How Guunsing in Penampang got its name after a flood
Published on: Sunday, February 09, 2020
By: Lorena Binisol
Text Size:

Christopher pointing at the well while Alphonsus, Maureen and Rufina look on. (Inset) A close-up of the well.
CENTURIES ago, legend had it that Kg Guunsing in Penampang was a village inhabited by settlers feared by neighbouring villages.

Kg Guunsing existed even before the nearby villages such as Kg Hungab, Kg Tunoh, Kg Bahang and others.

Christopher Sipawi shared the story of how his late grandfather Mataga Sodiham and grandmother Mianim used to tell him stories of when the latter was younger, where the villagers were described as heroic and protective of the area. 

His late mother, Veronica Jiungan, related how the Bruneians came to Borneo to trade their goods and on one particular day, the river overflowed to its bank and swept the goods away.

“My mother said after the flood, the villagers waited for a week for anyone to claim the items, but no one came, so they went to take some of the things.  Hence, the Gulunsing (containers made of bronze) are still kept safely in my house as well as others who took possession of the items.

“My grandfather used to tell me people in those days were strong and unafraid of anything. They were very hardworking and not worried about any disasters and everyone built their own houses despite the limitation… there are many more stories. I need to recall slowly,” he said, laughing.

He started a short tour to an end road of Kg Guunsing, a little village called Kg Novunsu, where an elderly couple had lived there since the early 1920s.

Godfrey Tozuu Moligan, 88, and wife Josepha Lojikim, 87, said they were the first to settle in the village and built the house themselves using whatever resources they could get.

Surprisingly, they could remember many things that happened earlier about Kg Guunsing.

Godfrey, in his frail voice, said his grandfather related to him long ago, that foreigners believed to be merchants from Brunei came to Borneo through the river (now Moyog river) and brought many types of containers made of bronze or copper.

They seemed aggressive and wanted to invade the settlers who lived near the riverbank including Kg Guunsing.

However, the villagers were prepared to attack the uninvited guests; they came together to defend the area by using machetes and any sharp objects to stop the foreigners.

When they saw the ferocity of the villagers, the sailors took flight out of fear of being killed and left all their belongings such as the bronze containers among some other items.

The items were in abundance and many villagers took whatever they could salvage and kept them, as the saying goes, “finders, keepers”.  The people referred the containers as “Gulunsing”. 

Soon after, the villagers whispered among themselves that their village should be named after “Gulunsing” or “Guunsing” since they found the item in abundance.

Although the version told by Christopher’s mother and the elderly couple were different, both tales had their own points and can be quite amusing, Christopher related.

“A tale is a tale, stories that were handed down through word of mouth would always have different versions in some ways, but they are all equally valuable and good to know,” he quipped.

Having great affection towards his ancestors, Christopher kept a few antiques in remembrance of those who had passed on.


Christopher is fond of collecting antiques to remind him of those who had passed on. 

The antiques such as wooden items used to plough paddy land and some others are hung in his entrance (patio).  He said it always reminded him of some special people in his life.

According to Josepha, the Gulunsing or bronze containers are valuable antiques and had become the “hantaran” or wedding gift of the Kadazan people in those days.

She showed some of her collections and regarded them as priceless. She admitted she had earlier kept many more but had since given them away to relatives and friends as gifts. The remaining ones that she still kept are her collection and would not be given to anyone anymore, she admitted.

Dominic Mosukup 84, and his wife Catherine Jimin, 79, who live near Christopher’s house in the village recalled that in their younger days, they were originally from there. However, their search of employment often took them elsewhere.

“All I can remember was the houses were all made of Atap (palms) leaves, bamboo, woods.  I remember there was a well, it was where everyone came to get water for daily usage,” said Dominic.

Catherine recalled some of her clearest memory of a big-sized, young European man who liked to mingle with the villagers and tried to speak the Kadazan language with the people.

“I think it was in my teens when I saw this priest (Father A. Antonissen) who always visited Kg Guunsing and mixed around with the people. But I did not understand what his motive was then,” said Catherine whose statement got a hint of approval from Dominic.

A visit to the village also brought another great discovery: the original well that had not been utilised by the villagers is still producing natural water from underground.

Christopher related that in the early days, villagers took water for drinking and washing purposes from the well, as water kept flowing in abundance.

He believed that the well (or called “Toobong” in Kadazan) had existed since mid-1800. The bricks used to keep the well intact were the original hard bricks from Europe.

“I was told by some elderly that long ago early settlers such as Sipulou, Sigayun, Bungkilan and many others were those who had enjoyed living in Kg Guunsing and had the chance to utilise the natural water.

“These people were six footers tall and were feared by those who lived in another settlement. Perhaps the water they drank from the well made them strong and brave,” he chuckled.


Alphonsus and Maureen’s house is just a stone’s throw from the well.

Christopher also mentioned that the area where the well is located has its “protector” and that no one should simply demolish or damage it or something bad might happen.  That was the “message” from the elders.

“As a result, the well had always been there and no one dared to ‘disturb’ the area or try to demolish it. I could see water flowing from inside. It is supposed to be clean but since no one is taking water from there anymore, the place is overgrown by weeds and plants,” he said.

The depth of the well is believed to be more than 10 feet and its location is adjacent to a house belongs to Alphonsus Koisun and his wife Maureen.

As of now, they are not sure what they would do with the well.

Alphonsus, however, showed his concern over the safety of children who might accidentally fall into it while playing near the well.

The well is kept close with a piece of object to prevent anyone from stepping into the area.

Christopher related one strange incident about the well. Some villagers in the past told him they saw the water turn red but no one took photograph as evidence. Christopher said it remained a mystery but so far nothing untoward happened in the village.

He agreed that some of the tales from the elderly should be made into short stories and can be part of the attractions to visitors who visit the village.

“The stories may be hearsay or inaccurate. Nevertheless, all these have their own values. 

“We should appreciate these stories because they came from our forefathers.”

Other News

Follow Us  

Follow us on            

Special Reports - Most Read

What the people say
December 20, 2014