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The Kadazan and the Legend of Monsopiad

The Kadazan

There are over 30 different ethnic entities in Sabah, speaking as many languages and over 80 dialects. The Kadazan people are part of the Kadazandusun community, which is the biggest ethnic entity in Sabah, compromising about 20% of her population.

The term Kadazandusun has been used in modern times to unite the various ethnic entities of the Dusunic language community. The Kadazan people were traditionally those who inhabited plains and valleys, cultivating wet-rice. The Dusun people still live in the hilly areas around Mount Kinabalu, and mostly farm hill-rice.

The Kadazan people differentiate various tribes amongst themselves, with slight language variations. Thus, in the area of Kuai-Kandazon, where the Monsopiad Cultural Village is located the people belong to the Tangaa' sub-ethnic entity.

The origins of the Kadazans are shrouded in the mists of history, and one might well never know. And as intriguing as their long forgotten origins are their mystical tales and legends, of which the Bobohizans, the female priestesses are the guardians and teachers.

Even though the Kadazan do not have any written language, legends and lore abound, full of mystery and magic, of long gone heroes and wondrous deeds.

Standing tall amongst the many local heroes is Monsopiad, well-remembered and cherished hero of the Kadazandusun. His direct descendants still keep his headhunting trophies, and a sword that belonged to him, and his story is still told in many a house:

The Legend of Monsopiad

A long time ago a lady by the name of Kizabon was pregnant. While she was expecting a sacred Bugang bird made its nest on the top of the house in which she lived with Dunggou, her husband. The month passed and when the time came for the child to be born the Bugang birds hatched, too. Dunggou looked upon this coincidence as a good omen and a sign that the newborn would have special powers. The baby was a son, and named Monsopiad, and whenever the baby was given his bath, Dunggou took the young birds down from their nest to bathe them with the baby. Then he returned the birds carefully to the nest. This practice was diligently observed until the birds were finally able to fly and leave the nest.

Monsopiad was born and brought up in the village Kuai, where the Monsopiad Cultural Village is located now. His maternal grandfather was the headman of Kuai. During the time of Monsopiad the village was often plundered by robbers, and because the village did not have enough young men to fight off the attackers the inhabitants had no choice but to retreat and hide in the nearby jungle until it was safe to return to their ransacked homes. But as the grandson of the village headman, Monsopiad received special training, and soon grew to become a handsome warrior. Monsopiad turned out to be a natural fighter and handled every weapon with ease. One day Monsopiad made a vow that he would start looking for the robbers and finish them off. He promised to cut off the head of their leaders and bring them back to his village as a trophy to be hung from the roof of his house. Before Monsopiad left to vindicate his village, he asked the women of Kuai to give him a grand warrior's welcome upon his successful return. Monsopiad set off, always taking along three young boys to bear witness to his deeds. The boys were to return to Kuai ahead of him to announce his success and herald his impending arrival by blowing on a bamboo trumpet.

As he had promised, Monsopiad fought the leaders of the robbers and beheaded them. The three boys who had been accompanying Monsopiad in his battles went ahead of him back to Kuai, to announce his impending arrival. When the people of the village heard the bamboo trumpets the Bobohizans gave instructions to the ladies of the village. They had to put on their best costumes and fineries, and were then led by the priestesses in a parade to greet the successful warrior. The entire village joined the procession. They began singing songs of victory as soon as Monsopiad entered the village. The sight, it is said, moved Monsopiad so much and inspired him to vow to wipe out all the enemies of his village.

As the years passed, Monsopiad continued relentlessly with his self-imposed mission and in time, no robber nor evil warrior dared approaching the area of Kampung Kuai. However, Monsopiad had become an obsessed person who resorted to provoking other men into fighting. This gave him an excuse to kill and behead them. Soon, the other villagers, including Monsopiad's close friends were very wary and extremely afraid of him, until a group of brave warriors got together and decided that despite his heroic deeds, Monsopiad's uncontrollable desire to kill had made him a threat to the village. He had to be eliminated.

The warriors made their move while Monsopiad was resting in his house. They attacked him, and Monsopiad put up a fierce fight but found that he no longer had the strength he possessed while fighting the enemies of his village. Monsopiad realised too late that by abusing the special strength bestowed on him by the sacred Bugang bird he had gradually become a common man. Monsopiad lost his life that night.

However, the villagers still held him dearly in their hearts for he was, after all, the man who had vanquished their enemies. He had, in total, collected the heads of 42 powerful warriors, a feat that no other man could equal. They forgave Monsopiad for his mistakes and in memory of his good deeds the villagers erected a monument in his honour and renamed the village after him.




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