Penan Research Project – Part 2

We woke up fresh the next day although Peter, Terry and I slept after midnight. I guess we all were pretty excited on what to expect in our 2nd day of field trip. Prior to the 2nd day field trip, the team met and consulted Lg. Bedian village head on the areas that we intend to visit. We heard so much of interesting stories about the nomadic Penan and can’t wait to check it out with our own eyes.

with peter the camera man

The ‘Rare’ Map
We were been told that we can find the nearest nomadic Penan settlement from Lg. Bedian which is located at Ba’ Puak. I noticed the mentioned settlement is quite close to Limbang border upon looking at a glance on the map which was provided by the Land and Survey Department. It was a limited edition of map – in other word, the map is protected and only to be released to relevant person and boyyy do I feel lucky to have such privilege. 😉

the limited edition of map

Going To ‘Down Town’
After breakfast, we went to ‘down town’ aka Kedai Berpusat Lg. Bedian to buy some food rations and from a distance, I can’t stop myself from sniffing harder on a very familiar smell. As I came closer to it, the smell was getting stronger and finally my curiosity was answered. It was the king of fruit season at Lg. Bedian and we end up buying all of it.:)

 the king of fruit - durian

 eat durian 1st for enerygy booster ;p

Mawi and I were the happiest people indulging ourselves with the durians. For the record, Mawi and I didn’t manage to finish all of the durians as we have other better agenda to do so we save it for desserts later in the evening. ;p

Ba’ Puak, Here We Come
It was a 2 hours of bumpy roller-coaster and dusty ride to Ba’ Puak and one has to get across a river to reach there. We were been told that it was the only bridge connected 4WD-vehicles to Lg. Seridan or Limbang (if you are willing to do jungle trekking) and that explain why there are few Kelabit families settled at Lg. Bedian.

 a short stop to ease ourselves before continuing the journey to ba' puak

the bridge

a group photo for the album

As we went deeper into the forest, I was shocked to find a big timber plant operating right deep in the forest – Layun Camp. It even has a re-forestation station based here.

a timber plant at layun camp

Sighting of the Nomadic Penans
Upon reaching Ba’ Puak, we were been told that we’ve reached the destination and I was surprised to find no signs of Penan settlement except a signboard left by NGO. Before I started to question further, I noticed one of our driver start to make funny noise and from far, one get to hear a response from the thick forest. That was the shout-out calling.

the ngo signboard

trying to walk on that plank to a tree but i failed coz underneath it was approximately 60m ravine

the nomadic penan settlement is right down there

Soon later, we get to see a Penan guy clad only in a short pant walking out from the thick forest toward us who were on top of a hill, followed by a father and his son (I presume) and a mother carrying a child. All of them walked pretty fast up the hill and greeted us. For the record, the steepness of the hill is like 65 degree with the height of approximately 60 meter. I wouldn’t have that stamina to walk up that fast within 5 minutes. Period.

a nomadic penan mother with her child

Going Down The Hill
After taking some matters into consideration, the team decided to drive down the steep hill as we were carrying some food rations and some filming equipments. Lucky, it was dry season otherwise we would end up hand carry all of those stuff. ;p

going down the steep hill

there goes one of our ride down the hill

The Discoveries
Discovery One
Upon reaching down the hill, without wasting any time we explored the areas. We’ve studied and get everything documented for future references. We interviewed the Head Village’s son instead as the ‘big man’ himself is on food hunting deep in the forest.

walking along the low tide river to explore abandoned penan huts

one of the abandoned nomadic penan hut

some nomadic penan huts along the river bank

Discovery Two
We even requested the village head’s son to do a demonstration on using the blowpipe which he was more than happy to do so. We were been told that you can actually inserted few darts inside the blowpipe and in this case, he inserted 3 darts. It is quite rare opportunity to see a live demo where I get to see the way he inserted the darts inside the blowpipe, holding the blowpipe, placed it on his mouth and the way he blew the blowpipe. Every single move has its own technique. I kid you not.

a blowpipe demo

Honestly, I can master the technique within a week (if given an extensive training). 🙂 I repeat, I can master the technique and I did not say anything that it will definitely hit any target though. ;p

Discovery Three
Another surprising fact is that the blowpipe can come with a ‘silencer’ or without a ‘silencer’ which amazed me. It can be done during the process of making a blowpipe. Let me briefly explain it here; when one gets to blow a blowpipe, it produces sound. Similar to the sound effect of an arrow in Red Indian movies or in ancient Chinese kungfu movies. I kid you not.

To hunt in the jungle, one has to be a ‘smooth and silent’ hunter; smooth and silent in a way where maximum noises has to be avoided even to the extend of your footsteps or else it scared away the animals or enemies. So, when a blowpipe without a ‘silencer’ is being used, it will hit the targeted subject without knowing the direction of the dart comes from.

Come to think of it, the Penans are way advanced than us. Reason being is the Penans been using the ‘silencer’ technology on their weapons probably long before the introduction of a gun ‘silencer’. 😉

Discovery Four
In a nomadic Penan family structure, there are about 2-3 people in a family. In Ba’ Puak, there are approximately 15 families. Those who are married usually stayed in a separate hut. However, the married and the singles (a family) will share their food under one hut. The singles usually sleeps at their ‘bachelor hut’.

the bachelor hut

Discovery Five
We were been told that Bruno Manser hide-out from the relevant authorities was nearby Ba’ Puak and it requires few hours of jungle trekking. I was excited about it but due to time constraints, the team decided not to go for it. 🙁

The End of Ba’ Puak Exploration
We spend at least 3 hours at Ba’ Puak and I left the nomadic settlement with a very heavy heart. I was concerned on their future, especially the future of the younger generation. Will at least one of them get a proper education in the future thus can change their nomadic life-style? Come to think of it, they can’t even register their own birth certificate (due to lack of knowledge and also logistics issues so how can they get a proper education if that is the case? To sit for exam, one must have an identity card or at least a birth certificate.

life is tough..this young penan girl was seen crossing the river couple of time carrying firewoods with bare footed during our interview session

wonder what will be the future for me?

But then again, what if they choose not to change their life-style?
I can’t stop pondering about it till now.

Lunch By The River
On our way to explore another Penan settlement, we had our lunch by the river. We brought our lunch packs and enjoyed the sunny windy afternoon happily. I can’t stop myself from soaking my feet’s in the cold icy water until it get ‘shrinks’. It reminds me so much of my childhood adventures back then at my mother’s village in Baram.

relaxing at the riverbank

the team is enjoying the sunny and windy afternoon after lunch

One day, I’ll be back again to Ba’ Puak – by God’s will.

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