Comes May, you will definitely hear the natives say “Norikot nodii bulan lima” which literally means, “The month of May has come!”. It is a joyous month long celebration of harvest festival with a grand finale celebrated as a public holiday on 30th and 31st May in the state of Sabah. The one month celebration is basically Sabah’s own version of the October Fest.
But not sure what to do during Harvest Festival or Kaamatan in May? Here’s a list we’ve compiled and it has a little bit of everything for everyone!
1. Visit Kadazandusun Cultural Association Sabah (KDCA)
No Kaamatan celebration is legit if you don’t experience the celebration at KDCA, with lots of food and drinks galore! The merriment begins a week before the closing of Kaamatan with booths selling an array of tantalizing food and delicacies, drinks as well as other stuff. Get a taste of some of Sabah’s traditional brews like the tapai and lihing (rice wine). On the 30th to 31st of May, there will be activities such as traditional sports, a singing competition, cultural exhibition and not forgetting, the anticipated Unduk Ngadau beauty pageant!
You can also visit KDCA Cultural Village any time to learn about the different indigenous ethnic groups in Sabah. This includes the four major Dusun tribes which are the Dusun Tindal Kota Belud, Dusun Papar, Rungus and Murut.
2. Visit Mari-Mari Cultural Village (MMCV)
Besides visiting KDCA Cultural Village, you can also opt to visit Mari-Mari Cultural Village. What better way to understand the life of Sabah’s natives than by immersing yourself in their culture during the harvest festival. The tour at MMCV features 5 different ethnic tribes of Sabah which includes the Rungus, Kadazan-Dusun, Lundayeh, Murut and Bajau tribe. See, smell, taste and experience Sabah’s culture at its finest.
3. Join in the district harvest festival
There will be a couple of district harvest festival celebrations happening around Sabah in May- And you wouldn’t want to miss them. Each district event has their own unique attractions, cultural performances as well as the crowning of their district Unduk Ngadau (beauty queen). Some major districts that are participating in the festivity are listed below:
• Pitas Bengkoka Festival & Harvest Festival 2017 (10-14 May 2017 at Bengkoka Square, Pitas)
• Harvest Festival, Kota Belud (14 May 2017 at Kota Belud)
• Harvest Festival, Kota Marudu (15 May 2017 at Kota Marudu Community Hall / Dataran Kota Marudu)
4. Catch the Sabah Fest 2017
To kick-start the Kaamatan month, Sabah Fest 2017 will be held from the 5th-7th May at Kompleks JKKN Sabah, Kota Kinabalu. The highlight of Sabah Fest 2017 is the Jesselton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Supirak musical theatre performance. The Jesselton Philharmonic Orchestra will be showcasing young talented students from the rural with skills in playing Sabah’s traditional music instruments- A performance that will surely warm the heart. Not to be missed is also the Supirak, Legend of the Supirak Stone Ark, a grand-scale musical theatre performance which tells the story of a disobedient young man cursed into stone by his own mother. Do expect an amazing performance decorated with traditional and contemporary song and dance.
5. Catch other local events around Kota Kinabalu
This includes the Borneo Indigenous Fashion Week which should be every fashionista’s go-to. Happening on the 13-14 of May at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa, the event is held to promote Sabah’s indigenous culture to the world by creating a platform for Sabah’s fashion designers and artist to showcase their artworks.
If you’re an off-roading buff, you can check out the Penampang 4X4 Kaamatan Challenge an annual event held in conjunction with Kaamatan. Experience the excitement and thrill of off-roading which has both novice and amateur categories.
Another event you can check out is the Harvest Festival Open Regatta. Kinabalu Yacht Club is organizing an open regatta event in conjunction with Kaamatan and numerous sailing enthusiasts will be gathering for this annual event to show-off their sailing skills. You wouldn’t want to miss the sight of yachts sailing into the sunset.
6. Watch the finale of Kaamatan celebration and Unduk Ngadau
The highlight of the Kaamatan festival (besides the excessive merriment) is hands down, the Unduk Ngadau beauty pageant. Every year, a girl is chosen amongst the many beauties of Sabah’s district to be crowned as the year’s Unduk Ngadau. It’s a pretty big deal. The finale of the beauty pageant is held annually at the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) on 31st May where hundreds will gather to watch the event.
7. Experience Kaamatan with the locals
Nothing would be as authentic and special as the experience of celebrating the Harvest Festival with the locals themselves. We suggest living a day or two with them to really understand and experience the meaning of Harvest Festival in Sabah. You will get to learn more about their culture and heritage that way too. So why not visit Kiulu Farmstay or stay the night at Kiulu Homestay? It’s an amazing place to experience life’s simple pleasures and getting to know the local people. Go here to checkout Kiulu Farmstay’s website!
8. Dress-up for Kaamatan
Another great way to get in the mood of Kaamatan is to dress-up in traditional Sabah costumes. If you would rather not don an entire traditional outfit, why not where some accessories with a Bornean touch to them instead. Make a statement by wearing colourful beaded Rungus necklaces, Bornean-inspired earrings or chunky bangles.
9. Feast on local Sabah delicacies
The most important thing when it comes to celebration is to feast. A Harvest Festival is not really one if you can’t enjoy the harvest, right? So during the Kaamatan month, why not head over to D’Place at Plaza Shell and have yourself some yummy bambangan, tuhau and not forgetting, Butod! Mmm-mm!
We hope our suggestions are helpful enough! So, how will you be celebrating Kaamatan this year? Why not share with us your experiences and plans for the Harvest festival?