Life in small and serene Kampung Kolorok
By Patricia Hului
During the recently ended Borneo Safari 2015, I spent three days calling Kampung Kolorok home.
The houses which are mostly of wood or bamboo are not like the luxurious, majestic and sophisticated buildings in the cities.
But they looked peaceful and inviting; two things which also describe the Murut community living there.
All of them still speak their mother tongue, a trait I find that is decreasing among indigenous people in both Sabah and Sarawak.
While they converse among themselves in Murut, a language I was not familiar with, they are also proficient in their Sabahan-accented Malay which is known for its rhythmic, fluid-like intonation.
The only Murut word my thick skull was able to pick up by the end of my stay was ‘onsoi’, which means good.
There, the warmth and friendliness of the Murut people took a toll on me that my introverted self was suddenly making small talk to any villagers I met along the way.
I first met with 55-year old Parait Sasou upon my arrival, who introduced himself as the headman or ‘ketua kampong’.
He gave a brief introduction of the village saying it took about one-and-a-half hours to get from Kolorok to the nearest town, Tenom. There are less than 500 people living in 60 houses in the village.
“This village still practises traditional customs but most of us are SIB (Sidang Injil Borneo) or Roman Catholics,” he said.
Due to intermarriages, there were some Dusun people who also called Kampung Kolorok home.
Parait also said the village still used gravity feed as their source of water and although the electricity poles had been set up since last year, there was still no electricity.
When asked what we had to know about Kolorok, he answered, “It gets very cold at night.”
Meanwhile his wife, Tarak Kabalan, 57, introduced me to ‘binulu’, a Murut delicacy made of tapioca cooked in bamboo.
“Besides rice, tapioca is also important in our diet. We also fry tapioca into chips (kerepek),” he said, adding that they had been planting rice and tapioca for generations.
I also visited Buria Antian, 47, who owned a humble grocery shop selling essentials such as detergent, snacks and cigarettes inside her home.
The mother of six (two sons and four daughters) shared that she usually paid RM30 for a two-way trip to Tenom.
“And that does not include the transportation cost of our goods.”
Buria said she has been living in Kolorok all her life and never left the village to work. Her grown-up children also chose to stay at their village working as farmers.
“All of my children, they are little bit scared. When they heard all the bad things happen out there, they are scared to go out there.”
She said since they already had their own farm to plot, there was no need to go out and look for jobs.
The village has one primary school, SK Kolorok, catering for the children. Once they reach their teenage years, they go to Keningau or Tenom to attend secondary schools.
The school also serves as a forwarding address for the villagers; sending any letters or packages to the villagers would be addressed to the school.
With Borneo Safari camping on the ground of Kampung Kolorok, the organising committee took the opportunity to do a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme with the villagers.
The CSR programme was led by UMS-MERT (Universiti Malaysia Sabah Medical Emergency Respond Team) Event Doctor Dr Khin Maung Ohn@Arif and three of his team members who gave free medical-checkups.
According to Dr Khin, the team had brought along some basic medications for fever, flu, cough and antibiotics.
“If there are more serious cases we would refer them to the nearest hospital.”
There were 65 villagers who showed up for the medical check-ups.
“Usually when we go to a rural village like this, we find that some of the residents have skin infections due to poor water quality.” Happily, the villagers in Kolorok were free of any skin problems.
Dr Khin reasoned that the gravity feed water in the village must be clean and safe enough for the villagers’ consumption.
Although there were few minor cases of coughing, Dr Khin commented the villagers were in good health and there were no cases of malnutrition among the children.
“In fact, they are even healthier than those who lived in the city.”
Besides their health which are worthy of envy by city folks, their strong grip on their traditions – be it their food or language – and their yearning for the simple things and kindness in their lives were lessons the rest of us should learn from.
With only one and half hour drive from Tenom and a humble gravel road connecting them to the outside world, it does not change the fact that they are living without electricity and relying on gravity feed for water, yet they still persevere making the best out of whatever they have.
The people of Kampung Kolorok were indeed ‘onsoi’!
Watch Kpg Kolorok residents play some traditional Murut music: