Unduk Ngadau Beauty Contest in Sabah

Sabah Unduk Ngadau
The Unduk Ngadau 2011 Beauty Contest in Sabah takes place on the 31st May where the state level finals was held at the KDCA Center in Penampang, Sabah. The KDCA is Kadazandusun Cultural Association Sabah.

The location of the KDCA is just about 15-20 minutes drive out from Kota Kinabalu city and will be the center of attraction for the Kaamatan Festival or Harvest Festival in Sabah Borneo every year.

Unduk Ngadau Sabah

As the Unduk Ngadau is one of the most recognizable cultural events in Sabah and the Unduk Ngadau Beauty Pageant is also very unique to the state.

Each district will have their own harvest queen contest and at the end, all the winners from each district in Sabah will participate in the grand finals at the KDCA in Kota Kinabalu.

The title comes from the ethnic word Runduk Tadau which means 'the girl crowned by sunlight'. I wonder who will be the next Unduk Ngadau 2012.

Winner for Unduk Ngadau 2011  

Unduk Ngadau Winner 2011 Sabah
Unduk Ngadau Winner 2011 - Bo Tiza. Picture Source from Pahaikan.

Winner: Miss Bo Tiza Arthur S. Disimon from Penampang - Pemenang Unduk Ngadau 2011
1st Runner Up - Jovenea Jim Lajim (Tamparuli) 
2nd Runner Up - Caroline Anthony (Tuaran) 
3rd Runner Up - Sophie Angela Kutam (Ranau) 

More info on the Unduk Ngadau Winners for 2011
Appy Rowena
Unduk Ngadau Queen 2010 Rowena
Unduk Ngadau History

The Unduk Ngadau beauty contest was started to pay respect to Huminodun, the sacrificed daughter of the Kadazandusun spirits Kinorohingan and Suminodun.

It is believed that she was the one who taught the priestesses, known as locally as Bobohizans their ritual mantras which exist today.

Unduk Ngadau Contest

Every year, contestants are selected in the state-level pageants and there will be one winner for their district's pageant. However, some districts hold joint pageants which produce more than one state-level contestant.

After the district level, each of the finalist then move on to the state-level pageant which is held on the 31st of May each year at the Hongkod Koisaan building or KDCA in Penampang, Kota Kinabalu. This is the main highlight and ending point of the month long Kaamatan celebrations.

Bamboo Band from Sabah
The unique Sabah Bamboo Band performing at Kaamatan
Tuaran has been selected to host the launch of the 2011 Harvest Festival celebration on May 1st. Among the dates of celebration at other districts throughout Sabah are as follows:

7th May - Klang Valley, Beluran, Telupid and Semporna
12th May - Matunggong and Tongod 
11-13 May - Kota Kinabalu or KK
13th May - Pagalungan, Beaufort, Bengkoka Pitas
14th May - Penampang, Lahad Datu, Putatan and Kemabong
15th May - Sook, Tenom, Kota Belud and Membakut
18th May - Banggi
21st May - Tambunan, Ranau, Kunak and Kota Marudu
22nd May - Kuala Penyu, Menumbok and Keningau
25th May - Sipitang

What can you expect at the Kaamatan Festival? 

As it was the first time for me, I had no clue on what to expect apart from a number of beauty queens parading on stage. Well, little did I know that there was so much more that just the contest.

Thousands of people were seen arriving in the morning while the entire KDCA complex was filled with all sorts of demonstrations, performances and stalls selling food, drinks and local handicraft.

The main event was held inside the air conditioned building or hall while other activities were outside.

Unduk Ngadau Sabah
The crowd during the Unduk Ngadau 2010

After a good strolling around the grounds, I must have seen some of the rare and unique cultures demonstrating the attire and culture in some of the specially made homes here.

The mood was simply jovial while locals splashed with a myriad of colors were celebrating the end of the Harvest Festival in all ways possible. I will write more on this later.

Sabah Girls Photo
Sabah Girls in traditional costumes

As I went into the main hall to witness the beauty contest, there were already hundreds of people in there waiting patiently.

Many came from their respective districts to cheer upon the local winner while some even wore the clans traditional attire. Taking a seat upfront, VIPs were seen ushered in which included the Chief Minister of Sabah.

The program started with speeches and lead into a cultural show onstage. Followed next was a popular singer who took the mic and in came the beauty queens in batches in casual attire.

Unduk Ngadau Contestants
Harvest Queens in casual attire

Sipitang Harvest Queen
Sipitang Harvest Queen 2010

As the contestants paraded on the main stage, cheers were heard from the respective districts. While this was the casual round to collect points, I was told by my guide that there was the traditional costumes parade which I should be looking forward too.

Little did I know what went on here so my personal guide was crucial to me in passing on the information. Almost every step of the way, I had some question to ask him and I hope he did not mind.

Pegalungan Harvest Queen 2010
Pegalungan Harvest Queen 2010

Unduk Ngadau Harvest Queen Contest

During the entire contest, I have to admit that this was the first time in my life that a beauty pageant was actually different and interesting.

There were various intermissions where some of the lesser known tribes came up onstage to perform a traditional dance. Not your usual song and dance, it was out of this world.

And finally the time had arrived. The harvest queens were up next with their clans traditional attire. It was absolutely amazing to see them all in their different costumes and accessories.

While some sported intriguing headgear, others has intricately designed dresses.

Attending this is a photographers dream come true for taking pictures of not just natural beauty but the beautiful and interesting accessories that came along with each and everyone on stage.

No two were alike and given the chance, I would attend this again.

Unduk Ngadau Picture
Harvest Beauty Queens in Traditional Costumes

With so much eye candy going on, my camera just kept clicking as if I was at a Paris Fashion Show but this was entirely so different.

The coordination was done well while the announcer was introducing each and everyone to the huge roar of the crowds.

It was clear that some of the contestants had a much louder cheer compared to others. I wonder if this year, there will be more support from the crowds.

Anyway, the beauty contestants looks so beautiful and pretty on stage with their ever smiling faces.

Sabahan Ethnic Costume Dress
An intricate costume from one of the contestants

When I mentioned about the intricate designs, just take a look at the picture above. I was told that these specially hand crafted costumes were selected and hand made by the district's top weavers and dressmakers.

Complete with headgear, sash, arm and leg bands, it takes them about 3-6 months to fully complete one of these amazing traditional costumes which can cost tens of thousands of Ringgit.

Finally after all the contestants made their individual parade to everyone, the judges then shortlisted 20 from 38 entries. From there, they made another shortlisting round until the winner was selected.

Many were surprised on Tanjung Aru winning the Queen Title while it was indeed a wonderful experience overall.

If you are a traveler heading in this direction at the end of May 2011, you should at least check out this stunning festival and I promise you will have an amazing time here.

Unduk Ngadau Crystel Eve Huminodun
Unduk Ngadau 2010 Winner - Crystel Eve Huminodun (Seated Center)
The Unduk Ngadau 2010 Winners List;

WINNER: Crystel Eve Huminodun (Tanjung Aru)
1st Runner Up: Rochelle Fayrenie (Penampang)
2nd Runner Up: Lydia John Alai (DBKK)
4th: Ledesma Steven (Tuaran)
5th: Hannevy Vivie W Harry (Tambunan)
6th: Eflorina Jolius (Pitas)
7th: Debra Fiona Alexius (Likas)

Miss DIGI Popular: Einny Emil (Kinabatangan)

KDCA Address
Bangunan KDCA
Kampung Koidupan
Sabah 89500
KDCA Website

How to go to KDCA?

Getting to the KDCA is quite straightforward as all taxis will know this place. It takes about 15-20 minutes drive from KK town on normal time. Update: You can also take Grabcar from Kota Kinabalu city.

On the other hand, there are buses to Penampang so check with the locals about the bus number from KK to Penampang. You can also take a taxi or Grab from KK City.

If you are coming from KK, the KDCA building is on your right. Hard to miss as it will be pretty crowded with lots of cars parked everywhere. 


If you are heading to Kota Kinabalu Sabah around the end of May, check with the local tour agency or be adventurous and make your way here to witness something out of the ordinary.

Personally I will say that you have not seen a beauty pageant until you have experienced the Unduk Ngadau Beauty Contest in Sabah.