KOTA KINABALU: Maya Hejnowska, who is of mixed Kadazan-Polish parentage, was crowned Unduk Ngadau (harvest queen) as Sabah's month-long Kaamatan celebrations ended on Monday (May 31).
The 21-year-old, who speaks Kadazandusun fluently, will now become an ambassador of sorts for Sabah and promote the state's products during her tenure as Unduk Ngadau 2021.
Hejnowska also picked up RM66,830 worth of prizes including RM25,000 in cash and an education scholarship worth RM35,000 from North Borneo University College, among others.
Hejnowska, whose mother is a journalist with a local newspaper, first won the Api Api Unduk Ngadau contest in May to qualify for the state-level finals that saw her beat 21 others from across the state to clinch the title.
Hejnowska is a Universiti Malaysia Sabah student.
In an earlier interview with The Star, she said her late grandmother had instilled the practice of speaking only Kadazandusun at home.
Hejnowska said anyone of mixed parentage can call themselves true Sabahans if they live here, speak the language, learn the culture and history of their own ethnicity and – most importantly – are nice to others.
“Culture is about how we live our day-to-day lives while incorporating traditions – be it the language we speak, the food we eat or anything related, it is not just about blood and ethnicity, ” she said.
The first runner-up was Dianarin Vahidin, the Paginatan beauty queen from the Ranau district. She won RM42,280 worth of prizes including RM12,000 cash.
Second runner-up was the Paginatan beauty queen Febby Angelica (Kundasang), also from the Ranau district. She won RM32,980 worth of prizes including RM10,000 cash.
The Unduk Ngadau is held to commemorate the legend of the kind and beautiful Huminodun, the daughter of Kadazandusun gods Kinoingan and Sumundu, who sacrificed her life to save the people from a famine.
Today, the Unduk Ngadau remains a symbol of beauty and portrays what a true Sabahan woman is.