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The story of Apai Saloi and how he lost his sago flour

Here is a story of Iban comedic folklore hero Apai Saloi, recorded by historian Benedict Sandin which was published in The Sarawak Gazette (Dec 31, 1965):

Long time ago, in Gelong country where Apai Saloi lived, there was a great famine.

So Apai Saloi took his sons, Saloi and Ensali, to cut down a sago tree somewhere downriver from their house.

After they extracted the sago and made it into flour, the father and sons put them in bags and went home in their boat.

While cruising past their paddy fields, Apai Saloi saw something golden yellow glittering in the sun.

Immediately, he thought they were ripe paddy grains. His sons, however, did not believe that they were paddy grains but the flowers of a type of grass called ensawa.

Apai Saloi argued with his sons for awhile over the ‘paddy grains’. After some time, his sons gave up arguing with him.

Apai Saloi thought he ensewa grass was paddy grains. Credits: Pixabay

Apai Saloi threw away his sago flour

Instead of bringing home the sago flour, he threw it into the river. He said that it was useless to bring it home since within the next few days they would reap their new harvest.

Before he went on with his journey home, Apai Saloi made a mark at the side of the boat with his knife in order to remember the exact place where the sago flour had been thrown into the river.

Then, he asked his sons to paddle hard so that he could reach home quickly.

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When they reached home, his wife Indai Saloi asked where the sago flour was.

Apai Saloi told her with all honesty that he had thrown it into the river. Indai Saloi was furious with him, calling Apai Saloi a fool for letting his family starve.

But Apai Saloi confidently told her not to worry as their paddy had already ripened.

His wife was smart enough to know that it was impossible for that to happen at this time of the year.

Meanwhile, her sons Saloi and Ensali came forward to tell their mother about what happened and how they argued with their father.

Again, Indai Saloi scolded her husband for his foolishness.

Looking for the sago flour

Tired of his wife’s scolding, Apai Saloi took his sons to look for the bags of sago flour. He told his wife that it was easy to find it since he had marked the place where he had thrown it away.

Immediately after they left their wharf, Apai Saloi asked his sons to dive into the water.

Obediently, they followed their father’s instruction. But no matter how many times they dove into the river, they could not find the bags of sago flour.

Apai Saloi insisted that that was the location of the sago flour since he already made the mark at the side of his boat.

His sons continued to dive until they both could no longer continue.

Seeing her husband returning without the sago flour, Indai Saloi became furious again. Apai Saloi could not do anything else but retire to his mosquito net.

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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