The Borneo Hornbill Festival (BHF) aims to showcase the rich cultural diversity and heritage of Borneo through ethnic pageants and an ethnic dance competition.
The pageants have categories for both men and women. The main criteria is knowledge about the cultures of Sabah and Sarawak as well as the two states eco-systems.
Winners from both states will win the titles of Miss Sarawak Ethnic, Mr Sarawak Ethnic. Miss Sabah Ethnic and Mr Sabah Ethnic.
Male and female winners from Sabah and Sarawak will then compete to bag the grand title of Miss Borneo Ethnic and Mr Borneo Ethnic.
During the final audition at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (Matic) in Kuala Lumpur recently, BHF organiser Paren Nyawi explained this year’s contest was themed, “Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity”.
“We are not looking for someone with a specific height or appearance. We emphasise their communication skills, general knowledge regarding their culture and heritage, as well as the ecosystem in Borneo.
“We are looking for those with knowledge of their surroundings and local community’s daily life,” Paren said.
Sarawak contestant Elexson Nillinn said he entered the competition because he wanted others to know more about his culture.
“I had intended to join this competition in 2012 but I did not have a costume then. This year, I am able to wear my traditional Kenyah costume,” said Elexson, 28, who is studying microbiology at Universiti Putra Malaysia.
Sabahan Donna Elizabeth Kong, 24, said she decided to take part as the competition would give her a platform to boost her confidence, communication skills and promote Sabah in peninsular Malaysia.
“My family is very supportive. In fact, my mum made my traditional costumes for this event. I will be wearing three types of traditional costumes namely Kadazan Papar, Kadazan Penampang and Kadazan Lotud Tuaran,” said Donna who is a quantity surveyor.
Contestants are given 10 minutes to present and explain their traditional costume to the judges.
Mr Borneo Ethnic 2014 and Miss Borneo Ethnic 2014 will receive RM10,000 Amanah Saham Bumiputra shares, a trophy and a 5D/4N holiday to Bali.
The BHF Grand Finals will take place at Auditorium Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, Menara Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM), Kuala Lumpur on June 21 and 22. Tickets are available for RM30.
For details, go to www.borneohornbillfestival.com