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8 things the Timugon Murut believe about Nabalu, or the afterlife

Different beliefs offer different views of the afterlife. In some views, the afterlife takes place in a spiritual realm. Another popular view is reincarnation. It is where the individual may be reborn into this world with no memory of his past life.

Meanwhile in Sabah, the Timugon Murut people have their own perception of the afterlife.

According to Kielo A. Brewis in his paper The Death of a Timugon Murut (1987), nabalu is what the Timugon Murut people believe to be their afterworld.

So here are what you should know about the traditional belief of the Timugon Murut when comes to nabalu:

1.After a person dies, their soul is said to leave the body and continue to float around the house until a chicken is sacrificed on the morning of the burial day. That is when the soul goes to nabalu.
At that time, the soul is believed to not take any special form, but is merely invisible.

2.Souls of good people can straightaway go to Nabalu. Although there is no mention of an escort like the grim reaper, some said that the souls flew to Nabalu while others said angels (masundu) came to get them.

3.If there is a rainbow during the wake or on the day of the burial, it means the dead person is present to take part in the sorrow of the villagers. Beside that, it means that the soul will get to Nabalu very quickly.

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4.Souls that are barred or delayed from entering Nabalu will turn into a ghost (timbunus). It is a Timugon Murut version of vampire with a particular preference for pregnant women. It likes to lurk around at the time of childbirth on lonely stretches of road causing accidents so that they can suck the blood of the victims.

5.If the deceased had cursed or poisoned someone, they may turn into a snake or a black cat at death. The soul will probably never reach Nabalu, and is destined to roam and haunt people.

6.Speaking of haunting people, the same fate goes to the soul of a person who died a violent death. His soul will not go to Nabalu immediately but will have to stay around for some time to frighten people.

7.Meanwhile, a soul who has gone to Nabalu can occasionally come down and visit people. He flies down in the form of a bird and watches the people on earth.

8.As for the location of Nabalu, those who believe in it said that it is “up there”, on top of a great mountain facing the sunrise. Brewis opined that the mountain his informants referred to could not be Mount Kinabalu since the mountain could not be seen from Tenom valley where the Timugon Murut lived. One thing for sure is that Nabalu is a good place where there is no sickness and people probably are of the age they were when they died.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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