Sabahan first, then a Malaysian

Sabahan first, then a Malaysian

I AM a Sabahan first, then a Malaysian.

I've lived in Klang Valley longer than in Kota Kinabalu, but I don't consider myself as a Selangorian or a KLite.

You can take me out of Sabah but you can't take Sabah out of me. I'm not sure why. Is it the ngiu chap (beef noodle) I ate when growing up in Kota Kinabalu?

Is it because 90 per cent of my relatives live in Penampang (a Kada­zandusun-dominated district near Kota Kinabalu)?

I don't even know the lyrics of the Selangor state anthem even though I've lived in Klang Valley for more than two decades. I know by heart Sabah Tanah Airku, the anthem of my homeland.

I'll get excited when El Hadji Diouf, the Senegal footballer, plays for Sabah. However, I wouldn't if Selangor were to sign him.

I don't even vote in Subang Jaya where I live and where my kid goes to school. I vote in Penampang.

I do love living in Klang Valley as it is more developed - the aisle of the supermarkets here is wider than those in Sabah and they have better steak selection - whereas Sabah can be like a third world country with its frequent "earth hour" (euphemism for blackout), schools without walls and gravel road "highways".

However, I see Klang Valley as a place where I work and Sabah as the place I will eventually return to when I retire.

Actually, what I am first depends on where I am. If I'm outside of Malaysia, I will be Malaysian first, then Sabahan.

What is a Malaysian? When I was packing my bags to study in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the United States in the early 1990s, I included items such as Lat cartoons, Sheila Majid and Headwind CDs, and photographs of iconic Malaysian sites. (I had to pack these items as when I studied overseas, it was before the age of Google.)

For me, these items defined me as a Malaysian. If Americans asked me what was Malaysia, I would let them read Lat cartoon books, listen to Sheila Majid and Headwind, and show a photograph of Mount Kinabalu.

Who I am (Kadazandusun, Sabahan, journalist, Golingai, Catholic or heterosexual) also depends on who I'm with.

For example, just say that I'm discussing the 16-year-old conversion case of a Christian in Kinarut, Sabah, on WhatsApp with Christians, I would be giving a perspective that might be different if there was a non-Christian in the group.

Depending on who is in the group, I might change my perspective that you might think I'm a hypocrite, schizophrenic or a politician.

Malaysia is a melting pot (a place where different ethnicities are melted together) and salad bowl (cultures juxtaposed - like salad ingredients - but do not merge into a single homogeneous culture).

Through my interaction with other ethnic groups in Malaysia such as Melanau, Murut and Malay, I absorb a little of their culture but my Kadazandusun culture remains.

I'm Kadazandusun first, then Malaysian. That's what makes me typically Malaysian.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.