Animals in Brunei Place Names

[I wrote this for my column, THE GOLDEN LEGACY on Brunei Times yesterday. There were a couple of errors. My Dusun friend made a mistake by telling me that Kout Mondow stood for Tiger's Well when it should be a more scarier Lion's Well.]

Brunei Place Names and the Animal World

In a previous column, trees or the plant world dominated a number of Brunei place names. This column will look at a number of place names in Brunei which based their place name origins from the animal world – both on land and at sea, small or big and even those from the insect world.

Judging by names alone, a number of place names in Brunei can be said to originate from the animal kingdom. One of the more famous place names is Bukit Beruang which means Hill of Bears. Currently Bukit Beruang area houses the largest national housing program in the Tutong District.

One legend said that the origin of the place name was because there were bears which used to be in the area. A stream in Tutong is also called Sungai Beruang (Bears’ Stream) which presumably could be referring to the same bears.

Another famous hill in Tutong is called Bukit Ambug which many Bruneians spelled and pronounced as Bukit Ambuk. Ambuk means monkeys in Brunei Malays and which is not surprising. There are a number of monkeys in Brunei ranging from all sorts of colours and shapes. However Bukit Ambug is not Hill of Monkeys. Ambug is the Tutong word for ‘mata kucing’, a fruit which belongs to the longan fruit family although much smaller in shape. The hill was full of the mata kucing trees and hence Bukit Ambug.

For the real monkeys, one has to go to Pulau Ambuk (Monkey Island). Another place which has monkeys would be the lovely Pantai Meragang or Meragang Beach. What is not much known is that Meragang in Dusun language means red monkey.

There are a few other famous place names which are thought to be of animal origin but are not. One is Pancur Murai (Murai is a type of magpie robin bird). But according to legends, the name Pancur Murai came about from the story of a Princess known as Puteri Bongsu Kembang Kiapu who had a guard named Samurai. The Princess was staying in a luagan - a small swampy lake - and she wanted to take a bath from a ‘pancur’.

A ‘pancur’ is like a natural shower - water sprouting or squirting out from a natural source. So she asked Samurai to make it. So Samurai scouted around and found the place and built it as requested by the Princess. When it was completed, the Princess took her bath there. That place became so famous that it was named as Pancur Samurai which later became Pancur Murai.

However one place name which does not sound as if it is based on an animal or a bird is Batang Tuau in Temburong. According to Awang Sigar, Tuau is the Murut name for Merak which is a type of peafowl. He said that in the old days, many peafowls were found in the area. One huge tree was favoured by the peafowls where they used to perch from the branches (batang) and thus the place was actually called that.

Another famous bird would be Burong Pingai. It is said that Kampung Burong Pingai was originally named Kampung Ulu-Ulu. It became Kampung Burong Pingai when according to history, one villager (said to be a Pebalat - one who catches fish using a basket made from bamboo or makes fish traps made from bamboo) from Kampung Saba who made a living at Kampung Ulu-Ulu found a white bird making the sound ‘pingai, pingai, pingai.’ The man knew that the Queen of Sultan Muhammad had lost her bird named Si Pingai. He caught the bird and presented it to the Sultan. Ever since then the kampung became known as Kampung Burong Pingai. Sultan Muhammad's Queen was said to be a Johor Princess and this event was taking place around 1368.

Another place in Kampong Ayer which used to be named after an animal was Sungai Kuyuk (River of Dogs). Kuyuk means dogs in Brunei language. It is not known how the name originated. Some pople theorised that there were dogs near the area scavenging at nearby the rubbish dumping sites. However that name is no longer found on any map in Brunei. It is now known as Sungai Pandan. Probably there was an objection to the name and it was changed.

The dogs’ worst enemy, the cats, have a place to themselves in Brunei. One hill famous for trekkers located along Jalan Subok is called Bukit Markuching (kucing means cats in Malay). What happened is that the early settlers there whenever they wanted to go to the Berakas or Bandar area, the easiest route for them is actually to go over the Bukit Markuching. Since the trek up and down the hill will take quite a while, the villagers would go up and bring along food with them. So during the rests, they would normally tuck in to the foods which they have brought with them. Leftovers which are normally thrown away attracted a number of wild cats that lived in the hill. Hence the word ‘kuching’ became Bukit Markuching.

One hill in Tutong is well known but not many knew its animal origin unless he or she is a Dusun speaker. Lamunin is derived from two words — Lat and Munin. Lat means hill and Munin means “musang” in Brunei Malay or “fox” in English. Lat Munin, the original name, thus means Fox Hill as there used to be foxes around the area. Over time, the two names merged and became Lamunin, thus concealing the animal connection of its origin.

Another place name not as well known and tucked away in the interior of Tutong is known as ‘Kaut Mondow’. If one does not speak Dusun, one does not realise that this place is called ‘Perigi Singa’ or the ‘Lion’s Well’. Another dangerous sounding place name in Temburong is ‘Ayur Buayeh’ which in Murut means ‘Crocodile River’.

For the animals in water, the fishes, their names tended to be used for the islands surrounding Brunei Bay. Among them are Pulau Bedukang, Pulau Kitang and Pulau Ayam-Ayam. Pulau Labi is not on Brunei Bay but is on the Meriumbun Lake. Though a number of land place names have fishes or the animal world connection, it is not known how their names were derived. These included Kampong Kupang and Kampong Belais.

Despite their numerous presence in Brunei, the insect world has not featured much in Brunei’s place names. One will become well known once its dam has been completed. Way deep in Ulu Tutong, the place must be abuzz with mosquitoes. The name accompanying it is equally telling, Nyamok Nying. Nyamok means mosquitoes in Brunei Malay and Nying refers to its buzzing sound.

There are others such as Meraburong (burong means bird in Malay), Burong Lepas (escaping birds), Kerakas Payau (payau means deer in Malay), Bang Kesapi (sapi means cow in Malay), Belais (a type of fish), Sungai Katam (crab river) and Sungai Biawak (biawak is monitor lizard) that one can only imagine how these names came about. Perhaps that is a subject for another topic in the future.


Anonymous said…
dalam website lain mengatakan dayang pingai dan bapanya ke brunei masa pemerintahan sultan omar ali saifuddin 1. Tahun masihi 17

dalam website ani, mengatakan dayang pingai(puteri johor) berkahwin dengan sultan muhammad shah, sultan pertama. Tahun masihi 13-14

so ada dua Dayang Pingai? iaitu pada Tm 13-14 semasa sultan muhammad shah dan Tm 17 semasa soas 1. Jaraknya kurang lebih 3 abad, 300 tahun.

persoalannya bagaimana Dayang Pingai boleh hidup dalam dua masa yang berbeza??
HumbleBruneian said…
simple. time travel.

just joking :p

we could be talking about 2 different 'dayang pingai' here. mungkin sama nama tapi lain orang nya?
interesting note tho.
and, thanks for this post, very interesting.
Sieyakkam said…
Dayang Pingai kesatu ialah Puteri Johor kawin sama Sultan Muhammah Shah dalam tahun 1300 labih cematu

Dayang Pingai kedua ialah, Dayang Pingai binti Sultan Muhammad Ali, berasal Dari Siak, Sumatera, berdarah Johor jua. Durng melarikan diri dari pergolakan di Siak dalam tahun 16oo-1700 cematu.

Popular posts from this blog

Brunei Royal Wedding 2015: Profile of Royal Bride Dayangku Raabi'atul Adawiyyah

Family Titles in Brunei

Pulau Cermin - Brunei's Historic Island