Pandelela’s bronze means more than you think

Pandelela did us proud to win an Olympic bronze medal for Malaysia.  It’s quite disheartening to read some tweets and comments which question why we should celebrate her bronze medal.  It is even more disheartening to read some tweets asking why was she so happy yet she only secured a bronze medal.

If I could offer any explanation, it would be a plain “Dude/Bro/Yo!, It’s an OLYMPIC bronze medal!”  What more is there to explain?

I failed to stay awake to watch Pandelela dive live that night she was in the finals.  I had every intention to do so. Honest! God knows how I really wanted too.  Instead, I saw myself wake up at 3AM with my TV and room lights still on, and my teeth still un-brushed.

But anyways, I saw the re-run, and it really impressed me how she clawed back to win third placing.  She did poorly in the first round, and was no where near the top three.  Her last dive, which was the fifth secured her the bronze, and yes… the ultimate bragging rights of being a bronze medal winner.  It takes mental strength to do such a feat. I’m not even sure I can do such a thing if I was in her shoes.

I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe Pandelela’s achivement goes beyond uniting Malaysians.  Unlike Lee Chong Wei whom united us all with his ‘never say die’ attitude, Pandelela gave a different cheer.

Like it or not, Pandelela is from the minority of Malaysians.  She is a Bidayuh.  Not many acknowledge the existence of the Bidayuh, with those outside of Sarawak comfortable of simply generalizing us as Dayaks or Ibans, or in some extreme cases Malays and even Orang Asli.

It was also a huge disbelief that the Bidayuh community was not well represented in the Malaysian government despite us delivering the votes needed.  The most we got was an assistant ministers post in ‘not-so important federal ministries’, but lets not go beyond that statement.

Many believe that the Bidayuhs, because of their Bumiputera status, are very privileged like the Malay community.  The truth is, the benefits do look the same, but lack of political power has pushed the community to be somewhat sidelined, although some I believe will deny this.

The shy nature of the Bidayuhs are also the root to this as they prefer to accommodate and be thankful for what they have, rather than make a foe to move to greater heights.

Pandelela has, without a doubt, single handedly given the Bidayuh community a reason to cheer.  She has brought up the name of the community with the name ‘Bidayuh’ written in almost every article written about her.

Her humble background, and the manner she won the medal gave Malaysians and the world community a brief show about the general perseverance, humbleness and hard-working traits most Bidayuhs have in them.

Her humble background somewhat also highlighted the general plight of the community which for me, has been ignored and taken for-granted by many, regardless of what affiliation they come from.

Articles on how Mr Pamg Joheng is willing to sacrifice so much for his children’s success and education is also nothing new to me because I know personally how education is always emphasized in the community.

A check at any Bidayuh populated areas would reveal how the parents would come in droves to school during Parent Teacher’s Association (PIBG) meetings, with many parents willingly supporting their children’s education and whatever programme arranged by the school, no matter how ridiculous expensive it is.

They come with the knowledge that they would be missing out on the days earnings because most are farmers and labourers.

For the general Sarawakian, Pandelela is not only a source of inspiration but a direct ‘in your face’ message to all those across the South China Sea that they shouldn’t look down on us here in Borneo because they unknowingly have done so countless times with their comments and actions.

Some may argue that she was trained in Bukit Jalil (in Peninsular), but that’s exactly the point which needs to be stressed. Why such world class facilities are only concentrated over there and not here in Sarawak where we have equal talent, land and resources? Why must other states over there get it first, when over here, we don’t despite our distance from there?

So yes, Pandelela indeed united us and made the nation proud, but above all that, she gave her Sarawakians and the Bidayuh community something even bigger.

She made the nation sit up straight to realize that Sarawak has champions and deserves more, and that, there is this small indigenous fun-loving community knowns as the Bidayuhs tucked in the hills of Sarawak.

And the fact that some ‘dude’ remarked that he will to cut his ‘thing’ if Pandelela won a medal in the Olympics only makes Pandelela’s ‘in your face’ statement even clearer for the doubters of us Sarawakians.

Thank you Pandelela!

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