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|Sunday, 3-Jun-2007 16:30
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Selamat Hari Beruk Sedunia 2007
Beruk mu dan beruk ku tidak pernah sehaluan. Biarlah segalanya berakhir di sini sahaja.
SELAMAT HARI BERUK SEDUNIA 2007
Meet the Pig-tailed Macaque or geekly known as Macaca nemestrina.
Better known in Malaysia as Beruk ( pronounce : Buh - rowk ).
Claimed to be vulnerable in the wild but at the same time, served as a great substitute for human labour throughout much of Southeast Asia - from Indonesia to Thailand.
Though I have not yet witnessed one doing the dishes, laundry or doing the groceries or even hired as " pengundi hantu " or " wakil rakyat " on behalf of their masters ( hope I could see the latter in my lifetime .. hu hu ) - I do know that they are trained and made to climb tall coconut trees, to help bringing down the harvest - coconut, a commodity greatly consumed in this part of the World.
In Kelantan, the practice is still a very common sight.
If you have the chance to stroll through any Kelantanese kampung,
especially the one with stretch and stretch of coconut groves, do scan your surroundings carefully. There are probably six out of ten chances that you might see a Beruk in action, plucking coconuts with the handler shouting short " coded " instructions from 20 meters or so, below. I bet that you don't find that in Lembah Klang, only very occasionally ( rarely ? ) spotted in other parts of the West Coast ( not sure about Sabah & Sarawak though ). The little green child size humanoid ? Oh, we call that Toyol. That would be another story.
I was at this event organised by the local Tourism Board - the so called Pertandingan Beruk Memetik Kelapa & Pameran 100 Jenis Produk Daripada Kelapa. Loosely translated as, Macaque - Coconut Plucking Competition & 100 Types of Coconut Derived Product Expo. Held from the 2nd to 3rd June 2007.
A wonderful event I would say.
Four thumbs up ( including two extra thumbs down under ) for the organizer.
The only drawback is it was held at a very secluded beach ( though just next to the well known Pantai Cahaya Bulan ! ) - at Pantai Kundor in Kota Bharu. Secluded ? Fine with me but unfortunately the accessibility is not - I nearly missed the junction if not because of the banner and the village road is too small ( quite dangerous too ) to accommodate heavy traffic. I think the organizer should think of a more easily accesible spot next time, as that would be much more effective in attracting more visitors, especially among curious otaku type Kelantanese and also those new to Kelantan.
I was there on the second day as I was away to Terengganu on the first.
It was late afternoon but I was lucky as the final round, a conclusion to previous rounds was just taking place when I reached there and was on time to watch the "cream of the cream" macaques ( some even came all the way from Penang ! ) battled each other to be the best in Kelantan ( Malaysia ? ). Unfortunately, I couldn't identify the winner, because they all looked the same - though I was hoping that the winner would pose King Kong style to the audience, banging the chest while shouting in disdain but obviously none saw the movie. Maybe the trainer should consider including the pose for the next semester.
every Beruk that day performed very well, but the audiences performed better.
One handler ( the owner ) failed to get a grip on his Beruk and the innocent creature went on plucking the coconuts even though the time is up, ironically faster than during the competition and despite efforts from the man to haul it down, it stayed up on the tree.
Then came a voice from the crowd :
" Hok aloh llekak ppokok doh laa ~ " ,
( It seems yours got stuck on the tree )
which is a common catch phrase used when one's kite ( or the Wau Bulan in Kelantan ) ended up nestled on the tree canopy. So much so, the owner's typical gesture really did look like he is in the kite flying scenario !
It didn't end there.
A sarcastic remark, made in a humorous tone by another spectator, made way into the scene almost immediately after the first :
" Bor bor laa pok chik, berghuk pok chik bennae dooooh ..... "
( Just quit the coconuts will you, yeah we all know he should be the champion )
Ha ha ha ..
Really regret that the atmosphere couldn't be quoted along,
so please blame yourself if you failed to sense the hilarious part.
Which later tought me a lesson on how hard this creature really work when told to.
Most are easily trained and a highly trained one could worth the owner a fortune.
While some might see this practice as purely inhumane, but to me, this human - macaque relationship is truly unique and wonderful, which should be better regarded as a form of symbiosis or mutualism or simply, a partnership. The human depends on the Beruk for an income and the Beruk depends on the human for food and shelter and to a lesser extent, nafkah batin too ( go and figure that out yourself ). Despite the regular absence of the latter, the Beruk are so loyal that I know some which were so attached to the owner that they pined to death when the owner died. So much like a human - dog relationship except that dogs don't climb trees. I bet that dog owners would give up their pets for the Beruk if they know what these beautiful creatures are actually capable of ! Anyone fancy a tax consultant ?
As for me, I personally love the sight when the handler,
donning a Kelantanese Semutar, with a Sadak (?) or a Golok hanging by the waist, riding a motorbike or a bicycle through the village road, with the Beruk riding pillion or clinging onto his back or to the vehicle's handlebar - often making faces to almost everyone ( I mean the beast, not the man ) along the way to work or home.
Just imagine the World without Beruk.
I don't think we could enjoy the mouth-watering Nasi Kerabu or tender, juicy Ayam Percik or even a decent Gulaa Darghak without having the hairy hands to bring the main ingredient down. At least not at the cost as we are currently paying for. If John Lennon still walks among us today, I would persuade him to rewrite the song Imagine in appreciation for the Beruk and the Beruk Utopia. The song should start like this :
Imagine there's no Beruk
It's easy if you try
No santan below us
Above us only coconut
Imagine all the people
Living the life that way ...
But his dead.
Oh well, what the heck. Forget about that.
So, as from my part, as a sign of respect and gratefulness to this exclusively hard-working primate, I hereby declare 3rd June as Hari Beruk Sedunia or World All Macaque Day.
May the Beruk be with you.
* Semutar :
A traditional Kelantanese head gear. Normally worn by men. A rarity these days. See the old photo at the extreme top for reference.
* Sadak :
A type of large curved knife. Resembling a sickle ( sabit ) but unique to Pattani-Kelantan. Often used to cut grasses or other soft vegetations. Palms included. Correct me if I got the name wrong.
* Golok :
A Malay machete, often used to cut harder vegetations. There is a another " version " with the point curved slightly inward but I don't think they call it Golok - maybe Parang ( Parghae ) ?
UPDATED 5 JUNE 2007 :
Thank you " ma " from http://petaijeruk.blogspot.com
What I meant by " Sadak " is best represented by the following image :
Being a person who spent very very small portion of his life in the kampung, I have to admit that while I am used to many Kelantanese farming terminology, I am still really bad in identifying many common tools used by the local peasants. Say, what do you call that really ? Parang ? Too general. Certainly not a sickle ( sabit ) but definitely unique to Pattani-Kelantan.
Image taken from " Spirit of Wood - The Art of Malay Woodcarving
~ Works by Master Carvers From Kelantan, Terengganu and Pattani " ( Farish A.Noor & Eddin Khoo - photos by David Lok )