Pastoral Visit to Batu Niah and Sebuah- 25th & 26th Aug 2018

25th August 2018
The trip by road from Miri to St Michael Parish, Batu Niah registered 77.5 km one way. Upon arrival  Right Reverend Bishop Richard Ng celebrated morning mass and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 18 adults accompanied by Monsignor Fr. Francis Kuleh and Fr. Anup Hemant.

Photography  and Story by Dennis Ng
Compiled and edited by Ben Chang

There are a total of 65 longhouses under St Michael Parish, Batu Niah.
The Iban is the largest ethic group  in Sarawak, thus making their language the most widely used in State. Although Ibans generally speak a dialect which is mutually intelligible, they can be divided into different branches which are named after the geographical areas where they reside. Ibans living in areas from Sarikei to Sibu  are called Rajang Ibans. They are the majority group of the Iban people.
The Ibans in Sebauh, Niah are the descendants of the skrang Ibans who had moved to Sebauh and Niah from Limbang during the days of the white Rajah. They traveled all the way  from Rumah Aling in Limbang by boat from River Kemena, out to the South  China Sea and then to Sungei Niah,.Sera and Sekutan.

Most Ibans are devout Christians and follow the Christian faith strictly. Despite the difference in faiths, Ibans of different faiths do help each other during Gawais and Christmas. Differences in faith is never a problem in the Iban community. The Ibans believe in helping and having fun together. This is ironic for a tribe who once waged war with others due to differences.

Sunset Mass At Rumah Miekle Ding (pronounced Michael) Ding.

After Mass the team continued the journey to St George Parish, Sebauh which was another 134 km before crossing the river by ferry to Rumah Miekle Ding where Right Reverend Bishop Richard Ng and Fr. Basil Entili celebrated sunset Mass with some 200 parishioners.

Rumah Miekle Ding is a five-star 28 doors longhouse situated on a hill facing the towns of Kemana and Sebauh diagonally across the river. It was made famous when it was chosen to host the 8th Gawai-Kaamatan Celebration in 2014 which was attended by more than 1,000 guests from Sarawak and Sabah.

It is modernly equipped and also built of concrete;  possibly the first of its kind in Sarawak in terms of structure and design. A five-star longhouse with all the trappings of a modern dwelling place - water supply, electricity, air conditioning, modern fixtures and utilities. Besides, there is a belian jetty by the river where many longhouses are berthed and this gives Rumah Miekle Ding an elevated status.

This longhouse architecture is impressive and cars can be driven right up to the entrance. It is also the home of Kemena assemblyman and Assistance Minister of Public Utilities Dr. Stephen Rundi.

The people of Bintulu are very proud of Rumah Miekle Ding which has produced 71 graduates eight of whom are medical doctors including the assemblyman himself.

Sebauh is a sub-district of Sarawak, about an hour's drive from Bintulu town. Part of it was settled in 1886 by the Skrang Ibans with the permission of the White Rajah not long after the Krakatua volcano erupted in Java, Indonesia. The Rajah's policy was to populate all parts of Sarawak with people keen in agriculture particularly rice cultivation. Sebauh is made up of a few chinese shops some are still the wooden shops and government offices, and is home to the Iban, Chinese, Melanau, Malay and Orang Ulu. There is a secondary school SMK Sebauh, a chinese primary school and a local government-run primary school in the town.

Sebauh produces good timber and a sawmill is still operating across the river just before Sungei Sebauh branches out from Kemena River.  Sungei  Sera in turn branches out from Sungei Sebauh further up in the Ulu. Rubber, pepper, timber and now oil palm have helped this sub-district prosper. Today especially with oil palm cultivation Sebauh is getting a second wind of prosperity. According to a local resident, when a Sekutan Iban man owns a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, pepper and oil palm gardens as well as longboat engine, he is well established.

26th August 2018

Next morning 26th August 2018, Right Reverend Bishop Richard Ng and Fr. Basil Entili  celebrated Sunday Mass at Gereja St George, Sebauh with  some 500 parishioners where  25 candidates mainly adults received the Sacrament of Confirmation.  There are 30 longhouses including plantation  and camp under St George Parish, Sebauh.

This pastoral visit Miri to St Michael Parish, Rumah Miekle Ding and St George Parish recorded 444.5 km return.

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