An Ongoing Survey of Sama/Bajau Communities in Sabah

Walking the bridges in Kampung Forest
Meeting various Sama groups in Sandakan.

As a student of linguistics and the Sinama language, I take a keen interest in the Sama populations throughout Southeast Asia. Many of my Sama contacts here in the Philippines had repeatedly told me that there are high populations of Sama in Sabah. Whereas these Sama friends of mine would never want to be called Badjao while here in the Philippines, they say that their relatives in Sabah gladly use the name Bajau and that there it is even connected to the royalty
Of course there are at least 4-5 Sinama languages according to how past linguists have classified them, so even if there were Sama in Malaysia, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we could understand each other. Still my language teachers insisted that, while there are probably more Sama speaking the Tawi-Tawi dialects in Sabah then those of Central Sinama, there are still quite significant numbers of Bajau in Sabah that speak Central Sinama.
A view of some of the Sama Tabawan homes in Kampung Forest
Kampung Forest is one of the larger Sama communities with multiple Sama groups living there in Sandakan.

Also a question that I had not yet been able to answer was: What Sinama language do the Sama Dilaut (Bajau Dilaut) of Sabah speak? In the Philippines, the Sama Dilaut are included in Central Sinama, but no one could give me a clear answer about those in Sabah.  Almost all of the remaining boat dwellers of the Sama have taken refuge in Sabah due to conflict in their Philippine homelands.
With all of this in mind, I attended the 2012 Lepa Regatta Festival in Semporna. We met with family members of my wife in Sandakan and in Semporna. Our time there was short, but I was able to interview a few people about some of the Bajau communities. Here I will make my interview findings public in the hopes that it can be of help to other researchers that have been unclear about the seafaring Bajau of Malaysia and the Sama of the Philippines. Also there are significant numbers of Sama/Bajau using the internet. I hope to see this data expanded overtime as those Sama might care to share their knowledge about the Sama communities in Sabah.
A picture taken while touring Kampung Simunul
Kampung Simunul in Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia

List of Sama known to be in Sandakan & Semporna

Northern Sinama


Central Sinama

Buliꞌ Kullul
Dilaut (It seemed that those we met briefly were speaking a dialect of Central Sinama)

Southern Sinama

Tōng Bangkaw

Jama Mapun

Sama Pangutaran


List of known Sama communities in Sandakan

Bandal Lai-Lai: (Sama group unknown)
Kampung Combo: Siasi (generic), Tabawan, Tandubas
Kampung Forest: Siasi (kamemon), Dilaut, Musu, Sibaud, Tabawan, Tandubas, Ubian,
Kampung Gallam: (Sama type unknown, borders Kampung Combo)
Kampung Ramay-Ramay: (Sama type unknown, borders Kampung Combo)
Simsim: Siasi (generic), Manubal, Musu, Sibaud, South Laud, Tabawan, Ubian,
Tanaꞌ Mera: Dilaut

List of known Sama communities in Semporna

Ampallang: Dilaut, Penduduk
Balimbang: Penduduk, Sibaud
Bangaw-Bangaw: Dilaut, Penduduk, Sibaud, Sibutu, Simunul, Sitangkai, Ubian
Batu Ruwa: Dilaut, Tausug-Sama mixture, Penduduk
Buliꞌ Patuwid: Tausug (all)
Danawan: Dilaut, Siasi (Manubal, Musu)
Gusung Malanta: Panduduk
Igang-Igang: (nothing written)
Labuwan Hadji: Dilaut, Penduduk
Kabimbangan: Tausug-Sama mixture
Kabogang: Kabingaꞌan, Penduduk, Tawi-Tawi
Kampung Ail: Penduduk, Tabawan
Kampung Halo: Dilaut (all), Dilaut (Bettoꞌ)
Kampung Hidayat: Buliꞌ Kullul, Laminusa, Sambuwangan, Siganggang
Kampung Panji: Penduduk, Sibaud
Kampung Salamat: Bongao, Penduduk, Pelarian, Sambuwangan, Siasi-Generic, Tiyanggi
Kampung Simunul: Simunul, Tabawan, Ubian
Kampung Siriyaman: (nothing written)
Kampung Mastra: Kabingaꞌan, Simunul
Kampung Tarusang Baru: Ubian
Kapallay: Penduduk, Resort
Loꞌok Buttun: Penduduk, Tandowak
Mabul: Laminusa, Manubal
Mataking Island: Dilaut, Resort
Manam Pꞌllit: Buliꞌ Kullul, Laminusa
Nusa Tꞌngngaꞌ: Dilaut (all)
Pallang-Pallang: Penduduk, Sama (unclear reference), Tausug
Pulaw Bebeng: Kabingaꞌan
Pulaw Boheꞌan: Manubal, Musu
Pulaw Bunbun: Penduduk
Pulu Gaya: Dilaut, Penduduk,
Pulaw Karingdingan: Siasi-Generic, Sibutu, Sitangkai, Tong Bangkaw
Pulaw Kulapuꞌan: Manubal, Musu
Pulaw Pandanan: Dilaut, Musu, Sitangkai
Pulaw Sangaban: Tausug-Sama mixture from Philippines
Pulaw Silapag: Tausug-Sama
Sibangkat: Penduduk, Tausug
Sibuꞌun: Dilaut from Tawi-Tawi, Penduduk
Sipanggaw: Dilaut from Tōng Bangkaw Tawi-Tawi
Tampeꞌ Kalloꞌ: Dilaut, Penduduk
Tampeꞌ-Tampeꞌ: Sibaud (all)
Timbaꞌ-Timbaꞌ: Resort (Just a place that the Sama Dilaut pass through on their houseboats)
Timbun Mata: Dilaut, Sitangkai, Tausug
Tingga Mata: Dilaut, Penduduk, Tausug
Tubuꞌ-Tubuꞌ: Dilaut, Sibutu, Sitangkai, Tausug,
Umaral: Dilaut, Penduduk


Penduduk: Malaysian term for resident or citizen.  I was unable to get data on what type of Sinama these Sama/Bajau were speaking.  Most likely high numbers of Sama Tabawan, Sama Ubian, and Sama Simunul.  The fact that they are Penduduk indicates that they have been there for a long time, probably before the formation of Malaysia.
Pelarian: Malaysian term for fugitive

3 thoughts on “An Ongoing Survey of Sama/Bajau Communities in Sabah

  1. MashaAllah, malingkat duun in piya-awn niyu ini research 🙂
    Kiyatumtuman ku in Thesis ku ha college, agad in mga taymanghud natuh Sama ha Siasi ha mga subjects ku; sah malayu isab in topic pasal genetics kaagi hehe.
    Alhamdulillahinut-inut tumaud in manga research ha mammayan hikatabang pa kawman natuh.
    Salam kasilasa!

  2. Heya kod pangatayan ku magsosong kaum Sama/Bajau,Badjao maghatina, magtabang tabang na sudju ni kallum kamatay. bissala tam du,ma Tawi Tawi, Tabawan and Benaran bai paglahatan Ira’an (Ida’an) and Mantabuan west Sinama pronouns same. Sapa Sapa, Sikobung and Mantabuan east also same. in Semporna Sabah, kmpung Hayang and adjuscent there found their Sinama language, so mybe 6-7 Sinama dfferent language with pronounciation. magsukul ni kaam. (.my researched}

  3. daa aliha ma aku minsan maka bissala aku bahasa Taosug/Sinug pasal mboh ku min mmah ku, min inahku Sama/Bajau, misis ku father na Taosug,mother Sama Siasi ,maapun bi aku bang niya salla’ku ataw kakulanganku, mgsukul tud kaniyu

Ai tapah'llingbi pasal itu?