Miri Division Gawai Dayak Celebration 2023

Tabi basa & greetings everyone. Today I’d like to share the pictures that I’ve captured during Miri Division Gawai Celebration 2023 at Meritz Hotel, Miri.

Note: © Claudius Weson (2023). All rights reserved. No parts of this blog is permitted to be re-published or copied without any prior permission from Claudius Weson.

I have covered Miri Division Gawai Rehearsal session two days ago, where you can read more about it here. It was done in black and white photography though. 

For Miri Division Gawai Dayak Celebration 2023, I’ve decided to post it in colour since it was a colourful event, a truly Sarawak event that brought together the ethnic groups at Miri: Dayak Iban, Bidayuh, and Orang Ulu group.


For this dinner, everyone involved came early. For us, dancers of the dinner, we came as early as 3pm to prepare for the event, especially make-up artists. 

Faris is in progress of beautifying Venezia

Allen & Faris came to make-up the girls (Bidayuh dancer girls). But we were still having doubts about our dance steps, so we decided to rehearse one more time. It is something that every performer have in common, that feeling where you think that you should be practicing whenever you can moments before the performance itself.

All of us then head to the ballroom. Romania was still left behind since she was still doing her make-up. We sent the twins – Darvyn & Davlyn – and Chestern to call her, but the three didn’t succed, much to our laughter. Anyway, eventually she joined us, with half-done make-up & feeling irritated (though we all know that’s her default setting).

We took a bit of photos before practice (yes, sempatttt).

New generation Bidayuh dancers
Datin Nancy Rumanoff


Practice goes on as usual. It was fun one, with lots of funny moments in between. The only difference between us and Korea drama is that no one films us. Otherwise, we would have our own comedy show, but in Bidayuh language.

Being scolded by discipline teacher.
Saturday Night Live
Still can’t control her laughter
Posing mode is turn on every single time they saw my lens pointed at them.

We planned to enter the room, but it was a wrong door – and the hotel staff was giving talk to their staff on-duty that night. I know it is not an easy night, so that is expected. 

After that practice session, it is time for us to prepare for the event. Allen prepares his warrior costume, but he is having a bit of difficulty in putting on the sabok. 

Allen – Bidayuh warrior

I managed get acquainted with my fellow SMK Tebakang senior, batch 2001-2005. Finally, I managed to unleash my “sanda Bidayuh Serian”. She’s from Kpg Mujat, and she knows the Sio Sisters. What a small world.


Bidayuh’s Fine Dining Experience?

After that, from Tulip Room, we went to Rafflesia Room to grab out dinner, in style. Surrounded by girls wearing jambuh / jemuh (Bidayuh women’s traditional dress) always reminds me to home.

Our traditioanal dress’s main colour is black and red, which I think explains my fondness in both colour. Colour that spells home. 

Even during dinner, we had a lot of chat. I guess that’s what they call kinship between fellow dancers. Furthermore, these girls call me abang (they are not used to the term “sikiek”/”umbu”) since they are just like “adik-adik” to me. For comparison, the difference between my age and the other male dancers is 2 decades. 

Bala Dayung Timengen / Sangon / Remus

Then, being a photographer I am, I am excited to capture the moments around me, the beautiful dancers, people in costume, be it new peoples or new friends. 

I think all of them are amazing in their own way. Therefore, to compare yourself with the other person is an insult to your potential, potential that is yet to be tapped. There is greatness sleeping dormantly within each and everyone of us, waiting to be awakened. 

Then, all of us were asked to line-up, waiting for the VIPs arrival.


Band Boy in da Haus
Mini “duel” while waiting for VIP’s arrival

As usual, they are celebrated and welcomed with a loud, tara-tara-tara cheers, a symbolic Bidayuh cheers. 

Once welcoming of VIP is completed, we took the opportunity to take more pictures. Everyone is dressed beautifully, so why not take that chances? Only Allen dressed up like an ancient Bidayuh warriors. Myself and the rest of the boys were dressed like the shamans. I think they wore white clothes last time. It is not easy though. 

Since we do not have any seat at the dinner, we went to the Rafflesia Room and noticed the Orang Ulu dancers were having their final practice there. I had a chat with a few of them, whilst taking their images in practice. 

Feeling bored, I walked around the corridor, hoping that I will find something interesting. Yes, I did met Benny, a fellow Pichin boys and a had a chat with him.

I also chanced upon these Keligits, doing some pose for the other photographers.

Then I went to the finalists holding room. So that how it is like at the holding room. I never involved with any of these, so I can only imagine how it feels like. 

I spoke to the Naomi and realised that her mother used to work at Typhoon Studio. That’s nice. She even taught her to use Lightroom Mobile, which is the best app for mobile photo editing. 

There also I managed to chat with the girls, including Kelly & Stacy from Keligit category; and all of the Dayung Sangon participants. I did few photoshoots with them too. It was not an ideal lighting condition, but I just make full use of what’s available.

Then we went to Clubby Bar’s entrance for a bit of different ambient in shooting. Clubby Bar had its grand opening at 13 Oct last year, featuring Gatita Yan & Perry K. 

Different person has a different idea of music when they saw clubbing. For me, it’s this song.

After that, I was summoned by The Twin to get ready at the back stage, for our performance. Darvyn told me the rest of the girls were there already. It was only I who were still loitering around. Oops, my bad.  Here comes the backstage pictures.


Upon my arrival at the backstage, I saw Rozzie, a Bidayuh artist were singing. So I took a snap.

Then, I did a few photoshoots with the nervous girls. Nathalie can be seen idling. Perhaps she is doing some mental exercise.

Everlyn can be seen arranging Romania’s hair. She’s quite pissed off because their dance didn’t go in accordance to their plan. Oh well.

Only then I realised that It was the grand entrance of the participants. Oh my, that’s awesome. They are dressed in their best costumes. I am always fascinated by these costumes, and still in progress of creating a  replica of traditional Bidayuh warrior’s costume. 

Capturing the grand entrance of Finalists.

In the past, only the Dayak royals have enough richness to wear such a complete costume, be it from Kayan-Kenyah, Iban or Bidayuh. Those things are not cheap. People in the olden days, I’ve heard, used to trade with Chinese near the coastal area. Since that time money was hard to find to properly trade, usually they will trade in barter. 


From what I’ve heard, due to limited number of participants, these usually separate categories are combined together. Belawan is Keling-equivalent for Orang Ulu, although Keling itself refers to one of the gods in Iban folk religion. It is a complicated story, and proper research with reputable sources has to be done for me to talk about it. Otherwise, let’s just leave it at that.

After Keling-Belawan category is completed, it is time for Dayung Sangon.


Dayung Sangon was started by Barbara since she holds number 1. But, due to some misunderstanding, she has to stand for a minute whilst waiting for the backstage crew to call upon the second participant, Cynthia Aren. Fortunately, she stands there gracefully just like how a Dayung Sangon should.

The longest 1 minute

The rest of the catwalk goes on smoothly without any hiccup.


Whilst waiting for Keligit participants to get ready, it was a time for Datun Julud dance performance, albeit a contemporary form.

Post-catwalk relieved faces.


Keligit is a title that is given to Orang Ulu beauty queen for Miri Division Gawai 2023. One can safely say it has the significance similar to Dayung Sangon’s title. 


Then, it was a time for DAM’s Cultural Troupe performance, led by Daniel. Usually we only see one type of ngajat, but this time, they performaned a harvesting-themed ngajat.


After ngajata performance, we continued the event with Kumang category.


From the background, I can see that everyone is doing Gawai toast, in Bidayuh’s tara tara tara style, followed by Iban’s Ooo-Haa! and finally Orang Ulu’s Wekk style, with a twist of Yam Seng in the end, to honour the Chinese cultures that is also a part of Miri.


Realising that I might be missing a lot more if I just stayed at the backstage, I rushed to the ballroom, and took a few images along the way. There I met a few of my friends; Dominica, Janice, Steph & Howard as well as Daniel from DAM.

Not to forget Cikgu Robert and Martin Dinil too.

I also met Cecilia Seman once again, ex-Borneo Post reporter. She’s one of the senior Bidayuh’s female photojournalist. 

I also took a pic of one of my childhood idol, Mr Richard Wonder, with his hit “Rindu”. He became our emcee, along with Mdm Lynna Juntan.


For Keling-Belawan categories, here’s the summary of the winners:

  1. Jhonson Elson
  2. Daniel Douglas
  3. Hakkinen Ak Lewis
  4. Jeffery Kampung
  5. Chai Zi Jian
  6. Harry Linggang Ak Laurence Libau 


  1. Esther Mira Jackson
  2. Michelle Rienny anak Michael
  3. Jemima Sindun Nyambar
  4. Mia Andon anak Ngumbang
  5. Asmira Niawati anak July
  6. Octavia Melanie Dickson


  1. Kelly Raywyn Cahill
  2. Vanessa Livan Sigau
  3. Angeline Embang Hendry Njau
  4. Gwenda Morwenna Joseph
  5. Stacy Rosedyana Sigar
  6. Karen Urai Shaw

Dayung Sangon:

  1. Daniella Angel Boon
  2. Barbara Maria Michael
  3. Tania Angelina anak Derek
  4. Rachel Erika Richard
  5. Naomi Rachel Naphatalie Donny Alvin
  6. Cynthia Aren Ajang

With the winner announcement, that marks the end of the official event, and it is the time for us to do the needful, which is to dance to songs. Mr Richard Wonder sung his hit song: Adai Sik Jaku Nya – whilst the rest poco-poco happily. Captain Bai also sung Mr Sanuh for us to dance along too.

As the ending, I took the opportunity to sing one song: Kampung Love, the same song that I sung during Miri Division Gawai 2023 Karaoke Competition. I did it as if I am doing my own concert.


For me, it was a good experience to be involved with Miri Division Gawai 2023, though I am not a committee, but at least have an idea on how it is being done, what good looks like and how it can be improved in the future. 

I also would like to take the opportunity to thank:

  1. Trisha – for lending me the “kupak” jacket.
  2. Allen – for kind-heartedly lending me his “bubut” necklace

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That’s all for now. Stay safe & take care.

© Claudius Weson (2023). All rights reserved.

Tukang Rantek,
Claudius (Del)

error: © Claudius Weson (2017 - 2023). All rights reserved.