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KAAMATAN SPIRIT GOING STRONG DESPITE CANCELLATION

By Alexandra Prudente

Edited by Aqilah Humaira Ab Halim

Source: Instagram @lucasmoujing

KOTA KINABALU, May 8 – Sabahan locals have come together virtually to spread their Kaamatan spirit with others in a video collage initiated by fellow Sabahan, Lucas Moujing, after the cancellation of the annual Kaamatan festival was announced by secretary-general of the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA), Suman Yasambun.

The Kaamatan or harvest festival is a month-long event that is celebrated by natives in Sabah as a way to express gratitude for an abundant harvest. Activities such as the Unduk Ngadau (Harvest Queen pageant), Sugandoi (singing competition), dancing, drinking and a food festival is usually involved. The KDCA building and surrounding grounds happen to be the leading host in housing such activities and has become the main site for locals to gather and celebrate.

“Honestly, I feel very sad because usually Kaamatan festival is a very special month for all Sabahans to go back and see their loved ones and eat traditional food. But what I’m going to miss most about Kaamatan is the Unduk Ngadau and Sugandoi competition. The togetherness in KDCA and the environment is just an unforgettable experience,” said 24-year-old content creator, Lucas Moujing, after being asked how he felt about the festival’s cancellation.

Moujing was inspired by his friend, Hazel Bainon who created a video with the concept of the #DontRushChallenge that began on the social media application, TikTok. He gathered family, close friends and other locals to join in on a video compilation of what they missed most about the celebration. He also said, “I want to remind the Sabahans that even though we cannot celebrate Kaamatan this year together but we still can celebrate virtually.”

The video contained clips of the locals donning traditional attire of native tribes, dancing the Sumazau and raising their drinks to the camera as a toast while phrases of “I miss…” flashed across the screen. The video has gained over 45,000 views on Instagram to date and received tons of positive feedback from its viewers.

“It definitely made me miss home even more! I truly love how the video turned out, seeing all the Sabahans unite to help produce something so beautiful is priceless!” said one of the contributors to the video, Cynthia Mahendran, a former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) student, who has also been looking forward to celebrating this year after missing Kaamatan for four years due to her studies in West Malaysia.

22-year-old TESL student from UKM, John Sebastian said, “It feels amazing really, I took the effort to dress up in our traditional attire and even drank a full can of Tiger since I took a few takes for the video. Wearing the Kadazan costume and dancing the Sumazau to the rhythmic Magagung Penampang while holding a beer was like celebrating Kaamatan, but all alone!”

“It feels like, despite being far apart from each other, you’re still part of a community. Social distancing is not easy for everyone, but being part of the video is a reminder that there are a million ways to connect with each other,” said Miss Petite Universe International Sabah finalist, Elisheeba Gloria, who also contributed to the video. She added, “You don’t have to feel alone during this pandemic, it’s a reminder that we still have each other.”

The government has mentioned that organisation of huge gatherings or open houses of more than 20 people are not advised for other celebrations in the foreseeable future such as Hari Gawai (1-2 June) and Hari Raya Aidilfitri (23-24 May) during the current pandemic.

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