By Kualla Kobayashi
Walai Tobilung is a must-visit place to experience Kota Marudu’s history and culture. Our team was lucky to visit the centre, which highlights the customs and heritage of the Dusun Tobilung community. Walai Tobilung is also one of the Cultural Site of Kinabalu Geopark under UNESCO.
What to Discover at Walai Tobilung?
Our journey leads us to Minansad Village in Kota Marudu, home to numerous Tobilung villagers which is a sub-ethnic group of the Kadazan-Dusun, one of Sabah’s largest ethnic communities. It is a mere two-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, where this village proudly hosts Walai Tobilung, also known as the Tobilung Cultural House.
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by Mr. Janis Kansirong, the gracious and welcoming owner of Walai Tobilung. Entering Walai Tobilung’s hall, tourists and visitors are greeted with wooden plaques displays filled with packages and activities to discover.
Cultural Gallery Exploration
We began the tour with Walai Tobilung’s cultural gallery where we learned about the Tobilung culture, including its origins, traditional songs, instruments, costumes, and wooden homes. We also admired the intricately crafted ethnic tools and decorations that is inspired by the Tobilung culture.
Throughout the tour, Mr. Janis enlightened us about unique cultural activities available to visitors, including traditional dances accompanied by traditional music, mock weddings following Tobilung customs, and the captivating bobolian performance. This performance, deeply popular among travellers, captures the enigmatic essence of Tobilung spiritual beliefs. ‘Bobolian’ refers to a high priestess in Kadazan-Dusun pagan rites, revered in the community for her role as a medium between humans and the spirits of the land. Their secret knowledge of herbal medicine and healing adds to their widespread respect.
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Exploring Tobilung Traditions and the Iconic Gong
We took a photo nearby the traditional house with Walai Tobilung’s iconic gong. Before phones, gongs were used as one of the communication tools, highlighting their intriguing historical significance. You can find gong displays which comes in various sizes and are named “Kulintangan”, “Canang”, “Tetawak”, “Gong Sederhana” and “Gong Besar”.
Furthermore, students, tourists, and locals have the option to stay on-site for research, allowing them to deepen their understanding of Tobilung traditions in areas such as music, dance, food, and more.
Enhance your visit by exploring Walai Tobilung’s nature and community packages. The Community Package offers a taste of traditional food, hiking and handicraft-making experiences. Additionally, visitors can also experience Marudu Bay River Cruise with its sunset views and activities like firefly watching, mangrove trekking, and fishing.
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Accommodations and Serenity
“Walai Tobilung” translates to ‘house of Tobilung’ and lives up to its name by providing lodging for visitors. Their dormitories can house up to 16 people, while family rooms can accommodate 6-8 or 5 people, respectively. Guests can partake in traditional evening dances before retiring to their rooms within the traditional Tobilung house. Walai Tobilung’s peace and serenity are an enjoyable escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
For enquiries and bookings, contact: