New longhouse set to boost tourism, revive economy

National 2 minutes, 5 seconds

BELAIT

MUKIM Melilas has ambitious plans to kick start tourism in Brunei's remote south to revitalise its farming roots and with the opening of their new longhouse.

Head of the longhouse Pehin Dato Pekerma Dewa Hj Mohd Ali Abdullah Itam and its women's bureau officer Sandi Batu shared yesterday that their new fifteen-unit longhouse had the infrastructure necessary to accommodate home stay tourists looking to learn more about the country's southernmost settlements.

“We have plenty our way to offer in terms of food, handicrafts, dance, farming and places to visit,” said Sandi during the longhouse's officiating yesterday.

“The new units of the longhouse are also very spacious, with four rooms and a large living room, able to support guests looking to learn our way of life.”

She added that visitors could be brought to Sungai Ingei – a site for an ongoing study on faunal biodiversity, and is also home to several hot springs.

Pehin Dato Pekerma Dewa Hj Mohd Ali, who is also Melilas' Acting Penghulu, explained that the mukim has largely escaped public attention, with access prior to the 2000s limited via boats traversing from Sungai Belait.

“It is only in the past decade or so, that Melilas became accessible via off-road path using four-wheel drive vehicles,” he said. “In that sense, any tourism potential has yet to be tapped.”

Both Sandi and the longhouse head shared that despite access slowly opening up to Melilas over the past several years, the mukim's population has been gradually migrating to the country's coastal cities.

“With more and more leaving, it becomes very hard to keep up traditions like farming, which was a staple part of how we were raised,” said 57-year-old Sandi, who now lectures on nursing at the Universiti of Brunei Darussalam.

But Pehin Dato Pekerma Dewa Hj Mohd Ali is convinced that as the new longhouse is “much more livable” those originating from Melilas will return more frequently and engage in agrarian culture.

“We used to have a variety of fruit trees that bore regularly, like Durian and Bananas.

“There's also interest amongst villagers to breed goats and kampung chicken, so we don't have to rely solely on buying food from towns,” he said.

Melilas' new longhouse spans roughly 100 metres long and 25 metres wide. Residents moved in last week, after construction was completed in eight months.

According to the acting penghulu, Melilas has a permanent population around 240, which can expand up to 570 when extended family and relatives return during the weekends and holidays.

The Brunei Times