Sunday, June 6

Harvest Festival 2010 : Culture and Tradition defines Humanity.

Being far away from home will certainly make you miss dearly what have you left behind. That includes family, friends, culture and tradition. But that does not necessarily mean that they should be forgotten altogether. It is easy to keep in contact with your family and friends - as now in the modern world, there are practically no borders for telecommunication. You can call home via phone or IDD cards, and even through internet programs namely Skype, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Live Messenger - just to name a few.

But how to keep in touch with your culture, your traditions? Sadly not many of the youngsters these days really take much effort to get in touch with their roots. What I mean by roots are the ways of the old, which are unique for every ethnic group. I personally believe that not everything should succumb to the iron-fist dictatorship of technology, some things should be preserved and kept for generations to come - as a reminder of our past. And  to know the past then comparing it to the present, it is really amazing to see how much have we progressed to be who we are now.

I used to be one of the ignorant  youngsters, who was brought up in the big city, who thought that modernity was the only way of life, and who thought it was the sole decisive factor that kept humanity progressing forwards. I failed to see how important it is to keep my traditions and culture alive, as I always thought that it was the responsibility for those who live in the villages.


Being sent overseas to study has really opened my eyes to the world surrounding me. And I feel so lucky to be one of them who actually get to go outside from under the coconut shell to actually explore what is it like out there. I have traveled to many different countries - and I am very proud to actually say that I have visited them: Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, UAE, Czech Republic, Russia, Spain, England, Wales, Ireland, Italy, Vatican City, Latvia, Germany, Austria, Netherlands and Egypt. One of the most valuable things I have learnt during my travels is that the only thing that makes us unique as human beings is our CULTURE. Without it, humankind will be no more different than robots. Realizing this, I took a great effort to actually start learning something about my culture.

Culture can be studied from a lot of different aspects. So, I decided to choose a particular part of culture based on my strong background of stage performance and also my enthusiasm for it - that is why I decided to learn more about cultural dancing. 

It all started from a small show we did for a local orphanage. Me and 3 of my friends decided to dance the traditional Kadazandusun Sumazau dance, and also the Iban Ngajat dance. Boy, did I suck big time! After the dance, I recalled watching in horror how I danced from the recording - I danced somewhat like a cockerel being strangled to death! Seriously, it was that awful. The last time I danced on stage was in like, primary 5! 

The only thing saving my ass was my original Kadazandusun outfit which I made myself in 3 days during my 2nd year summer break. (Well, it took that long because I had only basic sewing knowledge my mom taught me when I was young) . The reason I made that outfit was not at all intended for any dancing - it was meant to be worn to any cultural nights just to show off the bling-bling!

After that embarrassing debut on stage, I vowed to myself never to put myself through such shame ever again. But that did not stop me from itching on stage in the future. My next chance came quite fast - we were requested to perform for our annual Malaysian Cultural Night. Then I had an idea. I approached a few friends from Sarawak and Sabah to propose to them the idea of doing a collaboration of Sabahan and Sarawakian dances. Fortunately they agreed! Thus - in November 2008, the Kenyalang Kinabalu Cultural Troupe (KKCT) was formed!

Since we had a lot of members, but limited costumes - I decided to create the other costumes. But it was not easy. I borrowed my Kadazandusun outfit to another friend, and I designed a creative Iban outfit for myself. So in the 2008 edition, we featured the costumes of the Iban, Bajau, Orang Ulu, Bidayuh, Kadazan, Rungus, Murut, and Suluk ethnics, respectively.

KKCT became an overnight cultural sensation. We were invited to perform for various intra- and inter-university events. And I was the beaming "Huguan Siou" konon - because my idea of creating a cultural dance troupe became true, and not only that we acheived a great milestone!

Our biggest acheivement to date is competing in the Spring Student's Festival Russian Federation State Level - we were so hyped about the competition, we added another dance number to our repertoire and added more difficulty to our routine. The result? KKCT bags the Silver Laureate award! We never thought we would place anyway, as there were many good performances that night. Perhaps it was Beginner's Luck :)

A year passed by then, in 2009 I was elected as the VP of Social and Cultural Affairs of our university's Malaysian Student's Association - I guess it was mainly due to to my experience and achievements in performing arts. Shortly after the elections, we were invited to perform at the International Student's Cultural Exhibition. We added more dancers, added more variability and color, added more accessories and costumes. This time a Kelabit girl, an Iban girl and another Kadazan guy joins the KKCT. And as you can see, I changed my Iban outift for an Orang Ulu outfit.

And being Social and Cultural Affairs VP doesn't mean that I'm basked in glory and glamor. I had to get my hands down and dirty to show that I am really capable of doing my job well. More like a proving test. So my next assignment is MACH (Malaysian Arts, Culture, & Heritage) Night 2009. So I decided to direct a movie depicting the legendary heroes and characters in history.

And I played the part of Gusti Adipati, brother of Gusti Putri (from Puteri Gunung Ledang). So for that role, I designed this outfit.

Then in 2010 - the biggest challenge I have ever faced. It was the Annual Malaysian Students' Intervarsity Games - dubbed as Kursk Games 2010 (Our city of Kursk was selected to be host for the annual games). I was elected to be the Events Manager, and I am generally responsible for the performances to entertain everyone. So I put together a 2 hour non stop concert consisting of a myriad of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Borneo, Modern and Jazz dance numbers, not forgetting a few musical acts and also vocal performances. Obviously I was in charge of the Borneo performances, putting KKCT on stage.

And personally, I need to hype up my costume. And so did the rest with their costumes. Stick more sequins, stitch more fabric here, sew some ribbons there...HEHE.(FYI, I did my costume from scratch, using cardboard, cellophane, fabric, sequins, pigeon feathers, leather straps, ribbons, sarong cloth and other random stuff I could get my hands on. Being in Europe made me redefine creativity to create a costume without the original fabrics and ornaments. So this is what I thought was the best I could ever do, given such circumstances.)

And so the Gala Night came. 
And thus we marched on stage, nosily - as the heavy ornaments on the costumes swayed and made tinkling sounds, while we carried with us the bamboo sticks, the drums and the flowers...
And thus we moved into position, as we waited for the drums and gongs to start beating, the flute to start whistling, the chants of the old weaving here and there...
 And thus we paved our feet and carved the air with our hands in tandem with the resonating music, as we swayed our bodies showing off the shiny sequins which reflected the cameras' flashes...
And thus we showed the world a tiny bit of our Borneo native culture, which has been well kept for generations...
And thus we wowed the crowd.
And thus the resounding applause.

So as a closing note, I really am very proud of myself and my teammates for we were able to at least portray a glimpse of what we have back home in Sarawak and Sabah. Our KKCT journey from 2008 - 2010 has been a very exciting and enlightening one. 

Kotobian Tadau Tagayo do Kaamatan 2010 & Gayu Guruh Gerai Nyamai 2010

Wednesday, June 2

Will the Fence eat the Paddy?

"At some point in life, you have to make a decision. Boundaries don't keep people out. They fence you in. That's how we're made. So you can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them. But there are some lines...that are way too dangerous to cross."

The Humble Paddy


The Sturdy Fence

An old Malay proverb goes like this - Harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi. 

Loosely translated into English - Trust the fence, but the fence eats the paddy.

This is a proverb with the word DISAPPOINTMENT written all over its face (that is, if it even has one LOL). Metaphorically speaking - the farmer depends on the fence to keep animals from feasting upon his paddy plants, but to his dismay, the fence whom he entrusted the protection for his paddy actually betrayed him, for the fence "ate" his paddy.

Betrayal is painful. Luckily it hasn't happened yet. But I surely don't want it to happen! So, is it a wise move to prevent any possible betrayals in the future, and is there a non-awkward way to actually accomplish it?

Now let me tell you another metaphoric story.

Let's say person A and B are very good friends. Now, A and B love pets. A goes head over heels for tabby cats, and on the other hand B simply adores Persian cats. So basically both of them have very different tastes, worlds apart to be exact.

Now, A has had a lot of different pets before, and so did B. So for this time, A was lucky as A was given a highly-prized pedigree dog. B on the other hand, was pet-less, or was having a pet but of normal breed. So having a dog for a first time was very exciting for A.

So B started to go to A's home to see the dog. The act seemed harmless at first, but then B started to come more frequently and became closer to the dog, played joyfully with it, and once in a while giving it food and the dog STARTED to show response to B's voice and commands. A seem worried as B is getting closer to the dog, and A doesn't want the dog to respond to any other people. Perhaps B even wants to take the dog out for a doggie walk!

Now the question is, 
WHY does B show so much interest in the dog now? 
WHY not with A's previous pets? 
WHY only now B decides to come to A's home just to see the pets? 
Obviously B is interested in the dog, isn't it?

What should A do? 
Tell B to not come so often? 
Tell B to stay away from the dog? 
Should A confront B and ask B what is B's motive of suddenly getting close to the dog?

A is afraid that by telling B what A feels, their close friendship will take the toll.
A wants the dog all to A's self! It is the most dear thing to A!
Yes, maybe A is possesive, maybe A is jealous. But this is what A feels.

A feels that B is just trying to get friendly to the dog. Well, maybe a LITTLE too friendly.
And it is not the dog's fault. 
The dog is engineered to be friendly.
There are a lot more dogs out there, B - why would you disturb A's dog?

I would like to believe that close best friends are to be treasured forever for they will be there for you no matter in thick or thin, but if you start to think differently about them - what does that mean? I would not, seriously, WOULD NOT talk bad of my close best friends but - nowadays, life is messy.

No matter how we draw boundaries, some people will not get the message. They, on the other hand, should know better than to cross it, and if they are your close best friends - that gives them more reason to be considerate of you and your boundaries!

Maybe I am just paranoid. Maybe I am just thinking too much. Maybe I am insecure. But nowadays, there are many cases of BFF Betrayal - and I don't want to be involved in one! The BFFs that you trusted with all your heart are the ones who are actually betraying you - now that SUCKS big time.

But seriously, its a doggy-doggy world out there. 
Eat, or be eaten. 
What's mine, it's mine. 
What's yours, it's yours.