Sunday, December 4, 2011

Moyangs, Monkeys and Fireflies (Moyang, Monyet dan Kelap-Kelip)

What better way to kick off one's birthday milestone than to add another new experience to one's cap?  
Things happened for a reason and I was glad that one of the NBC TV producers whom my daughter had accompanied last October forgot to pay for the Mah Meri mask that she bought from Samri, an Orang Asli wood carver on Carey Island.  
That was exactly the impetus I needed to go on a road trip (with a niece from Singapore) to that precipice off mainland Selangor and top that trip up with peeks at Bukit Melawati and Kampung Kuantan's Frieflies Sanctuary, two items on my 'must-visit' list.    
We arrived at Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Bumbun just before 1PM and headed for Samri's workshop, which was about 5 minutes from the entrance into the village.  Samri was, however, away in Langkawi for the Orang Asli and Peribumi Arts Festival, so his wife Jamilah was there to greet us by the road side in front of their abode.  
Here's an amateurish recording of my interview with her about the types of wood used for the masks and the other carvings which are all tributes to their ancestors, known as Moyang:

Video Clips 1-4        
Nyireh Batu, the name of the wood preferred for the carvings which produced the unique wine red or chestnut brown colour, has been rapidly depleting from the surrounding forest since the 1980s. In 2006, there were initiatives by the local authorities and UNDP to replant over 2,000 saplings on over 90 acres of land the island but, unfortunately, the land was taken away by Yayasan Selangor (Rusdi Mustapha, The Malay Mail, 29/2/2010).
Maznah's mother weaving the accessories for the dance performance
About a few houses up the road lives Maznah, a singer cum dancer for the Mah Meri Dance Troupe.  We met her mother and two of her relatives who were busy weaving pandanus leaves for accessories and props for their performance in Langkawi today.  Maznah obliged us by singing a song composed by her brother, a singer song-writer, who is clinically depressed and unable to perform following a major heartbreak and a stroke.  
Gali, a consummate wood carver cum stage performer, lived diagonally across the street from Maznah.  Rather shy and suffering from 'carver's block', he humoured us with a brief take on wood carving for a living. 

The Silver-leafed Langurs
At about 3PM, we left Kampung Sungai Bumbun to head for Bukit Melawati to catch a glimpse of the Straits of Melaka from the historic hill.  As we drove up the winding road, we encountered relics from a brutal past - Perigi Berachun (Poisoned Well), Batu Hamparan (Execution Stone) and the Dutch Lighthouse - before parking by the rows of cannons, poised regally over the cliff.  The traffic congestion caused by the vehicles driving into and parking at the narrow islet and the cacophony caused by kids simultaneously feeding and hitting the hungry silver-leafed langurs and their babies with twigs robbed the silent sentinels of their deserved dignity. 

The Kampung Kuantan Fireflies Sanctuary
Finally, we found our way to the ticketing office, where we bought our tickets, and the boat jetty, where we boarded our tiny sampans for five (one rower and four adult passengers) to gasp at the flirtatious fireflies.  The 20 mins boat ride down the river and gliding by the habitat of the 'kelap-kelip' (literally, twinkling fireflies) - Beremban trees which grow in the river mouth -was well worth the RM10 we paid for each person.  I pledged that I could do away with all the artificial twinkling lights that graced porches and fences during Eid-ul Fitri or artificial trees and mall strips during Christmas for the rest of my life if it means the fireflies will continue to brighten up the mangrove swamps of Kuala Selangor.   


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