Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pak Enche of Kampung Kuala Suai

Kampong Kuala Suai is a sleepy village if there ever was one, many years past it's prime. It's made up of roughly twenty run down wooden houses and almost as many abandoned ones.

One of the main reasons we came to stay the nite in Kampung Kuala Suai was actually to meet up with the Tuai Kampong and the Crocodile Shaman. Our recce guys met with the Tuai back in October and he seemed to be an interesting person to talk to about the village and areas surrounding it. Back in December Pak Yusof also mentioned about a 120 year old shaman which piqued our interest even more.

Upon arrival at the village, we were ushered to Pak Rahim's house where we put up for the nite. The ladies of the village came over and bergotong-royong to cook dinner for us at the house. Pak Rahim is the younger son of the previous Tuai and are used to the commotion raised up at the house whenever the odd visitors turned up at the village. He took it up upon himself to prepare for us welcoming drinks of fresh coconut, scrumptious dinner and breakfast the next day. Riza and Zakaria took active roles in making sure that everything was in place and ready for the visitors, which this time around was our party of eleven.

We met the Crocodile Shaman, who turns out to be Pak Yusof's uncle ... both Riza's and Zakaria's grand-uncle. Li, the shaman's only son is the uncle to both Riza and Zakaria. The whole village seems to be related to one another ... at least those who are still staying in the village. Most has already left after the logging boom to either Miri or Bintulu. There were many abandoned houses all over the village, even the sole surau has seen better days. The folks we met in the kampong were mostly men and elder women, and there were hardly even a shadow of any kids running around.

Pak Enche, the Crocodile Shaman, is definitely over one hundred years old, at least according to his own estimate. He's Malay, in good health, smokes and was very proud of the fact that he used to walk without a walking staff only a few weeks before our arrival. We talked to him for almost an hour and he was standing all this while, relating to us stories of younger days and his crocodile exploits. He used to work in Penang during the Japanese occupation and was proud of the fact that he was a part of the second World War efforts thwarting Japanese occupation of Malaya.

What interest us most was his crocodilean exploits. Having heard that crocodile shamanism is rare and far in between in these modern days, we were most intrique to get to the bottom of his deeds. "Interesting" is perhaps a mild word to describe Pak Enche's dealings with crocodiles.

One hour was hardly enough time for us to dig up as much as we wanted to about his capabilities with crocodiles. So far these are the few important facts we managed to decipher from our conversations with him:

1) It's based on old Malay mantra's written in Jawi scripts
2) No bait was involved in getting the crocodile out of the water
3) Female crocodiles feature heavily in his shamanism in a rather peculiar way
4) He is last in line, his only son, Li refuse to take up the legacy
5) He has coaxed a huge male crocodile of of the water onto the bank by just tapping on his nose
(the beast was 4 ft high and approximately 33 ft long).
6) He once saved the life of one of his children bitten by a deadly seasnake
7) His secret rendezvous with his crocodile wives in the evenings by the banks of Sg Suai sheltered by fallen nibong palms.
8) His numerous crocodile children

In between items 1-8 listed above, there are probably a long list of other more interesting facts that not many people know about Pak Enche's style of crocodile shamanism. Crocodiles being a prominent feature of daily lives of rural folks in Sarawak, it seemed rather inappropriate and sad that such vast knowledge and storehouse of experience dealing with this reptilian would just dissappear altogether with the passing of folks such as Pak Enche.

Pak Enche seemed willing to share, if you are male and a Malay. His own lament was the fact that not one of his offsprings are interested to learn the craft and partake the family legacy, his own admission "Melanaus (refering to the rest of his Suai extended family) do not have the penchant for reading Jawi scripts, so it's even harder!"

Zakaria, Li and Riza's admitted unabashedly : "We are not strong enough to associate with the female crocodiles! Too scared to go near them." Intriquing proposition.

Pak Enche of Kpg Kuala Suai.

Li standing next to his father.


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