When I was in the make-up chair for one of my very first TV commercial shoots in Kuala Lumpur, I overheard a conversation, which really fascinated me.
There was someone on the phone saying, “It could be raining every day on the set of this Hollywood/Malaysian co-production. How are they going to finish the filming like this? For goodness sakes, please tell the American producers we need to hire a ‘bomoh’ to stop the rain.”
The concept of a mere mortal being able to control the weather was something I couldn’t comprehend. Surely, this was a joke? But what if there was an outside chance it worked?
It amused me wondering what Hollywood producers would say to their fellow American colleagues on how they were advised by local partners to manage their rising costs, “You just need to control the weather so no one needs to be losing so much every day due to the rain.” Sounds so logical right?
Yet, it’s the most outrageous thing I had ever heard of myself, as an actress and TV host starting out in the industry.
In fact, I heard from a local producer that against all the odds that the move to engage a “bomoh” had worked on that set and the foreigners were absolutely bewildered (and probably too scared to look too excited or impressed) as to how such a thing was even remotely possible.
According to Wikipedia, a “bomoh” “is a Malay shaman whose original role was that of a healer, and their expertise was first and foremost an in-depth knowledge of medicinal herbs or Malay geomancy.”
However, as a person who has now lived in Kuala Lumpur for more than two decades, I have come to accept how common it is for “bomohs” to be engaged to stop the rain at major events.
In fact, in an article about a CIMB Classic golf event around that time, the tour report from the PGA Tour’s website themselves wrote about how the Malaysian “bomoh” must have done his job keeping the rain at bay because shortly after the players completed their first round, thunderstorms and heavy rains drenched the course in approximately three inches of water.
It’s not just Malaysia who uses “bomohs”. In Indonesia, I heard that “bomohs” who are more commonly known as “rain stoppers” even have a rating on golf courses depending on their effectiveness, and the locals seem to know which course employs the best ones, almost like a handicap system.
Though I’ve remained cynical about the whole unbelievable concept of it, some of the “success stories” I’ve heard from people I know, all perfectly sane and not remotely superstitious are hard to discount as mere fiction.
For instance, an event organiser once told me that his company was organising a high-profile open-air launch event in Sabah, and the logistics were immense.
The weather was a make or break factor in ensuring the event’s success. He hired a “bomoh” who told him, after assessing the date and location of the event that he could only guarantee clear skies until 5pm.
While driving to the event, he was getting really worried because the rain was so heavy that his windshield wipers were working at full blast. The sky was grey and filled with storm clouds.
However, as he got closer to the venue, he noticed what looked like a big hole in the sky and it was totally dry. Even as the guests arrived, they could see the rain all around them and it felt as if the rain was threatening to fall but never did.
The event location remained totally dry until 5pm, as “guaranteed” by the “bomoh”. At around 5.20pm, the gap in the sky suddenly closed up and there was a torrential downpour in the area.
This is not to say all “bomohs” are successful and I’ve heard of cases where they did not work and their clients naturally get a full refund.
Personally, I had never engaged a “bomoh” before but a job came up that put my production house in a bit of a quandary.
We had just returned from producing a series with celebrity singer Yuna in London and New York and my production house, Kyanite TV was appointed by national broadcaster Astro to also cover Yuna’s Homecoming Concert.
She was scheduled to perform LIVE at an open-air venue and it had been literally raining every day. My production manager called up an insurance company who did not want to insure us in this monsoon period.
We were in quite a difficult position because we had to hire an OB “outside broadcast” truck, a crane, sound experts and a team of about 30 people on our end to get this job done properly.
The rain could render the footage useless and we had so many people on the line and deposits to be paid upfront for everyone’s services which were non-refundable.
We were strongly urged to hire a “bomoh” and I began to recall that conversation I first overheard in the make up chair when I arrived in Malaysia. My production house eventually agreed to it because it was such a small price to pay to ward off a complete disaster.
On the night of the concert just fifteen minutes before Yuna got on stage, it was still raining with several fans in ponchos and holding up umbrellas. My cameraman phoned the “bomoh” in alarm who said, “Just give me five more minutes”.
And miraculously, as if the clouds were on cue, my Australian producer’s jaw dropped when she saw the clouds moving rapidly to the left, so that they were no longer directly overhead, and the rain just came to a total stop before Yuna’s opening song.
Our footage throughout the concert was crystal clear! I have no idea what the “bomoh” did in that five minutes. How is it even possible for a human being to “push” the clouds aside but call it fact or fiction, there was no rain that fell from the sky that evening.
So, I’ve learnt not to judge what I do not comprehend. Life truly has its mysteries and it makes the world an interesting place, to say the least.
Jojo Struys is the founder of OhanaJo, voted Malaysia’s Top Yoga and Sound Healing Space offering transformational healing sessions in mindfulness, meditation, yoga and sound. For more information or to register for a free trial, please visit www.ohanajo.com.