So before Gawai this year, I met Sim, an old friend of mine who owns Bombastic Borneo. He and used to hike in the forest in search for waterfalls. But because of our work and travels we seldom meet. Anyway, all he said was, 14th to 16th June, join us to celebrate Gawai in Desa Sebujit, West Kalimantan. Driving through Serikin. And that’s it. I said I’ll go as I’ve never experience Gawai Celebration in Kalimantan Before.
So I invited a friend of mine, Bertram Tuah to join me on this adventure. Honestly I really did not know what to expect. I did not know what will happen, what to eat, how much cash to bring, where we will be staying, but all I had was just survival instinct. If no place to stay, I’ll just sleep by the river and make a temporary shelter.
Anyways, on the 14th, we were instruct to meet up at the end of Serikin market and wait for the others, and at 11am we depart. There was approximately 40 to 45 of us… (Rough figure) some was driving their own car, some was riding motorcycles and even 3 cyclist from Kuching was also joining us. 10 minutes after we started the journey, we were already at the border of Kalimantan Indonesia. 1st check point was Malaysia’s very own border patrol/army camp. Then later we were at the Indonesian immigration check point and then their army check point. The whole process was not more than 25 minutes.
Approximately 30 minutes later we arrived at a small village called Merendeng and that’s was where we had to park our car for and hire an “Ojek” (motorbike taxi) to taxi us to Sebujit. Parking was RM10 or 32,000 Rupiah and Ojek was RM15 or 50,000 Rupiah.
As we arrived, we were welcome to the Ketua Kaum’s house and was served lunch there. That was also was where we had our last briefing about the whole entire event, and I believe it was better that way so we can go around on our own to explore and ask around about what the culture is and why this event is happening. After lunch we were sent to where we were supposed to stay, they put most of us up in the school across from the village. At least we can have the night peaceful and quite to get a good night rest.
Later before sunset, we learned that there is actually a road leading to the village, but it was about 24KM on muddy road. 5 of us decided to take the risk and adventure and bring our cars to the village. It was worth it. We drove through mountains on muddy road, also on gravel road, cross a river, and it was almost an hour drive. Well worth it.
Now, time was a little bit confusing there even though we were still in the Island of Borneo but apparently they follow the Indonesian time and it was 1 hour
behind. So if they say dinner will be at 7.30pm, means Malaysian time it was 8.30pm and as a person who likes to eat on time, I had to go find a stall to have something to eat 1st. Actually I’m Glad I did that. The Bakso is…. AWESOME !!!!!!!! And it was 25,000 IDR or RM7.
After food, we started going around a little bit. To my surprise, I’d say this will be the 1st time I’ve seen the biggest outdoor village casino. Mainly people were playing Holo, 38 and some “guess where to ball is”. Then we proceeded to the main area where the activity is being held. There were traditional dance, and
each dance was for each different ceremony. By 11pm, I decided to leave as I was feeling a little tired, but on the way back to school I was stop by some friends and was introduced to this guy called, Ah Chun, Apparently he comes from Kuala Lumpur, and is still living and working in KL. But his wife is from Sebujit. So had a couple of drinks before we called it a night.
The next day some of us decided to go back to the Bakso stall for breakfast. Also, today was the day, 15th June, is Gawai day for them. So.. Apart for activities at the main area, there was also open house and you are welcome to visit any house randomly. Feels so at home during Gawai Celebration. But, there was a huge question mark in my head. 1, What was Gawai Nyobeng. 2, Way is it a huge event and they even call it “International Dayak Bidayuh Festival”. 3, Why was there so many blood sacrifice? 4, What was the exchange rate from MYR to IDR? Bert and I had a hard time calculating it as some shops, or stall, RM50 would be from the range of 145,000 to 160,000 IDR. But anyways the rest was History! Even though performance and rituals and offerings was happening, and I did not attend 100% at the event venue but instead either sit at some of the shops and control my drone and get some aerial footage or just simply mingle and asking locals about their experience or randomly visiting someone’s home to eat and drink. Ahahahha…
Anyways, here is a little bit about what Gawai Nyobeng means. And below there are some photos and videos. Can’t wait to go again next year. For those who wants to join next years event, feel free to ask.
Nyobeng is a ritual of respecting the skulls that was taken during the headhunting days by their ancestors. With blood sacrifice, they clean and giving it a bath and this is done by the Dayak Bidayuh Tribe of Dusun Sebujit, Desa Hli buei, Kecamatan Siding, Kabupaten Bengkayang, West Kalimantan.
A lil bit about its history…
Long time ago, the Dayak Bidayuh Tribe that lives in Kalimantan and Sarawak was at war amongst themselves. But now, they have been at peace and what more to say during the Gawai ceremony, they respect each other highly during the Nyobeng ritual. All the skulls collected during the headhunting days are kept in the custom house (head house) which is located in the middle of the village.
Every year, the skull will be given sacrifice and cleanse. Even though they were enemies long time ago, but they are still being respected. Nyobeng ritual is being done every year as a symbol of peace.
“Simlog”, a huge drum which is installed from the house floor and goes all the way down will be played, and four huge gongs that’s hung on the wall will be played. Meals provided will be local food such as vegetables and meat wrap in a leave. Some dishes will be served in bamboo.
The rundown of the event…
Before the ritual begins, each household has to be cleanse with blood and be splash or marked in different parts of the house which is secret to them, then
the custom home, then village area. Nyobeng ritual starts with bamboo cutting to build a stand for them to put the food. The chicken will be use as offering and next will sacrifice a dog to get rid of the bad omen.
This event is always a 3 days event which falls on the 15th of June till the 17th. The main event is to cleanse the skull that’s been kept at the custom home. The event begins with a shooting of a gun or a bamboo canon for 7 times, as it is use to call on the spirits and at the same time asking for permission to proceed with the Nyobeng ritual. Later, the chief and the party will march in with the visitors that came to witness this occasion. It’s like a bridge connecting the people from the village to the outsiders. The chief will then swing the dog up and the guest will have to sacrifice it. If it’s still alive, then he has to do it on the ground. Chicken eggs is also being used and they will throw it at the visitors. If it breaks, means they came with an open heart and with good intentions.
The traditional elders later will bath the skulls that is stored in a box, along with a wild boar tusk necklace. Chief becomes the main choice because the Dayak tribe Bidayuh believes that from the neck up is a symbol of human identity. A human skull can be the most powerful magic in the world. The skull that has been spiked with the potion, is considered to have enough magic to bring rain while increasing the harvest, and cast out evil spirits.