Istana Manggalela

If you live in KB, you would know that there is a guest palace there at the top end on the right of Jalan Maulana just after the roundabout heading towards Kuala Belait. The palace has tall white walls with a label that says Istana Manggalela. For those who do not know where that is, use my description to find it. But if you do find it, ask permission before taking photographs. Last December when I went there with my family wanting to take a photo in front of the gate, an armed gurkha came out and said I was not allowed to do that.

Anyway, the Istana was built in 1956 and completed in 1958 and was originally designed to be the palace for His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien whenever he visited Kuala Belait. Remember in those days, the roads linking the capital to KB was in its infancy and in some parts cars can only be driven along the coast. At some places, you have to wait until the tide goes out before you can drive across. Unlike today's one hour drive, in those days, the BSB-KB trip can take as long as one day or more. So a palace was essential for the Sultan whenever he goes to KB.

The original name of the palace was not Istana Manggalela, it was originally called Istana Hinggap - 'hinggap' is a Malay word meaning to stay temporarily. In Malaysia, this is widely used, in fact, there are still a few palaces called Istana Hinggap there.

Where does the name 'Manggalela' come from? According to an article I read in the Berita Muzium which gets their sources from a newspaper called Berita Brunei April and July 1958, the name was derived from an old battle which happened in Padas, Weston in Beaufort, Sabah.

During the North Borneo Chartered Company days which then already controlled parts of North Borneo (Sabah), the Company wanted to own all the lands in Sabah including Padas which at that time still was still governed by the Brunei Sultan under the leadership of a Brunei noble named Pengiran Shahbandar Hassan. The Bruneians living around that region protested and the North Borneo Company sent its army. During that battle, the North Borneo army failed to defeat the Bruneians. Part of the reason it was said that around the Manggalela Fort, the defenders had put up a white cloth curtain as a shield against the army and bullets supposedly did not go through it. The shield was considered as 'magical'.

I found an interesting description of the battle named the 'Padas Damit Battle' in the Sabah local government homepage which described the battle. There was no mention of any magic bullet proof curtain but what was important was the building of a very strong fort made up of eight foot tall round wooden pillars at Kampung Galila which prevented the well armed British army from attacking. And what was also important was the bravery of the locals who were only armed with knives and swords as opposed to guns and cannons. It was a long battle and fought between the two sides between December 1888 to May 1889. The locals eventually lost when the British declared them as pirates and started to kill them one by one. The British eventually took over the area and renamed the whole area as Beaufort in 1895 after Governor Beaufort who was the British Governor based in Labuan then.

The name of the Istana was chosen in commemoration of the bravery and skills of the locals at that battle. The Istana is also a listed building under the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Act.


Anonymous said…
Where do you get all this stuff? It's amazing!
Anonymous said…
i really love this site..always there something new and interesting from u mr.BR...esp on the history and culture of Brunei, and me being a history like this can be useful and be pass on to the younger generations as to help enable them understand and appreciate our country...there more to Brunei than just oil and gas.

i was thinking, while back in uni. we got a chance to go on a trip to pulau chermin and that got me intrigued after that. it was said that a palace was built by Sultan abdul mubin when he ran away from the nightly disturbances made by the OK besar Imas and Sultan Muhyiddin. I was hoping to see remains and ruins of the so called palace (mcm ala2 castles d uk, but unfortunately there were just jungles, 2 graves and a big sandstone structure that was said to be a hide out in 1960s (maybe during the rebellion). but what got me wondering was this cerita told by the museum people whi guided us..they said that at one time, people were all sibuk about the said royal regalias ans other treasure that sultan mubin supposely shot out into the Brunei River. It was said that the royal treasures were actually buried hidden on the pulau itself. And the officials also told as that people went as far as hiring 'orang pandai' from indon to search for the treasure..and we were brought upon this spot where there was a big rectagular dug out that was said to be made by the people who brought the 'orang pandai', who believed the spot was the place of the buried treasure...but still it yielded no whats actually the story? or is it just myth? nda jua kan royal regalia di rasak kedalam cannon and di shoot out.hmmm...
oh yeah. and there pletiful of broken pieces of porcelains from centuries ago among the washed away rubishes.
Anonymous said…
there s also another one mr.BR pasal d tale of si Tanggang. Brunei has it, Malaysia has it, maybe indonesia also have them too..and complete with the so called site where c Tanggang jadi batu. I think ive come across an article somewhere a long time ago..(variasari ka, those little mag full with weird, amazing, unbelievable stories) about c tanggang versi malaysia or indonesia kali tu. So, again is it just myth? i, myself have went to the spot believed to be where c Tanggang kana sumpah..kawasan belakang istana. My nini used to tell us that according to fishermen yg mengail mlm2 di sana..they said that kdg2 esp friday nite..a soft weeping sound can be heard. and my nini also cerita that pernah time perang jipun, some of the japanese have heard of the story and nda percaya..and they went there and kira mtestinglah..they cabut some of the grass yg ada on the batu..and it was said that blood came out and it started to ribut (mcm pilem tah jua...). and lastly, some said that mun aying the end of the batu structure ada mcm this little structure which resembles mcm urang duduk with tangan mcm bedoa kan minta ampun.
amazing rite?? that why were loved to hang out with our nini..mcm a human history book bah. cerita sal naga di tutong lah, org2 halus yg turun bukit dari bukit kawasan damuan (thats why the road strip of Damuan accident prone)..they said that if there a bukit at one side of road and a river or tasek at the other..gerenti selalu ada accidents tu..e.g...that road strip to tutong yg ada that tasek/lagoon on the right side...the road near tasek meradun/dadap/kilanas (near ugama school)..
so mr BR...any story on this??
tun teja: panjangnya... i will look into all that. in the meantime can i ask - did you attend the history seminar for school teachers at UBD last week? i am interested in getting hold of the seminar papers. E-mail me if you can help me.
Widarchitect said…
I hope this Istana is being looked after as well as it deserves. The photograph is beautiful. Visiting this place is on my list of things to do when I get home next.
In Brunei we seem to have this awful habit of knocking bits off old buildings or knocking the whole thing down to expand it leaving our memories and photographs as evidence of an age gone. In fact I was just thinking about this today - remember the old aquarium where the new Royal Regalia building stands? The Royal Regalia building might have retained many of the old parts (which are lovingly left in their original state if my memory serves me correctly) but I always wondered where our old friend Winston Churchill went? xxw

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