(This is Tuesday Tales, where we highlight folklores and personal stories from indigenous peoples from all across Borneo. These are stories shared with us. We strive to edit it to the best of our capabilities for your enjoyment. We welcome your feedback at email@example.com)
The Legend of Bukit Jepak
Origin: Va’ie Segan community, Bintulu
As told by: Haji Killy Bin Pilok
Translated by: Kairulnieza Bin Wainie (Bahasa Melayu), Adrian Jo Milang (English)
Edited by: Juvita Tatan Wan
Sketch by: Loretta Livan Milang
Centuries ago, the Va’ie Segan community resided at the mouth of the Sungai Sebezaw and Qaqeb river. They lived off the forest, river and the sea.
Some were fishermen, prawn and crab catchers along the Sungai Bintulu streams. Some collect rattan, wild fruits and hunt for animals. Then there were some that would sail to sea who were known as Panaw and Damar sailors. They lived peacefully and with great livelihood from all they have in their surroundings.
As told by the villagers, there was a small cave just above Bukit Jepak (Jepak Hill) where a giant centipede lived. It was deeply feared by the villagers then. It was said this giant centipede would go out at night to look for food, especially along Jepak foothill and along Sungai Bintulu.
Soon enough, the existence of this centipede became the talk of the town, as there were no other explanations of how some of the villagers’ disappeared, only to have their bodies found the next day in the most gruesome and gory state.
Days went by, and the frightening occurrence kept on happening. The villagers suspected it was the work of this giant centipede.
The villagers were uneasy as some of them had allegedly seen the centipede wrapping itself on a tree, with its colours clearly shown.
Because of that, whenever they row their boat, they would stroke their oars along their boat loudly in order to scare the centipede away.
One day, a young villager was catching prawns with casting nets around the river near Bukit Jepak. He was catching so much prawns that he didn’t realised it was dusk. He didn’t hear the sounds of leaves and grass being dragged by something not far from him.
Out of nowhere, the massive centipede started its journey towards his boat. The young villager was shocked and cast his net away and jumped into the river and flipped his boat upside down. He hid himself beneath the boat.
The monstrous centipede wrapped itself around the boat with it’s sharp claws.
The young villager remembered that he had tujik qazan (knife) around his waist, so he started to look for a gap on the boat (seq alod).
He thrusted his knife into the centipede’s stomach through a tiny hole and the creature started to struggle and wriggle in agony as its blood spilt into the river. Soon enough, the centipede died and was drifted along with the river.
The young villager started swimming to the river bank. There were apparently others who watched the ordeal but were too afraid to help him.
Until today, the brave act of this young person and the giant centipede is still told. Some called it qeqipan banyok or qeqipan bara, among other names given by the Va’ie people.
To this day, the truth of the story remains a mystery.