Later in the afternoon, Auntie Lucy received a group of guests who were church friends of Auntie Lucy’s sister, Lilian Bulan-Dorai. The purpose of their visit to Bario was pilgrimage. It must have something to do with the revival story of Bario. Bario is full of surprises. Who would have taught Bario is a place of pilgrimage for the Christians? While telecommunication was limited, the Kelabits seemed to be busy with their lives. Do you know the only place you would be able to get a wifi connection was the museum which was 15 minutes walk from Auntie Lucy’s Labang Longhouse Homestay? It is situated next to the market. Since there was no phone line in Bario, a public phone is still relevant in the Kelabit Highlands.
Auntie Lucy narrated to us that in those days, the Kelabits communicated with the outside world using the public phone. It caused the Kelabits many problems as information was delayed. Once, as a headmistress, she had to attend a state-level meeting in Miri. She arranged her travel, but little did she know the meeting was cancelled. The notice of the cancellation only arrived after reaching Miri. I could not imagine such life.
Ready to explore Bario!
Since the weather in Bario was really hot, Auntie Lucy was prepared with fancy hats, which she distributed to us before our little exploration of Bario. She began by showing to us the wild plants used by the Kelabits to eat. As the next town is far from Kelabit Highlands, the Kelabits need to make use of the wild plants to survive and they practised what is known as cultured rainforest.
On the way to the pineapple farm, we stopped by at the district office of Bario. It was a simple office where the locals would submit their applications for marriage, gun licence etc. There was a huge map on the wall that we tried to pin our whereabouts.
A typical local house.
It is hard to miss the high numbers of abandoned houses around Bario town. The occupants shifted to neighbouring villages.
The Highland cat.
Undeniably the cutest creature in the Kelabit Highlands!
We walked past a bush to reach Auntie Lucy’s pineapple’s farm. Some of the pineapples were damaged by animals, while the others were stolen. The pineapples will only be cut when they are already ripe. The crown of the pineapple will then be used to be planted for another fruit to grow. According to Auntie Lucy, the land was ancestral land. Anybody could grow their own plants. But as in other communities, there tend to be the irresponsible members. It is difficult to protect your fruits when they are grown in ancestral land, for which everyone has access to.
The journey to the pineapple farm.
Poobritney on the move.
We proceeded to walk to the new Museum of Bario, which was locked. It was here that we got a whiff of outside world through stable wireless internet. We had to try our luck on the next day.
The steps to the 1st floor of the Bario Museum.
Next to the museum was a row of shops comprising stalls and grocery shop. It dawned on me that cost of living in Bario is very high. A plate of mee goreng costs RM5.
Auntie Lucy paid RM5.00 for the stack of the leaves.
A happy seller at Bario market.
80 years old Kelabit woman making heirloom peta ba-o rawir (the beaded hat)
The beaded hat.
Our walking tour proceeded to the memorial in remembrance of the 12 Kelabit elders who perished when Skyvan 9 MAZB of Adtec Rajawali Udara Airlines crashed about 6 nautical miles south-west of Long Seridan. They were mostly dignitaries who were flying to Marudi from Bario to attend the opening of a community hall when the plane crashed 20 minutes after taking off from Bario.
Several aircraft have ended their active life in Bario. They included three British Army planes from the days of confrontation, a BBN2 of what was Malaysian Singapore Airlines and a Pilatus Porter of Borneo Skyways. Parts like hollow metal pipes finished up as water supply lines to wet padi fields or fish ponds. Wires were stripped to provide strings for the local sape instruents. Sections of the fuselage were adapted as chicken coops and wings were used as footbridges.
What remains now is the body of a British Army Twin Pioneer. It was said that at one stage in the late sixies, the body of the British Army Twin Pioneer served as a classroom for the Bario Primary School.
The ladies of my Bario trip.
Later that night we had dinner with the church group. We kept silent as they said the prayers before the dinner in Malay language. It was an eye-opener for me because in the modern city, religion is regarded as something private. I hardly have any Christian friends who recite prayers before eating, at least not in front of me. The food kept on getting better as we were served with pineapples curry and another sultan fish. As we retired early to bed, the church group went on to have spiritual discussion and to my surprise, sang spiritual songs in Malay. Rest assured, no conversion was involved that night.
Hover and click your mouse on the title to read the earlier entries on Bario:-
1. 5D4N Bario – Day 1 : Stranded in Miri
2. 5D4N Bario, the Kelabit Highlands Trip – Flying with Twin Otter