By ILONA ANDREW
KOTA KINABALU: Most of the Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) people are opting out of ‘aramaiti’ or any sort of merry-making activities for this year’s Harvest Festival (Pesta Kaamatan) and choose to adapt to the new normal instead.
The festival is undeniably the most important celebration for the KDM community and is annually celebrated statewide during May and culminates on May 30 and 31 at the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) premises.
Usually, hundreds of stalls selling food and drinks and a variety of items would start popping up at KDCA as early as May 1.
Crowds would come visit to enjoy the food, booze, music, karaoke, or everything all together, while some other looks forward to the grand Kaamatan programmes like the Sugandoi (singing) and Unduk Ngadau (beauty pageant) competitions.
However, all of these Kaamatan programmes are cancelled this year as part of the effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the state.
For Doreen Koh who is of Chinese and Dusun-Tatana descents, the absence of Kaamatan programmes this year does not mean that the festival should not be celebrated at all.
“Kaamatan is the time for us to give thanks and remember the legend of Huminodun who sacrificed herself in exchange for a bountiful harvest for her people.
“But nowadays, a lot of KDM people forget the true meaning behind the festival. All they think about is ‘aramaiti’ (get drunk),” said the 57-year-old housewife when met by Borneo Today here, Friday.
She also believed that the current situation would help the KDM community to understand more about the festival; that it is not just about a get-together, but also about being grateful.
Although the federal government allows visits of maximum 20 people for the celebration, Doreen said that she will be celebrating with her family members only.
“We would usually gather with our relatives during Kaamatan but this time, we choose to adapt to the new normal. It is more important to help the state and country fight off Covid-19 now,” she said.
Just like Doreen, Jacquelin Justin, 21, too will be celebrating this year’s Harvest Festival moderately and with her family only.
“It is no doubt that Kaamatan would feel very gloomy this year, but I would rather just celebrate it at home than gathering with friends and other relatives to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
“The coronavirus is no joke; it has killed so many people across the globe. Malaysia has done a good job in handling the pandemic, especially by imposing the restricted movement order.
“Therefore, we should continue to adapt with the new normal and forget about celebrating Kaamatan like the way we used to,” said the Dusun girl from Tamparuli.
Jaqueline also commended the KDCA’s decision to not hold any Kaamatan programmes that would attract crowds this year.
“My family and I would never miss going back to our kampung every Kaamatan holiday, but this year we need to sacrifice that plan to keep Sabah safe,” she said.
Meanwhile, Artobelly Evali who is of Kadazan descent believed that Sabahans, particularly the KDM community, are wise enough to understand the current situation which prohibits large scale ‘aramaiti’ activities during Kaamatan celebration.
“With the pandemic that is still going on now, Sabahans should celebrate the festival moderately with smaller crowds, as advised by the government.
“Kaamatan is not just celebrated to remember the sacrifice of Huminodun and uphold our culture, but also to strengthen the relationship between our family and friends,” said the 26-year-old from Penampang.
Although it is hard to accept at first, Sabahans must continue to adapt with the new normal for the sake of everyone’s health, he added.
“It is important to adhere to the standard operating procedures so that together we can break the chain of Covid-19 in Malaysia, particularly in the state,” he expressed.