Damit bin Jahar’s stall in Tamu Kianggeh selling medicinal plants and parts from trees believed to be able to help ward off evil spirits, draws a large crowd.
An approachable and a bubbly 70-year-old elder, Damit enjoys sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience. He believes passion should be the primary motivation for doing anything, otherwise, “it will not last long”, he said.
His passion for trees and medicinal plants began after finding work in agriculture, after being in and out of jobs during his younger years and working as a contractor for an oil and gas company.
He acquired an in-depth knowledge on the local flora, and began growing them at his home, where he would process the various parts for sale at the market.
Sticks and branches from Kayu Bidaram, Kayu Pinang Manaring and Kayu Tunjang Pipit Menolak Angin Akmar are very much in demand among Damit’s customers.
The parts from Kayu Bidara is believed to be a remedy to draw away evil spirits in the body caused either by nature or by someone holding a grudge or hatred, he said.
On the other hand, sticks of Kayu Tunjang Pipit Angin is believed to be a remedy for bad air or wind.
It is also believed a person holding Kayu Tunjang Pipit Angin during dawn or sunset will not get a stroke, Damit said, adding that it was a practice from the olden days.
The heavy wooden sticks are also bought by hikers, who use them as walking sticks.
He leaves home after dawn prayers to prepare the stall, arranging his products for display.
“By the time people visit the tamu, everything is in place and I am ready to welcome the visitors. I usually return home by 2pm or much later on Sundays when there is a lot of visitors.”
He keenly remembers an unscheduled visit by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to the old Tamu Kianggeh before it was relocated, and felt honoured as the monarch spoke to him briefly.
Visitors also purchase herbs he made from tree parts. “Every single item in a tree has a medicinal value.
“They can be used to make traditional massage oils, which I also prepare by boiling the ingredients from the trees including the leaves in a pot until the water almost evaporates.” Some herbs are good for hypertension and diabetes while others remove toxins or poison from the body, he said.
Damit also makes wooden bracelets mixing Kayu Bidara, Kayu Antu, Kayu Merungai and Limpanas, which he believes to have health benefits and also protects the wearer.
“At my age and with my children having their own family to look after, there is nothing much for an old man like me to do. Rather than being idle, I believe in doing something that not only benefits me but also others,” he said.