With a character of its own and a sense of self deeply rooted in kadazan culture, it’s a shame that not much is known to visiting travellers of Penampang. But this about to change as gears have been set into motion for Visit Penampang 2018 with the revival of the Penampang Tourism Council.
Moving on, the next stop is Fook Tet Kung Temple. Built in 1975, it was relocated to Donggongon Town in 1986 and finally opened in 2016. The distinct architecture and vibrant colours of this temple make it among the easiest landmark to spot in Donggongon just after the Datuk Peter Mojuntin monument.
Pogunon Community Museum is the next stop and holds with it much mystery. During the contruction of a Pogunon Village Kindergarten in 2000, an ancient burial site was found when ancient burial site was found when ancient burial site was found when ancient jars were dug up containing human remains. This opened up an interesting discussion regarding the origins of the Kadazans and possible relations to early Chinese settlers. What were found included ceramics from china dating back between 16th to 19th century along with antique plates.
Faith and religion plays an importance part in almost all Kadazan families in Penampang, most of which are Christian converts. The oldest church in Penampang is St Michael. It’s foundation stone were laid out in 1936 but construction was put on hold during world war II, and resumed after the war and completed in 1947. Having had survived the world war II bombings by sheer luck or blessings, it was not a target for fighter jets as the church was still under construction and was missing a roof. Some renovation has been done over the years to maintain the building, but it’s old architecture remains and is a popular church of weddings.
The tour kicks off in Donggongon, the main town within the district. Donggongon is derived from a Kadazan word tundo’ongon which means ‘shelter’ or ‘resting area’, referring to its historical role as a stop-over for locals from interior areas who used to journey out to trade goods. This trade is still very much alive today at Tamu Donggongon. The very first stop on the tour!
This long running weekly market held every Thursday and Friday gathers locals from within the district and elsewhere to meet and market their goods. Offering an insight into the lives of locals, the rows of fresh vegetables, rice wines and ready to serve food is a great way to discover the local palate. Which almost always has a side of sour preserves, such as Nonsom Bambagan (pickled wild mango). Similar to Korean Kimchi, Bambagan tantalizes the taste buds and opens up one’s appetite prior to a meal. It’s almost simple and delicious with hot steamy rice. Locally crafted handicraft as also easily found at the tamu, alongside antiques and tradition wear.
J Borneo Native Village is the one and only musical theatre performed in the Kadazan language. Currently, they have one play and opens daily except on weekends. Entitled ‘Sininggazanak’, the title is derived from a Kadazan work a craved monument symbolizing a person who has passes on without any children and heir. The play tells a tale of Jinu and Indai, and the customs that must follow when Indai dies a sudden death without bearing any children.
Sininggazanak is significant to J Borneo as it hopes to educate the younger generation on the importance of remembering their culture, customs and traditions in the face of modern times. This was a bitter lesson to the villagers of Kg Tombovo, as there used to be a Sininggazanak in the area. One which was located at junction of two small streams and surrounded by padi fields. It paints a picture of a beautiful scene, however due to negligence and a forgotten custom, the monument is no longer there.
Located just opposite J Borneo is Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, the last stop on the tour. Home to some of Borneo’s most beloved and endangered wildlife, the park offers the opportunity to see these creatures within the safe confines of its walking path. Delight in the animal shows at the main stage and educational exhibits for both adults and children.