Come every May, the Kaamatan Festival or Harvest Festival is celebrated by the Kadazandusuns of Sabah.
In every Kaamatan Festival, the Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan contest assumes the highlight of the day’s occasion where a beauty queen, Unduk Ngadau is selected in a pageant which is contested by more than 30 young maiden dressed in their finest traditional costume, each representing a district in Sabah.
The origin of the Unduk Ngadau lies in the Kadazandusun legend of Huminodun, Kinoingan’s only beloved daughter who was sacrificed to become food for the people. She was said to have willingly sacrificed herself to save mankind who almost perished due to a great famine. It is thus her noble qualities of courage, compassion, beauty and sacrifice that the Unduk Ngadau is ideally based. The beauty queen is said to represent or meant to embody all of these qualities or comes close to personifying the mythical Huminodun as the ideal woman.
The Bobohizans or the Priestess of Penampang, a district in Sabah, recites Huminodun in their inait or ritual prayers (translated to):
“Were your beauty light,
It would be as the blazing sun,
And my eyes would not withstand to gaze,
At your transfigured face…
Were your piety and might,
Measurable in terms of height,
It would reach the noon sun,
And yet stand firm and upright..”