Biperoh clan makes good progress

Some of the Biperoh elders at one of their gatherings last year. Photo: Bernama

KUCHING: The Biperoh, a Bidayuh sub-dialectical group that mostly reside in the Penrissen area along the Borneo Heights Road, has made great progress over the past 20 to 30 years — economically and in the field of education.

Other sub-groups of the Bidayuh include the Salako, Lara, Jagoi, Singgai, Biatah, Pinyowah, Bengoh, Bianah, Bukar-Sadong, Krokong, Bilo’ih, Bunuk, Pinyowah, Braang, Tibiya, Bisapuk and Bisetang who live in thr Padawan, Bau, Serian and Lundu districts.

According to unofficial estimates, there are more than 15,000 Biperoh in nine villages — Kampung Emperoh Jambu, Semadang, Karu, Garung, Giam Baharu, Giam Amba, Git, Nyiruk/Grait and Sebetung — all in Penrissen.

“Most of us from the Biperoh clan lived in poverty in the 50s, 60s and 70s, but now we are prospering like the more developed ethnic groups,” said a Bidayuh community leader, Richard Deho, from Kampung Emperoh Jambu.

He said they have changed from shifting cultivation practised by their forefathers because most are now better educated. Several have become professionals, businessmen, politicians and government officers.

Progressive clan

The Biperoh people now have a modern lifestyle. They live in modern houses with modern facilities and amenities, and some even have properties in urban centres. The line between their so-called rural lifestyle and city life is getting blurry.

Richard said besides the huge improvement in their living and economic status, unity among the Biperoh and their ties with other ethnic groups are also growing stronger, largely contributed by intermarriages.

“A high percentage of Biperoh are educated and we have among us an encouraging number of professionals like professors, economists, doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects as well as successful businessmen.

“Infrastructure development such as roads, telecommunication, and electricity and water supplies have contributed greatly towards uplifting the socio-economic status of the community,” he said.

Former president of Biperoh Association Kuching (BAK) Dr Benedict Poris Besong said the Biperoh clan has reached a new milestone in its progress.

The association’s formation in 2007, he said, marked a point in the history of the clan in its efforts to be on a par with other communities in terms of progress.

Upholding importance of education

“From being a backward clan to what we are now, we must give credit to the willingness of our forefathers to send their children to school despite the many setbacks they faced.

“Credit must also be given to the younger generations of Biperoh who despite facing many obstacles due to poverty decided to embrace education as the key element that could promise them a better future,” Benedict said.

BAK current president Mangan Ngandok said in terms of infrastructure development, the Penrissen area (where the nine Biperoh villages are located in Kuching) is at least 20 to 30 years ahead of some of the other districts in Sarawak.

He said all the nine villages (although not all houses) already have 24-hour electricity and water supply. Medical services are also easily accessible by the people while almost every village has a primary school. 

Mangan said the government should consider building at least one secondary school within the Biperoh settlements as their population increases so that the students need not stay in hostels.

He also urged their elected representatives, namely Mambong State Assemblyman Datuk Dr Jerip Susil and Puncak Borneo Member of Parliament Willie Mongin, to give serious attention to solving several outstanding issues faced by the community, such as the poor Internet access and houses that have yet to get electricity supply.

Biperoh history

Legend has it that the Biperoh tribe comprised descendants of Segum Seberi, the son of M’buk Rubuh who originated from Sungkong (S’kung) in Kalimantan, Indonesia, but lived in Rabak Mikabuh as a war fugitive and a refugee.

M’buk Rubuh later married a man from Rabak Mikabuh and gave birth to six children – Segum Seberi (Biperoh), Ma Bari (Bengoh), Sabu Pagunja (Bunuk), Serum Domanan (who went to Bumbok in Bau), Jaya Janum (Pinyowah) and Seju Berung (Braang).

According to some Biperoh elders, in the olden days when head-hunting and blood-spilling were common, the Biperoh had to claim that they originated from S’kung for safety reasons.

By claiming that they were from S’kung, the Biperoh were assured of protection by the Biskung (people from S’kung) from enemy attacks.

Historian Dr Chang Pat Foh in his book titled ‘History of Bidayuh in Kuching Division, Sarawak’ wrote that the man responsible for establishing the entire Biperoh tribe was Segum Seberi, the eldest son of M’buk Rubuh.

Chang said the Biperoh first moved from Rabak Mikabuh and then to Sebayat, a bigger settlement with 60 families. The Sebayat village was said to be the headquarters of the Biperoh then.

At a later stage, they started to migrate due to factors such as limited space for the extension of their settlements, outbreaks of diseases and frequent attacks by the marauding Skrang Ibans.

The present nine Biperoh villages in Penrissen are the result of further migration of the settlers who moved to Kampung Boyan which they later abandoned to establish Kampung Giam (in Penrissen). Today, Kampung Giam is split into Giam Amba and Giam Bauh.

Some of the early settlers who did not move to Kampung Boyan settled in Tembawang Git. The present Kampung Git and Kampung Grait/Nyiru in Penrissen are the results of the resettlement from Tembawang Git.

The other Biperoh villages in Penrissen were also similarly established by migrants. However, there are no records to show when these villages were opened. – Bernama