By WONG HIONG FOO
Philately Society of Kuching sets out on an excursion to understand Sarawak’s history
KUCHING: Once a upon a time, 2 beautiful princesses, Puteri Santubong and Puteri Sejinjang were sent to help the villagers of Pasir Kuning and Pasir Putih who were facing some troubled times.
With their coming, peace and prosperity reigns until one day, a handsome prince, Putera Serapi came into the picture.
Both the princesses fell head over heels in love with him. As a result, both of them quarrelled and fought against each other and were finally cursed by their father and turned into Mt Santubong and Mt Sejinjang.
So goes the legend.
Probably most people know about the legend of Puteri Santubong more than its significance as one of the 2 early civilisation sites in Sarawak (the other site is the world famous Niah Caves).
To know more about the early civilisation of Santubong, the Philately Society of Kuching, Sarawak (PSKS) recently organised a trip there.
This is the second excursion in a series of outings organised by the PSKS to understand Sarawak history in our quest to further our philatelic mission of collecting Sarawak philatelic materials.
A group of 22 members led by fellow member and very experienced tour guide, Chan Kee Tex took a bus to visit 3 sites with evidence of the early history of Santubong.
The first historical site we went to was Sungai Jaong, situated about 2 kilometres from Kampung Santubung.
This site is famous for its rock carvings and evidence of human settlement stretching back more than a thousand years.
There is a sign at the roadside pointing to the site, which unfortunately is the only sign there to lead us to it. With the bus parked at the roadside, we walked approximately 20 minutes through a track which eventually narrows to a trail with cement slabs as a walkway.
The walk was not as easy as we expected because the track was quite slippery and certain stretches were overgrown with undergrowth or covered with dead leaves. When we finally reached the site, we could see several sheds built over the rocks protecting them from the weather.
The main attraction here is the ‘Batu Bergambar’ where the famous figure of a man lying spread eagle is found. A replica of the figure can also be found in the Sarawak Museum. There is a signboard with some information about the Batu Bergambar found just before reaching the rock. However not much information is given and the other rocks has no information board at all. So, it is left to our imagination to interpret the meaning to the carvings.
Also found at the site were many small fragments of iron slags left behind by Chinese settlers involved in smelting industry about 1000 years ago.
The walk back to the bus was easier and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the majestic Mt Santubong.
The second historical place we went to was the Bongkisam Shrine. Bongkisam is situated just at the roadside next to Kampung Santubong.
There is no signboard to inform visitors about the site. To the uninformed, it is just a shed at the roadside and probably do not deserve a second look. However, in this site lies an ancient shrine and excavations had resulted in a lot of artefacts recovered.
It is believed to be a Hindu shrine more than 1000 years ago. At present, there is nothing much to see other than the shed and inside the shed, the floor is covered by plastic sheets and we couldn’t see what lies under it.
There are some rocks next to the shed and we were surprised to find some coins on it, probably, someone turned it to a ‘wishing rock’!
The third and last historical site we went to was the Sultan Tengah Mausoleum. It is situated at the junction of Kampung Santubong – Damai.
Sultan Tengah was a very interesting figure, being the only Sultan of Sarawak. He was actually a Brunei Prince, appointed by the Sultan of Brunei to rule Sarawak.
However, he spent most of his years in Johor-Pahang and various other places before finally returning to Sarawak. Unfortunately, on his way back to Sarawak, he was assassinated in Batu Buaya in 1641. His grave was forgotten for many years until finally it was rediscovered in 1993 and a mausoleum was built in the present site to relocate it.
Having visited all the serious and solemn places, we finally took a break by stopping in Kampung Buntal for lunch.
We also took the opportunity to visit the Buntal Esplanade, which is a very nice and long walkway along the seaside giving us an amazing view of the sea and the flora and fauna.
The ladies took the opportunity to do some marketing buying seafood which Buntal is famous for.
Having achieved our target of visiting the 3 historical sites and taking a break in Buntal, our bus finally took us back to Kuching.
The trip has been most enlightening, giving us a glimpse of ancient Sarawak found in Santubong. Similar to the rest of South East Asia, Santubong was influenced by the great civilisations of the world. It was an important trading port and evidence shows that the ancient people were greatly influenced by civilisation from Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.
The modern history of Sarawak which most of us are more familiar starts with the coming of James Brooke in 1838 culminating in the Brooke Dynasty that lasted a century. It was during the Brooke’s era that Sarawak issued its first stamps (which is one of the main reasons why the Philatelic Society of Kuching, Sarawak was formed!).
We will be having more excursions of this nature and interested parties are most welcome to join our society and take part in these excursions. Anyone interested to be a member can write to PSKS, PO Box 1177, 93670 Kuching or contact Connie at 013-8011191.