Bisaya of Borneo

DO you know that there’s a small indigenous group of people called the Bisaya in Borneo? Many people think that they are decended from people from the Visayas who came here in ancient times but little is known of their history. However a comparison with Cebuano Bisaya vocabulary shows that the language bears few similarities, most of which are more related to Kadazan-Dusun and Murut of Sabah than the Bisaya of the Philippines.

These people live in an area shared between the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak and the Sultanate of Brunei, with the majority of them in Sabah. The majority of the Bisaya in Sabah are Muslims engaged in wet rice planting while in Sarawak most of them practise a native religion and have their own ceremonies and festivals. Some of the Bisaya are converted to Christianity.

In Sabah the Bisaya celebrate the annual Harvest Festival together with the Kadazan-Dusuns, Muruts and other ethnic groups. On this ocassion members of all the different groups gather together dressed in their unique costumes at the appointed celebration ground performing cultural dances and songs and sharing with the rest of the population.

Photo shows young Sabah Bisayans in their predominantly black
during the 2005 Harvest Festival in Kota Kinabalu.

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