KOTA KINABALU: A year into her reign, Francisca Ester Nain, had been looking forward to handing over her state Unduk Ngadau crown at this year’s Kaamatan (Harvest Festival) here yesterday.
It had been a whirlwind of a year for the 26-year-old since winning the coveted honour, the embodiment of the spirit of Huminodun who is particularly revered by the native community especially at this time of the year.
But the Covid-19 virus put paid to many of life’s trappings and the culmination of the Kaamatan festival on May 30-31 which draws thousands of revellers to the iconic Hongkod Koisaan (Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association) grounds was among them, no thanks to new norms in the effort to stem the tide of the virus.
Having said that Francisca remains stoic in the face of disappointment caused by the effects of the virus and readily accepts what could turn out to be an extended tenure for her.
“The Unduk Ngadau embodies the spirit of Huminodun who was willing to be sacrificed to save her people from famine.
“Although in modern times, there are no more actual acts like that, the Unduk Ngadau is however expected to ‘sacrifice’ herself in service of her community through charity and social works,” she said to Borneo Today.
Because there is no pageant this year, this also means Francisca, a Dusun Tindal from Kota Belud but who represented Karambunai in last year’s event, will be the first person to hold the title for more than a year.
“Of course I am saddened by the whole episode as Kaamatan is a very important celebration for the Kadazandusun Murut Rungus (KDMR) communities,” she said.
“I really wanted to hand over the crown to my successor but we have to accept the reality for the sake of public health.
“Indirectly, this gives me more time to carry out my community and charity work as the Unduk Ngadau for the time being – at least until the next pageant is held.”
As in previous years, the Unduk Ngadau competition kicks with the respective district level competitions statewide, and four areas in the peninsula with a sizable Sabahan population, on May 1 when the Kaamatan period officially begins.
The 64 winners from the districts will then come together to vie for the ultimate prize of being named the state-level Unduk Ngadau at the KDCA hall on May 31.
This year there were last-minute efforts to stage the competition behind closed doors but given the strict health measures to ward off infections it was ultimately postponed.
Datuk Peter Anthony, the state-level Kaamatan central organising committee chairman, said this was done to give more time for the contestants to prepare as well as due to public concern.
Anthony announced that a new date for the competition would be announced later.