Prolific sharpening stone sharing with superhuman

Tawie

Most awards, you know, they don’t give you unless you go and get them — did you know that? Terribly discouraging.

—  Barbara Streisand, American singer

Three of my Saratok’s Kedap longhouse relatives — a cousin, a spouse of a cousin and a nephew-in-law (husband of my niece) were part of the 1,326 persons honoured with awards during the recent 85th birthday of our Governor.

My cousin Joel@Berinau and Timothy Alexander received the Pegawai Bintang Kenyalang (PBK) while the lady recipient Inchi Jenging added Bentara Bintang Sarawak (BBS) to her name. Both the men are senior civil servants and are both university graduates while my cousin-in-law serves at my alma mater Nanga Assam Primary School and she is active in community projects.

I am happy for them as such bestowal of awards manifests our ancestor Anya’s dream coming true. Six generations ago, Anya, nicknamed ‘Lebur Menua’, led a small group, including his wife Empiang and four children, in a migratory journey from a place called Suri in the Rimbas basin of Debak and settled at Burui and later moved to Kedap in the Melupa basin, a tributary of Krian, in search of a new life in a new environment. Their four children comprised three boys, namely Bungin, Jatan and Bran while the girl was named Gulang.

Anya became the pioneer of the Kedap basin, cutting and changing virgin jungles to productive farms and plantations. His ensumbar (nickname) Lebur Menua (Master of vast land) was accorded to him not due to valour or chivalry but as a tribute to his pioneering deeds in developing new areas mainly for agriculture in Kedap and Burui basins — these are now mostly oil palm plantations.

It was during a farming excursion to Mera Gasing in upper Kedap circa 1830s that he made a weird discovery. This was during the nebas (cutting of undergrowth and smaller trees) season which was the earliest part of shifting cultivation.

Anya, who was alone, found out that somebody had used his batu ansah (sharpening stone) earlier despite coming to the farm on the first light of day. This act was repeated the next day, leading him to come very early and waited.

He did hear voices but did not see anyone though there were indications that his sharpening stone was also used. The middle-aged man decided to return home and considered such occurrence as jai burung (bad omen). Later in the day, he brought a few others to do an offering, namely a miring.

Before executing any further action, Anya had a dream during the night of the miring event. In his dream, he met a group of men attired in war costumes complete with headdresses of hornbill and pheasant feathers.

He noticed no less than three of them taking turns to sharpen their warrior’s blades. After a few minutes, the leader of the men introduced himself as Keling Gerasi Nading Bujang Berani Kempang (Keling, the brave and chivalrous hero) from the Raised World of Panggau Libau (of the Iban folklore) and is considered as a demigod and superhuman.

“Anya, we are sorry for not asking your permission to use your batu ansah. In lieu of such permission, I hereby grant your batu ansah special power of sharpness and that all your male descendants will become leaders whereas their female counterparts will also marry men who also lead in the communities.”

His eldest son Bungin — I am his direct descendant — was appointed Penghulu by the Brooke government. Bungin’s son Tawi (after whom I was named at birth) was known for his gallantry, especially during the Delok Expedition (also known as Cholera Expedition) against Bantin on June 9, 1902.

Another son Naing, who was adopted by Bran, was also a brave warrior. Naing and Tawi had no less than six enemies’ heads between them. Their cousin Subung (the son of Jatan) and nephew Mulok (Gulang’s grandson) were famed warriors with many head trophies too. There were also others who became chivalrous.

After more than a century, all Kedapians, most of whom are his descendants, are certainly anxious and eager to see whether his unique dream would come to any positive fruition. Thus far, apart from Joel (descendant of Bran), Tim (married to Nina Meling [Gulang’s descendant]) and Inchi (married to my cousin Dennis Jiram [Jatan’s descendant]), there have been a few who were noted as leaders in their own fields.

Tim’s father-in-law, the late Dunstan Meling Undau died in 2012 when he was the State Chief Scout Commissioner. Datuk Musa Giri, Subung Jatan’s grandson is a businessman and formerly held vital roles in society as a district officer and Chairman of Housing Development and Commission (HDC). The current Betong Division Resident, my cousin Richard Abunawas is a descendant of Bungin too.

There are many more, both males and females who have excelled in their own fields as diplomats, lawyers, engineers, teachers, accountants and become leaders, including a few who are outside the country. As I see it, Anya’s dream has become a reality.