TUARAN, June 4 (Bernama) - It was sunny in the morning of last May 31, the traditional date that marked the Sabah's Kadazandusun community celebration of their very own harvest festival or 'Pesta Kaamatan'.
An Octogenarian was sitting leisurely at the stairway of her wooden house in Kampung Mantob, Kiulu while listening attentively to a Kadazandusun song entitled "Tadau Kaamatan" over Radio Vfm Kota Kinabalu.
The woman, Mundahoi Sompong, who is now 83 years old, was a distance away from the KDCA building in Penampang, the heart of this year's Pesta Kaamatan celebration.
For more than the past two decades, old age had forced this woman to skip witnessing events in the celebration that included its highlight, the Unduk Ngadau (beauty pageant).
"I yearn to view the traditional events of Pesta Kaamatan (at KDCA) but I no longer can walk for a long distance. Anyhow Pesta Kaamatan celebration is over," she told Bernama here.
Mundahoi's face that appeared glum, suddenly lit up when told that there would be another Pesta Kaamatan celebration, this time on a bigger scale which is at the national level to be staged this coming Sunday, June 7.
"Atukoi haro po di kagu karamaian tagayo" (Is there another grand Pesta Kaamatan festivity?)", Mundahoi queried in the Kadazandusun lingo.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to officiate the opening of the national-level Pesta Kaamatan, also known as the Malaysian Tadau Kaamatan Open House 2009.
The Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture and Sabah government are jointly organising this event, to be held at Padang Merdeka, Kota Kinabalu.
"It has never crossed my mind there will be a national-level celebration for Pesta Kaamatan. It has never been held before," said the grandmother who occasionally joins the other villagers in harvesting paddy, despite her old age.
Mundahoi, who became a widow after her husband died 30 years ago, said the Sabah people should be proud with this development, as it is a mark of respect and recognition.
"Praise the Lord, as our leaders have not forsaken us," said Mundahoi who is a believer of the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) faith.
SABAH MARKS THE SUCCESS OF 1MALAYSIA
In precision, this festival focuses on the unity and development agenda.
This year's Tadau Kaamatan Malaysia is unique as it is in line with the 1Malaysia concept of "People first, Performance Now" as Sabah is a state with more than 30 ethnic groups that have lived in unity and is one of the fine example of the 1Malaysia success.
In Sabah, the tolerance and cooperation among the various ethnic groups even drew the admiration and respect of the domestic and foreign tourists alike.
Mundahoi, who had set foot in the United States in the early 70s on a goodwill visit, is not alone when welcoming the move to celebrate Pesta Kaamatan at the national level as the other Sabah folks shared her view.
For them, the Malaysian Tadau Kaamatan Open House is a manifestation on the government's effort to unite the people from various ethnic groups in the country.
"Even though the Pesta Kaamatan is held during uncertain economic weather, do not assume that we are spending lavishly but what is more important is the objective to enhance relations," said freelance journalist Sunar Tumiran.
He said Pesta Kaamatan, apart from enhancing national integrity, could also be used to promote agriculture produce and handicraft items.
"Thus, let us unite and celebrate this Pesta Kaamatan as a recipe in the 1Malaysia concept," said Sunar.
Kota Kinabalu resident Chong Ken Yin said:
"All quarters should support Pesta Kaamatan as it focuses on national unity. With unity and solidarity, we would be able to amalgam our energy and thoughts to do something beneficial for all.
"It is clear that working alone is not enough to overcome various challenges. Instead when all join their efforts, it can produce an extraordinary success," he said.
Chong said Pesta Kaamatan also generated supplementary economic activities as the event allowed petty traders and hawkers to earn extra money. The event is also a boon to the state's tourism industry.
"Definitely there are visitors from abroad, Peninsula, Sarawak and other parts of Sabah like Tawau, Sandakan and Keningau who stay in hotels. This is good for the hotel industry," he said.
On this positive development, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) vice-president Cyril Yansalang called for both next year's national and state-level Pesta Kaamatan to be held simultaneously.
According to history, the state-level celebration began in 1960 after the North British Borneo government made the event part of Sabah's festival calendar and declared the day as public holiday.
"As the Pesta Kaamatan is celebrated on May 30 and 31, then it would be good if both the national and state-level celebrations are held simultaneously.
"This would save costs, time and energy", said Cyril.
It would also be easier for the domestic and foreign tourists to plan their visit to Sabah, he said.
"If both events are held simultaneously, we hope Tourism Malaysia would be able to assist in aggressively promoting Pesta Kaamatan as a tourist attraction, abroad," he said.
LEGEND ON TADAU KAAMATAN
Meanwhile, Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) president Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said the Kaamatan festival carries a big meaning for the Kadazandusun Murut community.
"The Kadazandusun Murut is a society which is synonymous with farming where their main economic activity is farming, besides livestock rearing and hunting," he said.
Pairin said the main crop, which provides the main food for the Kadazandusun Murut community is rice. The type of paddy grown is hill paddy or 'padi huma' but there is also paddy grown in fields.
According to an ancient folklore known as the Huminodun legend, a massive disaster, that involved a serious drought occurred to the extent that nothing could be grown to provide food for the people, said Pairin.
Realising this, 'Kinoingan' sympathised with the fate that befell the Kadazandusun Murut people, who were without food. To overcome the problem, Kinoingan decided to sacrifice his daughter, Huminodun and from her sacrificed body, grew various crops, like paddy and maize.
Hence, the Kaamatan festival, celebrated after the paddy harvesting season, is a tradition of thanksgiving for Kinoingan and Huminodun, which are rice spirits known as 'bambarayon'.
Pairin said among the activities held during the Kaamatan festival is the 'Magavau' ceremony to pray for the rice spirits and also the selection of the pageant queen or the Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan to commemorate the sacrifice and positive values gathered from the Huminodun legend.
State Legislative Assembly Representative for Pantai Manis, Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail, said the choice of "1Malaysia" as the theme for the Malaysian Tadau Kaamatan Open House was according to the fortitude and vigor of the festival itself.
"Tadau Kaamatan is not merely a cultural and entertainment event but it has a more important message to enhance the relations among Malaysians and Sabah people.
"The character that comes out from this celebration should be closely scrutinised as it brings positive values that contribute towards national development and unity", he said.
Abdul Rahim added, without the unyielding and firm national integration, the people would not be able to experience and enjoy the "peace and prosperity of today".