KUCHING: The annual Gawai celebration in Kampung Panchor Dayak, Serian, 45km from here, has somehow lost its lustre.
This is the view of village headman Tapok Rayun and village security and development committee chairman Julius Aus.
"Nowadays, most people have cars or motorcycles, so they are able to move around.
"It is easier for villagers to return home for Gawai, but it also enables them to depart during the festivity," said Tapok, 67, in Kampung Panchor Dayak, a Bidayuh village.
Thus, Tapok said, villages tended to be quieter during Gawai as some residents chose to visit friends and relatives in other areas as transport was no longer an issue compared with three decades ago.
There are even some who choose to celebrate Gawai in Kuching, barely an hour's drive away.
"This has somehow dampened the celebrations in our village in the past few years."
Tapok recalls how Gawai celebrations were joyous, involving almost the entire village and extending to several days.
"At that time, nearly all of the villagers who lived outside returned to their homes here, converging with their parents, grandparents, siblings and other relatives, and celebrated Gawai as one big family."
Julius said the dampened atmosphere during Gawai could be because farming was now the less preferred occupation among the villagers, especially the younger generation.
"Gawai used to mark the end of padi planting season. It used to be the main focus for rice planting communities, something they look forward to throughout the year.
"But now, with most of the villagers preferring to work outside in government or private sectors, Gawai has only a ceremonial meaning, a festival for merrymaking.
"Once the Gawai celebrations are over, people will return to their daily lives," said the 42-year-old former air force personnel.