THE CULTURE AND CUSTOM OF THE BAJAU ETHNIC THE MARRIAGE CUSTOM
The marriage of the Bajau ethnic in Kota Belud District on Sabah West Coast Division has slight similarities with that of the Malays in West Malaysia. This ethnic places importance on the implementation of every ceremony in their marriage custom that involves seven main tiers, beginning with the Tilau-Tilau and Mendo (enquiring and proposing), followed by Seruan (engagement), Norong (handing over the marriage dowry), Mandi Bedak (powder night or henna night), Marriage Solemnisation and Sitting on the Dias Ceremonies, Ngendo (inviting the bride to the groom house), and Ngedede (sending both newly-weds to the bride house).
TILAU-TILAU (ENQUIRING) AND MENDO(PROPOSING)
Parents choose the girl to be their daughter-in-law. Once identified preparations for the tilai-tilau (enquiring) are quickly arranged. Once enquiring is over a good chance is utilized to enquire about the girl and her background as the Bajau community places importance on descendants.
The engagement ceremony is held at the girl's house and the duration of the engagement as well as the marriage date are discussed. This ethnic is very conscientious in choosing the month and date of marriage.
NORONG (HANDING OVER THE MARRIAGE DOWRY)
After that is the handing over of the marriage dowry from the man's side to the girl's side. The norong day is called Malad and is usually held in the morning. In this ceremony, the marriage date is fixed.
There are two types of norong. The first is held within three months while the second is within three days to a day before the wedding ceremony.
MANDI BEDAK (POWDER NIGHT OR HENNA NIGHT)
This event is held before the marriage solemnization and sitting on the dias ceremonies. Among the ingredients used are yellow rice, henna, scented flower sprinkles, and coconut milk with pandanus leaves. The powder is smeared all over the bride's body to discard dirt. Only close family members are allowed to attend. To make the occasion merrier the betitik and berunsai (Bajau traditional music and dance) are held throughout the night intermittently with quatrains after the blessing ceremony is over.
MARRIAGE SOLEMNISATION AND SITTING ON THE DIAS CEREMONIES
The arrival of the groom's entourage at the bride's house is publicized with a number of gun shots. The groom's entourage must bring along damak or souvenirs. In yesteryears, the groom is forbidden to step on the soil. Hence, grooms of Datu ancestry are paraded using a stretcher while ordinary ones are on horses. The groom ascends the bride's house and is seated on peningkoon (a seat made of a small mattress covered with seven tiers of tipo selisir, a Bajau traditional mat) flanked by two best men. Then the marriage solemnization takes place, either while seated or standing, on the day of the sitting on the dias ceremony. After that, the couple undergoes the sitting on the dias ceremony.
The dias has three tiers of curtains that the groom must pass through. He is also made to recite poem and pay curtain tax. Before sitting on the dias the groom turns his handkerchief three times above the bride's head and then drops it onto the bride's palms. After that, the groom touches his palate with his right thumb and then uses it to touch his wife's forehead while reciting the verse of allegiance to Allah. Both these actions symbolize nullifying ritual ablutions.
NGANDO (INVITING THE BRIDE TO THE GROOM'S HOUSE) AND NGENDEDE (SENDING THE COUPLE BACK TO THE BRIDE'S HOUSE)
After the wedding ceremony is the ngando ceremony whereby inviting the bride to the groom’s house. The bride needs to wash her feet to symbolize cleansing oneself apart from being confirmed as the groom's family member. After a few days, the ngedede ceremony is held whereby sending the newly-wed couple back to the bride’s house. The couple is given gifts like kitchen equipment, bedding equipment, and the like.