This story was related by the late Manang Saing ak. Pange, 68 years old (1970) and the late Chanan ak. Ugak 62 years old (1970) to Mr. Benedict Sandin in 1970/71.
The Balingian Melanau
In ancient days the Melanau group in the Balingian subdistrict was believed to have settled in the upper source of a river of that name. Their history (of origin before this time) was not known by the people of the present day. The MeIanau of Balingian assumed that their dialect was slightly different from the dialects of Melanaus in Mukah, Oya, and Igan rivers.
2. The coming of the Baketan people
At one time the Baketans inhabited the area at Tengalat hill in the Krian river of the Betong Division today. They were the followers of a leader named Demong, a son of Entingi, and his associates such as Gambang and Guling. At that time they were frequently attacked by the Ibans, which caused the Baketans to flee all over the country.
When the Baketan came over to the Balingian river, they lived together with the Melanau and, as a result of this mixture, the latter were gradually absorbed to become the Balingian Melanaus.
A group of the Baketans who had been driven out by the Ibans separated from the rest and went over to settle at the mouth of the Rejang River. But at this place, because they had been used to living in the interior of the country, they again split; one group remained at the mouth of the Rejang River and gradually became the Melanaus of that area. Another group went up the Rejang and crossed overland to the upper source of the Balingian River. At Balingian they settled at Tepus Lalang on the true left bank of the Balingian River, where they settled together with the Melanaus of Balingian. After many years there some of them moved again to settle at Danau Engkasan farther down the Balingian River, while some remained with the Melanaus at Tepus Lalang. After they had settled there for about three years, they were frequently raided by the Iban war parties led by Melina “Bunga Ringkai” the father of Mujah “Buah Raya” from the Batang Layar in Saribas. Owing to these attacks, the Baketans split again. This time some of them fled to the Anap and some remained at Danau Engkasan. Those who fled to the Anap split again: some joined the Punans and some settled with the Ukits and Punan peoples of that area. They eventually lost their identity and became the people of these groups. Those who did not mix with the Ukit and Punan remained Baketan and settled separately in a longhouse system up to the present day at Penyarai and Ulu Anap areas under their own leader.
3. Punan disater from eating sago-flour pudding.
The Baketans who became the Punans lived nomadically and roamed all over the country. They lived on wild sago and hunted game for food like the Punans. As they roamed in the Anap area they eventually moved towards the coastal areas and wandered about in the vicinity of the Selupai stream between Tatau and Bintulu rivers. It was while they were there that they were destroyed by a disaster (kudi) caused by laughing at a sago-flour cake. The story is that while the Punan were eating the cakes, one of them threw a cake to the roof of their shelter. Seeing this everyone laughed at it. Siddenly heavy rain fell; it destroyed their shelters and turned all of them disastrously into rocks. Only a few survivors escaped into the jungle to save themselves. These rocks in the shape of human beings can be seen at the Selupai stream to the present day. They are known as the Batu Betungkat rocks. Some of the survivors eventually fled to the Penyarai stream, a left tributary of the Anap river in the Bintulu Division. At this place they lived together with the Baketans and turned to become the latter.
4. Baketan disaster
While the Baketans were settled at Penyarai, a certain man named Sagong heard that there was a beautiful woman named Kunyau who lived at Balingian. She was of Baketan origin but had become a Melanau. Sagong went to Balingian with the intention of marrying her. But this woman would not agree to wed him. Sagong, much distressed, returned to his house at Penyarai. When he came home, he summoned all the Baketan warriors to attack the Melanaus of Balingian.
After all had prepared for the warpath, about one hundred warriors went overland. Their journey first took them to Mount Lesong and on to the Arip stream, a right tributary of the Balingian. From there they went to Piring hill and then walked down to the upper Bawang stream. Then they went down the Bawang to the point where they were unable to continue their journey by foot. At that place they built a large war canoe. While some of the warriors were making it, the others went out hunting. That day they managed to kill a wild boar. After the meat of the boar was divided, some of them could not get their share as the meat was insufficient.
On the following day some of the men went out hunting again and killed a sambhur-deer. When they had their meal again the meat of this animal was insufficient for all of them to eat. Therefore on the next day another party went out to hunt. This time they killed a pukang squirrel. The meat of this tiny squirrel was roasted and then mixed with edible shoots. At meal time each one of the warriors was given a share of the meat. After everyone had eaten his food, they became puzzled because the meat of the bigger animals was insufficient for all of them to eat, whereas the meat of a tiny squirrel like pukang was enough for them all. Then one of them said: “Why was the meat of the big game which we have divided not enough for all of us to eat, while the meat of this small squirrel was sufficient for our meal? Maybe because it was given us by a certain bachelor here, who wished to marry a beautiful girl.” Then all of them laughed at this joke. A moment later heavy rain fell and a strong wind blew furiously, causing many trees and their shelters to tumble down. All of them except one were suddenly petrified. A person who at that time was hanging from a creeper also turned into rock. These rocks are called Jangka Tuna and can be seen to this day located on the bank of the Bawang river in Balingian subdistrict.
From Danau Engkasan in the upper Balingian the Baketans moved down that river to live at Duari, the true left tributary of the Balingian. At this time the longhouse of the Balingian Melanau there consisted of thirty families. From there they again moved farther down the Balingian River to settle at Tanjong Muput not far above the present Balingian town. At this settlement in about the year 1900 they lived under a leader named Buyu Pagon. After they had lived there for some years they split into two groups. One group moved down the river to settle below the present Balingian town, while another group remained at Tanjong Muput. Those who moved from Tanjong Muput lived under their chiefs, Mapai and Jamal in a village called Kampong Suyong. After the death of Mapai his brother Bingai succeeded him to become headman. Bingai was succeeded at his death by his nephew Kassim.
At Tanjong Muput when Buyu Pagon died he was succeeded by his son Abai. At the death of the latter, his brother-in-law Sanai Ahmad became leader. Sanai Ahmad was succeeded by his son Haji Annuar who rulled his people until 1971.
5. Melanau burial
In the old days the Melanau of Balingian practised secondary burial. When a chief or a member of his family died, the deceased’s body was put in a coffin where it was left to decompose for several years. After the decomposition of the flesh the bones were buried inside a jar, which was to be buried in the ground or alternatively be put in the hole of a burial pole known as kelideng. This rite involved great expenses, which caused Abai of Tanjong Muput and his people to terminate it. But at that time Mapai and his followers at Tanjong Muput were still continuing it. In respect to his practice Abai served Mapai with a summons to bring him to court. There Mr. H. L. Owen advised Mapai to stop the practice of secondary burial for reasons of health and economy. It was due to Mr. Owen’s suggestion that the secondary burial rite was eliminated by the Melanaus of the Balingian subdistrict.
From that time onwards the people of Tanjong Muput gradually turned to become Muslim as a result of their marrages with traders from Brunei. At the same time the Islamised Melanaus from Mukah had also intermingled with them which caused all the Melanau Liko (animist) people of Kampong Muput to become Muslim. But those who live at Kampong Suyong still stick to their ancestral customs and belief in the Liko to the present day.
Today there are only three Melanau villages in the Balingian subdistrict:
I. Kampong Tanjong Muput (Muslim)
2. Kampong Kula (Muslim)
3. Kampong Suyong (Animist or Liko)
These villages are situated close to each other and are all in the vicinity of the present Balingian town.