June 16, 2019

Sibu Tales : Days of Bell Bottoms and A Go Go Belts

My fashionable school juniors and  teacher.

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Hong Kong Stars and their impact
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It was very interesting. The era of bell bottoms, pop songs, timber boom and outward migration in Sibu.

It was the 70;s and the government had introduced curfews to curb movements of anti government elements and guerrillas. Yes in those days, they were not even called people or activities. They were called "elements". Some were event called jungle "rats".

While the rural areas were continuously under survellance with helicopters flying in and out of Sibu, and British and Gurkha soldiers making their presence felt in Sarawak, the youths were not spared another influence - that of international fashion.

Due to the sale of pop magazines, and shows of movies in the cinemas,the imagination of the youths (baby boomers) was fired and "caught" by the interantional fashion scene. The Hong Kong stars made their impact and every one young guy with some cash in his pocket wore what David Chiang wore. Every guy wanted to be macho like Chen Kwang Tai.

Tailors in Sibu made frantic attempts to copy the fashion. But then tailoring was cheap in those days. Trousers were cut and made for less than 20 ringgit.

The school authorities were not amused by the flared bell bottoms. School boys were told to go home and have their trouser legs straighted.

Principals during assmeblings announced, "The bell bottoms must go. The A Go Go belt must go. And Long Hair too."

June 14, 2019

Young Coconut Leaves

I live in a country with diverse cultures and I have plenty to learn all through my life.

However one intriguing feature of the Malays and the ethnic groups is their art which use leaves for example.

I did not really pay much attention to my friends when they made their rice dumplings or ketupat. So I never did learn my anyaman (weaving) Now in my old age, I am still intrigued by all the things they can make using the young coconut leaves or young shoots.

Each fasting month comes and goes. And I still haven't yet learned the art of making ketupat.

Young coconut leaves are pretty and their colours are beautiful. They are soft and lovely to use when making ketupat casings.Image result for daun kelapa for katupong

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They can be used to weave baskets.Image result for daun kelapa

Make figurines of animals.
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June 13, 2019

Boys Scouts of Olden Days

The Boys Scouts Movement was introduced to Fujian, China

Following the birth of the Republic of China, the first Scout troop was organized by Reverend Yen Chia-lin in Wuchang on February 25, 1912 and the Scouting movement spread rapidly all over the country.
The General Association of the Scouts of China was formally established in Nanking, the former capital of the Republic of China in 1934, and became a member of the International Scout Bureau in 1937. Many Scouts actively participated in the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945.
There were 570,000 registered members in 1941.
Scouts' Promise --
On my honor, I promise that I will do my best to obey and practice the Scout Law and Promise daily.
  1. To do my duty to God and be a righteous citizen of my country.
  2. To help other people at all times and serve the public.
  3. To be an intellectual individual who endeavors to be honorable and vigorous.

Fast Forward.....(but not the latest)

In 2004, the Scout Club of Hainan (海南童子军俱乐部), borrowing heavily from Scouting in terms of emblems, uniforms and activities, was founded in Hainan Province; it is, however, not affiliated with worldwide Scouting. An attempt to organize a nationwide Scouting organization in Wuhan was ended by the government in 2004.[1]The Scout Association of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国童军总会), founded in 2008 serves Venture Scouts (15 years old to 20) in both genders as well as Rover Scouts (18 years old to 25).[2] The Rover Explorer Service Association operate groups in China.[3]

Source : all from Wikipedia.

June 12, 2019

Ferries in Sarawak

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Popular ferry built in Sibu Half Motor Launch and half ferry which has been used for decades for bicycles and motor cycles.

Ferries are very interesting subjects to talk about. This ferry photo below  is from Lubokawah. Ferries can be very large or just some ones to cross a stream. Since Sarawak has many rivers flowing into the South China Sea and population is found dotted along the rivers , ferries have been very useful.

There are even a few ferries in Sarawak which sail into the open sea and move from one coastal town to another!! Or across the wide estuary of rivers.

Let us remember how useful they are to all of us. They have saved lives but some lives were lost because they were not operating during certain hours of the night.

The Nightingale was a ferry which crossed the Miri river from Miri town to the Miri Hospital in the years before 1990. Many patients came to late and while waiting for the ferry they passed away. Or when the driver of their car took the long road through Piasau, they died on the way.

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The old Baram ferry connected Sarawakians with Brunei, from Kuala Baram. 

Miri Ferry
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Siniawan Ferry
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Sibu Ferry
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Bintulu Ferry
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Sebauh Ferry
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Mukah Ferry
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June 11, 2019

Pelagus Rapids and Toilet Building

I am keeping these photos (from friends and Google) for remembrance. In 1968 I went to Belaga but did not shoot the rapids and did not shoot much with my camera, which had only 2 rolls of 12 exposures, the Kodak films of yesteryears.

We were a group of Methodist youths going to build public toilets for a longhouse. It was also one of my few journeys into the interiors of Sarawak. The longhouse selected belonged to the family of (now) Datuk Billy Abit Joo and most of the residents were not yet Christians. There were about 40 of us youths coming from Sibu, Kapit, and Sarikei, from different racial backgrounds. It must have been quite a cultural shock for the longhouse folks.

Among us was also a Peace Corps volunteer from the US.

I was not unfarmiliar with longhouse life as my grandfather owned the Kiong Ann Brickyard in Aup and I had close relationships with the employees who were mainy Ibans and Kayans. And I had visited the Iban longhouses there from time to time. But for many of my MYF friends who went along, it was the first time ever in their lives to "sleep" in a longhouse.

Our team members were all given different roles to play besides having to dig the pits for two toilets. Food was well cooked in the kitchen and we all ate together in the ruai, sitting on the mat, and enjoying our food cooked by our friends.

In the evenings we had prayers and Bible study. And to make the longhouse people feel that we were very happy with their hospitality, we encouraged them to sing  and dance with us. Many of us fell asleep watching them dancing into the small hours of the morning. the friendly dogs did not bother us at all.

It was also the first time I learned how pit toilets were constructed. I felt pretty good about myself. I am sure my fellow MYFers felt good too. In no time we finished our projects and we were on our way home to Kapit, Sibu and Sarikei. Most of us never met up with each other after we parted which was a pity.  It is now 51 years after that date. Half a century plus 1 year have gone by.

When I went back to Sibu, I had an earful from mother. She did say that it was lucky for me to be home safe and sound and that I did not break an arm or a leg.

My mother thought I was too ready to go away from home, like a bird ready to fly off. She must have confided in my aunts and uncles. One of my non Christian uncles later told me that our work in rural Sarawak was similar to the Red Guards work in rural China. He was probably using some reverse psychology on me. But I replied that we were doing work for Christ and our MYF motto was Christ Above All.

However, it all ended up quite well for him. Because years later I met up with him again in Sibu and he was a contented and happy man. Was he was quite impressed by the work of Christian youths? After he retired he became a faithful church goer.

All these photos are from Google. We were blessed by the development in technology. Years ago I thought the beauty of the Pelagus would not be brought to my friends who never left Sibu..They would not have any idea of what I saw.

Today the rocks of the Pelagus have been blasted and the river Rajang does not look so treacherous.

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Covered long boat shooting the rapids.
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Photo from an uncle who was travelling up to Belaga as a civil servant. He had a friend who took this photo. Probably in the 1970's.

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This was what we did.  We walked on the ledge of the river banks alongside the Pelagus. ..and some had to pull the boat when the water was low.

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That's me in 1968. Sitting on a rock watching the Pelagus.

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My dear cousin, Lau Kung Ing who passed away a few years ago. We did meet up after he retired. We went to this work camp together. In 1990's I taught his wonderful daughter, Yvonne,  English at Maktab Perguruan Sarawak, Miri.
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Part of our Toilet Building Team

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Memorable photo by Philip Hii.

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A photo of the Pelagus today.

So much history and so many stories have gone "under" now.

June 10, 2019

Old Sibu Silversmiths

My maternal grandmother had one precious silver hairpin which she brought from China. It was probably given to her by a Lau relative later in life. She wore a silver ring which helped her in home treatments of fever. As she was a child bride she did not bring any jewellery from her Tiong family.

Throughout her life she did not buy much silver ornaments. However she visited goldsmiths to buy gold ornaments as wedding gifts and a few silver bracelets and anklets for babies.

But she and I made the rounds of visiting silversmiths and goldsmiths in Sibu. Ah all those glittering ornaments stay in my mind.

Her most precious gold ornaments which never left her body were her gold earrings and her gold bangle (which she later endowed to her third daughter in law, Wong Nguk Ling). She was not a jade bracelet wearer.

Silver was a valuable possession to the Ibans and other ethnic groups of Sarawak. In particular the Ibans bought a lot of silver jewellery for their women. Iban women's head dress, necklaces, and belts and other ornaments were all traditionally silver. But unfortunately over the last half century many longhouses were burnt and almost all their silver ornaments were melted by the various fires. I know of a few families who lost thousands of ringgits worth of silverware and gold in the longhouse fires. It is a great pity that such valuable antiques should be lost in this way.

Thefts too have caused many Iban families to lose their valuables.

When times were good many Iban men and women would approach the silversmiths of Sibu to make special items for them. Sugu Tinggi (Maiden's Head gear), rawai (silver corset) and silver belts are among some of the favourite items the Chinese silversmith could patiently make. Thus the Chinese silversmiths did a roaring trade before the 1960's. Many of the silvermiths' shops were along Channel Road, easily accessible to the Ibans who came down from Kapit, Song and Kanowit, or from down river from Bawang Assan.

Some of the old shops along Channel Road, sold both silver and gold ornaments like Mee Hua,Tien Hua (Chung family) Ing Hua and Teck Ho.

Examples of precious Silver items:

a) Special silver belt

b) special silver belt and buckle

c) Iban corsets or rawai and other silver ornaments
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But alas, today their business is on the decline due to many economic and social factors.

(Photos from Google)

June 9, 2019

Sibu Tales : Yii Bing

Yii Bing was born in what is known as the Au Yong area in Sibu just before Sibu was bombed by the Japanese.

In those days Au Yong was actually miles and miles of rubber trees. He remembers he and his siblings walked every where barefooted and as a result, his toes are wide apart.

During the war his father traded with the Melanaus and after the war he was brought to live in Sg. Kut. As a result he went to study in St. Patrick's in Mukah.

However he had set his sights high and he actually ran away from his father by being a hideaway in a motor launch.

He never regretted running away from Mukah as he had wanted to become a singer. Beacause he was still under 12, he had to get back to school. By attending the nearby Tung Hua Secondary school he had a very good grounding in Chinese ethics, morals and the classics. He developed his singing interests even though his teachers did not know anything about music.

After he won several singing competitions in Sibu his career took off and he cut a record in Singapore using his own hard earn money.

To earn more, he made the rounds of all the nightclubs he could find and he prospered because it was also the era of timber boom.  There was the Grandeur or Kuo Du, and The Ambassador or Kuo Bing, the most “high class” night clubs of Sibu in those days.

He wrote many songs himself and most of them very motivating, with a good beat.

He later moved to Miri where he operated a nightclub, raised a family and opened a vocal school.

His most famous group is the All Women Combined Choir called Fei Yien or Flying Swallow. He took this choir group to tour many cities in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

He has a very good following in Miri.

His life story is very inspiring. 

"From poverty stricken rubber roots to timber financied night clubs to mature concerts of high standard music. What a life!!"

Now he spends quiet time with his wife, his friends and going to church.

Sibu Tales : Days of Bell Bottoms and A Go Go Belts

My fashionable school juniors and  teacher. Hong Kong Stars and their impact It was very interesting. The era of bell bottom...