Judy AK Linda has been helping me keep up with the challenges of living at Ko Ko Wangi since day one, almost eight years ago. I would not dream of organising such a crowded event as our “open-house” has become, without her help. The obvious thing for us to do this season was to shift our focus to the wedding event.
|Cecilia and Basco|
Cecilia and Basco’s wedding invitation was for the 26th of December at Kampung Annah Rais, in Bidayuh Padawan, just over an hour’s drive from Kuching, a little bit shorter from Ko Ko Wangi.
The Bidayuhs, also known as Land Dayaks, are somehow a complicated people and particularly smart too; think about it, here is one single ethnic group, whose homeland is contained solely within the First Division of Sarawak, and yet has managed to develop no less than four dialects. You got to be smart to do that!
Judy comes from Kampung Temong Mura on the banks of the Sadong River; her folks speak bukar Sadong; when she married Wilson from Anah Rais she had to master biatah. Although Wilson can, more or less, make out what people from Bau say when they speak bau djagoi, it is another matter with Judy’s dialect and since his knowledge of the national language is rather poor, he finds it quite a challenge to communicate with his in-laws. Thankfully, the younger generation of Bidayuhs learns Bahasa Malaysia at school, making communication and intermarriages between them a much easier affair.
Preparations for Cecilia’s big day had started months earlier. There had been many meetings at Anah Rais longhouse; the first was to agree on the date of the event (not to clash with someone else’s) while subsequent ones were to discuss the number of guests and their overnight accommodation, the set-up, the banquet, well all the incumbent details. In order not to offend anyone, relatives and friends, and more or less the whole population of three villages (the groom’s, Judy’s and of course Anah Rais) had been handed printed invitations. Total number of guests expected: one thousand.
The main concern was to be able to serve food to everyone. A few hundred melamine plates were bought, a cousin who had recently hosted her daughter’s wedding contributed with 500 more and a considerable number were donated by a few of my close friends who happen to love Judy. A limited number of forks and spoon were to be set aside for “special” guests like ourselves and our friends Helen and Lau while all the other guests would happily be eating with their hands, as they so often do anyway. Quite an impressive assortment of plastic and paper cups had also been collected way early; the last things to complete the kitchen equipment were my biggest cooking pots and super-sized enamel trays from China, large serving plates, my liquidizer too and a few other items which right now, skip my mind.
At kampong level, meetings to remind folks of what had been decided during previous meetings finally led to gotong royongs (community work, strictly a men’s thing) to reinforce the bamboo tanjung (outside terrace), build a full stage, and finally cook. In the final hours, the women had been fully involved in the catering team, to cut the vegetables. The men’s duties were the ones requiring more muscle work, like cutting hefty pieces of meat, stirring large quantities of stew simmering in huge kualis (woks) placed atop of wood fires, then transferring the ready food into western-type cooking pots to be used to serve. On the night of the feast, 12 men had posted themselves in a single line behind a makeshift buffet table, each standing, positioned behind a large pot and armed with a ladle to serve the never ending queue of hungry guests in their individual melamine plate with steamed rice, bamboo rice, nasi bunkus ( rice cooked wrapped up in leaves), meehoon goreng (fried rice noodles), pork stewed in soya sauce and pork ribs cooked with salted vegetables, ayam curry (chicken curry), ayam masak merah (chicken cooked in tomato sauce), hard-boiled eggs in tomato sauce, salted fish with chili sauce, mixed vegetables without carrots because someone had forgotten all about those carrots; salad à la mode, made with pieces of pineapple, turnip, the re-discovered carrots, large onions, cucumber and big chili. Judy told me that the dressing was a concoction of salt, sugar and white vinegar. Right at the end of the long table, honey dew melon was the fruit of choice.
As God would have it, it rained heavily, on and off. Where I come from, rain on a wedding day is omen for a prosperous union; I assume this prosperity would come in the form of money currency rather than of a football team of children. I intend to keep the reader posted in Cecilia’s and Basco’s case. However, never for one minute, did the rain dampen the merriment. Cecilia, her long black hair fashioned elegantly by a Siburan hair stylist, wore a long, innocent tender pink satin dress, with just the right amount of blink to dazzle, leaving the observer guessing whether she was a demure or ravishing new bride as she opened the ball on the only part of the dance floor that happened to be sheltered by a roof.
The first part of the celebration had been the traditional union in marriage as practiced by the Bidayuh people. It was not a religious blessing per se; the ceremony performed by the heads of each of the three villages lasted over one hour during which the couple listened to wise recommendations simultaneously blasted through a multitude of loudspeakers. The long list of good advice was to help them succeed in their union; they not only had to listen, they had to literally swallow them one by one together with a mouthful of rice. What a splendid way to absorb wedding vows!
course Michael Jackson, yet making sure that Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations” would be the intermittent hit of the night, this to the joy and merriment of the youngsters in Jeans and the elderly ladies in Baju Kebaya (long sleeved blouse worn over a long sarong).
|Queuing up to the buffet|
By the time the rain returned with a vengeance, the crowd was beyond caring. We left just before midnight but I heard that the party lasted until seven in the morning, probably when the last one standing finally hit the nearest mat.
Cecilia and Basco, my best wishes and next year we will start celebrating your first anniversary on Xmas day, at our open house.
The following prayer by Cecilia and Basco’s was printed on the invitation card:
“Ya Tuhanku, Seandainya Telah
Kau Catatkan Dia Milikku,
Terciptabuatku, Dekatkanlah Dia
Hatinya Dengan Hatiku,
Titipkanlah Kemesraan Di Antara
Kami Agar Kebahagiaan
Itu Abadi. Dan Tuhanku yan
Seiringkanlah Kami Dalam
Melayari Ketepian Yang
Sejahtera, Sepertimana Yang Kau
Be it your will that he (she) is mine,
Created for me,
Bring him (her) closer to me,
Unite his half with mine,
Strengthen the joy between us
So that our happiness is genuine
And Lord, almighty and loving
Join us in peace,
As you wish