Sepanjang Mei sehingga Julai ini, La Lectrice telah mengusahakan terbitan phrasebook bahasa Kelabit yang kini telah pun mula beredar. Sesiapa yang berminat untuk mendapatkan naskah ini, anda boleh menghantar pesanan anda melalui emel ke firstname.lastname@example.org atau melalui pesanan SMS/Whatsapp di nombor 013-8354560. Naskah berkulit keras ini dijual dengan harga RM20 (tidak termasuk pos) dan caj pos dikenakan RM10 untuk penghantaran ke Semenanjung Malaysia, RM6 ke Sabah/Sarawak.
Penerbitan buku ini bukan saja sebuah usaha untuk memperkenalkan bahasa Kelabit malah juga sebuah usaha untuk memperkenalkan budaya dan tradisi masyarakat ini kepada masyarakat umum. Berikut merupakan sebahagian pengenalan yang dimuatkan dalam naskah ini:
“Bario, a small Malaysian village is the main settlement of the Kelabit tribes in the northest of Sarawak, close to the international border of Kalimantan Indonesia. Today, there are 16 villages in the area, which include Pa’ Umor, Pa’ Ukat, Pa’ Lungan (located along the Depbur basin), Long Dano, Pa’ Dalih, Ramudu (located along Kelapang basin), and Pa’ Ramapuh Benah, Pa’ Ramapuh Dita, Pa’ Derung, Ulung Palang Dita, Ulung Palang Benah, Padang Pasir, Kampung Baru, Arur Layun, Bario Asal and Arur Dalan, in the Merariu river basin. There are four other Kelabit settlements located further down the tributaries of the Baram River: Long Peluan, Long Seridan, Long Lellang and Long Napir. The Kelabit Highland is elevated at 1000m (3280ft) above sea level. Bario or “Bariew” in Kelabit language simple means “the valley of the wind”, which explains the pleasant temperature of 16-25 degree Celsius throughout the year.
The Kelabit is one of the smallest ethnic group with approximately 5000 people. Like many other indigenous communities in Sarawak, the Kelabits live in long houses on the highlands. There are about 1800 people living in the highlands today while many have migrated to live in the urban areas over the last 30 years to get further educations and to get jobs that suits their qualifications. The Kelabits are high achievers, highly educated and extremely bright and many are involved in professional occupations such as doctors, lawyers and engineers.
Over a century ago, the Kelabits involved in headhunting raids, not so much for ritual purposes but as a means to prove one’s courage, bravery, and to get even with their enemies. A Kelabit man who succeeded in those headhunting exploits often hailed as a hero and looked upon as role model by the young ones. Stories of these exploits are often told in the form of oral stories, for example the stories of Agan Tadun, who is a legendary Kelabit warrior which encountered in legends, myths, and traditional songs, which all speaks of his bravery and strength as a warrior. But things have changed and today, the Kelabits are well known for their friendliness and hospitality. They embraced Christianity in the early 70’s and most of them abandoned their traditional beliefs.
The Kelabit wore very simple clothing in the old days. A man wore a loin cloth and a vest made from tree bark or go without shirt, while a woman wear a knee length skirt and adorned herself with necklace and head gear made of beads.
Family life is highly valued among the Kelabits. The family does not only act as a social unit but also an economical one. The father or husband is considered as the head of the household. He is responsible for making any leadership decisions for the family. The mother or the wife is responsible for making economic decisions, for example, to decide when to start farming each year. The husband is expected to bring back meat and fish for the family while the wife will collect vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs from the jungle for the family. A family seldom keep animals as pet. Some keep cats to keep pest away and dogs for hunting. Chicken and ducks are reared for their meat and eggs, water buffaloes are reared to prepare the fields for farming, also to carry heavy loads.
Most of the time, the Kelabits obtain their food from the jungle or their own little garden. Wild vegetables and herbs are collected from the jungle. They also grow their own rice, not only for domestic consumption but also for sale. They cultivate the famous Bario Rice which is well known for its sweet aroma and pleasant taste. The Kelabits also produce their own salt that is called the Kelabit Salt or Bario Salt. This salt is obtained by evaporating the salty water from salt springs found in the highlands. A few salt springs can be found close to Pa’ Umor, Pa’ Bangar and Pa’ Main. The salt is used for cooking and also to preserve meat. Besides the salt, Bario is also known for its juicy and sweet pineapples. Be sure to try some when you’re in Bario!
The Kelabits in the highlands spend most of their time and effort with farming and rice cultivation activities. Other economic activities such as hunting, fishing, gardening, or weaving handicrafts are usually done when they are free from activities in the farm. The Kelabits may have gone through rapid changes in a short span of 50 years but they still maintain a certain aspect of their culture which are unique, particularly their music and dances. The traditional music instrument is called a sape, a plucked lute instrument which is carved from a tree trunk in an elongated rectangular shape with a homogeneous neck extending from one end of the body. The Kelabits also play the pagang which is a tube zither, made from a length of bamboo tube closed at both ends by its natural bamboo nodes. Sape (Sa-Pay) and Pagang (Pa-gang) are often used to accompany the Kelabit traditional dances. Some famous dances are the hornbill dance, the warrior dance, the long dance and the single dance. The famous hornbill dance is performed in imitation of the shy, beautiful and gracious hornbill bird. Another important part of the Kelabit cultural heritage is the Irau Meka Ngadan (E-rau Me-ka Nga-dun). The feast is held both as an act of gratitude and thanksgiving to God for providing a married couple with children.”