As a melting pot of more than 37 ethnic races throughout the state, Sabah has people of various different religions living together in perfect harmony. The majority of people in Sabah are Muslims (approximately 66 per cent), followed by the Christian community which represents more than 26 per cent and the rest being Buddhists and […]

As a melting pot of more than 37 ethnic races throughout the state, Sabah has people of various different religions living together in perfect harmony.

The majority of people in Sabah are Muslims (approximately 66 per cent), followed by the Christian community which represents more than 26 per cent and the rest being Buddhists and people of other religions. Religion, no doubt, has played a big role in shaping the community and its socio-cultural aspect.

Having the second largest number of followers in Sabah, the arrival of Islam dated way back to the Brunei Sultanate era in the 15th century when Brunei extended its reign to Sabah. The first indigenous Sabahan people to embrace Islam were the Bajau people. Today, the Muslim community mainly comprises of the Bajau, Bisaya, Brunei, Cocos, Iranun and Orang Sungai ethnics.

The influence of Islam in Sabah is most visible in the celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Aidiladha, which also leads to the culture of visiting homes to strengthen friendship and relations among relatives. Apart from that, the arrival of Islam has also imparted Sabah with important and unique artifacts such as the ‘Tepak Sireh / Celapa’ Betel nut Container Box, Rehal (Qur’an stand) and ceramic decoration with Qur’an writing.

If you’re looking for a holistic cultural experience in Sabah in conjunction with the Harvest Festival month of May, the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) Cultural Village makes an ideal destination. Situated only 15 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu city, a tour around this cultural village will give you an interesting overview of the ethnic groups […]

If you’re looking for a holistic cultural experience in Sabah in conjunction with the Harvest Festival month of May, the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) Cultural Village makes an ideal destination. Situated only 15 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu city, a tour around this cultural village will give you an interesting overview of the ethnic groups in Sabah.

Led by knowledgeable guides, visitors will be brought into each house that is nestled in the cultural village and guided through the tour on the lifestyles of different ethnic groups in earlier years, as well as certain traditional customs that are still practiced today.

There are mainly four traditional houses in the KDCA Cultural Village, namely the Dusun Tindal Kota Belud house, the Papar house, the Rungus house, and the Murut house. Each house is meant to exhibit the unique and different traditions of the ethnic tribe it represents. The staffs of KDCA Cultural Village are dressed in traditional costumes and demonstrate some of the customary ways of living back in the day.

Starting off with a welcoming ritual by the performers dressed in traditional attire, visitors are greeted by two staff members dressed as bobohizan (high priestesses) conducting a mock blessing ritual before beginning their journey. Traditional musical instruments such as the bamboo are played to welcome visitors at the entrance.

Walking into the first home, the Dusun Tindal house, visitors are shown a demonstration on how paddy is processed using the lesung padi (traditional hand pounding), as well as on how this ethnic group uses bamboo as their pots and pans to cook their meals. Visitors also get to taste traditionally cooked food served in bamboo sticks.

As Sabah is popular for its rice wine (called tapai and lihing), visitors will get to see how it is processed and sample some lihing while visiting the second stop of the tour, the Papar house. Here, they will also learn how sago is processed into regular food, a process called Pinompoh. This is also where visitors get to try on the traditional Papar costume in full finery.

Bead-making is also one of Sabah’s specialty and at the next house, the Rungus longhouse, the staff will demonstrate how these beads are meticulously threaded and turned into jewellery, house decorations and other items.  Pinang (betel nut) and daun sirih (tobacco leaves) make up the indigenous ladies’ favourite past time of chewing these two ingredients together, which visitors are also given the chance to try. The indigenous people also believe that this is good for the teeth.

The last house in the tour is the Murut House, where you will find the lansaran (Borneo trampoline). Visitors are shown how the Murut men jump on this bouncy platform in order to get their reward, placed high on the ceilings. Visitors are then given the chance to try it themselves. Delicious local tapioca dipped in honey and sugar, as well as the famous Tenom coffee are  served as refreshments in this house, while the making of traditional cigarettes demonstrations allow visitors to try the sigup or kirai. Visitors will also see a demonstration of a skill synonymous to the Murut headhunter: using a blowpipe or monopuk.

The tour concludes with a series of traditional dance performances by the staff, including the sumazau and magunatip, which gives visitors the thrill of dancing between rhythmical clashing bamboo poles. The tour culminates with a lunch buffet featuring some of the local favourites of centuries old such as the bambangan (wild mango) and hinava (fermented mackerel in lime juice and shallots).

On the 30th and 31st of May each year, the KDCA Cultural Village will also be the main venue for the State-level Harvest Festival celebration. During this two-day celebration, a line-up of interesting activities will be held here, including traditional games, handicraft sales and exhibitions, and many others. Don’t miss a chance to be part of the fun!

KDCA Cultural Village is located at the KDCA Hongkod Koisaan, KM 8, Penampang Road, Penampang. Get in touch with us for a special day trip this Harvest Festival!

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Looking for an interesting place to sight-see and do your shopping? Head down to Tamu Donggongon and experience a culturally-imbued open air marketplace that is unlike any other! The tamu, which is a local term for open air market, is usually a weekly happening for every district in Sabah. In Donggongon township, the tamu takes […]

Looking for an interesting place to sight-see and do your shopping? Head down to Tamu Donggongon and experience a culturally-imbued open air marketplace that is unlike any other!

The tamu, which is a local term for open air market, is usually a weekly happening for every district in Sabah. In Donggongon township, the tamu takes place every Thursday and Friday at the tamu ground from as early as 6am to around 6pm.

Located circa 15 – 20 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu city centre, Tamu Donggongon is a little treasure waiting to be explored. Offering a whole lot of merchandise, ranging from local delicacies and handicrafts to fresh vegetable produces and livestock, the Tamu Donggongon is a trade centre that is unique to the Penampang district.

Enjoy a colourful sight and sound of people going about their buying and selling activities. Get to know a local vendor and try something exotic for a change – like eating a live butod (sago worm), which is considered to be a highly prized local delicacy. Love wine? Take a sip of the lihing (local rice wine) or the montoku (distilled rice wine). Just make sure you’re not driving afterwards.

Mingle with the friendly locals and learn more about the local Penampang dialect, Sabah is unique like that. In the meantime, brush up on your haggling skills in getting the best bargains in rare merchandise, such as the gong and other traditional musical instruments. Also, check out the traditional herbs which the locals use in cooking.  Do try some local cuisines like the bambangan (pickled wild mango) and nonsom sada (pickled fish) too!

Other than being a local trade centre, the Tamu Donggongon has long become a sociocultural icon throughout generations – connecting people as a social marketplace as well as being a cultural hub. If you’re looking for a place to get good bargains, meet new local friends and learn more about the Penampang Kadazan culture; there’s no better place to start than the Tamu Donggongon.

You can experience Tamu Donggongon when you sign up for our Kota Kinabalu Food & City tour (Thursday & Friday tours only).

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Before Tenom was famous for the aromatic Tenom coffee, it was primarily known as home to the most fearsome warrior tribe Borneo has ever seen: the Timugon Murut people. The Murut were the last of Sabah’s ethnic groups to renounce headhunting, with Antenom (1885-1915) being their most influential and renowned warrior. The Timugon Murut people reside […]

Before Tenom was famous for the aromatic Tenom coffee, it was primarily known as home to the most fearsome warrior tribe Borneo has ever seen: the Timugon Murut people. The Murut were the last of Sabah’s ethnic groups to renounce headhunting, with Antenom (1885-1915) being their most influential and renowned warrior.

Young Murut Warriors - Rustic Borneo

The Timugon Murut people reside in a small, well-defined area in the Tenom Valley. Spanning about 20 miles from north to south, over half of the Timugon villages are situated on the western side of the Pegalan River, which runs south in the valley and some villages on its eastern banks. The remaining population live on the eastern side of the Padas River, which flows from the south.

The Timugon’s linguistic and ethnic links with other related groups spread southwest and south, to the neighbouring Malaysian state of Sarawak and over to Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of the island of Borneo.

The origin of this tribe has been linked to the legend of a man who was the sole survivor of a dreadful flood. A supernatural creature from the cosmic regions then approached him. She was a horrendous-looking woman covered in ringworm. She asked the man to marry her as there were no other survivors.

Naturally, the man was repulsed by her appearance and refused. Instead, he decided to make a woman out of clay. The clay figurine came to life after he spat betel nut juice on it. They married and it is believed their descendants inhabited the river valley of Tenom, becoming the ancestors of the present people have to die; it is because their female ancestor was made of earth.

Like many other ethnic groups, the Timugon Murut community has special religious and spiritual ceremonies. The magilong is a diagnostic ritual performed to determine the cause of a minor illness or misfortune, such as theft. Another interesting ritual is the barasik ceremony. As gong music is played, the pries or priestess chants and use magic stones called putia to ‘see’ the cause of troubles.

Reference: “Some Aspects of Timugon Worldview’, by Kelo Brewis

Sabah Society Journal (1993)

 

The Iban people trace their origins to the Kapuas Lake region of Kalimantan. They are one branch of the Dayak tribe of Borneo. In the past, the Ibans are known as a warrior tribe, having fought members of other tribes aggressively and even practicing head hunting over the years. Today, the Iban people reside mainly […]

The Iban people trace their origins to the Kapuas Lake region of Kalimantan. They are one branch of the Dayak tribe of Borneo. In the past, the Ibans are known as a warrior tribe, having fought members of other tribes aggressively and even practicing head hunting over the years. Today, the Iban people reside mainly in Sarawak, Kalimantan and Brunei Darussalam. They inhabit longhouses that are known as ‘rumah panjang’.


The origin of the name ‘Iban’ is rather unknown. Early scholars regarded it as originally a Kayan term, ‘hivan’, that means ‘wanderer’. Other Iban, of Sarawak’s First and Second Divisions, used the name ‘Dayak’, and even until today consider ‘Iban’ a borrowed term. The participation of a few Iban in alliances with Malays for coastal piracy in the nineteenth century led to their being called ‘Sea Dayaks’.

Iban Longhouse in Sarawak, in the Heart of Borneo

Iban Longhouse in Sarawak, in the Heart of Borneo

Iban women are superb weavers using the backstrap loom while most men are skilled in the use of the piston bellows. In addition to weaving blankets and other cloths, women weave mats and baskets, sometimes to be sold for a living. The Iban culture can be observed during the annual Gawai Dayak festival that celebrates a bountiful harvest. The Gawai Dayak is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of June every year.