Early Migrations Westward:
The Remun Dayak Migrated To the Sadong.
One of the earliest Iban groups to move into Sarawak was the Remun, who now lived east of Serian town along the upper Sadong River in the First division.
The Remun went up the Labuyan River on their way to the upper Batang Ai. They settled at Lubang Baya and at Tapang Peraja. After they had lived there for many years, they became restless and went down the Batang Ai until they reached Temudok hill, a few miles southeast of present Simanggang town. They lived at Temudok hill for many years led by their chiefs named Engkabi, Kekai, Bah and Banteh. They later migrated westward and those who were left behind became the peoples of Undup, Dau and Balau.
In their search for new territory, the Remun people walked along the foot of Kalingkang range for about 60 miles, until they came to a place they named Sungai Krang, a true left tributary of the Sungai Sadong, located in First Division, Sarawak. From the Sungai Krang settlement, Bah, Bateh and their followers split from the main group and moved to a place called Melikin. There they built a longhouse near a fruit groove known as Tembawai Munggang.
After Bah and Bateh’s group had lived in Melikin for some years, their friends, Kekai and Engkabi and their followers, who they had parted with at the foot of Kalingkang range, joined them. When they arrived, they were invited by Bah and Banteh to live with them at Tembawai Munggang, which they did.
Before that, Kekai and Engkabi decided to scout for suitable place to settle down. On their way to reconnoiter, they came to Nanga Kedup where they met Damu and Panjang, two men who lived by trapping animals and both were the followers of Bah and Banteh. Kekai and Engkabi asked them if anyone had ventured beyond that part of the country before. Damu and Panjang told them that no one had traveled into that part of Sadong before. Leaving behind the trappers, they walked towards Bukit Semuja. When they reached Semuja hill, they heard the sound of waterfall. This waterfall, later known as Panchor Asu, is located in the upper Remun stream. Then they climbed up Remun hill and proceed to a grove known as Salapak, where fruit trees grown in abundance.
After having lived for some years at that place, Kekai and Engkabi journeyed in the direction of the Samarahan area to examine the land. After returning from this trip, Kekai died on the top of Kekai hill and was buried there. Subsequently, the hill was named after him in his honour.
As the Remun Dayak had already owned this land, the Bukar Land Dayaks, whenever they wanted to make use of the land, had first to ask the Remun Dayak Chiefs permission. This custom continued for quite sometimes until the times of Orang Kaya Baga.
Some years after the death of Kekai, Bah and Banteh migrated with their followers from Tembawai Munggang to a place called Salapak, where they lived together with Engkabi. Years later, they moved down the Sadong to look for new country to occupy. At the end of this journey, they settled at a place called Ensika.
Some took their followers to live at Tebelu, an area between the mouth of Sadong and the Batang Lupar Rivers. After they had lived at Tebelu for some time, many of them returned to settle along the Batang Sadong. Those who settled permanently at Tebelu married with Sebuyaus and became Sebuyau Dayaks.
Those who left Ensika once again migrated with some who had returned from Tebelu up the Sadong. For some years, they lived at Sejanggil and Empadai, above the modern town of Simunjan. It was from these places that they moved upriver and settled again around Remun hill.
Story Of Remun Chief Named Numpi:
One famous Remun Iban Chief named Numpi, was one person who settled permanently at Tebelu. He owned 30 slaves, who worked for him when he was left an orphan after his parent died while he was still very young. Only two of these slaves were good to him, while the rest plotted to kill him as his parents had been cruel to them.
The ijok palm (Arenga pinnata) is a plant capable of yielding a small amount of edible flour (tepong mulong). Its trunk is covered with a coarse hair-like fiber (bulu) which serves as a valuable source of cordage, particularly for rope making. This useful palm also yields sugar and occasionally toddy (tuak ijok).
When they saw him, they found that he had been miraculously cooled by the water splashed by the ijok palm leaves. Seeing the miracle, the two slaves made a vow, “since this ijok palm has saved our master, the people of our race must no longer eats its shoot, forever and ever”. It was and is because of this that the Remun Dayak does not eat the shoot of the ijok palm even to this very day. It is thought that anyone who eats it by mistake will be afflicted with boils (pisa).
The two slaves took their young master back to the house where they scented him with perfumed mambong leaves and the bark of the lukai tree in order to restore his health. They also urged him, when he was grown up, to kill all the disloyal slaves who had plotted to kill him. These words were overheard by some of the slaves, who still live close by, and they held an urgent meeting. Desiring to escape from their master’s retaliation, they secretly fled to the Batang Ai, Skrang and Saribas Rivers.
Mambong plant (blumea balsamifera) is a flowering shrub; commonly grow on newly abandoned farms (jerami). It is an important ritual and medicinal plant. Dried mambong leaves are burned, particularly at sunset, to repel malevolent spirits. Lukai is a small tree and its dried bark is also burnt to drive away both spirits and insect.
After he had dressed, he again heard a noise in the room, which he completely ignored. Shortly afterwards as he was looking towards the room, he saw a lovely young lady cleaning the fish which he had left in the basket. He thought to himself, “Maybe the egg has miraculously turned into this woman”.
Numpi then went back to the room. Before he could ask a question, the lady spoke to him. “Numpi, I have been asked by my brothers and sisters to follow you, in order to marry you, if you agree to become my husband”.
“Of course I want to marry you, if you agree and your family gives their consent”, replied Numpi.
The lady then told Numpi that she had tried many times to come to him when he fished in the sea. “It was I who was caught by your net in the sea. My name is Rambia Bunsu Betong. If you threw me away as you had so often done, my brothers and sisters might not agree to my marriage with you.”
They were married that evening and after a year had passed, they begot a son who they named Maar.
As Numpi paddled the boat, the lady spoke to him. She said, “You are a strange man, Numpi. Why should you leave your son alone at home without anyone to look after him?” Numpi then guiltily asked the lady where she had come from. The lady told him that she was the patin fish that he had caught and her name is Rambia Bunsu Patin. Knowing that she was the lady his first wife had promised to send him before, they were married that evening.
They lived together as husband and wife and soon she gave birth to a son, whom they named Lau Moa. One day after the boy had grown to boyhood, his wife told Numpi that she cannot live with them in the human world any longer as she had come from their spiritual world. She advised Numpi that none of their descendants should eat the patin fish (heliocophagus). She too disappeared from their sight and Numpi was heartbroken again. He was happy that he was blessed with the two sons from the two marriages he had.
His sons grew up to be the leaders of their people. Maar was married to a woman named Riu, a daughter of Orang Kaya Saja of the Remun country. The descendent of Maar became chief of the Remun Dayaks, who lived between the other Sea Dayak (Sebuyaus) and the Land Dayak in the First Division, Sarawak.
His brother, Lau Moa, moved to Batang Skrang, a tributary of Batang Lupar, and lived with his wife’s family there. He is most remembered as the first Iban pioneer to settle at Nanga Skrang. He was the father of the famous Iban bards Geringu, Sumbang, Sudok and Malang, who were believed to have been taught the correct wording of the Gawai Burong chants (Pengap Gawai Burong), by Sengalang Burong’s own bard, Sampang Gading. Most of his descendent still live in Skrang, Saribas and Kalaka region to this day.