No other song is more unmistakably Sarawakian than the famous “Puteri Santubong” song. It is a very well-known piece written in Bahasa Melayu Sarawak, a local dialect of the Malay language of Sarawak. And did you know that the song was based off the famous legend of Puteri Santubong or Princess Santubong?
The legend of Puteri Santubong has been verbally passed down from one generation to the next. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are several versions of this famous lore that exist today.
According to one version of the Puteri Santubong tale, there were once two princesses that were sent down from the heavens, namely Puteri Santubong and Puteri Sejinjang. They were said to be cousins and were tasked to bring an end to the conflict between the neighbouring kampungs (villages) of Pasir Putih and Pasir Kuning.
Puteri Santubong was sent to govern Kampung Pasir Kuning while Puteri Sejinjang was tasked to take charge of Kampung Pasir Putih. As a condition, they must never fight each other or suffer a terrible fate if Puteri Santubong and Puteri Sejinjang broke their oath. On top of managing the two villages, the princesses were also tasked to watch over all the mountains in Sarawak.
The two villages prospered under their rule, and each one had something they’re known for. Puteri Santubong was highly skilled in sewing and weaving fine cloths while thanks to Puteri Sejinjang’s skills, the paddy fields in Kampung Pasir Putih were thriving. These attracted many visitors to the two villages, including Putera Serapi, a very handsome prince from Matang. The prince was especially drawn to the beautiful textiles of Kampung Pasir Kuning. This made Puteri Sejinjang jealous.
Puteri Santubong fell in love with the prince, and so did Puteri Sejinjang. So began a conflict between the two princesses, sparked by jealousy and envy.
In the midst of all this, the villagers of Kampung Pasir Kuning and Kampung Pasir Putih were attacking each other. Puteri Sejinjang’s palace was burned to the ground by Sang Bualang as a result. The fighting lasted until late night.
Meanwhile, in an epic clash between the two princesses, Puteri Sejinjang landed a heavy blow on Puteri Santubong’s face, dislocating her jaw. Further enraged, Puteri Santubong attacked her with a spear.
Angered by the princesses who broke their oath, the King of the heavens cursed them, turning Puteri Santubong into Mount Santubong, and Puteri Sejinjang into Pulau Kera. Putera Serapi was also cursed, and turned into Mount Serapi, far from the two princesses.
A fascinating tale, is it not? This is just one version of the legend of Puteri Santubong. And now that you know the story, it’s time to check out the song.