Monday, May 31, 2010

Story of An Unduk Ngadau Underdog


It's the month of the Kaamatan again.

For those who are too ignorant to know despite all these 1Malaysia crap we've been fed on wherever we go, it is the Harvest Festival celebration held in Sabah, and it is called Hari Gawai in Sarawak.  Peninsular people, after reading this post, please don't ask me how dope my Gawai celebration was.  'Coz I don't celebrate Gawai, bitch.

It is the month to celebrate er, good harvest.  But people today use it as a reason to drink and be merry.  And wake up with a hangover the next day or finding yourself getting slapped with a fine by the traffic police which you have absolutely no memory about.

And also, the most anticipated contest of all, the Unduk Ngadau.  Or in a language you'd understand, the Harvest Queen contest.  Yes, it is a beauty pageant for the ethnics or mixed ethnics in Sabah.


The Unduk Ngadau is the staple of the Kaamatan celebration, which commemorates the legend of Huminodun.

When the earth was plagued by the seven scourges sent down by the deity Kinorohinga to punish mankind for their sinful ways. The seventh scourge was drought and famine which threatened to end all life on earth. Kinorohingan’s only daughter Ponompuan, also referred to as Huminodun, took pity on mankind’s plight and sacrificed herself to end the famine that had plagued her father’s people. Her body parts were planted as seeds and became rice, the staple food source of the people. Thus the importance of rice in the lives of the Kadazandusun, as rice embodies the spirit of Huminodun who sacrificed herself to save humanity.

So, the girls who join this beauty pageant are supposed to embody the spirit of Huminodun.  She must have the grace and the humility of a princess who'd sacrifice herself for humanity.

I was one of the girls who be trippin' to be one.

Let's just say the Unduk Ngadau experience was memorable, but I wouldn't do it again.  Not even at gun point.

The thought of joining it never crossed my mind, but of course, my mother made me to.  She believes that any ethnic Sabahan family or at least have a little ethnic blood should let their daughter join the competition.  

I'm not a person with grace especially to do the 'walk', no, it is actually the 'sway', so I was definitely going to be an epic fail.

Before she signed me up for the district level contest, I was 'dispatched' to join a contest organised in Kota Belud by a political group which was supposed to be my 'training ground' as I was an Unduk Ngadau virgin.

I could barely utter my memorised Dusun language script (see, you have to introduce yourself in the language of the ethnic costume you're wearing) and needless to say, instead of 'swaying gracefully' on stage to present myself and my costume, I practically marched across the stage praying it would be over soon so I could pee right after.

So yeah, as predicted, I failed on my first try.

The part I hated the most was the UFO hair.

I cried when they teased my hair for the contest.

I cried when I tried in vain to untangle my hair with bottles of conditioner and frustration after the contest.

I would swear not to join any pageant-like contest again, but it was too late.  I was already signed up for the district level contest.

I'd have to go through it all over again.

Keningau is a hick town where everyone knows everyone.  I was going to be so fucked.  Like, to my brains.  But because I love my mom so much, I'd do it for her.  Being the only daughter and all.  Or else she'd bring it to her grave for not fulfilling her lifelong wish and she'd be wishing she had another daughter.

So I went back and practiced my sway.  Fact: If you asked an Unduk Ngadau to do a sway from  point A to point B which is 10 metres long, it would take her 5 minutes, tops.  That's how slow graceful one should walk.

Knowing my friends and schoolmates would be watching me and waiting for me to fall off the stage, my only wish that time was just to make it through the second round. At least it wouldn't be THAT pathetic.


After all,  I couldn't wait to get out from my costume and padded butt and boobs (yes, I cheated! And so did the rest! I think), clown makeup and tumbleweed hair.

So I did make it to the second round. And I was glad.

We had to do another walk, and wait till they call the semi finalists.  I was ready to go home and eat a burger.

Then they called me for the next round.  What the F?

This time, it was for the Q&A session.

And I made history that day when I forgot that being graceful is throughout the contest, not just the walk.  

I lost all grace the minute I opened my mouth.

I was asked about my favourite pastime activity in which I answered reading (which was a lie) and why I do it.

I threw in everything I learned in my previous semester and crapped about lifelong learning and globalised education.

And that was the reason I made it through the top 5 finalist and eventually became the Unduk Ngadau Keningau 2006 first runner up winner.

With all the cameras flashing and the cheering of the crowd, I forgot all about my burger.

Being second was good enough for me.  At least I won't have to go compete in the state level competition and go through hair torture and cram inducing fake smiles.

Or so I thought.

The first runner-up had to represent Bingkor, a smaller district within my hometown.

And I only knew about it ON the day of the solo photoshoot.

And my hair was all braided ala Alicia Keys.

I only had about 3 hours before the photoshoot session ends.

My mom had only 2 hours to remove each rubber band from my hair painstakingly and put make up on me.

While my dad drove us to Kota Kinabalu.

Being a makeup artist once herself, she was able to put at least a little bit of makeup on me on a speeding vehicle.

I looked washed up and still dazed and confused, compared to the other dolled up girls, but what the hell.  Bingkor must have their girl!


Most importantly, I wasn't ready for ANOTHER pageant.

What more a state level one, competing with 50 other UN winners.

There were some really pretty girls, some just plain Jane without the makeup and of course, bitches and girls whose sole purpose in life was to win.

The whole experience wasn't that bad.  It was kinda cool acting like a beauty queen.  Staying in Hyatt, having scrumptious meals, and of course, did beauty queen stuffs like visiting an orphanage.  Madeline Nandu was my roomate, so I have brag points there since she's all famous and modelly now.

The only tiring part was that for a week, we had to mind our manners, the way we talk and walk as we were being judged throughout.  And just sit pretty and smile a lot.  Seriously, I don't know how those who join the contest over and over again could stand it.

 just smile and wave. smile. and. wave

Especially the smiling.  We had a gala night where we were to parade our night gowns sponsored by a bridal shop, and to wait for all 50 girls to wave and smile to the audience while we stand and continue smiling?  If you stand next to us, you can actually hear us sucking in our drooling saliva and swallowing it as the muscles around our mouth begins to wobble uncontrollably.


 So the 31st of May came, and I was half hoping I'd be out on the first round 'coz I just wanna go home and besides, I didn't memorise the questions AND answers prepared for us for the Q&A session.  Yes people, the 'beauty and brains' concept is a sham.  There is only beauty.  But I'll get into that some other post.

And yes, the judges probably saw a big L on my forehead and I was out.  And I was the only who had a smile on my face.  The other girls who didn't make it looked murderous.



And I was the only one who had no shame to go into the hall to join the audience and enjoy the show, looking at my competitors trying hard to out-beauty-queen each other. 

Again, there was the crying and writhing as I untangled my hair that night, but it felt so good to be out of the glitz and glam of a beauty queen, and to just sit with my legs wide open and take ugly photos.

I learned something about myself that day.  I'm all vain and love to take photos, but I am definitely not beauty queen material.  It's too superficial and there's little expression as one is expected to conform to society's expectation of a lady.  And I also became even vainer since I have the title 'beauty queen' on my life resume and going out without drawing my eyebrows is a crime.

Having a shot at the UN grand state level in Hongkod KDCA already made me a winner.  Sorta.  Or at least made one of my mother's motherhoodly dreams come true.

Or that's what exactly a loser would say.

But what the hell.

At least I can tell my daughter I've been to Hongkod.

And pressure her to compete and not to come home without a crown.

KOTOBIAN TADAU TAGAZO DO KAAMATAN!

Happy Harvest Festival people!

22 comments:

chegu carol said...

regarding the prepared QnA, during my time, we werent given any. if you were lucky, some insiders will leaked out the questions and asked you to get ready with answers. but most of us didn't. so we have to come up with spontaneous answer...i think it's more fun that way cos you dont have to watch the contestants speak in rehearsed and scripted answer which most of the time, i find annoying.

Mark said...

hahahaa...teruk juga ko jadi Virgin Huminodun hahahaa....tdk jam ka tu jaws ko tu, nasiblah ko masi tagak berdiri dgn lenggokan punggung ko tu hehehee....funny sa nmpk pic ko d kadai gambar Starlight (kaitu ah sa lupa suda) di keningau hehehe....sapa menang unduk time tu ah?

Amanda Christine Wong said...

carol: u know, i was really shocked when they gave us the list of questions a few days before the contest...and i was even shocked when they gave us the 'skema jawapan' the day before. i lost my faith towards this UN right away. it shouldnt be this way. but that was during my time, dont know about years after that...

mark: jam o...bergagar mulut ni...sengsara o.. :/...ba, ok la ba tu, terfamous jg kijap..wakakaka...si nedra jigo yg menang time tu...

Daniel Chiam said...

I have to admit that I didnt read the whole thing I just browse through and look at the pictures, haha.

They really should make a documentary on the Unduk Ngadau's contest, so people could see all the tension and drama behind the scene, haha

Daniel Chiam said...

Okay just read the whole thing and haha, now I can imagine what my friend felt like when she dont want to join the pageant but is still being forced to walk down the runway at KDCA. I'll be damn if I'm your daughter, a crown, thats a lot to be expect XD

Jessica Lyne said...

Competing in UN pageant mimang bikin stresssss! There's so much to worry about esp THE WALK but if there's one thing i learned from joining UNK is the rise of self-confidence aka tambah vain..heheh. I remember saying good luck 2 you when you were on your way to the hall, bangga ada kawan sampai Hongkod :)

Joan said...

This post is an epic. Shows the real inside world of the UN. Bah post the one about the beauty and all..hehe

Carol, I didn't know that last time the QnA is spot on. I salute the Unduks of Yesteryears..now..huhuhu..( geleng kepala saja )

Shamimi Haniza said...

I still remember that time. u trus cantas rambut u jd pendek. Look at ur upm mtrx card make me remember the UN story. =)

Amanda Christine Wong said...

Daniel: i knew u couldnt resist it! :D... yeah, it wasnt easy! haha...when i become a mother someday i too will have ridiculous expectations towards my daughter! :D

jess: yes, u should know! betul kan we become more vain and self confidence soars...hehe...glad im not the only one! :D...it was such a pleasant surprise to see u guys! loves!

joan: that's just my side of the story :)...anyway, reading from ur message to carol, until now la kan QnA are prepared...that's just sad.

Mack the Dagger said...

AMANDA CHRISTINE WONG, 20, BINGKOR! (ala2 miss universe style to introduce urself)

SERIOUSLY! omg! u know ka right after this i browsed for Unduk Ngadau 2006 Bingkor then - POOF! nahhh chegu amanda's historical photos!!! peewwit`~~~

anwyay, now i can say to ppl that i had friend who was a beauty queen! hehee.

С Большим Дном Кааматана :)
(kotobian tadau tagayo do kaamatan in russian :)

Amanda Christine Wong said...

mimi: hehe...u know the story of my hair! :D

max:haha...at least u have a friend who's in the internet archive :D...that kaamatan wish in russian is mad!

kadazanbonita said...

Hahha.. this reminded me of my time..just like your mom... i was asked to join this whole crazy beauty pageant too..and boy i tell you..how i hated the make up and the hair..it's crazy! Sudah la make up tebal gila....the hair..OMG! Don't even let me start with the hair...hahah..anyhow i was only in top ten..and that was the first and last for me.

This post really made me laugh... sweet crazy memories...

Gallivanter said...

Love this post - EXCELLENT writeup, giving us superb insights. I know it's not easy being in any competition, especially handling rejection or defeat. Thanks for sharing this - if there was a LIKE button I would've clicked on it!

Nice one!

Amanda Christine Wong said...

kadazanbonita: hehe...right?! omg! i dont know how those girls who balik2 ikut can stand it!

Gallivanter: aw..thanks! :DD

Master Mervyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Master Mervyn said...

So it WAS you all this time, those pics I saw at every photo booths around Keningau ^^ believe me, the pics stayed there for years, not even marred by the latter UN pageant representing Keningau.

As 'To boldly go where no Keningau UN Pageant had gone before', try Miss Malaysia/Universe hehehehe. You have the package, so why not?

Amanda Christine Wong said...

mervyn: er...hehe...cannot la! i may LOOK like i have but i actually dont..

Lizeewong said...

You were a beauty queen?????? Ahh...I see you in a different light now Manda...Hehehe..Nda ba.

It's great to know what really goes behind the scenes of those UN pageants. From what I gather, it's all about the outer beauty (make up tabal?), the walk and good memorizing skills la kan?

Btw, you looked gorgeous (except the one yg nda berapa ready) :)

Amanda Christine Wong said...

lizee: exactly! hm, mesti penganjur will hate me if they know i kasi pecah rasiah dorang! btw, thanks! walaupun nda seberapa juga...kekeke

debrajill said...

Loves this PoST!!! yeah..I dont know why mothers like to see their daughter join kan~ i ever join once also..my first and LAST too! hahaha.I seriously dont know how to ppl can join again n again.join because of all my frens joining n the consolation is lumayan haha.kami bulih lagi brcrita di pentas ni..hahaha.

Santafire said...

heys haha i have that white batik top too^^; but i was part of the committee. so.

Amanda Christine Wong said...

debrajill: hehe...dapat glamer dan duit juga ba kan in the end :D

santafire: we probably crossed paths before u know :D