The first Bung Bratak Day in three years was held recently on May 1, 2023 at the Bung Bratak Heritage Centre at Kampong Tembawang Sauh in Bau, to the delight of the surrounding Bidayuh communities.
Today, Bidayuh from approximately 40 villages in Bau, Kuching, Lundu and Penrissen are able to track their ancestry to Bung Bratak, which was once a large, prosperous settlement of the Jagoi community for hundreds of years. The peaceful settlement comprised seven well-fortified longhouses as well as rice fields all around. For centuries, Bung Bratak was the hub of civilisation for the Bidayuh, leading many to covet the site, but thanks to the steep terrain and well-manned lookout posts, many came and failed, up until May 1, 1938.
At dawn, 70 Ibans from Skrang ascended the hill and burned down all seven longhouses and robbed the community of their rice and precious collections. The early morning massacre claimed the lives of over 2,000 Bidayuh men, and over 1,000 women and children became captives of the Ibans. Despite the return of the women and children nearly 4 years later, the Bidayuh community of Bung Bratak never really moved back, instead splintered off and lived in the lowlands.
Rich with tragedy and history, the once thriving settlement area was rebuilt into the Bung Bratak Heritage Centre, which houses two longhouses, a Baruk (Bidayuh traditional head house), several halls for dining and reception as well as open areas overlooking Mount Singai. Visitors looking to visit this historic site can also camp on the grounds for a small fee and experience life atop this hill much like the fallen warriors of long ago.
Every year, on the anniversary of the massacre, thousands of Bidayuh take the steep hike up to Bung Bratak for a day of cultural festivities, foods, games, crafts and celebration. This year’s Bung Bratak day was officiated by the Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Sarawak, Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, joined by Deputy Minister of Transport Sarawak II (Riverine & Maritime) and Tasik Biru assemblyman, MTCP Permanent Secretary, Datu Sherinna Hussaini, Dato Henry Harry Jinep, Opar assemblyman, Billy Sujang, Serembu assemblyman, Miro Simuh, Mas Gading assemblyman, Mordi Bimol and Chairman of the Bung Bratak Heritage Centre, Dato Peter Minos.
Guests of honour taking a group photo upon arrival at Bung Bratak Heritage Centre.
Bung Bratak Day celebrates the colourful culture of the Bidayuh, from enchanting performances by men and women decked out in the group’s signature colours to traditional Bidayuh cuisine and intricate beaded jewellery. Upon reaching the Bung Bratak Heritage Centre, a few people can be seen testing out their aim on a blowpipe, the traditional weapon of the Dayaks.
Meanwhile, the bright sunny weather slows for unobstructed views of Mount Serapi in the distance, with a few tents were still pitched on the grounds.
The grand affair started around 8am, but started to pick up upon the arrival of the guests of honour, as well as members of the public who hiked their way up. Also seen attending the festivities was Kuching-born singer, model and former Miss World Malaysia, Dewi Liana Seriestha, who is of Bidayuh and Chinese Indonesian descent.
Bung Bratak Day 2023 also marked the first visit to the heritage centre by MTCP Minister, Abdul Karim and wife, Datin Zuraini Abdul Jabbar, since its opening in 2019. During his speech, the enthusiastic minister calls for the next Bung Bratak day to be held on a larger scale, even encouraging tourism operators to feature a visit to the heritage centre as part of tour packages.
Throughout the day, everyone was treated to some music and dance performances by cultural troupes from Bau, Serian, Lundu and Padawan, who gently and gracefully danced in celebration and offering. Also gracing the stage were Bidayuh artists, Amy Disien and Dino, as well as the Hi-Breed Band.
One of the longhouses was dedicated to the sales of traditional Bidayuh crafts and costumes, as well as food. Everything from woven baskets, bags and rugs were available for purchase as well as the Bidayuhs’ signature hats, necklaces and earrings.
Playing the role as a unity centre for Bidayuhs, the heritage centre is expected to be upgraded in the future thanks to the pledge made by Abdul Karim to connect the site to the electrical grid, so we can expect a more happening Bung Bratak Day in 2024!
For more information on Bung Bratak Heritage Centre and future events, check out https://www.facebook.com/bung.bratak.92
Former Miss World Malaysia, Dewi Liana Seriestha (right) during Bung Bratak Day.
Artist performance – Dino
Artist performance – Amy Disien
Pictures taken by @janggacreatives