The Legend of Supirak – Cursed Ship that is now an Island : Chosen theme for Sabah Fest 2017

Written by @Lan
Photos and Facts from credited sources
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Thought of the day-“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”-Socrates

If only Socrates knew that thousand miles from Athens, there was this Odu Gerawang who cursed her son and the entire ship into a big stone (an Island that is), perhaps Socrates will be amazed. This is a story about The Legend Of Supirak, known to many at Malubang, Pitas. Today, Malubang is still a small village but it has an interesting story to tell to the world. It is a legend but somehow the ‘leftovers’ indicates that it’s a true story. Believe it or not, there are so many freaky things around the place that resembles the unfortunate event. The story of a son who disowned his own mother and that the mother’s prayer was ‘answered’. Perfect theme for Sabah Fest 2017, to be presented in a Musical Theater from 5-7 May, 2017.

Sabah Fest 2017

I was actually reading Mohd Noor Yahya blog’s entry about the Legend of Supirak and days later a friend told me about the Sabah Fest 2017. Since I did read about the Legend, I might as well write something about it. This post is indeed something interesting as it involves some myth, legend, superstition and culture.

I am curious to know how the choreographers and dancers are to become ‘one’ in presenting the whole legend in a form of musical/theatrical dance. Sabah Fest 2016 was about ‘Gulu-Gulu’ (A tribute to the past). We were there and did enjoy the whole performance. That being said, the 2017 performance’s must be something different and interesting.

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According to Sabah Tourism website:

Sabah Fest 2017 is prelude to the statewide Harvest Festival celebration is a superbly entertaining cultural extravanganza that incorporates dance, music, fashion, food and more. Sabah Fest  presents a wonderful blend of cultural and natural heritage that is richly embedded in folklore and one of Sabah’s premiere events.

The Sabah Fest 2017 website added:

Sabah Tourism Board and Sri Pelancongan Sabah will be showcasing yet another grand-scale musical theater performance, ‘The Legend of the Supirak Stone Ark‘, a Kota Belud folklore which tells the story of a disobedient young man cursed into stone by his own mother. Featuring local performers, the story is told through a stunning presentation of both traditional and contemporary song and dance.

*For more information, refer to the Sabah Fest 2017 website (Click this LINK).

The Legend Of Supirak

Supirak Island that resembles a Ship. The Island now has stairs, making visitors easy to climb up. There are also 2 huts for resting purpose. Source of image: www,

A long time ago, there was a young man, Supirak. Together with his mother, (Odu Gerawang), they were very poor. That made Supirak wanted to sail to faraway lands. He worked hard and eventually became a very rich man. Super wealthy he was that he had his own ship and sailed with his entourage to places. He must have forgotten that once he was a very poor man, transforming to a very snobbish and arrogant man.

Batu Odu Gerawang/Odu Gerawang stone. A landmark said to be Odu Gerwang’s hut. Source of image:

Somehow, the entourage made way and sailed to the village where he was from. As the ship came closer to the bay of his village, an old woman saw it. That old woman was Odu Gerawang. Immediately she recognized her son and with all her strength she came nearer to the ship. She then proudly said “My Son, My Son!”. She must have been very happy to see her son back to the village and all that she wanted was just an acknowledgement, sort of. Perhaps a hug will do as she dearly missed her son.

Now that Supirak was way ‘clean’ and ‘rich’ in comparison to her mother who was actually wearing torn dress, resembling extremely poor woman, he became so embarrassed. He was ashamed to see his mother in that state, poor and stink. He then told his entourage that he knows nothing about that poor old woman down there. That made his men tried to chased her away.

This made Odu Gerawang stunned. She couldn’t believe that her son disowned her. A son that she loved and missed dearly chose not to acknowledge her. With tears and sadness, she prayed to the almighty saying ” if the man was truly my son, he and his ship will turn to stone.” It didn’t take long before Supirak and his ship did turn into a big stone, currently known as Supirak Island.

Today, Supirak Island clearly resembles as a Ship. Coincidence or not, true or not, every little bits of landmarks around that area are a bit freaky as if the curse did actually happen. Some might argue that the formation came from natural factors such as rain, sea water, strong wind, landslide and so on. The big question is, how did nature ‘agreed’ to form more than one resemblance of that curse. Perhaps the Island was formed by natural factors but how come did another formation in a form of ‘many humans’ are found nearby?

Batu Berunsai/Berunsai Stone where stones in Human shape resembling the Dance of Berunsai. Though said to formed by natural/environment factors, the local believe that this stone is related to the The Legend of Supirak. Source of image:

Perhaps the evidences are not strong enough to be considered as Historical pieces. Perhaps it is sufficient to say the status of this ‘curse’ is indeed a Legend. However, it did not stop people from keep visiting this place and be amazed with the Island’s formation. At least there is something that we can be proudly claimed from this legend, none other than the aesthetic of the locals through their culture and worldview. Sabah Fest 2017 will unearth those unseen and unspoken values, to be presented in a theatrical dance.

The difference between History, Legend, Myth and Folktale

A general guide

History is a record of past events. There is history in each society and country. History is about significant events that took place over the years. History is a collection of memories; History is recorded by the people of the era.

Legend in particular is a semi-true story that has been passed on from person-to-person. It has important meaning or symbolism for the culture in which it originates. A legend usually includes an element of truth, or is based on historic facts, but with ‘mythical qualities’. Legends usually involve heroic characters or fantastic places and often encompass the spiritual beliefs of the culture in which they originate.

Myth is normally based on tradition or legend and ‘conveys a truth’ to those who tell it and hear it, rather than necessarily recording a true event. Although some myths can be accounts of actual events, they have become transformed by symbolic meaning or shifted in time or place. Myths are often used to explain universal and local beginnings and involve supernatural beings.

Folktale is a popular story that was passed on in spoken form, from one generation to the next. The author is unknown and there are often many versions of the tale. Folktales comprise fables, fairy tales, old legends and even ‘urban legends’.

According to

Myths, legends and folktales are hard to classify and often overlap. It is the message that is important.

Based on the definitions given above, which really suited The Story of Supirak? The title suggested it as a Legend. Is it truly a legend? Did it actually happen long time ago?


Be it a legend, myth or perhaps History (for some), the Legend Of Supirak is indeed one interesting piece of story. There are many stories similar to Supirak’s Legend such as Tanggang (Megat Sejobang), Nakhoda Manis and even Si Untak (Rozan Yunus, March 21, 2016). All of the stories have exact similarities with the exception of names and locations. Remember that Atlantis was said to be a legend? Currently, scientists are trying to prove that Atlantis is a real thing (Daily Mail, March 15 2011). With that said, it might not be impossible that Supirak story is true in a way.

Regardless the status of Supirak story, Sabah Fest 2017 will be featuring the legend as the main theme in their coming theatrical dance scheduled from May 5 to May 7, 2017. As the previous event was an amazing one, we will try to come to this event and perhaps have the chance to write about it. If you do have plan to be in Kota Kinabalu on the said date, do come and enjoy the theater performed by talented dancers in Sabah Fest 2017. Let’s see how the choreographers are able to ‘turned’ things into stone or at least present dances that resembles the Legend of Supirak.

Reference(s)/Reading List

Abdullah, T. dan Surjomihardjo, A, (1985) Ilmu Sejarah dan Historiografi Arah dan Perspektif, Jakarta, PT. Gramedia: Jakarta.

Amoamo M (2011) Remoteness and myth making: Tourism development on Pitcairn Island. Tourism Planning & Development 8 (1), 1-19.

Buletin Hospital Pitas (3rd Edition, 2009). Benarkah Kapal Si Tanggang Terdampar di Pitas? Atau Nakhoda si Supirak?. Retrieved from on April 4, 2017.

Brunvand, Jan Harold (1968). The Study of American Folkore – An Introduction. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc

Carr, E.H. (1985) What Is History ? , Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, Ltd.

Comte Fernand (1995). Dictionary of Mythology. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd

Daily Mail (March 15, 2011). Has the real lost city of Atlantis finally been found..buried under mud flats in Spain?. Retrieved from on April 2, 2017.

Danandjaya, James (2007). Folklor Indonesia, Ilmu Gosip, Dongeng, dan Lain-Lain. Jakarta: I PT Pustaka Utama Grafiti

Harrisson, T. 1975-76. The Bajau: their origin and the wide importance. Sabah Society Journal 6: 38-41.

Himmelfarb, Gertrude (1987) The New History and the Old. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Hoaglind, Richard B. (1960) Learning World History, Greystone Press.

Howell Clark (1977). Manusia Purba. Jakarta: Tiru Pusaka

Pejabat Daerah Pitas (2017). Lagenda Kapal Nakhoda Supirak. Retrieved from on April 3, 2017.

Mohd Noor Yahya (June 6, 2013). Trip ke Malubang, Pitas. Retrieved from on March 30, 2017.

Rozan Yunus, The Daily Brunei Resources (March 21, 2016). Si Tanggang and The Theory of Human Origins. Retrieved from on March 31, 2017.

Sabah Fest 2017 (2017). Sabah Fest 2017-A Cultural Extravaganza. Retrieved from on April 4, 2017.

Sabah Tourism Board (April 4, 2017). Sabah Fest 2017. Retrieved from on April 4, 2017.

Susanto, P.S Harry (1987). Mitos Menurut Pemikiran Mircae Eliade. Yogyakarta: Kanisius.


4 thoughts on “The Legend of Supirak – Cursed Ship that is now an Island : Chosen theme for Sabah Fest 2017

  1. Sharon khung

    Althought, I am from Sabah, this is the 1st time knowing about this place and story.

    1. Lan

      Hi Sharon
      Thanks for visiting. Ya indeed.. so many places that we have never heard or visit.

  2. Wow! The picture of the island truly reminded me of Noah’s Ark. I loved the photograph with the water and the waves moving without becoming blurry. Excellent photography skills, I thought. Very interesting post. If I lived closer, I would check out the play and the celebration. Thanks for telling us about it.

    1. Thank you for dropping by Constance. Appreciate that very much. The annual Sabah Fest 2017, a Musical Theater will be based on this legend and I hope to see some interesting show!

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