Religious belief, tradition go hand in hand at Gawai event

Mathew Olili conducts the sunset mass for the Catholics in the longhouse.

Fr Mathew Olili conducts the sunset mass for the Catholics in the longhouse.

KAPIT: The Gawai Dayak at Rumah Manok Mancha, Sungai Ulu Yong here is a traditional celebration that is acculturated with religion.

This is because the 300 residents of this 42-door longhouse are staunch Roman Catholics.

In fact, this is the only longhouse along Sungai Ulu Yong, about 45 minutes’ drive from Kapit Bazaar, that has its own chapel.

Erected a year ago, the St Anne’s Chapel sits on the hill overlooking the new longhouse.

The recent Gawai Dayak celebration at the longhouse was conducted by the longhouse development and security committee (JKKK).

Some 30 Catholics led by Rev Fr Mathew Olili from the Holy Mary Immaculate Church of Kapit town were invited to participate in the auspicious occasion, which was filled with religious rites and fellowship.

Indeed, at this longhouse, religious belief and tradition go hand in hand to preserve the culture and Christian faith among the longhouse folk.

Residents of other longhouses along Sungai Ulu Yong also took part in the annual celebration that made the occasion merrier.

Upon arrival, Fr Mathew Olili and his entourage were invited to the traditional welcome ceremony and to perform a symbolic ‘miring’ ceremony.

It was a grand occasion as all the families assembled and displayed their traditional delicacies – food and cakes – at the colourfully decorated common veranda.

The air was filled with festivity and merriment.

Fr Mathew Olili conducted the blessing of this new longhouse and the array of foods before the feast began.

Entertainment was in the form of the traditional Iban ngajat, beating of gongs and ‘ngajat’ around the ‘Ranai Air Pengayu,’ or ‘Tree of Gifts’.