Friday, August 7, 2009

Traditional Medical Specialists of the Salako Community

Like any other cultures the world over, the minute Salako community of Sarawak, Malaysia, once upon a time has their own “medical specialists”. These “medical fraternity” were usually from the male gender but on rare instances, there do exist their female counterparts which are very far and between. They were supposed and believed to have the capabilities of curing all sorts of aliments ranging from simple flu to sickness of being possessed by evil spirits. The intriguing things about their diagnosis and prognosis about one’s ailment were that on almost all instances, these sickness were caused by bad spirits. The common Salako term used to describe these illnesses was “takana jukut” where “takana” means ”affected by/inflicted by/caused by“ and “jukut” may means “mediums/things/objects/subjects”, usually of the unseen or unknown. Imagine if now were then, when the H1N1 pandemic is causing havoc the world over, these “medical specialists” would have been very busy performing their rituals from village to village, having very little time to rest and be with their families.

Now though however, specifically since about a quarter of a century ago, almost all of these “medical specialists” have gone out of job. And these professions, usually handed down from heir to heir, have forced those “qualified” to switch to other job opportunities to make ends meet. Like their modern counterparts now, these “medical specialists” were referred to by many names, according to their “skills and capabilities”. Following are the titles or terms they were referred to.

Mr Kidi Ak Baloto, performing a Baiyatn demonstration show during his cousin's wedding night sometime ago.

Pa’ Tenteng – The Pa’ Tenteng or Tukang Tenteng were usually engaged to cure light illnesses such as simple flu, stomach ailments or headaches. Since the engagement were relatively simple, not much preparation were really needed. Neither were there too many minders or onlookers when the ritual is performed. Usually, only close relatives and friends were at hand to witness. The accompanying musical tunes during the ritual were that from the sound of chiming of china plates of different sizes to create the different pitch sound. Thus the “Batenteng”, derived from the “teng, teng, teng” sound of the china plates when struck using certain wooden stick. We can thus also, if we will, equate the Batenteng performed by the Pa’ Tenteng to the modern “general practitioner” where only ordinary medical appointments were made.

Another frame of Mr Kidi Ak Baloto doing the Baiyatn demo.

Pa’ Dukun – This title is conventionally believed to be one step ahead of the Pa’ Tenteng. Pa’ Dukun can also be refered to “Tukang Dukun” or simply Dukun. The occasion when a Pa’ Dukun is engaged to performed his “medical appointment” is called “Badukun”. Prior to performing a “Badukun”, the Pa’ Dukun must first be invited or approached to get his agreement or consent. This was usually done a couple of days before the occasion. The Salako called this “Ngaap” or “Ampus Ngaap”. It was not unusual for “Pa’ Dukuns” from a different village were engaged to perform the ritual though there might be available persons of the same caliber within the same village. The reasons though were unclear but it might be the “Familiarity breeds contempt” kind of phenomenon. In Malay, they called this “Bomoh Kampung Tidak Mujarab”. So much so! The Badukun involved quite an elaborate preparation which may take a whole day to complete. The Pa’ Dukun has an assistant, called the Panade’, akin to a co-pilot or a medical assistant of that sort. The duration of a Badukun is usually for one night, rarely two.

Mr Kidi Ak Baloto with yet his step.

Tukang Baiyatn – The “Tukang Baiyatn” can be referred to as a “Baiyatn” or “Dukun Baiyatn”. His status or capabilities is believed to be above that of the “Pa’ Dukun” as earlier described. Anything an ordinary “Pa’ Dukun” can’t handle might be best suited for a “Tukang Baiyatn”. Like the Badukun, the Baiyatn needed a much more elaborate preparation still. First, there must be a “Ngaap” (as described above), then followed by a very thorough and meticulous preparations, done only mostly by people “in the know”, usually the elders of the village. There need to be the “batakng taman”, a special platform made from a banana trunk where the Tukang Baiyatn would perform most of his prayers and mantra during the whole engagement. Like in the Badukun, a Tukang Baiyatn is assisted by a Panade’. Then there must be the “Anak Dalam”, three, five or seven of them, depending on the requirements as requested by the Tukang Baiyatn. The Anak Dalam are usually unmarried ladies, preferably in the teens. These Anak Dalam will on a certain section of the ritual assist the Tukang Baiyatn and the Panade’ to “Ngayuh Ajukng”, a symbolic act of “rowing a boat” when the Tukang Baiyatn would be “searching for the sickness of the patient and bringing back the cure”. An “Ajukng” is a “toy junk” or a small model sailing boat. Depending on the severity of the sickness of the patient, the Baiyatn is performed between one to three nights. Just as in the Badukun, the whole village folks were required (invited) to witness the ceremony from beginning to end. This act is called the “Ngarunukng”, meaning to attend, to be present or to witness. Gongs and “Tuma’” and other percussions are used as background music as in the Badukun. Tuma’ is a certain hand held drum made of wood and animal hide.

He could be a real Tukang Baiyatn if it were thirty or forty years ago.

Tukang Lenggang – Sometimes referred to as Pa’ Lenggang or simply Lenggang. Of all the four, the Lenggang is the most potent of the traditional healers. Any illnesses stubborn enough that could not be handled by a Pa’ Tenteng, Pa’ Dukun or Tukang Baiyatn are normally referred to a Lenggang. Since a Balenggang (a ceremony where a Lenggang performed his ritual) is the most “complex and sophisticated” of the four, there need to be a very serious deliberation amongst the concerned village folks prior to calling one. The expenditure could be relatively very huge as compared to others but normally, the burden of preparation would be shared by every family in the village by way of donations. These donations will be in the form of labour, rice, sugar, chickens and all there need to be to sustain the whole period of the ritual. The same applies to the Batenteng, Badukun and the Baiyatn. Call that Love and Mercy in motions!

Almost similar to a Baiyatn, a Balenggang need to have a Panade’, the Anak Dalam, the Batakng Taman, the Ajukng and much more. Depending on the severity of the sickness of the patient, there sometime is a need to slaughter a dog, preferably a black one, of which blood is believed to have the power to neutralize many forms of curses. The Balenggang is performed between one to three nights, all depending to the “diagnosis and prognosis” of the Pa’ Lenggang.

After performing any of the four rituals (ie the Batenteng, Badukun, Baiyatn and the Balenggang) the affected family need to have a Balala’ or Basansam between three to seven consecutive days, depending on the advice of the “medicine man”. A Balala’ or a Basansam is an actual fact a modern day quarantine, giving the treated patient enough rest and probably to “contain the spread of disease”.

Note 1
: The above entry is based on the experience of the writer during his younger days almost three decades ago. Some information may slightly differ according to places. However though, the writer made a serious effort to verify the facts by referring to elders whom he considers are able to give the correct information.

Note 2: The Salako community by tradition did not have the Baiyatn and the Balenggang as a way to cure sickness and diseases. This culture was “borrowed” and adapted from the Rara (Bakati’) community. In fact, all the Baiyatn and the Balenggang that the writer had witnessed first hand were all done by the Rara mediums themselves.

Note 3: By tradition and culture, the Salako and Rara communities were never at loggerheads with each other, thus both communities can easily assimilate with each other, while keeping their dialect/language distinctively their own.

Note 4: All factual corrections and comments are most welcomed so that this entry could be revised and updated.


kapten apex 83 said...

aya muha ktk urang ang manari koa>>>>

Pak Ayie Ayie said...

Those days, the Salako-Rara also practiced "muang bangas and basansam" which is like fogging and qurantine these days..

kiawarman said...

Pengalaman paling mengerikan nanang paku kawuar ampat di kapala waktu uranghk badukun arek.

Borneo Safari said...


Anonymous said...

nyian gambar si kindi time program budaya ka kampuk ari koa..ha...ha..

Kasia Kanaun. said...

Dear Anonymous,

Ja ngu, "nyian gambar si kindi time program budaya ka kampuk ari koa..ha...ha.."

Bukatnlah, gambar2 koa adalah waktu si Manjurek panganten 30 ari buatn Mei an lapas.

A.H.AWANG MOIS said...

Excellent effort RRSB. Keep on writing the notes. They may not appeal to everybody right now but in future when all the elders and knowledgeable on the society and culture have gone blog like this will be an important source of reference.

A.Hasmadi A.Mois