Meet Anat Ungom, Dashin Ngarong: Sarawak’s Ring Ladies’ newest additions

BIDAYUH RING LADIES... (From left) Singai Nekan, Anat Ungom and Dashin Ngarong photographed at De'Remin Sapit on June 5, 2024. Photo by DayakDaily

By Shikin Louis

PADAWAN, June 14: It seems like not all hope is lost as Sarawak’s iconic ‘Ring Ladies’ have two new additions—Anat Ungom, 52, and Dashin Ngarong, 64.

Speaking to DayakDaily, Anat said she and Dashin, who is her sister-in-law, started wearing copper rings around her forearms and calves about ten years ago.


While many argue that this tradition is associated with beauty standards in the Bidayuh community, the locals believed that wearing the copper rings would result in more slender arms and legs.

The copper rings on the forearms are called ‘ruyang’ while the ones on the calves are called ‘rasung’.

In the past, these rings were worn by Bidayuh women once they reached the age of ten. As they age, the number of rings is also increased. However, this practice has become very rare with the younger generation.

Prior to the addition of Anat and Dashin, there used to be five iconic Bidayuh Ring Ladies dubbed as the last of their kind.

They were Ranyu Daiee, who passed away at the age of 83 in 2020; Nyadi Dollah, who passed away at the age of 92 in 2022; Singai Nekan, who is now 78; Peluk Abeh, 73; and Tawud Luhan, 78.

Anat Ungom showing her ‘ruyang’ (copper rings).

Anat, despite already being married at that time, decided to wear the rings out of curiosity and in the spirit of wanting to continue the tradition.

“None of my friends are wearing them. I only see the elders (Last Ring Ladies) from our village—Kampung Semban—donning the rings.

“My mother also used to wear the rings, but she no longer wears them because of old age. Therefore, I am replacing her to continue our tradition,” she said when met at a Gawai event held at De’Remin Sapit staycation in Kampung Sapit here recently.

Anat further expressed her pride in wearing the copper rings, not because they are just a symbol of beauty, but because she is playing her part to ensure that the Bidayuh traditional practice lives on.

“When I first put them on, it hurt a little because I was not used to it. After I got used to it, I didn’t feel anything anymore.

“Sometimes, when it hurts, I would turn the rings around so that it would feel better.

“When it’s itchy, we will use sticks to poke on the itchy parts of the skin,” she shared.

Anat further explained that the process of putting on the rings usually takes about one day or more.

Upon wearing the rings, she started receiving invitations to various events, adding that sometimes she would be performing a Bidayuh dance together with other Ring Ladies.

From left: Anat Ungom, Dashin Ngarong and Singai Nekan photographed at De’Remin Sapit on June 5, 2024. Photo by DayakDaily.

Asked about the prospects of having the younger generation continue the tradition, she noted that the blame should not be put solely on the youth.

“For example, it is troublesome for young children to put on the rings as they cannot wear them when going to school.

“However, of course, I would love to see more of the Bidayuh women embrace this tradition and don the copper rings. But if they do not wish to do so, there is nothing that we can do,” she emphasised. — DayakDaily