We arrived at Papar old town around 10am with our relatives to meet our cousin here on Saturday (29 Jan) and slept for a night. I was enchanted with the serenading views of this urbanized old town.
Papar was named after the Bruneian word for flat or open land. It was written in the map for Sulu as Papal District. Flat or open area is known as “Papad” in Bahasa Sug.
Papar was said to be administered by certain Sulu Chief, Datu Amirbahar until 1877. It was during the leased to Dent-Overbeck represented by the Sulu Sultan.
We started the journey from Sandakan at 9:30Am on the second trip of the bus bound for Kota Kinabalu. It was 27 January, not a very significant date for the day but very important date for me to arrived Kota Kinabalu because I was excited to see my cousin for about 18 years not meeting him.
Upon our arrival from Sandakan to KK terminal, I heard a young Tausug working there to campaign inbound and outbound passengers within Sabah and as far as Labuan and Brunei speaking his “understandable English” to Caucasian tourists. He said, “You want bus, for two ringgit only?”
These tourists are still meandering heads around to look for anyone to talk with. I tried to talk to them and told them the direction to take the mini bus to the KK city center. They left with face smiling for a cheap bus mini that is found across the road in Inanam Bus Terminal. This young Tausug said here, “Everything for everyone”.
On the 28th I went to the city center of KK. I was in Wisma Merdeka looking for a book store that had been transferred to the other side of the mall. I bought books, the “Three Came Home” by Agnes N. Keith and “Datu Paduka Mat Salleh, Hero of Sabah” by Sabah National Archive.
While talking with the kind sales people here I was choosing other books to buy. I got “Sabah: Under the Rising Sun Government” by Stephen R. Evans and "Kinabalu Guerillas" by Maxwell Hall. I chatted with Nizam, Joan and Aza for a long while. We talked about the relationship between ethnics in Sabah as having their harmony to each other. No distance sets them apart.
They are all having Sulus or Tausug blood. I related to them how we call ourselves and how foreigners called ourselves. I left them to sale the book in the store. If I will stay longer their sales might get disturbed and no commission earned – if there is any.
Many had changed in the city center of Kota Kinabalu. I almost forgot where the Wisma Merdeka was located. I found first the KK Mall while looking for it.
I took city bus to get back to vicinity of 1 Borneo and along Alamesra Village where I lodged. I decided to join to Papar. Before riding the van we drop for a while in the fruits stand. There are many different fruits here, such as Mangga, Wanni, Watermelon and many others. Along the way to Papar, there a town called Petagas where the Petagas Cemetery found. Here are buried many personalities, including one of the Pangirans of Brunei and one Sultan?
Putatan is also along the way. While infrastructural development being alive, the ancient-looking view of the town are still intact that helps me to internalise the essence of the written stories about how Sulus administered this land before under Sultanate of Sulu.
History will repeat itself but people here can never wanted and desire to repeat the history experienced in this land – be it negative or positive influence gained by the Sulus here before, while and after the leased in 22 Jan 1878. Despite of that people here are living in harmony. There is a maximum tolerance to any believers of their faith.
Only there are some who doesn’t understand history that sometimes ignited the conflict between ethnics – separated case and unusual anyway. I have been going back in fort in this highway to Papar to go to Menumbok for a trip to Brunei drop by Labaun few years later. The international airport stunning here is quite busy for flights arrival and departures.
Papar is a best place to visit. The Papar Old Masjid is still standing here. There are many food stall that served halal. There are many Sulus here. I was thinking that I cannot found one except my cousin here but I was wrong. There are also Tausug Citizens here. The Tausug vendors are also present.
I was touched with this Tausug who was detained for lack of legal document staying in Sabah. He was caned two years ago. Trace of the rattan still intact in his butt. He related the story of his hardship in working to help his mother to continue living:
“I was born in Semporna but I never got any legal document. When our father died I was the one helping my mother to support my siblings. I was caned for having no Malaysian legal document. I was deported to Zamboanga City, the place I am very foreign to, though our ancestors were here before. As far as I could remember, I never step off this land since my birth in Semporna. If I just know that life could be like this hard in this land of harmonious people, I would have just ask God to let me stay in the womb of my mother and never born. But as long as I still firmly believed with “Qada’ and Qadar” I will stay calm and live life to continue living. I have to accept I am not welcome here, though I was born in Semporna. Whenever in the future our land of origin, the Sulu Archipelago will get back to its stability, I will be there to continue my life. I need to rest the interesting life of ours as oppressed people living in the develop state. Life must go on as saying goes.”
“We have to follow the law, just hold on to the pain. Keep the faith and think Allah” the man that whispered him while going to be hit by caned.
I will leave this “story chapter” as I could not hold on to my emotion to overflow. This gave me the idea that people should strive hard to get up and work for their own – most of all get legal document and legal country as well as nationality.
I got back to KK after a night in Papar and will get back to Sandakan soon. Strong flood and landslides hit Sandakan right now. I am writing overlooking 1 Borneo Mall (noon time).