It is all too easy to romanticise indigenous peoples, to invest them with nobility or conjure images of paradise before the fall. The Penan are not angelic or mystical.
What makes them engaging is their humanity, a gentleness which is not common in our age.
Padang told me that he regarded the jungle as his mother and father. And he said this without artifice, without the calculation of the professional spokesman.
And he spoke like one who is bereft, for the forest is shrinking.
The loggers who serve the world's insatiable appetite for timber are cutting swathes through Sarawak's rainforest.
The Penan have tried to stop them with blockades and now lawsuits conducted on their behalf by human rights groups. But in the face of powerful loggers and their political backers, the Penan seem to be on the wrong side of what is called "development".
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