Showing posts from October, 2008

Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium 25th Anniversary

[My article below was published in its usual Golden Legacy column in Brunei Times Sunday Edition, last Sunday.]

ONE of Brunei Darussalam's iconic structures recently celebrated its silver jubilee anniversary, though the event went by without any official celebration. The Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium was officially opened on 23rd September 1983, exactly twenty five years ago.

Not many remembered that the date chosen for the official opening of the stadium was to commemorate His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien's (then His Royal Highness Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan) 70th Birthday. It was His Majesty who had initiated the project eleven years before that. The construction of the stadium, then considered the most modern in the region was one of the most memorable events for the people of Brunei Darussalam.

Everyone was excited about having a national stadium that a fund was set up to allow Bruneians to contribute towards the cost of building the stadium. Unusually for…

Oldest Mosque in Brunei

Pg Runa commented yesterday about the SOAS Mosque "in all the fuzz and glorification of SOAS Mosque 50th anniversaries I couldn't resist myself into thinking this mosque is perhaps the oldest in Brunei. If this is true then, this mosque should pointed out as the 'most barakah' mosque in Brunei!" I certainly wished the SOAS Mosque is the oldest, but it is not.

There were many mosques built in Brunei throughout the years. Most of the surviving wooden ones were built in the 1920s and 1930s. However none of these mosques as far as I can tell are being used currently. Some you can still see standing next to the modern counterparts but no longer being used. Some have been demolished and you only have the site of where the mosques used to be. Most of the new mosques built to replace the older ones were built in the 1980s and 1990s.

That would make the oldest mosque still currently being used is the Masjid Seria. It beat the SOAS Mosque by about 4 years. The first Seria Mo…

Masjid SOAS on Brunei Currency Notes

The 50th Anniversary of Masjid Sultan Omar Ali Exhibits at the Kota Batu Museum had a small exhibit on currency notes. Being a numismatist, I am very much drawn to that particular exhibit. That small exhibit near the staircase of the museum, if you are interested in them, has 10 pieces of currency notes, each of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien series of 1967 and the first Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah series. The only difference was the photographs of the two Sultans, the rest of the currency notes are identical.

These notes had the Masjid SOAS in the reverse side of the notes. The notation on the exhibits said something along the line that these notes had the photograph of Masjid SOAS. However they missed out on a few other Brunei notes which prominently feature the Masjid SOAS as well. One of the oldest which I thought they missed out was the $500 issued together with the first Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah series. This note is the first $500 note, nowadays we used the polymer $500 note, which is…

SOAS Mosque at the Museum

Yesterday, HRH The Crown Prince launched the book commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the SOAS Mosque and also the Exhibition at the Museum in Kota Batu. The book is a fantastic collection of events at the Mosque right from its construction all the way to the various Royal Nikahs that had taken place at the mosque. It is a priceless collection that must be kept in your collection. I know the book is available for sale at the mosques department at the Religious Affairs Ministry and also at Pusat Dakwah. I am not sure how much it will be. I would presume around $50.

The exhibit too is worthwhile going. There are many photographs about the mosque and the events as well as additional exhibits about some of the mosque's artifacts. The exhibition booth is much nicer than the permanent exhibits at the museum, if you ask me. It's a pity that the exhibit will be taken down after a couple of months.

Yesterday too while waiting for the Crown Prince, we were ushered into the new Natural S…

Brunei vs Sheffield United

You would have to be fairly 'berumur' to remember this photograph and to be a football fan as well. It was His Majesty greeting players from Sheffield United for the match to commemorate the opening of the national stadium. You see, 25 years ago, on 23rd September 1983, before our independence, Brunei officially opened the National Stadium. That day was chosen to mark Al-Marhum Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien's 70th Birthday as it was him that had pushed for the Stadium to be made.

The $100 million stadium was completed just a few months before that. Ask your parents if they remembered that a fund was set up for members of the public to donate towards the building of that stadium. The amount of money collected from the public was $1.1 million which contributes to 1.1% of the total building cost. Not much but it does show the enthuasism that the public has for the stadium.

As part of the official opening, Sheffield United from England was invited to play against the Brunei Nationa…

Brunei's Winning Silversmiths 1908

I was going through the Brunei Annual Report 1908, exactly one hundred years ago and I saw this photograph of Brunei's silversmiths. These are our country brethren a 100 years ago. I don't know who they are but they are someone's great grandparents or great-great grandparents today.

According to the Report, there were only two industries of Brunei then which were worthy of note. One was the brass work and the other the silver smiths. Both are more or less restricted to certain families or guilds the members of which keep the secret of their trade very much to themselves. That being so, we can actually pinpoint who those people in the photograph are as it was only about 1970s or 1980s when the craft was open to the public. One kampong in Kampong Ayer was Kampong Pandai Besi which was said to be those who are good at this handicraft lived there.

The silversmith was less extensive because it requires greater skills and more difficult to learn. The Report remarked that is is rem…

SOAS Mosque was my school

Last month, 26th September 2008, was the 50th anniversary of Masjid Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien. The Postal Services issued a set of new stamps to commemorate the event plus two miniature sheets. The first miniature sheet is shown above which is the high value miniature sheet with a $50 stamp.

This $50 stamp is not the first $50 stamp for Brunei. The first $50 stamp was issued in 1996 for His Majesty's 50th Birthday. In fact five $50 stamps were produced especially for that and the miniature sheet sold for $250 (it is about $800 on the market now). A $60 stamp was issued for His Majesty's 60th Birthday and a $40 stamp was issued for His Majesty's 40th Coronation earlier this year. This high value stamp is certainly an interesting marketing strategy for Brunei's Postal Services as not that many people will be using this $50 stamp. I would say a used one would probably cost more than an unused one.

Back in the 1970s, most people did not know that the mosque was also a schoo…

It's nice to be home

I arrived back on Sunday but was unable to post anything over the last two days. My apologies for those expecting to find something new.

There were a number of postal items which I waited for me when I arrived. One of them was this photograph of the Brunei Malay Regiment's aeroplane. I don't remember this particular plane as I have always thought the Brunei Armed Forces always had helicopters and one transportation plane bought in the late 1990s/early 2000s. This particular aeroplane was much older than that transportation plane. I do have one faithful ex-army reader who I do hope will drop me a note later on about this aeroplane.

One of the things which I did when I was in Manila was to utilise my lunch break. Since I wasn't taking any lunch, I usually use the time to see something. On the second day, I wanted to see the Money Museum at the Philippines Central Bank or Bangko ng Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). I was assured that I can go in without much problem. So when my car a…

There is no place like home

We were in Sariaya, Quezon Province in Philippines yesterday. Quezon Province is about three hours drive from Manila. We were visiting a few gravel mines as well as a few gravel crushing facilities. More a fact finding mission as to whether the ones that we have could have been done better plus other things. Sariaya was a beautiful place.

I was quite surprised to find that we had armed policemen with M-16s accompanying us when we arrived. I thought the few that I saw were the only ones but when we visited the quarries and the facilities, all of them further inside forests a few miles off the beaten track, there were army people everywhere. We even saw a tank. Everyone was serious. On the way there too, there were many checkpoints. I thought the checkpoints were for traffic safety but I did not realise they were also manned by the police milita until latter in the day.

We even took photographs with the armed police. At the end of the visits, we asked for the list of security personnel, t…

A Dinner at the Museum

Sometimes it is strange what you can learn from other countries. Last night was the Official Farewell Dinner for ASEAN Minerals Ministers. It was held at the, believe it or not, the Manila Metropolitan Museum. In fact, we had to ask a few times just to make sure that the venue was correct and not a typo.

At 7 pm, we all headed to the museum and it was true, the dinner was held there. The dinner was in fact held at a special exhibition hall which last night was having an exhibition of a famous Filipino artist. When we had the reception, all the guests were not just talking to each other but also look at all the paintings that were on exhibit. Even during the dinner proper, we were all surrounded by very beautiful paintings.

This is probably something we can in Brunei. Either we use the Museums or any of the exhibition halls and the guests can look at the paintings or whatever we have on exhibitions. The other one would be to have dinner at a proper dinner place but have exhibitions broug…

Freedom Fighters versus Terrorists

After two heavy posts, today's post is not heavy and not even about Brunei at all but just some general information.

One of the problems of being alone in a hotel room in a foreign country late at night is that you don't have anyone to talk to other than yourself. If you do have someone to talk to, I suggest you keep that to yourself and not tell your other half. Anyway, being a part time writer, I am always in search of information and materials. I remembered coming across one arguement about the difference between a terrorist and a freedome fighter. Of course the definition depended on which side you are on. I thought I will do a search and I came up across a whole list written on a website for Anarchy for Anybody. I infringed their copyright and copied the entire list here:-

Aid: This means "military support meant to shore up undemocratic client regimes and ensure that the pro-business, capitalist environment remains unchallenged." Also called "foreign aid&quo…

Contentment and the World Economy

During Hari Raya, my better half and I visited one of my colleague's house. Compared to ours, it was very beautiful and large and had all the things I wanted. I told her that this is the kind of house that I wanted and I could only dream of having one.

She said that we should be contented with what we have. We have more than enough. When we got home, while at the computer, I had the radio on as always. Lo and behold! I heard one penceramah talk about kanaah or contentment. It was indeed a divine reminder to me.

Today, as we looked at the world economy moving up and down like a yoyo, I cannot help but think had everyone in the world been contented, we might not have such extremes. The world has been driven by expenditures.

One kingkong commented on my entry yesterday "The issue of 'memiskinkan diri' is not only a local issue. Americans have similar problem as well. They have been living on borrowed money using credit cards and bank loans that's why they were having c…

World Recession and Poverty

Greetings from Manila! I have two days of meeting representing Brunei for the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Minerals. The Ministerial Meeting will be on Thursday. This meeting is one of the relatively least known meeting, in fact, I only knew about it a couple of months ago when I have to prepare for it. It aims to drawing up regional policies that will promote regional cooperation among ASEAN member nations and develop the ASEAN mineral sector as an engine for economic growth and social progress. Though not much for Brunei, other than sand and gravel and of course oil which is not included in this meeting, we do not mine anything else, yet.

Anyway, for the next few days, my entries will be based from whatever that comes to mind. Yesterday, I overheard something interesting during the Yayasan's Hari Raya celebrations. Someone, a senior person, was asking why bother about the crisis that is engulfing America and the rest of the world. I am not sure whether the question was to op…

Please Drive Carefully

My wife and I were at the Baiduri Bank Hari Raya bash the night before. Rano had already reported that we had Agnes Monica and another which he did not mention was Saiful Apek. I have never seen Agnes perform before whether live or on tv but Agnes, I have to admit is one energetic lady. I am not her fan though, so I only know one of her songs unlike some members of the audience who remembers every single lyric. Anyway today's post is not about Baiduri or Agnes.

On our way back from Jerudong, we got caught up in this long traffic jam at Tanjong Bunut. When we got nearer, we saw the firemen busy trying to hose down the car which apparently caught fire and trapping the driver inside the inferno. Yesterday morning I heard the tragic news that the driver died in the car. There were two cars involved in the accident that night. Both cars did not survive the accident by the look of it.

Yesterday afternoon on our way back from Lumut was another long jam. This time an SUV turned turtle. Exac…

Bandar Seri Begawan 38th Anniversary

Not many realised that last week was Bandar Seri Begawan's 38th Anniversary. It was on 4th October 1970 when His Majesty consented to declare what was then Bandar Brunei or Brunei Town or even some called Pekan Brunei as the new Bandar Seri Begawan.

Even today not many knew where Bandar Seri Begawan came from. For the younger readers, Seri Begawan Sultan was the title used by His Majesty's father, Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien when he abdicated in 1967. Begawan is an honorific title used in Brunei to denote that person has retired. It is in honour of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien was the reason why the name of Brunei's capital city was changed.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien was known as the Architect of Brunei. I have always taken that for granted. But over the last few years after reading books and articles did I realise personally just how much he has contributed. You would have to start at the beginning just after the second world war.

Despite the first Briti…

Thank you Your Majesty

My Hari Raya cards have just started to arrive again including from His Majesty, Her Majesty and Her Highness. So, thank you for the cards and I am putting up the cards here for everyone to enjoy:

University of Chicago in Brunei

I was surprised to find an email from Chicago University in my email box this morning. Chicago is one of the bigger university from USA. I thought I will share this with everyone as it is not often you find an American university coming to Brunei. By the way I am not connected whatsoever to Chicago, just in case you are wondering. I am just doing a public service. Anyway the email read as follows:-


Dear Mr *****,

Founded in 1898, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business – renowned for its Nobel Laureate legacy – launched the world’s first EMBA program in 1943. The Chicago EMBA program which connects dynamic executives from three continents (Asia, America and Europe) is now coming to Brunei!

At our information session, find out how the Chicago EMBA program can empower you with an unparalleled business education and networking opportunities like no other program can.

If you are interested in finding out how you can join one of the top US business schools in the world and …

Think BIG

Have you ever thought of winning $20,000 simply by writing? And I am not joking.

I was alerted by iCentre that it is currently running a THINK BIG Business Plan competition. I am not sure what it is but it said that this THINK BIG Business Plan competition is the first ICT focused business plan competition in Brunei Darussalam and to date, it also has the biggest prize money award in the country. The competition is co-organised by BEDB and Asia Inc Forum.

The competition was launched on 27th August 2008 but it is not too late. You have until 20th October 2008 to submit your 3 page executive summary. If you plan to participate, a contestant kit is provided in the iCentre's website at

The top plans will be shortlisted and put through the next round. It is only then that the shortlisted participants will go through two intense workshops conducted by highly qualified practitioners from overseas and a technology forum session to help the participants in formulating the be…

Line Up

This photograph was part of a whole set of black and white photographs which a colleague brought over during Hari Raya. I asked my colleagues who were from this generation whether any of these young Brunei ladies and gents were identifiable. Their answers were in the negative and that picqued our curiosity as to who these were. So if you do know any of the people in this photograph and the ones below, do let us know.

Tailor Home Delivery

This cartoon was posted yesterday in the Borneo Bulletin. It was tucked away somewhere in the inside pages and I was not sure whether everyone saw it. I thought this cartoon was the most hillarious that I have seen very recently.

My sister in law runs or used to run a kedai tukang jahit. Like many tailoring shops, it broke even or make losses in 11 out of 12 months. But in the fasting month, its income made up for the other 11 months. The profit could be higher if it was not for the non collection of baju. Every year, there would be at least a dozen or more baju, generally baju fesyen for the ladies would be left uncollected. These are not the simple baju kurung. These are the ones with the 'katoks' and the 'maniks' and generally cost a bomb to make because of the time it takes to make them.

The material quality is so-so but the requirement that the customer asked for does not justify it. That is of course up to the customer. But when the completed dress cost $200+, it&#…

Pelaminan with a marine theme

Yesterday, a colleague of mine brought a whole bunch of old photographs as he knew I was interested in them. This one in particular really caught my attention. Don't look at the couple sitting at the wedding pelaminan (dais). But look at the pelaminan itself.

Notice anything unusual?

Yes you do. What in the world is a couple of mermaids doing decorating the pelaminan. A few people commented last night and said that this is typical of the pelaminan then. Another favourite was Ikan Lumba-Lumba (Dolphins). Anyway, for those whose parents are about the right age can probably ask them and get back to us here via the comment box.

Brunei in World War II

[Note: I was searching for images of Brunei and came across this page talking about an aspect of the Australian involvment in Brunei during World War II.]

The war heads north

ARRIVAL . . . Australian troops in landing craft.
Source: Australian War Memorial.



JUNE 10, 1945 was the day the 9th Division, minus the 26th Brigade, which had been fighting at Tarakan, landed at Brunei Bay.
Preparation for this operation had been hampered by the shortage of shipping and the late arrival of units and equipment.

The 9th Division was commanded by one of the great characters of the Second Australian Imperial Force…

Railway Line in Brunei

Yesterday I mentioned the 1952 Brunei Darussalam Annual Report. Last night I had a closer look meaning that I actually read the book.

What intrigued me was the map of Brunei at the end of the book. Two things stand out. One, the road linked from Kuala Belait ended up somewhere in Anduki. And the other end of the road was at Sungai Abang or if I had scanned a bigger section, the other end would be at Kampung Kuala Tutong. In 1953, there was no road linking Brunei Town to Kuala Belait. One has to drive all the way to Kampung Kuala Tutong and then take a ferry across to Danau. From Danau, one has to drive carefully along the beach until about Anduki before finding a road to Kuala Belait. According to my father, the driver has to drive on the wetter part of the beach as that is more firm than on the drier part which as loose sands. But driving on the wet part is also fraught with danger and then a wave might be able to shut down the vehicle's engine.

The other thing that stands out is t…

The SOAS Mosque Site 1952

When I got to one of my brother in law's house yesterday for Hari Raya, he started talking about the SOAS Mosque and taking out pieces of paper to draw maps and diagrams. Apparently he was a little bit upset about the special documentary on SOAS Mosque by RTB. He said that they did not interview the right people and that the information given was inaccurate. He gave me information not only about the mosque area but about the entire neighbourhood as well.

I did not watch the entire special documentary as it was a little bit boring and it did not tell me anything new. I have read and knew more than what was in the docmentary. I knew the bit that my brother in law wanted to correct. On the site of the SOAS Mosque was actually a sawmill run by someone called Si Pinggang. The entire area was full of businesses cutting and sawing wood. In the documentary, it was said that the site was full of abuk kayu or wood chips but without mentioning any sawmill. It was full of wood chips as by the …

Selamat Hari Raya!

Selamat Hari Raya to all bruneiresources readers! I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone Selamat Hari Raya and to seek everyone's forgiveness for whatever I wrote that may have offended readers. Minal Aidin Walfaizin.

Luckily we had the one extra day yesterday. It allowed the Minister and us to go round several other departments. Though it was very tiring for me trudging up and down the 5 storey building of Land, Survery and Town Country Planning. When you are the size of the Hulk and has not been to the gym for the last 5 weeks, 5 storeys is Eiffel Tower as far as I am concerned.

Anyway to cut a long story short, I saw this calendar in one of those departments. This is one of this typical tear one page a day type of calendar which everyone in the past used to love. This is a typical Chinese calendar - the calendar which everyone seemed to quote when the 'new moon' is supposed to have been seen if it was not for this telescopes. But the surprising thing was t…

The New Moon and Kueh Mur

Last night I received a few cynical sms implying something along the lines why we cannot see the new moon last night was because our equipment was faulty. That is indeed far from the truth. The equipment we had last night provided by the Survey Department was state of the art. The equipment even had automatic tracking, it knew where the new moon should be. But the clouds were in the way.

In fact when we left the house to go to Bukit Shahbandar, my driver was commenting on the cloudy condition. I was hoping that by the time we got to Bukit Shahbandar, the clouds would have dispersed. But I was wrong. It was still cloudy when we got there and even when the sun had gone down, it was a futile exercise. The new moon was up for more than 40 minutes but even with the aid of the latest instruments, we could not sight it.

There was hope when we received calls that someone in Tutong thought he had sighted it. But even if he did, the ground rules were, two people must sight it. So that one does n…