Many may have their own vision of a future Penampang. Even people from outside the district may have their own idea of what they expect Penampang to become. Do you have your very own vision of Penampang?
Penampang as many knew it is no longer the Penampang of old. The rice fields are gone. Instead of producing their own food for household consumption, the people who are predominantly Kadazan, now buy foodstuff especially rice. Buffaloes were the farming "machine" in the past, pulling ploughs and harrows and carrying heavy loads. These beasts of burden are seldom seen except in a few villages. These buffaloes have become wild.
Attractions at Penampang in the Past
Being a rice farming community, Penampang attracted a lot of attention including foreign visitors in the past. The people were proud of being farmers. This was one of the driving forces that led to the beginning of the Kadazan Harvest Festival celebrations. The entire village would attend a harvest festival celebration in a Kadazan village where everyone would have a chance to dance the Sumazau and to sip 'hiing' the Kadazan rice wine. Sometimes a buffalo would be slaughtered for the occasion.
The rice fields had disappeared but the harvest festivals continue to be celebrated. This is despite what some say that celebrating the harvest festival is no longer very meaningful since the people here had ceased to be rice farmers. But others respond that there are rice farmers in other parts of Sabah, many of them natives.
Tamu or Badi
The tamu (or tomu) is a place where fresh local goods are sold. Tamu was, and still is, very popular among people of the various races who frequent tamu to get their supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, flowers and herbs. Badi is an alternative name for tamu. Badi means cannon. This name came about when someone who went berserk at a tamu at Tomposik, Inobong, was shot by someone from Tuavon using a shotgun. It was said that this man had slashed someone to death with a sword and was running about looking for more victims. (badi is cannon. To shoot is 'mamadi' but shotgun is sinapang).
The Babagon River is a tributary of the Moyog River which was a very popular place for picnickers. Even after a number of drownings there, the people kept coming. Now, it has lost its popularity after construction of the Babagon Dam. One may conclude that the dam caused the demise of the Babagon as a favourite picnic ground. In the past, even people from Kota Kinabalu (Jesselton) went there during week ends.
It can be seen that only the tamu continues to be an attraction at Penampang. The vast rice fields are no longer there. Babagon has ceased to be a crowd puller.
So what can Penampang offer to both locals and outsiders?
There is no shortage of historical landmarks at Penampang.
St. Michael's Catholic Church
The St. Michael's Church is one of the two stone churches in Sabah. Construction started before the Second World War but it was only completed in 1947.
It has been declared a heritage building, being of historical significance.
The first Tivung Cross was erected in 1893 by Fr. Duxneuner the Rector of St. Michael's Mission. No one owned that piece of land where this Cross was put up. The replacement Cross is still there today. But someone owns that very piece of land now. The Cross is standing near the man-made precipice caused by hill-cutting activities.
It is said that the inhabitants of Penampang requested Fr. Duxneuner to erect the cross because the area was to be acquired for a plantation. Not many among the present generation of Kadazans at Penampang may know this. But as Christians, they should be motivated to ensure that the Cross continues to stand tall on top of Tivung Hill.
Penampang Police Station cum Japanese Administration Building at Penampang
This is the dilapidated building to the left of the road leading to St. Michael's School, Penampang. It is near the Penampang Public Works Office.
It was built as the Penampang Police Station during the time of the Chartered Company rule. The Japanese turned it into its administration building during their occupation of North Borneo.
After the Japanese surrender, this same building was again used a police station. The building was to be demolished a few years ago. A group of local Kadazans protested whereby the authorities stopped. It is a matter of time before it collapses and be gone forever.
Datuk Peter Mojuntin Square, Donggongon
A statue of the Late Peter Mojuntin was put up at Donggongon as a tribute to him and in recognition of his contribution to Sabah and its people particularly the people of Penampang.
This statue was formerly put up within the compound of the Donggongon waste treatment plant. The writer wrote to the then Penampang District Officer about relocating the statue. The statue is now found in front of the Megalong Mall, Donggongon. This place is very much better that the former site.
The above-mentioned places could be made tourists attractions. However, more could be done to make Penampang a beautiful and attractive place that can pull visitors, both locals and foreigners.
So, what's my vision of the Penampang of the Future?
Firstly, I would expect that with the completion of the Pan-Borneo Highway, traffic along this highway will increase. And with it, there will be more people stopping by at Penampang particularly at Donggongon and at other places that will be opened up in future. I would expect rapid development of the land that hugs the highway all the way from Donggongon to Lokawi.
New housing estates will rise up. Shop lots will come up at certain places along the highway. The problem is that if those in authority do not make proper planning and impose conditions, there will be haphazard development making the place unsightly, even ugly. Right decisions by the authorities concerned will go a long way to ensure that there is orderly development. If not, Penampang will experience flooding as it did before. Lack of creativity in developing Penampang will deter visitors to the detriment of business in the district.
Penampang is still a vast district. It extends to the mountain ridges that form part of the Crocker Range. Tambunan is on the other side of this mountain ridge. Penampang has a common boundary with Papar District to the south and Kota Kinabalu city to the north. The newly-established district of Putatan lies to the west. Putatan was carved out of Penampang.
I look forward to a Penampang that has the following:
- A University
- Native Products Centre
- Cultural Village
- City Park
- Pineapple Factory/ies
- District Hospital
- Donggongon as Tourists Attraction
- Town Centre
- Flood-Free Penampang
- Resumption of Rice Farming
The population of Penampang is more than 130,000. A university to cater for the higher education needs of the people here as well as other Sabahans will help to uplift the standing of Penampang as a place of importance. There are those who may argue that University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) is not far away. But they need to realise that thousands of students sit for their SPM / STPM examinations each year. The places at UMS are not enough to cater for the increasing needs for university places.
The number of secondary schools in and around Penampang is about ten and will increase in future. The establishment of Penampang University will be the right decision to take.
Native Products Centre
This is a place where natives can display their products seven days a week. This will improve the standard of life of these people.
This can be built within Penampang Cultural Village.
Penampang Cultural Village
This is Penampang in miniature. Every village can display its uniqueness. This is the place where tourists can witness and experience the culture of Penampang. These groups can charge visitors reasonable fees.
Penampang Garden and Park
This is where families can organise outings during weekends. This is where people can jog. This is the place people can study nature and the different types of local trees, plants and herbs.
Babagon is well-known for its sweet succulent pineapples. A factory or factories will be required once people want to produce pineapples on a commercial basis. There must come a time, hopefully soon, when this becomes a reality.
The writer had proposed the construction of a Penampang District Hospital during the Berjaya government. A polyclinic was built. It is good for the people of Penampang especially those who have no transport of their own.
It is understood that there is already land set aside for the construction of a polyclinic. It is suggested that this be upgraded to a full-fledged hospital. This will ease the congestion at QE1 as well as provide job openings for specialists, medical officers, nurses and so on.
Donggongon is the main town in Penampang. With all the developments around Penampang, Donggongon must not be neglected.
It has been said that Donggongon is giving a good fight to Kota Kinabalu in so far as food outlets are concerned.
But there are a few things that Donggongon needs before it can become a star that lights up Kota Kinabalu. Firstly, all the drains must be cleaned up. Every restaurants must be made to pay since it is due to their irresponsible acts or negligence that caused clogging of the drains in the first place. In future, any eatery found throwing rubbish into the drain will be given notice to clear up the drain or face closure. Smells must be eliminated. Sewage should not be allowed to seep out of the drains.
Every shop building must be repaired and repainted. Trees growing on the roof tops or side walls need to be uprooted and destroyed.
Hawkers need to be relocated to prevent Donggongon from becoming unsightly and ugly. The arrangement can be such that it does not deter tourists from coming to Donggongon, year in year out.
The town centre can include the area where the statue of the Late Peter Mojuntin is and extends to the town clock. It may be necessary to relocate hawkers and motorcycle parking bays located within the specified area. The entire area will need a better and more creative beautification arrangement and other improvements to make the place truly the centre of Donggongon.
It is impossible to make Penampang totally flood-free. But hopefully with the plan to improve the drainage and the drainage system adopted by the contractor(s) of the Pan-Borneo highway, incidence of flooding will be reduced to a minimum.
The authority concerned may have to bring contractors to book when they fail to follow an environmental-friendly way of hill-cutting. The failure to cut hills in accordance with the natural contours causes flooding. Contractors must be made to pay for failure to adhere to the rules to be imposed.
Resumption of Rice Farming
Penampang was a rice farming community. The question is whether the former padi lands could be rehabilitated and planted with rice. The relevant government authorities may be able to help. If not, there must be other ways of making productive use of these lands.
This is my vision of a future Penampang. There may be other people who have better ideas how to make Penampang a great place that is a beehive of activities and a place of attraction to both locals and outsiders.
A short write up about Penampang in Kadazan