Kadazan native Anthony Labangka was 10 years old when the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Borneo during World War II.
Sitting in the verandah of a modern kampung house on a hot afternoon in Kampung Penampang Proper, where he has lived his whole life, Anthony recalls the hardships of the Japanese Occupation.
The villagers were put to work by Japanese troops, to build facilities for them. As a young boy, he was not spared from the forced labour.
“Even though I was just 10, I had no choice but to work for them. If anyone refused, they would be slapped by the Japanese,” he said.
As though the hard labour wasn’t bad enough, Anthony also contracted malaria.
“During the war, there was no medicine. I was given some traditional medicine but it was so bitter that I threw it all up.”
Sick and frail from malaria, Anthony was confined to bed most of the time.
During this time, Allied forces were bombarding Japanese targets in Borneo with air raids. Everyone would run for cover in makeshift underground bomb shelters – except for Anthony during his illness.
“I was left behind, alone in my house. I couldn’t do anything because I was too weak to run,” he said, with a slight chuckle.
Anthony’s house was riddled with bullets, but lucky for him, he was unharmed.
Today, Anthony’s grandson lives in his wartime house which has been renovated, while he lives in a newer house just across the road.