Persatuan Warisan Sarawak had announced to organize an ethnic beauty pageant for Sarawakians in Kuala Lumpur during their Christmas and Chinese New Year Open House in January 2009. Tight budget and limited resources caused Hornbill Festival 2009 to be shelved due to the priority given to the pageant competition named Kumang and Keling Gawai 2009, in conjunction with the Gawai closing celebration, also called Gawai Ngiling Tikai which means Mat Rolling Celebration in Iban. The rolling of mats symbolizes the end of an event in most dayak culture and it is worth a celebration of its own. Kumang and Keling Gawai 2009 started a revolution in the appreciation of Sarawak Culture with an emphasis on the beautiful people of Sarawak. Although Hornbill festival 2009 was shelved, there were more than enough dance performances that night to get the audience all excited about ethnic dance and culture.
Kumang & Keling Gawai 2009 was the seed that eventually grew to become Borneo Ethnic Pageant in Borneo Hornbill Festival today. It was initially modeled after the same title organized in Sarawak year after year in conjunction with the harvest festival called Gawai Dayak. Although the packages include both male and female, only the female category, called Kumang Gawai, was further divided into three categories, namely Kumang Iban, Dayung Bidayuh and Keligit Orang Ulu; each represents major ethnic tribes in Sarawak. Each of the sub category offered the positions of champion, first runner up and second runner up. The male category was not sub divided according to the three major Dayak tribes and offered only positions of Champions, First Runner Up and Second Runner Up. All participants went through a Q&A session regarding tourism and culture in the afternoon before taking the stage in the evening.
Dance performances brought further excitement to the night as the dancers form different higher learning institutions entertained the audience. Although there was no contest, the audience definitely have their favorite.
Kumang and Keling Gawai was held in conjunction with Gawai open house at the same venue. Hundreds of people came and enjoyed the various Borneo and Malaya delights.
There were also authentic Borneo crafts for sale.