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Showing posts from July, 2007

Memukun - Brunei's Unique Tradtion

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[Note: The following article was published in Brunei's national newspaper, The Brunei Times under the Golden Legacy column on 9th June 2007.]

One of the unique features of Brunei Darussalam's many ethnic traditions and cultures is 'memukun'.


It is fairly hard to describe to an outsider unless one has actually listened to it.

‘Memukun’ is a very Bruneian tradition where a group of people (usually elderly) will sing accompanied by guling tangan (Brunei’s traditional musical instruments) or a small drum and sometimes accompanied with a dance.

Some have likened memukun to a 'quatrain singing to the tune of traditional hand drums'.

Normally it is a duet with one gender 'selling' pantun verses to the other 'gender' and the other side is supposed to ‘buy’ or reply with another set of pantun verses.

In the 1960s and 1970s memukun was very popular during weddings and memukun sessions can go on from evening until dawn the next day - this was called '…

The Role of "Pengalu" in Brunei History

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[Note: The following article was published in the Golden Legacy Column in Brunei's national newspaper, The Brunei Times, on 2nd June 2007]

History sometimes overlooked the small people. Yet these are the people who mattered.

In the Brunei history too, one of the overlooked group of people are the 'pengalu'. Among Bruneians, some of the words used extensively in its old history have been forgotten. Most might remember the more colourful 'padians' - the group of women vendors who used to ply goods from house to house on the Kampong Ayer.

But with the word 'pengalu', most might not even know what the word stands for. Some mistakenly called them the male version of padians which could not be more wrong. It is a pity that many Bruneians have forgotten that 'pengalu' played a very important role in the Brunei commerce as well as in the development of Brunei history.


In the old days, Brunei among others exported camphor, tortoise shells, sandalwood and wild …

History of Brunei's Musabaqah Tilawatil Al-Quran

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[Note: An edited version of the following article was published in The Golden Legacy column in Brunei's national newspaper, The Brunei Times dated 26th May 2007.]

Like many Muslim countries, Brunei Darussalam treats the annual Musabaqah Tilawatil Quran or the Al-Quran Reading Competition with great respect. The winners will be given the honour to represent Brunei Darussalam in international Musabaqah competition as well as given great prizes.

But then Brunei had been holding its annual Musabaqah competition almost continuously since 1948. Before 1948, there must have been other competitions but those were not recorded and the recorded ones began soon after the war in 1948.

By 1948, Brunei Darussalam had lost its main mosque, the Masjid Marbut Pak Tunggal right at the edge of Brunei Town due to extensive bombing during the battle for Brunei during the Second World War.

By then a relatively large temporary prayer hall which can cater to about 500 people was built made completely out…

Padians: Women Vendors on Brunei Waters

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[Note: An edited version of the following article was published in The Golden Legacy column in Brunei's national newspaper, The Brunei Times dated 19th May 2007.]

“When the tide rises, the women go in boats through the city selling provisions and necessaries,” Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler with the famous seafaring adventurer Magellan wrote this of Brunei way back in 1521, almost 500 years ago.

As late as the 1980s, every early day along the Brunei River, a visitor to Brunei can see a number of small Brunei sampans called ‘bidars’. These boats were rowed by women vendors with their extra large circular hats moving along up and down the houses along Kampong Ayer. Some of them also plied their wares along the jetties near the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. These women vendors were known as Padians.


However by the 1980s, the Padians were already a dying breed. In the next 10 years, none would be seen and today, the Padians have become completely extinct only remaining in the memory, …