Sabah's villages can give authentic Kaamatan feel to visitors, says Bangkuai

Bangkuai (with cap, third from left) and some villagers listening to a homeowner's stories at Kg Tiong Tomburung.

KOTA KINABALU: Small rural villages in Sabah could play a big role in showcasing the richness of the state’s unique Kaamatan Festival by drawing up a calendar of their own immersive and comprehensive celebrations.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said such initiatives would unlock the hidden gems of small-scale celebrations in picturesque rural villages.

This would give tourists the opportunity to experience the vibrant festivities if they wish to venture to rural destinations, he added.

The collaborative effort should involve representatives from each district working closely with local communities and village leaders to gather accurate information about the Kaamatan celebrations, Bangkuai said.

This included the dates, locations, specific cultural activities and performances taking place in each village.

“The calendar should be made available to tourists and tour agencies so they can plan itineraries during the month-long Kaamatan celebration in May accordingly, choosing to visit villages that align with their interests and desired experiences.

“Having such a calendar will make it easy for the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) to assist with promotional efforts,” he said at the opening of the Kaamatan Celebration at Kampung Ponohuon in Kiulu, about 60km from here, on Monday (May 29).

Bangkuai, who is also STB chairman, said the calendar would contribute to the equitable distribution of tourism opportunities across Sabah's districts.

Larger towns and cities, he noted, often received more attention while smaller villages and rural areas were overlooked.

“By showcasing the Kaamatan celebrations in different villages, the calendar can promote a more inclusive and balanced tourism landscape, encouraging visitors to explore lesser-known areas and supporting local economies.

“This initiative also aligns with the state's sustainable tourism goals, ensuring that the economic benefits of tourism reach all corners of Sabah,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bangkuai also attended the Moginakan, a reunion festival for the Kadazandusun family, at several different homes in Kampung Tiong Tomburung.

According to Tiong Tomburung village chief Sipin Sikui, the Moginakan is usually celebrated for two days from May 30 in conjunction with Kaamatan, but could extend up to a week.

“It is the moment for distant relatives to make a trip back home to renew the bond that kept the family together all these years and to ensure it is never severed.

“We will take turns visiting houses during this reunion, and Tiong Tomburung has over 20 homes,” he said.

He added that they would have to wait seven more years before it could host a Moginakan, to clear the way for the other six villages that fall under the Tiong umbrella to have their own.

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