Author: Irena Tjiunata Editor: Aan Wulandari Illustrator: Jack Son Translator: Ratih Soe Proofreader: Dameria Damayanti Origin: Riau

It was still dawn.  The sun had not yet risen. From the middle of the sea, a boat sailed to the shore. Baitusen jumped out of the boat. Mai Lamah, his pregnant wife, greeted his return.

“Did you get a big catch today, dear?” asked Mai Lamah cheerfully. She walked slowly toward her husband.

“Pretty big, Darling,” Baitusen smiled happily. They both unloaded sacks of lolak 1) snails, kelekuk-kulai 2), and various types of shellfish and seashell from the boat.

Mai Lamah helped her husban hauled his catch.

“Good morning Baitusen, Mai Lamah,” greeted Mak Semah, a kind village midwife.

“Good morning, Mak Semah.”

“Well, your tummy’s getting bigger, Mai Lamah. When your time has come to give birth, do not hesitate to call me, okay? Even when it’s midnight, it’s okay, I will help you.”

That’s how Baitusen and Mai Lamah live. They were settled nomads on Bunguran Island. Despite living far away from home, they felt at home because the residents of the island were very friendly and helpful. Every night, Baitusen went to the sea and in the morning Mai Lamah would clean all his catches before selling them in the market. They crafted shells into jewelry. They did not earn much, but they were happy.

One morning, Baitusen came home with a radiant face.

“Darling, I found a hole filled with sea cucumbers 3).  Starting tomorrow, I’ll just look for sea cucumbers.”

Mai Lamah was very happy. They sold the dried sea cucumbers to Singapore and China at high price.

Since then, Baitusen and Mai Lamah became a famous sea cucumber seller. Soon, they also became a wealthy merchant. Every six months, all kinds of barge 4) and junk 5) of the employers docked at the eastern part of Bunguran harbor.

As their financial condition changed, Mai Lamah also changed. She liked to wear lipstick, powder, and perfume. Unfortunately, her attitude and behavior also changed. She no longer wanted to socialize with her neighbors. She even found the smell of the fish from her neighbors disgusting. She forgot that she was once a poor fisherman’s wife.

One morning, Mak Semah came by to borrow some rice. Instead of lending her, Mai Lamah got angry.

“So you think you can pay your debt?!” Mai Lamah cussing.

Mak Semah looked down.

“Come on, Darling.” Baitusen calmed her down, “lend her some rice. Didn’t Mak Semah use to help us?”

“That was then. This is now! I’m not going to help this shabby old woman!” Mai Lamah sent Mak Semah away.

The people were so reluctant to get along with the husband and wife. They did not like how Mai Lamah had forgotten the moments they spent as good friends.

One day, Mai Lamah was going to give birth. The midwife whom she called out from across the island had not yet come. Seeing his wife in pain, Baitusen asked Mak Semah and other neighbors to help her. Unfortunately, no one was willing to help Mai Lamah. They still hurt by the words and behavior of Mai Lamah.

Baitusen could not bear to see his wife in pain. He immediately took her to another island to find a midwife. Mai Lamah asked her husband to bring along their chests of gold and silver.

The ocean current was so strong making it difficult for Baitusen to steer the boat. The further the boat drifted out the sea, the larger the wave, and the more seawater poured into the boat. Eventually, their boat sank along with the rest of the cargo. Baitusen and Mai Lamah managed to swim to eastern shore of Bunguran. Mai Lamah had difficulty swimming, because of her pregnancy, and the jewelry hanging on her body. Mai Lamah held on to her husband’s strong belt. They both managed to get closer to the shore of East Bunguran. However, suddenly the wind blew hard and heavy rain came. Lightning flashed repeatedly followed by the distant rumble of thunder.

It looked like Mai Lamah was not welcomed at the beach of East Bunguran. Her body was turned into a large rock that looked like a pregnant woman. Eventually, it turned into a big rock island. The people named the island ‘Sanua’ which means pregnant. All the gold and silver contained in the body Mai Lamah then turned into white sparrows, known as the swallow.


1)  Lolak snail = mussels which shell can be made into jewelry
2)  Kelekuk-kulai = pearl snail
3)  An edible marine animal. They can be consumed  in a fresh or dry form.
4)  A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges need to be towed or pushed by tugboats.
5)  A junk is an ancient Chinese sailing ship, which was used as seagoing vessels.

This post is also available in Bahasa Indonesia.

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