While serving on a Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka committee to translate English nautical and shipping terms into Bahasa Malaysia some years ago, I was delighted to discover that the word "Linggi", the name of my old kampung in Negeri Sembilan, was actually derived from an old Bugis word which means the 'stem' or the bow of a ship. This confirmed the nature and calling of my Bugis ancestors, a fierce and warlike seafaring people who ruled the seas of the Malay Archipelago several centuries ago.
An old Malay hikayat or chronicle had provided an example of the usage of the word or istilah in a sentence:
"... seperti ombak memecah di linggi" or
"... like waves breaking over the bow (of a ship)".
Linggi is also a small town on the banks of Sungei Linggi, which flows into the busy shipping lanes of the Straits of Melaka and also forms the southern boundary separating the states of Negeri Sembilan and Melaka. There are mainly old people left in the adjacent kampung since the young have all migrated to the big cities. It is noteworthy that the Akademi Laut Malaysia (ALAM) or the Malaysian Maritime Academy is also located nearby.
My seafaring forefathers, from a lesser lineage originating from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and later the Rhio islands must have sailed in upriver aboard their proud Bugis perahu and pinisi a few centuries ago to plant their roots and settle down in what eventually became the only Bugis enclave in the mainly Minangkabau state of Negeri Sembilan. Other elite clans, the famous and princely Daeng brothers of Makassar in particular, went on to found what is now the royal houses of the states of Selangor and Johor.
A Bugis pinisi
My ancestors fought a long protracted war with the Dutch in 1756 over tax collection rights on the lucrative tin trade in the area then and a treaty was signed on 1st January 1758 in a jointly built fort in Kuala Linggi, at the mouth of the river. The remnants of this old abandoned fort, a.k.a. Fort Filipina (named after the daughter of Jacob Mossel, the Dutch Governor-General in Batavia) can still be seen today.
Fort of Kuala Linggi
Linggi has remained a sleepy little hollow today despite the fact that it had produced several distinguished Malaysians who include two Mentris Besar of the state, a cabinet minister, the first Datuk Bandar or mayor of Kuala Lumpur, a few ambassadors, and of course ...ahem ... yours truly.
I was probably amongst the first in recent years to go back to sea to answer the call of my sea-going ancestors.
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