With numerous organizations, including even nightspots and trade associations now seen organizing their own Unduk Ngadaus (traditional harvest beauty pageants), some feel the time has come to place restrictions on staging this now highly commercialized event so that it would not lose its dignity.
On the other hand there are those who feel the more pageants the merrier as it would enable those who may not stand a chance of making it to the finals of the official State-sponsored event to feel they are not left out.
Unduk Ngadau winner 2005, Mandy Nandu, agrees the event has become more commercialized now.
"We can see that it has become one of the annual events, especially in clubs, pubs, malls, and workshops," she said.
"As a former Kaamatan Unduk Ngadau, I really appreciate and am glad to see these parties take the initiative to showcase KadazanDusun Murut ethnicity by organizing the competition but she finds portraying it in different ways and without limitation to be "very unacceptable".
"This is especially true when it is merely about entertainment and drifts away from the authenticity of the KadazanDusun Murut cultural heritage, and the sacred meaning behind this celebration," said Mandy, who was also crowned Miss Sabah/Malaysia/World 2007 and Miss Malaysia Model of the world 2009.
"The 'Unduk Ngadau' title is a very honorable one where the deserving lady will continuously play her role to promote the traditions and cultures of the Kadazandusun and Murut ethnics, and become an example to others.'
She hopes it would always be remembered that the Unduk Ngadau is to commemorate the legendary Huminodun, the lady who despite her beauty and position, gave her life so that others would live.
"Her unconditional love, wisdom and sacrifice are significantly remembered until today."
"The Unduk Ngadau has to continue to teach and remind us of the importance of sincere caring and love for peace and prosperity through the spirit of our KadazanDusunMurut cultures and traditions," she said.
May Salitah Naru Kiob, who was Miss Earth Sabah 2010, thinks being an Unduk Ngadau these days is not entirely necessary because even the competition is not a search for the next Huminodun anymore.
"If you compare our winners these days to those of yesteryear, you will find that the girls are quite commercialized."
"This is due to the fact that girls who can be marketed as 'models' are usually the winners, therefore generating extra income from commissions through jobs for the organizers should they win, thus putting the main Unduk Ngadau organisers in the same position as pubs," she said.
The search for the "Next Kadazan Top Model" will also diminish the hopes and dreams of young girls with the heart of Huminodun, but who may lack in physical height or body shape.
"No doubt beauty is important, because the legend herself was the most beautiful in the land, however my grandmother never told me that she had model-like features."
"In a nutshell, the Unduk Ngadau contest is too commercial these days and the objective to find the one who symbolizes Huminodun is buried in a mass of physical beauty. So who can blame pubs for doing the same?" she asked.
Fharelynne Ivonne Henry, who was the Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan for 2004 (Representing Tamparuli) feels the "Unduk Ngadau" title should be banned for use by clubs/pubs/malls/workshops and made exclusive for only the officially the State Unduk Ngadau competition.
She said the wide used of the term has given a different impression to the public because the premises/ facilities are carrying out the pageant mainly for entertainment purposes to attract customers/clients and not with the concern of cultures and ethnicity.
"Unduk Ngadau" is the highest title given to a Kadazan Dusun girl and it is awarded with big responsibilities."
"It is not just about the prizes. I sincerely think the title should be preserved only for the official use."
"This is to avoid the abuse of the term and help to maintain the relevance of the Unduk Ngadau," she said.
Student Jacob Hej does not think all girls want to join the Unduk Ngadau.
"Many actually prefer to be out of the limelight. It is just like a profession," she said.
"Do you see everyone venturing into journalism just because you and I are in it and we think it is the coolest job on the planet?"
She noted that the Unduk ngadau used to be a very cultural thing, organised by kampungs and their reigning queen will represent that kampung at district and then if she wins, at state level.
"There was a lot of pride in the event. Having it at pubs, etc, says a different thing altogether.
A former Mr Kaamatan contestant, Ricky Rico, thinks there is nothing traditional about Unduk Ngadau in the first place. It started off as just another pageant, then came the 'injection' of cultural elements into it.
Plus, there are political motives to it too and nowadays, it's another over-commercialized thing.
Ashlie Mohd Leslie, another former Mr Kaamatan contestant, thinks many Unduk Ngadau contests held elsewhere other than the State level one are solely for the search of beauty and business.
"There is nothing about the native culture."
"However, I think the State level Unduk Ngadau pageant will forever be relevant if you view it in a proper manner and the winners are judged based on criterion such as how well you know the Huminodun history, the language, and whether you know how to properly wear the attire."
Another former Unduk Ngadau contestant thinks it is all right for malls, workshops or anyone (except pubs) to have their own Unduk Ngadau pageants because it makes the Harvest Festival merrier.
"It also gives girls out there a better chance to earn extra income, and not only restricted to the initial State level one."
Besides, it is still part of promoting our ethnic culture because contestants still need to wear their traditional costume, said Jo Jane, another past contestant.
Brenda Joseph, a former make-up artist for Unduk Ngadau contestants thinks all organizers other than the State level pageant are making the Unduk Ngadau less relevant to the real meaning of finding an Unduk Ngadau during the Harvest Festival.
"I don't see the organizers (not the State level one) making use of the 'Unduk Ngadau' term portraying the true meaning of the Huminodun or Unduk Ngadau through their pageants" she said.
Source: Daily Express
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