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Showing posts from September, 2009

Nobilities of Brunei

I was doing a bit of research for the Civil Service Day article which was published yesterday on Brunei Times. I am sure most readers by now know that the title of the Cheterias and Pehins are like today's Minister. If you are appointed as Pengiran Cheteria or Pehin so and so, you are being appointed as a Minister for a particular portfolio. For instance, Pengiran Derma Wangsa would be the head of municipal issues, whereas Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Wangsa would be the supervisor of municipal issues.

I was thinking of listing those duties for the article as part of the history of the civil service but I decided against it. It's just too long and so I only picked a couple of examples.

The other interesting was how some of the titles have changed. The material I referred to is a 1975 article on adat istiadat published by Brunei Museum Journals. Compared to today, some of the major changes are as follows:-

Today's Title (in paranthesis is the Old Title):

Pengiran Perdana Wazir Sahibul…

Raya Blues

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During Hari Raya or any other festivities, when we are with our families and close friends, we often forget that there are people out there with no one to talk to, no one to visit or no one to care about them. Hari Raya can be the most poignant to many people out there. If you were formerly a student overseas, you would know it. It is so sad to be away from families. Luckily nowadays many Brunei students live very near to other Brunei students and the phone or the plane are all within reach.

There was a letter to Brudirect where the writer talked about how lonely he was during Hari Raya. Both his parents had died and he could not share the joyfulness of Hari Raya. A number of comments commented that he should open up and visit other people. While I am not going to comment what is right or what is wrong, everybody is entitled to form their own opinion and for that person to think what is best.

What struck me is the letter. There was no one else he could write to, other than the whole wor…

Selamat Hari Raya

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 considered as decisive. This victory meant that a new power had arisen in Arabia and with that more and more Arabs began to convert to Islam and from this, led to the expansion of Islam throughout the world. Ever since then Eid ul-Fitr has been celebrated throughout the world.

My family and I would like to wish everyone Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri Maaf Zahir Batin. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your support and also to apologise for any bahasa yan…

Zakat Fitrah

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I brought my 9 year old boy yesterday to the mosque to see the paying of the fitrah for the first time. I told him that if the fitrah is not paid, then our pahala for the fasting will not be delivered. He kept a copy of the receipt and told me that it is proof that it has been paid.

I went to the mosque at about 12 noon and was the only one seen paying for it. The other imams were sitting there waiting for people to pay their zakat but there does not seem to be anyone paying it. But after the Friday prayer, the queues at each imam were really long. If you want to avoid long queues, pay early.

So, this is a reminder. If you have not paid your zakat fitrah or your parents or your other half, please do so by today. Tonight is the sighting of the new moon and if it is sighted, you have until tomorrow before Sembahyang Hari Raya to pay for it. If anyone reading this is not from Brunei and would like to share how much it is that you have to pay wherever you are outside Brunei, please, you are…

Brunei's National Flower?

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[Photograph of Simpur taken from trek earth]

Someone ask whether I can post about the national flower, simpur? This is interesting. I am not sure when simpur became our national flower. But definitely during the APEC Summit which Brunei hosted in 2000, simpur was part of the official APEC 2000 design and simpur by then if you don't know it already was definitely on its way to becoming Brunei's national flower. Posting about it is easy.

The APEC 2000 website is still alive and has a nice description about the Bunga Simpur or Simpor as it is used in the article on the APEC 2000 website. It was written by Drs Idris M. Said of the Forestry Department, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.

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The Simpor belongs to a genus of plants called Dillenia, a name derived from the personal name Dillenius, a German botanist (1684-1747). There are some 60 species of the Simpor in the world, which are distributed in the region extending from Madagascar in the west to Australasia in the e…

Unattainable Wish

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If someone was to ask me what is it that you want? There are many things that many of us want and I too have my own wants. But I am pretty much satisfied with the Al-Mighty's gifts.

However philatelically, there is something I want the most. That one is this Brunei's stamp during the Japanese Occupation in the second World War. During the War, the Japanese overprinted Brunei's stamps with their Imperial Japanese mark and used these stamps. These stamps are all highly valued because not many were available due to the fact that not many people were sending out letters during the War - the Allied (British, Australians etc) were captured and who on earth were the then Brunei people want to write to?

The most expensive of all the overprinted Brunei is this one. This 1 cent stamp overprinted for $3 payment for telegraphic use is valued at about $12,0000 to $15,000 today! Get hold of one and you can live quite happily to the end of days. However, I acquired this stamp recently. And…

Happy Families II

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Yesterday, many happy families received their houses. By the afternoon, today and for the next few days, many of them will be rushing in to move into their houses in Lumapas and Rimba. Many of them too will be rushing to the shops to stock up their houses for the upcoming Hari Raya.

A few other families will be happy today. I have already wrote about the Majlis Ugama Islam Brunei funding houses for the needy and the poor. Currently we are building about 19 houses for these families. A few of them are now ready and will be officially handed over to them. The informal committee of ministers - the Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports and the Minister of Development will be at various houses today and tomorrow officially handing over the houses to their respective owners. We were hoping to get all the houses ready for Hari Raya. Unfortunately a number was delayed because of the soil conditions and other fa…

Happy Families

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[Model of Class A house at Rimba - price $92,000]

Today some 223 families would be ballotting for their houses. They will get their keys and they will be able to move in by later today if they can clear all the paperwork.

The Housing Development Department has two housing areas completed recently, about 200 over houses at Lumapas and more than 320 houses in Rimba. Out of the 200+ houses in Lumapas, the final 92 will now be given out whereas in Rimba, all the 320 houses will balloted out. There are some 200 additional houses will be given out as soon as the new contractor starts work taking over from a previous contractor who could not complete their contract.

There should be 405 families today but only 223 families will be getting the ballots, the others have rejected the houses they have been allocated.

Out of the 92 houses in Lumapas for STKRJ, only 42 will turn up today thus leaving 50 houses to be balloted next time. For Rimba, out of 83 class A houses, only 67 families, out of 78 cla…

Modern But Gone Kampong Ayer

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Apologies to those who visit my blog in the early morning. Today, the posting is late. You see, I start my leave today. A few weeks ago, I realised that I have not taken leave for Hari Raya for about 20 years. I remembered the first few years before I got married, I did take Raya leave to join my parents when they were posted to Singapore but that was in the 1980s.

Anyway for this leave, I haven't planned on doing anything much but just to enjoy the atmosphere of spending the last few days in Ramadhan with my family before Hari Raya plus catch up with my quran reading. I have about 4 juz left. Hahahaha... the phone just rang. I have just been called back to go to the office.

Anyway, before I go, I want to post this photograph:


This to me is a modern postcard of Brunei. But go to Kampong Ayer and see if you can find this scene. This scene has already gone. There used to be many shops in Kampong Ayer especially the shops fronting the road which has now been demolished to make way for …

First Arch

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You must be thinking, what is extraordinary about this arch? We all know where this is. This is the traditional arch on Jalan Sultan in between the Secretariat Building and the General Post Office Building. You cannot imagine His Majesty's birthday without an arch in that location.

This photo is actually a postcard which is part of my collection. I collect old Brunei postcards as part of my hobbies. This one attracted me because this is the first arch made for His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's Birthday. This one was erected in 1968. Remember His Majesty ascended the throne when his father, Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien abdicated in October 1967. So in July 1968, it was the first celebration of His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's birthday as the Sultan of Brunei.

If you look closely, it is not one arch. There is an arch behind the first one. So there are actually two arches erected there.

This postcard is more than 41 years old now.

Gula Anau

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Many people know about gula melaka or gula anau. They are not quite the same thing and sometimes mistake gula melaka is gula anau. Honestly I did until I had to do tomorrow's articles about Brunei cakes for Hari Raya (as usual will be published in Brunei Times Sunday Edition).

This sugar was and continued to be a very important ingredient for local delicacies. For those who loved cindul temburong, the gula anau in fluid form is packed separately. Without it, many local delicacies could not be made. Today gula anau is easily available at the tamu. In the past, searches for this sugar would start months before the fasting month. This sugar was not easy to be made and hence the long waiting period. It can take days for the sugar to be made.

How do you make gula anau? The process is similar to making gula melaka or palm sugar. The only difference is the source of the main ingredient. Palm sugar was originally made from the sugary sap of the date tree. However for local use, it is made f…

Looking at the Past

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I don't know how many of my blog readers know Tuan Haji Ahmad Arshad. As a small boy, Haji Ahmad regularly appears on television. I always remember him giving his enthuasistic report on the Legislative Council in the late 1970s and early 1980s before the Legislative Council was kept on hold. Somehow I don't remember anyone else. I remembered there was someone else but up to now, all I can remember his him.

Haji Ahmad started his career as a peon (today called Pembantu Pejabat) and worked his way up to be the Head of Current Affairs at RTB by the end of his career. He worked for a time as a Press Officer at MOE in the 1990s. He has written a number of articles and has published them in compilations of books.

However, the one that I remembered the most was his articles which he wrote for Pelita Brunei. From about November 2001 to October 2003, he wrote about 100 articles about Brunei. I would say that his writings were among the writings that I read that eventually inspired me to …

Socioeconomic Histroy of Brunei

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On the subject of Malay books, this one is interesting. I bought this a number of years ago but from time to time I refer to this book for some of my Golden Legacy articles. This book was published in 1995, so it is a bit old. But I saw one the other day at Mega and sometimes during the books show, this book is still around. It cost me $14.40 but I don't know what the price is now.

Anyway, this book written by Jatswan Sidhu, a historian with Universiti Malaya focused his writing on the socio-economic history of Brunei. His primary source was the Brunei Annual Reports with added materials from other sources. If you have access to the Brunei Annual Reports, you could probably come up with something similar but I guess not that many people other than researchers and economic historians or sociologist were willing to do that. Jatswan Sidhu did just that.

I am not sure whether Jatswan Sidhu had ever visited Brunei but sometimes I get the feeling when he wrote this, he has not. He probabl…

Gaplah

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I saw the news, I read the news and a few blogsites have reported it. But I have not seen the book till yesterday. I came, I saw, I conquer or rather I bought it.

Gaplah is a Brunei dialect comic book currently in the markets for the last few months. The book itled: "Gaplah" - was officially launched by my colleague at the PMO Haji Omar bin Haji Abdul Rahman. It's the fourth comic by Malai Yunus Malai Yusof to be published, as a follow-up to "Dooi Malai Ku", "Malai Ku Sayang" and "Bah Malai Ku".

Malai Yunus is currently a student at UBD and the first few pages of cartoon are actually about his life at UBD especially life as a mature student.

The cartoons are hillarious and like Cuboiart depicts Brunei scenes very succintly. Get the book. It only cost $6

Brunei Star Athlete?

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I was trawling the news looking for Brunei news. One photograph from Associated Press (AP) popped up. This photograph had this writeup

"Brunei's Yusuf Saad Kamel celebrates winning the gold medal ahead of Ethiopia's Deresse Mekonnen, right, in the final of the Men's 1500m during the World Athletics Championships in Berlin on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)"

Wow! I didn't hear anything about this. We are pretty good at highlighting this but for sure I didn't hear or see this on RTB. A quick check of who Yusuf Saad Kamel is - he is a Kenyan but now he is running for Bahrain. Of course, there was this possiblity that he no longer runs for Bahrain ut now runs for us here in Brunei. Nope...

Welll, for Bahrain and Brunei, the first letter is B and many people assumed Brunei is also part of the Middle East, so I guessed that's why the mistake happen. But I am surprised it happened for AP, they are the newsworthy news agency. The mistake s…

Aerial Seria

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This postcard came up on ebay the other day. I tried to win it but apparently there are other people out there willing to pay the earth for it. I couldn't figure out why.

This aerial photograph of Shell's housing at Seria with Seria itself in the background. I am not very familiar when this is but the houses looked as if this photograph belonged to sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Seria itself does not seemed to have changed much. We do know that there are changes.

Anyway, this is for the Seria people out there.

Sarawak Stamps Used in Brunei

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Look at the stamp on the left. What do you see?

For the uninitiated, you will see a Sarawak stamp. But not realising that this Sarawak stamp was postmarked in Brunei. Brooketon was the former name for today's Muara. Unfortunately the year is not very clear, it was 96 (1896). In those days, Rajah Brooke was the concessionary holder for the coal in Muara (what do you mean you did not there was coal in Muara?). Anyway Rajah Brooke bought the rights to the coal mine in Muara from someone named Cowie. Cowie obtained the earlier concession from the Sultan. Rajah Brooke named the mine as Brooketon and Muara became known as Brooketon.

Even though Rajah Brooke was only in Muara as a concessionary holder, he brought the entire administrative machinery from his government in Sarawak. Muara became in effect a territory within Brunei with its own government even though Rajah Brooke had no right to do so. So he had his own police as well as his own postal service. This Sarawak stamp was postmarke…

The Churchill Museum

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Remember this? I have posted several photographs from this defunct museum. The most memorable was this statute in front of the museum.

If you go in to the museum, there was a button which when you press, you will hear the late Sir Winston Churchill speaking in the British Parliament: "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in Gods good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

I am not an anglophile but neither am I an anglophobe, call me weird, I missed that museum.

Brunei in London Papers in 19th Century

I wrote this for my "The Golden Legacy" column on Brunei Times published about three weeks ago.

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Brunei in the Illustrated London News

ONE interesting source for those interested in Brunei’s history is found in the pages of a London newspaper “The Illustrated London News” (ILN). The ILN has often been described as the world’s first illustrated newspaper.

It published its first issue on 14 May 1842. On its front page was the picture of a disastrous fire in Hamburg which broke out on 5 May. The news had arrived in London via the steamship Caledonia on 10 May, so an artist ran to the British Museum, borrowed a print of Hamburg, redrew it on a wood block and added smoke, flames and sightseers. Then the picture was engraved and, accompanied by a full descriptive text, made a dramatic feature for the ILN’s first front page.

The ILN was the first newspaper to make illustration of news events a regular feature of the newspaper. Herbert Ingram, who realized that additional copies of …

Weddings in the past

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I have always wondered what a Brunei wedding in the past looked like. This postcard unfortunately is not a Brunei Malay wedding but a wedding somewhere in Malaya in 1908. I wish someone would have taken a photograph of a Brunei wedding then.

Wedding practises changed. I remembered not that long ago, for a wedding ceremony, you need a lot of help. One is to get all the bamboos from the nearby forest to build the kem as we Bruneians called them. These kem are handmade complete with the seats all being built from bamboo and timber. Even the roof was using the various leaves especially the coconut tree leaves. As times get more modern, canvas was borrowed and rented out for the roof. Once the wedding is over, you have to remove everything.

Cooking too was not easy. Cows had to be slaughtered. Chickens had to be caught. Unlike the pay and pay method of today, the days in the past meant that one had to get everything oneself. And this includes borrowing all the pots and pans and the dishes an…

A Battle in Brunei

I was reading this interesting book entitled "THE EXPEDITION TO BORNEO OF H.M.S. DIDO FOR THE SUPPRESSION OF PIRACY: WITH EXTRACTS FROM THE JOURNAL OF JAMES BROOKE, ESQ., OF SARAWAK" written by Captain Keppel and published in 1846. There were many mentions of Brunei (Bruni or Borneo Proper as mentioned in the book). One was especially about the British and James Brooke wanting to keep Pengiran Muda Hashim in power in the Brunei Court. Pengiran Muda Hashim was a supporter of Rajah Brooke. It was Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II who was the Sultan at that point in time.

I thought I will reproduce the entire paragraph and let you readers read the actual excerpt from the book:-

"31st.--Started for Bruni, and half way met a boat with Pangeran Illudeen, bringing the news of the place. Two days after the admiral and his steamers left, Pangeran Usop seized the hill behind his late house with 300 Kadiens, and commenced an attack on the town. Pangeran Budrudeen on this mustered about t…