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A Dusun Tatana Ghost Story

By : Justin Wong
First Posted Here
The Dusun Tatana's word for ghost/spirit is rogon. Dusun Tatana are the Dusuns
found mainly or possibly only in Kuala Penyu, in the old days at least. Old folks
swear that in the old days, before Christianity was spread among the Dusun
Tatana, sightings of rogons were quite normal. Before Christianity, the Dusun
Tatana practiced their pagan religion. So I guess maybe that was
whyrogons presence were aplenty in those days. Ok, some smart fellow just
scoffed at this notion. Yes, I'm aware that the reported sightings could just be due
to the Dusun Tatanas' being superstitious and attributing everything that was out
of the norm to paranormal activities. I'm trying to tell a story here, do you mind?!
Geez..! You're such a wet blanket, aren't you. I'm retelling a culture's folklore here,
not the instruction on how to build a rocket to the moon!! It's like watching a
Superman movie, do you think that people could actually fly? But you still watch
it, didn't you? Why? Because it is entertaining! Oh?! What did you say? Superman
isn't human but is an alien from Krypton. So you believe aliens exist but not
spirits? Hoookay! You lost me in aliens... Shoo! Shoo!
Ok, where was I before I got interrupted by that imaginary cynical and
opinionated reader? Oh yah! Rogons. They say when the first priest, of course a
Westerner, came to the shores of Kuala Penyu and lived among the Dusun
Tatanas, he would be visited by an uninvited dinner guest as he sat down to have
his dinner every evening. The guest had half human and half skeleton face, it
would share the priest's dinner but the food would just slip through its skeleton
jaw onto the table. Apparently the old gods of the Dusun Tatana were not pleased
with this priest that came to usurp their place and the nightly visits were attempts
to challenge and scare the priest away. Heck, I think therogons thought that the
priest was a spirit himself because of his perhaps, blond/red hair and white skin.

My mother said when she was a kid living in Kuala Penyu, one day a relative
dropped by and related what happened to him recently. This relative had a paddy
field but it was very far away from where he lived. One day, he lost track of time
while engrossed in tending to his paddy. Before he realized it, it was dusk and
night was fast approaching. He packed his tools and hopped on to the back of his
water buffalo which was the Dusun Tatana's "work horse" and also mode of
transportation in the old days. Those days, Kuala Penyu was mostly wooded area
unlike the Kuala Penyu of modern day. There were no proper roads, only trails
and you would go on walking for hours without bumping into someone. My mom
said she and her sisters or cousins, did not relish the prospect of walking through
the woods whenever they had to visit a relative's house. There would be many
graves littered along the trails. She dreaded the "kapir" (pagan) graves the most
because the graves would be adorned with colourful worldly materials which was
eerie because with all of the things cluttering around, the eyes could not see if
anyone or anything was amongst the graves.
If it was any consolation to my mom's relative, the moon was at its full splendour
that night. The relative said the moon was unusually bright, so bright that the
leafs to the banana trees that he rode passed seemed to be reflecting the
moonlight. It was beautiful he said and the trail wasn't dark but still, he was
afraid. To calm his nerve, he sang outloud. He rode passed a beach and admired
how sandy white was the beach under the moonlight. He didn't say what song he
sang, perhaps it was the ever popular Kadazan/Dusun folk song "Sonsomido".

Souce : (Credit : Dennis te Pas)
Suddenly his water buffalo stopped dead in its track! "Nokuo karabau
diti?"(what's wrong with this buffalo), he thought to himself. No matter how hard
he jabbed his heels to the beast's back, it wouldn't move. It just froze there. Then
he heard voices, it sounded like two women having a conversation just infront of
him. His eyes scanned the surrounding area for the owners of those voices. The
voices got louder and louder, then he saw two women emerged from some bushes
and walked across the trail. The women did not concern themselves with his
presence and continued talking to each other. The relative said although he was
within earshot, he could not understand their language and he thought it was
strange for anyone to walk off the trail. As soon as the two women disappeared
into the bushes on the opposite side of the trail, his water buffalo started walking
without any prompting. He said what else could those women be but rogons, even
the animal showed respect to them by stopping and letting them pass first.

The Dusun Tatana would not allow their children to play outside their home
during dusk. They say this was the time when the Kalandau or Andau came out
looking for human child to spirit away. The Andau is the Dusun Tatana version of
the European's Doppelganger.

Parents would warn children about the Andau. The Andau had very long breasts
that they could flip it over to their backs and they liked to fish. They could morph
into the likeness of a child's relatives and trick the child into following them.
Hence, the child would disappear.

Such was what happened to a child in Kuala Penyu, they say. He was playing
outside and he disappeared. The parents alerted the village chief and the whole
kampung (village) went searching for him. They spent the whole night looking for
him to no avail. This went on to the following day and night. On the third day,
some in the search parties suggested getting the local bobolian (priestess) as this
was obviously no ordinary disappearance they said.

The bobolian came and chanted some incantation and told them that the child
was inside an island of Rumbia (Sago Palm) trees. The villagers searched for the
child there and sure enough, they found the child. They were befuddled because
they had searched that area many times but did not see the child before this and
they had to cut down many thorny vegetation before they could reach the child
and yet the child had not a cut on him.

The bobolian told them it was the work of the Andau and that the Andau had
shielded the child from their human eyes, that was why they couldn't see him
before this. But now the Bobolian had broken the Andau's charm. The parents
were distressed when the child seemed not to recognize them and reacted
violently when anyone approached him. The bobolian said the child was being
transformed into the Andau's kind and it was fortunate that they had found him in
time. Otherwise, he would had transformed fully and cross over to the other
dimension, where the Andau came from. They say the child had started growing
hairs on his body. The next few days, the child was "berubat" (shamanic medicine)
with the Bobolian and eventually recovered to his old self.


The Dusun Tatana believed in Jin. The Jin is invariably described as a huge being,
sometime as tall as a tree, horrible looking and could tear a man from limb to
limb. In the old days, the Dusun Tatana would refrain from cooking at night,
especially if they were in the open when they went hunting. Doing so would attract
the attention of the Jin which would come for a meal and the Jin was not someone
or something you would want to have as dinner guest. They say the Jin's coming
would be heralded by the sound of adult trees being snapped in half as though
they were twigs.

But they also believed that Jin could give them supernatural power. One way of
harnessing this power was via the Perigi Jin (Jin's water well). Surprisingly, this
wells normally located alongside or near human wells. If one was bathing at the
well and out of the blue, water was drizzling out of no where in what could be best
described as a very localized rain in a small area, next to the well, than they would
say that the Jin was washing himself too. If that person was brave enough, he
could go under the drizzling water and shower in it. If he survived and not
annoyed the Jin, then that person could gain supernatural powers.

Other Dusun (non Tatana) folklore

A Facebook friend, Jude Kessey, provided this interesting bits. His paternal
grandmother was a bobolian but I'm not sure what Dusun she was.

Apparently there are three realms, our wordly realms, Libabou (Upper world) and
Minorit (lower world). There are good spirits as there are bad ones. Rogon was the
general reference to spirits regardless whether they are bad or good but these
days, Rogon is simply taken to mean all bad spirits.

Yolungata - is the long breasted ghost. Perhaps a counterpart of the Dusun
Tatana's Andau.

Tompuans - is a spirit that has long hair and wears a long robe. It's appearance
is described as luminescence. Sometime it can be ill-tempered and sometime it
serves as a bringer of omens.

Tutumolong/Tompisokisok - is a spirit that makes travellers lost in the wood.

Barod - is a celestial being that swallows the moon. Only when the Dusuns bang
all their gongs would it regurgitate the moon.

Tompulalangoi - a magical being that would bestow superhuman strength to
anyone who dares and able to beat them in a wrestling match.