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Kehidupan di dalam Hutan (Life in the Rainforest)

March 21, 2009

I just watched a local documentary/reality program about  Singaporeans experiencing life of other communities. In today’s episode, this Singaporean guy went to the rainforest of Sarawak to experience the life of the Penan people, who are  one of the few aboriginal tribes left there,  still living in the  primal kind of way.

I felt very touched by the way these people live their life. They depend entirely on the rainforest  to provide them with everything they need to survive. For food, they gather wild vegetables, chop sago palm to make sago which is a starchy staple food for them, hunt animals, grow some crops. (a relatively new activity) They go to great lengths to gather food for themselves and the great thing is they never take more than what they need for the meal. Unlike people in the city who exploit natural resources out of greed. Like what the government is doing to their rainforest, logging has caused the rainforest to shrink and now the life of these people are in peril.  It was nice listening to the  Singaporean guy commenting on his experience as he represented us, the city dwellers. For us, we have our life too easy, especially for Singaporeans who are pampered way too much. It was an eye opening experience to see how much effort these people put in just for a meal.

What i really appreciated about these people, were their carefree and spontaneous nature, their immense creativity, their satisfaction with their life, their joyful and collective nature, their sensitivity to their surroundings, their gentleness and spirtual nature.  What was surprising to me though at the beginning was that these people did not  seem to have any kind of ritual or rites. Usually aboriginal people would have something of this sort  but later on in the show they told us that these people have converted to Christianity.  Is good to know that these people have preserved their original way of life as more often than not the Missionaries  bring about more damage than good.   It was interesting to hear from the Singaporean guy that most people who come from more advanced societies look down on these Penan people as primitive, and that they feel more superior to them. There is the mindset that they coming from an advanced society have to help these poor people to get out of their terrible plight. I was again surprised to know that these Penan people have been educated in the city and the younger ones can speak English! They don a modern dress, on the outside one would not be  able to tell that they actually live in the rainforest. They actually made the choice to stay in the rainforest rather than in the city.  Their reason for this as explained by the tribe elder was that they don’t understand money.  It is actually easier for them to stay in the forest and make a living for themselves by their own efforts. At least that guarantees them a living. They are simple people as in they don’t plan for their future and just living day to day. This way of life is unheard of in advanced societies where people plan and worry too much about their future. The show ends with the Singaporean guy leaving for home and he talks about how his perspective has changed over the period he was there. These Penan people seem to be the wiser ones as they live in Oneness with their harsh surroundings  whereas city people will be totally helpless in that kind of situation. In this case, how can the city people be deemed more superior?

The Penan people now are facing a huge threat in their lifestyle as more forests are being cut down : (  There are a lot of protests against the Malaysian government on why they are not doing more to protect the culture and tradition of these indigenous people.  But at the end of the day, it all comes down to greed. To read more about the Penan people and their beliefs, I found this a good article.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. apboss permalink
    March 30, 2009 12:39 am

    Often we want to suppress the down trodden to exploit benefits , we believe converting people to our way and belief is success of our race and preservation .
    We must stop that and start respecting individuality and its identity.

  2. April 11, 2009 11:57 am

    and with the rise of globalisation many native and aboriginal culture are threatened. which is a pity.

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