October 17, 2013

Sungei Merah Tales : Durian Tembaga from Sg. Aup

My grandfather and father led the first Foochows to buy land for development in Sg Aup in the 1950's/ The Tiong family set up the first mechanized brickyard, Kiong Ann Brckyard in Sibu. Every brick was a beautiful red brick and evenly made because of the machinery we used.

However , the whole Aup community became absorbed in this new industrial development and that was the better part of the history of our family.

Lumpoh, one of the leading Iban chieftains (father of my good sister Mena Westley of Perth) became a loyal family friend

He and his family owned a great Durian Tembaga tree which could produce about 200 durians in a good year. It was really his mother who planted the tree. In the Iban culture, a person who plants fruit trees for the family is always revered and remembered. Every fruit tree besides having its own natural ID, also has the name of the person who planted it as part of its history. The family often say with pride,"This is my grandmother's durian tree. She planted it before the coming of the Japanese" for example.

 Amongst the Ibans,the durian tembaga is the best durian in the world. Move aside Munsang King!!

Father would bring two durians for grandfather who lived in Sungei Merah. And two or three for mother and the rest of us , after work in Sg. Aup.

 One day, he could only get one from Lumpoh because that was the last one left.

Can you guess who had he durian?

Lumpoh would always remember my grandfather and father for their love of durian tembaga and its tree. My father would come and watch the durian flowers and be full of expectancy when the tree started to fruit.like any other connoisseur  !!


A lot of the conversation happened between Lumpoh and my father. They talked about padi, fruit trees,and fish in the river. And very often my father would sit like an Iban in Lumpoh's ruai. Lumpoh was also the man who supplied my father with his favourite fishing traps, the bubu, a fishing trap made from bamboo. My father was a very humble man  and enjoyed a good night of trapping of fish especially ikan keli in the rubber garden when it was the raining season. He sold ikan keli at 5 dollars per tin (large cooking oil tin) in the market.

My grandfather passed away in 1963 and my father two years later.

I would always remember the two of them enjoying eating durians together in the evenings It was a sight for children to remember for the rest of their lives.

The social history of a community is often full of sad anecdotes and other tragic stories. Sometimes there are good positive stories. Some people keep their good stories alive, while allowing the sad and tragic ones to fade. Others harp on their sad stories.

One of the sad stories I would like to keep and that is related to Lumpoh's durian tembaga tree.

Years later, we heard about the demise of the old durian tembaga tree.

The durian tembaga tree was so popular for so many years that people became quite jealous of it.  So one day some members of the community came to see Mena's grandmother and told her that a new longhouse would be built and many of the trees had to be cut down And that would include the durian tembaga.

After some discussion for several months in the longhouse ruai, the trees were cut down and the ground prepared.

However after 5 years the new long house was never built. But the durian tree was gone

Mena said her family still miss the tree and the fragrance of the durian tembaga fruits. Her parents were really very heart broken by the felling of the grand durian tree. Why in the first place should these relatives demand that the trees around the longhouse be cut down to make way for a new longhouse which never came into reality?

You can say, jealousy is the cause of many a good durian tree's demise in Sarawak. And it is a greater loss to nature when you realise that 50 years down the road, the seeds of this fruit have become very very rare.

Note 1 = It would take a university with a giant resource to do research on the growing of the vintage durian species.

Note 2 =
The durian tembaga has a very thin skin and each fruit is about 2 to 3 kg in weight. The flesh of this durian is like copper, or deep yellow The flesh is thick and rich and the seed is very small The texture is smooth, and the fragrance of the fruit is beyod belief!! It is always sweet. Today durian tembaga is only found in Indonesia, commercially. And it is rare to find it in Sarawak.



Anonymous said...

I was always given the impresison by adults when I was small that people nowadays are getting more and more wicked as if in the past people were angels! Your story show that it is all a myth!!

Ensurai said...

There are good people and bad people throughout our lives, and also in the past In there future there will be good people and bad people We can't say all all the people in the past were good. Look at the snake heads, the triads, the New York Gangs, and the evil emperors of ancient dynasties, look at the warlords, and even the landlords during the feudal days. But then there were good people all over the world in the past, like most of the kind pioneering teachers, missionaries, doctors, nurses etc. Bottom line, we cannot really generalise although your parents might have come from good families who were mainly very ethical people. We now know more about bad people because of the press, media, facebook etc.

Anonymous said...

Understand that durian tenbaga is actually obtained by grafting the normal durian (Durio zibethinus) with the rootstock of the wild durian that produces the reddish flesh. Is that trie?

Ensurai said...

O I am not sure abut the grafted during.but this tree was an original breed from ancient Ibans. 1960's

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