It seems like the recent case of tourists stripping on Mount Kinabalu wasn’t the first of its kind.
Similar cases had happened, according to veteran mountain guide Suhaji Sumail. He has seen tourists committing disrespectful actions, such as spiting, littering and shouting vulgarities while trekking up the mountain.
Throughout his 40-year tenure as a guide, the 63-year-old native from Kundasang said that some of the tourists disregarded the local customs and even went to the extend of exposing their genitalia by urinating and defecating indiscriminately. Sumail expressed his disapproval over the offenses and stated that “he still remembers his parents warning him to seek permission before answering the call of nature”.
All these are strictly taboo for Sabah’s ethnic communities who firmly believe in a certain code of conduct while on the mountain or at waterfalls or in the jungle. When I was young and wanted to go up the mountain for the 1st time, my parents held a ritual and asked permission for me to go up and return safely.
“And if we were to feel or see or hear anything unusual, we should pass by the area quietly and not say anything. We have always believed in “penunggu” or guardian spirits on the mountain and at waterfalls,” he explained further.
Yesterday (8th June), it was reported that Sabah Deputy Sabah Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan blamed the 10 tourists who stripped naked and took a photo on Mount Kinabalu for causing the Sabah earthquake. Sabah natives believe that the tourists may have angered the protectors of the mountain (known as “aki” by the natives) by showing “disrespect to the sacred mountain”. The tourists also allegedly called their mountain guide “stupid” and told him to “go to hell”.
Many locals, including Sumail, believed that Friday’s unfortunate earthquake was indeed a punishment for the grave offences. The guide even gave a solution to counter the anger of the protectors of the mountains:
I hope Sabah Parks will organise a ritual to appease the mountain spirits as soon as possible.
The ritual is named “Monolob”, and is organised yearly to appease the mountain spirit. The ceremony is performed by the council of elders of Mount Kinabalu and involves the sacrifice of 7 white-feathered chickens and white eggs. The “Monolob” ritual is held not only to obtain blessing from the mountain spirits, but it is also a way to seek forgiveness for all the disrespectful actions committed on the mountain by tourists and locals alike.
On Sunday (7th June), council member Richard Soibi said that the ritual would go forward without any difficulties, provided that “all parties in the Dusun community including the mountain guides agree to do it”.
Soibi, who is also the Mount Kinabalu mountain guides chief, stated that, “It’s also a psychological healing process to ease those who have been traumatised with the tragedy.”