped out to get a spot for the audition; it was the same thing here in Lawas. The locals literally camped out near the field so that they would not miss anything during the 3 day celebartion. They wanted to absorb every moment, every second. They wanted their senses to burst to full euphoric heights.

But I guess another factor that made the Irau stand out from the rest was the bamboo band. It was definitely an amazing experience. I was dumbfounded the first time I heard the bamboo band playing. Both young and old creating music so melodiously sweet from bamboos and in sync for that matter just blew my mind away. My knowledge of bamboo was only limited to cooking 'lemang' in it. Participants for the best bamboo band came from many villages. The champ this year was Kampung Batu Mulong. They walked away with prize money of RM1,200.00

Another highlight for the Irau was the beauty pageant. It always drew the largest crowd during the Irau. Despite the rain that night, the loyal crowd remained. According to the Lun Bawang legend, the most gorgeous maiden to walk on this earth was Ruran Ulung. She wasn't just a pretty face. She was also very intelligent. Bet you didn't know that, huh? The most dashing man, meanwhile, was said to be Padan Liu Burung. Hence it was only logical to have both pageants named under the legendary figures. Participants for the competitions paraded themselves in traditional Lun Bawang costumes and accessories. Every time when I set my eyes on the costumes, for a split moment, I felt like I was transported back in time to the past. That was the overwhelming effect these cultural events had on me.

Besides that, the Lun Bawang Association has also built a traditional Lun Bawang long house to let the public and the younger generation have a glimpse of their past. I guess by now they should realise how far they have come and how much they have achieved. I believe it was educational to teach them about theri ancestors. One should never forget their roots. Without them where would we be now?

There was also an adrenaline rush traditional Tagal game called the Papan. It was held at a wooden house with floors made up of tied Rinapong planks, THe children loved this game. They had to jump on these planks which were really flexible and bounce just like your spring mattress at home. The winner will be the jumper that manages to grab the prize hung from the ceiling. It was that simple. It was like being in a children's themepark.

But above all these, the major star during the Irau is the Lun Bawang people themselves. They are the most loving, compassionate and friendly people I've known. To be surrounded by them, is to be surrounded by love. The Irau wasn't just about culture and tradition; it was also a time for family reunions and for friends to renew bonds. It was also a time of merriment regardless of who you are.

The Lun Bawang welcomes tourists as affectionately as they welcome old friends to their home. You will be enchanted and mesmerised by what you see, feel, touch and hear. The Lun Bawang culture has a lot to offer and they have no qualms whatsoever in sharing this.

So what are you waiting for? Pack up your bags and join in the party next year. Let your sense live to the fullest. Be part of it. Be part of love.

* * * * *

Published on 8/20/04

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