Showing posts from June, 2006

Family Titles in Brunei

On my recent blog on Brunei's Time Line, one commentator got carried away and she started to talk about events in the past before moving on to nicknames. I enjoyed what she wrote and I offered for her to write a whole blog about it and I will put it up. But up to now, I have not received anything from her. So, Hajah Yati, if you are reading, my offer still stands. And for the rest of you readers out there, if you don't have your own blogsite, I am most ready to offer my site for the occassional blogs that you want to write - just make sure the blogs are Brunei related. You can set up your own blogsite once you feel comfortable. As someone later on commented, it will be nice to read someone else's blogs too on this website. At least on this one, you get an instant 300+ readers a day. So, please, my e-mail is Do write.

I don't have much on nicknames to write on as suggested by Hajah Yati. I remembered when I was at school (primary), I have frie…

Brunei's American Hill

I didn't realise just how close our relationship to the Americans were. By the 1860s we had a diplomatic relationship with the USA. In fact in 1865, the United States Consul to Brunei, Claude Lee Moses obtained a 10-year lease for the territory of North Borneo from Brunei in exchange of a yearly tribute of $9,500. He later sold all his rights to a Hong Kong based US trader Joseph W. Torrey. Torrey with some associates formed the American Trading Company of Borneo and establised a planting and trading settlement on the mouth of the Kimanis river. Torrey was granted the title of Rajah of Ambong and Marudu and Supreme Ruler of the whole of North Borneo. The colonization attempt failed however and Torrey and others soon left. By the end of 1866 the settlement was completely abandoned before more attempts to renew the cessation in the later part of the 19th century.

Anyway, when the Americans were in Brunei, they stayed at a place near the Sungai Kebun area and that area is now known as…

Brunei's Time Line

I had lunch with my alumni at a restaurant called Wecan Elite - the best description for the location I can think of is it's in an apartment block behind Pizza Hut Gadong. I had a tough time searching for it, apparently it is quite popular and I must admit the food was good (that's a free plug for Wecan). There are not many of us but the few that we have are enough to keep our group alive and allow us to share many things. Yesterday, we ended up talking about the concept of time when a minister, a member of our alumni was describing how his elders, if they wanted to know how old you are now, would ask how old you were when a certain major event took place.

The Bruneians then have their own concept of time. A number of our elderly Bruneians when you asked them do not know when exactly they were born, sometime some do not even have birth certificates to prove that they were born in whatever years. It was only in the 1940s that birth certificates were issued and even then not ever…

Much ado about TAP

Someone asked me about a previous posting of mine which among others I said 'forget TAP' when it comes to preparing for your retirement. My former officers are asking why the sudden change of attitude since I used to be the head honcho of the agency? I thought I will take the opportunity to clarify my earlier blog. It was never my intention to advocate a total abandonment of TAP nor to insinuate my former hardworking officers that their efforts are not worthwhile. On the contrary, I salute my ex-officers and ex-staff in their endeavour to provide a more professional public service agency. I think theirs is probably one of the best among government agencies. However there is a limitation to the TAP scheme itself.

For a lot of young people joining the workforce be it in the private sector or the government sector, the first thing you will come face to face with any government agency will be with TAP or to give it the proper name - Tabung Amanah Pekerja (TAP) or in English, the Em…

Bukit Markuching Revisited, Again

Bukit Markuching is in the news again. Quite a lot of things seemed to be happening at the place. In a way, it's typical for Brunei. New things always attract attention. We see the same thing for restaurants and other places as well. Restaurant owners have to keep reinventing themselves every few months, otherwise people will just tuned off. I remember visiting a few that was so crowded during the first few weeks of opening but the number of diners tapered off after that.

Yesterday, though, I managed to get the history of the currently famous Bukit Markuching. It seemed that the Bukit was quite famous in the past among Bruneians especially among settlers in the Subok area. Imagine it, in those days, there were no roads along the Subok or Kota Batu areas. Travelling was done by rivers. You learn to navigate the rivers. In fact most settlements in Brunei if you study your local history deep enough will always be by a river somewhere. That's why tiny little streams in Brunei tend …

Brunei place names

There is one hill somewhere along Jalan Tutong, way past Tanjung Nangka which has an identity crisis - maybe not the hill, but certainly whoever it was that named it all those years ago. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera when I passed by the sign, otherwise it would have made a very good visual photo.

Anyway, the hill is called Bukit Gunung Batu. For those who do not speak Malay, Bukit means Hill, Gunung means Mountain and Batu means Rock. This means the translation would be Rocky Mountain Hill? Probably the first time that you will see Mountain and Hill appearing together in the same name. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a mountain means a natural elevation of the earth's surface having considerable mass, generally steep sides, and a height greater than that of a hill. And the same dictionary says a hill is a well-defined natural elevation smaller than a mountain. So, what happen when the place is called both mountain and hill? Go figure.

Jalan Tutong has sev…

Origin of Place Names in Brunei

Sometimes the origin of place names in Brunei is a mystery. Some we can only guess - Kota Batu must have some stone fort built there somewhere in the past. Muara is fairly natural. Muara is the mouth of the river and of course that's basically where the big mouth of the river entering Brunei is - so Muara became the name.

Gadong most probably comes from the word 'gedung' which means 'warehouse' rather than the colour green which in Brunei Malay is called gadong. In Gadong, there must have been in the past some warehouses and the name became associated with the are Gadong. Some names are beyond imagination on how they came about.

One which I came across recently is Berakas. The Berakas mukim is probably among the most populated in the district of Brunei-Muara. The authorities have actually divided Berakas into Berakas A and Berakas B to distinguish between the two halves of the mukim. In the olden days, say, the late 1940s, Berakas was mostly forest land. The only peo…

Brunei-Cambridge GCE

I read with interest the many blogs and comments on the English O level - arguments about whether it should be dumbed down and there is even talk about abandoning the O level itself. I don't want today's blog to throw the subjects open but I just merely wanted to put forward my two cents worth.

This topic is admittedly not among my forte. I personally have no problem with the GCE O level itself or with the GCE O level English way back in the late 1970s. I did both English and English Literature at O level and English at A level as well and without sounding too conceited did well in all of them and taking them more than 30 years ago thus giving me no personal experience to make me say we should dumb down the GCE O level English or abandoning the GCE O level itself. The only note that I can make is that English is the world's current language of knowledge. Not being proficient in it will mean difficulties to many people who want to go further in life.

But with regard to the GC…


I read a Singapore blogger posting who presumably works in a bank coming across the Brunei $10,000 note and posted the picture of the note up. I think she said something along the line that it was the largest note she has ever seen and she said that the money resembled 'hell money'. At first I wasn't quite sure what she meant by 'hell money' until I realised she was referring to the 'paper money' burnt by traditional Chinese giving offerings to their departed ones. This was taken up by Naz, a Brunei blogger who said that the size must have been the largest in the world. I think there were a few comments about the size of it as well.

Despite working in the financial sector, I don't come across the $10,000 note very much either. Most of the money we deal with come in figure forms and I am used to dealing with billions figures but have never actually seen them in real life. It would be interesting to see how much a billion dollars worth of money would look …

Happy Father's Day, Again

Note: I wrote this blog much earlier expecting to publish it for the Father's Day and saved it in my office's laptop. But with my short break at the Empire, I did not have access to that laptop and I had to write another one for Father's Day which I didn't particularly enjoy as much as this one. Since I thought this is a much better blog than the one I published on Sunday and not to mention the amount of research I had to do - rather than wait for the 2007 Father's Day, I am publishing it here as we should not just wait for Father's Day to say our love to our fathers. Here it is:-
A few weeks ago, my six year old son drew a picture of a car on a road. He showed the picture to me and he told me that it will look beautiful hanging on my office wall. I asked him to put the picture in my bag. The next day, I forgot to take the picture out. When I came home that evening, he asked me whether I have placed it on my wall. I told a white lie and said I did. He asked me w…

Teachers in Brunei Society

I was reading the comments about my blog on the Brunei Education System. I love the comments as one of the objectives of this blog is to bring to the attention of readers of issues in Brunei Darussalam, our beloved country. I believed passionately that we collectively can do so much better than trying to change the world alone. What is important is that we can share in this task and we have to respect one another's opinions as believe me, after being in the civil service for 20 years, there is no right and wrong policy - all policies are intended to do good but not all policies ended up doing good.

The argument about the status of teachers to me is one such point. The teaching profession is an honourable profession. It is probably one of the few profession in the world that can actually change the course of history and the course of mankind. As a teacher, you get to mould the students in front of you to be somebody that you want them to be. There is no greater honour than being cal…

The Brunei Money

Whenever I am stuck on something I turn to one of a number of books on Brunei that I have in my collection. The one that caught my eye today is entitled "Brunei and Nusantara: History in Coinage" written by William L.S. Barrett published in 1988 by the Brunei History Center and printed by Percetakan Seasons Sdn Bhd. This book was published in conjunction with the official opening of the Brunei History Centre as well as an exhibition on the history of Coinage of Brunei and Nusantara.

The book is interesting and to use to words in the foreword 'sheds light on the history and administration of the Sultans of Brunei during the late 17th and 18th centuries.' The coins in the book served to validate the Brunei Tarsilah such as the rightful correct lineage of the Sultans throughout the ages. Some of the earliest identifiable coins are those that belong to Sultan Nasaruddin who ruled from 1690 to 1710 and there are other coin which have been issue either prior to, or later th…

Happy Father's Day

Today is the third Sunday of June - the American date to celebrate Father's Day which has also been taken up by many countries. It has been said that it was started by a lady who admired her father who brought her and her 5 siblings up singlehandedly. It was first celebrated in her hometown in 1910 before being celebrated nationwide. By the time RichardNixon became President in 1972, the Father's day holiday was officially recognised.

For most Bruneians, we have great difficulty expressing our love to our fathers. We do not seem to have the same difficulty with mothers. Perhaps the younger fathers may find it easier but the older the father, the harder it is for his children to express their love for him openly. Father figures are generally expected to be respected and to be obeyed. He isthe discplinarian in the family. He is also expected to be the breadwinner of the family,though that stereotyping is breaking down. Some children have also expressed their opinions that today&…

Bukit Markuching, Revisited

I have ruffled a few feathers on my local holiday blog this morning on Bukit Markuching (just corrected from Merkuching, thanks Hazirah, though if I am not mistaken the official signboard says Merkuching, though all the archived news says Markuching). It's good to know that the local spot has a very good following who have been quite vociferous in letting me know my mistakes through the comment box, e-mails as well as verbally. Once again I apologise.

To make amends, I have attached a satellite picture of Bukit Markuching and the views that trekkers can enjoy if they reached the very top (and not the 'top' that my little boy ran up to). For reference, on the lower left hand corner is Bandar Seri Begawan and you can just make out Masjid Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien (circular black). Look at the top left hand quadrant and you can make out several features that will be visible from the hill including the International Convention Centre (red spot), Ministry of Finance Building (…

Holidaying in Brunei Darussalam

I finally managed to get a few days off starting Thursday until today. If you think that I have not been working very hard, let me tell you that this is only my second leave (3 days) since last January (5 days) and before that my last holiday was in October 2004. So in the space of 20 months, I have only taken 8 days off (and yet I am entitled to have 60 days off in a year). Do I hear any sympathy out there?

Me, the wife and my 6 year old decided to spend the precious 3 days as a local holiday. This is one of the irony of life - previously we can't really afford to go out the country much even though it was easier taking holidays but nowadays when we can afford it, we can't take the holidays! But we are grateful. It allowed us to discover a few more places for our local holidays right here in Brunei. Even better right here in the District of Brunei-Muara all within driving range. I am really sorry for KBians (but I was born there) or Tutongians (I went to my first school here)…

Ghosts in Brunei

Borneo Bulletin last Sunday had a story about ghostly tales in Brunei - especially of ghosts and spirits moving into vacant houses. Tales about 'spirits wandering' at Kampung Perpindahan Lambak Kanan and in Rimba. Some of the more favoured spots - ghostly hot spots - are said to be the coastal highway road, banyan trees, fishing ponds, beaches and at a school. BB reported the usual claim to be a ghostly lady floating and dressed in a white cloth, or hovering and headless or appearing in black with red eyes.

I have never seen one and neither do I wish to see one either regardless of whether I believe in it or otherwise. But there are sometimes convincing arguments and I have to say that it maybe as equally hard trying to disprove them as it is to prove them. I have heard tales about the spirits and ghostly figures ever since I was a tiny little boy. Some of them told first hand by some of my relatives and friends and some I have come across but never really saw.

The coastal high…

Commencing your new life (Part 2)

Damon Darlin of the New York Times (yes, I know, it is my favourite reading and if it wasn't for NYT, I will be struggling for materials) wrote recently about financial planning for the young graduates. I agree with him that even though you thought you are the smartest person in the world when you graduated and you have managed to get your first job already, you need to know how to manage your salaries. I mean seriously, most of us have never handle that much money before and suddenly you earn this much and everything that was probably on your wish list is now on your shopping list. But do that and you are looking at the poorhouse when you retire. Like Damon said, if you think it is tough living on very little now, imagine what it will be like when you are old and sick.

It is well known the current savings under TAP will be inadequate, no matter how hard my former investment officers at TAP work to get good returns. The amount of contributions are way too small. So you have to take…

Commencing your new life

It's June. In UK, this is the graduation month for final year students. I remembered when I underwent my undergraduate graduation 19 years ago. Though this year I really have to symphatise with all Brunei students in UK. I just hope that everyone gets through with all the lecturers going on strike and all that. For those of you who somehow managed to get through all those exams and those strikes, congratulations on your upcoming graduation ceremonies. It's the mother of all graduations that you would have undertaken throughout your life.

For today, I am steering clear of any contentious education issues. I was reading the New York Times and one article about 'commencement' stood out which talks about the commencement speeches given at American universities. For those of you whose education background is Brunei, UK and Oz, 'commencement' means 'graduation'. I am not sure why the American graduation is called differently. I was told that 'commencement…


I ran into a stranger as he passed by, “Oh excuse me please" was my reply.

He said, "Please excuse me too. I wasn't watching for you."

We were very polite, this stranger and I. We went on our way and we said goodbye.

But at home a different story is told, How we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal, my son stood beside me very still. When I turned, I nearly knocked him down. “Move out of the way," I said with a frown.

He walked away, his little heart broken. I didn't realize how harshly I'd spoken.

While I lay awake in bed, God's still small voice came to me and said, "While dealing with a stranger, common courtesy you use, but the family you love, you seem to abuse.

Go and look on the kitchen floor, You'll find some flowers there by the door. Those are the flowers he brought for you. He picked them himself: pink, yellow and blue.

He stood very quietly not to spoil the surprise, you never saw the tears …

Brunei's Education System

At the last Friday prayer, one of the people who I always bump into every Friday but never really got to know well other than on a nod and smile basis, came over to me. He was asking me where I worked as he saw me sitting on stage at ICC when he was receiving his diploma. He was in his 30s and we chatted about why he is studying now when he already has a family to look after. He was very happy to receive his diploma trying to make up for his youth when he did not do very well academically and he was very glad to be given the chance to study again.

What struck me are two things. The first is the determination of one person trying to make life better for himself by taking the sacrifice to continue his studying. He had undergone the 'school of regret' or 'sekolah menyesal' as most older people would say. He obviously saw that the future to a better life is best by taking up further studies. It was harder as he had to compete with much younger students though at the same ti…

The Brunei Coal Mine

On Borneo Bulletin, about a month back, there was a mention about turning the old Brooketon Colliery in Muara into a heritage park. The Museums Department wanted to turn the historical 62 hectares coal mine as an open site museum to promote the country's eco tourism. It is currently already a protected site under the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Act. A number of readers must have been wondering when did we have this coal mine and how come we don't have it any more?

In Brunei, we just do not realise sometimes how lucky we are and how rich our country is. Currently we have the oil. But in terms of natural resources, we still have the silica sand unexplored, the peat which can be converted into energy, the coal and the trees. That's why in the old days, Bruneians were great traders trading our goods far and wide. Unfortunately we seemed to have lost that skill with most of us now preferring to be civil servants, sitting down in airconditioned room and pushing papers.

So what …

The house of 12 roofs

I am not generally a superstitious person but sometimes events can happen that makes us realise sometimes there is a fine line between the supernatural and the real world. One case in point I remembered was back to the time when I was involved in the preparation of the Youth Ship Program, which I blogged about a few weeks ago, was the cultural dances practices. At that time, the only place which was available to us was the Bubungan Dua Belas - that's the old British High Commissioner Residence at Bukit Subok. The building is probably one of the oldest, if not the oldest wooden residence still in existence in Brunei Darussalam today.

During the practices which took us to quite late at night and being young exubriant youths at that time, to put it mildly, we were pretty loud. We have been at it for a few nights when one day, when we were supposed to come back for practise, a number of us were suddenly down with flu. That was when the elders told us to clamp down for a while and to be…

How round can round gets?

Quick Quiz - What is the shape of the ball used during the upcoming World Cup in Germany starting tomorrow? .... I can sense the hesitation .... You want to say round but you are afraid that this is a trick question. No, this is not a trick question. According to Adidas, the official ballmaker for the World Cup, when Germany kicks off against Costa Rica, the ball used will be 'rounder' than any of the previous balls used in previous World Cup Finals. Huh? Do you mean to say that previous balls were rugby shaped balls? How 'rounder' can round gets?

According to Adidas who had been supplying balls for the world cups for the last 36 years, this year's ball to be used during the world cup will be 'rounder' because the balls are not made from the usual 32 black and white pentagon panels but rather the panels are premolded into the right shape and they are not cut out of a flat piece and forced into a round shape as before. By reducing the number of places where …

All I ask for is honesty

There was an interesting little news that I saw on Brudirect quite a while back under 'other reports' about British policemen moonlighting among others as models and masseurs. More than 1,000 of them reported that they held part time jobs in addition to being a cop, which surprisingly also include them working as florists, hypnotherapists, entertainers, plumbers and caterers. And it's not just the lowly constable doing the extra work and finding that supplementary income but the list also include chief superintendents and two deputy assistant commissioners! Their salaries are not cheap either as salaries start at about BGP27,000 (that's $81,000 our money or about $6,500 a month) up to GBP30,000 ($90,000) after two years' probation and benefits include overtime, free travel in the capital and up to 30 days' annual leave.

Now, I am not sure whether these policemen are doing for the money or for the fun of it but it is quite interesting to know that they are allowe…

Malay Days

A few days ago, I blogged about how everytime we say the name of the day in English, we inadvertently pay homage to either a Roman or Germanic god of old. A reader commented I should also blog one about how the Islamic/Malay days came into being and several other commentators have come up with their own versions. Like they say in the cooking show, let's take a finished blog out of the oven as I have prepared this one earlier.

Names of days around the world come in one of two varieties (trust me, I have been reading up on these) - those following closely the Latin/Germanic gods or those which follow the numeric days. Because of close relationship of the languages and religions in the middle east, the Islamic week is originally derived from the Jewish week, as was the medieval Christian week. All of these have numbered weekdays in common. All three also coincided with the Sunday through Saturday planetary week. The Islamic and Jewish weekdays begin at sunset, whereas the medieval Chr…