By Chew Lip Song
THE tuai rumah (headman) of an Iban longhouse in Lubok Antu, Sarawak ordered a lockdown after having a dream that the gods protecting the community were angry and threatening to leave.
The headman of Rumah Jubang, Sebangki Panjai had told residents of the 50-door longhouse that the gods had been protecting them from “all kind of evil spirits and sickness”, The Malaysian Insight reported.
“The evil spirits included those that bring sickness, like the contagious Covid-19 virus,” a resident, Doris Melia said.
Following a council with the longhouse elders, Jubang last Tuesday ordered a two-day and one-night lockdown the next day to appease the gods in a ceremony called “ngampun” (seeking forgiveness).
“With news on the pandemic saturating the TV and daily statistics on deaths and numbers of infected people disclosed every day, everyone in the longhouse is aware of the dangers of Covid-19.
“Still the elders believe ngampun is one way to stop the Covid-19 from coming to the longhouse,” Melia said.
Nganmpun is an hour-long ceremony where three offering baskets were offered to appease the angry gods so they would continue to protect the residents. The offerings are placed at the three main entrances to the longhouse.
A key part of the offering are three sets of “pentiks”, or wooden figurines, representing a couple which are carved out of softwood.
The belief is that the powers of the Gods are transferred to the pentiks who stand guard at the three entrances.
“If appeased, the Gods will send all the sickness back to original place where it started,” said Melia.
In the three days, beginning on the night of March 25 and immediately after the ngampun ceremony, no resident could leave and neither were visitors welcomed to the longhouse.
A barricade was erected at the entrance with a crudely written notice warning people of the lockdown and to stay away.
Those who flout the lockdown rule – residents and visitors alike – would be fined a hefty RM1,000 – on the spot, in cash by the village headman.
“No one can go out, not to fish, hunt or to their farms. No one can come into the longhouse.
“That lockdown ended on Friday,” Melia said, adding that hopefully the virus will not infect anyone in the longhouse.