The origin of the Punan Bah
According to Punan Bah traditions Bua came from the Sekapan area where he was married to Lapan, or Jali as the Punan Bah call her. Bua was an etun oa, that is a supernatural being and gifted with special powers. Once upon a time he arrived in the Bah area and here he created the Bah river and the Punan Bah people. Bua then left the are for some time, only to find upon his return that people were quarreling and fighting.
Consequently he gave up his initial intention of creating more Punan Bah people. He fled the country and never return, but in his haste he left his quiver behind. The quiver has turned into a stone and is still to be seen up the Bah river. Another stone bears the imprint of his posteriors, proving to the Punan Bah that Bua was once resting there.
Bua had two children, Tadou and Taga, through whom the Punan Bah trace their descent (Se diagram 1). They and their close descendants were all etun oa, but in successive generations the supernatural powers faded away. Balauan and Yuan Mikuang, for example, had already lost much of their supernatural capacities and later generations had no such powers.
Though apparently this descent line tells the story of the aristocrats only, it is in Punan Bah opinion the story of their society in general. The Punan Bah believe that they are all descendants of Bua. Those who achieved chieftainship and a few others are the ones to be remembered today, but they all stem from the same root. Ordinary Punan Bah or panyin are descendants of Bua and so are the slaves, lipen.
According to the myth the Punan Bah were thus created at the lower Bah river. But Bua’s great-grandson, Aviang Yabu, moved up the river with all his followers and settled at the Sematai-Bah junction.
There are no precise memories about the number of settlements in this early phase of Punan Bah History. The number of longhouses generally agreed upon are the following:
The longhouse of Kavu Oko – at Ungei Sematai
The longhouse of Beang – at Ungei Sematai
The longhouse of Seriang – at Ungei Sematai
The longhouse of Kavu Oka – at Ungei Punan
The longhouse of Gele – at Ungei Punan
The longhouse of Geleang – at Ungei Punan
The longhouse of Pajou – at Ungei Ayok
This article is extracted from Ida Nicolaisen.(1976). “Form and Function of Punan Bah Ethno-historical Tradition”. The Sarawak Museum Journal, Vol XXIV No.45(New Series), p65-66.