Friday, September 27, 2013

The Age-Old Custom

Adat Perpatih
Exists only in Nine States
Minangkabau roots

Rains did not spoil it
Nor did hot sun whither it
Held dear by Elders

Not to be displaced
Nor it to be demolished
Till Eternity

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Orang Semenda ( A man related by marriage ) in Adat Perpatih

                                     A typical Malay kampong
                                     house in Negeri Sembilan

The term 'Orang Semenda' more often than not, is portrayed to outsiders  in a negative manner due to stories from people who lack understanding of how the system operates. The picture which is always conjured is that the man who is married to a woman from Negeri Sembilan has to bade good-bye  with only his shirt on his back( keluar rumah Sehelai Sepinggang) when a divorce or demise of the wife happens, and the man packs up because the house does not belong to him but if he has a daughter, then the house is then passed to her. Nowadays, with the proliferation of nuclear families living in their own homes (no more living in ancestral house), this situation hardly arises.
                When a man marry a woman from Negeri Sembilan, he is called 'Orang Semenda' if  he stays with his wife at the ancestral house (rumah pesaka)and the village he is staying in, is called ' Pek mondo ' short for 'Tempat Semenda' or the place where he now resides and he has certain obligations to fulfill. Thus the saying below spells out  his obligations;

  Orang Semenda ini
  Disuruh pergi
  Dipanggil datang
( The Spouse when called upon must turn up
   and perform his role as expected )
This maxim is usually applicable when there is work to be allotted such as preparation for a wedding feast or any other ceremonial function involving the extended family of the wife.

Orang Semenda
Pertama beripar lamai
Kenal mengenal
Diunjuk rumah
Papan yang sebilah
Atap yang selayar
Kampong yang bersudut
Rumah yang berketak tangga
Kok ada jangan dihabis
Kok kurang ditambah
Kok pendek disambung
Kok tiada ditambah
Ikhtiar dan usaha dituntut

( Orang Semenda firstly is accepted as a family member of a large family
  consisting of in-laws and must be introduced to the kith and kins so that
  he is not a stranger anymore.
  He is given a house complete with walls and roof and has a place in the village. He must preserve or add to the property of his wife and not to diminish them . If there is a need, he must fulfill them and if something is short, he must top them up. His effort and contribution is most welcomed.)

A man who knows his place in Adat Perpatih will be given due respect,especially when he has valuable contribution in term of his ability and skill for the betterment of society. Thus a person who adds value will gain respect of the society where he now resides.
          If the Orang Semenda builds his own house away from the ancestral home and the wife stays with him, he does not have to leave the house  if a divorce or death of the wife takes place, as the house  is not inherited from his wife's mother. Therefore it is up to the Orang Semenda to make his own fortune if he wants and he does not have to leave with only the shirt on his back should the unexpected happens.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The legacy of Norhalim

In my previous posting, I paid tribute to Allahyarham Norhalim Ibrahim, a scholar well heeled in the Adat and I am going to cite his paper " Brief Introduction to Adat Perpatih". Although most Negeri Sembilan Malays have no clue on the Adat except for those who are intensely involved in carrying out their ascribed roles such the four Undangs and the chieftains under him, the Lembaga and Buapak of the respective clans, but there is no doubt that it still plays a role perhaps unconciously to many.
                 In his paper, Norhalim regard Adat Perpatih as a way of life because it encompasses a system which is matrilineal and characterised as a communal, fairly egalitarian and democratic. As a conceptual system it includes  specific rules that govern the behaviour and norms of society such as marriages, divorce, rights and obligations, domicile, property rights and kinship. The Adat was based on the precept;
              Baik dipakai dek muafakat
              Buruk dibuang dek rundingan
( If Adat is good, it will be practised by consensus; if it is bad it will be
  discarded after consultation )\
The Adat  emphasised on consensus and consultation as the basic ingredients of a harmonious and stable society. Philosophically, the Adat itself ascribes to change as reflected in the maxim;

            Yang buruk dibaharui (the old to be renewed)
            Yang usang diganti (the obsolete to be replaced)

Thus, Adat Perpatih is not a static system and it is adaptable to contemporary life without deviating from its norms and values. Another concept which is held dear is the concept of  'Muafakat' which is a reflection of solidarity. It is a rule that every important decision is discussed thoroughly during a 'Kerapatan' which is a gathering of all members of the clan involved where the specific problem would be thrashed out and solutions sought collectively. The method of problem-solving by the ' Kerapatan ' is termed as 'Muafakat' ( Agreement, as a convention or compromise to end any dispute ).
         I still remember my late father telling me that whenever in the preliminary engagement ceremony the maxim he was fond of citing ' Adat lalu dalam terang, muafakat lalu dalam gelap ' which meant that the negotiations must follow the rules of the Adat, but the agreement can override it. It just go to show that no matter how difficult the process of negotiations is, it could be overcome by discussions at the personal level between the parties involved in reaching an agreement.
         For those who are interested in getting the books written by Norhalim one of which is ; " Negeri Yang Sembilan " can always get the information from the Negeri Sembilan Museum which is a statutory body under the State Government. The Museum is situated right after the Toll Plaza on the exit to Seremban from the North-South highway southbound.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A tribute to Adat Perpatih specialist

Norhalim Hj Ibrahim
When I was staying in Rembau in 1957, one of my closest neighbour was a boy who was my age then by the name of Norhalim Ibrahim. We used to play together because his house was just next to mine where the government quarters were situated along the road known as Jalan Tambang Kuda. After I left Rembau a year later when my father was transferred back to Seremban, we lost contact altogether.
               When searching for information on the Adat, I came across many writings and books by him on Adat Perpatih, as he was a Professor at Universiti Putra Malaysia many years ago, and I am sad to learn  that he passed away in 2008. I remember him as a jovial friend, a fully bred Rembau boy from Batu Hampar clan (suku) and when I mentioned to him that I came from the Biduanda clan (suku biduanda) he commented that my clan is a privileged one,because only those from this clan can be elected as the Undang in Rembau. Little did I realise that he was so passionate about the Adat, that he became the specialist and resource person on it and was always consulted by the practitioners of the Adat whenever the need arises. Norhalim Hj Ibrahim went to the Language Institute after his secondary education and then continued his studies at University of Malaya, graduating in 1971. He did his post-graduate studies in the United Kingdom and retired as a Professor in UPM at Serdang. He was still active after his retirement from the university and before his demise, he held the post of the curator of the Muzium Adat in Kuala Kelawang in Jelebu.As I went through his writings on the Adat, it is  evident that his deep knowledge and expertise on the Adat  had been recognised by the State government of Negri Sembilan when he was made the first Curator of the Adat Muzium. Norhalim Hj Ibrahim surely will be remembered for his deserving research on Adat Perpatih by the future generations in Negri Sembilan. May Allah bestow His Forgiveness on him and place his soul amongst the pious in Jannah.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Continuation on the wisdom of Adat Perpatih

As suggested by my good friend Hank @ Kaykuala, whenever possible the wise sayings from Adat Perpatih ( Customary Law from Negri Sembilan ) should be accompanied by an English translation for the benefit of those not conversant in the Malay Language, I append below my first attempt in the translation into English:-

Tegak rumah kerana sendi
Runtuh sendi rumah binasa
Sendi bangsa adalah budi
Runtuh budi runtuhlah bangsa

( The house stands firm because of its joints
  When the joints crumble, the house tumbles
  The race is strong because of its morals
   Once it is gone the race falls )

Adat bersaudara, saudara dipertahankan
Adat berkampung, kampung dipertahankan
Adat bernegeri, negeri dipertahankan
Adat berbangsa, bangsa dipertahankan

( The custom of kinship is strong bonds
   The custom of the village is its solidarity
   The custom of a State is undivided loyalty
   The custom of the race is its integrity )

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pearls of wisdom from Adat Perpatih

In my earlier posting on the adat, the wisdom is found mostly in the sayings such as below:-

Memusat dari bumi
Perpuncak dari langit

Berjinjang naik
Bertangga turun

        The verse above is the potrayal of order in society, for everything there must be a proper way of doing it, not arbitrarily. Every person in society has a function, regardless of one's handicap as shown below:-

Yang cerdik teman berunding
Yang bodoh disuruh arah
Yang buta menghembus lesung
Yang patah menunggu jemuran
Yang pekak mencucuh meriam
Yang berani kepala lawan
Yang alim tempat bertanya
Yang kaya tempat bernaung

Things which we take for granted, such as the house where we spend most of our lives in, has a role in adat as mentioned below:-

Rumah dibuat menurut adat
Rumah berdiri kerana budi
Rumah bangun kerana santun
Rumah ditunggu dengan ilmu

          In adat perpatih, great importance is placed in proper conduct and manners in social interactions as mentioned in the sayings below:-
Kok ribut runduklah padi
Padi cupak Datuk Temenggong
Kok hidup tidak berbudi
Samalah tegak berdiri condong

Yang merah saga
Yang kurik kundi
Yang indah bahasa
Yang elok budi

Berjalan pada yang lurus
Berkata pada yang benar
Berhukum pada yang adil

Menuntut ilmu pada yang patut
Mengaji ilmu pada yang terpuji
Belajar pada yang benar
Mencontohi pada yang senonoh
Memakai pada yang sesuai

        Thus if only one goes deeper into the pearls of wisdom which have been inherited through generations and take a leaf in the lessons taught in them, adat perpatih is not just a legacy from the past, but is a guide for a lifetime.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Adat Perpatih; its significance to contemporay society

Since I began searching materials on Adat Perpatih, I came across many sources, one of which is compiled by Jabatan Warisan Negara, entitled "Adat Perpatih" which is very useful to refer to since it covers a wide range of topics and they are essays written by a few experts in their own area of specialisation such as Land law, protocol and sayings (terombo).
                 But what intrigues me most is an essay by Nordin Selat who at one time was on the teaching staff of the Arts Faculty in University of Malaya and he was responsible for introducing the module on 'Adat Perpatih' as a subject taught to students. Unfortunately when he left, there was no one who was competent enough to continue with it. The comment he made in his essay is a reflection of the state of neglect on the significance of the Adat Perpatih to contemporary society which is rather unfortunate since there are many which could be learned on the art of developing a civil society. He said we need not look at foreign element such as the 'Renaissance Man' in bringing back social stability and harmony if we can revive the 'Adat Man'. The saying below is pertinent;

Apa tanda bangsa beradat
Mewariskan adat ia ingat
Supaya hidup selamat
Adat diingat ingat
Diturunkan bercepat cepat
Diwariskan ketika ingat
Disampaikan dimana sempat

               He stressed the importance of intellectual leadership to be infused amongst the practitioners of the adat, since the mainstay of the adat stems from wisdom derived from centuries of traditions that have gone through adaptations from its place of origin in Minangkabau as it travelled through Siak and Naning. He suggested that an Institute on Adat Perpatih be formed to ensure its continuity and research its relevance to contemporary society. Alas, it still remains a dream, which he hopes will materialise in the future.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Rainbow, Contemporary Poetry and Prose

The title is that of a book which is shown in the picture above, and the author, who is a very dear friend from the Class of '64 (Higher School Certificate year) in the former FMC (now RMC) whom we all called 'Hank' during College days and he was my housemate during my second year as an undergraduate at the University of Malaya.
                          Little did we all expect him to be an accomplished poet and writer at this stage of our lives, as we received the envelopes containing the complimentary copy during a dinner function for the Class of '64 on thursday 05 September 2013, hosted by one of our classmates. Today as I talked to Hamzah Pilus@ Hank over the phone, I congratulated him on the very well written poetry and prose which is a compilation of his writings and poems which appear on his blog entitled 'Rainbow'. As a fellow blogger, I have been constantly goaded by Hank to keep on writing 'haiku' as my interest in it went up and down. I am ever thankful for his companionship as a long time friend and keeping him company in blogosphere. If only Mr.P.D. Bond and Mr. Micheal Loh, our teachers who taught as poetry and English were still around, they would be extremely happy to see this book too, kudos to you, Hank. And May Allah bestow His Grace and Compassion as well as Blessings always. For those who are interested to read this well written piece can just get in touch with him through his blog by the same title, 'Rainbow'.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Adat Perpatih Continues...

                                The Malay model house in Seremban

The origin of the Adat Perpatih was from West Sumatera, and the story goes that there were two brothers named Datuk Perpateh nan Sebatang and Datuk Temenggong who started the two customs which differ in system, one matrilineal and the other patrilineal. Between the two brothers, Datuk Perpatih was the cleverer one, and the democratic election of leaders was attributed to him. The popular notion is that migrants from Minangkabau brought the custom to Malaya sometime in the 15th Century,when they came from Siak across the Straits of Malacca and entered upstream the Linggi river  in Negeri Sembilan. They were welcomed by the local chiefs and  settled inland because they were mainly farmers from agrarian societies in their Minagkabau homeland.
                Many seemed to be perplexed how the term Negeri Sembilan came about. It came from the original districts or small jurisdictions of the chiefs as below:-
1. Sungai Ujong
2. Jelebu
4. Gunong Pasir
5. Terachi
6. Inas
7. Ulu Muar
8. Jempol

    The social structure consists of 12 clans or 'suku' as explained in the saying below:-

Raja beralam
Penghulu berluak
Lembaga berlingkungan
Buapak beranak buah
Anak buah duduk bersuku suku
Berapa sukunya?
Dua belas

The 12 suku consist of the following;

1. Biduanda
2.Batu Hampar
3.Paya kumbuh
4. Mungkal
5. Tiga nenek
6. Seri melenggang
7. Seri Lemak
8. Batu belang
9.Tanah datar
10. Anak acheh
11. Anak melaka
12.Tiga batu

Each suku is divided into 'perut','ruang' and 'rumpun'. Each perut is headed by a 'Buapak' elected by members of the perut and the suku is headed by the ' Lembaga ' who is responsible for everything that happens in the perut that form the suku.
             Adat Perpatih encompasses wholly the political and economic life of its members form the cradle to the grave in the past. Each 'luak' or district is headed by a Penghulu or Undang. Currently there are four Undangs, namely for Jelebu, Johol, Rembau and Sungei Ujung. Sungei Ujung is now the district of Seremban. The position of the Undangs are rotated amongst the members of the Biduanda or waris suku, the most potent power of the Undangs is the election of the Ruler, known as the Yam-Tuan.
             The appointment of the lembaga is for life and the selection is done by the buapak on a rotational basis according to the perut in the particular suku. The appointment of the buapak is with the approval of the Lembaga and he deals with matters pertaining to family laws of the adat such as marriages,division of property and small conflicts within the perut. Appeals on his decision is forwarded to the lembaga. The hierarchy of positions in the system is bottom-up,where elected leaders are subject to dismissals from the members below. This is depicted in the saying below;

Anak buah yang mengangkat buapak
Buapak yang mengangkat lembaga
Lembaga yang mengangkat Penghulu

Essentially Adat Perpatih is made up of four parts, viz;

Adat yang sebenar adat
Adat nan diadatkan
Adat nan teradat
Adat istiadat

The first covers the customs that are codified into laws, the second from local practices, the third compiled from adages and sayings and the fourth on etiquette and protocols.

Thus for those from Negeri Sembilan, bear in mind that the adat is much alive today and still held dear by the people as the saying goes;

Tak lekang dek panas
Tak lapuk dek hujan
Gemuk berpupuk
Dianjak layu,dicabut mati.