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WANTED!: Bridge Builders

By Moon

This is the scenario:

You see this serene picturesque landscape in travel blogs or whatever websites. You want to come here because

  1. You want a new aesthetic Instagram post
  2. It’s Brunei’s ONLY ASEAN Heritage Park. Some national pride in you urges you to come explore and connect.
  3. Or you’re just part of the been there done that culture.

Look how totally gorgeous this is. Can you believe THIS is actually in Brunei?

You are drawn to the island in the middle of the vast lake. You are dazzled by the jolly green lily pads dotting on both sides of the bridge leading to the island – their cheerfulness seem to welcome you to tread the rustic wooden walkway. You are transfixed by the tranquil dark waters that reflects the beauty of sky above and the lushness of the flora that slumbers peacefully on its surface. The lake beckons your marvel.

You want to explore it.

But wait.

Wait.

You cannot proceed.

The bridge posed as an obstacle.

Defeated, you leave.

End of scenario.

And that’s not just you. That’s also others that visit Tasek Merimbun. They can only admire nature’s art from afar. They are rejected close proximity and close admiration. So they turn away.

And thus, the number of visitors Tasek Merimbun receives dwindle with the passing phases of the moon, one among its only regular guest. And the Dusuns that have been residing in the area since the dawn of their settlements into Merimbun. That’s it.

With the decline in visitor frequency follows the decline in revenue for the community of the area as well as the MPK (Majlis Perundingan Kampong). With their low income, repairment and maintenance of the Jelundong Bridge become a trying trial due to the insufficient funds for sourcing suitable quality materials as well as hiring competent bridge builders. With the unrepaired state of the bridge battered by age and weather follows the higher likelihood of visitors and tourists turning away from the lake. With the dwindling of visitors to the area follows the dwindling of the local income. And this series of events repeat again and again in circles; It is a vicious cycle.

Let’s be real. Would you go to an amusement park if you can’t board the rides? Would you go to playground if the swings and slides are broken?

With all these factors playing the game, Tasek Merimbun gradually loses its appeal across different generations of Bruneians as well as tourists visiting Brunei to explore what nature offers in the Abode of Peace. And we as the younger generation gradually more often than not gradually forget about it as the location is not something you see popularly on Instragram and Snapchat.

In our forget and neglect of one of Brunei’s natural treasures, we lose our bond to the past: Tasek Merimbun is a living monument and documentation of Brunei’s history and culture of the indigenous Dusun people. Its legends and stories validate the existence and culture of its ancestors. Additionally, cultural conservation has been proven to be a flourishing avenue for recreation and even entrepreneurship in other ASEAN countries, some of which have even contributed to the rise in property values. For example, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in Singapore is popular among naturalists for appreciating its vast flora and fauna as well as a popular destination for recreational activities such as hiking, running, strolling and mountain biking. Meanwhile Mount Apo Natural Park, as the highest mountain and volcano in the Philippines, is one of the country’s most popular climbing destination in addition to being the center of endemism in Mindanao. Since the conservation of heritage sites in other countries can be economical, why can’t Tasek Merimbun be the same?

(Side-tracked FYI: I personally didn’t even know that Tasek Merimbun was the only ASEAN Heritage Park in Brunei, and didn’t know that one reason being so because it is the home to the extremely rare white-collared fruit bat amongst other variety of flora and fauna.)

Thus why the participants of Play Naturally have assembled. Thus our mission.

WANTED: BRIDGE BUILDERS

We want Bruneians to come watch and support our upcoming play, where its narrative and production inspired by the stories of the community in the area. We want to inspire not just ourselves but also the public to perceive the nature of Tasek Merimbun as one of our cultural heritage, to engross Bruneians in its historical and cultural settings. We want to reignite the everybody’s interest in Tasek Merimbun once more like the glory of bygone days, so that the heritage site is populous with locals and foreigners alike once more. We want an influx our visitors so that there will be an influx of revenue and funds for the local community to repair the Jelundong Bridge and preserve the popularity of the lake as a popular recreational and cultural destination. We want Tasek Merimbun to forever be appreciated and visited. We want this to be a virtuous cycle.

WE at Play Naturally aspire to be the bridge builders between you and Tasek Merimbun.

YOU can the bridge builders between your culture, history, nature and generations of people.

With our joint efforts, we can conserve Tasek Merimbun and maintain the Jelundong Bridge by having literal legit bridge builders to repair and maintain the wooden walkway connecting humanity to nature.

Come. Spread the word.

Calling all bridge builders.

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