Brunei - the Proper Borneo

One of my father's old friends asked us when we arrived in Tutong for a Tahlil the other night "hujan di Brunei?" loosely translated "did it rain in Brunei?" When I was much younger, the first time I heard that I was taken aback. We were in Tutong - it's as if Tutong is in a different country.

A wise guy would be tempted to say something along that line. But I refrain from doing so as I discovered that this is pretty common among my relatives and friends who are not staying in the Brunei district. Someone from Belait, Seria or Tutong or for that matter, even from Muara would say "ke Brunei" or "to Brunei" when they are referring going to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. This stemmed from the olden times when Brunei Town was the name of the city centre. Going to Brunei just means going to Brunei Town.

Imagine in the older days, if mariners say they are going to Borneo means that they are going to Brunei. In fact if you look at older maps, Brunei used to be called Borneo Proper. Borneo refers to the whole island of Borneo but Brunei would be called Borneo Proper. Thus strengthening the fact that Borneo is Brunei.

One old map which I found is dated approximately 1540 which appeared in Portugaliae Monumenta Cartographica Vol. 1 based on materials from mariners in the mid 1530s travelling from Malacca to Brunei. One can note the Island of Borneo is not yet complete but if you look closely at the clarification of place names in the second map, it will show Brunei as 'porto borneo' - Port of Borneo. Other later maps will explicitly show the whole island as Borneo and the Brunei part as Borneo Proper.


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