January 31, 2014

Nang Chong Stories : Days of Peaches

Every festival in Nang Chong my grandmother Tiong Lien Tie would always make sure that she and Uncle Pang Sing bring back supplies of tinned peaches and various other imported vegetables from Sibu. Whenever she went to Sibu to sell her rubber sheets, she would always bring back a load of supplies for the family.

A sack of flour, some cooking oil, tins of kerosene, tinned peaches, salted fish and salted eggs, aerated water, perhaps a fresh brood of chicks and ducklings. Whenever the motor launch stopped at the floating jetty, we kids would rush out to the motor launch and form a boisterious group of welcoming committee for grandma.

One would take her umbrella from her hand, and one would take her basket from here. The older ones would start unloading the stuff from the motor launch amidst the din of the engine.

We were the envy of the other passengers because grandmother was a generous provider and she would have the budget especially for a festival feast. And of course if Uncle Pang Sing was home, he would single handedly carry all the boxes of supplies on his shoulders, wharf labourer style.

I had some memorable festivals during the holidays with her in sanba style. (Village style)

Grandmother was so generous to all the children. I remember receiving an egg for breakfast in the morning, a very usual gift from her and uncle Pang Sing as I was the "visiting grandchild". But all my cousins who were then much younger than I were happy with their share of home made kampua with just soy sauce and a bit of omelette and ikan bilis.

Milo or Ovaltine would be made for every one, and sweetened with Milkmaid Condensed Milk. Sometimes grandma would crack an egg into her hot milo to make her special Foochow Egg nog. I would never drink that. I had lots of fear for soft boiled eggs for years!!

But from all her supplies, the most memorable was the tinned peaches.

After the feast of several different dishes (duck, chicken, pork, noodles, bah kui, fish, meat balls), Uncle Pang Sing would open a few tins of peaches and longans.

50 years later, from my Nang Chong days, we eat peaches in a different way.

We kids would have a cup filled with several slices of the peaches and sit on the balcony and enjoy the sweet goodness!!

How wonderful it was to be young, to be given food by our elders who knew exactly what to buy for us.

We never knew in those days how our lives would change so tremendously from one decade to another.

Long Bak and Dried Razor Clams

 It is a comfort food for those who are homesick for Sibu and their family.
this is the completed dish. The Chinese long cabbage must be parboiled to give the best taste.
Dried Razor Clams must be soaked for at least an hour, washed and slightly trimmed.

 during the 1920'2 to 1930's the Foochows of Sibu depended on the importation of dried sea food from Fujian. Such dried foods were rather cheap in those days and most of the families were able to cook the same dishes as their ancestors had cooked in Fujian.

Life was pretty good then until the Japanese Occupation.

January 29, 2014

Sibu Stories : Why did Lau Kah Tii keep a beard?

Why did my grand uncle Lau Kah Tii keep a goatee after the Second World War?

As a  Foochow community leader for many years after Wong Nai Siong left Sibu, Lau Kah Tii maintained his leadership during the Japanese Occupation.

The Japanese bombed Sibu in 1941 December and occupied Sibu for 3 years and 8 months.

In 1942 August 15th  The Japanese Commandent gave the command to arrest the 27 Committee Members of the China Nation Building Fund. Lau Kah Tii was one of them. They were held in prison for 33 days. They were released on 15th Sept.

He had grown a very white goatee and he decided to keep it for the rest of his life to remember the days of the inprisonment.

Although all the 27 members of the Committee were released, they were still on secret surveillance by the Japanese. But nothing untoward actually happen to them.

Sungei Merah Tales : The Wong Mansion

Growing up in Sibu has blessed me with a huge collection of stories from my extended family and friends who came from families close to my paternal grandfather and my father.

One of the experiences I had was related to a very delightful class mate, Catherine Wong whose roots were from Sungei Merah. Although she stayed with her mother and sisters in Sibu town, she gave me the opportunity to visit her grandmother in Sungei Merah with her It was quite convenient as during the holidays I ofen I stayed with my grandfather. Next door to her grandmother was Wong Chii Hui, another one of our classmates.When her mother was transferred to Kuching, she left to study in St. Mary's kuching.

Catherine and I continued to keep in touch over the years but we were reunited in MU. She was a brilliant science student and was good in music. Once while we were still undergraduates, we visited her grandmother's mansion in Sungei Merah. By then the once glorious mansion was a little "worn out by age".

Years later,she visited me twice in Miri on her way to the Mulu and KK. Old friends are like gold I would always say.

As kids we were very curious especially because our Headmaster was Mr. Wong Kie Mee, also lived along the same road.  Perhaps that was the main reason that we wanted to play along the foot path there!! It was fun hanging out in Sg. Merah and trying to find out what Mr. Wong was like outside the school. Wong Chii Hui was Mr. Wong's nephew and as a boy he was quite a gentleman already, leaving us to our whims and fancies. Wong Chii Hui's sister later married my father's cousin, also from Sungei Merah. How our families are intertwined and our stories have more and more threads.
Vivien Huang, the wife of Wong Cheng Ping and her sister in law.

During our visits to Sungei Merah we had several kinds of activities. We had time for each other without the interference of TV or even radio. We  went fishing like Huckleberry Fin and Tom Sawyer, and we played badminton. With just two rackets, Catherine and I could play for a long time, even though the shuttlecock was already beyond playworthy. But it was just fun chasing the shuttlecock.

Catherine's uncle was also my father's childhood friend. Both my father and Wong Cheng Ang went to study in China, and they were amongst the first to gain "overseas education". Both were fluent in English because of Mrs. JB Chong, my grand aunt.

 Wong Cheng Ang, owned a soy sauce factory which was sited below the hill where my grandfather's house was built. I remember seeing him many times. He was rather fair and a little stout. I remember him showing the huge earthern jars to my father and uncles during one of our visits. Of course in those days I was not interested in the production of soy sauce. The smell was not very attractive to my nose.

 I made friends with his naughty sons who were almost my age. My other companions were my young uncle and aunt, the 19th and 20th children of my grandfather!!

Wong Cheng Ang came from a very illustrious family headed by matriarch ,Mu Mu , or Cheng Ang Mu, Cheng Ang being the eldest. She had bound feet and was a determined woman to do all the right things for her children, like sending them to school, to learn English, and to employ workers to tap her rubber. She personally saw to the sale of her smoked rubber sheets in Sibu. In fact when I first met her, it did not appear to me that she had bound feet because she was so agile, so capable.

She single-handedly managed her properties by herself when her sons were away for their education. Her capabilities were legendary. Here is one : A lorry would send the smoked rubber sheets to Sibu and she would later arrive in Sibu to collect the cash. A relative once remarked, "She would slowly walk from Sungei Merah to Sibu...it could also be due to the fact that she suffered from motion sickness, or she did not want to pay the fare." Mu Mu was always very frugal like most Foochow pioneers. She made a fortune for her sons .

She owned 8000 rubber trees  and huge parcel of land from the time of Wong Nai Siong and she brought up her four boys and  several adopted girls (Her husband passed away very early). And to fullfill her dreams of having a beautiful house, she saw to the construction of one of the biggest modern and stately mansion in Sungei Merah before the Japanese Occupation. Two other houses were also remarkable - The Ting Mansion in Sg. Sadit and the Lau Mansion in Ensurai. Hence she was truly amongst the Top Ten Foochows of Sibu in the first half of the 20th Century.

It was fortunate that many of her grandchildren lived with her for a while or visited her from time to time. Towards the end of her life she saw many drastic changes in the social and political environment in Sibu.

This piece of land is now called the Nang Sang (Western Mountains) and has been developed into a huge residential area, next to the river.

Upon his return from China, as one of the first Foochow university graduates, Wong Cheng Ang , her eldest son, was made Principal of Tung Hua School (both primary and secondary) in 1938 -1939. This must have given her a lot of pride, Her heart must be almost bursting!! But when the Japanese came and she like all the other women faced many challenges because the Japanese were all out to "punish" the Chinese. Cheng Ang, like all the other young Chinese were made to build roads, and especially the Sibu Airport. The Japanese carried out searches in homes, destroying musical records, books, photos of any of the residents taken with the European officers. (That is the reason why there is a dirth of records in Sibu in particular and in Sarawak in general) (ref ; Japanese Occupation, Tan, Gabriel)

According to family stories, Wong Cheng Ang,a highly educated man, a graduate from Yen Ching University,Beijing, spent many years in Shanghai too attending Senior Secondary school. (To be verified by proper documents) In those days, the local Sibu boys were sent to Singapore and then Shanghai  even for secondary school education if the family could afford it. And definitely Mu Mu could afford it. She actually did send all her boys for higher education and tertiary education in China.

Wong Cheng Ang joined the Communist Movement in the 1960's and was later killed in Engkilo in 1971 (?) It was during this period of time that Sibu had to be placed under 24 hours of curfew for 72 days.

We often wondered in those days (when we were actually only children) why would a young and educated man like Wong leave the comfort of his family home to go into the jungle. Today we conditnue to ask," Was he so idealistic that he would give up all for his dreams?"

HOWEVER, I am reminded of a famous Chinese saying,"If you love money, you cannot bring about a revolution". Perhaps he was loyal to this ideal?

P/s I would never dream that my association with this Wong family would bring me to cross path with an awesome new friend Prof Zhang Zhen who is now researching on a special period of Wong Cheng Ang's life, 1937 to 1942, in Sibu.

If you my dear readers have any knowledge of the Sibu history of that period, please let me know.

(Thank you Huang Lei and Dr, Zhang Zhen for the use of the photo)

January 26, 2014

Nang Chong stories : Hostel for young children in Chung Cheng School

When my cousins were ready to go to school in Chung Cheng and 24 Acres were too far away, my uncle put them in the hostel.

In those days, many Foochows from all over the Rajang Valley, actually sent their children to Chung Cheng Primary and Secondary School, since it was already a premier school with a good reputation. Mr. Lau Hieng Ying's name was well known and his wife, Mrs. Lau, was a good hostel manageress.

According to a cousin, even children in Kanowit and Kapit were sent to be his hostel mates in the 1960's.Photo

The smaller primary school boys brought their mat and pillow, and a think blanket in a roll. All the little boys would sleep on the platform in the common room or dormitory. The older boys had beds upstairs. When the term ended they would roll up their mat and bedding and off they went in the motor launches to go back to their villages. My cousin Lau, said that it was a very happy moment to collect the bed roll (niek), tie it up and carry it on his shoulder and board the motor launch at the end of the year. He would miss his hostel mates but he knew that he must study hard during the holidays too. Home was in 24 acres and further from the river.

And to enjoy the river scenario, he would have to walk for almost half an hour to the river side. But then walking half a hour was nothing in those days.

Food was arranged by Mrs. Lau and the cook, the mother of  Lau Nai Mung.  Every one affectionately called her Nai Mung Moo, or Mother of Nai Mung. She was a very good cook.

Food on the table for the boys for lunch  and dinner would consist of two vegetables, usually bean sprouts and long beans, stir fried squids or a meat or fish and a soup. Rice would be steaming hot. One of my cousins said that the most memorable dish was squid in soy sauce, a specialty today. It was really common in those days when squids were imported from China. My mother remembered that the dried squids cost only a few cents a kati and families would rehydrate the dried squids themselves. Today dried squids cost up to 100 ringgit per kilo.

The children would wash their own bowls, chopsticks and spoons to help Nai Mung Moo. The bigger boys would enjoy pumping water into the tank.

Nai Mung Moo would do all the cooking, while Mrs. Lau would budget for every day food (likened to today Purchasing Officer) and disciplined the kids during meals. All meals were well timed and the children developed good table manners.

Nai Mung Moo also planted vegetables, especially long beans, which she would preserve in Ang Chow. Fried, preserved long beans continue to be a favourite dish for many Foochows. It is very tasty and a good "food chaser".

Water was pumped from the river Rajang, which was very clear and clean in those days. It was a blessing to have a good water pump in the hostel. The river was about 200 m from the hostel and the school management board had equipped the hostel and school with good piped "river" water. So life was pretty good.

The toilets were always washed, the rooms clean, and kids did not really have to swim in the river if they were too small, and without supervision. They all lived together like a big happy family.

My cousins who lived in the hostel enjoyed their school life until they left Chung Cheng to study in the Methodist Secondary School in Sibu, where they had to be more independent and where they had to meet town folks. They also stayed in the Methodist School Hostel in Queensway (Now Jalan Tun Haji Open).

In retrospect, my cousins said that the Chung Cheng School was a kind of mid way house for them. Three years in the school gave them a good understanding of personal discipline, social behaviour and study skills. Hostel life also prepared them how to look after themselves well, especially when they went for their further studies in Taiwan.

A tribute to Mrs. Lau Hieng Ying here too for helping them to look at life positively and with discipline.

January 24, 2014

Cure for Nose Bleeding : Kang Soon Roots

The peat swamps of Sibu yield a good , healthy, crop called Kang Soon, or Cane Bamboo. The roots of this small bamboo are boiled to make a drink which can cure nose bleeding.

When we were kids, my maternal grandmother and aunts in Nang Chong used to boil this whenever we kids had nose bleeding.

And I have been wondering for many years why we suffered more from nose bleeding in those days. These days we hardly hear of people suffering from nose bleeding.

Only one of my children suffered from nose bleeding, but the problem stopped after a while.

Each of these bundles cost RM 2.00 in Sibu. This photo is taken in the Sibu Central Market.


January 17, 2014

Nang Chong Stories : Kang Kong and Fried Rice

In the days before the curfew (1970-1974) many of my cousins went to school in Chung Cheng.

They had to bring their cheng ark or tiffin carrier which would contain their cold lunch.

 (In the 60's village school hours were from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. And in the 50's, the even more rural schools could start from 9 or 10 depending on the good will of the Board of Management and the Head Master. This was to fit into the rubber tapping community's needs.)

Most of the time, they had kang kong and fried rice. or just some vegetables and plain cold rice.

This is was the most "economy rice" of the day because the kangkong grew wild in the small streams between the rows of Gik Giang or Bintangor Orange trees. rice was grown by the two aunts (Aunt Nguok Kiew and Aunt Nguk Ling) and eggs were laid by the hens of our chicken coops.

One of my cousins used to tell me that she would ask her mother to let her have the stalks which were very chewy more than the leaves. She wanted her two younger sisters to have more of the leaves. Later on in life we talked about eating kangkong. We admitted that we did not quite like the stalks but we also realised that the stalks were good for us because of the fibres they could provide. We talked about constipation too because we did not have enough fruits.

My father used to make us eat a lot of potatoes in Sibu but potatoes were hard to come by because my uncles and aunts we mainly padi farmers and the soil in Nang Chong were too swampy and wet for sweet potatoes. Any way none of them would like to eat sweet potatoes because they had too much of it during the Japanese Occupation. However to grow potatoes they also had to walk a few kilometers to the Back Hills (Aw Sang) to grow them. It was too dangerous for them to grow vegetables there any way because of the Communist threat. So growing a variety of vegetables by the villagers was in fact imposible. Whatever available soil was used to grow mustard green, changkok manis, and beans.

Meat sometimes cost a lot of money, with  only Uncle Pang Ping and Uncle Pang Sing earning a small income as wharf labourers. And because of the curfew, spare cash was not easily earned.

So according to my Aunt Nguk Ling, the children brought a simple meal to school for lunch, mainly made of fried rice and kangkong). I still remember eating a very nice dish of kangkong cooked with kicap and sugar. It was very tasty.

I also appreciated the fresh farm chicken eggs. We seldom ate fresh duck eggs because they were saved to make salted eggs. It was a treat to eat salted eggs. Each salted egg would be cut into 6 parts.

My cousins survived the political turmoil and the communist insurgency. While some went to Sibu to study in the Catholic High School and lived with their maternal grandparents in Bukit Assek, others stayed back. But no one had their education interrupted.

God was merciful to all us. I am glad that my uncles and aunts were faithful church goers and brought up children to become faithful believers.

After 1986, all my uncles and aunts and their families finally left Nang Chong. Life was never the same again and we sort of left our San Ba behind totally.

January 16, 2014

Nang Chong Stories : My Grandmother's Red IC

2013 There are almost 300,000 people in the country who are holders of red identification cards with permanent resident’s status.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (BN-Bagan Datoh) said today - October 23, 2013.

My grandmother Tiong Lien Tie, lived through 3 regimes -

++She arrived in 1903 at the age of 6 from China and was given a landing certificate by the Rajah's Government. My Grand Uncle and the then headman (Wong Nai Siong) vouched for her good behaviour.
During the Japanese Occupation she was stranded in China, after an attempt to build a house in China with the money she earned from rubber in Sarawak. She intended to return to Sarawak immediately but failed. However she was able to take the first boat out of China and reached Sarawak safely in 1945. My grandfather unfortunately passed away during the Occupation in 1944.
++She was given an Identity document from the Colonial Government but no PR status even though all her 9 children were born in Sarawak.

++In 1963, as a mother of Sarawakians, within Malaysia, she failed to get a blue IC. Instead, she was given a new Malaysian RED IC. 
According to the Malaysian constitution, she had to prove her worthiness why she deserved a Malaysian IC. She was illiterate, although she could speak Malay fairly well. She was advised not to proceed with her application. For after all she was already "old".
 The Communist Insurgency did not help her improve her status in Sarawak. Again, she thought of getting a blue IC and again, several people advised her not to proceed. During this time, it was obvious that she could not get her Blue IC. All China born men and women were suspect. (My grandmother was already about 70 years old then)


Here is the story of my concerns for her :

In 1971/2 I was an undergraduate at the University of Malaya and away from Sibu. My family was worried that my grandmother was holding a RED IC. Would she have problems?

Fear was spreading throughout Sibu for several years already because there were a lot of Communists fighting against the Government. Communism was a "hated, feared ideology", Communists were enemies of the State. Communists can only bring ruin to the people. These were the statements voiced by the government, teachers, community leaders  ever since the Colonial government recognised the underground works of the Communists as BANDITS, TERRORISTS, in 1958. The British Government felt that if Malaysia was formed immediately, the problems of the CTs would be wiped out. It would have been economically sound for the British government. Save a few pennies. Thus the so called "difficult child state of Sarawak" was handed over to Malaya to form a new nation Malaysia in 1963.*
My Third Uncle Lau Pang Sing (deceased( and his wife, who now lives in Lucky Road Sibu.

1971 was a very crucial year for my family in Sibu. I often received letters from former students, school mates and relatives. My sister Sing wrote fairly often as we did not have a house phone then. Occasionally I would call my uncle's office in Sibu to share a few pieces of information and exchange some news.

July 1971 came and my greatest fear was how my family would fare during the long curfew hours. There have been  shorter curfews and  longer  hours of curfew days. But the worst one was the 24 hours curfew for 72 days in  July - Sept 1971. I was safe in Kuala Lumpur. But I missed out the card playing days, the lights out at home, and how my kid sisters slept under the beds. How anxious were my days for being the eldest I was not there with them.
The new Malaysian RED IC. (from Google) I don't have my grandmother's old IC.
My sister wrote ,"We have a lot of issues here, people who hold RED ICs are very scared. We who hold blue ICs should be ok."

Mum had to rear chickens to supplement our food in those crucial years. When the curfew was imposed, my sisters had to walk boldly (pushing one bicycle) through the barricades mounted by the security forces to the shop, Chai Hong, which was actually within view of our house. Several of Police and Border Scouts knew us very well as the Police station was just at the junction of our Brooke Drive. So my siblings and our neighbours' children , could actually pass by them and buy some sundry goods but only in the morning.

The shop had only a small opening to show that the towkay was in. Actually his whole family was living in the shop throughout the curfew because it was safer for them and they did not have to walk all the way to their home,some distance from the shop . They had to be with their shop after all.

My sister Sing remarked at one time, what would actually have happened if a soldier had shot her. She said all the corn would be on the road, her bicycle would have been confiscated and blood would be all over the corn. It was a horrific and tragic scenario. But she was so determined to feed the chickens.
This is the old IC. of old Malaya.  P.Ramless's IC from Google. My GRandmother had so wished to get a blue IC like this.

During this period, my grandmother and the family of my Eldest (Pang Ping) and Third Uncles (Pang Sing) were still in Nang Chong Village, living in the big house built by my grandfather, Lau Kah Chui in 1930's.

All the villagers had to submit to TENANT REGISTRATION, a security exercise mounted by the Security Forces in 1972. In 1975  RASCOM took over the responsibility.

The objectives of the exercise are :
1. To provide intelligence on the movement of the communists and their supporters
2. To deny the CTs any shelter and accommodation
3. To prevent CTS from dominating an area
4. To give an excuse to unwilling supporters from associating and cooperating with the CTS.
(page 95,10th Anniversary Souvenir Magazine, RASCOM)

"A total of 177,837 persons were registered under the exercise involving 29,000 families." 

My two uncles and my grandmother were terrified by the exercise being the timid Foochows. The villagers were so scared that they often closed their doors and windows even in the day time. Some more daring ones went to their pig sties to feed their animals and even went to the cooperative to buy supplies. Occasionally the Security Forces patrolled the river and their boat engines could be heard. It was a fear ridden time.

But fortunately, one of my school mates,who had already joined the Police force, and who could speak Foochow appeared in Nang Chong during one of his duties in the area. He saw my photo in my grandmother's living room and he tried his best to use some reassuring words to help my grandmother and uncles understand. His influence must have been fairly significant because every soldier/police who later came by my grandmother's house was very polite and they only did the mandatory checks without any untoward incidents.

It was very understandable that my Grandmother was petrified because she was holding a RED IDENTITY CARD, which meant that she was an alien and her greatest fear was being "sent back to China". What could a 70+ Chinese woman do? Where could she go?

I returned to Sibu to teach in 1976 and enjoyed visiting her in Nang Chong, riding on the motor launches, as it was before the roads connecting all the villages were constructed. But then curfew was no longer imposed although we were still under RASCOM's jurisdiction.

My Third Uncle built a smaller wooden house in Nang Chong even before the big house collapsed in the 1980's. He continued to work as a contractor for JKR road construction and slowly he and his sons built up a small business after the collapse of rubber, oranges and wharf labourer's work, the main occupations of rural Foochows in the Rajang valley.

It was a simple life for all of us, each member earning a small income, some as teachers and clerks in the banks in Sibu. We celebrated a few birthdays for her after the fear of Communist threat was removed. Life was quite normal. We forgot about the strict road blocks, the river blocks etc. And we all started to go to different churches in Sibu, instead of the one in our village.

Grandmother continued to enjoy her movies in the cinema but in the last four years of her life she finally became 100% visually impaired due to glaucoma ( which was left untreated for too long). We all grew to understand blindness better because we looked after her. She was circulated amongst the two remaining sons and occasionally she came to live with my mother. That is a very Foochow thing to do. She did not want to die in a daughter's home.

My grandmother passed away peacefully in Lau King Howe Hospital in August 1983, clasping her red IC very tightly.

I still remember her asking my Uncle Chung Ching, to give her the Red IC from her basket, so that she could see it. Every one who could come to bid farewell had gathered around her. She was in a lot of pain.

Like a candle waning, the final light went off when the wick was finished and the wax melted.

Thus ended the long life of a wonderful woman who was sold for 5 silver dollars at the age of 5 as a child bride. She was brought to Nanyang and when she turned 16 she married my grandfather who was 15 years her senior. She carried her Red IC with the greatest of pride and died with it in her hands.

She only knew of Sarawak as her "country" because her children are all Sarawakians and Tong San or old China as her birth place. She saw Tong San only once only for a second time during the Japanese War. She never had any document from China to show that she was born in China or that she had lived in China.

(This is a story based on recounts from my family and my own personal experience. Some of the facts are referenced from Rascom's 10th Anniversary Magazine and Wikipedia. Thank you)


* Prior to the British Government announcing the East of Suez policy, the British Government had begun to reevaluate in the late 1950s its force commitment in the Far East. As a part of its withdrawal from its Southeast Asian colonies, the UK moved to combine its colonies in North Borneo with the Federation of Malaya (which had become independent from Britain in 1957), and Singapore (which had become self-governing in 1959). In May 1961, the UK and Malayan governments proposed a larger federation called Malaysia, encompassing the states of Malaya, Sabah (then North Borneo), Sarawak, Brunei, and Singapore. Initially, Indonesia was mildly supportive of the proposed Malaysia, although the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia — Indonesian Communist Party) was strongly opposed to it.(Wikipedia)

January 14, 2014

Bukit Lan : 72 days 24 hours curfew (1971)

Remembering the last days of the Methodist Foreign Missionaries in Bukit Lan.

The Wiants lived in Bukit Lan Methodist Mission Agricultural Station from 1968 to1971,during one of the worst political periods in the history of Sarawak.

Daniel Wiant was only 8 when he lived in Bukit Lan
Bukit Lan is one of the properties bought and managed by Rev James Hoover  for the Methodist Church of Sarawak from 1903 onwards. There is a church , a school , plus an agricultural station in this huge Church property, bought by the far sighted Hoover.This piece of land is more than 300 acres and today it is still home to a large farm leased to a private company, a church, a retreat centre and a small fruit farm for the pastorage.

The jetty of Bukit Lan of 1972 and the promontory here has been eroded  by river currents and floods.

Daniel looking at the jack fruit tree planted by his father.
Mr. Leighton Wiant, himself  son of Amercian Missionaries to China brought his family to Sibu. He spoke good Mandarin . His children attended the local school and enjoyed living in the rural area amongst Foochows and Ibans. They must have had a hard time living under on and off curfew conditions for almost a year.

Their Bukit Lan home today - just ceiling, roof and no walls, a few beams are left.
When the curfew was imposed, almost every one was taken by surprise. Life could be said to be chaotic and uncertain. The Foochows in the village tried their best to keep calm and followed the government instructions of the day.

During the curfew period, gun fire was heard in the "jungles" around the Bukit Lan village. While the villagers continued with their daily chores, the soldiers made the Bukit Lan school and church their headquarters.
Leighton Wiant meeting old friends
How do you do? The motor bike is still a favoured mode of transport in Bukit Lan
A village came to say good bye to Mr.Wiant. He is still remembered fondly by the villagers.

A school mate remembered how the soldiers would play cards during the day time under the tents they put up when they formed road barricades. As he lived near by, the soldiers became friendly with him and often talked to him. He sometimes would cycle by the church and asked for permission from the soldiers to go further down the road to collect some chicken feed from the little shop. His mother was too frightened to go herself. His sisters were all sent to Sibu to stay with a relative . Most of his friends and older boys and girls had to transfer to town schools or stop schooling. Expenses were big and many of the families just could not afford the expenditure in town. A few of the older girls had to learn sewing or work in some of the shops.

Miss Mona Pengelly, a nursing sister who looked after the Bukit Lan Mobile Clinic had a story to tell about the curfew. Some high ranking officers came to visit the "camp" and in the evening, the pastor and she were invited to have dinner with the officer and a few other soldiers who had been camping near the clinic. It was quite nice and she was surpirsed by the courtesy shown by the officer. They talked about ordinary things and the two were put at ease. The next day the officer left. Nothing much actually happened and she did not see any dead bodies or treat any bad wounds. The soldiers never came to harass her and her staff or the family of the pastor who lived next door. And she never did see any communist.

According to the Sparttanburg Herald, "90 communists were 'eliminated' from the jungles from January to July in 1971"

Security forces also lost a few men during the exchange of gun fires with the communists. It was reported that the communists had good machine guns and other weapons.

The Wiants left Bukit Lan not long after the curfew period because it was thought that their safety was threatened. And in fact many missionaries and Roman Catholic European priests and nuns were advised to leave Sarawak in 1972.

An elderly Iban man recently shared his memories about curfew time in Sibu and about the Chinese and Iban Communists of those days. He himself worked for a while as a school cleaner in Kanowit. According to him it was difficult to really tell who the communists were because they did not wear any uniform. But his family and the longhouse community did experience the help given by one group of these guerrillas during the harvesting time. In order to get some rice from the Ibans, these guerrillas actually helped the longhouse farmers harvest rice for several days and they were very friendly. But when they received news of some on coming danger, they politely obtained some rice and disappeared at night. "They were really polite and gentle," He later heard that several groups of communists were killed in Kanowit and he felt a little sorry that the state of Sarawak should be in this kind of situation.
(All photos courtesy of Wong Meng Lei)

January 1, 2014

Nang Chong Stories : Tea Rice

Whenever my maternal grandmother was not feeling well, she would lose her appetite and she would make herself a bowl of tea rice.

It was also something she would do whenever the younger generation upset her or when she found something she was unhappy about.
Compare this Japanese Restaurant Ochaauke with my grandmother's Da Buong below.

It was very symbolic that all was not well with her.

Our Nang Chong tea rice  (da buong) was very simple.


1. scrape the bottom of the rice pot for the crust of the rice and place in your bowl.
2. Pour hot tea over the rice crust.
3. Add a few slices of salted fish on the top.
4. Other condiments include peanuts and may be a good slice of fried egg, some fried seaweed.

When Japanese food outlets came to the shores of Sarawak, we realised that this ochazuke or tea rice was a restaurant food for travellers in Japan.

Where did tea rice originate?

To me it is an excellent way not to waste our rice, especially the fragrant crust. Love our earth, love our farms, don't waste!!

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