December 30, 2014

Liberation Day of Sarawak : a photo

This is a photo to mark the Liberation Day of Sarawak in Binatang (Now Bintangor). Several leading community leaders from all the different ethnic groups were given long service medals for their public service from the then Colonial Government.

December 27, 2014

Sibu Tales : Angkoo Kuih, from Fujian to Sarawak

Xiamen is the home of the Angkoo according to some famous food writers. But the Putien people also claim that Ang Koo actually originated in the Henghua counties (Sien Yiu and Putien). But to day with great communications and transport, we can easily accept the fact that Ang Koo Kuih come from the Fujian Province, because all the Fujianese can now make it well, including the Foochows.

However this is one of the stories of the origins of the ang koo kuih. In ancient times the Chinese would offer live turtules as moon cakes for rituals during the Moon Cake festival. And as turtles were not easy to obtain, chefs began to make cakes with a turtle back imprint to represent the turtles in the rituals. Thus Red Turtle Cake was born. Ang Koo Kuih is Hokkien. The Foochows call it Ern Goo Gui..

My first taste of Ang Koo Kuih actually was in Sibu and it was made by a Foochow family. Later, I met my Heng Hua neigbhour in Sg. Merah and she told me the stories of her family's ang koo, from China.

Xiamen as a city in South China is vibrant and forward looking. One street has delightful monuments to its culture and people. Even the Angkoo moulds form a nice tourist attraction. This is my photo of the three angkoo moulds of Xiamen taken some time ago.

In Sarawak, besides the Chinese the Malays and the Ibans also make this famous kuih for home and family or for sale at the market. We do not have yet a single outlet just selling ang koo kuih.

The skin of the kuih is made from sweet potatoes and the filling is usually a sweet one, which may be soy bean paste, or lotus paste, or even pea flour.

When serving ang koo at any function , the kuih usually symbolises long life because the mould  has the turtle shell design.

When most party goers cannot reach the main table where food is displayed a gracious church friend with a tray of ang koo is so welcoming. this is what outreach is all about. When the general public cannot get into the inner circle, or the centre of the party, a kind server brings the food to them.

This reminds me of the days when small churches did not have loudspeakers and the church goers standing outside the packed church could not hear the good news..How could those standing outside hear the words from the pastors?

The Pastors would visit them in the farm and share their sermons again. this kind of caring was shown in the more ulu Rajang Valleys and the Good News thus travelled far into the swamps and the rubber gardens.Reverend Ting Siew Chey, Reverend Lau Ngo Kee and Rev Ho Siew Leong are some names we can remember. They were the pastors when we were kids.

The seeds were sown and today many of the farmers and their children are fervent Methodists and Christians because of the hardwork of their pastors who, often walked barefooted to the farms.

Praise God.

December 13, 2014

Hedda Morrison

 Today 13.12.2014 is 106th Annivesary of Hedda Morrison's birth.

How many of you have read books on Sarawak and enjoyed some nice photos?

I have a photographic memory of a different kind. If I see an exceptional photo, I can remember it and most probably can also remember who had taken it if the credit has been given. thus since my primary school I remember the name Hedda Morrison and naturally I remember her exceptional photos of Sarawak.

There were also not many photos floating around in the 1960's about Sarawak! I was thus bitten by the shutter bug since then. Her photography has inspired me all these years.

Hedda Morrison was born in 1908, in Stuttgard, on Dec 13. She was a graduate of the State Institute for Photography in Munich. In order to leave German politics behind she chose to work in Peiping (later Bejing) in 1933. " She soon took many photographs of the old city and its people, temples and markets,mostlyusing a Rolleiflex, medium-fornat camera.

IN 1940, she met Alastair Morrison, son of the famous George Ernest Morrison, the influential London Timews correspondent in Peking. They were married in 1946 in China and left for Hong Kong.

However fate took her and Alastair to Sarawak. Alastair Morrison was recruited and assigned as District Officer, a big position in those days. They stayed in Sarawak for over 20 years. She took the opportunity to travel with Alastair on official journeys into the ulu. She herself also made many personal photographic tours, visiting farming settlements of the Chinese with whom she was very close (e.g. Sarikei and Lawas)

She wrote two very significant books on Sarawak, SARAWAK (1957) and LIFE IN A LONGHOUSE(1962). In 1967, she and Alastair moved to Australia and settled in Canberra.

Hedda died in Canberra in 2003, age 82.

Note : Exhibitions of her works have been mounted by the Australian National University, Canberra, the Canberra Photographic Society, the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, and the National Library of Australia. Many of her images are archived in the Harvard-Yenching Library, Harvard University and at Cornell University, NY. There is a large collection of her German, Asian and Australian work in the Powerhouse Museum.

Further reading

  • Edward Stokes, Hedda Morrison's Hong Kong: Photographs & Impressions 1946-47 - (Hong Kong University Press, 2005).
  • George N. Kates, The Years That Were Fat: Peking, 1933-1940 - (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks, 1989).
  • Hedda Morrison, Travels of a Photographer in China, 1933-1946 - (Oxford University Press USA, 1987).
  • Hedda Morrison, A Photographer in Old Peking - (Oxford University Press USA, 1986).
  • Alastair Morrison, Fair Land Sarawak: Some Recollections of an Expatriate Official - (Cornell University Southeast Asia Program Publications, 1993).


  1. "Hedda Morrison: photographic collection", Powerhouse Museum. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
(Source : Wikipedia)

December 11, 2014

Christmas Message from Rev and Mrs.Lionel Muthiah

   Christmas 2014

“ Stir up our hearts , O Lord, to make ready the way of your only Son, so that by his coming we may be enabled to serve you with pure minds, through your Son,  Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end. Amen.                         (Service Book and Hymnal, 75, adapted)

           “Are we there yet?” “Is it Christmas yet? No. It is Advent. What is that? So, some of us who follow the Liturgical calendar have to educate, interpret and explain biblical history. However, we know you would rather have news about us! Marion and I are doing well except for the usual aging issues.

            This year we were able to attend three High School graduations---Micah Coffey in Batavia, IL. He has been accepted by the University of Minnesota and given academic and baseball scholarships. Jacob Helton of Franklin, TN decided to take a year off (although was accepted by a couple of Universities) to work for a while on the Unkenholz family farm, where Marion grew up,  and to help neighbors with “fix it” jobs. Then we went on to Pasadena, CA to attend Samuel Muthiah's graduation. He was accepted by Westmont University, Santa Barbara, CA and given a four year scholarship.

            By doing this Marion and I missed two College graduations----Jordan Coffey from Taylor University and Sarah Helton from Union University.

            After working as a Nanny during the summer, Sarah went off to Kenya, Uganda and then Malaysia (lots of relatives) where Sarah’s mother, Lora, joined her. Together they flew to Singapore. After visiting more relatives, Lora flew back to Tennessee. Sarah then went on to Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. She visited her Uncle Rob and family in Altadena, CA and brother Josh and wife, Jessica, in Morrow Bay, CA. She came to visit her Uncle Rick and family and us in Newberg, OR. What an adventure for a young lady!

             We have some travel plans for the New Year and trust they will work out.  We’ll report next year!

            We continue to be grateful for our Friendsview Retirement Community where we have lived since August, 2009. It has been said that sometimes God leads us where we did not plan to go! God has indeed surprised us in many ways!

May your life also be filled with God's surprises! Create a
        Merry Christmas and have a joyous New Year.

Marion and Lionel Muthiah, 1015 Cherry St. #7, Newberg, OR 97132  Tel. 971-832-8533

December 6, 2014

Family Cemetery Plot of the Ting Family in Sibu

The Ting family of Sibu, Sg. SAdit have their own family plot. This is a famous Kutien family which worked hard since arriving in Sibu in 1901 with Wong Nai Siong and made their fortunes through hard work and resilience.
It is quite a common Chinese practice in fact to bury their ancestors on their own private land.

In Taiwan for example, many farmers who have good land, would always bury their ancestors in their own land, in fact at the beginning of the plot, where the feng shui is very good. This according to a local Tainan historian is a way of culture, a way of farming life. The dead would always look after the living.

The patriach and matriach in an early 1920 photo.
A recent photo of one of the lovely western influenced tomb.
general view.
The photo shows that this cemetery has been filled. Some tombs are ready made, for future use. It is the way of the Foochows.

December 4, 2014

Sibu Tales : Soy Beans

My grandfather married my grandmother in 1909 in Sibu, a match made by Rev James Hoover who first found Mr. Chong Jin Bok as a good English teacher for Sibu and then felt that his sister was a good match for my grandfather.

My grandparents went on to have 9 children, the desires of most early Foochow settlers in Sibu. Finally in 1938 my grandmother did not survive the miscarriage of her 10th child.

In those early years when my father and his siblings were just under 10, life was hard . Grand uncle and Great Grandfather Chong were already making a good living in rubber as they had brought some wealth from Bogor in Java and Grand Uncle Chong was a school teacher. Very often my father, as the eldest had to carry a small cloth bag to "borrow" some soy beans from his grandfather.

When we were growing up Father used to tell us that as he walked through the rubber garden to his grandfather's house (now Chong Jin Bok Road), he would wish for just a few slices of chicken and perhaps a good soup. But my grandfather who was just struggling in those days as a mechanic cum businessman, had to feed a growing family.

My mother used to tell us later that whenever my father looked at soy beans he had a shiver running down his spine but they represented hard times and very often, empty stomachs for those little brothers and sisters of his.

But we all thank God that Mrs. Hoover came to start a girls school and my aunts were all sent to her boarding school (my grandfather sent only rice as payment we were told) while the boys went to the Anglo Chinese school with Grand Uncle Chong. By the time my father was 15 years old my grandfather had already made more money and the fear of empty stomachs was slowly taken away from the small children.

The sight of yellow beans in a way traumatised my father for years.

December 1, 2014

Sibu Tales : Ribbons for My Hair

I was brought up by a very frugal and minimalist mother who did not believe in buying those extra frills for her daughters. I cannot remember if I ever had my hair tied by my mother or my short hair receiving a ribbon when I was very young. My first ribbon was given to me by an aunt when I passed my Primary Six Exam. And when I went to secondary school, my mother gave me some money to buy ribbons for my hair to match the school uniform. I still remember I bought a short piece at Hua Kwong General Store of Sibu at Central Road, which was owned by the Cantonese Leong Family.

One year later, my grandfather passed away and I had either to wear black or white ribbon or rubberised hair band to tie up my lush hair. Or I just wore a pony tail without any trimmings.

However lifestyle and cultural norms change with time.

My girls were different from me but I continued, probably wrongly, with the old Foochow way of thinking.

If little girls have their wishes today (2lst century)  they would wish for

1. ribbons for their hair
2. pretty dainty shoes
3. a big  flirty skirt, or a tiny tiny see through mini skirt (with a protector pants)
4. lacy blouse
5. long hair tied in pony tails
6. dolls with blue eyes and may be real hair to comb
7. a birthday party
8. a best friend
9. white frilly socks / stockings
10. a nice school bag
11.doc Martins
12. iPad,iPhone,etc

But,one has to understand that different cultures would bring up their daughters in different ways and often mothers in a cross cultural marriage would find it most difficult to meet with the aspirations and dreams of their lovely daughters who may think differently and dream differently.

Children in foster homes or orphanages would also have their dreams but how are their dreams met?

This Christmas let us think of all those children who are being brought up by  adults who are not their biological parents and pray for them that they too grow up in love and with God's protection.

I would like to pay particular and special tribute to fathers , widowed or not widowed, who have "combed their daughters' hair and put ribbons on their pony tails...wiped their tears away...and cleaned their scrapped knees...and took them for swimming lessons or dance lessons...or just spend quality time with their young daughters ."

The new generation of parents  should be bringing up their children better with all the education they have and with guidance/knowledge from every corner of the earth....and especially Dr.Google.....

I would also like to pay  a special tribute to all mothers who struggle to put a worthy spiritual life into their children while trying their best to keep even her own body free from physical and verbal abuses.....

And to my own mum who cut all our hair short.....because when she was young (BEFORE THE  SECOND WORLD WAR) she had the "navy hair cut " (very short ) . She continues to maintain that the best hair is short and straight but well washed and neat.

Honestly, I never did once wish I could wear long hair with a hibiscus in the hair and clad my body in a sarong and walk along the beach with a wonderful guy ....

..But my greatest wish was two swords on my back and riding a horse to right the wrong and kill the wicked!! Under the influence of the One Armed Swordsman indeed!!

 "Ja! Ja! To my horse, let's go...Mulan is on the way!!"

And then I too brought up my three girls and made them keep short hair...

but if I could do it all over again I really would want to give them ribbons for their hair and lace for their little dresses....I would like to spend more time with them playing "house"...yes indeed I would like to spend more time singing and praying with them.

Today with my post is a song by Jim enjoy it as you rush around with Christmas busy-ness and end of the year meetings....Take time to listen to your children's prayers...

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...