Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Our unsung hero - Apik

I love to read this kind of inspiring story about fellow Malaysians living in the same country.

Some rural folk, doctors like this young Sabahan, and teachers like Apik, seek education, so that they can contribute to their poor communities. They support their neglected communities as best they can, in their labour of love.

How many of us, the other Malaysians – educated Malaysians – do the same?

“I walked to the Sekolah Menengah, Form One to Three, when I was 13 until I was 15. Twenty of us, schoolchildren, walked four days, carrying our food rations, sleeping in the jungle.

“Some parents asked me to look after their young daughters, so I ended up carrying their books, food, clothes, even packets of sanitary pads… I ended up carrying 30 kilos,” he laughs.

Apik's love of learning
Keruah Usit | Apr 22, 09 7:14am
Apik can survive in the rainforest, completely alone, with a parang and some salt. He hunts, dives for fish and makes a bed for himself under the forest canopy.

He climbs trees to harvest honey from wild hives. He picks ferns and bamboo shoots to cook, and finds edible fruit and roots. He collects herbs to heal, and uses ipoh, a tree bark, to prepare poison for blowpipe darts.

apik penan love of learning story 210409 04He travels to neighbouring villages in a wooden longboat, with an engine modified from a grass-cutting machine. He manoeuvres the longboat through rapids strewn with giant boulders, as expertly as KL folk weave through rush-hour traffic.

If he finds snakes on jungle trails, he picks up them up with twigs and branches, moving them away from the paths, and from other travelers. He makes fishing nets, and mends them, with a dexterity associated with more delicate, less muscle-bound, maidens.

He can remain underwater for an astounding length of time, looking for fish or a missing propeller. He rears puppies, teaching them to hunt for barking deer and wild boar. He can carry a wild boar heavier than himself, on his shoulders, through the forest, for hours.

His real passion, though, is teaching. He teaches pre-school and primary school, in his small, remote Orang Ulu village in Sarawak. His students adore him, trailing after him after classes, pestering him to go swimming with them.

He takes them down to the river, to cool off and indulge in some horseplay. The children mob him, climbing all over him. They beg him to push them around in their makeshift dinghies, made from truck tyres. They perform somersaults, shrieking and splashing into the water, to impress him.

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KERUAH USIT is a human rights activist - anak Sarawak, bangsa Malaysia. His ‘The Antidote’ column, which will appear in Malaysiakini every Wednesday, is an attempt to allow the voices of marginalised people to be heard all over Malaysia. The writer can be contacted at

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