Paying double for pork: Rising prices fail to dampen spirit of Gawai celebration

(Clockwise from top left) A pork stall at Mile 10 market, Tuah and Denis.

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By Lian Cheng and Chris Bishop

KUCHING, May 31: The resilient Dayak community is determined not to allow the high price of pork dampen their spirits as the Gawai celebrations near.

Despite having to pay almost more than double compared to previous years for various pork parts, those interviewed believed that their Gawai will continue to be as fun as before as having pork is not the only criteria determining the joy that the festive season brings.

Traditionally, barbecued three-layered pork is a must-have dish in almost every Dayak household during Gawai. 

A reader informed DayakDaily that for every Gawai, among other dishes, pig head is a must-have where various dishes such as barbecued pork, pineapple pig-ear dish and others can be derived from.

“I used to buy a pig head for RM40 plus ringgit, now I have to pay more than RM80 for one,” said the reader.

He said it used to cost RM17 per kilogramme for pig head, but now the price has risen to RM29 per kilogramme.

“For the high-income group, the latest price which may reach RM40 per kilogramme, may not be a problem for them.

“But for low-income people, especially residents of longhouses, it may be very burdensome,” said the reader.

For Tuah Ingu, 63, a government pensioner of Undop, Sri Aman, the rising price of pork should not be a damper for Dayaks to celebrate Gawai.

“There is nothing in Iban custom that says there is no Gawai if there are no pork dishes,” Tuah told DayakDaily.

To him, Iban longhouse folks have no issue with pork supply because many longhouse folks raise pigs on subsistence basis and will slaughter them during festive seasons such as Gawai or Christmas celebrations.

And for those who breed commercially, they will sell their produce to the longhouse folks at a relatively cheaper price.

In this sense, the longhouse folks are not affected by the rising pork prices.

“Longhouse residents practice the tradition of ‘besir’ where a few doors would pool their money together to buy a pig and equally divide it including the liver, stomach and every part of the pig,” he explained.

Longhouse chief Denis Thomas from Kampung Liu C of Sri Aman shared the same view as Tuah that this Gawai celebration will still be very lively and high spirited even though some families may not be able to afford pork.  

“The excitement is measured by the closeness of the family, especially those returning from outstation to celebrate Gawai together.

He believed that if pork is expensive, there are always other alternatives.

A quick check at the Mile 10 market this morning showed that the Dayak community is still buying pork in substantial quantities for this Gawai, which will be celebrated tomorrow.

The current market price for pork floats between RM35 and RM40 per kilogramme. — DayakDaily