Pastoral visit to Sungei Asap Belaga. Long Urun 2017

Pastoral visit to Sungei Asap Belaga. Long Urun
by Most Rev Bishop Richard Ng on

Local Parish priest is Sylvester Ngau Juk from Belaja.

Photography : Jason Kho
Story compiled by Ben Chang

The team left Miri at 1130 am on 25June to arrive at  Long Urun, a penan settlement at around 3.00pm.
The Bishop then celebrated Mass at Gereja St Anthony de' Pedua, Long Urun.

The Penan consist of one large ethnic group of nomadic forest people living in Borneo's interior; they may be distinguished from other "Punan" (a general term for Bornean forest dwellers) by language and other cultural features.

The Penan are divided into two main groups, and these may be called the East Penan and the West Penan; The eastern groups are culturally distinct and are geographically separated by the Baram River.

The western Penan have occupied settlements on the Niah, Suai, and Buk rivers since the early nineteenth century. They probably arrived in their present location by traveling through the Lio Matu area from Pejungan. The trend toward settlement and agriculture has a long history.

Assimilation is occurring at an increasing rate. Both Eastern and Western Penan have borrowed cultural features from the settled longhouse dwellers. They secure their manufactured trade goods from settled patrons, who profit greatly from the Penan's gathered goods.

The Penan hold no exclusive territory, but rather live alongside other groups. There are approximately seventy small Penan groups, and total population likely falls under 3,000 people.  The Penan habitat consists of climax forest with streams and rivers. The Penan language belongs to the Kenyah Group, and includes two dialects (Eastern and Western, spoken by the two main groups respectively), dialects that are sometimes mutually intelligible. Much linguistic borrowing has taken place from settled populations nearby.

Belaga is the capital of the Belaga District in Kapit Division, Sarawak, Malaysia. It is located on the upper reaches of the Rajang River, some 120 kilometers northeast of Kapit  but considerably further on the river and slightly less than 100 kilometers from the South China Sea coast near Bintulu. It is located within the Hulu Rajang parliamentary constituency.

The district population as of 2010 was 37,102. Belaga was established in the early 1900s when a few Chinese traders set up shops and started trading with the Orang Ulu, supplying essentials such as kerosene, salt and manufactured goods.

Belaga is a small town. Whilst the village can be explored in well under an hour, most visitors arrive in Belaga in order to explore the many longhouses as well as the interior of Borneo. The town is very well connected with the tribes-people.

From Belaga, the Belaga- Tubau route entails following a recently upgraded logging track through a deforested area. After around two hours' drive north up the Belagu - Tubau track you reach ASAP, where the people from the Bakun region and Sungei Balui have been resettled.

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