Saturday, January 29, 2011
Kampung Semban @ Bengoh Dam Sarawak
Kampung Semban @ Bengoh Dam Sarawak Borneo
‘This Land Is My Home’
Nestled atop a mountain in Bengoh, Padawan sits a Bidayuh Biatah village called Kampung Semban.
To reach Kampung Semban at 1000 feet above sea level, one takes a six-hours’ trek through jungle trails passing bamboo groves, paddy fields, pepper vines, rubber trees, durian orchards and umpteen bamboo bridges, amidst cool breezes and the gushing waters of the streams and waterfalls.
At the summit, one is rewarded with spectacular views of the golden sunrise over the magnificent Bungo range, the billowing clouds forming a feather canopy over the valleys and with the fresh mountain air rushing into one’s lungs, Kampung Semban is indeed a place close to heaven.
The Bidayuh Biatah have been living in this mountainous region for generations. The crowded ancestral graveyard lying next to the kampong is testimony to the passage of time.
Every day at sunrise, early morning sees the village menfolk scaling the hills to till the soils and hunt in the jungle while the womenfolk collect firewood, jungle produce and edible insects such as ants. Rain or shine, this is the only life they have known.
In the evening tranquility, womenfolk string bead necklaces and weave rattan bracelets, menfolk tune and play the bamboo xylophone. On occasions, menfolk will take out the percussion gongs and the womenfolk in traditional garb will perform the eagle dance.
Time here, indeed has been dancing the slow waltz over the last few hundred years.
And what is so special about Kampung Semban ladies is its remaining treasure of seven ladies with brass rings on their legs and arms, the eldest more than 80 years old, the youngest more than sixty years old. During their time, a baby girl had to start wearing them from a very tender age if she hoped to get her hand asked for at a marriageable age.
Just lately the government has started to construct the Bengoh dam, a good few hundred feet below Kampung Semban. Development has come a-knocking on their door. When Bengoh dam is completed, life for the village folks may change for the better, or for the worse.
One thing is certain: if the people of Kampung Semban who know of no other place to call home are persuaded to move, life will have to restart from the beginning – a new place to build a home, a new area to begin a new farmland, a new resting place for the ancestral bones.
Through this ‘politics of development’, they are persuaded to relocate, and with this displacement they risk waiving their rights to the traditional lands which their forefathers braved battles and sacrificed heads for territorial claim to farm, live and die in a place they wish to call ‘home’ for themselves and their offspring.
Their future lies in the hands of the government that promises that they are not to be left in the lurch in the name of development.