This story is set in a fictional / alternate version of Brunei. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
CHAPTER 1 – ADAM
Tutong – August 2012
It has been exactly four years since the passing of Adam’s father. Families and close friends gather at his house for a majlis tahlil arwah and doa selamat. As they all recite the kalimah, Adam couldn’t help but remembering that day in his childhood when he went fishing with his father….
Sungai Tutong – 2003
While fishing in the river, young Adam asked his dad about the legend of the Bruneian folk hero named ‘Awang Semaun’.
Adam’s Father: Cemani ceritanya, lai. Time dulu-dulu, ada dua adi-beradi bernama Awang Semaun dan Damang Sari. Durang ani urang Murut yang tinggal di utan selatan, kawasan pendalaman Borneo di antara Sarawak sama Kalimantan. Satu hari, Awang Semaun ani jalan memancing dan berjumpa dengan Ikan Sumpit-sumpit. Tahu Ikan Sumpit-Sumpit?
(This is how the story goes. Long time ago, there were two brothers named Awang Semaun and Damang Sari. They were two Murut people living in the southern jungle at the border of Sarawak and Kalimantan. One day, Awang Semaun went fishing and encountered an Archer Fish. Know what an Archer fish is?)
Adam: Tahu (Yeah)
Adam’s Father: Tapi Ikan sumpit-sumpit yang Awang Semaun bejumpa ani BASAR banar! Awang Semaun ani karas kepala jenis urang nya. Di bubutnya Ikan sumpit-sumpit ani sampai iya dapat dan di makannya. Maka iya pun dapat kuasa ajaib, ada power! Awang Semaun ani apatah lagi…be-show off show off tia kuasa nya. Mengangkat batu basar tia, cari kelahi, mengantam-antam urang tia. Iya inda peduli kalau urang benci iya. IYA KUAT! Apa kan di ingau nya kalau urang inda suka iya.
(But the Archer fish that Awang Semaun found was HUGE! Awang Semaun was a hot head and he hunted down the archer fish till he catches it and eat it. Then he magically got super strength! Awang Semaun began to show off his powers. Lifting boulders, looking for fights, beating up people. He didn’t care if people hated him. He’s STRONG! He had nothing to worry about)
Adam: Samseng jua Awang Semaun atu
(Awang Semaun was a gangster, wasn’t he)
Adam’s Father: Samseng banar! Tapi akhirnya, iya pun kana penyakit. Walaupun Awang Semaun ani kuat, mun namanya tekana penyakit, inda jua dapat di lawannya tu kalau nada ubat. Nasib saja adi nya, si Damang Sari, pintar dan membuat ubat untuk menyelamatkan abang nya ani. Awang Semaun pun berjasa dengan adi nya ani dan betukar sifatnya. Tapi sebaik-baik sudah sifatnya ani, seampun-ampun iya arah kampung-kampung yang di kacaunya, masih jua urang benci dengan Awang Semaun ani. Iatah mesti di ingati, lai – JANGAN sekali-kali berperangai and be-ulah buruk arah urang lain. Urang kitani ani akan ingati perangai-perangai buruk urang lain selama-lamanya. Kalau sampai di mulut-mulut urang, abis lah kitani.
(Damn right he was! But he got infected by a disease. Even though he was strong but he couldn’t fight against diseases. Luckily, his brother Damang Sari was smart and created a medicine to save his brother. Semaun was forever grateful to his brother and had a change of attitude. But no matter how much he changed nor how many villages he apologized to, people still hated Semaun. Remember son – DON’T ever act wrongfully to others. Bruneians will always remember any of your bad qualities. If it spreads among everyone, that’s it, you’re done for)
Tutong – August 2012
Following his late father’s teaching, Adam maintains a strong moral compass and never tried to act wrongfully to others.
He now lives with his mother and two younger siblings – a teenage sister and an eight years old younger brother – at Tutong. He did not do well at his A-levels and decided to quit school. He found work at the local town’s car workshop owned by Uncle Lim, a good friend of his late father.
Adam’s sister, Amalina, is still in school and ever since the the death of her father, she has been involved with the wrong crowd in her school.
Perhaps the brightest spot in the family is his youngest brother, Haziq. Despite the of his father’s death, Haziq managed to generally do well in school and have a healthy social life.
Adam is also currently in a relationship with his childhood friend, Aisyah. Despite Aisyah’s devotion to him, Adam feels that he doesn’t deserve a girl like her. Aisyah is a smart girl and she has potential to go further in life than he could ever dreamed of. But Aisyah’s is afraid to go out of her comfort zone. She feels content (or at least convince herself that she’s content) with her current state in life: in her small town, with her family, her boyfriend and her friends – nothing more. Adam somehow feels he’s responsible for holding her back and contemplates about ending their relationship.
Tutong River – 2003
Adam’s father continued his story on the legend of Awang Semaun.
Adam’s Father: Sudah tau kana benci oleh kampung nya, Awang Semaun dan si Damang Sari pun bepindah-pindah menjadi wira upahan. Akhirnya, sampai tia durang ke kawasan Limbang dan Temburong. Disana, durang berjumpa dengan satu puak bernama puak Sakai yang telah dilanda oleh serangan lanun. Puak ani diketuai oleh Awang Alak Betatar.
(After being hated by their fellow villagers, Awang Semaun and Damang Sari moved from village to village becoming heroes for hire. Eventually, they arrived at the Limbang and Temburong area. There they encountered the Sakai tribe who have been suffering from constant attacks by pirates. The tribe was led by a man named Awang Alak Betatar.)
Adam: Awang Alak Betatar sultan pertama Brunei tu!
(Thats the first Sultan of Brunei!)
Adam’s Father: Awu tapi time ani balum iya jadi Sultan Brunei. Brunei pun balum wujud! Awang Alak Betatar pun meminta pertolongan Awang Semaun melawan lanun-lanun yang selalu menyerang durang ani. Saudara Awang Alak Betatar, Patih Sangkuna inda setuju. Nya, inda ya pecaya Awang Semaun ani berupaya melawan lanun-lanun laut ani. Patih Sangkuna mencabar Awang Semaun belumba perahu untuk testing kemahiran Awang Semaun.
(Yes, but he wasn’t the Sultan of Brunei yet. Heck, Brunei didn’t even exist yet! Awang Alak Betatar asked Awang Semaun’s help to fend off the pirates that has been harassing the tribe. Awang Alak Betatar’s brother, Patih Sangkuna objected to idea. He didn’t believe that Awang Semaun was capable of fending off the maritime pirates. So Patih Sangkuna challenged Awang Semaun to a boat race to test his boating skills.)
Belumba tia durang. Awang Semaun mengalahkan Patih Sangkuna. Awang Alak Betatar pun melantik Awang Semaun menjadi panglima nya. Beperang tia durang dengan lanun-lanun di Labuan dan durang pun manang.
(Awang Semaun defeated Patih Sangkuna and proved his skills. Awang Alak Betatar appointed Awang Semaun as his commander and they waged war against the pirates from Labuan. They emerged victorious.)
Adam: Lapas atu jadi negeri Brunei!
(And the nation of Brunei was created
Adam’s Father: Balum lagi, lai. Panjang lagi ceritanya ni.
(Not yet. There’s more to the story.)
Tutong – August 2012
Adam would often randomly go fishing alone at the rivers as his way of coping with the loss of his father. One day, he goes to a very remote river all alone. He encounters a strange fish – a GIANT ARCHER FISH the length of Adam’s leg. Adam cannot believe his eyes! Just like the legend of Awang Semaun as told by his father.
The giant archer fish starts to taunt him by ‘shooting’ at his boat and shaking it. Rather than fleeing, Adam decides to fight back and sets out to catch it.
The archer fish falls for Adam’s bait but then it shows its super strength by pulling Adam’s rod and toss it into the river. At this moment, Adam begins to regret challenging this giant archer fish. This isn’t a fish, this is probably an evil spirit in disguise!
The giant archer fish lets out one last shot of water vapor out its mouth that put a hole in Adam’s boat. This is not good. Just as Adam is panicking about his sinking boat, the fish leaps out of the water and heading straight for Adam. This is definitely NOT good! The giant archer fish shoots at Adam. WHOOOSH!
Tutong River- 2003
Adam’s Father: Tapi lanun-lanun ani masih jua mengacau. Kekacauan dan fitnah menyampai tahap labih sudah. Awang Alak Betatar dan yang lain inda lagi dapat tahan. Alak Betatar pun bertitah untuk mencari tempat baru untuk memulakan hidup yang baru. ‘Fresh Start’ nya urang putih. Jalan tia durang mencari tempat baru. Tejumpa tia Sungai Brunei uleh Bendahara Patih Berbai dan Damang Sari.
(The pirates still attacked and ranscaked them. The unrest and chaos proved to be unbearable for Alak Betatar and others. Alak Betatar decreed that they should find a new settlement to start a new life – a fresh start. So they set out to find a new place. Vizier Patih Berbai and Damang Sari found the Brunei River)
Lapas berhari-hari mencari tempat, Patih Berbai pun gembira dan meneriak “BARU NAH!” Baru Nah akhirnya jadi Barunai dan Barunai jadi Brunai/Brunei.
(After days of searching, Patih Berbai was happy and exclaimed “BARU NAH!”/”FOUND IT!/FINALLY! Baru Nah became Barunai and Barunai became Brunai/Brunei)
Tutong – August 2012
Adam wakes up on a hospital bed. His family, Uncle Lim and Aisyah are ecstatic to see him regain conscious. Apparently, he was missing for two days until they found him lying unconscious at the mangroves by the river. They brought him back to the hospital where he spent a whole day sleeping. Surprisingly, Adam doesn’t suffer any injury and he feels fine. Even though his mother said that the doctor advised Adam to rest, Adam insists on getting up and go to the bathroom without any help.
He’s fine. Actually, he never felt better.
BRRAAAKK!! The toilet door breaks from the wall when Adam pulls it. His family, Uncle Lim and Aisyah are stunned that Adam can break the door so easily.
Might be interested in:
Early Brunei Conquests
Assessing the Epic Status of the Brunei Malay Sya’ir Awang Simawn: Place Names and Toponyms Allen R. Maxwell
Headhunting and the social imagination in Southeast Asia
Tales from Syair Awang Semaun
Brunei Sultanate expands empire
Awang Semaun: Tale of a Brunei warrior
Tracing the history of today’s Kampong Ayer
Naming a sea-faring nation
Man of Steel