Bisaya, Kadazan Dusun Close Ties Symbol Of Unity Among Sabahans

abah is famous for its unique cultural heritage that comes from 35 different races and 217 sub-ethnic groups. However, there are still commonalities that unite them all.

For example, the Bisaya ethnic group, which primarily resides in the Beaufort and Kuala Penyu areas, shares similarities with the Kadazan Dusun as they originate from the same lineage and have been living harmoniously for a long time.

The Bisaya ethnic group also celebrates the Kamaatan Festival given the similarities in language, customs, beliefs, music and clothing. They even participated in the highlight of the celebration held at the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA), Hongkod Koisaan Cultural Centre on May 30 and May 31.

The writer, who is also from the Bisaya ethnic group, had the opportunity to celebrate the Kaamatan Festival, which was originally celebrated by the Kadazan Dusun ethnic group, together with other Sabahans. This celebration also allows for sharing the culture and heritage of this ethnic group with all Malaysians.



President of Persatuan Bisaya Bersatu Sabah (PBBS) Datuk Ruslan Muaram, in sharing his views with Bernama, said that the Bisaya ethnic group is one of the branches of the Kadazan Dusun and Murut, and is also under the auspices of the Hongkod Koisaan Cultural Centre, KDCA.

Ruslan, who is also Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, said that although the similarities in the mother tongue are not entirely the same, they are still understood when spoken between the Bisaya and Kadazan Dusun ethnic groups.

"Similarly, in terms of cultural performances such as dance and kulintangan music, we can see that there are similarities among the Kadazan Dusun, Murut, and Tatana ethnic groups.

"This means that the Bisaya ethnic group is not much different from the Kadazan Dusun ethnic group because they come from the same lineage," he said when met at Walai Bisaya, the Hongkod Koisaan Cultural Centre, KDCA.

The traditional food sago (white colour), known locally as ambuyat.

Ruslan, who is also State Assemblyman for Lumadan, said that to celebrate the Kaamatan Festival, the PBBS leadership will have a meal together with members of the association at the Rumah Bisaya every year, serving traditional food such as sago, known locally as ambuyat.

Besides sago, he added, other dishes served to the guests include young rattan shoots, ulam (traditional salad), pickled bambangan, and fish cooked with gravy to be enjoyed with sago.

According to him, the Rumah Bisaya at KDCA was the result of an initiative by the late former PBBS president, Datuk Lajim Ukin, who requested from the former Chief Minister, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, for a site to build the Bisaya house within the KDCA area.

In addition to showcasing the culture and customs of the Bisaya ethnic group, the house also provides facilities for Muslim visitors, including a prayer room, as well as serving halal food and beverages.

Inside the house, traditional Bisaya wedding attire, Bisaya ethnic equipment, bridal decorations, wall hangings adorned with small mirrors, and information related to the Bisaya community are displayed.



Ruslan added that the relationship between ethnic groups within the Kadazan Dusun lineage is also fostered through musical instruments such as the kulintangan, which is synonymous with the Bisaya ethnic group. The kulintangan is often used in various celebrations and has also introduced the Bisaya ethnic group to the international stage.

For example, the success of Razali Abdul Rahim, better known as Razali Kulintangan, a kulintangan musician from the Bisaya ethnic group in Beaufort, proves that traditional instruments can be highlighted and promote various ethnic groups in Sabah.

The Bisaya ethnic group also celebrates the Kamaatan Festival given the similarities in language, customs, beliefs, music and clothing.

Meanwhile, Dr Siti Aidah Lukin@Lokin, a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for the Promotion of Knowledge and Language Learning at Universiti Malaysia Sabah, said that although the Bisaya community does not celebrate the Kaamatan Festival like the Kadazan Dusun ethnic group, there are similarities in traditional customs during, before, and after the rice harvest that bind these ethnic groups together.

Siti Aidah, who is also Deputy President 2 of PBBS, said that each ethnic group holds a belief in the spirit of the padi, and songs of praise, known locally as badaup, are sung to ensure that no misfortunes occur during the rice planting process.

"The rice harvesting season is a festive time for the traditional Bisaya community, as they work together to harvest the rice collectively while singing badaup, which are songs of praise to the spirit of the padi.

"The Bisaya people also practise the manangas padi (menangas) ritual to ensure that the rice harvesting activities run smoothly and that the rice kept in the storage huts will last long and with no spoilage.



According to Siti Aidah, manangas padi is usually performed by someone skilled in the ritual, which involves selecting seven stalks of padi to recite incantations before taking them to the storage area.

The rice stored and pounded collectively in a large mortar with three holes will produce a traditional rhythm known as mangalang.

PBBS leadership will have a meal together with members of the association at the Rumah Bisaya every year.

However, the Bisaya ethnic group has formed its own identity, as the majority of the Bisaya community is Muslim and has started to abandon traditional practices that do not correlate to Islamic teachings.

She added that, in general, the spoken language of the Bisaya ethnic group has similarities with the languages of other ethnic groups within the Kadazan Dusun lineage.

 Despite the differences between these ethnic groups in terms of grammar, such as spelling, affixes, and sentence structure, when spoken by other groups like the Dusun Tatana in the Kuala Penyu district, it is still understood by the Bisaya community.

"Many words, especially root words, have the same meaning. For example, when other ethnic groups within the Dusun lineage are conversing, we (the Bisaya ethnic group) can still understand, even though we might not be able to interject spontaneously due to differences in word and sentence construction.

"For patterns that symbolise the identity of the Bisaya community, we draw inspiration from the shapes of turmeric flowers and pumpkin shoots found in the patterns on the Bisaya ethnic bridal and wall decorations called 'laluangan'," she said, adding that these patterns have been adapted to suit the Bisaya ethnic identity.


 Translated by Salbiah Said


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