Some of you readers may have watched a movie entitled “Lembing Awang Pulang Ke Dayang” which was shown on the silver screen approximately five years ago. It was an adaptation from a true story happened in the village of my great grandmother Tok Jilah. According to her, the incident happened few years before she was born.
Sometime in the early sixties, Radio Malaya interviewed her and she was on air telling the story to the whole nation. I was about eleven or twelve years old when she told the story over the radio. However, during one of my stay with her sometime in the mid-sixties, I requested that she repeat the story to me and I had that privilege to have the story told to me in person.
Later when I watched the movie with Farid Kamil as Awang and Zul Huzaimy as Bachok, I find that the story according to the movie too exaggerated with far too many embellishment and it did not reflect the true picture why and how it happened. Bachok was featured as the villain while Awang of course as the hero.
In this article, I would like to relate the story as told to me by my great grandmother. In doing so, I will not add or expurgate the story line and readers can formulate their own judgement at the end of the story. According to the Wikipedia, the incident happened in Parit Raja sometime in the year 1776. Parit Raja is approximately six kilometers from Muar town and next to Parit Raja is Parit Bakar where my great grandmother lived. In my opinion, nobody can determine the actual year it happened but I can safely assume that it happened approximately two hundred years ago which is still questionable. However, while we may not agree to the actual period of this incident, one thing which cannot be questioned is that the incident did happen. This is the story as told to me by my great grandmother and like all tales handed down from one generation to another, the authenticity of the whole story is very much questionable and debatable.
Awang was a young lad living in Parit Bakar and nobody can determine what was his trade to earn a living. He had a close friend named Bachok and had been buddies since they were small. One day he met a young and pretty lass named Dayang and since then Awang had a crush on her and eventually was head over heels in love with her. Dayang was living in Parit Raja, a village not very far from Parit Bakar. After some consultation with his parents, Awang sought matrimony with Dayang and their parents agreed to meet up with Dayang’s parents. It was good news for Awang as Dayang’s parents agreed to have Awang as their son-in-law. They were both officially engaged and a date for their wedding was set six months from the day they were engaged.
Awang wanted to give the best for his future wife but he was not doing too well in his kampung. He then decided to seek for fortune in a far way place and promised to return with some bounties in six months’ time. Before leaving his kampung, Awang met Bachok his close buddy and requested that Bachok kept an eye on his fiancée Dayang. Bachok obliged and promised Awang he would gladly look after Dayang while his good friend was away.
Six months had passed and there wasn’t any glimpse of Awang. Their wedding date was extended to another six months giving Awang some benefits of the doubt. In the meantime, Bachok being a close friend of Awang kept on visiting Dayang to ensure that his friend’s fiancée was in a good state of mind.
A year had passed and there was still no news of Awang. This had caused great concern for both parents. Dayang was of course greatly disturbed by Awang’s silence and so was Bachok. Finally, when Awang was still not at sight, Dayang’s parents assumed that Awang could have died somewhere in a far away country. As Dayang was not getting any younger, they decided that Dayang be married to someone of her own choice. Awang’s parents did not object to the suggestion. Since Dayang was quite close to Bachok, she decided to have him as her husband and so the date of their wedding was set.
Weddings in a small village like Parit Raja was like a mini carnival with almost everyone in the kampong invited. It was very much a gotong royong exercise and everyone chipped in monetarily and in other forms like donating some foodstuff or lending some hands physically. On the day they were to be married, Awang returned home.
When he reached the shore of Parit Bakar Laut which was situated along the Straits of Malacca, he noticed the environment that of a festival. As he walked home, he met few of his kampung people and asked them what was the occasion about? When he was told that it was the wedding of his fiancée Dayang, he was taken aback and immediately felt so dejected. It made him even more angry after learning that it was his good friend Bachok that was to be married to Dayang.
His parents were speechless when they saw him at the doorstep of the house. There was a small argument between him and his parents. As nothing could be done and the hour of the bersanding was drawing nearer, Awang began to develop haughty ideas and sought something most undesirable. He had now planned to kill Bachok for ‘betraying’ him.
Without telling anyone of his evil inner thought, Awang quietly began to sharpen his keris. According to my great grandmother, it was a long keris and that is why everyone thought it was a lembing (spear).
When the hour finally arrived, Awang sneaked in among the crowd and headed to the house of Dayang in Parit Raja where the bersanding ceremony was held. It seemed nobody noticed his presence among the crowd. As both Bachok and Dayang sat at the pelamin, Awang appeared from the crowd and rushed toward Bachok and pierced him with his long keris and fled. Seeing Bachok struggling for his life, his bestman pulled the keris from Bachok’s body but strangely he killed the one beside him with the same keris. Then another guy pulled the keris from the victim’s stomach but likewise when he held the keris in his hand, he too killed another guy beside him and the killing spree of the same style went on taking a toll of 99 lives. The keris stopped the killing when it landed near Dayang’s feet. The graves of these 99 victims are still available to be viewed and it is situated in Parit Raja.
An eye witness to the tragedy immediately ran looking for Orang Kaya Bakar, a very influential man who was responsible for opening the village of Parit Bakar which was obviously named after him. I find this very unlikely because being a very influential man in the village, he should have been the guest of honour at the wedding. Anyway, when he arrived at the scene, he saw the bodies lying all over the places. When he approached Dayang, she handed to him the keris for safekeeping.
According to some elderly folks, this keris has a mystical power and should be in the hand of Orang Kaya Bakar and subsequently to his generations. If the keris fell into a wrong hand, it is believed that another tragedy would be repeated. Apparently, according to some stories, two royal princes of the Johor royal household insisted of having possession of the keris brushing aside all advices against it. A month after their taking possession of the keris, they were both embroiled in a serious fight causing death to both of them. The Sultan immediately demanded that the keris be returned to the family of Orang Kaya Bakar. Since then, this long keris is under the possession of the family line of Orang Kaya Bakar. Both my great grandmother and grandmother had seen this keris.
Coming back on the story of this fatal incident, should Awang be hailed as the hero while his poor dedicated friend Bachok is being stamped as the villain? This has been portrayed in most of the stories I have heard irrespective of the different versions, even in the movie. If the story line was true, then Awang as far as I am concerned was a coward. He should used some senses before taking the law into his own hands. Furthermore, he fled the scene after having killed his good friend Bachok and until today we have no idea where he fled to. Surely he was too scared to face the law.
I find nothing extraordinary about this story except for the killing spree leaving 99 innocent persons loosing their lives unnecessarily.
This story has captivated many listeners in the past and is still being told to the younger generations today. Some of you may have heard the story and the version may differ from mine but the fact remain that this fatal incident particularly the killing spree did happen.
Another factor which is equally important is whether the story as told to me by my great grandmother is accurate? Cultural memory is retentive. It always carry the imprint events for hundreds or even thousands of years and stabbed into the heart of a culture like a great lance. As years passed, memories became more distorted than others and what they have lost in historical reality, had gained themselves in some social and political influence. No matter how distant our past may be, we need to understand that some fabrics of our culture is shaped by a number of core myths that reverberate down through history via some stories that was once a compilation of conjectures.
Whether this story is true is still debatable but one thing that can substantiate its claim is the availability of the 99 graves in Parit Raja and the long keris that is still under the care of the family line of Orang Kaya Bakar.