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May, 2017

Kotobian Tadau Tagazo do Kaamatan!

It’s that time of year again! Where everyone, near and far, young and old, gather together to celebrate Kaamatan or in English, Harvest Festival. It’s a celebration held annually in Sabah that has been on going for a long time. One of the most anticipated event of the year in Sabah, Kaamatan is more than just having fun together with your loved ones or catching up with long lost friends, it is to signify the beginning of harvest for all farmers in Sabah. That’s the gist of it. 

Kaamatan legend to reality

There is actually a legend behind the reason why the Kadazan Dusun community celebrates Harvest Festival like there’s no tomorrow. Long time ago, Kinoingan and his people were caught in famine. Not only crops were dying, but women and children were dying due to starvation. Huminodun, daughter of Kinoingan was sad and disheartening to see the villagers and her father wrecking his head trying to find a solution.

Huminodun was the most beautiful women anyone has ever laid eyes on. Not only was she breathtaking, she was wise beyond her age that many people from near and far adored her. Men would stop whatever they were doing whenever she passed by them and fall in love with her instantaneously.

Kinoingan knew his last hope to save his people was to sacrifice a maiden of pure heart and mind to Mother Nature for harvest and food to his people. Huminodun, with no fear, offered herself to save her father’s people from famine. Kinoingan was against the idea of course, but Huminodun never changed her grounds and persuaded her father. After awhile, with a heavy heart, Kinoingan agreed. Clearing the land with his supernatural powers, he cleared the land so big you couldn’t see the end of it. The time came for Huminodun’s body to be a sacrifice to Mother Nature.

Walking slowly to the cleared land with her head held high, Huminodun walked before everyone with Kinoingan walking several feet behind. Suminundu, Huminodun’s mother, was weeping beside herself together with the villagers and their children, sadden to see such beauty and kind-heartedness do such a huge sacrifice in order for them to live on and have a future.

Kaamatan legend to reality

Digital artwork called Huminodun by Sabah-born artist Yee I-Lann. 

Huminodun arrived in the middle of the cleared land and turned around to face her father, Kinoingan, and said, “My body will give life to many plants for the people; my flesh turn to rice; my head, coconut trees; my bones, to be tapioca; my knees, yam; my teeth, corn; and my toes, ginger. Follow these steps and our people will never come to the point of starvation anymore”, said Huminodun to her father.

Huminodun warned her father to follow several rules to a tee. The rules are, when her body parts have been scattered all over the cleared land, nobody is to come and see her for seven days and seven nights. Once the paddy (rice) has ripened, seven stalks of paddy are to be taken and tied to one end of a spliced bamboo and planted at the center of the paddy field before harvesting any of the paddies. After doing this, only can they start harvesting. After the harvest is done, the bamboo stick with the seven paddy stalks is to be placed in a tangkob (paddy storage container). All work put in during the first day of harvest is to be kept in the Kakanan (big jar). All first-year harvest are not to be given away to anyone, and let any remaining paddy grains turn bad (which is why, to this day, Kadazan Dusun community has never given away their first year’s harvest). However, you can do anything you want to the second year harvest. 

Kinoingan agreed to Huminodun’s instructions. With a heavy heart, he proceeded to sacrifice his only daughter. As he sacrificed her, the sky turned black, there was lightning all around and thunder clapping from near and far, the earth below him shook and rumbled. The rain came pouring down like never before, soaking the earth with its moisture and washing away all the past torments Mother Nature has given them. Life was reborn. As told by Huminodun, plants of many sorts began to grow where her blood and flesh touched the soil.

That year, Kinoingan and his people saw a great harvest that never in their life had they ever seen before. In respect of Huminodun’s wishes, Kinoingan did exactly as what Huminodun requested. The seven paddy stalks were to honor the seven Bambaazon, the paddy spirit. As for the paddy in the Kakanan (big jar), a beautiful maiden rose out from the jar on the seventh day. She was the beautiful Huminodun, resurrected as a spirit to help and care for her people. She was called Unduk Ngadau. It was her spirit that first taught and guided the Bobohizan (high priestesses) in their chants and rituals, and that is how the spiritual traditions of our people begun. 

This is the reason why Kaamatan Festival plays such a vital role in each Sabahan native’s hearts. The main part of Kaamatan Festival is to honor the legendary Huminodun, who gave up her life in order for her people to survive. Hence why Unduk Ngadau Beauty Pageant plays a grand part during Harvest Festival. It is to commemorate Huminodun’s everlasting youth, selflessness, beauty, and love for her father’s people. It is a sacred title and great honor to be dubbed as the next Unduk Ngadau winner as she will represent the whole essence of Huminodun. Her gift to us all remains in our hearts to remind us the importance of sincerity, bravery, caring, selflessness, and love.

Kaamatan legend to reality
Kaamatan legend to reality

Interested to know more on Kaamatan or Harvest Festival? Come and join us to celebrate this yearly event of Sabah together in Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) Sabah on 30th – 31st May. For more inquiry, feel free to contact us here.

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