The experience of a Mister Kaamatan
Published on: Sunday, June 02, 2019
By: Richard A Gontusan

Not many people would have experienced the feeling of being on stage in which your every movement and every word are being scrutinised by a large, discerning and opinionated audience.

That was exactly the experience felt by Mohd Saiful Azwan Bin Sundian during the glittering Piboian Buvazoi Tavantang Kaamatan Nazatan Pogun or State Level Mister Ka’amatan Contest 2018 held on June 24, 2018 at the JKKNS Auditorium, Penampang. Saiful, who represented Klang Valley, won the contest and romped home with prizes worth RM27,000 in cash and scholarship after besting 44 other eager district contestants. 

Saiful, 25 years old, was born to Dusun Kimaragang parents in Kota Kinabalu but was raised in Kota Marudu. Both his parents are teachers. He graduated from IPG Kampus, Kuala Lumpur, and now works as a teacher at SK Pekan Kota Marudu, teaching Bahasa Melayu, History and Physical and Health Education. Of his hobbies, he loves producing songs, designing logos, gym training, hiking, photography and videography

Allowing him first to fully savour the trappings of his win, I sat down with Saiful a few weeks after the contest to gain a deeper insight into his experience and thoughts.

It was Saiful’s first participation in the Mister Kaamatan Contest. In the same contest season, he first joined the Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu Mister Kaamatan Contest, in which he finished first runner-up. Not one to give up so easily, and with the encouragement of his friend and manager Geo Allen George, he proceeded to compete in the Klang Valley Mister Kaamatan Contest, which he won. The win paved the way for him to compete at the state level, which, of course, he bagged. He declared that the journey was not easy, but he enjoyed every moment of the ride. 

One of the reasons Saiful gave for joining arose from his desire to achieve something significant in his life and to make his parents proud. Joining the contest for him was a meaningful and life-changing journey, in which he learnt a lot, chief of which was a deeper understanding of the Kadazan Dusun Murut and Rungus (KDMR) culture. In the process, he became acquainted with many fellow contestants who share his passion, and have since become his friends. To him, the contest is a platform through which he hopes to establish himself as a songwriter and to become a voice for the youths as he aspires to become an inspiration to the younger generation. His other reasons for joining touched on his desire to cherish the KDMR culture and to celebrate talents of which the culture is exceedingly rich in.  

To win a contest this prestigious is not a walk in the park. A lot goes into preparation. Most of the time, the audience sees only the end-product on contest day. To fully prepare for the contest, Saiful conducted a lot of research on KDMR culture and traditions. He practised his catwalk, speech and eye contact under the watchful eyes of his friend Geo, who guided him every step of the way.

Although Saiful is of Dusun Kimaragang descent, he chose to don the Murut traditional costume during the contest. When asked for his reason in doing so, Saiful said, “The Murut traditional costume is very special to me as it is unique in its own way. It symbolises the courage of the Murut headhunting warriors of yesteryears. They were the last tribe in Sabah to abandon headhunting. I am impressed with the tattoos and the accessories, especially the headgear which is called the Lalandau. I feel the costume exudes a strong aura, and was happy that it suited me well. I love it.”    

It can be quite unnerving when all eyes are on you while you perform on stage. The State Level Mister Kaamatan Contest was witnessed by an audience of about 700 people and was simultaneously shown live by Carrybeans, an event company. Saiful found it challenging being on stage with 44 other contestants, who were vying for the judges’ and audience’s attention as they strutted and answered questions on stage. His steely resolve was to focus on his goal, and to perform his very best. At the end of it, he felt proud to be a contestant with a sense of purpose on stage.

From every experience, there are lessons to be learnt. It was no different for the Mister Kaamatan Contest. Saiful learnt to manage his time properly and the importance of being disciplined. His confidence grew as he prepared seriously for the contest. Along the way, he learnt to appreciate teamwork and the people who lent him a hand. He expressed his gratitude to his parents, family, team and his friends, especially Geo, for the support they had rendered to him as he competed. As he interacted with more people, he realised that talents abound in Sabah which come in the forms of make-up artistry, fashion designing and emceeing. 

To win this kind of contest or any contest for that matter, one must come well prepared. The Mister Kaamatan Contest was no different in this regard. One of the criteria for the contest is fluency in the contestant’s mother tongue. When asked about his view on the future of the KDMR languages, Saiful declared that he himself still needs to improve his command of his own mother tongue, but will continue learning. He hopes that more youths would learn their own mother tongues, and to use them regularly in their daily lives. With the popularity of English and Bahasa Melayu, Saiful feels that the KDMR languages are facing an uphill battle in terms of use, but all is not lost. He opines that all that is needed is to practise speaking the languages more, and to continue to learn them through radio stations dedicated to the KDMR languages. In the same vein, Saiful feels that the easiest and fastest way to promote the KDMR culture, languages and traditions is through social media. Since youths nowadays are social media savvy, they have a crucial role to play towards this end.  

Saiful harbours no plan to participate in other similar contests until his tenure as Mister Kaamatan 2018 is over to enable him to fully concentrate on his current role and its expectations. He wishes to work hard and practise humility, which constitute his life’s philosophy as he hopes to be a role model to the younger generation. For one, he encourages all KDMR youths, who are thinking about joining the Mister Kaamatan Contest or any contest, for that matter, to set their goals, have faith, be confident and be well prepared. He cannot overemphasise the need to be fully committed to one’s goal in order to achieve it. 

Since the title of Mister Kaamatan, in its own way, complements efforts in promoting Sabah as a tourist destination, the obvious question to be asked of Saiful is how he would promote Sabah as a tourist destination. He said that he is proud to be a Sabahan and has a lot of marvellous information about Sabah that he would love to share with outsiders. If given the opportunity, being a songwriter himself, he would love to promote Sabah through songs in collaboration with the Sabah Tourism Board.

Towards the end of the lengthy interview with Saiful, my last question for him was whether he had anything else to add.

He thanked me for giving him the opportunity to be interviewed, and asks all the readers out there to keep supporting, protecting and loving our cultures and heritage for they add colours to our lives, render us our unique identities and instil in us a sense of belonging. 

During the interview, Saiful came across as a person who is confident yet humble. He is passionate about his mother tongue, culture and heritage, and spoke about them with exuberance. He knows what success is and how to achieve it.

Listening to Saiful speak gives me the impression that he will make an excellent role model for our youths to acquire a purpose in life, and to pursue any ambition they might have with vigour. All the best in all your future endeavours Saiful.

Continue to make us proud of you. 

Note: The writer is an investment and human resource training consultant. He is passionate about anything Sabahan. Follow him in Facebook on “Sabah, the Amazing Land Below The Wind.” 

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