August 17, 2019

Chang Ta Kang : The Allied Army Came Ashore

"Only a few radios were able to receive news of bombings to liberate South East Asia and we knew that the Allied Army or Lian Goong would be coming to Sibu anytime. The end of the war was definitely coming. The people of Sibu had suffered so much." my late father told us , as part of our history lessons at dinner time. That was the time we could speak to him, listen to him, and ask him questions. He was a very slow eater and he talked slowly as if he wanted every one to catch his words properly.

My mother was always the silent listener, never butting in or exclaiming a "but". She too had her stories and we had to wait for the time she could tell us when father was at the office working.

He told us that , in his quiet manner, many who were consripted to work in the Sibu airport were almost half dead from starvation and a few had died from heat stroke, especially the older ones. He himself had lost weight and he  felt tired after the war. He said that war was a bad thing.

He had had left China in 1937 after his graduation from Yenching University in Beijing. In fact he was fortunate that he did not stay on in Nanjing. He just missed the Nanjing Massacre as he return to Sibu by commercial ship with some of his Sibu friends. He had never thought of staying on in China as he was expected by our grandfather to return to Sibu to help with the family business.

He had humourously said once that t seemed that the Japanese were following his path to Sarawak!

In one of the conversations we had about the Japanese War, he did mention that towards the end of the war, in Sibu, many people felt that the Japanese soldiers had become slightly more lenient and friendly.

"After the atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, pamphlets were dropped every where telling us about the end of the war. It was so different from the time when we saw bombs being dropped. But still the sounds of planes flying over head were frightening," my late father had said.

Although quietly there was a group of Allied Z Special Unit conducting intelligence operations and training hundreds of indigenous people to fight the Japanese in guerrilla warfare in the Fourth Division, my father said at that time, the Chinese did not hear anything about it. It was a secret indeed.

The Chinese community just waited for the Allied Liberators, made of Australian and American forces.

The Lian Goong (Allied Army)  brought tinned food, clothes and medicine and distributed them to the civilians. Many people ate tinned pork (ham) for the first time in their lives. My mother did say that the Foochows in the villages had no tin opener and they used the Chinese cleaver(chopper) to cut through the tin.

It must have been a great relief for every one in Sibu, after 3 years and 8 months of Japanese Occupation.  When the war ended, the Foochows called the period, "Lian Goong Shurng Ngiang - the Allied Army had come ashore."
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Thanks to the Australian War Memorial Archive, we now know what an Australian Soldier looks like at that time..loose khaki trousers, floppy hat, big gun...

The British Military Administration formally took over from the Japanese on 12th Sept 1945 and managed the affairs of Sarawak, from Labuan.

August 16, 2019

Borneo Company, Binatang , 1941



Did you know that the Borneo Company Limited (BCL) was founded in London in 1856 by James Brooke. Initially it was given all rights in return for royalties to the Sarawak Treasury to "take over and work mines, ores, veins or semas of all descriptions of minerals in the island of Borneo, and to barter or sell the produce of such workings."

Photo from CY Lim's Blog.

It accumulated a vast amount of landed property including the land on which the Hilton Hotel, the Grand Margherita and Wisma bukit Mata stand today.

Before 1958, all of BCL's managers and employees were exapatriate English merchants and traders sent to Sarawak from the UK.

In 1941, Dec 1 issue of the Sarawak Gazette reported the opening of the Borneo Company Building in Binatang on November 15th 1941.Image may contain: sky, cloud, boat, outdoor, water and nature

My grandfather who was owner-manager of Bee Ann (Mee Ang) Rice and Sawmill,  was invited to the opening ceremony together with several other Foochow and other Chinese community leaders  (https://www.pustaka-sarawak.com/gazette/gazette_uploaded/1370918137.pdf) Binatang was settled by the Foochow pioneers in 1922.

It was reported the Borneo Company godown cum offices was a one storey building, built of bricks with red tiled roof, a progressive achievement in those days.

Mr. T.C. Martine was the then Branch Manager. He was even appointed to the Council Negri when he became the Kuching manager of BCL, later.

The opening ceremony was grand  and well described by the Sarawak Gazette.  Mr. Cobbold, invited the Divisional Engineer, Mr. Reid, to declare open the new office and godown. Mr. Reid took the gold key out of a tray wrapped in the Sarawak Flag and opened the building.

About 50 invited guests then went in and were shown the various features of the building by Mr. Cobbold and Mr. Nizam. Drinks and refreshments were served. The Gazette named Chinese towkays, Mr. Tiong Kung Ping, Mr. Ling Ching Tu (Lim Hup Choon),Lim Chwee Seng, and Ting Ewe Hai as their invited guests.

Father Quadekkar and Father Wargennar ( who was the Principal of St Augustine then) were also among the important invitees.

Interestingly, the Gazette reported that many silk paintings, wall scrolls, wall mirrors were presented to the Company on their auspicious day by the Sibu dealers as tokens of their goodwill.

A group photograph was taken after the 2 hour function. (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

It must have been a great social event for the small town at that time.

A grand building indeed

August 15, 2019

Sweets of an Old Era in Sibu



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Peanut brittle.



Sibu's first man selling sugar coated sweets in our memories


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White Rabbit sweet

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Hawflakes


August 14, 2019

Sibu Tales : The Three Wheel Cart

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The Three Wheel Cart came in as many colours as there were owners, some greenm, some black, some red, and perhaps this is the only blue one I have ever seen in Sibu. To me it is the most "green vehicle" ever invented for small business. It only depends on leg muscles.

Interestingly Sibu has the largest number of three wheel carts in the 1960's for some reason. Today Vietnamese women seem to be the largest owners of this vehicle in Asia.

If you do see one in Sibu, most of them are very old already as mini vans, pick ups have been in the market for more than 20 years and have replaced them. The majority of them have been very useful in the delivery of goods from shops.

30 years ago, sundry shops provided delivery of purchases free of charge and shop assistants had to drive the three wheel cart as part of their job responsibilities. Today such provision businesses are mainly cash and carry.

However these are most most useful mobile carts for small time business men/women who need to transport a small volume of goods for example to transport cooking ports and other pots for chicken rice business.

In the history of Sibu hawker business, the most famous three wheeler's business was the one owned by the woman who sold green bean soup and home made kuih for more than three decades. She plied her sweet desserts from one road to the next in Sibu.

In the past, labourers who owned three wheelers also made themselves available at the different wharves in sibu to help travellers who needed to transport precious goods from a small piglet to some boxes of clothes and other personal belongings.

Sibu people who were born in the 50's and 60's would be filled with nostalgia when they see one solitary three wheeler cart moving in the streets of Sibu.

August 13, 2019

International Left Handers Day

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August 13 is International Lefthanders Day.

My mother is left handed. My second sister is left handed but to please teachers in school, my sister learned to use her right hand. Now she is almost 70 she is able to use both hands. She would have loved to use her left hand all her life.


I have had my struggle with teachers too when my two girls went to school. they are both left handed and they stay left handed. 

Left-handed people haven’t always been treated well throughout history. They’ve been persecuted for their disposition, being been labeled as evil – or even as witches – despite making up about 10% of the population. In fact, the word “sinister” comes from “left” or “left hand.” 

Research since the 1980s has found that our preference for our left or right hand is most likely determined before we are born – ultrasound screenings suggest as early as the eighth week of pregnancy. From the 13th week in the womb, babies tend to suck either their right or their left thumb.(source : Lindsay DodgsonBusiness Insider US ) 

The world is meant for right handers. Door knobs, silver ware on table settings, most knives,  and especially scissors.

I was dismayed when both my girls did badly in art because they could not use the right handers' scissors well. They were getting D's and were often hit by their teachers. I was glad that the wife of my former Principal, Mrs. KV Wiltshire sent a pair of left handers' scissors from Singapore to help them. I will always be grateful to her for her understanding and kindness.

Today both my left handed daughters are artistic and manage their life well. 30 years down the road, more and more people are becoming more aware of the needs of left handers. And many products have started to be made for left handers.

Happy LEFT Handers' Day.

August 12, 2019

Sibu Tales : Pig Face

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A whole pig face (Tii tou puoi in Foochow) is now quite pricey.

It used to be sold for just a few dollars at the beginning of Malaysia) and was considered poor man's food. Many poor families would buy have a face and braised it. "Thus pork was on the table for a few days", was the kind of expression the poor would have. I can empathise with that because my frugal mother did the same thing.

It is considered a deliccacy nowadays.

As it is quite a nice cut of pork, it is also served at Economy Food Stalls. It is indeed very popular. The meat and fat, with the soft bones, is very crunchy.

I like the ear bits.

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Extra Notes : I am happy to be able to take these photos of my cousin, a retired tailor and now a cook.

The photos are taken at the coffee shop owned her family in Miri. Known as Fisherman's Village, in Luak , it has been serving many people, for some years.

 She herself is the main cook for the economy food section, while her son and another helper will do the frying and the boiling sections.

One can see that her kitchen implements are Foochow too. The scoop she uses is the traditional How Diah, which can now only be purchased in Sibu.

Braised face is served almost every day in this coffee shop.

August 11, 2019

The Chendol Maker of Bintulu

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More than 70 years ago when this ice shaver was invented in South East Asia, many children did not have enough pocket money even to buy a simple ICE Ball or "Kantong Peng". I have never found out how to write the Kantong in Chinese though. I often wonder how that term originated from.

Shaved ice ball was a luxury to me too. And Red Bean Ice was even more luxurious because none of use had refrigerators at home in the 50's in Sibu. I still remember visit a wealthy relative near Lee Hua Sawmill and we were shown the outside, the back and inside of the kerosene run fridge.

The Sibu Wet Market had a portion selling chendol, ang tou peng, and rojak. It was a good place to rest and relax in the 60's and 70's. Today it is still there but it is probably the biggest wet market in the whole of Malaysia.

This ice shaver I found in Bintulu should already be a museum exhibit but she is still using it. Stall no 57 Bintulu Tamu. A kind lady Mrs. Chua (from Malacca) brought me to visit her because of my interest in vintage things.

The stall owner's grandfather in law made it when they started their business of making chendol, ais kacang etc. in the Bintulu open air market.

She said that her fingers are often numbed from handling the ice, but she won't get an electric ice shaver. She will continue to use this!!

Amazing food producer.

Chang Ta Kang : The Allied Army Came Ashore

"Only a few radios were able to receive news of bombings to liberate South East Asia and we knew that the Allied Army or Lian Goong wou...