The end of May marks the Malaysian Harvest Festival in Sabah…
“The best time to visit Sabah and experience this occasion is from May 30th to 31st, when the Kadazan and Dusun communities offer thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. Highlights include a beauty pageant, cultural dances and rituals that culminate in the Thanksgiving ceremony performed by the ‘Bobohizan,’ or high priestess.”
The padi and rice festival is called Tadau Ka’amatan, and you’ll hear shouts of “Kopivosian Tadau Ka’amatan” (Happy Harvest Festival) throughout the streets.
“During the festival, Sabah natives wear their traditional costumes and enjoy a carnival atmosphere which stretches from daybreak till dawn. ‘Tapai’ or home-made rice wine is served as the specialty for the day…
“According to their beliefs, the spirit of the paddy plant is said to be part of the Kinoingan – also known as the Bambaazon, who is revered as the creator, a source of life and existence. The rice spirit Bambaazon is therefore revered in the rice plant, the rice grain and the cooked rice. Many believe that “Without rice, there is no life“.
“The highlight of this harvest festival is a dance performed by the high priestess (Bobolian) in search of the rice spirits, whose presence is vital for a fruitful harvest. Much fun and excitement take place and merry makers indulge in dancing, feasting, and drinking of a potent wine called ‘tapai,’ buffalo racing and arm wrestling. The festivities end with the crowning of the Harvest Queen.” (tourismmalaysiausa.com)
“Moving in a single file, close to one another, the Bobohizan and their assistants enter the ‘spirit’ world in search of Bamabarayon. Every time a stray Bambarayon is located, piercing screams or pangkis is heard, expressing joy at the find, thus ensuring that they have another good harvest.” (harvestfestivals.net)
If you’d like to see Sabah, Malaysia but can’t afford the plane ticket, you can always rent Survivor. The immortal first season, including Susan’s famous “rat vs. snake” speech, was filmed in Sabah, at the northern tip of the island of Borneo.