KUNDASANG: An Advisory Council has been formed involving Sabah Parks and members of the local community residing in 27 villages here to identify all traditional practices connected to the mountain that are in line with nature conservation and upholding culture.
Sabah Parks Director Paul Basintal said the Traditions and Culture Advisory Council could help strengthen the relationship between the agency and the villagers.
"Sabah Parks always supports and encourages the involvement of communities in nature conservation efforts.
"One such cooperation is organising the Sabah Parks Community Day initiated through the Council," he said, in a speech read by his deputy, Jamili Nais. The event was also attended by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, visiting Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria, officials from the National and State Judiciary, Kundasang Assemblyman Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam, District Office staff and over 200 participants.
Organising Chairman Johnny Gani said 292 villagers travelled back and forth from Timpohon to Layang-Layang at 11,000ft, a distance of 4km.
Some 200 others put up the night at Panar Laban. On Sunday, 108 others stayed at the rest house. The group was set off by Malanjum as it coincided with the judiciary's outreach programme to help locals there obtain identification documents.
Basintal said the Community Day was already organised twice, including observing the long-practised Menolob ritual, a sacrificial rite for passage to the mountain for all climbers.
He said the event signified an opportunity for the communities surrounding the mountain to visit Mt Kinabalu as well as recognition and conservation of traditional practices revolving around the mountain, strengthening ties between Sabah Parks and the communities towards nature conservation and heritage and increase awareness and cooperation on natural resources and the park.
Many activities were lined up for the two-day event like colouring contests for school children, traditional sports events, cultural shows, lucky draws and stalls selling traditional goods.
Although 27 villages were qualified to partake in the event held over the weekend, this year only 14 responded.
Meanwhile, the Menolob rite held at the foot of Mount Kinabalu on Saturday saw seven white chickens being slaughtered.
The villagers who observed it were from Bundu Tuhan, Kg Kiau, kg Lasau Minunsud, Kg Torintidon, Kg Serinsim, Kg Takutan, Kg Gonok, Poring, Lembah Permai, Kg Mesilou, Kg Tombotuon, Kg Kalibungan and Malangkap Kappa.
The ceremony marked a continuation of the relationship between the natives and the mountain spirits and was hosted alternatively by two main villages, Kg Bundu Tuhan and Kg Kiau, the past three years.
This year, Kg Kiau became host. It was conducted by a Bobolian (traditional priest) and mountain guides since the Kundasang National Park was gazetted in 1964.
"The chickens were sacrificed as offering to the spirits of the mountain. The mountain was named Gayo Ngaran or Gayo Nakan, which means Eating King," said Bobolian Lanting Langkim, 54, from Kg Kiau.
Lanting, who conducted the rite as the main Bobolian was sick, said before the chickens are sacrificed a chant is made to the 'Timorong' a talisman consisting of medicinal wood tied together.
Included in the ritual is the betel nut, betel leaves, pinang seed and cigar kept in a tray.
"Through the chant, the Timorong is informed that villagers will be visiting the mountain and chickens will be sacrificed," he said.
According to Sabah Parks official, Alim Biun, seven chickens were used in the ritual because of the seven hunters from the hosting villages who tried to climb the mountain during the early 1800s.
For the natives, at the time, it was taboo to climb the mountain because it is where the spirits reside.
"And today the current existing trail up to the mountain is actually a hunter's trail," Alim said, adding that the seven hunters are now considered guardians of the mountain.