KUNDASANG - Sacrifices of buffaloes were made at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu Saturday as villagers living in its vicinity sought to "cool down" the spirits of the mountain, just two weeks after an earthquake killed 18 people there.
The monolob ritual was carried out simultaneously at the Kinabalu Park in Kundasang and at Mamut in Ranau.
The ceremony at the Kinabalu Park saw bobolian or Kadazandusun shaman Abas Rintingan, 93, slaughtering a buffalo near the Timpohon Gate where climbers begin their trek up the mountain.
As villagers from nearby Bundu Tuhan and Kampung Kiau held the buffalo down, Abas slit the animal's throat while chanting ancient prayers, at about 8.20am, with the mountain in clear view.
In his hands were a komborongoh (talisman) made up of parts from animals and plants.
The media was asked to keep at a certain distance as a mark of respect for the ritual.
The ceremony was organised by the Council of Elders of Mount Kinabalu, comprising representatives of the Bundu Tuhan and Kiau.
Council coordinator Johnny Ghani said after the buffalo died, parts of it including the tip of its nose, liver, heart and some of its flesh were sliced off and taken by Abas.
The shaman brought the animals parts to a location at the base of the mountain that he had earlier chosen.
"These were the offerings to the mountain spirits," Johnny said, adding that the other parts of the buffalo were butchered and cooked at the hall in Kinabalu Park, and the food shared among the villagers who came to witness the ritual, also known as po sogit.
"The sharing of the food was to signify the harmony among the people," he added.
"We are hoping that after this ritual, the spirits of the mountain will be cooled down if they are angered by the actions of humans," Johnny said.
"We hope that any imbalance in nature will be corrected and that things will return to normal on the mountain for safety of climbers, guides and Sabah Parks' staff," he said.
Johnny said council also intended to hold another ritual to appease the mountain spirits just before repair works were carried out on the mountain.
"We want to ensure that works on Mount Kinabalu are carried out without any problems or hitches," he added.
The ethnic Lotud community held similar rituals on Tuesday to appease the mountain spirits.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, the Kadazandusun paramount leader, said earlier that Mount Kinabalu, considered sacred to Sabah's indigenous communities, had been desecrated by the 10 foreigners who stripped naked on the mountain on May 30.
Just a week later, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook Mount Kinabalu, causing rock and boulder avalanches that killed 18 people, including four mountain guides.