Showing posts from February, 2007

You can't do that!

Last year, I was attracted to a book called "Don't sit on this book" written by Philip Cheong. It was an interesting book as it is a collection of Chinese taboos and superstitions. The things the Chinese can or cannot do. Philip Cheong is a Master at the Fung Shui Academy in Malaysia. He pointed out that one of the interesting things about taboos is that as they are passed down from generations to generations, almost no questions were asked and no logical explanations were given. But surprisingly they have a nasty habit of staying in our minds.

Similarly for the Brunei Malays. There have been many times in the past when I have been told not to do certain things and when I asked why, the usual answer of 'andangnya, nda kuasa tu' is certainly far from satisfactory. But as one grows older, sometimes one gets into the same exasperating phrases when one addressed they younger generation. Why do we do that? With all these taboos - there must be some explanations about t…

The Brunei Book Fair

The Book Fair is finally here. Book fairs in Brunei are a mixed affair. I don't know whether this is a reflection of our society as a whole or is it because of our small size or something else. I have been to book fairs in other parts of the world. There all I see are books and many and many more books. In Brunei, I see books but I also see computers, compasses and carpets among the book sellers. Well.... One can stretch the definition of knowledge to include computers but one would really be hard pressed to think how other items can constitute part of book fairs.

Anyway, has written a nice piece about the book fair complete with nicely taken photographs (like the one I borrowed here), so you can link here if you want to see the fair in pictorial form and deciding whether you want to come. This year the book fair in Brunei is a dual purpose place. You can see books and you can workout at the same time - the place is turning into a sauna - the indoor stadium's air…

Is Bukit Beruang (Bears' Hills) full of Bears?

I was at Bukit Beruang yesterday to attend another wedding. For those who sort of vaguely remember seeing the name - it's a resettlement area on the way from Tutong to Kuala Belait. Bukit Beruang was originally a small village until they turned the nearby area into another perpindahan or resettlement area. It's populated mostly by Tutong people and a few other non-Tutongians who applied to get a house there.

I couldn't find an old enough person to tell me whether the name Bukit Beruang which is Hill of Bears or Bears' Hill was named because there used to be many bears around the area. So that has to remain a mystery. I did meet someone who said that the names do not necessarily reflect the names of animals even though it is obvious enough.

According to him, Bukit Ambok is one. Ambok as you know is the Brunei Malay word for monkey. Presumably Bukit Ambok is Monkey's Hill or Hill of Monkeys and used to be lots of amboks or monkeys there for that hill to be name so. How…

National Day - the aftermath

There was a lot of nationalistic feeling yesterday judging from what I read and all the people I talk to. I certainly enjoyed myself marching with 112 people from my agency in front of His Majesty. The performance on the field despite having seen several rehearsals and knowing what to expect, was still as exciting as ever. I know the things that had to be done to get everything to go like clockwork on the actual day. Those are the headaches that one does not one to have. But at the same time without the dedication of those involved, the trainers, the participants even the crowd, national day celebrations would not be the same. Congratulations to all who took part. And a special congratulations to the people in the photo above! You did good.

I thought I will highlight a few things from yesterday's event.

The main highlight of the show was the giant baloon at the end with four banners streaming under it. The four banners came from the four districts of Brunei with thousands of signat…

Happy National Day 2007!


Defining Moments in Brunei in Books

I thought I will share two books with you on the day of our 23rd National Day celebrations. These two are written in Malay and and one is written partly by our own Brunei historians. Both are published by Dewan Bahasa Pustaka Malaysia and both surprisingly published in 1995, though one of them has been republished in 2001. The two books entitled “Sejarah Brunei Menjelang Kemerdekaan” written by Prof Sabihah Osman (UKM), Dr Hadi Abdullah (History Centre) and Sabullah Hakip and entitled “Sejarah Sosioekonomi Brunei 1906-1959 written by Assoc Prof Jatswan Sidhu (Univ Malaya) wrote interesting perspectives – one prior to Brunei’s independence in 1984 and the latter prior to Brunei’s 1959 proclamation of the Brunei Constitution and prior to self rule.

“Sejarah Menjelang Kemerdekaan” available from Mega Bookstore for $24 hardcover goes through the entire Brunei history from the earlier ‘golden’ years of Brunei, through its downfall, the war years, losing independence and gaining independence…

Join the 23rd National Day Celebrations!

This morning as was yesterday morning, I will be at the Padang for the National Day rehearsal. Yesterday morning was the first time I was able to come and I got to see what everyone will be seeing on Saturday. It was a full dress rehearsal but our team was not yet wearing our full suit. I was told that mine is still making its way from a factory in KB plus the fact that the Admin Head Honcho wanted to keep the track suit design a surprise until the actual day (I can tell you it’s a dark blue Nike look alike with a red logo by our sponsors *thanks guys* in front and our agency’s name at the back).

I am not doing much for this National Day other than do a 10 minute walk from in front of Shop No.5 at Jalan Sultan towards the end of the track in front of the dais, leading the ministry’s 115 member team into the Padang. The last time I was really involved in a National Day celebration was in 1990 when the Ministry I was in then was organizing it. In the first 10 years or so of the National…

Makam di Luba

If you drive along Jalan Tutong, immediately past the Shell Filling Station at Kampung Bunut, you will see a simpang entering into Kampung Bunut with a sign that says "MAKAM DI LUBA". For the non-Malays, Makam means a grave normally associated with royalties or great men and women. I like many countless others have passed by that road sign so many times ever since we build a house further up along Jalan Tutong but have never gone in to see what it is. I have said to myself that I would visit that place one of these days. In fact I have gone into the Bunut area many times, when my son was much younger, the Health Clinic was in that area. A late colleague of mine whom I always asked to accompany me, used to live even nearer the actual simpang to the makam.

But it wasn't until last Monday that I actually drove in all the way to the Makam and actually saw the Masoleum. The drive from Jalan Tutong is less than 5 minutes. Once you enter the simpang from Jalan Tutong, you drive …

Visit Brunei Year 2008

My little boy, my better half and I spent our public holiday yesterday visiting some of our more touristy places. It was partly for fun as it has been ages since we last went there; partly for my 7 year old, a new interest in museums after watching ‘A Night at the Museum’ and partly for me, it was duty as these areas fall under my purview for funding and with the upcoming VBY2008, I have to be prepared. Our itinerary was - early morning, Damuan Park; morning, Museum at Kota Batu and the nearby Malay Technology Museum; noon, SOAS Mosque and later afternoon, Makam Di Luba; and a short stop to see the BSB 100 years’ exhibition.

Damuan Park has managed to maintain very much all the improvements made over the last couple of years, though a couple of the ASEAN Sculptures looked a little bit jaded. The metal sculptures look alright but the ones made out of stone/concrete looked somewhat broken and needs repairing. It was the Singapore's structure, the staight column one, if I am not mista…

Unusual Brunei Transportations

Today I thought I will share some very old photographs of unusual transportation in Brunei which for some reason did not catch on until today. If they were still around, it would be fun to see them.

Both of these were operated by Brunei Shell about 40 to 50 years ago. The first is more common in other countries. But unfortunately in Brunei, there were used in only two places - one was in Brooketon (Muara) to haul coals from the Serai Pimping area to Muara beach - the other was from Badas in Belait heading towards the Lumut Beach if I am not mistaken. I am talking about trains.

The one in Brooketon has a history on the engines published on a train specialties website but I can't find it at the moment, so when I do, there will be a slight correction on this entry. The engine in Badas, again if I am not mistaken actually is somewhere in Seria. I remembered in 1988 when I was visiting Shell, we actually took a photograph in front of the engine. If there is any BSPians reading this, do l…

Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái, Hóng Bāo Nálái

Happy Chinese New Year to readers celebrating it. You know it’s funny. Whenever it’s time to look at the new moon to decide the new fasting or end of fasting, people will bring up their Chinese calendar expert – ‘…mengikut bulan Cina, hari ani guarantee nampak anak bulan – bulan china 3 hari sudah…’ etc. Yet, nobody asked if the Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar like the Muslim, how come the Chinese New Year is always around the same date give or take a few days? Whereas the Muslim calendar, loses a couple of weeks every year compared to Gregorian Julian Calendar which we are using.

The Chinese calendar is not a pure lunar calendar. It is a lunisolar calendar, adding elements of a lunar calendar into that of a solar calendar. The Chinese solved the shortages of the few lunar days by incorporating an intercalary month every second or third year – sort of like a ‘leap month’ just like we add in the extra ‘leap day’ to make February 29 days every four years. That’s why the Chinese New …

Cinema Memories in Brunei

In the 1960s and 1970s I remembered going to the padang in Muara watching movies being played there. There will be lots and lots of people there – all watching black and white movies. I don’t think the movies were in colour then. I remembered my dad used to own one of those home movie projectors and every time we stayed at my auntie’s place in Seria, he would play one of those silent movies and there would be lots of people watching it. It was unbelievable. Dad used to be one of the first to own a home movie equipment and we would get to see ourselves on screen after he has sent off the film for processing somewhere in the world. Today, in the days of 50 inch plasma television with multi media multi surround home movie equipment, those days were almost unthinkable. Though ironically, despite our new found wealth – we still buy $5 pirated DVD. But today’s topic is not about $5 pirated DVDs but rather on the growth of cinemas in Brunei.

For some reason, cinemas never found a strong footh…

Chuchill Memorial Again

It took me a while but I finally got it - the elusive photograph of the Winston Churchill statute. It's here. The photo is from the back of the statute but at least for Bruneians who have never seen it, this is what it looks like. The statute was taken down sometime in 1991, almost 15 years ago. If you are aged 20 and below, you would not remember it even if you did see it in those days.

I found an interesting trivia about the Churchill Memorial Building. It was not built on an empty piece of land. It was built on the site of a few houses and one of which belonged to Sheikh Mahmud, the father of Sheikh Azahari, the guy who led the Partai Rakyat Brunei. In fact the house was used as a temporary headquarters for the party way back in the 1950s and very early 1960s.

One reader also pointed out that the C shaped building stands for Churchill. While the E shaped building of the State Secretariat Building stands for Queen Elizabeth II. I didn't realise that.

Another trivia, in front of…

100th Anniversary of the Capital on dry land

Yesterday, HRH The Crown Prince officially opened the Exhibition to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Brunei Capital moving officially to dry land. It was the first British Resident McArthur who suggested that the capital to be moved to dry land in 1906. The capital began to take place on dry land where it is now. I wrote about this earlier.

I have to admit the Bandar Seri Begawan Municipal Authorities outdid themselves in preparing the exhibition. When you first go into the exhibition, you will see a few wall size collages of Brunei's old photographs and new. If you are a young person, some of these sights you would never see before, Istana Kaca, Istana Mahkota etc. Even Churchill Museum if you have never seen it is also visible in the collages.

Past those collages, you would go into a small hall where there are actual size replicas of Kampung Ayer houses. In fact you would be walking on a bamboo walkway along these houses. You can peer inside the houses and actually see re…

What do you know about Valentine's Day?

I wrote the valentine article exactly 12 months ago last year for my predecessor site on and prepared it sometime last week to republish it today. I didn't realise the Friday sermon would come first. The Imams are technically correct that Valentine's Day is named after St. Valentine. However even then, Valentine's Day was named to replace an even older pagan festival. Anyway, I thought I will republish the posting that I wrote last year as I am pretty sure not many people have read it as then the readership consisted only of me and my better half.

In most parts of the world, today is Valentine's Day. It has been estimated that throughout the world, approximately one billion valentine cards are sent during Valentine's Day, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas; and that 85 percent of all cards are purchased by women!

Did you know that Valentine's Day began as a pagan festival? The Romans then engaged in…

So, is El Ninõ coming?

A couple of weeks back the media was talking about El Ninõ - how that would bring severe drought to Brunei over the next couple of months after the heavy rain in December. My mother in law was worried enough to ask for her water storage tank to be inspected. She was worried about the drought as everyone did. For the uninitiated, El Ninõ is a climatic phenomenon occurring irregularly, but generally every 3 to 5 years. El Ninõs often first become evident during the Christmas season (El Ninõ means Christ child) in the surface oceans of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon involves seasonal changes in the direction of the tropical winds over the Pacific and abnormally warm surface ocean temperatures. For Brunei, it means that there will be less rainfall during the El Ninõ season.

Anyway as most Brunieans realised, despite the media hype on El Ninõ, the rains did not stop in January. Everyone would say wait till February, the rain will dry out and we will see full sunshine and…

National Flag and National Anthem of Brunei Darussalam

I was reading the program book that came together yesterday while attending the raising of the giant Brunei flag to mark the start of the 23rd National Day celebration. It contained a lot of information about our national flag and our national anthem. I thought I will share the information with everyone.

I have touched on the information about our national flag in my post about the flag in July last year. In a nutshell the yellow with white and black diagonals came about because of the colours of the standards of the principal signatories to the 1906 Agreement which were the colours of the Sultan (yellow), Pengiran Bendahara (white) and Pengiran Pemancha (black) while the red state crest was added on in 1959. Our national flag is 101 years old this year.

The information about the national anthem is equally interesting. After the end of the Second World War, a group of young Bruneians decided that just like any other country in the world, Brunei should have its own national anthem. Two o…

Victim of hit and run

Assalamualaikum Mr. BR,

This is a tough email for me to write...

Anyway, you must have read or listen to the news, a 41 yr old man was killed in a fatal road accident this morning, 10 Feb 2006. That man was attending to a flat tyre at the highway when he was hit by a pick-up truck driven by a foreign national. That man was Allahyarham Haji Hussin bin Haji Mustapa, he was my brother-in-law, i.e. my sister's husband...whom I loved like my very own brother....

It was in fact a very tragic accident, he succumbed to his injuries and died on the spot... and dengan takdir Allah, his wife was also going through the same road while on her way to send her son to Maktab Duli and taking her daughter to RIPAS for an appointment. While driving by, she caught a glimpse of the car and said to her children.."Macam kereta babah mu lai..." Having passed the spot, she made her way back to the spot and tried calling her husband's mobile phone...which went unanswered... and when she reached…

Clean Brunei?

The other day the Brunei State Mufti was talking about dogs in Hyde Park in London. Caught your attention, didn’t I? Anyway, he wasn't talking about the dogs per se but he was talking about the dog owners. He saw them picking up after the dogs and actually putting the droppings into a plastic bag. He even saw one guy putting the bag into his pocket. His point was that these people are responsible. They are willing to even clean up after the dogs and not leave the park dirty. He asked why in Brunei we have difficulty in keeping the country as clean. After all cleanliness is half of iman.

I have to agree with him. A lot of the work keeping Brunei clean is due to the number of people employed by the Environment, Parks and Recreation Department (Jabatan Alam Sekitar, Taman dan Rekreasi - JASTRE). We don't normally see them. They work late at night when no one is looking. If you drive around during the evening, sometime you see them. Workers with motorcycles too are employed. They g…

Ministry of Education's Strategic Plan 2007-2011

The Ministry of Education launched its strategic plan for 2007 to 2011 recently. I wasn’t able to attend the launching itself but our agency's representative was able to attend it and gave me a copy of the plan. The launching ceremony was quite huge compared to most launching of government ministries’ strategic plans. I thought among others, the Ministry of Education’s plan for the future is something of use for all of us to know, so despite the ‘no part of this publication may be reproduced etc…’ I am going to pretend I did not see that.

The strategic plan based on Kaplan’s Balanced Scorecard Approach (I wrote about this when Kaplan was here in Brunei in April last year) enables Ministry of Education “to clarify its vision and strategy and translate them into action. The BSC helps to provide feedback around both the internal business processes and external outcomes in order to continuously improve strategic performance and results. The balanced scorecard transforms strategic plan…

In memory of Brunei's Churchill Memorial Exhibition Building

I am writing an article for a travel magazine and one of the photographs I needed was that of the Churchill Museum. You remember? The famous Churchill Museum with the statute of Sir Winston Churchill and his famous two finger V shaped signature? (V actually stands for Victory but in the 1960s that two finger V shaped sign became a symbol for Peace.)

And guess what? I could not find a single photograph of that museum. I have been scouring through all the coffee table books, the annual reports, the commemorative books and whatever else that the government has published over the last 50 years in my collection and zilch, nien, nyet, nada.. Other than Churchill first day covers (and Lat's cartoon), not a single blooming photograph anywhere. It was still standing until 1991. I can't believe it.

The closest I could get was this aerial photograph of Bandar Seri Begawan in the evening celebrating either National Day or Birthday sometimes in the late 1980s. The museum was part of it and t…

Unique Brunei Durians

During the end of a meeting yesterday, my senior colleague was talking about an old friend of his, now very much his junior, who is based in Bangar, Temburong. My senior colleague was talking about that friend getting him Durian Senokoh which he said is very nice. I am not much of a local durian connoisseur but I am pretty sure I have not come across that particular name. So I looked through my collection of durian books – I have a few, believe it or not. My brother in law used to head the agriculture agency and he gave me quite a few books on agriculture during his tenure.

There are indeed many Durian species in Brunei – both the white ones and the yellow ones. The white durians (scientific name D. Zibethinus) are generally imported from Malaysia and Thailand. The yellow ones are apparently Brunei’s specialties. The most common is the Durian Otak Udang Galah (D. graveolens Becc.) whose colour is highly variable and ranges from greenish, brownish yellow to yellow. The pulp has a range …

Pekan Brunei

On 21st August 1971, Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, then known as Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan graciously consented to unveil a monument to commemorate the renaming of Pekan Brunei or Brunei Town as Bandar Seri Begawan at the Town Padang. That plaque still stands if you visit the padang. (By the way in that photo, you can also make out the old cinema, the Boon Pang in the background - that cinema site is now occupied by the Islamic Bank Building).

The year before that (almost 27 years ago), on 4th October 1970, the then Chief Minister Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Setia Negara Pengiran Haji Mohd Yussof with the consent of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaullah announced that Bandar Brunei (Brunei Town) was to be renamed Bandar Seri Begawan. The name was chosen in honour of Almarhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, the 28th Sultan who used the title Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan when he abdicated in 1967. Th…

The Ambuyat

The other night, our agency was hosting a bunch of international people here in Brunei. During dinner, I overheard one of my colleagues trying to explain to them about Brunei’s local food – the ambuyat – how it was prepared and where it came from. I realized that even though most of us Bruneians know what ambuyat is, and probably know a little bit of how it is prepared, some of us might know a little bit where it came from but a number has no idea at all.

Just in case, there are pockets of Brunei people who have no idea what ambuyat is. Look at the attached photo. The one in the middle is it. The ambuyat is eaten or rather swallowed using a two-pronged bamboo stick called a chandas. As it is quite tasteless, it is taken with a sauce made from sour local fruits like binjai (mango like fruit but very sour). The ambuyat is rolled around the chandas until about the size of a small fist (children’s size preferably unless you got a really big mouth – physically that is), immerse it into the …