The beautiful, peaceful, Bario valley,
Was a perfect place for guests to dally,
In the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak,
Barely accessible by mountain track.
The safe way in was to go by plane,
And though it flew again and again
A critical factor was the passengers’ weight,
As over the peaks they navigate.
Such was our flight to that sleepy hollow
And the celebrations that surely follow.
The longhouse had stood for fifty years,
Site for the wedding, that quickly nears.
A Kelabit wedding was the chosen way,
To celebrate their very special day.
The grandfather of the bride was last to wed
In Bario, seventy years ago, ‘tis said.
Longhouses throughout the town
Were full of guests from all around.
Food was trucked over mountain trails
Plus everything else a party entails,
Food was gathered and hunted galore
Pineapples, fern shoots and young wild boar,
From paddy fields came Bario rice.
Soon all was ready and presenting nice.
Before the wedding could proceed
The prospective bride and groom agreed,
To spend some time with the “folks-in-law,
In compliance with Kelabit lore.
With all the preliminaries now in place,
Guests all gathered in the longroom’s space.
The ceremonial traditions were upheld
As Bario watched two cultures meld.
We stood in wonder as this tale was told,
Watching the traditional wedding unfold,
Kelabit and Kiwi becoming one,
A new life together had begun.
As the guests all went their separate ways,
My thoughts turned back to yesterdays
When headhunters ruled this highland place,
And life unfolded at walking pace.
The longhouse several families’ share,
Eating rice, fruit and jungle fare.
Rising with the early call to prayer,
Then working all day in the ‘paddies’ there.
Jungle paths were used to traverse
This highland corner, of our universe.
I doubt that today we’d think it ‘cool,’
To take a week to walk to school.
All of that occurred decades ago,
And times have changed, I know!
Today the young all work in Miri
Opportunities better in the city.
Perhaps Bario’s time is drawing near
When land titles are bold and clear,
When governments no longer need
To satisfy forest companies’ greed!