CELEBRATING different cultures is nothing new to the teachers and students of SMK Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Gapor in Kuching, Sarawak.
The school has made cultural celebrations its signature theme ever since the first Student Integration Plan for Unity (RIMUP) programme was launched in the school several years ago.
School principal Hasanah Junaidi said that the programme would bring students of various ethnic groups together besides helping change their mind-set concerning other cultures.
“Integration is everyone’s responsibility. Parents should teach their children values such as tolerance and respect for other cultures when they are young,” said Hasanah.
This year, the Bidayuh culture was chosen as the programme theme.
The school had, in the past, emphasised the Malay, Chinese, Iban and Melanau cultures.
The programme kicked off with a lively traditional Bidayuh dance, theRejang Ba-uh, performed by Special Education teacher Zainoren Jack and his students.
Guest of honour, Datuk Peter Nansian Ngusie praised the school for carrying out the cultural integration programme and said “Everyone should learn and appreciate the richness of other cultures so that we can live peacefully together in this country.”
He officiated at the event by symbolically hitting the kidibat or gong seven times.
Similar to previous years, the organising committee included an exhibition booth, cultural dances, cooking demonstrations, the playing of musical instruments and the parade of different Bidayuh tribes’ attires.
The school was a sea of colourful ethnic costumes as many students and teachers wore the signature black, red and white Bidayuh outfits even though they were not Bidayuhs.
Black symbolises the connection between the Bidayuh people and their ancestral spirit. Red signifies strength and power while white symbolises the purity of the costume wearer.
Different types of attire from different Bidayuh areas such as Serian, Siburan, Padawan/Penrissen, Bau and Selako were paraded on the stage to the applause from the audience.
The models also wore anklets and girdles made of different parts of plants.
Traditional dances such as the Wek Jongan and Tarian Sigar were performed as dancers swayed to the rhythm of the gong music.
The exhibition showcased woven crafts, knives, bamboo crafts and various traditional musical instruments.
The food exhibition included demonstrations on how to cook traditional Bidayuh food such as pogang, a type of glutinous rice cooked in bamboo or in pitchers of the pitcher plant. The dish is similar to lemang.
Jessing Awos, a Bidayuh from Padawan, is proud of his culture, especially the dances and the food. His favourite dish is pansuh or bamboo chicken.
Jessie James, a Bidayuh from Kampung Segong Singai in Bau said, “There is a whole list of special spices and ingredients that Bidayuh women would add into the dishes to make them delicious. A few examples would be tempoyak (preserved durian), turmeric, lemon grass, lime, pepper and ginger.”
The colourful event was graced by the presence of Bidayuh village chiefs and representatives from the Education Department and the parent-teacher association.
Bidayuh student Gloria Umang Boniface Jihob was pleased that her culture was showcased during the programme.
She encouraged others to learn the Bidayuh dialect as she said it is not that difficult to learn.
“Words like “father” and “mother” are easy to remember. “Father” issama and “mother” is sendo in the Siburan Padawan dialect,” said Gloria.
According to the school’s senior assistant (Academics) Nazmi Aziz, the programme has improved racial understanding and tolerance among the different ethnic groups in the school.
“It has definitely raised the school community’s level of understanding the Bidayuh culture,” said Nazmi.