Showing posts from September, 2008

Helping the daif

I was in Temburong yesterday. My minister was away and I was his representative together with two ministers and a deputy minister visiting two houses which the PWD has repaired. Currently we are undertaking repairs to houses belonging to the daif or the really poor throughout the country. The repairs are undertaken by PWD and paid for by the Islamic Religious Council.

The really dilapidated houses are usually torn down and we will build new ones for them. We are currently undertaking the building of about 60+ houses throughout Brunei Darussalam. But those that can be repaired are repaired like these two which we visited in Temburong. We also visited several other houses owned by the daif identified by the District Office whether these can be repaired as well.

This project started a few months ago and time passes because all the applications needed to be assessed. The houses were visited individually to verify that they meet the criteria. Interestingly enough there is no formal committee…

Hari Raya in Brunei (past and present)

[Note: I wrote the following piece about Hari Raya present and past, in yesterday's Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times (28th September 2008)].

On Tuesday night, everyone in Brunei would be glued to the radio and television waiting for the announcement whether Hari Raya will be the next day or to continue fasting. This has been the practice in Brunei for as long as it has its own radio service and surveyors to look out for the new hilal or new moon.

Up to the 1960s, there were small groups who would not be following the rest of the country. They followed the decisions of the neighbouring countries arguing that we are on the same island, obviously not realising the different interpretations of determining the sighting of the hilal. But nowadays, everyone eagerly awaits the results of the sighting.

Eid ul-Fitr had its beginning when in 624 CE, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with his companions and relatives celebrated Eid ul-Fitr for the first time ever after winning the Battl…

Pray for the kind souls

One couple came to see me yesterday. I can normally guess what they wanted immediately. People who come to see me usually have problems with housing or land or will be taken to court for violating development rules or ocassionally about non payment of government contracts. I was wrong, this couple did not have problem with those four, at least not directly.

Apparently the husband is the guarantor for his wife's elder brother's house at one of the national housing scheme. He has been sent a letter by the Housing Department that his salary will be deducted to pay for the house they have been guaranteeing. The owner of the house has not paid for his house since 1999. He has been staying there for the last 9 years without worrying about how he is going to pay for it. His attitude, according to his sister, is that nobody is going to evict him. (Non payment is a big issue. There are about 1,600+ houses in the national housing scheme which have payment issues.)

The sister has been tryi…

Origin of Hari Raya

On Tuesday night, I will be up Bukit Shahbandar with the Survey and Religious Officials looking out for the new moon. According to the Survey Department's calculations, the difference between sunset and moonset is about 1 hour plus and the moon will be around double digit degrees above the horizon when the sun sets. Barring heavy clouds and bad weather, I have been told insya'Allah Wednesday will be our first day raya. But we can never take things for granted. Today's question - do you know when was the first Hari Raya Aidil Fitri celebrations?

In 624 CE, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with his companions and relatives celebrated Eid ul-Fitr for the first time ever after winning the Battle of Badr. The Battle of Badr was a key battle in the early days of Islam and marked a turning point in the Muslims' struggle against the Quraish in Makkah. This battle was the first large battle between the Muslims in Medina and the Quraish in Makkah and the victory was considere…

50th Anniversary SOAS Mosque

50 years ago to the day, His Highness Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien officially opened Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. During that official opening on Friday, 13th Rabiulawal 1378 Hijra, the 26th September 1958, many visitors came including the Sultans of Pahang and Selangor, the Acting Sultan of Johor, the Prime Minister of the Federated States of Malaya, the British High Commissioner and also representatives from Singapore and the Saudi Arabian Governments. More than 5,000 people turned up for the occasion.

Today we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of SOAS Mosque. His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah is expected to pray at the mosque for Friday prayer. Please come.

There are many things about the mosque we do not know. Did you know the marble for the mosque came from Carrara? The floor and the walls of the prayer hall are laid with marble imported especially from Carrara, a city in Tuscany, Italy and famous for its white or blue gray marble. Carrara m…

Memories of Brunei Hostel in Singapore

On 30th March 1976, a group of ten twelve year old boys went on an almost empty RBA flight to Singapore. There were 13 passengers on board the brand new RBA Boeing 737, 10 boys and 3 fire services personnel. The fire services personnel were on route to be attached to the fire services in Singapore. While the 10 boys were continuing a government scholarship program that had started in the 1950s. One of the 10 boys was yours truly.

The month before we were all called to the old Education Department Building (behind the Secretariat Building, now demolished) from various schools throughout the country. At that time, Science School was still in the planning stage. We were supposedly the best 10 boys who passed the PCE (Primary Certificate of Education) that is excluding all the girls and the non-Bruneians. This was part of the government's efforts to provide better education, a policy that was laid down in the early 1950s. 'A' Level students went to UK until the late 1970s when …

Sabah, Brunei's Former Northern Territory

[Note: My article below was published in Brunei Times under the Golden Legacy column last Sunday, 21st September 2008.]

Not much in known historically about our neighbouring state, Sabah. Not much is also known how its name was derived. Some say Sabah obtained its name from Pisang Saba, the banana tree that grew predominantly along Borneo’s coastal areas. Some suggested that Sabah was derived from the Malay word sabak which is the place for or act of boiling to extract palm sugar. In Brunei Malay, saba means upstream (like Kampong Saba). Sabah is located to the northwest, or upstream of Brunei. Sabah has been a part of Brunei since the 15th century.

In the mid 19th century, Sarawak was being governed by the Brookes. Brunei’s remaining province of Sabah was to remain untouched but not for long. By the years of 1865 and 1878, no less than three groups from three different countries attempted to control the northern part of Brunei’s remaining territory.

The very first group was from Unite…

Brunei's American Hill

Note: I am recycling a blog entry about Bukit Merikan which I wrote about two years ago. It was based on a story I heard from a minister who has since then became my minister. I remembered this entry because over the last few weeks I have been brushing up my history because of the three articles I have been writing for BT about Sarawak, Labuan and Sabah.]

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 wh…

The Historic Padang Besar in Bandar

[Note: I wrote this article about Brunei's Padang Besar or nowadays known as Taman Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien for Brunei Times edition 22nd June 2008. Many events used to be held at the Padang including His Majesty playing football there.]

Not that many nations’ capital cities have a field in the middle of them. Tourists often wonder why Brunei’s capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan has a nice big field situated in the middle of it. Not many realized the historic role of that field. If that field could talk, the stories it could tell would astound many.

The Padang Besar as it used to be known or simply translated as the ‘Big Field’ is now officially known as Taman Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien named after His Majesty’s late father who was the 28th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam.

The Padang has been in existence for at least a hundred years. In his book, ‘The City of Many Waters’ published in 1922 but talking about Brunei at the end of the 19th century, Peter Blundell described…

Wet Market at the Pier

This is not a particularly old postcard. A Bandar scene from the 1990s which has now disappeared completely. I found it at Hua Ho Sengkurong. I guess not many people buy postcards in Sengkurong. This one is showing the pier that used to extend out at Kampong Sultan Lama. This pier was quite popular even when the wet market was in Bandar. People at Kampong Ayer found it much easier to buy wet market products at this pier and then go back home.

This pier became extra popular when the wet market moved to Gadong. People living in the Kampong Ayer and the Bandar area found this wet market to be very useful. You can buy practically anything here, fish, prawns, crabs and vegetables. And then along the pier you get vendors selling dried food items as well as fruits. Though when you think about it, it is quite dangerous as the water is underneath you and you and many hundreds are only standing on planks.

Menunggu di kerita

Someone mentioned about 'waiting' or being asked to wait in the car or 'menunggu' while one's elders went out and shopping. Parking in Bandar Seri Begawan in the 1980s was chronic. Definitely there was not enough parking. And everything was in Bandar. Even though Gadong was already up and running, there was not much else in terms of shopping unlike today's multi malls and department stores. So for most shopping, one goes to Bandar.

The worst is going to the wet market. The wet market was in Bandar. For those who do not know where it is, the wet market is sited at today's commercial centre opposite the bus station. Practically the whole of Brunei goes there for their food supply and in most days, you find that many cars are just left at the roadside. One of the favourite way was to open the engine hood and pretend your car is rosak while you go out shopping. This was in the hope that the policeman will not 'saman' you. Another was to get someone to si…

Bandar Seri Begawan Late 1980s

It does not take very long for a scene to be historic. This photograph I would consider as modern Bandar Seri Begawan but you cannot get this anymore. This was before the Yayasan Building was built.

In those days, the Kampong Ayer houses were built right up to the roadside and many of these served as shops, I think all of them were shops along this road. I cannot quite remember what happened. I think there was a big fire and most of these houses were burnt down and the rest were removed when Yayasan Building started.

The foundation for Yayasan Building I remembered was part of the 25th Silver Jubilee of His Majesty's Ascension to the Throne and that was in October 1992. So these houses survived until the very late 1980s and up to the first or second year of 1990s. I remembered the roads around these areas were always congested.

Tukang Ripee Kasut & Tukang Penda

Sometime in 2006, I wrote about this which is again recycled from another blog which I wrote in 2005 in my first blogging life at This focused on how bad spelling are coming into our advert spaces. I am not a crusader against bad language but I am still influenced by one professor who said that in the past sapu tangan was known as sapu hidong because that's what it is used for. But when the English came, they translated and used their English version 'handkerchief' which uses 'hand' and eventually our sapu hidong became sapu tangan. So if we don't correct something, use it long enough and it becomes a new word.

Yesterday I came across another howler from Ranz at I have not seen this one personally but this one if true is either taking the mickey out of the Malay/Indian who wrote it or someone out there really needs a lesson in how to spell.

Just in case you have trouble reading, it should read: Untuk Sewa Kereta (Untuk Sewa Pick Up…

Sungai Kianggeh 1960s

I thought I will take a break from talking about Pehinships today and go to my other hobby of being a deltiologist or postcards collector. Not many people know the word exist.

This is a postcard showing Sungai Kianggeh in the late 1960s. The postcard itself is postmarked 1968. Sungai Kianggeh has not yet transformed itself into today's huge drain. It was still a proper river. No tamu is built here yet. The tamu in the 1960s and 1970s was at the triangular shaped area near to today's Yayasan Building. There is no Chinese Temple either. The Chinese Temple was still at the Wharf area near the former Customs' House.

A couple of building take our attention. One is the building above the water. I have been told that this building used to be the abbatoir for pigs. Someone correct me. But I am definitely sure that this is the building and that is what it is used to be used for. The other building is the one opposite the road from it. That I remembered by the 1970s was the extension …

A Pehin in Brunei (Part II)

Yesterday's post on the duties of Pehinships elicited a few responses from my friends and colleagues especially on the 'midwife' duties. Some told me the Malay reads Pengawal Keselamatan Badan which roughly translates to Security Officer for Agencies. I argued that the jawi was ba, dal, alif, nun and if that is to spell badan, the jawi should be ba, alif, dal, nun. With ba, dal, alif, nun it reads bedan or something close to bidan. But then I am not entirely correct. Bidan should spell ba, ya, dal, nun. But I did say, it was at 4.30 in the morning when I wrote that.

Today is again 4.35 in the morning. So again, I am not vouching for the accuracy this morning. I am looking at the higher 16 Pehins:

Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Wangsa - Overseeing Trade Affairs
Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Wangsa - Overseeing Foreign Owned Territories Affairs
Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Dewa - Overseeing Investigation Affairs
Pehin Orang Kaya Udana Indera - Overseeing Investigation Affairs
Pehin Orang Kaya Udana …

A Pehin in Brunei

Someone from the diplomatic circle came to see me asking about Brunei honours system. Apparently he read an article in BT when I wrote about the Order and Decorations one can get. But this is mostly the Datukships etc. He was more interested in the cheteria and pehn manteri.

Explaining is not an issue. What was difficult was that I cannot remember what each of those Pengiran Cheteria and Pehin Manteri's jobs that goes with the title is something beyond my camera. Just in case you don't know it too, in the old days when there were no cabinet ministers, those who are appointed as Pehins are actually appointments to being ministers, commanders or senior officials responsible for something. So being Pehin Orang Kaya Setia Pahlawan means that you are the officer in command of Brunei's 1st Army.

I found a very old book (written in jawi) entitled the Adat Istiadat Diraja Brunei (Darussalam). The Darussalam was in parenthesis or in brackets, I don't know why. Anyway, the book co…

If something sounds too good...

I found this book at Wordzone. It is a simple book and only cost $5. But this book tells you almost everything you needed to know about how to stop from being duped out of your hard-earned money. The only thing this book does not tell you is when you retire from the government and armed with your newly released gratuity - you get duped by a sweet talking lady who very quickly wanted to get married to you in her home country.

Just like what the book says. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Everyone dreams of easy money or getting rich the quick and easy way. So how do you protect yourself? Through this book, you will learn the secrets of confidence tricksters from almost everywhere in the world. The book is essentially a reference book on the dark and dastardly gamres men and women around the world to convince you to part with your hard earned money.

I only know of a few before I read this book. But now I know everything there is to know about advance fee sweepstakes…


I don't know about you. But I think there is something wrong with the recording of the badok that is being played on the radio for our sungkai everyday. It sounded as something 'pacah' as someone described it. It could be the recording. The best sounding badok belongs to a song. Luckily RTB does not play that song nearer sungkai time, otherwise many Bruneians would be confused.

I was doing some readings about the history of mosques in Brunei and I came across a couple of descriptions about drums and tambour which could be related to the badok. So just how old is our badok and how long has it been used to indicate masuk waktu?

In 1578, a Spanish traveler, Alonso Beltran described the main mosque as one made of “… wood, of five storeys, the roof of straw and the highest posts of a black wood … has large quantities of tambours for their activities …”

Frank Marryatt in his book ‘Borneo and the Indian Archipelago’ described Brunei’s mosque in 1846 “… the Mohamedan mosque, was buil…

How Labuan was lost

[Note: I wrote this article for last Sunday's Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times. It is a set of two articles about our former northern territories.]

The history of Brunei’s nearest island, Labuan, just off Brunei Bay had its start in the early days of the Brooke interference in Brunei’s affairs. Labuan, until its forcible take over by the British in 1846 had been under the rule of the Sultan of Brunei ever since the Brunei Sultanate began.

Similarly, from the 14th century, the territory around Sarawak River (today’s Kuching) was a province of Brunei. Its administration was headed by Datu Pattingi Sarawak who reported to a Cheteria, both appointed by the Sultan of Brunei. In 1824, the Cheteria was Pengiran Indera Mahkota Pengiran Mohamed Salleh.

Pengiran Indera Mahkota was educated in Batavia (Jakarta) and furthered his studies in Netherlands. In 1827, he was appointed as Governor of Sarawak. Sarawak flourished under him. He also developed its trade and increased its revenue by e…

The Twelve Roofs Mansion

[Note: One SJ wants to know more about Bubungan Duabelas. I thought I will dig up this old article which I wrote for Brunei Times in August last year, slightly more than a year ago. This was published for the Sunday Edition, 5th August 2007. SJ, I hope you now know more about Bubungan Duabelas.]

THE Brunei postal authorities recently released a set of stamps commemorating the 100th anniversary of "Bubungan Duabelas", the House of Twelve Roofs.

This wooden house, situated about a mile south of Bandar Seri Begawan just before the first bend of the Brunei River, is off Jalan Residency. The road is named after the house as that is what the house used to be called "The Residency" — home of the British Resident in Brunei Darussalam.

The house is older than the road and that it can claim to be the oldest building in Brunei Darussalam while the original road of Jalan Residency can claim to be the first proper road in Brunei.

Interestingly the new stamps of $1, $0.60 and $0.30 …

Brunei's $40 stamp

Last month, on the 1st of August was His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah's 40th Anniversary of His coronation. I wrote about the stamps that were issued specially to mark the occasion which you can read here.

Together with the set of four 40 cents stamps were two miniature sheets. One contained all the stamps and the other contained a very high valued stamp of $40. At the time of the stamps being issued, the lady at the philatelic unit informed me that the high value miniature sheets were being reprinted. There was a wrong colour or something like that. So I did not get mine until today. So here it is:

When I went to the counter last month, the lady said she would reserve me a number - the miniature sheet has a serial number. I just said 500 as the number that popped up in my head and I got that 000500. I should have asked for something like 888 or something more exotic.

This is not the first time Brunei postal authorities issued high valued miniature sheet. The previous one was…

Cinema Memories in Brunei Revisited

In February last year I wrote about cinemas in Brunei. Recently I was in KB and my uncle was pointing out to me where the projector house used to be in the padang in front of the mosque. A conversation with a number of other people meant that I have more information. So I thought I will bring back that old posting of mine and edit it to include all the new information.

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 t…

Churchill Museum Revisited

When I wrote about yesterday's entry I mentioned a book which I bought recently. That has aroused some curiousity as to which book this is. This is the cover of that book. All I know is that this book was produced for Fitzpatrick's (the forerunner to today's Smart and Supasave) and sold there. I did not remember this book myself. But the censor board people at the Post Office remembered this book (I bought this book by post and had to pass it to the censor board for approval before taking the book out) said she remembered seeing this book being sold at the supermarket's shelves.

All I know is what's printed inside. This book was produced in 1984 capturing scenes of Brunei 24 years ago. Some of you may think that's old but to me, this was just like yesterday. Anyway, it had two photographs which I remembered very well.

The photographs are about Churchill Museum. This is what the front of the Museum looked like with Churchill's statute. But what I remembered be…

Brunei's $5 Note 1995

I recently bought a book about Brunei published around the 1980s. Fitzpatrick or later renamed Smart used to sell it. Of course at that time, we did not want to buy it. But now the book has a value. The book was relatively modern but it does show a number of changes that Brunei has undergone over the last 20 odd years. But I was most surprised when I saw the photo above. It shows a Kampong Ayer on Pulau Pepatan. So it is strictly not Kampong Ayer proper. I remembered this scene very well as I know it appeared on one of Brunei's older currency notes. I also a philatelist on top of everything else, so it is one of the few things I know quite well.

And here it is. Part of the photograph forming the illustration of 1995 series of $5 notes. Most of this currency series took their illustrations from one of the postcards or more relatively known photographs. I have written about a few in the past.

For those still wondering which $5 note I am talking about, here it is.

The Royal Crown

I was reading with interest interactions between someone called 'aku' and 'bruneiresourcefan' in the comment box with regard to the Royal Crown. This interaction came about after that article I wrote about Pulau Cermin and the Brunei Civil War. Sultan Abdul Mubin knowing that he is about to lose the war to Sultan Muhyyidin is said to fire all the Royal Regalias including the Brunei Crown into the Brunei Bay. This was to have taken place around the 17th century. Many people, it has been told, has been trying to find this crown and all the other paraphanelia. The Crown used by His Majesty is a newer crown made for the Coronation of His Majesty in August 1968.

'Aku' claimed that he has a photograph of the Crown which was supposedly to have been found from the Brunei Bay. I don't know about that but I do know that this 'original' crown story has been out for quite a while. I found the story on a publication by Brunei Museum called Berita Muzium Issue Jan…