Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sungei Bidut

Sungei Bidut is not as well known as Sunger Merah where the first batch of Foochow immigrants set foot on Sarawak soil. But it is neverthless one of the most populated riverine areas across the Igan River, from Sibu. As it is on a delta of the Rejang it is washed by Rejang River on the West, Igan River on the east and is criss-crossed by the small distributary called Sg. Bidut and some other smaller distributaries. The English transliteration , after a correction by a friend, of its name is "River of Beauty and Wealth". It is Sung Ngae Mee Luk in Foochow pin yin.

When I was young I saw no beauty except greenery there. I felt that it was just miles and miles of trees and rice fields. Then as I grew up and learned more about economics I realised that it was indeed miles and miles of beautiful rubber trees and money did indeed grow on trees! So perhaps the area was indeed blessed with a lot of wealth.

A long time ago,Sg. Bidut was one of the favourite places,( besides Bukit Lima and Sg. Aup) for teachers to bring their students for picnics . It was safe and friendly and students could walk around to see the rubber trees and feel the wind on their faces in the padi fields. The short boat ride across the Igan River was also very thrilling to the town children who at that time had no television or computer to spark their imagination.

Besides rubber and padi, today the hardworking Foochow there grow miles and miles of vegetables. Thus the other name of the area is Island of Green Mustard or Yew Chai Doh. You can see miles and miles of pretty mustard greens with their dainty yellow flowers which bend gracefully when the wind blows. That's scenic beauty one can use for a movie. I would continue to think that the area is indeed a truly green area - Green Peace would be proud to know that.

Sg. Bidut was a safe home to many Foochows during the Japanese Occupation. My uncles sent their young families over to hide in Sg. Bidut. And for many years my first cousins lived there thus developing a very close relationship with my grandfather's first cousins (Tiong Kung Chiing and Tiong Kung Kiing to name two especially)and their families. Their descendants today still own a part of Sungei Bidut, although many have migrated to Marudi, Miri, Brunei , Singapore, Sabah and overseas too.

During the rubber boom in the 50's the area thrived and more people moved there. One outstanding family was a Hsiung family who bought a piece of of rubber land. Perhaps they could be considered the first Yong Peng or West Malaysian investor in Sg Bidut! Old grandfather Hsiung brought his four sons and daughters in law and several daughters to Sg. Bidut from Yong Peng. Recently one of his daughters passed away at the age of 97!!

Now,that is something people have to find out too. It is said that most people who are residents of Sg.Bidut live to a very old age. Could it be attributed to the water of Sg. Bidut? Could it also be the soil and fresh air of Sg. Bidut?

The Foochows also started a very good school called Kong Ming School in Sg. Bidut when they first settled there. It is indeed a Foochow practice to start a school for people every where they go. It is like a trademark activity. For many years they have struggle to keep the school on its toes and thanks to the Federation of Chinese Association, especially under the leadership of Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King, the school has been receiving a grant to keep it going. Kong Ming School is a good example of how a small village struggles to keep its apolitical school and educate its next generation, in spite of the brain drain and rural-urban migration.

Besides, Sg. Bidut also has a Methodist Church called Ching Ing Tong as most of the residents are Methodists.

Today Sg. Bidut has all the urban amenties : electricitiy supply, water supply, and good roads. It boasts a good restaurant or two, one or two factories and a few other workshops. And some people have even started breeding swiftlets to harvest birds' nests!! This shows how enterprising the people are.

There are three big jetties or " toh tau" which serve the area. But the most famous one is Kong Ming Toh Tau. If you visit Sg. Bidut, this jetty is the beginning of your journey. And you will be taken on an excellent Foochow journey of your life!! The people are still friendly, smiling and hospitable. And the restaurants there will offer good green vegetables, fresh from their plucking!! Some how the taste of the mustard greens from Sg. Bidut is very special to my taste buds.

Perhaps it will always be beautiful and green. And I am sure one day it will be the true market garden of Sibu.

(Note: I would like to dedicate this posting to my grandfather's first cousins, and their descendants, who have always been there to help us during funerals, weddings and child births. What wonderful relatives they have been.)

3 memories:

Yan said...

Hi, in "Sg Bidut", actually, the Chinese "Luk" is not written as "green", it is "Ru" as in "Fu, Ru, Shou" (Prosperity, Wealth and Longevity).

sarawakiana said...

Oh no! For more than 50 years I have been thinking GREEN!! So much damage has been done !! hehehe Any way I still think of it as green. Ru is long life then...and aptly people in Sg. Bidut has been known to live long lives...That's very right then for the name.



sarawakiana said...

just went back to Sibu. And saw how well Sg. Bidut has developed over the last few years. My uncles' houses have disappeared and most of them have migrated to Miri or KK. But the rubber trees are still there, waiting for further development.
One of the neighbour's sons is a chef (many years in KL and married to a KL-ite)in Miri. Nice to meet up with him and talk about old times.


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