Saturday, May 26, 2007


After reading the Daily Express today, I initially felt vindicated having written this and more recently this. But that was immediately replaced with sadness and despair. And at the back of my mind, a little voice was asking whether I could have done more. As a journalist, I could have asked more questions to keep the issue in focus.
But the damage is done. I can only take it as a lesson learned.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

An ode to my favourite landmark

The Borneo people awake at sunrise to an evaporating dew revealing a sacred mountain that is the highest in Southeast Asia.
To point to the majestic Mount Kinabalu sprouting out of the largest island in the world is sacrilegious.
That act prompted a slap for the cousin of Datuk Masidi Manjun from his grandfather. It is a memory etched in the mind of Masidi. He vividly remembers that day in the 1950s when he saw his grandfather slapping a cousin.
His cousin had accidentally pointed to the 4,095m mountain with his index finger and the reprimand came hard to cheek from the hands of an elder Dusun whose life is living under the shadow of the mountain until his death.
``Pointing your finger to the mountain was a big no-no for us Kadazandusuns. There was just one of the pantang (taboos) we learnt and abided to,'' said Masidi who grow up at Kampung Tarlobou, some 15kms from the mountain.
For generations, the Kadazandusuns farming the steep slopes of the foothills revered the mountain and they continued to do so after converting to Christianity or Islam as in the case of Masidi's forefathers.
Masidi, a lawyer and now the state Youth and Sports, said as children growing up literally in the shadow of the mountain he and his siblings learnt about how Kinabalu affected their Kadazandusun psyche.
``We grew up listening to numerous myths and legends about the mountain. For instance, as children we my grandparents told us how the souls of Dusun people would travel through Kinabalu to enter the next world.
He this myth was reinforced with a unique rock formation at village called Purak Pakau near Tamparuli, a town on the on way to the Kundasang highlands near Kinabalu.
``The rocks there had etchings like scratch marks and as children we were told these were made by the souls clambering their way to the mountain,'' Masidi said in recalling his grandparents telling about that Kinabalu was the weight that kept the world from spinning out of control.
``The underlying message there was that we should not play the fool with the mountain. It is one of things in creation that keeps a balance in the world,'' said Masidi, sighing and wondering about the seemingly "uncontrolled" development of mainly vegetable farms and resorts that have been mushrooming in the highlands of Kundasang over the past 20 years.
However very little changed within the immediate vicinity of the mountain with the creation of the Kinabalu Park nearly half a century ago.
The 754sq Kinabalu Park, about one a half times the size of Penang island, surrounds the mountain serving as buffer with areas outside which have been cleared for farming.
In 1964, the Kinabalu Park came into being to preserve the mountain's unique environment with its flora and fauna spread out over four climate zones from the lowland dipterocarp forest to the stunted bushes at the windswept summit zone.
The mountain and the park is home to 1,200 species of orchids, 26 varieties of rhododendrons, nine species of Nepenthes pitcher plants, 80 species of fig trees, 60 species of oak and chestnut trees, 100 species of mammals and 326 species of birds.
The preservation efforts of Mount Kinabalu and its immediate vicinity paid off in 2000 when UNESCO designated Kinabalu Park as Malaysia's first World Heritage site.
Located about a two hour's drive from Kota Kinabalu, each year Kinabalu Park attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors who savour the clean, cool invigorating air.
In 2004, some 415,360 people came to the park and 43,430 of them spent two days trekking to the Kinabalu's Low's Peak, the highest point between the Himalayas and the Snow Mountains of Papua Barat.
Once a year though, top athletes race up and down the mountain in just about two hours in the Kinabalu. The Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon that began more than 20 years ago as a search and rescue exercise for park rangers, mountain guides and porters, is usually held every the first week of every October.
The Kinabalu Park also encompasses the Poring Hot Springs, located 40kms from the park headquarters. For nearly three dacades, the hot sulphur springs combined with cool mountain water have attracted visitors for who spend hours soaking in the open air Japanese-style baths.
Apart from the springs, visitors to Poring may also encounter a blooming Rafflesia, the world's largest flower apart from walking or rather swaying through a 158km-long treetop canopy located among the trees about 41m from the ground.
Tours to Borneo's highest peak are available from any part of the world and the foothill indigenous Dusun people are always there to tell the many legends of Mt Kinabalu.
(First published in The Star, January 2007)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Retail therapy

I was driving from Kota Kinabalu to my hometown of Sandakan recently when I dropped by at Pekan Nabalu, a hamlet along the road to the Kundasang highlands. It was tamu (farmers' market) day and there was more bustle than the usual travellers and tourist crowd browsing through the myriad of handicrafts and souvenirs on sale.
And then I spotted this man having a feel of home-made parang (machete). He took his time holding the machete while he and the vendor had a long chat. No one appeared to be in a hurry.
For rural communities, the tamu is more than just a market. It is a time to socialise, catch up with relatives and friends and then perhaps sell or buy a thing or two.
Now that's to me is the right kind of retail therapy.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Food insecurity

How time flies. It has been a week since my last posting and I was wondering if I would be taking yet another hiatus from this blog.
Those thoughts were at the back of my mind as I was driving and spotted this woman and probably her son standing in muck in a monsoon drain to pluck kangkong or water spinach.
As I started taking pictures of them, the boy simply stared at me. I was wondering what his thoughts were. Whether he was embarassed that a stranger was taking picture of him standing in muck in a monsoon drain.
But the lady continued plucking the vegetable. I guess making sure her family has something to eat would drown any other feelings she may have had.
But then again I may be presumptious. Afterall, I remember my mother plucking kangkong from a stream at the back of our house decades ago. But she didn't have to stand in the muck to do it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Defying logic

I really wish I can claim that I took the picture of this orang utan while it was swinging around in the wild.
But I did not. This was a captive primate at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park near Kota Kinabalu so taking a picture of it was a cinch.
The orang utan remaining in the wild have to contend with a shrinking habitat no thanks to the opening of hundreds of thousands of hectares of land for oil palm and logging.
Speaking of which, I cannot fanthom the Sabah government's logic of logging out a forest that is home to about 3,000 orang utan and then turning around rehabilitating what will obviously be a considerably damaged eco system. At a cost of RM200 million to boot.
Somehow I can't help but feel that some lucky few are making killing from the the logging and then "rehabilitating" what is left over.

Sunset at Borneo's northern tip

A family enjoying time together watching the sunset near a globe at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, a landmark in the northernmost tip of Borneo.
The landmark is a 45 minute drive from Kudat town is like a trip back in time as the road passes through endless groves of coconut trees and wooden farmhouses.
Most of these plantations were opened by Hakka immigrants from China who came to Sabah more than a century ago.
Some fung shui (Chinese geomancy) practitioners (if that is the right phrase) believe that the globe's presence have helped to deflect 'ill' winds from Sabah. They said that before the globe was installed, the state had been besetted by a host of major calamities since 1994 including a series of air craft crashes and kidnappings starting with the abductions of tourists from Pulau Sipadan in 2000.
However in recent years the situation is more quiet in Sabah.
Don's forget, Negri Sabah, Negri Aman.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Suffer the children.

My job occasionally takes me to the Kota Kinabalu courts. When ever I’m at the courts, I dread passing the lock up area where detainees are kept before their appearance in court.
Families of the detainees – their parents or spouses – would wait for hours in the heat for a brief chance to see and exchange a few words with them as they are brought to the court or to a police truck for the trip back to the detention centres.
All too often, mothers would be bring along their young children, some cradling infants a few months old, to wait just like this woman. She was there the whole morning and by about 2pm, her daughter was getting cranky from the heat and exhaustion. It is sad that children all too often have to, in one way or another, pay for the sins of those their elders who should know better.


I've been tinkering with this blog, adding and taking out stuff. I've put in a site counter and seeing it at digit is humbling as there are bloggers out there surpassing a million or two million hit level. So yeah, I'm the little kid on the blog block.
I've also subscribed to Google's Adsense with a hope that the "unobtrusive" ads on this will result in a little side income for me. So please feel free to click on those ads. When you do, it will ring a little tinkle in my pocket - so I hope.
For now I've removed my pic. Yes Phil, I intend to remain a gentleman blogger. Just give me a little time to find a less (if this phrase is at all possible) a less corny picture of me.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Padi scene

This rustic scene of an irrigation ditch running along a padi field in the northern Kota marudu district seems an appropriate picture to post at this time of the year.
May is the month when Kaamatan or Harvest Festival celebrations are held at the various districts and kampungs in Sabah.
The festvities are a time for thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest as farmers pray for a better harvest in the coming year.
Then the aramaiiti ( in loocal lingo party time) kicks in with lihing, 10-3 (cheap beers) and any other intoxicant taking centre stage.

Of rivers and monkeys.

This is a typical afternoon scene at Sungai Menanggul, a tributary of the massive 484km long Sungai Kinabatangan in Sabah's east coast.

From 4pm, boats laden with tourists head up the waterway in search of the golden coloured long-nosed proboscis monkeys that perch on trees along the riverbank.

Most of the boats are manned by the Sungei indigenous community villagers from the nearby Kampung Sukau. The standing joke among them is that there are usually more monkeys in the boats that in the trees. I wonder then who's watching whom?

Childhood freedom

As the weekly tamu or tradtional farmers' market gets underway at the Pekan Nabalu hamlet with a familiar landmark serving as a backdrop, a group of Kadazandusun children find something else to distract their attention.
The hamlet has evolved into a popular stopping point for travellers heading between Kota Kinabalu and the Kundasang highlands at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A question of distance

A portion of a fence frames this scene of a man walking past a 10m high statue at the Fook Tet Kung temple in the northern Kudat town. The temple built decades ago is just a stone's throw from the district mosque.
As a political storm brews about a shelved Goddess of the Sea or Ma Zu statue project following a directive from the Sabah government, some Kudat townsfolk are still wondering what the fuss is all about.

Questionable decisions

This is a view of the cyclindrical shaped Yayasan Sabah and Wisma Innoprise buildings from the scenic Likas Bay. The Yayasan building used to house the Sabah Chief Minister's office that has since moved to Wisma Innoprise.
In recent days, a decision from the Chief Minister's office is raising eyebrows even among ministers and assistant ministers.
Even as the new minister took his oath of office at the Istana Negri, the whispers among those present was whether the Chief Minister really looked into his background.
A check with the police for example might have revealed whether the new minister was a subject of a criminal probe a year or two ago.
And those probably among the most surprised over the appointment were the people from the new minister's hometown of Tawau. They know him for who he is.
But this is Sabah. Anything is possible.
Negri Sabah. Negri Aman.

I'm back!! (Again...and so another update)

I've finally got myself back to this blog. I wish I could say that the absence of any postings in the previous months was because I was thinking of some profound things to say, but no. Blame it on sheer laziness on my part.

But I shall endeavour to update this blog more regularly (so I don't get reminders - pk, Phil you know who I mean).