Brunei Darussalam
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Living by ‘candlelight’

KUDAT (ANN/THE STAR) – Little would one expect people to be living without electricity supply in 21st century Malaysia.

Truth is, many parts of Sabah still suffer from this and those born in such conditions have learnt to adapt well.

Folks in Sabah’s northern Banggi Island, off Kudat district, especially villagers living in the interior parts of the island such as Kampung Rahmat, Kampung Semayan, and Kampung Dogoton, have their own simple but doable way of living their day to day lives without electricity.

For starters, there is more than one flashlight and at least one oil lamp in every household.

Batteries are also one of the main necessities, and generator sets (gensets) are available in the homes of better-off families.

Most villagers depend on battery-powered appliances, such as mini fans, while gensets are used for charging handphones, laptops, and other simpler electrical appliances.

As for refrigerators, no one uses them because there is no power supply. How do they preserve and keep their perishables, one may ask? Well, it is simple – they just buy exactly how much they need for the day’s meal.

Otherwise, it’s back to the dry preservation method, where villagers take their fish or seafood (because it is an island) to dry, aged and salted, and then packed in plastic bags or containers.

That is why Banggi, or Kudat in general, is known as one of the best places to get salted fish.

Kampong Semayan village chief Marjud Abd Rasul said villagers in Banggi mainly were fishermen, though some reared chicken, cattle and goats.

“Often, our meals consist of fresh seafood that is caught daily,” said the 44-year-old.

For vegetables, they usually get it from the local market nearby, and normally choose greens that can last for days, such as carrots or cabbages, he said.

“If we wish to have chicken or beef, we get just the exact amount for the day’s meal, because we have no refrigerator,” Marjud said.

Thinking back, he said all this may seem like a hassle, but for the villagers, it has been their way of life since birth and they still get to enjoy “electricity” with battery-powered appliances and gensets.

“We just don’t have television, refrigerators or washing machines because these are things that need higher voltage generators,” he explained.

The sun sets on Banggi Island. PHOTO: ANN/THE STAR

Kampong Semayan is located quite deep in Banggi, where one has to travel for several hours on four-wheel-drive vehicles to get there.

Here, the people, consisting mainly of the Ubian ethnic group, are very shy but friendly after getting to know you. Most are shy because they do not get visits from outsiders often because getting there is a tough journey.

One would first take a boat from Kudat town to Banggi island, which takes about 45 minutes in normal weather, and then another few hours by road and dirt paths to reach the village.

When a downpour strikes, chances are one would be stuck somewhere in the middle of the jungle or an palm oil estate because there are two locations that would be cut off by the rising water level.

For these villagers, they are happy with their way of life, but of course they too wish to be able to enjoy modern living just like others in Sabah.

At least for now, over a hundred families get to enjoy power supply after Petronas, through its subsidiary Petronas Floating LNG (PFLNG) came forward to bring them solar energy to power their homes in the company’s Uplifting Lives – Rays of Hope (Phase 2) programme that will be completed this month.

Kampong Semayan village chief Marjud and his wife are used to living without regular electricity supply. PHOTO: ANN/THE STAR