BELURU: Grandfather Sanggong Ngading, 71, is so frail that he can hardly walk a few steps even with the aid of a walking stick. When he walks, even for a few steps, the pain in his legs would act up.
Herein lies the mystery surrounding this father of two and grandpa to five who went missing on June 23 after his daughter Remelon dropped him off by their land, which is about five minutes away from their longhouse Rumah Morgan in Sungai Nipa, at about 6.30am.
Remelon, a school sweeper, told her father to stay put while she go and fetch her elder brother Vincent so that they could inspect the boundaries of their land together with their neighbours later that day.
But when Remelon and Vincent returned shortly thereafter to the spot where Remelon had left their father, Sanggong Ngading was nowhere to be found, until today!
The mystery deepens as mediums from various religions could only say that he is ‘still alive’ and is held captive by ‘spirits’.
The search and rescue (SAR) team which snowballed to more than 200 members last Sunday after Marudi assemblyman Datuk Sylvester Entri Muran dropped by to give a helping hand also came up empty handed.
The account given by Sanggong’s good friend Bandat and two other villagers made the whole episode even more mysterious.
Bandat told police, which launched a search and rescue (SAR) effort on June 24, that he spotted Sanggong when he was about to enter the jungle that morning.
“I called out, ‘Apek, where are you going?” recalled Bandat, and the reply he received was, “Looking for wild game.”
The other two witnesses, who saw Sanggong walking on a new plantation road but in different locations, said they too asked Sanggong the same question, and the replies they received were “checking out the new road.”
Bandat and the two villagers said when they saw Sanggong, he looked surprisingly strong and healthy, and was even walking briskly!
Marudi police chief DSP Abu Bakar said he could only term the whole thing as “mysterious” because the big SAR team, which was divided into four groups, could not find an old man after combing forests, swamps and river banks over an area spanning four square kilometres.
By last Sunday, the SAR team comprised personnel from the police, Fire and Rescue Services Department (Bomba), 20th Royal Malay Armed Regiment, Rela, volunteers from Entulang, Nabor, Selipin, Long Jegan and villagers from nearby longhouses.
“Physically, we have done all we could since our SAR started on June 24,” said Abu Bakar.
He said his men would continue to search if there were new clues, and he said he did not mind locals seeking alternative ways to locate Sanggong.
“Try whatever way that is available, including alternative ways to solve this mystery. We will always be there if there are clues,” he told the local community whose longhouse is about 74km from Miri.
Remelon said when they could not find their father that day they called him out but to no avail. Vincent, she recalled, then jumped onto the motorcycle and searched along the new plantation road for nearly half an hour, but again to no avail.
She said she returned to the longhouse shortly thereafter as she had to go to work, but became more worried when Vincent called to inform here that he still could not find their father.
“Before I dropped him off at the gate (to their land), he (Sanggong) told me not to worry about him not recognising his own land. I just told him to wait for Vincent,” she said.
After she returned from work, her family decided to enlist the help of the longhouse folks to conduct a search. The longhouse folks immediately went to work, and even beat gong at hill tops around the area.
Sensing that spirits may be at work, a bomoh was enlisted a couple of days later but he gave up after falling sick. A second one was then roped in, and he told the search party that Sangong was “physically still alive but very weak”.
The bomoh said he would try to negotiate for Sanggong’s release with the help of the powerful ‘family of spirits’.
When he failed, the Chinese community consulted a medium, and the medium too said Sanggong was confined by spirits and was still alive.
Last Thurday, a special ritual ‘Gawai Sandau Ari’ was conducted at the longhouse to pray for his safe return. Pigs were sacrificed, and the shaman said Sanggong had been taken captive by “angry forest spirits” who were out to exact revenge on the people for destroying ‘their homes’ through the cutting down of trees in the area.
A concerned Christian group also chipped in with special prayers last Friday.
In the last few days, one of the SAR groups smelled something sinister in the air near a swamp, but the smell no longer lingered last Sunday.
Entri, who is also Assistant Minister of Water Supplies, said he was sadden that the SAR operation remained unsuccessful to date despite putting in their best efforts.
“We have over 200 people involved in the search, but unfortunately we are unsuccessful thus far. This is an extraordinary case, but every possible effort, including alternative ways, must be exhausted in searching for Sanggong,” he said.
Besides encouraging Sanggong’s family not to give up hope, he appealed to the people of the different faiths to pray for the fast return of Sanggong.
He also advised the longhouse residents to be on the lookout for any tell-tale signs when they go their farms.
“Just call me if you need any more assistance,” Entri said.
Source: The Borneo Post