February 17, 2010
Wong Duang Ing - China-born College Educated Teacher
Ms Wong Duang Ing met my uncle Tiong Tak Sing (from Sibu) in Fuzhou city when they were students at college in the late 1930's. She was then a Methodist Church Sunday School teacher as well. Both of them were at that time finishing college but when the Japanese arrived they had to interrupt their education. At that time many Foochow boys and girls were already being sent home or "overseas" for their education from Sibu. Fuzhou was an obvious choice.
Today she says her prayers in what we call "literary Foochow". She continues to speak the very careful and formal style of Foochow.
Her Foochow parents(in China) at that time were traditional and valued boys more than girls even Sun Yat Sen had toppled the Qing Government for many years and the Long March of Mao Tse Tung was almost over. She hasd grown up during the times of change in China. Furthermore the American missionaries had impacted the Fuzhou women and helped them become more open minded and independent. And thus out of these turbulent times Duang Ing became very determined to spread her wings and migrate to Sarawak.
While waiting for travel papers to come from Sarawak and the then Brooke Government she and her young educated husband faced the first turmoil in their life together. It was unfortunate that her first born of only 10 months suffered from dysentery- a killer disease then. Without any western doctor to help her she was really desperate. Young as she was she was not willing to let her child die without a single drop of medicine. However a traditional doctor did came to help and asked her to catch an anteater whose tail must be steamed with his herbs as a cure for dysentery. She went to the outskirt of the village and caught an anteater.
But the precious son breathed his last even before the herbal soup was steamed. This was her kind of background as she sailed to Sarawak.
When they arrived in Sibu she and her husband were invited to help teach in Guong Ming school in Sungei Bidut. As they were quite poor they decided to tap rubber to supplement their meagre earnings. A teacher's earning was only $60 at that time. It was impossible to bring up a growing family.
As pioneering teachers at that time they used the simplest of books and teaching was very very disciplined. Her college education helped her a lot. In retrospect the standards in China was very high and it was hot and humid in Sibu. The classroom was four walls with bare windows and daily flood from the river became part of her life. Mosquitoes danced about her ears. But the neighbourhood was a happy lot and a church was nearby.
However as more children were born to the couple life became tougher for the young family and the income from teaching was too small. Two more boys died before they were five and it was so heart breaking. A good friend of my uncle's suggested that they should move to Miri to help with his timber company.
Finally my uncle Tak Sing took his wife and remaining children to Miri where he worked as a trusted and honest manager of a timber company. One more daughter was born in Miri. We can say that she became the first Sarawak Foochow girl born in Miri to a China born Foochow woman! Aunt Duang Ing never taught again because her first priority was to raise her small brood of children. She is now 89 years old.
My uncle's family became the first Sungei Bidut family or even the first Sibu Foochow family to move to Miri in the 1950's. After they arrived many others followed.
P/s Ms Tiong Ping Nguk another cousin of Tak Sing taught in Krokop Chung Hua School until she retired. She passed away recently. Aunt Duang Ing and my Yuk Ging Goo Poh were best of friends in Sibu.