The Sabah, Sarawak and Indonesian community of Church of Divine Mercy, Sg. Ara Penang (CDM) once again commemorated the traditional harvest festival with a joyous celebration at the parish this 14th May. Pesta Kaamatan in Sabah and Gawai Dayak in Sarawak and West Kalimantan is celebrated each year in May and June to give thanks to God for a good harvest.
The event kicked-off at 4.30 pm with the opening ceremony that showcased the traditional Bidayuh dance reflecting the lifestyle of the ethnic group who were commonly farmers in the olden days. This was then followed by ‘Kajat Ngelingi Ranyai’, an Iban traditional dance which is commonly performed outside of the longhouse during the Gawai celebration. On this day the dance was performed at the entrance of the church. Led by a dancer, usually the head of the longhouse or ‘tuai rumah’, those present and seated around the ‘ranyai’ tree were invited to cut the fruit or ‘buah ranyai’ while doing the ‘ngajat’ dance.
CDM Parish priest, Fr. Martin Arlando then went on to celebrate the sunset mass in Bahasa Malaysia. In his homily in conjunction with Vocation Sunday, Fr. Martin reminded the congregation of the importance of listening and answering God’s calling wherever we are, whoever we may be, regardless of our background, as the Church needs more priests and religious to carry out its mission. This was a good message to the congregation as there were at least five different ethnic groups each with their own uniqueness which God has created them to be. We all have a different calling to answer in contributing to the various ministries in the Church. At the offertory, the produce of the harvest of Sabah and Sarawak-grown rice, fruits, vegetables, and traditional handicrafts were offered as a thanksgiving. At the end of the mass, the congregation had a chance to witness the ‘Sumazau’ dance performed by the Sabahan community and “Tarian Kreasi Karo Mbuah Page” by the Indonesian community.
A thanksgiving dinner was held in church after the mass. Traditional Sabah and Sarawak food such as ‘daun ubi’, ‘sinalau’, ‘terung asam’, and rice wine were served. This was followed by activities such as singing, the Sumazau dance, lucky draws and traditional games. Many enthusiastically participated in this celebration. The atmosphere was truly merry as the dances and singing reminded the East Malaysians at the festival what is usually celebrated back home. This was especially meaningful and sentimental as many are not able to go back to their hometown for the festival at this time of the year.
The CDM parish always marks its calendar to celebrate this event annually in May. The East Malaysians in Penang are those who work in the government and private sectors such as the army, police force, hospitals, and even in multinational companies and factories. The celebration enables everyone to meet and catch up with old and new friends. Many who came are from the St. Joseph Chapel, Juru and the Risen Christ Church, Air Itam. This occasion also allows the fostering of a strong bond among them under one Catholic Christian community.
The thanksgiving dinner ended at around 10 pm. Sylvia Subok, the Chairlady of the BM Apostolate (BMA), expressed her deepest gratitude to Fr. Martin and all those who came for their support. This event has helped them to grow both in numbers and spiritually. She also thanked the BMA committee for their full commitment, cooperation and dedication for the many months of preparation in making the event a success .
It is so significant that this traditional celebration is even celebrated annually at the Penang state level to promote and celebrate diversity in the state. It is indeed not only a thanksgiving for God’s providence throughout the year but also a thanksgiving for the harmonious country of our Malaysia that we live in.
Karen S. Giom
28th May 2019