This is ulat sago, or sago worm. Though I prefer the term, sago grub because it makes those wriggling, fleshy, white larvae, seem cuter than they actually are.
When my brother was quite young, he kept a sago grub as a pet. My mum had bought a bag of live sago grubs from the market, and let him have the fattest one. We had an old, small fish tank which became its temporary home. He furnished the tank with a variety of leaves and bits of fibre from the sago palm that came in the bag with the grubs.
As for the rest of the sago grubs – my brother’s pet sago grub’s pseudo-siblings – well, my mum gave them a rinse and threw them into the wok with hot oil. After a quick stir fry, with a little chili and lemongrass, we had those grubs for dinner. I took the smallest one, used my spoon to cut a little piece, gave it a quick chew, swallowed quickly and I was done. The rest of my family popped them into their mouths like the grubs were popcorn.
My brother’s sago grub pet, well, it lasted a day in the tank.
Sarawak, my home state, was once a Kingdom and its ruler was Sir James Brooke, the first White Rajah, who ruled from 1842 until his death in 1868.
He was conferred as Rajah after he helped to quell a rebellion among the Sea Dayaks in Lundu, and from what I’ve read, it seemed that it was a situation that he fell into totally by accident!
During his rule, Rajah Brooke, accomplished a great many things, among them he dealt with the practice of head-hunting and also suppressed piracy in the region.
Just recently though, I learnt that the Brooke Gallery was opened in Fort Margherita, Sarawak on September 26th, 2016 by Jason Brooke, a descendant of Sir James Brooke. Interesting fact: If the Brooke Dynasty still ruled in Sarawak, Jason Brooke would’ve been second in line to the title of Rajah of Sarawak.
There are headhunting tribes documented in many countries around the world – Taiwan, New Zealand, India and also Malaysia. In Malaysia, the headhunting tribe is known as Iban or sea dayaks (sea people). Most Ibans are from Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo.
There were many reasons for why the Ibans mounted headhunting expeditions – avenging theft or murder, being the dominant reason. Another equally important reason the Iban men headhunted was that the Iban women showed a preference for a man who’s able to give proof of his bravery by killing one of the enemy. In this instance, I suppose, the enemy’s head was more valuable to the woman being courted, than a bunch of roses!
When I was writing this post, I found out that there’s a legend related among the Ibans as a reason for this custom –
Once upon a time, a young man loved a maiden, but she refused to marry him until he had brought to her some proof of what he was able to do. He went out hunting and killed a deer, and brought it to her, but still she would have nothing to say to him. He went again into the jungle, and, to show his courage fought and killed an orangutan, and brought it home as proof of his courage; but still she turned away from him. Then, in anger and disappointment, he rushed out and killed the first man he saw, and, throwing the victim’s head at the maiden’s feet, he blamed her for the crime she had led him to commit. To his surprise, she smiled on him, and said to him that at least, he had brought her a worthy gift, and she was ready to marry him.
Okay, so that also proved that us Iban women are bloodthirsty. Yes, us. I’m Iban 🙂
Of course, headhunting is no longer being practiced by the Ibans (As far as I’m aware) as it was banned by Sir James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak, in the 1800s. So, the Iban women had to settle for receiving something else other than heads, I suppose.
A long time ago, my father told me that our family has kept the heads of our enemies, heads that were cut by my ancestors. I’ve never seen them as the heads are in my father’s longhouse which is deep in the interior of Sarawak. Undoubtedly, I’m curious about these “heirlooms”. I’m also curious as to how many of these heads were used to win the hand of Iban maidens in the family.