Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Riding Buses in Sibu

My first bus ride was in a 15 seater British made bus which had a wooden frame. It made a big racket going to Sungei Merah. My grandfather never had a driver's licence and he left all the driving to my grandmother, after they bought one of the ealiest cars in Sibu, a yellow Austin. But Grandfather and I continued to enjoy riding on buses. the greetings we had for and from every one on the buses stayed in my mind for a long time. I loved my grandfather for taking me around,even he had wished that I was a boy.

In those days, the bus station was in the triangle made by Cross Road, Island Road and Market Road (?). Next to the bus station was the chendol and rojak centre where we could get chendol in the antique glass and rojak in a small tin plate. My grandfather never allowed me to eat chendol so he would take me to Lido Cinema's coffee shop where he could have his coffee and I could have a bit of his coffee in the saucer (Lat drew this in one of his books). He would then buy me Magnolia Grape Juice. What a luxury.

After a movie, Grandfather would take me and ride the bus back home to Sungei Merah.

I cannot remember how often I spent time with him, but it was quite frequent.

One of the best things parents and grandparents can do is to take the kids out to ride on buses - very memorable - and great for bonding. And good training too as the kids would have to learn how to ride a bus overseas. Kids are too spoilt nowadays and they tend to suffer more if they are not well brought up in simple ways.

There were buses to Upper Lanang Road then. Buses to Oya Road came very much later. Buses then were meant to carry lots of goods and farm products. It was still very much the in thing for people to walk to town, very often bare footed, from as far as Kampong Nangka, or Bukit Assek or even Ei Ti Road in Lanang Road. The Foochows were very frugal then. They would think nothing of walking three or four miles every day.Today the scenario is very different. You can read below:

The main bus lines have ticket stalls at the long-distance bus station, west of town at Sungai Antu. There should be no problem getting a seat if you arrive 15 minutes before departure, but it may pay to book ahead for weekends and school holidays.
The main bus companies running ser­vices from Sibu are Biaramas Express (084-313139), Borneo Express Bus (084-319773), Borneo Highway Express (084-319533), Lanang Road Bus Co (084-314527), PB Express (084-332873) and Suria Express (084-319773). Most have ticketing agencies around the local bus station on the waterfront.

1. Lanang Road Bus Co Bhd

No. 8, 2nd Floor, Lrg Pahlawan 7, 96000 Sibu, Sarawak
084-33 5973

2. Bus Terminal Mukah, Jln Orangkaya Setiaraja, 96400 Mukah, Sarawak
084-87 2679

3. No. 47, Lrg Teng Kung Sui 4, Upper Lanang Industrial Estate, 96000 Sibu, Sarawak
084-21 3711

4. No. 7, Bangunan Baru Terminal Bas, Jln Tun Hussein Onn, 97000 Bintulu, Sarawak
086-33 8518

5. Bus Terminal Padang Kerbau, Jln Padang Kerbau, Kampung Padang Kerbau, 98000 Miri, Sarawak
085-43 3116
Sibu (SBW): Location: 18 km/11 Miles E of the city. By Road: To Sibu 23 km/14 Miles. By Taxi: Pre paid taxi coupons are available in the terminal for trips to the city. Average cost to Sibu city is MYR 30. By Bus: Local Bus #3A runs between the airport and the city every 90 mins or so 0600-1800. Cost: MYR 3/25-30 mins. Updated Mar07 www. [back].[top]

Tawau Syarikat Bas Lanang Road Sdn. Bhd.
Bintulu/Sibu 06:00; 08:00; 12:00; 14:00; 18:00 RM16.50

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Tribute to a Good Neighbour

Ah Hang's Mother, or Mrs. Lau Nguong Ding, passed away a little too early in her life. She succumbed to cancer after Mr. Lau carefully nursed her and even took her to China for a series of treatment in the 1990's, something which was rather new to the community then.

What can one write about a dear neighbour,whom you saw as a young child, whom you grew to love because your family grew familiar with her and there was so much love nurtured between the two families, one Foochow and one Heng Hua? We could have experienced polarisation.

She had boys about my age which grew lanky and naughty. My late brother, a little younger was amongst them, growing up and taking in youth and pranks. They played with sticks.They played with marbles and ran after kites, apart from making their own kites from scratch because we did not have much money to buy any other toys like what children can today. And in the evenings we ran up and down the newly constructed Brooke Drive which was only a collection of rough granite rubble. But never mind the dust and the roughness. We had energy to play away our innocent childhood. We played games of Jui Ing, Jui Ko (High tide, low tide), Eagle catching Chickens, and even rounders (just sticks and a ball).

To her evening calls, " Children!! Come back for your porridge! Chiak Mui!" the boys would rush home to her, eager for the lonely bowls of porridge, coloured only by cikap (soy sauce, mixed with sugar and a bit of Bovril) and perhaps one salted egg or just a plain boiled egg when she felt a little more than generous. This was dinner for the children, washed down by thin Chinese tea (which she had boiled in a huge kettle). Mrs and Mrs. Lau were our Heng Hua tenants. All her children spoke Hokkien and Foochow so that they could be assimilated into our community. Mrs. Lau stretched her dollar like any thrifty Chinese woman then. She spoke Foochow with a very strong Heng Hua accent, which we loved, and sometimes imitated humourously.

She was the first Chinese woman I knew personally who breastfed her babies in public, without embarrassment. While feeding porridge to her older child, a baby , another baby boy would be suckling at her breast. As a young girl of six, (now I am ashamed to tell you this), I stared at her mammary glands and the hungry baby. (She grew into a great beauty later). She taught me in her simple ways that breastfeeding was a joy and a natural way of saving money and she did not have to sterilize milk bottles which was a waste of time. I did not fortunately learn that lesson. When I have stopped having my own babies and was in my forties, the local hospitals starting having their Breast Milk is Best Campaign.

Ah Hang's Ma, as we all called her lovingly, was a mean disciplinarian. She would take out her rottan cane any time to beat her two older boys, Ah Hang and Ah Tee (both are reputable businessmen now, so I just use their pet names). They used to play Tarzan in the little forest behind the houses (as Sibu was not so developed then), or fished in the hot sun in the stream next to the kampong. When boys played, they lost count of time. And mum had to beat them when they returuned all dirty and hungry. She beat them more because her boys did not have good grades. But she was making a statement to show that she was "boss". I am glad that her message got through and her boys grew up to be real gentlement and "filial sons" to the ends of her days.

As very close neighbours, I like to see her getting ready to attend a feast. I would sit by the door and watch her put on powder and her little pale lipstick. She would apply some hair oil to her very well permed hair. In between she would pass on worldly wisdom for women to my ears and I would hang on to them. She had such a way of telling me things that I can still remember to this day. "You might not be rich,but you have to be really clean, inside and outside. And a little fragrance is all you need to enhance the clear beauty that you have inside you. Never mind you are not rich. We all become rich when we are older. When young, you must work hard and save money. Build your wealth with your two hands and you will have a good old age."

After she had finished dressing up, other neighbours would come up to her and ask, " Go eat dinner? Siak Jiu?" The simple outfit of floral homemade samfoo and the little powder she put on her face with a little lipstick, changed her entire demeanour, from a frumpy housewife to a lovely lady, proud to be by her loving husband's side. Indeed the Chinese saying, " A woman's good looks depend on 30% dressing and 70% natural beauty" is true. Her inner beauty shone and brightened up the whole street!

Some mornings, during our school holidays, I would drop by to help her carry her baby daughter or have a lively chat. She had all the time for me, over her washing and ironing. She was good at ironing Mr. Lau's white uniform of a bus driver. And I liked the way she starched the clothes. (Starching clothes is now out of fashion.) She would boil water with some tapioca flour in the basin over a wood fire and then pour into a huge aluminium laundry basin (sali turn which is still availalbe nowadays). Then she would throw the selected pieces into the basin and soak them for a while. These starched clothes would look like parchment in the hot sun!!

As a very frugal housewife she grew her own vegetables on every available piece of empty land outside the house. She would spread her blessings to all her neigbhours. A visit from her would always mean that my mother would get a bundle of long beans or changkok manis. No, she would never sell anything to her neighbours. Her vegetables were all free for all to share.

As children we also witnessed that Ah Hang's Ma never argued with Mr. Lau. She was always cheerful whenever he was around, although we knew that he had to work shifts. But her wooden dinner table was always ready with some meat, vegetables and a pot of hot rice was on the stove. Her Chinese tea was free flow and Mr. Lau would bring a flask to work. And when his bicycle was seen at the beginning of the road (duo tau) her sons would run up to their dad, with a whoop of greeting to make a father's heart burst with pride. And Ah Hang's ma would be waiting with a beautiful smile for her dearly beloved to step into the wooden house. Such was a beautiful evening along our road.

Ah Hang's mother had a heart of gold. When my father suddenly passed away,she came beating her chest and cried out loud. She was always beside my mother to give her the best of comforting words. And she shed buckets of tears for my father, always calling out loud,"the good towkay, the good teacher" until her voice became hoarse. Her empathetic grief helped my mother in so many ways. Neighours were really rallying around and helping out in our moments of need and loss.Most were inconsolable by the shocking pre mature death of a good and unassuming man. That we would always treasure until today.

In so many ways we were blessed by wonderful neighbours. And as we grew to adulthood, we also witnessed that these good people like Ah Hang's ma became blessed by God. They all became wealthy and bought good houses. (Our community was known to have very good Feng Shui). As the shophouses took over the simple wooden houses of our road, my neighbours too moved into better housing areas.

A good wooden non-gated community disappeared forever with the spread of urban development and a childhood is placed in the sacred storage of memory, to be taken out for a savoury treat in old age every now and then.

I am writing this as a token of a simple thanks to a great woman who coloured my childhood with lots of laughter, gentle words and stories,love and simple household wisdom.

An Opinion on Teachers and the play, "The Salad Days"

I am just so glad that I can write about The Salad Days, more than 30 years after my school staged the musical in 1969.

I was already a temporary teacher and embarking on a new journey in life. The school continued to be a busy hive of activities and school academic results were getting better and better. We also had teachers who were very dedicated like Miss Jackie Fries, Mrs. Wong Bing Sing to name a few who would even give free tuition in the afternoon for the weaker students. They had so much love for the students and cooperated with the Principal to raise performance levels.

Today when teachers are getting bad press and some do not even bother to enter their class, I am just so saddened that the next generation has to look for other means to become educated.

Teachers should be totally dedicated to their profession in being surrogate parents and inculcating values in the young minds. Students need to have role models they can depend on.

Today there are too many horror stories of teachers not teaching properly, even the basic fundamentals, or even wrongly (like pronunciation), playing truant and telling the students to tell lies to their parents ("Don't tell this to your parents, or else I will punish you.....")

I still believe that being a teacher is a sacred command. No one who has a flaw in character should become a teacher.

There is one young teacher who went to teach a class using a " borrowed lesson plan". He almost could not execute the lesson in front of the supervisors. He has arrogantly said that he would one day become a teacher's trainer or lecturer at the Institute of Higher Learning for Teachers. He cannot even do a good day's work as a House Master on Sports Day, claiming that the sun is too hot for his skin. If our policy makers cannot recognise this kind of personality, then I am afraid there is a huge hole in the education system of our country.

How can we have a generation that loves the arts and the sciences with the help of teachers who can make us perform like professionals and using a British play like the Salad Days? 1969 was the year which proved that school children, when well directed can perform as well as any English school in England. That was almost 40 years ago. The play was played in Batu Lintang, and Rejang. They even transported the wooden piano made by the woodwork teacher of the school. The play fired the creative imagination of the students and inspired so many to desire a tertiary education. But most of all, we learned the real meaning of entertainment and the art of life.

They need all the accolade we can give....even today!!

Book and Lyrics by Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade

Music by Julian Slade


SALAD DAYS started its life in June 1954 at the Theatre Royal, Bristol. Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade had been commissioned to write an end-of-season summer show for the Bristol Old Vic Company and it was scheduled to run just three weeks. But Fate - and a London Management - intervened. On August 5th. 1954 they opened with the same production at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, and stayed there for five and a half years, becoming (for then) the longest running musical in the history of the British Theatre.

It has been playing somewhere in the world ever since - and in 1969 in Sibu, Kuching and Bintangor, Sarawak.

Newly acquired BA gowns hang heavy on the shoulders of Jane and Timothy. Having got this far, what on earth do they do next? They could get married, of course (so they do), but how can they make a living? In a London park one breathlessly warm summer day they encounter a tramp who trundles round a mobile mini-piano. Even tramps need a holiday now and then, and he invites the young graduates to look after his business interests for a month at £7 per week plus whatever they can collect. The piano is not just any old mobile mini; those who hear it find themselves dancing, even against their better judgment. On this gentle thread of story is strung a series of revue-type scenes providing rich opportunities for versatile comedy players who can also sing and dance.

The story of Salad Days begins in the precincts of a University, where a Tramp is trying out a new melody on a battered old street piano. (Opening Music), His musings are soon interrupted by the arrival of a gaggle of Dons who have come to bid farewell to two departing graduates, Jane and Timothy. (The Things That Are Done By a Done). The young couple are sad to leave the University, but determined to face uptothe future. (We Said We Wouldn't Look Back). Their future, however, is uncertain, as both are being harassed by their parents, she to find a suitable husband, he a suitable job, following in the footsteps of one of his influential uncles. His troubles usually begin at breakfast. (Find Yourself Something To Do).

The pair arrange to meet in a London park. As usual, Jane is on time, Timothy is not. (I Sit In the Sun). They discuss their future and decide it would simplify life to marry each other and take the first job that comes along. This proves easy, for the Tramp arrives wheeling the old piano, and offers them seven pounds a week to look after it for a month. On hearing the Tramp play it, they discover to their amazement that the piano produces in them an irresistable urge to dance. (Oh, Look at Me!).

Timothy temporarily appeases his parents by going to the Foreign Office to see his Uncle Clam (Hush-Hush), but he is soon back in the park with Jane and the piano (now christened 'Minnie'), eager to discover if it will make everyone else dance too. Indeed it does - from street urchins to policemen to Bishops! (Oh, Look at Me: Reprise). It is not long before the park is full of people exhausted from dancing to Minnie's tune. (Out of Breath).

An admirer of Jane's, Nigel, not knowing that she is now secretly married, invites her to a night-club called 'The Cleopatra' where they witness a somewhat unusual cabaret (Cleopatra and Sand In My Eyes). On leaving the club they meet up with Tim, and he and Jane persuade a reluctant Nigel to try out his singing voice. (It's Easy To Sing)

News of the piano's irregular activities reaches the ears of the fun-hating Minister of Pleasure and Pastime who threatens to suppress it. Tim and Jane decide to hide Minnie, but find to their dismay she is really lost. (We're Looking For a Piano).

Jane meets the Tramp again, who does not seem at all perturbed by the disappearance of the piano, and she is able to relax for a while to enjoy the summer and sunshine. (The Time of My Life). She and Timothy receive unexpected help in their search from Tim's Uncle Zed, a zany scientist who conveniently descends in his flying saucer and whisks them off for a bird's-eye view... (The Saucer Song).

Meanwhile their anxious mothers lament that they never know what their children are up to. (We Don't Understand Our Children).

The piano is found, but the month of guardianship is over, and Minnie must be handed on to the next young couple - Nigel and his newly found girl-friend Fiona. Nigel finds, to his surprised delight, he can play as well as sing. (Oh, Look at Me: Reprise).

It is hard for Tim and Jane to see the piano go, but, having each other, they are hopeful of a future as happy as the past. (We Said We Wouldn't Look Back: Reprise).

Julian Slade, London 1982

Major Roles
(showing the original doubling)

Jane. Timothy's mother/Heloise/Asphynxia.
Lady Raeburn/a cabaret dancer/Marguerite.
Fiona/ a beauty-parlour assistant/a shopgirl.
Aunt Prue/a manicurist/Rowena.
Timothy. Troppo, a mute.
The tramp/a bishop/a photographer.
Timothy's father/a Police Inspector/the Minister of Pleasure and Pastime/Ambrose.
Uncle Clamsby/a night-club manager/Uncle Zed.
Fosdyke/Nigel. P.C. Boot/Electrode.


The Scenes
A park backcloth or drapes can be used throughout. Other scenes are represented with simple cut-outs, insets or drop cloths, or played in front of running tabs.

Act I

The University grounds.
The breakfast-room at Timothy's home.
A London park.
A beauty parlour.
A room at the Foreign Office.
An office in Scotland Yard

Act II

A night club.
A park café terrace.
A dress shop.
The park.
A flying saucer

Musical Numbers:
The Things That Are Done By A Don - Company
We Said We Wouldn't Look Back - Jane and Timothy
Find YOurself Something To Do - Timothy's Father, Mother & Aunt Prue
I Sit In the Sun - Jane
Oh, Look At Me! - Jane & Timothy
Hush-Hush - Uncle Clam, Fosdyke & Timothy
Out Of Breath - Company
Cleopatra - The Manager
Sand In My Eyes - Asphynxia
It's Easy To Sing - Jane, Timothy & Nigel
We're Looking For a Piano - Company
The Time Of My Life - Jane & the Tramp
The Saucer Song - Uncle Zed, Jane & Timothy
We Don't Understand Our Children - Jane's Mother & Timothy's Mother
There is no special arrangement for two pianos. For productions accompanied in this way, both pianists should play from the published piano/vocal score, the second using it as the basis for improvisation to give added depth and colour. Scores for Double Bass and Drums are available on hire.

Source : Julian Slade, "The Salad Days"

Without the Internet , I definitely cannot write this article 39 years after I watched the play in Sibu. I have forgotten some of the names but in order to prevent any embarrassment, I am not writing personal remarks about any of the acting.

But Well Done to all of you who performed.

The Carousel - School Musical Play

We were then young and gay(before the word acquires a new meaning) and gave our best to the school musical produced by Mr. and Mrs. Watts and the other teachers of the English Section of the Methodist School These teachers also idealistic but intelligent and well educated young foeign teachers in the Methodist Secondary School. Our School then was divided into two sections: the Chinese and the English Sections or Departments.

Our play was a tremendous success as it was a great combined effort of staff and students, mainly from Form four upwards. There were more than 50 students involved.

The song, You Never Walk Alone, came from this musical. And somehow this song has been a part of my life since then.

As I write about this musical production I just cannot help but remember all my teachers (Mr. and Mrs. Watts, the late Mrs. Purnell, Mr. Funk, Mr. Wiltshire)and friends (Sheila Kang, Winnie Yii, Charles Yip, Hii King Lee,the late Cheng Hua Chuang, Maimunah Nazarene and so many others) Thanks for the memories. It was a gread show!! And it provided a great impetus for all of us to enjoy the arts for the rest of our life. How enriching it was.

Plot Synopsis:

Two young female millworkers in freshly industrialized 1870s New England visit the town's carousel after work. One of them — demure Julie Jordan — shares a lingering glance and is flirted with by the carousel's barker, Billy Bigelow (instrumental piece: "Carousel Waltz").

Mrs. Mullin, owner of the carousel, arrives and tells Julie never to return to the carousel because Julie let Billy put his arm around her during the ride. Julie's friend, Carrie Pipperidge, and Julie argue with Mrs. Mullin. Billy arrives and initially sides with Mrs. Mullin (who flirts with him outrageously) until he realizes that Mrs. Mullin is just jealous of Julie, at which point he switches sides and is fired from his job. Carrie presses Julie for information about the carousel ride with Billy, but Julie is reticent about the encounter ("You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan"). Eventually satisfied, Carrie confides that she has a beau of her own: local fisherman Enoch Snow ("Mister Snow").

Billy returns and makes it clear that only Julie should stay with him. Carrie leaves after revealing that, if they stay out, they will lose their jobs at the mill. Mr. Bascombe, owner of the mill, and a policeman appear and warn Julie that Billy has taken money from other women. Bascombe offers to take Julie home so she can keep her job, but she refuses and gets fired, too. She and Billy, now alone, can talk freely, but neither can quite confess the growing attraction they feel for each other ("If I Loved You").

A month passes. At a spa owned by Julie's cousin, Nettie Fowler, sailors appear with clams for the evening's clambake. They are noisy, which spurs Carrie and the other female townfolk to jeer at them (this section is sung as a sort of recitative, rather than spoken). Nettie arrives and, spotting the sexual tension, leads them all in celebrating love and spring. An elaborate dance ensues ("June Is Bustin' Out All Over"). The men leave as Julie, now married to Billy, arrives. (He and his whaler friend Jigger have been missing all night.) Nettie tells Carrie to comfort Julie.

To divert the other girls from their eavesdropping, Nettie then unsuccessfully encourages the girls to clean up. Julie confides in Carrie that Billy, now unemployed and living with Julie at Nettie's, is unhappy over the loss of his job and, out of frustration, has slapped Julie. Carrie also has happier news — she and Enoch are to be married. At this, the girls who have so far been feigning work, rush over, congratulate Carrie, and imagine the wedding day (reprise: "Mister Snow"). Enoch has arrived and startles the girls by joining them in song. The girls leave Julie, Carrie, and Enoch alone.

Carrie tries to converse with Julie and Enoch, but Julie's unhappiness overcomes her: she bursts into tears in Enoch's arms. As she pulls herself together, Billy arrives with Jigger. He is openly rude to Enoch and then Julie, and he soon leaves along with Jigger, followed by a distraught Julie. Left alone, Carrie and Enoch extol the virtues of a life plan. Enoch reveals how he expects both to become rich selling canned sardines and to have a large family with Carrie ("When The Children Are Asleep").

Meanwhile, Billy, Jigger, and other whalers sing of life on the sea ("Blow High, Blow Low"). The singing segues into a dance, with the local girls flirting with the whalers. Jigger tries to recruit Billy to help with a robbery, but Billy declines when Jigger tells him that the victim might have to be killed. Mrs. Mullin arrives and tries to tempt Billy back to the carousel (and to her), and he reveals he is unhappy with Julie. Julie arrives. There is almost an argument, but Mrs. Mullin leaves to go to the bank. Julie tells Billy of her pregnancy and they go inside. Mrs. Mullin and Jigger return and spar until Billy comes back out and tells Mrs. Mullin to leave. Overwhelmed with happiness by the news, and determined to provide financially for his future child, Billy decides to be Jigger's accomplice after all ("Soliloquy").

Act 1 ends with the whole town leaving for the clambake. Billy, who previously shunned the idea of going to the clambake, now realizes it is integral to his and Jigger's alibi: he decides to go too. Julie is delighted.

Act II
The act begins with the town reminiscing about the huge meal that they have just eaten ("This Was a Real Nice Clambake"). As everyone leaves to help clear up before the treasure hunt, Jigger tries to seduce Carrie. Unfortunately, Enoch walks in while Carrie is in a compromising position. He declares that he is finished with her ("Geraniums In The Winder"), as Jigger jeers ("Stonecutters Cut It On Stone"). The girls try to comfort Carrie, saying all men are bad; they urge Julie to leave Billy. Instead, Julie replies that you should stand by your man through thick and thin ("What's The Use Of Wondrin'?"). She sees Billy trying to sneak away with Jigger and, while trying to stop him, feels the knife hidden in his shirt. She begs him to give it to her, but he refuses and leaves to commit the robbery. Julie realizes that Billy is about to do something that may get him in trouble.

Jigger and Billy gamble, using cards. At stake is their shares of the anticipated robbery spoils. Billy loses his share of the expected proceeds: his participation is now pointless. Mr. Bascombe, the intended robbery victim, has already deposited the money he was expected to be carrying. He instead carries a gun. The robbery fails: Bascombe pulls his gun and starts shooting. Jigger escapes, but the police corner Billy. Billy stabs himself with his knife and dies; Julie arrives too late.

Carrie tells Julie that Billy's death is not necessarily a bad thing. Enoch gets back together with Carrie and supports this view. Mrs. Mullin arrives, much to the disgust of the townfolk, but Julie lets her view the body. Mrs. Mullin does so, then runs off weeping. Everyone leaves except Julie, and Nettie, who comforts Julie ("You'll Never Walk Alone").

Billy arrives at heaven's gate. There, a pair of blunt-spoken angels explain that, to enter, he must alleviate the distress he caused. Billy refuses to see a simple magistrate in Heaven: he demands to be taken directly to God to be judged ("The Highest Judge Of All"). The Starkeeper angel sends him back to earth. Stealing a star on the way down, he returns fifteen years after his suicide. His daughter, Louise, is now an angry and rebellious teen, mocked by Mr. Snow's snobbish and wealthy children because her father was a thief (instrumental: "Louise's Ballet").

Enoch and his children stop by Julie's house to pick up Carrie on the way to the graduation, and Enoch's son (Enoch Jr.) waits behind to talk to Louise. Louise reveals she plans to run away from home with a carnival troupe she met. But when Enoch Jr. proposes, she decides to stay. He reveals, however, that his father would not think Louise an appropriate match. Insulted, Louise orders him to leave and bursts into tears.

Billy, able to make himself visible or invisible at will, reveals himself to Louise; he pretends to be a friend of her father. Trying to cheer her up, he offers her a small gift — the star he stole from Heaven. She refuses it and, frustrated, he slaps her. As he makes himself invisible, Louise tells Julie what has happened. She reveals that the slap miraculously felt like a kiss, not a blow. Without allowing her to actually see him, Billy finally confesses his love to Julie (reprise: "If I Loved You"). Having thus made amends, he invisibly attends Louise's high-school graduation. The whole town shuns her and refuses to applaud her. Dr. Seldon, who strangely resembles the Starkeeper, tells the graduating class not to rely on their parents' success (advice directed at Enoch Jr.) or be held back by their parents' mistakes (directed at Louise). Seldon then leads everyone in a final chorus (reprise: "You'll Never Walk Alone"). Billy, still invisible, whispers to Louise, telling her to have confidence in herself. His silent words enter her mind and, inspired, she -- along with Julie -- joins the singing. This good deed redeems Billy, who wins entry into Heaven.

Note: The graduation scene is a complete departure from Molnar's Liliom, in which Liliom is presumably condemned to Hell after slapping his daughter (even though, in Molnar's play, the slap also feels like a kiss).

(Notes from Wikipedia)

The Gypsy Baron : Maimunah Nazarene as Saffi

1968, the Methodist School produced another successful musical,"The Gypsy Baron".

The school was abuzzed with activity and many students were starry eyed. It was both a great extra mural activity and at the same time, a social activity which helped many students mature in more way than they thought they could.

Although I did not play a role in the play, I was greatly aware of what was going on and did enjoy the play. Most of the actors and actresses were from the lower Sixth and Fourth Form, leaving out the examination classes although a few of the better singers from the examination classes were involved. Mr and Mrs. Watts,Mr and Mrs David Johnson and Mr. Wiltshire, Mrs. Purnell, Catherine Purnell, Maimunah Nazarene, the prettiest girl in school at that time, and a few other "star" students were important members of the play.

It was really an amazing feat. And most students remember the play until today. It was an unforgettable school experience and I am glad that so many of my friends had a chance to perform.

The summary of the play:

Set in Hungary in the 18th century, this is the colourful story of the marriage of a landowner (returned from exile) and a gypsy girl who is revealed as the daughter of a Turkish Pasha, and the rightful owner of a hidden treasure. It involves a fortune-telling Romany Queen, an absurdly self-important Mayor, a rascally Commissioner, a Military Governor, a band of Gypsies and a troop of Hussars.

Act I
The Act begins at a swampy riverside region near the Hungarian village of Banat in the Temeşvar Province. The distant scene is dominated by a derelict castle. In the foreground is a partly deserted village with only one reasonably prosperous-looking house. In a particularly disreputable hut there lives an old gypsy woman named Czipra. The boatmen can be heard singing at their work. Ottokár, son of Mirabella who is governess to Arsena (daughter of a miserly old farmer Zsupán) is digging for treasure which he fondly believes to be buried somewhere around. This is his daily routine which, the more he looks without success, the worse becomes his temper. Czipra looks out of her window and makes fun of his efforts. She has been watching him for weeks and has a low opinion of his time-wasting while the other Gypsies are out doing an "honest" day's work. She tells him that if he continues with this fruitless quest, he will end up penniless and never marry, as he hopes, the fair Arsena.

Sándor Barinkay, son of the late owner of the castle, arrives accompanied by Conte Carnero, Commissioner for Oaths, who is here to sort things out for him. The Commissioner suggests they get on with the job and call on Czipra as a witness. They send for Zsupán. In the meantime he tells Barinkay of the beautiful Arsena. To pass time Czipra tells their fortunes and reveals to Sándor Barinkay that there is happiness and fortune in store for him. He will marry a faithful wife who will, in a dream, discover where the treasure is hidden. Carnero is also told that he will recover a treasure that he has lost, which leaves him slightly puzzled as he cannot remember having had one.

Zsupán arrives and tells everyone that he is a highly successful pig-breeder adding that he lives for sausages and wine and has little time for art. He agrees to witness Barinkay's claims but warns him that he can be a contentious neighbour. Barinkay suggests that he might marry Zsupán's daughter and Arsena is sent for. But it is Mirabella, the governess, who first appears. It seems that she is Carnero's long-lost wife, so part of Czipra's prediction is immediately realised. Carnero shows little sign of delight and a rather joyless reunion takes place. Mirabella says that she had believed her husband to have been killed at the Battle of Belgrade.

Arsena arrives, heavily veiled, but though the chorus hail the bride-elect she is not so co-operative. She is in love with Ottokár. Barinkay makes a formal proposal but Arsena tells him that she is descended from the aristocracy and can only marry someone of noble birth. Zsupán and the others tell Barinkay that he must do something about this. He is left brooding but hears a gypsy girl singing a song which praises the loyalty of the Gypsies to their friends. It is Saffi, daughter of Czipra, and Barinkay is immediately attracted by her dark beauty and accepts an invitation to dine with her and Czipra. Unaware of the others watching, Ottokár meets Arsena and they vow their eternal love for each other. He gives her a locket at which point Barinkay pretends to be most indignant. The Gypsies return from their work and Czipra introduces Barinkay as their new local squire. They elect him chief of the Gypsies. Now affirmed as a gypsy baron he calls on Zsupán and asserts his noble right of the hand of Arsena. Zsupán is not all that impressed. Saffi welcomes Barinkay back to his inheritance. Ever the opportunist, Barinkay now says that he would like to marry Saffi who is as delighted as her gypsy friends. Zsupán and Arsena are now rather indignant at this turn of events and threaten reprisals.

Act 2
The castle at dawn the following day. Czipra reveals to Barinkay that Saffi has dreamed of the location of the treasure. They start to search and find it hidden, as she has dreamed, under a nearby rock. As they depart the Gypsies arise to start their day's work. Zsupán appears and tells them that his cart has stuck in the mud. He orders the Gypsies to come and help him. They resent his order and steal his watch and money. His cries for help bring Carnero, Mirabella, Ottokár and Arsena on the scene, followed by Barinkay, now dressed as a gypsy baron, and Saffi. Barinkay introduces Saffi as his wife but Carnero is not satisfied that all the legal requirements have been met. They tell him the stars have guided them and the birds have witnessed their vows. This is not quite what the law demands and Mirabella and Zsupán adopt a highly moral tone about the whole affair. At this point Ottokár discovers a few of the gold coins that Barinkay has left behind and is highly excited. Barinkay soon disillusions him by telling him that the treasure has already been found. At this moment, a recruiting party arrives under the command of one of Barinkay's old friend, Count Peter Homonay. He is looking for recruits to fight in the war against Spain. Zsupán and Ottokár are press-ganged into the army. Carnero calls on Homonay to give his official support to the view that Barinkay and Saffi's marriage is illegal but Homonay supports Barinkay. Further complications, however, are revealed. Czipra tells them that Saffi is not really her daughter but the child of the last Pasha of Hungary, a real princess. Barinkay is once more deflated realising that he cannot marry anyone of such exalted rank, though Saffi says that she will always love him. Barinkay decides that he too will join the Hussars and the men march away leaving behind three broken hearted ladies.

Act 3
All of the cast were celebrating in Vienna after a victorious battle. Zsupán appears and tells of his own, somewhat inglorious, exploits in Spain. Homonay, Barinkay and Ottokár reveal that they are heroes of battle and have been made into genuine noblemen. There is now no objection to the marriage of Saffi and Barinkay or Ottokár and Arsena. It was a truly happy ending.

Principal characters
Count Peter Homonay, Governor of Temesvár Province
Conte Carnero, Royal Commissioner
Sándor Barinkay, a young exile
Kálmán Zsupán, a wealthy pig farmer of the Bánát district
Arsena, his daughter
Mirabella, governess to Zsupán's daughter
Ottokár, her son
Czipra, a gipsy woman
Sáffi, a gipsy girl
Pali, Józsi, Ferkó, Mihály, Jancsi, gipsies
The Mayor of Vienna
Seppl, a link boy
Miksa, a boatman
Irma, Tercsi, Aranka, Katicza, Juleska, Etelka, Jolán, Ilka, Arsena's friends
István, Zsupán's servant

Based on original text by Peter Kemp, The Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain. Used with permission.

Retrieved from ""

Sunday, April 13, 2008

50th Anniversary Wesley Church Programme

Program Schedules & Meal Arrangements for Guests

29/04 Tues Arrival of Guests Mrs. Wong B.S.(321064)(New Capitol)

30/04 Wed Visit to SCAC office (332707) & other Methodist Institutions Lunch at nearby coffee house.
Methodist Message (333021)(/Archives/Museum
Welcoming Dinner at Tanahmas Hotel

01/05 Thurs Trip to see WMC Longhouse ministry Rumah Tuan
Worship service together with residents from Rumah Siba , Rumah Selaban etc. Own Arrangement (Chris Tomlinson w. BB.)

02/05 Fri Visit to SMK Methodist
10:30 am 12:00 pm Lunch at SMK Methodist (330414)
Free Time/High Tea at Judy ‘s house( re-enactment of CNY visit) Praise Night

03/05 Sat Forum: “Reminiscing the Past, Reflecting the Present, Reckoning the Future”
1:00 pm Lunch (Host: John Tiong)
Free Time Inspection of BB Guard-of -Honor
6 p.m.Thanksgiving Dinner

04/05 Sun 50th Anniversary. Thanksgiving Services
5 p.m. service
6:00 Open of WMC Archives center
Dinner at MPI Cafeteria [guests + LCEC + Anniv Committee]
Hospitality CommitteeMrs. Wong B.S. 321064Patrick YekTing Kee Chiong

Update on Wesley Church, Sibu

WMC 50TH Anniversary Celebration
Theme: Wesley Golden Jubilee: To God be the Glory

A series of activities will be held from 30th April to 4th May at Wesley Church, Sibu!!

Watch this space!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Lau King Howe Hospital - a brief history

This is an early photo of the Lau King Howe Hospital of Sibu. Later it expanded to become a bigger hospital. But in the 80's the Sibu General Hospital was built in Oya Road and this hospital which saved many lives slowly disappeared into oblivion and disuse. Only a small part of the building is left to become a mini museum. A huge piece of the original land has been used up for urban development of Sibu.

This is a portrait of Lau King Howe who donated a large part of his own money to build a modern for his beloved people of Sibu with the help of Rev. J. Hoover and Rev. Ling Kai Cheng. A few years after his hospital was built he went back to China where he soon departed from this life.

The Methodist Mission has indeed been attributed for a very solid initial development of Sibu since 1901.

It built more than 41 churches and as many schools from 1901 to 1960.

But one of the most significant contributions is the innovative idea of getting a modern western hospital built with money mainly donated by Dr. Lau King Howe. The idea came from none other than Lau King Howe himself.

Dr. Lau King Howe should be considered a legend to all the Foochow settlers and their descendents in Sibu. Obliterating him from our written history can be considered akin to a historical crime. So efforts to commemorate his contribution and the worthiness of a modern first hospital in Sibu should be commended.

Lau King Howe was born in Fuzhou City and studied at the Fuzhou Anglo Chinese College. He was trained at the Manila Teachers' TRaining College, Manila, The Philippines. He soon became the Principal of a Chinese school in Manila. But after a few years he returned to China and was Secretary General of Szechuan Inland Transport Department. Later he was an entrepreneur in Shanghai.

Lau King Howe came to Sibu in 1915 to help develop the rubber plantation activities. He was a very committed Christian and had a father who was a Methodist pastor. Coming from a very Christian family background, he was touched when he saw the great medical needs of the people of Sibu. He was very burdened with the high mortality rate of the Sibu Foochows at that time. So he apporached Rev. Hoover , who was head of the Methodist Mission at that time, to discuss the possibility of setting up a fund for a hospital and to get a grant of land from the Government. Reverend Hoover had the ear of the Rajah. Lau King Howe and Rev Hoover approached the Resident C.D. Adams first. The Resident was happy to forward the appeal and consulted with the Rajah immediately. The Rajah's secretary, T.C. Swayne wrote to the Methodist Mission that the Rajah agreed with the project and the hospital was also to be named "Lau King Howe Hospital".

On 7th March 1931 (in the words of Rev Ling Kai Cheng, "50 Years in Reminiscence" written in Chinese, 1965)

"The Resident of Sibu, Adams, Lau King Howe, Rev. Hoover and Rev Ling Kai Cheng, witnessed laying of the foundation stone for the new hospital. By 1936,the concrete and steel structured hospital was finally declared opened with maternity ward, children's ward, First Class, Second Class and Ordinary Class Wards." There were also outpatient ward, nurses' hostels ,etc. Lau King Howe was indeed a great philanthropist!"

"In May 1936, Lau King Howe returned to China to live the life of a retired gentleman scholar and finally passed away a few years later."

For many years the Sibu community did not do much about the abandoned hospital building after the Sibu hospital was moved to Oya Road. Recently,the local branch of the Malaysian Medical Association has decided to renovate the old and very diminished building as a museum " designed to remember, perpetuate and propogate the spirit of Lau King Howe, his sincerety, benevolence, generosity and his profound love for the sick, poor and disadvantaged."

Like any other person from Sibu, with a love for our ancestry, I definitely wish to support in spirit this new endeavour. Heroic actions, great teachings,legends, great acts of philanthrophy should not ever be erased - these are the basic teachings of the Chinese civilization.

Note: On Aug 31, 1994, when the new government hospital at Oya Road was completed and began operations, Lau King Howe Hospital ceased operations.

The Methodist Mission continued to be instrumental in upgrading the quality of lives of the settlers of Sibu and the people of its vicinity. In the 50's and 60's before the Malaysian Government took over all medical treatments, clinics and hospitals, the Methodist Mission actually operated clinics in Tulai, Bukit Lan, Nanga Mujong,Sg. Teku and a huge hospital in Kapit, called the Christ Hospital at Pantu which started operation in 1960 and had a great reputation as a spiritual and medical healing centre, again a first in Sarawak. The Methodist Mission also sponsored medical scholarships for quite a number of doctors and nurses, sending them to Hong Kong, Australia and the UK.

What's in a name?

A name is probably the only thing a humble person is proud of. What else does he have?

The Malay saying goes like this,

When a tiger dies, he leaves behind his stripes,
when a man dies, he leaves behind his name(or reputation).

As a teacher I have collected some "fantastic names" and in fact went further by asking for the history of their names. Most said that it has been the fault of the "registrar" of births for spelling their names wrongly. I wonder if the clerks of these esteemed offices should have lessons on sensitivy and spelling in English and Bahasa Malaysia.

Although many people can derive a lot of misplaced laughter when calling out these names, my children and I feel great sorrow that these persons have to carry the burden of "bad names" for the rest of their lives, or until they could afford to have a statutory change of name. Some don't bother as an alias would not erase their original name. Some just keep their IC or Birth Certificate and use a pseudonym or non de plume. It is a pity that someone at the beginning of their life did not consider the happiness of the child - he has to have pride to bear a wonderful name.

Here is a list of names you can come across in Sarawak :

1. Anus - for Agnes
2. Vargina - for Virginia
3. Penes - for Payne
4. Chow Chee Bai - ??
5. Suck Fun - for Suk Feng or Suok Hoon
6. Jetli for Jetti (The Ibans do not have Jetli - many years later, this friend of mine said that he is indeed the original Jet Li)
7. Gorila for Gloria
8. Teemoti - Timothy
9. Robiat, Robat for Robert
10. Laman for Rahman
11. Memet - for Mohamad
12. Mek - for Mick or Mack
13. Senapang - Stephanie
14. Spoon for Alphonso (you find him in Kanowit)
15. Chillies - for Charles
16. Chua Sii Lang - for Chua Su Lan (poor spelling)
17. Lim Sii Meh - for Ling Sze Mei ( fourth sister)
18. Timpang - for Timbang ( Ibans like this name but the spelling was wrong giving the child a bad name)
19. X Bo Hong - for X Bao Fen (her classmates used to chant bohong bohong all the time in primary school)
20. Luxi or Lusi, or Lazy for a simple name Lucy.

21. And the latest - the boy is now applying for a place in the Maktab - his father 19 years ago wanted to name him after Arnold Schwarzanagger ( try spelling that too) but the registrar wrote Schanzer anak J......well Schanzer has to live with his name.

He has often times added Samuel which every on can spell....but ... one of his teachers wrote Sam Mu Er......(called him Wooden Ears...), after which he gave up his Samuel too...Life is not treating him fair. He told me that if and when he takes up his course on Remedial Teaching of English or Bahasa Malaysia, he will teach Spelling.

The list can go on an on. Readers I am sure you can contribute too. The poor illiterate father did not know better.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sing Kong Chui

In the UK children,in the olden days, were given castor oil for tummy upset. In Venezuela,even until today, two tablespoons of olive oil will get rid of a big flu. Some children in the ulu (upriver regions) in Sarawak are given a rub of pure coconut oil with ginger for any simple ailments like headaches,and stomach upsets. Old wives' cures are amazing but they have for some reasons, have indeed brought up generations of healthy children.

In Sarawak,until today, the Foochows probably swear on Sing Kong Chui (literally , the Power Drink of the Gods) more than any other cure.

Every student from Sibu going overseas to study would pack a dozen or two of this liquid into his bag as a cushion against any illness. I took quite a bit to my university and this bottled medicine truly helped friends who had stomach ache in the middle of the night. It used to be 15 cents a bottle. And if we returned the bottles to the drug store, Poh Guan Hong, in Sibu, we could get a discount for the medicine. My family actually painstakingly collected the bottles for the exchange. This reduced quite a bit of our expenditure on this special and delightful medication. Thus Ting Ung Kee, the originator of this potion had a very good marketing strategy even in those days.

Anyone having stomach upset, or headache could be relieved by just one bottle or two of this miracle cure.

I brought my children up to like it and probably saved several expensive trips to the western doctors.

Small ailments? Just look for Sing Kong Chui. What exactly is in the small bottle of wonder potion that can relieve so much discomfort and make a child smile again? What is it that I feel cool and comfortable after taking a bottle or two of it for a nausea or heartburn? Its effects can be almost immediate. Therefore most of us even carry a bottle of it in our handbag.

Ubat Sakit Perut Cap Rusa, Sing Kong Chui was the brain child of Ting Ung Kee, one of the foremost Chinese Traditional Doctors of Sibu days from the 1950's until 1990's.

Today, Dr. Ting's grandchildren are looking after the enterprise. They own a factory in Sungei Antu. The price of each bottle has gone up to RM1.50 from a mere 30 cents in the 60's and 15 cents in the 50's.

Some of its contents:

Radix saussureae (100mg)
Radux Gentianae (100mg)
Cortex cinnamomi
Caryophyllio Flos
Folium Perillae
Herba Agastachis
Myristicae Semen
Fructus Chebulae
Fructus Anise Stellati
Herba Elsholtziae
Radix Glycyrrhizae
Herba Schizonepetae
water (10 ml)

Its instruction on the unique bottle is that this potion is for cold, flu,getting rid of wind, relief pain and relief of simple ailments It is also recommended for stomach ache, indigestion and heartburn.

It is a good cure. I never fail to have stock of it in my first aid kit.

I would like to show our appreciation to Dr. Ting Ung Kee for his contribution to the health of so many Foochows of Sibu.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Archer Road or Just "Achar Lok"?

Growing up in Sibu, one just cannot help but read English names with a Hokkien or a Foochow or a Malay accent. Very few would read/say the word "Archer" quite that well phonetically. We simply said, "The Methodist Girls' Hostel is situated along Achar Lok." A lot of boys used to hang out at the little playground, which has now been swallowed by a huge government building, just to catch a glimpse of the Methodist girls walking back to their hostel. And the Methodist Lady Teachers' Apartment Block was also situated along Archer Road.

With Borneo Post already carrying a very good column on the people behind the road names, I would like to give my humble take on Mr. John Beville Archer 1893-1948.

Like most Colonial officers, JB Archer came to the east as a young man. He started as a cadet in the Sarawak Administrative Service at the age of 19, in 1912. His last held post was that of Chief Secretary of Sarawak in 1939.

Born in 1893, in the UK.He attended Victorial College, jhersey and H.M.S.Worcester.
Extremely tall at six feet and dark haired,he was a disciplined administrator. According to Poritt, he placed a notice on his desk, " DO IT NOW".

On record, he was engaged by the second Rajah who was visiting England at the time. Obviously the Rajah was impressed by Archer's love for riding and hunting.

His first posting was Sibu, but his real training was in Oya and Mukah. He actually become an authority on Melanau culture and customs. Having served in these places for ten years, he was transferred back to Kuching where was served as Acting Editor of the Sarawak Gazette. He was appointed a District officer in 1925. A District Officer at that time was powerful. In 1930 he was made Resident of Second Division. He also served for a while as the Resident of Fourth Division.

Asun actually surrendered to him in person in Simanggang.

During the Japanese Occupation he was interned with many others at the Batu Lintang Camp. He suffered the usual tortures but he survived by working very hard.

After the war, he volunteered to stay in Kuching. He was made the Political Adviser to the British Borneo Civil Affairs Unit. In 1946, the Rajah appointed him Chief Secretary. It was a difficult task for him because he did not agree to the cesssion of Sarawak to the Colonial Office and yet he had to cast his vote in favour of it as President of the Council Negri. He became ill after that and finally took his own life.

He had been a dedicated administrative officer in all respects. And probably towards the end, he saw changes which could not be considered reasonable to his state of mind at that time as he was already quite ill. Probably when he laid down all his cards, he saw that there was really nothing left for him in a country which he had loved so much. And going back to England could also mean a life of loneliness and most probable oblivion.

In Sibu, the Third Division he loved so much, a road bears his name, Archer Road.

Reference : Porritt,Vic. "Optimist Fiddler - JB Archer,1893-1948", Sarawak Gazette , June 1995 Issue.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Memories of the Old Sibu Airport

From the 50's to the 90's the Sibu Airport was at the end of the Airport Road. And beyond that was Sg. Teku and Sg. Aup. When I was young, the highlight of my social life was going to the airport to send relatives off or to welcome them. At moments like this the whole airport was just filled up with my extended family. Every one was a Tiong. The Tiong Family. It made me so proud of my grandfather who was a real partriarch to all of us. Every breath he had was important to us. All the uncles and aunties were very cultured and educated people in the eyes of all of us little ones.

About ten taxis served the airport and the airport was literally only 60ft by 60 ft, a measure not many people can believe in. The MAS officers actually could be seen working in the non air conditioned office. All luggage was moved manually, and even the trolley was pushed by one man.

Apart from family memories, on particular memory associated with the Old Sibu Airport was Ah Bee, the coffee shop operator of the airport. His coffee was excellent and he sold a few Malay cakes, especially Pulut Pangang. And on each of his coffee tables were a few hardboiled eggs, some bottles of ground pepper, soy sauce and tomato sauce.

Ah Bee was a very cheerful kind of guy. He was a Heng Hua, and superbly friendly. I used to watch him chat with any one, important and unimportant people alike. And generally speaking, there were not many VIPs in those days. He had a great deal of respect for people like my father and I believed that he used to get some counselling from my father who was a good listener and a big brother to most of the Heng Huas in Sungei Merah where he grew up. the two would lower their tones and I knew that I was not supposed to eavesdrop. So I would just wander away from them.

Those were the days when queuing was not mandatory. So a foreigner or a local person who was used to more orderly system elsewhere would have been fazed and frazzled by the disorderliness at the Sibu airport. Quite often I heard that some one did not bother about being on the waiting list. And he got priority treatment because "he knew someone". However, that was just part of the colourful life of Sibu at that time.

And then characteristically I remember, below each of the coffee table was a China made, enamel, floral spittoon. This spittoon was rather useful I suppose at that time - for cigarette butts, spitum, and even for people who suffer from airsickness to empty themselves.

Another interesting feature of the airport then was the presence once in a while of some shapely small waisted ladies who wore sun shades and sporting very bright red lipsticks. Characteristically, they would be having beer at a special coffee table nearest the viewing windows of the airport. Sometimes they did make a racket. And mothers would warn their children not to look at them.

And I remember some of the nightclub managers would hang out waiting for their Taiwan singers to arrive.

Any important person coming? You would know immediately because the local journalist, Ngu Ne Soon and his friends would be there. The airport was so small that you would know the story of the day within minutres from the mouths of the taxi drivers and even Ah Bee. We used to say that the latest news often can be obtained at the Sibu Airport.

As for me, the old airport evokes good feelings of family members going overseas to study, going away for their honey moon, or our uncles and aunties coming come for a visit. Then the whole airport would be filled with just our family members.

Happiness was welcoming a loved one home. Happiness was also bidding farewell to a dear one embarking on a journey of learning.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Eating Mee Sua Getting Blessing for a Safe Journey

My maternal Grandmother Tiong Lien Tie was a tiny China born Foochow woman with tiny feet (smaller than size 3) as she had her feet bound before she was "sold" to my grand Uncle Lau Kah Tii at the age of five. Her child bride price was 5 silver dollars. When she was brought out to Sibu, she herself decided to have her feet unbound, and surprisingly her feet flattened out but they were terribly small and dainty. That's the first thing anyone would notice whenever they met her for the first time in Sibu. Most women had big feet.

So legend has it that women with small feet had good fate.

My extended family on both sides can be considered as huge. But traditions and values were definitely learned and relearned with umpteen telling and retelling of stories. And for, my siblings, cousins and I are eternally grateful that we have a grandmother who was very intelligent, very vocal and very entertaining. She was in our little eyes an authority on performing arts (movies) and Chinese stories. She could hold our attention for hours in the evenings. I do not think any teacher in any classroom today can beat her tantalising tale telling skills.

Grandma's cooking is the best. And every generation says that. And I say that too.
But what is more important, each meal would come with relevant tales. We were never bored. The meal became more tasty too.

At her table we learned that mee sua was also called "Longevity Noodle". She did not cut the noodles but let them remain as long as possible. And she would show us her chopstick skill of pulling more than three feet of noodles from the bowls. And she was barely five feet tall herself. Perhaps a bit of exaggeration there.

Because the long noodles symbolize longevity, the noodle, even today, is a must-have at every birthday banquet.

Because we lived in a huge house with four families I had experiences of eating Longevity Noodle made by my grandmother when male cousins were born.Eating these noodles would mean that we were wishing new born baby boy a long live. Although this custom is not really followed by affluent Foochows who may favour a grand banquet in a restaurant, without even serving the very old fashioned mee sua, today, some Foochows still do it graciously when relatives come a-visiting to "see" the new baby,be it a boy or a girl.

We in the new generation may have forgotten the old ritual that a piece of noodle has to be swallowed without cutting either by mouth or using a pair of chopsticks. We can actually smile or even laugh out loud when small children cut up their long noodles with their western cutlery. Have you ever tried eating the longevity noodles with fork and spoon? It can be quite hard going.

Amongst the non Christian Foochows, a bowl of longevity noodles might be used to worship the dead spirits , display in tombs, during the tomb sweeping besides the popular steamed chicken and fruits.

For most Foochow families, eating the noodle also represents showing of respect for the elderly. According to a popular story, Emperor Wang became immortal on the day of Winter Solstice in the Han Dynasty. Since then, the noodle, also named "Winter Solstice Noodle," has been consumed every Winter Solstice Day to symbolize respect for the elderly.

But for my family, it started with my grandmother telling each of her children that a good send off and blessing for journey mercy was the eating of a bowl of mee sua, filled with one drumstick and one or two hard boiled eggs, dried mushrooms and a few drops of fragrant and sweet Foochow Red Win. Every one going away from the family for further studies would be blessed with such a bowl of mee sua.

As there were many members in the family, we did not get the drumstick all the time. The elders would be given the drumsticks first. Any one having a birthday would also be given the drumstick. We were trained not to ask for the drumstick or even pick on for ourselves. This was the respect we gave to our elders.

So when we embarked on our journey of learning, our gift from our mother would be that special bowl of mee sua, filled with all the goodness that we had always dreamed of. Perhaps it was our special training to be future oriented from young.

A few hours before one's journey,a bowl of mee sua filled with good chicken (free range) soup, a drumstick, dried mushrooms, and one or two hardboil eggs continue to be a symbol of mother's love and the family's blessing for the traveller.

You cannot forget easily the blessings from your family.

Twin Otters in the Skies of Sarawak

"The Twin Otter is the safest plane in the world," Captain Yap told my children and I as we listened to him with rapt attention. Capt Yap had flown more than twenty years and thousands of hours in the skies of Sarawak. At a young age, he married a great Foochow girl from Sibu. And from Truth Lane* (Chin Li Duo in Foochow) too. How small our world can be.

Why Twin? This Canadian success has a twin engine and was a spin off from a bush plane. The two engines offer increased passenger safety and confidence.

De Havilland (Canadian company) had realized as early as the mid fifties that the Otter needed to be replaced by a twin engine craft for safety reasons and for payload increase, but they were reluctant to part with any of the STOL qualities that made the plane successful with bush operators. They had to wait for suitable engines to be developed, and with the appearance of the 500 shp Pratt and Whitney propeller turbine from United Aircraft of Canada in the late '50s, the idea became more feasible. The new Twin Otter was first test flown in 1965 on May 20th, 1965, by Robert Fowler and A. Saunders. Deliveries began in 1966, and production continued for 22 years and through three production versions.

The Twin Otter can be found around the world in jungles, deserts, mountains, the Arctic, and anywhere where rugged reliability and short-take-off-and-landing capability were required. Twin Otters could be fitted with wheels, skis or floats, and in the Arctic, they're sometimes flown on "tundra tires" -- huge, low-pressure balloon-tires that can operate on and off soft, boggy ground. Its versatility is demonstrated by the fact that the largest fleets assembled were in tropical Indonesia where 19 planes flew for the Merpati Nusantara Airlines, and in frigid Norway where 12 airplanes serviced remote strips on the North Coast. It was well liked both by operators and passengers, the former for the easy maintenance offered by its fixed undercarriage, and the latter with the short, easy and anxiety-free landings.

In a report, it is stated that the timeless Twin Otters continue to be bought and sold today, with resale values twentyfold that of their original price tags. It is not only a Canadian success story but an international one.

Today Sibu can be reached by land, sea and air and it is developing into quite a tourist centre, fifty years after Sarawak gained its independence from the British Rule. In order to fly to small towns, the Rural Air Service of Sarawak provides an important service to the rural people of the state and reduce some of their difficulties. The Twin Otters are their carriers for this significant and heart warming service.

If we fly for example from Sibu to Marudi, which is considered a rural air route, we will be flying alongside the amazing, attractive,smiling and friendly rural indigenous people of Sarawak who might be wearing their head bands with beads. Packed into the Twin Otter, which can deliver 19 people, the passengers can safely land in a small air strip like Ba Kelalan too, another rural air hub and tourist destination.

Furthermore it is good for short journeys. But I don't understand why it is only for the rural air service in Sarawak. I was once in a Twin Otter and I considered it my most romantic and beautiful air ride.The plane simply glided over (just barely inches actually) coconut palms and then all of a sudden the plane landed neatly at the Mukah airport. I saw the beautiful glittering sea and the lovely isolated kampong houses. The sago palms looked just so neat,green and pretty below! Life was full of simple fun at that time because we could just buy a ticket at the old Sibu airport and then fly to Mukah at a moment's notice.

What was really unique was that you have to be weighed too. A special scale was used for people and then your luggage would be weighed by another scale. I have even heard several years ago that a bag of sugar would go first to Bario, an important air strip, before a passenger. If there were no seat available, the passenger had to wait for the next flight. Sugar was an important commodity in those days to the rural people. I am wondering if this is still happening. Perhaps there should be a special cargo plane for Bario now that Datuk Idris Jala is CEO of MAS.

I was always impressed by the patience of the MAS counter attendants who took special care of their rural passengers,and they were indeed humourous about every item of the luggage of the passengers, including a few prized fighting cocks, a small monkey or even a goose. Most Foochows would travel with a bag of goodies pressed into their hands by warm hearted relatives. Inside the plane,w hich might be very hot, the passengers would take out their snacks, drinks and whatever, and might even share them with their fellow passengers!!

I have flown with an old illiterate Hakka woman who insisted that I must eat her dumplings,between hand gestures and the horrible Foochow - Hakka, if there is such a generic dialect, that I spoke. On another occasion I sat next to an old Iban soldier who showed me his tattoo and his new leather boots. In Marudi, in 1974, my friend from Sibu, waited for me right at the door of the plane!! It was such a warm welcome which I would never forget in my life. Taking a flight in a Twin Otter may give you a sense of a time warp. You might feel that you are frozen in a special time period in history. It could be just 1950 or 1960. So deja vu. Always on a Twin Otter.

A few years ago,I was on another rural air flight,when a student/friend waved good bye to me and tapped the window of the plane before the Twin Otter engine started!! I put my hand on the window pane and he humourously placed his hand there too.As our plane taxied away, I caught a glimpse of him cycling away and then giving me the last wave. I had mentored him well in the traits of a good hearted teacher. Very high EQ and SQ. But this kind of life experience can only happen in a small rural town, with people with golden hearts, and perhaps with a Twin Otter!

If all air travel can be as simple and interesting as the Twin Otter it can be really a dream! If I had a fortune, I would travel in the Twin Otter to the ends of the world.

Live simply, so others could simply live.

* Truth Road or Truth Lane used to be a lively road /lane(?) which was opposite the Sibu Post Office and sort of behind the Police Office along Kampong Nyabor Road. I have a feeling that it is all gone due to the development of big shop houses in that area. One of the first piano teachers of Sibu had her piano teaching classes in a wooden house there. The road was called Truth Road because a small Christian Church called the Truth Church was sited there. I often wonder what happened to that church.

The Forts the Brookes Built

the Fort of Limbang

Fort Sylvia, Kapit

Fort Alice (Photo by Fredy)

(In case you are confused, I am using the historical and original "Divisions" to categorise the various forts , I hope I can be pardoned for this considerable misinterpretation of the present day official divisions. I hope I can resolve this personal problem of historical "reckoning" in the future.)

1842 - For quelling a revolt for the Sultan of Brunei and a rent of 500 pounds Sterling, James Brooke was able to establish a white kingdom in Borneo. No "soldier of fortune" in world history was more successful than him. His family ruled Sarawak for three generations. Brooke rule officially ended in 1946. It can be said that Sarawak had the most unique rulers ,for a period of 105 years, in the world.

An interesting legacy left by the Brookes are the small, to a certain degree, white forts which dot the length of Sarawak in every division they established. On record, the Brookes built 15 forts altogether. Today, they are but dimunitive remnants, when compared to the gigantic buildings of the new era, of the Brooke rule. But nevertheless,they are interesting and a sort of heritage which beckon both the local and foreign tourists.

Very much the feudal lord, Brooke's idea of protection was the contruction of forts and the establishment of a small army manned by local people and some Sepoys (Indians).

(Although my b.l.o.g covers only Sibu in general and the Foochow people specifically, this article needs to include all the forts in Sarawak.)

First Division

Fort Margherita, named after Ranee Margaret, the wife of Charles, the second Rajah, was built about a mile downriver from the Istana. The fort started its contruction in 1878 and was completed in 1879, by which time the Brookes had consolidated their rule to the extent that defenses were no longer necessary around Kuching.

In olden days, sentries were stationed at the triple storey watchtowers to keep watch over long stretches of the river and discouraged hostile approaches via the river.

The fort was well constructed with narrow windows and a courtyard surrounded by a high wall inlaid with sharp glass shards.

According to various history books, executions were carried out in the fort courtyard. The Brooke rule then encouraged local executions with keris, inserted through the right shoulder and then driven diagonally towards the heart. But in
1889, six men were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. This number proved too much for the executioner to handle and thus the sentence was carried out for the first time by the Sarawak Rangers firing squad. Hanging became the method of choice after the Japanese Occupation. In the late 60's, the fort was converted into a Police Museum.

Second Division

Betong 's Fort Lily was built in 1858.

Sri Aman's Fort Alice was complted in 1864. After defeating the most famous Iban chieftain, Rentap, in 1861, Rajah Charles Brooke built the fort as a defensive structure controlling the Lupar River. It was built entirely of ‘belian’ (ironwood) timber with thick walls to withstand attacks. All of the original structure remains mostly intact. According to a recent report, it will soon be restored,after which this fort can become an extremely attractive place for foreign and local tourists alike.

Fort Alice has a unique design. It is square, with a small tower at each corner. It has an open centre courtyard, a drawbridge (this is very Anglo-saxon indeed) and a spiked iron perimeter fence.

Built to prevent the Skrang Dayaks going down river to join the Saribas Dayaks in their attacks on the coastal shipping trade,it was also to prevent them undertaking head-hunting expeditions.

Over the years, the Fort served as a police station, community welfare department, prison department, and other government departments.

Until 1964, a cannon was fired every day at 8pm sharp, signalling that the fort was about to close and the day’s business with the Government was over.

A policeman would call out in Iban:

Oh Ha! Oh Ha! Oh Ha!
Jam diatu pukol lapan,
Tangga udah di-tarit,
Orang ari ulu,
Orang ari ili,
Nadai tahu niki kubu agi.

(Oh Ha! Oh Ha! Oh Ha!
The time is now eight o’clock,
The steps have been drawn up,
People from up-river,
People from down-river,
Are not allowed into the fort.)

The fort was gazetted as a Historical Monument in 1971, and is now under the care of the Sarawak Museum.

Engkili's Fort is called Fort Dayang Leonora.

Nanga Skrang also has a Fort Nanga Skrang which was built in 1849. This is situated at the confluence of Batang Lupar and Skrang River.

Fort Lingga was built in 1849

Kalaka Fort was also established.

Fort Charles in Kabong was built in 1878 but was swept away by a flood in 1893.

Third Division (THEN)

Fort Brooke established at Sibu in 1862. A few historical incidents were associated with it. First,it was attacked by Lintong and Kanowits with more than 3000 followers. A troop of Indian Sepoys in the employ of the Brooke family fired the cannons to disperse Lintong and his group within minutes. The Fort was said to have only two doors. And it could have been easily surrounded and defeated by the simple cannons did their job. The Ibans had only their homemade firearms, parangs,bows and arrows and perhaps blowpipes.

It seemed that once Charles Brooke brought his newly wedded bride to the fort and some one sounded the alarm. She hid behind the grand piano in the fort, and the cannon was fired twice. Later it was found that the two canoe looking dark figures were actually two huge logs!!

The next attack was by Penghulu Asun in 1931 By then the Fort had 4 gates, and was slightly bigger. The uprising was quelled by peaceful negotiation in Sibu's government office.

Harriette McDougall, in Sketches of Our Life at Sarawak,pg.92 wrote : "After two days' paddling from the mouth of the Rejang, the boat arrived at Sibu where there is a ...manufacturing (outlet) for nipah salt.


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In the book, "Sibu of Yesterday", Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association,2002, I found this:

In 1862 The Rajah of Sarawak constructed Fort Brooke and established an administrive centre on the island situated at the point where the Igan branches off the mighty Rejang River. Thus began the history of Sibu becoming the most important trading port on the Rejang River.

Sarawak Gazette, 24th January 1871, No 16,

Sibu is the principal place on the banks. It is built on an island where the Igan leaves the Rajang to carry its water to the neighbourhood of Oya...and consist of a strong wooden fort, a Chinese bazaar and a considerable Malay Kampong...

A very old picture of the wooden Brooke Fort can be found on Page 3 of "Sibu of Yesterday" by Sarawak Chinese Cultural Association. From this book, we learn that the fort was demolished in 1936. Why was it demolished?

It is possible that the Brooke Fort was built on the same site as the offices of the Rejang Port Authority. This would be the place where the Rejang parts with the Igan.

Kanowit's Fort Emma was built in 1859. (Note: it was built earlier than Fort Brooke).Built out of timber and bamboo,it was named after Emma Brooke, sister of Rajah Charles Brooke. The fort remains impressive, despite years of neglect. It is currently closed to the public.

Fort Emma was also the site of the last serious challenge to Brooke rule in Sarawak. In 1859, a number of Malay chiefs, led by Sharif Masahor of Mukah and supported by the Sultan of Brunei planned a series of attacks to kill all the Europeans in Sarawak and Dutch Borneo. In June 1859, Brooke government officials Charles Fox and Henry Steele were murdered at Kanowit as the first step of this plan. The Tuan Muda Charles Brooke led a force of Iban from Saribas to revenge the attack and to recover the heads of the unfortunate victims. As a result, Mukah was annexed to Sarawak, Sharif Masahor fled to Johore and the "Malay Plot" was the last time the Malays and the Iban joined forces against the White Rajah.

Kapit's Fort Sylvia was built in 1880

To prevent further Iban migration upriver in the Rajang River basin, which was creating conflicts with theOrang Ulu, Rajah Charles Brooke built Baleh Fort at Nanga Balleh, the confluence of the Rejang and Baleh rivers between Kanowit and Song in late 1874. Rajah Charles Brooke nearly drowned here in 1877 when his boat capsized in the dangerous currents. He abandoned the fort in 1878, and replaced it with a new fort located lower down the river in 1880. The new Kapit Fort was built entirely of ‘belian’ (ironwood) timber with thick walls to withstand attacks.

On November 16 1924, a peacekeeping ceremony between the  Iban, Kayan, Kenyah and Kajang  was held here in the presence of Rajah Charles Brooke. In 1925, Kapit Fort was renamed Fort Sylvia after Rani Sylvia Brooke. During the 1960s, the fort housed the District Office and the District Court House, and later the Resident’s Office when Kapit Division was formed in 1973.

In May 1997, the fort was declared as historical monument, and is now managed by the Tun Jugah Foundation as a museum. It exhibits a collection of ethnic arts and handicrafts and documents relating to the history of Kapit, heirloom jars, brass cannons, brass plaques and photographs of past community leaders.

To prevent further Iban migration upriver in the Rajang River basin, which was creating conflicts with theOrang Ulu, Rajah Charles Brooke built Baleh Fort at Nanga Balleh, the confluence of the Rejang and Baleh rivers between Kanowit and Song in late 1874. Rajah Charles Brooke nearly drowned here in 1877 when his boat capsized in the dangerous currents. He abandoned the fort in 1878, and replaced it with a new fort located lower down the river in 1880. The new Kapit Fort was built entirely of ‘belian’ (ironwood) timber with thick walls to withstand attacks.

On November 16 1924, a peacekeeping ceremony between the  Iban, Kayan, Kenyah and Kajang  was held here in the presence of Rajah Charles Brooke. In 1925, Kapit Fort was renamed Fort Sylvia after Rani Sylvia Brooke. During the 1960s, the fort housed the District Office and the District Court House, and later the Resident’s Office when Kapit Division was formed in 1973.

In May 1997, the fort was declared an historical monument, and is now managed by the Tun Jugah Foundation as a museum. It exhibits a collection of ethnic arts and handicrafts and documents relating to the history of Kapit, heirloom jars, brass cannons, brass plaques and photographs of past community leaders.

Sarikei Fort was built in 1859.

Mukah Fort was puilt in 1861 but was known to have been captured by prisoners, in 1868 in our history.

1862 Fort Keppel built at Bintulu. This fort was formidable and was instrumental in quelling the attacks of the Illanuns in 1869.

13. 1.1884 Belaga Fort completed.

Fourth Division

Fort Hose was built in Marudi in 1883. Kayan Expeditions and Peace Making Ceremonies were initiated at Fort Hose.

Fifth Division

The original old Fort of Limbang built in 1869 was burnt down in 1989. Today after its rebuilding and renovation it is the Limbang Regional Museum since 1994

Sited on a very strategic hill overlooking the Limbang river, the Fort of Limbang is a two-storeyed wooden building which served first served as a fort against native insurgents and later on used for administrative purposes. The posts, shingles, walls and upper floor of the building are made of belian timber while the ground floor is of concrete.

During the Brooke’s days, half of the ground floor was used as jail while the other half was for storage purposes. The upper floor housed the offices of the Resident and the District Officer and their staff. It was occupied later by Majlis Islam before being converted into a museum.

This Museum displays the history and culture of the people in this region such as bamboo band, salt making, beadwork, bark cloth, brassware, basketry and much more.

1887 Fort Florence established at Trusan.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Fort Brooke at Julau

In my research on the Forts the Brookes built, I found a link on Fort Brooke and I am delighted to be able to obtain the permission of Daniel Yiek of Sarikei Time Capsule to use this photo.

Please read his blog : and you will find many parallels in the history of Sibu and Sarikei.

Why was a newer and smaller Fort Brooke built at Julau? It was definitely just an outstation post without the characteristic two cannons pointing towards a r9iver bend. I hope one day to have more information and perhaps readers can help me out here. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Visit to 10 tombs in one morning

Any mention of Sungei Merah would bring images of Wong Nai and the pioneering Foochows to one's mind. In 1903,Sungei Merah was a pioneering site, with attap houses (called Chiong or factories) all built hostel style for both families and singles. The river was very equatorial and there were tales of terror and great illnesses evoking again, sacrifices, suffering,pains beyond imagination and deaths. That was just the beginning of a settlement.

Sungei Merah is now a completely new township so to speak. Although the two rows of old shops built since the 20's are still there, the new shops built recently have given it a completely modern and Asian look. One would not know it was once a sleepy hollow and the spot where the Foochow Pioneers stepped on . It has become quite like any town in Malaysia. It used to be simple, and typically Sarawakian Chinese two-row shophouses type of roadway townlet, very fitting for a good made- in -Asia movie, where you can see Jackie Chan and Jet Li meeting over a cup of coffee before parting for a really good mission and evil busting.

The cemeteries in Sungei Merah and Sungei Teku were teeming with returning pilgrims, who have come from all over the world and Malaysia on 29th March 2oo8. Our family members numbering 60 made our way towards our first tomb - Grandfather Kung Ping's at about 9 in the morning. We used 2 luxury air conditioned buses arranged by Peter Lau. This was comfort beyond one's imagination.

As this was quite near the Ching Ming Festival, Sungei Merah once again was awaken to the annual flood of pilgrims who had come for tomb sweeping. Although the day was five days ahead of the actual Ching Ming Day,these filial descendants came in all modes of transport - buses, luxury cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and some even on foot. The coffee shops once again were filled to their brim. In the historical records of Sibu, it has been known that Sungei Merah only had flourishing business during the Tomb Festival. The long 3- mile(10 kilometres roughly) journey from Sibu by an old rickety wooden topped bus, bicycle or by foot was too much for most people those days. Today it is a flourishing suburb every day and it continues to peak in business during the Tomb Festival.

A remarkable change was the presence of florists and drink vendors lining up the roads to the cemeteries. Years ago, we had to buy all the floral arrangements from Sibu. Today we have more choice, with the floral arrangements in five, ten and more ringgit. We used to buy by the sprays, each stalk carefully selected from the pails. That would have taken time to bundle up, and the bargaining would take even longer.A lot of Foochow women would always end the purchase with " Oh so expensive....make it cheaper?" And sometimes they would get a little discount, Sibu style. (whisper : always mark up the price a bit because some one would always ask for discount!)

I have very pleasant memories of buying flowers from the various florists but Mrs.Ho Ka Muo was given my vote as the best florist in town then. She had the best orchid garden in Sibu, just outside my beloved school, the Methodist Secondary School. Just be walking along the hundreds of rows of orchids in her garden would uplift my heavily burdened spirit. My wedding bouquet of white Borneo orchids was made by her circa 1974. White orchids are now the most treasured flowers amongst the rich and famous and one can frequently catch sight of a bride from the rich and famous strata with a bouquet of white Borneo orchids. No bad for Sibu, eh?

The temperature outside must have been a 100 degrees F or 39 degrees Celcius. Sweat poured out of every pore of our skin, running into all the folds and crevices and especially the eyes. As usual all of us had to walk part of the way . This all important walk was spiritual to me because we needed to clear our minds and prepare for the worship and prayers at the tomb. Along the way, as in the past years, we would bump into other pilgrims. During the Ching Ming Festival, we would all be equal, whoever we are , be it YB or not, doctor or teacher, engineer or senior citizen, and we would give a good greeting of Peace. Ping Ang. Very closely knit community feel.

Incredibly, our communication with any one we met face to face, along the paths, and then amongst the very haphazardly organised tombstones, was very cordial, low keyed and humbling. Those we recognised we said a hello. Even those we did not recognise or know, we would give a warm nod. In paying respects to our dead we were all in the same brotherhood and sisterhood.

Many would bring a brand new broom to sweep the tombs. An old Iban parang would be a very useful tool and for once a Foochow would sling one with a wooden sheath from his belt. Because we were visiting Christian cemeteries, we would only occasionally come across people who burn paper money and paper replicas of Mercedes, or boats. A floral presentation is not a must. I saw a few bringing state of the art detergents.

One great difference this time round - I did not hear the loud wailing of a widow at the tombside. When I was younger, and visiting my father's tomb, one particular widow would wail out her history of grief and people could hear her sad rendering of her love for her dearly departed. I was very sorry for her and her family of young children. She must have passed on. Another "neighbour" had a large family and each year, I saw the number growing (grandchildren). The proud mother (widow) would line them up to bow three times when they had completed their ritual of cleaning and clearing. She was a masterful personality. Upon having done that, she would collapse into a heap and start her wailing for a few minutes before she was led her by flock out of the tomb. Her children would also say gently, " Enough,enough...take care of your health...don't cry so much."

In those long gone days, I felt that this was a very good setting,even an admirable one, for a Ching Ming Visit. It was so full of tradition. Would our forefathers hear us better this way?

Our visit to our grandfather's tomb was a complete Christian ceremony of Psalm Reading, Hymn Singing and a Prayer,complete with our very own family member who is a Reverend. Our Grandfather would have liked it very much because he was a good Church goer himself. He often reminded us never to be late for church. Go early to Church because then, when you ask a favour from God, you would be granted the blessings. Most of the early Foochows practised that .

In spite of the heat, the glaring sun, our day with our ancestors was a very meaningful one. We were definitely united in spirit.

(The early bird gets the worm.)

Family Reunion

In January 2008, several cousins mooted the idea that we should have a reunion. March, June and December were good months. There were four of them, one in Bintulu, two in Singapore and one in Sibu. Then they roped in one nephew from Miri.

Several emails later, the rules and regulations were settled, fees calculated and the event was 80@ confirmed. One Skype meeting confirmed venue, date, fees and our reunion was a GO event.

Within one month 80 signed up from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong,Singapore, and all over Sarawak.

Venue : RH Hotel, Sibu.
Dates - 29th March - lst April

Transport : 2 Excecutive State of the ARt Buses
Meals @ Dinners : the Best venues in town.
Events : Morning Worship in churhces, 10 tombs to be visited, Get to know each other informal, and a sit down reunion dinner.
Free and easy Foochow breakfast.
Free and easy shopping
Rediscovering the love of Pomelos......
Rediscovering each other.
Participants : 5 generations of Tiong Kung Ping's children,grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren, great,great,great grandchildren.
Memories " Remembering 1901 to 2008, Sibu and Beyond......Celebrating the Legacy of Tiong Kung Ping"

Until we meet again in 3 years time....good memories...and a 2008 family to be treasured photo.

The Reunion Committee (Vivien, Irene, Lenita, Wendy, Keith , Peter, Michelle,etc did a wonderful job!! thanks.)

An Earlier 1973 family Reunion

On the 10th Anniversary of my Grandfather's passing, the Tiong family had the first family reunion on 3rd April 1973. Much of the work was carried out by all those who were living in Sibu at that time, namely my Grandmother Siu Nguk Lang,my seventh Uncle Tai Hieng, my Fifth Uncle, Tai Sui and my Seventh Aunt, Chiew Sieng and a few others.

At that time, only the telephone was available and also the normal stamp and postal system. Perhaps they did use the other long forgotten means of communication was the telegram.

Dependent on such means of communications, the Tiong family did manage a small reunion. Most of the uncles and aunts were still in Sibu and had probably not even contemplated on migrating elsewhere. Some came from Kuching, Singapore and Australia.

And indeed the gathering was a good event. Grandfather's tomb was still in its original shape and style without the awning. This was later improved when financial and structural resources were better.

A family reunion would create a sense of belonging and concern. Perhaps it was at that time, that the seeds of unity were sown amongst the younger generation . Often this kind of reunion, in modern post 9/11 era, there can be the important transmitting a sense of identity and direction.

While many aunts and uncles would agree that such a reunion, in terms of our Christian faith, would help us go on a journey of healing many would definitely agree that it could be a time for networking and mutual understanding. The young can look up at the older ones and learn a lot of values.

One important lesson we learned from Rev. Lenita was to reflect on how our Grandfather impacted our lives.

But generally, we are grateful that we have a strong family to lean on, and the Christian faith to share. We are also extending a very warm welcome to our new in-laws.

Having been so used to such an extended family life, personally I often feel that being alone in another part of Malaysia or even another part of the world, can be quite a formidable challenge. This is where, upon remembering my grandfather's pioneering spirit, I gain strength. Having said that, once in a while, a family reunion is a golden opportunity to relive an old life style and walk down memory lane in Sibu.


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