The healing of Bunyau:
In the days of Geraman, Sera Gunting’s great-great-great grandson Ambau migrated eastward from the Tiang Laju range and built his longhouse at Pangkalan Tabau, two miles above the present town of Lubok Antu. Ambau was one of the chiefs who had participated in discussions to settle amicably the strife between Kanyong of Rantau Merarang and Semalanjat of Bungkap. For his fairness and bravery in war, his name survives to this day in Dayak songs. At this time there also lived a man named Bunyau who suffered from open sores which covered his body. He was shunned by all and was confined to a hut adjoining his family’s open verandah.
One day the people of Bunyau’s house were invited to a nearby longhouse to attend a feast. As Bunyau sat alone in his hut he heard the sound of someone approaching, and looking through a hole in the wall, he saw two young men who had just sat down on the deserted communal gallery. He was too ashamed because of his sores to go out to welcome the visitors. Soon one of them called him to come out and talk to them, but he refused, saying “I am here because I am sick, and I cannot sit with you.”
He suggested that the strangers should help themselves to his family’s rice wine (tuak) in the room, but they only agreed to this on the condition that he himself would fetch the tuak for them.
“No,” replied Bunyau, “if I touched the wine with my diseased hands, I am sure you wouldn’t drink it.” But the visitors reassured him that they certainly would if only he would fetch the wine himself.
At last Bunyau emerged, trembling, and brought a jar full of wine which he offered to them. After they had drunk all the wine, Bunyau’s sores began to disappear and after he fetched another jar, which the young men consumed, he found that his sores had completely healed. The strangers then told Bunyau that they had come to invite him to their father-in-law’s feast which was to be celebrated the following day, but Bunyau was reluctant to go, being still sick and weak.
“Your sickness will be healed if you come with us,” they said.
He finally agreed when they told that their father-in-law’s feast would not be held unless he came with them. They also urged him not to worry about dress, as their father-in-law would lend him clothes for the occasion.
As Bunyau walked with them, he felt himself growing stronger, and finally bathing at his host’s landing stage he found that even the marks of his sores had completely disappeared.
Arriving in the house, Bunyau sat down at the end of the communal gallery in front of the second room (bilek), where he was politely entertained by his host, and in due course was invited by a man carrying a cock to come and sit on the verandah of his father-in-law, Sengalang Burong. This man was Ketupong, Sengalang Burong’s eldest son-in-law. Bunyau agreed to go, but continued to converse with his host, until another son-in-law named Beragai came carrying a cock and repeated the invitation, at the same time waving the cock over Bunyau’s head, as was the custom when receiving guests.
Bunyau finally accompanied Beragai to Sengalang Burong’s gallery in the middle of the longhouse. There he was again saluted with a cock waved over his head and was invited to sit close to Sengalang Burong himself at the outer-most section of the gallery.
When he was seated, the feast began. From the outset he was accorded by Sengalang Burong the honour of sitting close to a decorated platform full of human heads and offerings at the centre of the communal gallery, this being the traditional honour paid to the most esteemed of all guests present.
At the conclusion of the feast, Sengalang Burong taught Bunyau many things concerning the Bird Festival traditions supplementing the information he had given Sera Gunting. He also commanded Bunyau that, immediately after he returned to his own house, he must celebrate exactly the same feast with another man also named Bunyau.
Three days later Bunyau returned home, and went directly to the other Bunyau’s gallery at the opposite end of his longhouse, instead of returning to his own gallery as was customary. He sat telling his friends the whole stories of his visit to Singalang Burong’s longhouse, where he had witnessed a Bird Festival and of how he had been advised to hold the same kind of feast as soon as possible in their own longhouse, and how the second Bunyau must follow exactly the same procedure for this feast.
Then they were interrupted by the entry of Bunyau’s youngest child, who rushed in weeping to his father and embraced him, calling him “father”. Bunyau took his son to comfort him on his lap while the child continued to weep and called him father. Hearing her son crying, Bunyau’s wife left her cooking and came out to fetch the child. She teased him for daring to approach the stranger in such a manner.
“Aren’t you ashamed,” she said, “to claim the visitor as your father?”
But her son continued to cry bitterly, until his mother slapped him, scolding him for his behavior towards a stranger.
“Your father is sick and we are ashamed of him,” she said, and took the child with her to her room, where he continued to cry.
Bunyau then returned to sit on his own gallery, still unrecognized by his wife who had not been to see whether her husband was in his hut.
That night, as a matter of course, Bunyau went to the room to sleep with his wife, but as he opened the mosquito net his wife protested saying that a stranger should not behave in such a way to a married woman, and that however ill her husband might be she must remain faithful to him.
“Although he is now sick,” she said, “he is as good and devoted as any husband.”
When Bunyau heard this assurance of his wife’s devotion, he declared that he was indeed Bunyau, but she still would not believe him and ran out to the hut to see whether Bunyau was there.
Finding the hut empty, she returned to her room very worried and puzzled. Again Bunyau gently reassured her and told her how he had attended Sengalang Burong’s feast and been miraculously healed. As he finished his story his wife wept for joy, and embraced him marveling at his cure. He then told her of Sengalang Burong’s instructions and asked her to prepare as much glutinous rice as possible for the festival. Joyfully she agreed, as she was naturally most anxious to thank the gods and spirits for curing him.
Accordingly, a few days later when all was ready Bunyau celebrated his Bird Festival. When his many guests had arrived, Bunyau greeted them by waving a cock over their heads. He then called loudly three times for Sengalang Burong and his people to come to his feast, and immediately after this a number of those present, both hosts and guests, fell unconscious as the spirit of Sengalang Burong arrived among them.
From that day onwards, Bunyau grew mightier and became a skilled and vigorous leader in war. The other Bunyau also became one of his bravest warriors, and did much to assist the progress of his people in their new country in the Batang Ai.