Category Archives: Culture

Tomb of the Tallest Man: Gambaliu

Listening to the legend of Gambaliu

The tallest man in Guinness World Records is Robert Pershing Wadlow, who is 2.72 Metres (8 feet 11.1 inches) tall. However, he would look like a Barbie doll to Gambaliu, a giant man who is 24 feet in height. Gambaliu is even taller than a giraffe (20 feet). Who is Gambaliu? Is he a monster that eats children, or a gentle giant that rescues kitten stuck on a tree (and eat it)?

Comparing the height of Gambaliu with others

Comparing the height of Gambaliu with others

Ok, no need to get too concern. Gambaliu is only a fictional character in Sabah legend. If he really exists, NBA would had made him a superstar basketball player.

Signage to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Signage to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting in Serinsim Park. Makam means grave

Today only his tomb is left, in an unexpected place, not in Frankenstein lab but inside Serinsim Park in Kota Marudu, about 130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City.

Ready to visit the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Ready to visit the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Walking to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Walking to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

To visit his grave, you need to walk 1.5 KM in the rainforest of Serinsim Park. The trail is not very challenging. It’s only a bit warm and humid, and a few leeches would present during wet season.

A junction on the way to the tomb of Gambaliu

A junction on the way to the tomb of Gambaliu. Just follow the direction to Makam Sigunting

Crossing the flooded ground

Crossing the flooded ground

According to Mr. Tambakau Bin Tunggal, presumably an elder from Kampung Serinsim Village, Gambaliu lived there about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.

Listening to the legend of Gambaliu

Listening to the legend of Gambaliu

His body was so long that after he died, the people cut his body into half at knees, to make it easier to dig the grave. What this story tells me is that his people are lazy.

signage: Gambaliu is the tallest man

Gambaliu is the tallest man in Sabah legend

What left now is a grave encircled by rings of stones, there is no tombstone and marker.

The grave of Gambaliu

The grave of Gambaliu is about 2,000 to 3,000 years old

If I have a chance to talk to Gambaliu, I would like to ask him what to eat to grow tall, as every woman wants to date a tall guy. Even a 150cm girl prefers a 200cm boyfriend, so short guy like me has no market.

Tomb of Gambaliu the tallest man

Tomb of Gambaliu the tallest man

I wish to tell you more about Gambaliu, but that’s all I heard. The tomb has nothing exciting, unless they allow me to dig out the bones of Gambaliu.

Other Giants in Sabah Legend

Anyway, giant is quite common in Sabah legend. I list a few examples below, and each of them has different personality. From the description in stories, some could be taller than Gambaliu.

1. Gayo Nakan

In Kadazandusun folklore, there is a giant king named Gayo Nakan (Big Eater). His people were sick of satisfying his huge appetite. Hearing the complaint, Gayo Nakan decided to sacrifice himself by asking his people to bury him on top of Mt. Kinabalu. However, he cursed the people that they would face drought and famine for lack of caring.

2. Upai Semaring

Based on Lundayeh legend, Upai Semaring was a respectable giant who is a skillful hunter and fisherman. He also possess magical power to vanish himself. Today you still can see his huge footprint near Maga Falls in Long Pasia. He even used his forefinger to carve a rock (named Batu Narit) next to Matang River.

3. The Giant of Kinoringan

When villagers broke their promise, the outraged Kinoringan (God in Dusun’s belief) turned a baby into an one-eyed man-eater giant with teeth as big as elephant tusks. This giant can only be killed by seven arrows shot into its eye.

4. Bajau (or Lumanjau)

In Tambunan once lived a helpful and friendly giant called Bajau. He is so strong that he can carry a 10-feet-high stone under his arm, and he is so big that when he crossed the river, the villagers would follow behind to pick up the dead fishes trodden by him. He is also a hero who defends his village from invaders.

Graveyard of Sigunting

About 300 Metres away from the tomb of Gambaliu is the grave of Sigunting, a great man who challenged the imperialism. His story is real and recorded in history book.

tomb of Sigunting

Sigunting was born in 1859 and passed away in 1905

Tomb of Sigunting in Serinsim Park

Tomb of Sigunting is located inside Serinsim Park

Sigunting is a Dusun warrior born in Mumus (Serinsim) in 1859. When he was 35 years old, he led a 7-year guerrilla warfare against the British colonial government between 1894 and 1901 named Perang Sigunting.

tomb of Sigunting

Sigunting is a Dusun hero born in Serinsim

Biodata of Sigunting (in Malay language)

Biodata of Sigunting (in Malay language)

He destroyed the police station in Kg. Serinsim village. However, British force failed to annihilate Sigunting and his followers. Probably Serinsim Park is too beautiful, so the soldiers forgot their duty and went picnic and swimming.

Grave of Sigunting

Grave of Sigunting

Finally, both parties signed a peace treaty to end the fight, so everyone could go picnic and swimming. Sigunting might be the only Sabah hero who survives the baptism of fire by British force.

dragon on ceramic jar

The dragon on ceramic jar indicates that the jar is from China

In case you wonder why there is jar in his grave. It’s because in old day, Kadazan and Dusun people buried the deceased in a jar (usually ceramic jars from China). The corpse was first placed in big jar, after the body decomposed, the bones would be moved to smaller jar, and big jar will be recycled as it’s precious commodity in those days. I’m not sure if they had transferred the bones of Sigunting under the cement grave.

Fragments of ceramic jar in Sigunting grave

Fragments of ceramic jar in Sigunting grave

I admire Sigunting because he stood up against paying tax. Seeing that our lives are getting poorer and harder because of GST and various other taxes, I only can sigh (and wait for the next election).

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

Giant Fig Fruit with Big Uses

Wong couple selling fig fruit in Tamu market of Donggongon

Note: This article contains incorrect information. This fruit is not a fig. It’s a fruit under the genus Crescentia (蒲瓜), which is more related to Calabash or bottle gourd. My apology.)

Medicines are bad, herbs are good. This is how most Sabahans view drugs. It’s always a bitter feeling to bring home a lot of colorful candies (pills) from the clinic. Sabahans describe western medicines as a powerful but “toxic” remedy, and you can often hear us say, “It’s too ‘chemical’ and has side effects!”

small fig fruits on tree

Fig fruit is normally very small

That’s why we prefer herbs as it’s more natural and gentle (true in most cases, but not absolutely). In old days, local people have been using plant to heal various type of diseases. Some scientists even say our rainforest is the biggest pharmacy in the world.

monkey picking fig fruit

Fig fruit is a very important food source for wildlife of Borneo

Two months ago, I was intrigued by a photo taken by my friend in tamu (local weekly alfresco market) of Donggongon town. It is a huge fig fruit as big as a cannon ball!

Known as Buah Maja locally, fig tree is everywhere in Sabah. It is so common that Quentin Phillipps, the author of the book Phillipps’ Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology, says in Borneo, you are rarely more than 100 Meters away from a fig. Fig is the fruit of life in rainforest, and it’s an important food source for Borneo wildlife.

Fig fruit for sale

Fig fruit for sale

Though I’ve seen dozens of fig fruit species, most of them are small, I never saw one that is so big. Therefore, I went to the tamu of Donggongon town, which is open in the mornings of every Thursday and Friday. It didn’t take long for me to locate the stall that sold this fig fruit. The seller, Mr. Wong is very friendly and eager to introduce this amazing fruit to me.

I was surprised to learn that this fig fruit is consumed as herb rather than fruit. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Though Sabah doesn’t have apple, this giant-green-apple-looking fig fruit probably can offer the same health benefits.

fig fruit almost as big as a soccer ball

This fig fruit species is almost as big as a soccer ball

According to Mrs Wong, the wife of seller, she discovered this fruit in Lido and paid RM20 for it. At first her husband scold her for paying too much. Due to high Cholesterol level, she used to wake up with a dizzy head in the morning. After she drank the juice of this fruit, miracle happened. This discomfort vanished.

Therefore, her husband also becomes an advocate of this fig fruit. He plants and sells the fruits and juice. Based on what I found online, figs are high in fiber and a good source of magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper and potassium (which helps lower blood pressure), as well as vitamins, especially K and B6.

Other alleged benefits include detoxification and the ability to cure asthma, hemorrhoid, thyroiditis, minor kidney problem, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, constipation, fever, cough, etc. (I would strongly recommend you to see a doctor if you are sick). Anyway, the nutrition composition may vary among different fig species. Not all figs are edible.

Fig tree with big fruits

Fig tree with low hanging big fruits

The good thing is – herb is relatively safe to experiment for people who are looking for alternative treatment for ailments and hard-to-cure diseases. This fig juice can be taken as a traditional tonic too.

Mr. Wong sells the fig fruit for RM5-10 each. You can boil its pulp with water for 3 hours until the juice turns dark. If you are too busy to do this, you can buy the juice from him for only RM3 per bottle (which is boiled with other herbs too). You can drink the juice like water. However, it’s not an instant fix that can heal everything overnight, so you need to try it for some time.

Mr. Wong sells fig fruit juice for RM3 per bottle (500ml)

Mr. Wong sells fig fruit juice for RM3 per bottle (500ml)

If you want to plant this fig, the seedling is sold for RM20. It takes 3 years to mature, and it fruits throughout the year, so you will have so many fruits that you can even sell or share with others.

Seedling of fig tree

Seedling of fig tree

Everyone wants to be healthy. Selling multivitamin supplement makes nutraceutical firms laugh all the way to the bank. The fact is – these synthetic and unnatural forms of vitamin can’t be used by the body in the same way as natural versions, and it could do more harm than good, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

Fig fruit herb juice for sale

Fig fruit herb juice for sale

Most man-made vitamins are simply a waste of money. I used to take heavy daily dose of Vitamin C for months, but it did nothing more than turning my urine into yellow. After I get real Vitamin C by eating fruits, I see positive changes in less than a week. Some might argue that I should pay higher price to get Vitamin pills of better quality. Well, why not spending that money to buy real and natural food?

The expensive solution is not always the best solution. Pharmaceutical companies and some doctors love clients to buy medicines, so they can make profit. Therefore, they like to label folk prescription with the magic phrase “not scientifically proven”, rather than saying “I don’t know because our institution is too poor to fund a research. But I can’t say that it might work because I won’t make any money. Besides, I’m so afraid that you would sue me if anything doesn’t go well.”

Fig fruit (Buah Maja)

Fig fruit is known as Buah Maja in Malay language

For example, Tongkat Ali could be a great alternative to the expensive blue “V” pill and needs no doctor recommendation. Soursop is an excellent agent to fight cancer better than radiotherapy, which is infamous for its nasty side effects.

Ok, back to the fig fruit. I’m a very curious person, so I can’t stop without looking what is inside this big fruit. I bought one home to dissect it in the kitchen.

This fruit has very hard and smooth skin, so be careful with your knife. For my mom, it’s an easy task to cut it into half. The skin is thin and hard, like an eggshell.

white flesh of fig fruit

The flesh of this fig fruit is sweet and sour, with weird taste like medicine.

I can smell a very fresh and fruity aroma when it is open. The flesh is marshy and soft, with scattered brown seeds. I tasted its pulp. It’s sweet with a bit of sour that smells like herb. Frankly it isn’t yummy, which is logic, because things with medical properties never taste great.

marshy flesh of fig fruit

The flesh of fig fruit is marshy

This fig is just one of the treasures in Borneo. We should read the story below:
The U.S. National Cancer Institute funded a 1987 plant collection expedition on the island of Borneo in the Malaysian State of Sarawak. Among the samples obtained were those from the tree Calophyllum lanigerum var austrocoriaceum, an incredibly rare species. When extracts of this plant were discovered to show good antiviral activity toward the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), researchers returned to the site of the original collection to find that the tree was gone, cut down for firewood or building purposes. (Source: Rainforest Trust News)

fig fruit cut into half

The flesh of fig fruit has very pleasing fresh aroma

You see. A precious plant that might hold the key to cure AIDS was used as firewood or building materials! We really need to carry out more studies to uncover more secret formula in our plant to battle illness.

Photos taken in Donggongon, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo