KOTA KINABALU: All eyes were on Amit Guntawoi, 80, as she performed the 'momulangga' ritual to bless the opening of the International Conference on Spirituality, Culture and Sustainable Tourism, here today.
The Dusun 'bobolian' (high priestess) from Kimanis spent almost an hour, where she connected with the spirit world and recited chants in a conference room with about 100 participants at the Le Meridien Hotel.
Present were Deputy Chief Minister and Huguan Siou (Kadazandusun paramount leader) Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who is also the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) president, and KDCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.
At one point during the ritual, Guntawoi's assistant quietly tried to ask the bobolian to cut short her ritual as it was taking too long but she asked not to be disturbed.
Guntawoi is among few remaining Dusun bobolian who still performs rituals. She takes the momulangga ritual seriously to ward off unwanted and negative spirits to ensure today's conference is carried out smoothly.
The event is KDCA's first international conference in collaboration with Universiti Teknologi MARA and Universiti Sains Malaysia to provide a platform for various key players to present and discuss cultural knowledge and research findings.
In his opening speech, Pairin said the momulangga ritual demonstrates what spirituality all about.
"I'm happy at being able to witness a bobolian from Kimanis. The ritual she performed for us is something she believes in.
"On May 30, I saw performances where the personality of a group of performers changed after performing chants and it took them awhile to exit from the spiritual environment into the real world," he said.
Pairin noted that the the conference aims to seek a marriage between spirituality and sustainable tourism, and that a package would be developed as they understand the subject matter.
Pairin said the conference was timely with the finale of the Kaamatan festival and urged participants to take the opportunity to further enhance their understanding of the local spirituality, culture and sustainable tourism.