Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rambai Thoughts on Christmas Eve

The carollers of yesteryears in the Rejang Basin of Sarawak sang out heartily " We bring you good news! News of peace and understanding! News of good will! News of a new born king!" We were like little angels dressed in whatever frocks we had while the boys wore their white cotton shirts and short pants. The pastor wore his white shirt and probably cotton khaki trousers. It was an amazing journey for me - to sing my heart out and to fill the village air with songs of glad tidings.

Actually I had only one opportunity to go carolling on one Christmas Eve in my grandmother's village. In one home I remember,after singing the carols in Foochow and in Mandarin too we were served fruits by the lovely host. It was almost 3 a.m. in the morning and we could hear all sorts of noises in the fruit garden . We had walked along a plankwalk made up of two planks side by side while mud oozed out at the side. Some of us even stepped into soft mud when we got overly excited and enthusiastic. We had to be careful with our torch lights, lanterns and candles.

I am quite sure that at that time we had no fears going into the darkness led by our assistant pastor.Or perhaps I have already forgotten some of the emotions that we had. Going carolling "downriver" was a very interesting activity as the farm houses which were all on stilts were quite far from each other. And then as a young girl I was so happy to be with my cousins and we actually threw all apprehensive thoughts into the wind. Afterall we were children from rubber tapping families.

Recnetly I was delighted when I chanced upon some hawkers selling rambai and so I quickly took this photo. The rambai was served to us during this unique carolling experience of mine. Other fruits served were langsat, rambutans and even durians!! We enjoyed the fruits very much but of course we did not eat as much as we wanted because we were trained to stand on ceremony - Foochow style. We had to remember that the main focus of our carolling mission was to have a chance to sing carols to friends and relatives in our village in Sg. Maaw. We must remember that all children would like to have the opportunity to perform for the adults in order to gain approval and a certain social recognition. My cousin who could sing well continue her singing into her adulthood. But for me this carolling experience was enriching and memorable.

The days of carolling in Chinese rubber growing villages are gone forever from the Rejang. Just memories left and they seem to be fading if we do not have photos or written paper. Life goes on and life changes.

It is good to reflect on those bygone days and still perhaps catch a glimpse of my grandmother's black brocade trousers and blue samfoo at the full length window. And then I would like to smell the ylang ylang(bai yu lan) scent that she always had on her. It would have been such a comfort to know that our elderly grandmother was at hand.

Extra notes....

Baccaurea motleyana

A nice, sweet-acid flavored fruit appreciated in part of Southeast Asia. Fruits grow to 2", with a yellow-brown skin and white pulp.

Description: Short to medium sized tree growing to 20-30ft.

Hardiness: Unknown.

Growing Environment: Not available.

Propagation: By seeds.

Uses: The fruits eaten fresh out of hand or processed into beverages and wine.

Native Range: Native to Southeast Asia. Cultivated in parts of Thailand and Vietnam.

source :

6 memories:

Philip said...

Wishing you and your family a blessed christmas and a happy and successful 2009

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Hi Nice to hear from you....may you and your family have a blessed Christmas and a bountiful new year!!

Ketam said...

Merry Christmas!

I Am Sarawakiana said...


Merry Christmas and Bountiful New Year to you too!!

Robert Rizal Abdullah said...

Rambai? I always it was one of the fruits that is losing its popularity to duku and duku langsat (a better version of the local langsat).

Eating rambai can be very messy most of the time. I wonder whether our agricultural scientists are able to cross-breed rambai with duku langsat and come up with a super rambai!

There are many fruits in Sarawak that are not available in Malaya. To name a few - dabai,uchong, kubal, terung iban and sawi iban. These are some of the unique fruits/vegetables not found in Malaya. Sarawakians who are stuck there are missing them a lot. Can't our scientists find out ways to improve them and grow them in large quantities in orchards?

I Am Sarawakiana said...

So far in the last decade or so Malaysian scientists have been doing fairly high profile research on jatropha and oil palm. Fruit orchards seem to be in the hands of special entrepreneurs who have the heart and soul for crops like the dragon fruit. Mango is another example.

Mangosteens for example could have been a very lucrative crop but its appeal seem to find favour among the dinos. My children think that this fruit needs a better marketing plan so that the young generation can appreciate it more. Many young people associate the dabai the mangosteen and the rambai with kampong....and therefore they do not get onto the supermarket shelves..but there is also a possible reason - they are too perishable...and so more research is needed there.

So local fruits must be given the same kind of promotion as that is a tall order in our society. Don't you think so?

I am in support of local fruits and their research.....


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