Sibauk & the Magic Golden Seeds

By Jude Toyat
Photos by Muhd Rais Sanusi

THE WORLD HARVEST FESTIVAL (WHF) organised by the Sarawak Cultural Village every year is well known for their most awaited theme-plays. The WHF theme-plays are always staged around the man-made lake at SCV, using its ethnic houses and natural landscape as props.


This year, the theme play was entitled ‘Sibauk and the Magic Golden Seeds’. Written by Jonas Noeb, the story is based on the Bidayuh legend of the same name and was performed by 120 performers from SCV, National Dual Training Scheme (SLDN) apprentices and Sekolah Seni Kuching.


The Story


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‘Sibauk and the Magic Golden Seeds’ tells the story of how the Bidayuh people learnt to plant paddy. Set in a remote undated past, the story first tells how the people eked out their livelihoods first by hunting, gathering nuts, fruits, berries, and mushrooms growing wild in the jungle.


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In one of the longhouses lives a woman, Nek Umang and her son Sibauk. One day, Sibauk is very hungry so his mother boils some nuts for him. While waiting for the nuts to be boiled, Sibauk and some friends go out to the garden to play. During this excursion, Sibauk finds and picks up a big Bunga Giragi plant.


He begins to sing a lullaby. As he sings, the plant magically grows bigger and taller. Sibauk keeps singing and the tree keeps growing while he sits on it. Sibauk ends up so high up in the sky that he cannot hear his friends calling for him. The tree has taken him to a strange place above the sky. Slowly he climbs down from the tree and decides to explore the area where the tree has taken him.


He meets Teyung Bulan (The Moon) and requests to stay for a while at her house. His request, however, is politely turned down as she reasons that her life is a cycle of beauty, ugliness and sickness. She tells how she could be beautiful but at other times she could be ugly and smelly.


He moves on from there and pays a visit to Babuk Binte (The Star). Babuk Binte does not take him into his house either as he says he has many children and grandchildren who have barely enough food to eat. Then Sibauk meets Babuk Beteh Andu (The Sun). After a very short conversation, Sibauk learns that at midday no creature can withstand the intense heat of the sun.


Sibauk plods on. He goes to see Babuk Sikara who is happy to let Sibauk stay with him. Every day late in the afternoon, however, he would hide Sibauk in the attic.


At night, from the attic above, Sibauk discovers that Babuk Sikara does not live alone. He sees seven lively and lovely granddaughters. The youngest of the sisters, Sikemba, happens to be the prettiest of them all.


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Every day the girls would come home late in the evening and leave the house early the following morning. After some time, the sisters begin to sense that their grandfather is not alone while they are away. Upon investigation, the youngest of the sisters, Sikemba finds Sibauk hiding in the attic. It is love at first sight for the both of them and Babuk Sikara holds a grand wedding ceremony for Sikemba and Sibauk.


Later, Sibauk learns from his wife that it was the seven sisters’ duty to dance around a tall and enormous paddy bin made of bark. Every day they have to dance around the paddy bin so that even the hungry stars cannot steal the paddy grains. Sibauk is very interested to see the enormous paddy bin but to his disappointment, Babuk Sikara does not allow him to leave the house.


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After Sibauk makes several requests, Babuk Sikara finally gives in. Sibauk is strictly instructed not to enter the left junction of the road. One morning, after they pass that particular junction, he makes an excuse to ease himself and tells his wife to proceed ahead. He promises her that he will join her in a little while.


As soon as his wife is out of sight he immediately retraces his path and goes straight to the road on the left. There he finds a Tajau Pengirau, which serves as a telescope through which Sibauk can see what is happening down on earth. He recognises his village and sees that his mother is sick and in a very sorry state.


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That night Babuk Sikara notices that Sibauk is sad. He asks him if he had peeped through the Tajau Pengirau which Sibauk replies he had. Babuk Sikara then tells him that what he had done was forbidden and he would have to send him back to earth.


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Before sending Sibauk back to earth, Babuk Sikara teaches him how to plant paddy and also how to conduct various rituals associated with paddy planting. When Sibauk had become well versed in planting paddy, he was ready to go home.


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Sibauk’s return is a cause for much joy and celebration among the villagers.


Sibauk then teaches the villagers how to plant paddy, choosing a number of people to instruct on how to conduct the various rituals associated with paddy planting with the magic golden seeds given by Babuk Sikara.


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One day as Sibauk is at his farm planting paddy, he hears footsteps and the sound of hawk bells. As he is sharpening his dibbling stick on a tree stump at the edge of the farm, Sikemba slowly transforms herself into human form. Both of them are overjoyed to be reunited.


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Sikemba is indeed a good wife and sometimes, she also helps Sibauk on the farm. Later she gives birth to a baby girl whom they both name Rombou.


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Many years pass. Sibauk is unfaithful with his former lover. When Sikemba finds out about it, she is furious and decides to return to Babuk Sikara’s world in the heavens above.


Before leaving, she promises Rombou and the villagers that she will come down from the heaven as a spirit whenever called upon during the harvest festival or Gawai Sowa.


The theme-play was a visually spectacular production successfully expressing how closely the Bidayuh people are related to the stars (in fact, the paddy cycle is determined by the stars, as the planters will read the constellation of the seven stars before putting the first seed in the ground) and how paddy came to earth and the significance of celebrating Gawai Sowa to the Bidayuh community. It was an awesome performance not to be missed.


So far, SCV has successfully staged 17 theme plays, namely Simanggeng (1996), Agan Tadun (1997), Battle of Bukit Sadok (1998), Sibauk (1999), Coming of the Gods (2000), Belawan Bureing-Hercules of Keliman River (2001), Manggeng (2002), The Legacy of Simpang-Impang (2003), Agan Tadun II (2004), Wek Jongan (2005), Rentap-Battle of Bukit Sadok (2006), Belawan Burieng (2007), Panglima Kulow (2008), Simpang Impang 2 (2009), Batang Arong & The Sky Goddess – When Love Hunts For Magic (2010), Selanting Kuning & The Dragon King” (2011), The Adventure of Keling & Kumang (2012) and last year’s The Fish Princess: A Highlander Love Story (2013).


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