The Orang Sungai tribe is mostly found in Kinabatangan District in Sabah Sandakan Division on the east coast and in the Kudat Division in the north. There are about 30 sub-tribes of this tribe in Sabah. The tribe is easily identified by their small or slanted eyes with quite unpointed nose and fair skin akin to chinese descendents.
To the Muslims there are customs that are contrary to Islam. They have assimilated the Malay customs and been practicing them for long, like the marriage custom. Mixed marriage has also influenced their culture and customs.
The family on the man side sends a representative or two to the house of the girl family to enquire about the girl status whether she is still single or engaged or married. If still single then the representative informs the girl family that the man family will pay a visit to seek the hands in marriage at a date to be fixed.
MENAWO(TO SEEK THE HANDS IN MARRIAGE)
Normally, both sides appoint their own representative as spokeperson for the marriage discussion. These representatives are experienced in marriage custom.
The seeking the hands in marriage ceremiony begins with the presentation of the pengawang basaro (ice breaker) of RM20 cash, a machete with its cover, a strand of metal for fencing, a ring as well as a beg of man attire to be left in the girl house during the engagement period. Apart from being as a sign of respect and high level of courtesy, these items also signify the man big intention. Apart from the pengawang basaro, the badung (expenses for the reception for the engagement) is also handed over to the host. If agreement is achieved, including the amount of ssur (dowry) and marriage gift to the future bride are identified, then the penando (a sign of agreement), normally a gold engagement ring, is inserted into the girl finger by the representative.
THE MENGASSUR (HANDING OVER THE DOWRY) CEREMONY
All the requests of the girl side are handed over to them in a ceremony full of customs and harmony. Both sides make statements by referring to the ssur requests agreed previously. Normally, all the dowries are placed in trays in fine handicrafts. Usually, in the same function the girl family reciprocates the dowry trays as a sign of affection and happiness. The number of trays reciprocated is usually more than that of the man.
THE GABBPIE TULLAU (NIGHT OF HENNA) CEREMONY
This ceremony is held separately for the two sides on the eve of the marriage solemnization. The groom hands over henna set to the bride for this occasion. The evening is made merrier by holding ceremonies for babies like the weighing in and head shaving, as well as reading the Quran and singing religious songs.
According to the Buludupi sub-tribe abcentisms, the newly-wed couple s encouraged to stay awake the whole night to avoid experiencing bad dreams.
MARRIAGE SOLEMNISATION AND SITTING ON THE DIAS CEREMONIES
These ceremonies are held at the bride house based on Islamic teachings. Sometimes the okab lawing (opening the door) custom is requested by the bride family after the marriage is solemnized. Then prayers are recited followed by the groom shaking hands with the guests, after which he is ushered to the bride room for the pengawang ambat-ambat (opening the fence) custom. The number of fences is according to the intelligence of the newl-wed bestman and bridesmaid.
The penemmil (blessing of the couple) ceremony is held in the couple room, followed by the menemo (feeding) custom whereby the couple is fed with white rice and egg by a family representative. Then the couple is made to lie on the tarugan (bed) three times consecutively. After all is over the couple leaves the room for the sitting on the dias ceremony.
The couple sits on the dias like a King and Queen of the day to be witnessed by guests. Then the blessing of the couple begins with sprinkling blessed water on the couple by the families of both sides and important people of closed families to signify acceptance of the marriage. This ceremony is usually repeated on the third and seventh evenings.
The couple is forbidden to step on soil before the seventh day of their marriage. During this abcentism period the couple attends advice sessions by an experienced spiritual leader, and the mak andam who dressed up the bride for the wedding.
THE RECEIVING THE IN-LAW CEREMONY
When the time comes the husband brings back his wife to be introduced officially to his family. The penemmil (blessing the couple) ceremony is held before they enter the house or the compound with the couple, in turns, insert their feet into a copper tray filled with traditional mixtures.
As they enter the house the couple is sprinkled with begkas blaning (rice mixed with turmeric powder) as thanksgiving. The bride receives pengennik (special gift) from the groom family to signify affection and acceptance as a new family member. A spiritual leader leads the thanksgiving prayer recitel at the end of the ceremony.
Kompleks JKKN Sabah,
KM 4, Jalan Penampang,
88200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Tel : 088 237052
Faks : 088 242 052