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Sharing Stories - A Glimpse into Another's Life - Strangers in a Longhouse

MALAYSIA | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [390] | Scholarship Entry

My mother’s pounding on my door again that morning. I had a hard time opening my eyes since it’s only almost two hours from the time I slid under the covers.
Asia-Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN)is a network to connect Filipino speaking people who want to make change happen for human rights in the Asia Pacific region. Six years has passed since I started working with these people. And in that November morning, APIYN sent me, along with three others to Bintulu in Sarawak, Malaysia for an Indigenous Youth Convention.
Humid as it is, I was nervous at my arrival as I tried looking for my companions who arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport hours before me. We were met by our host organization at the small but very clean airport in Bintulu. It was dark when we reached that place. Kids were there smiling at us. Old men and women came and touched our foreheads as they welcome us.
The conference went well; people from neighboring longhouses came for our discussions. We were documenting every aspect of our travel as possible, but with mobile and giggling people as the Malays were upon seeing us, it’s nearly impossible to get them smile at our cameras. I am not fan of spicy foods, but during those house-hopping, I was amazed at how tasty their Malaysian-curry was. I read it in books that the world’s biggest flower can be found in Sarawak, I tried looking for it, in vain. They said we might find some, if we hike for hours in them mountains. But then, the possibility of finding one is scarce
Our last night was more than we expected. The very long living room was so full other people had to spill in the hallways outside. It was a night of traditional dances as lovely ladies came out dancing donned in their traditional attires, Malay women were wearing the baju kurung; Malay men were wearing the baju melayu. We danced and sang their songs
I tried to hide my tears behind my sunglasses as the plane took off from KLIA. I came to Sarawak to teach people, I left being the one educated. I saw people so contented with what they have as long as they are living with their families.
I was taught by my ignorance of other’s lives. That somewhere in some part of the earth, a world like theirs exists. And that they are waiting to be visited, and to be understood.
Once in my life, I became a stranger in a family’s longhouse, and it educated me not to be stranger in my own people’s longings, traditions and cultures.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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