Fairy Cave Festival brings together culture and natural charm

By Danielle Sendou
@danitbpseeds
danielleringgit@theborneopost.com

About an hour’s drive out of Kuching is Fairy Cave; well known for its unique limestone cave formation said to resemble a Chinese deity, it is a popular destination for a sightseeing getaway.

Aside from that, its rock walls also make it a well known spot for rock climbing, especially during the weekends.

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Rock climbing is a popular activity at Fairy Cave

Besides the weekly rock climbing activity, the Fairy Cave Festival from July 1-3 showcased activities like water sports, menyumpit (blowpiping), and several other elements of Bidayuh culture still being practiced to this day like sago flour making, honey collecting and rice grain pounding.

Making sago flour

Sagu is a starch extracted from the pith of a sago palm and to make sagu flour from scratch is laborious work, which makes you appreciate them more as you witness how it is produced firsthand.

First. the pith is grated to produce coarse sagu before being collected and transported to a wooden processing platform called ‘pingik’ for the next step.

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The pith being grated with a homemade grater made out of wood and nails to produce coarse sagu bits.

The wooden pingik – made up of two tiers – is sturdy and strong enough to hold about three to four people on the upper tier, whose combined weight will squeeze the starch out of the sagu and water mixture. The starch is then squeezed out onto the bottom tier, built in an almost concave shape and covered with ‘daun sang’ leaves to collect the starch before it flows down to be filtered.

The filtered sagu starch is then collected in a streaming pool of sediment in the receptacle.

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Some women on top of the ‘pingik’, a platform where they squeeze out the starch from the sagu mixture

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The sagu and water mixture is filtered to removed dirt before flowing down to the receptacle

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Starch sediment being collected at the receptacle

Off to the side of the platform was a set of offerings consisting of daun sirih, kapur, rokok apung and tobacco.

According to Ketua Kampong Risik Gian from Kampong Belimbing, they leave an offering at the side of the pingik so that the process will go smoothly and the sagu flour will come out well.

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Offering set consisting of daun sirih, kapur, rokok apung and tabacco.

Ketua Kampong Risik Gian from Kampong Belimbing

Ketua Kampong Risik Gian from Kampong Belimbing

Pass the honey

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Honey collector used fire to dislodge the beehive from tree branches.

Collecting honey has never been easy. Besides having to go high up in the trees to collect wild honey, honey collectors run the risk of being stung by bees.

To avoid getting stung, it is customary for honey collectors to sing to the bees as it believed that they will not be harmed as they approach the nest.

Ketua Kampong Rod @ Julin San from Kampong Tringgus.

Ketua Kampong Rod @ Julin San from Kampong Tringgus.

“The singing is actually like some sort of poem to introduce themselves to the bees by complimenting them so that they will not be harmed throughout the collecting process,” explained Ketua Kampong Rod @ Julin San from Kampong Tringgus.

According to Julin, the song is a way to trick the bees into not stinging the honey collectors.

Pounding rice

Besides the sagu and honey collecting demonstration, a rice pounding competition was also held to see who could pound the most rice within the time given.

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The women using mortar and pestle to separate the bran from the husk

 

A bamboo basket is used to separate the rice kernel from the husk after it was pounded at the rice pounder

A bamboo basket is used to separate the rice kernel from the husk after it was pounded at the rice pounder

With lots of interesting sights as well as a rich historical background and a lively community, Fairy Cave is one of the most attractive spots to visit, making it a place worth preserving and taken care of.

According to organising chairman Leftenan Kolonel Monday Juhid, the organising committee is planning on building a hall so that the Krokong community will be able to organise more activities in the future in a more conducive environment.

Dawos hitting the gong during teh opening ceremony of Fairy Cave Festival as witnessed by Miro (far left) and Leftenan Kolonel Monday Juhid (third from the left)

Dawos hitting the gong during teh opening ceremony of Fairy Cave Festival as witnessed by Miro (far left) and Leftenan Kolonel Monday Juhid (third from the left)

Also present for the opening ceremony of the festival Deputy Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water Datuk Seri James Dawos Mamit, and Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (ADUN) Serembu Miro Simuh.

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