The Bonggis of Borneo island


If you visit Kudat, which is located at the very tip of Borneo Island, you will have a chance to meet one of the smallest ethnic groups of Sabah – Bonggi.

They are mainly found in the islands of Banggi or Banghi and Balambangan, which lies northern of Kudat.

The Kudat locals normally recognizes them as Banggi or Dusun Banggi and they speak their native Bonggi language which is a distantly related to Molbog language in the Phillipines.

According some locals, they don’t like the sound “Banggi” because it means corpse in their dialect and they altered the pronunciation into Bongi.

The population of Bonggi people is no more than 2,000 and most of them are either farmers or fisherman.

Apart from a very small percentage of this 2,000 people whom are Christians, the rest are animist and has resisted religious beliefs, which they see as a threat to their customary laws.

They strictly adhere to their beliefs such as, any food that is red in colour is a common taboo and one should not eat it if they are sick. Food such as cooked crab is deemed taboo for the Bonggis.

The Bonggi’s are generally fond of chewing betel nut.

Some years ago, it was reported that the Bonggis are listed among the poorest people of Malaysia.

It is normal to see their house, which is only made of rooftop and floor, without any walls. The roof is normally made of “nipah” or also known as palm fronds and the floor is made of bamboo.

The community consists of scattered homesteads with no social centers, which headed by government appointed village headman, who mainly settle disputes and help communicate on behalf of the villagers.

The Bonggis are very calm and non-violent group, whom prefers to walk away from confrontations.