Historical Sandokan

Sandokan lived in northern Borneo in the 19th century, on the Kinabatangan, one of the largest rivers in Borneo. Since the family seat in the 19th century was Melapi on that river, it is likely that Sandokan was also born and lived here. Sandokan's father had a long name, his name was Maringganlapasentdhan and he was nicknamed "Taribong Mandog Awan", which means "Harimau Udara" in Malay and can be translated as "Tiger of the Air". His sons also bore such surnames, but these names are unfortunately are no longer known in the family descended from Sandokan. Sandokan's mother was called Adoran. He had four brothers, namely Kassanudin, Paid, Manggi and Pagkon. Pagkon in turn was the grandfather of Pengiran Sammah, who became famous in North Borneo, because it was he who rose up against the British at the time of the British North Borneo Company and died on February 17th, 1884 in a fight against them.

The special thing about the Sandokans family is that they are native to Borneo. Many of the noble families of Borneo come from immigrant families. The Sandokans family represents something like the original Borneo" nobility. He himself can be regarded as the founder of the family wealth, as the family benefited then as now from the bird nest's caves that were discovered by Sandokan. In those caves bird nests were "harvested" twice a year, which went to the Chinese at high prices, who in turn bought the nests and used them as a jelly-like mass - a delicacy for the Chinese! There are many stories about how Sandokan discovered these caves and how he defended this property against the powerful Sultan of Sulu. Up to this point, his résumé can be traced on the basis of reports from river residents of the Kinabatangan and his descendants, the Galpam family in Sandakan. His name is mentioned in British sources, too.

In 2019, I visited the Kinabantangan for a few days again, and I got an idea that there must be other traditions about him here. I would have liked to have had more time for interviews, because the topic is not yet known here from film and television. I visited his mother's grave and learned that he himself was buried high up on the Gomantang Cave.

In Marudu, a town about 200 kilometers away, Sandokan is remembered as a friend and comrade in arms of Syarif Osman, who also fought against the British in 1845. Syarif Osman's fortress in Marudu may have been something like the economic and social center of Sandokan's time, and it will certainly have attracted him. By the way, Syarif Osman's banner was the red flag with the tiger head. Sandokan is said to have defended the fortress of Marudu on August 19, 1845 against the British. Unfortunately the population of Marudu has lost and the fortress has been destroyed. In Limau-Limawan, which lies to the north of Marudu Bay, Sandokan is remembered as a sea hero who is said to have ruled the sea from Sulu to the Malacca Strait.

Unfortunately it cannot be traced what happened to the historical Sandokan after the Battle of Marudu. Emilio Salgari's Sandokan novels (the Cycle) begin shortly thereafter (1849), but describe events that are reminiscent of August 19, 1845.

(Please do not use / copy / distribute any information from this site without my permission! - Bianca M. Gerlich)

The Site of Old Melapi

The flag indicates the landing site. To the left is the burial place of the 19th century people, to the right the remains of their homes.

Old Melapi: very likely the grave of Adora(n), mother of Sandokan