The Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu is located in the “Land Below the Wind” – north of Borneo Island – in the Malaysian state of Sabah. In the past, Sabah was known as North Borneo. Sabah is one of the two states in East Malaysia, the other being Sarawak. They are bounded by Indonesia while Sarawak also shares a border with Brunei.
The Land Below The Wind
SABAH – the second largest state in Malaysia, is situated at the northern part of the Island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. It covers area 72 500 sq kilometers with a coastline of 14 400 kilometers long washed by the South China Sea in the west, the Sulu Sea in the northeast and the Celebes Sea in the east.
Kota Kinabalu City is the capital of SABAH, set between lush, tropical hills and fronting emerald green waters-vibrant and exciting yet serene and uplifting, with its eco-treasures from top to bottom. Formerly known as Api-Api (Apy-Apy on a 1657 Dutch map), Deasoka (a place where travelers rest and pick up fresh water) and Singgah Mata (where the eye lingers), its name was changed in 1899 to Jesselton after Sir Charles Jessel, Vice Chairman of the Chartered Company Board of Directors. On 30 Sept 1968, Jesselton was changed to Kota Kinabalu. It became a municipal in 1979 and attained city status on 2 Feb 2000.
Known as The Land Below The Wind because geographically, it is below the typhoon belt. The three million population of SABAH is as diverse as its ecology. Comprising of a colourful mix of 32 ethnic group and other non-indigenous people – they are all interwoven by culture, tradition, marriage and language. The result is the face and dialect unmistakably SABAH.
The largest ethnic group is the Kadazandusun, making up 1/3 of the total population, they can be found on the west coast, to the interior. Formerly the main rice-producer of the states, the Kadazandusun is now the major force in SABAH’s rapid progress towards urban modernisation.
The Bajaus were originally the seafarers of Borneo. Many still reside along the coastline with fishing being a major occupation. Their riding skills on ponies have earned these Bajaus nickname ‘Cowboy Of The East’ and their colourful costumes (as well of their ponies) are greatly admired.
The Muruts reside mainly in the hinterland, with many still occupying the traditional long houses. Once feared of their headhunting, the Muruts now, mainly use their blowpipes and darts for hunting food and ceremonial occasions.
The highlight of all ethnic community festivals is the Harvest Festival held in May. Traditionally, it is a ceremony to give thanks to the rice-spirit for a bountiful harvest and to ensure the same for the next season. Gong-beating competition, unduk ngadau (Harvest Queen), buffalo-races and other traditional sports, the appearance of the Bobohizan or the ‘High Priestess’, are all part of the interesting festival. The majority of the ethnic communities in SABAH are either Muslim or Christian by choice. Hence, in additional to the traditional harvest celebration, the respective communities also celebrate Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Raya Haji, Awal Muharram, Easter and Christmas. For locals and visitors alike, the weeklong Gaya Christmas Celebration (week before Christmas) organized by the Sabah Council of Churches is a manifestation of the harmonious relationship among the various races and religions.
The Chinese who migrated in great numbers to SABAH during the early years of the North Borneo Chatered Company era [19th century], make up a large portion of the non-indigenous people. Living mostly in and around city areas, they engage themselves primarily in the commercial sectors of the economy.
The Chinese have adapted themselves well in SABAH with many of their traditional beliefs and celebrations such as Wesak Day [Buddha’s enlightenment] and Chinese New Year, are still being observed and celebrated in SABAH, not only by the Chinese but by the other races as well.