Showing posts from April, 2009

The Monkey and the Apple

There once was a happy monkey wandering the jungle, eating delicious fruit when hungry, and resting when tired. One day he came upon a house, where he saw a bowl of the most beautiful apples. He took one in each hand and ran back into the forest. He sniffed the apples and smelled nothing. He tried to eat them, but hurt his teeth. They were made of wood, but they were beautiful, and when the other monkeys saw them, he held onto them even tighter. He admired his new possessions proudly as he wandered the jungle. They glistened red in the sun, and seemed perfect to him. He became so attached to them, that he didn’t even notice his hunger at first. A fruit tree reminded him of his hunger, but he felt the apples in his hands. He couldn’t bear to set them down to reach for the fruit. In fact, he couldn’t relax, either, if he was to defend his apples. A proud, but less happy monkey continued to walk along the forest trails. The apples felt heavy, and at one point the poor little monkey though

You Called Her Mama

Tun Teja wrote in the comment box about the origin of the word 'Babu' which are used by some of our Bruneians for 'mother'. The perception is that the word 'babu' is used by family of Pengirans but of course that are also non-Pengiran families who used the word as well. In Brunei, our usage for the word mother ranged from the English Mummy or Mum to the Arabic Umi to the Brunei Mama or Babu. Seldom surprisingly I have heard Brunei children used Emak or Ibu even though these are standard Malay. We do use Abah or Bapa. Why Babu? I don't know and I haven't had the time to do a research on how babu came about. I would suggest however that we go back in time. In English, for the meat, we have cows when the animal was still alive but we used beef to call its meat. I read somewhere this is due that in the old days, the common English people spoke English whereas the royalty or those high up spoke in French. So in French, boeuf means the meat of a cow and hence

Anthropophagous Thoughts

I was at Borders last night and managed to get a couple of books. One very interesting one which I read through last night was this book about hard words. Words have always interested me and the other day when my minister asked whether he should buy the full blown Oxford English dictionary, I said he should. The full blown Oxford English dictionary comes in 20 volumes and each volume is about four inches thick. That my dear, is a lot of words. There are only a handful of people I in Brunei who have the 20 volume dictionary. This dictionary cost some US$800. I am not confabulating this story. You see, knowing words will make one belles-lettres. What I like about our neighbouring country, other than being able to eat Big Macs in the middle of the night, is the bookshop especially Borders. I was there with my colleague and he was busy buying books for his daughter. I was busy with history books. I am very frustrated and it is quite discombobulating without having access to very good books

Struggling Your Way Through

Last week, our ministry's ladies netball team lost the final to MOE. Congratulations to both teams for making the final. I was happy that our ministry's team had reached the final and I know they practised hard. But I was not expecting our team to win, not because they are not capable or I was not supportive. I realised earlier on that they had a psychological problem. From the outset, they were praying that the last team they wanted to meet was MOE. That team had already beaten them in their minds even before they had physically beaten them in the court. For the record, the ministry's team beat the MOE team in the qualifying round but even that was not enough to assuage them that they could win. Conquering this fear is the most difficult. This is what I called trying to beat the inner demons inside you. I am not trying to be a psychologist, which I am not, but over the years I have seen enough of this attitude, of this behaviour, of this thinking, whatever you called it. I

The Giant Quran

How many people remember this scene? I was trawling through my hard disk and found this photograph. This was taken about three years ago when His Majesty received the Giant Quran as a birthday gift. I wrote about the whole event and also the history behind it. I am hoping that it will be on display one of these days, if it has not already been done so. It is not the world's largest Quran, even though it is big. It is not even the most unique, being the 5th Quran to be handwritten by the group that was commissioned to do it. But it is certainly big. The other big one which people can see is the one placed at the Jame' Asr in a glass cabinet.

On Friday

This is one of the hardest entry to type. Its not a sad entry or anything like that. I am doing this from the comfortable by the sea yacht club, my cousin's son is having his birthday here. But I am using my tiny handphone. I am a trained typist and being forced to use two thumbs really slows me down. A tweeter would be better. Where is the return key? Cant even do a new paragraph! Found the return key. Today was hectic. When I sent my son to school this morning, my car stalled at a junction. We found a kitten jumping out and another one snapping the two beltings in the engine after the car was towed. What is it about cars and cats? I remembered when I was learning to drive, we were advised to check the car before driving off. I guess not many do it. In my case, the cats were not even ours. I didnt even know there were kittens at the house. But I guess thats no excuse.

Fifth Day of Fifth Month Festival

My secretary came in and said that anakbrunei was outside. She could not or did not know Reeda's name but anakbunei she remembered. So anakbrunei trademark is well and truly established. Anyway anakbrunei's Reeda dropped in my office the other day with a nice surprise - homemade Bakchang. My better half and I tried it for our dinner on the same day. I took a few photos of the bakchang with my phone but I can't find the cabling at the moment to upload the photos here. So I borrowed the photo from Reed's blogsite. This Chinese origin meat dumpling is prepared around this time of the year which is the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar if I am not mistaken for what Reeda called the Ko Chung festival. I read on the internet it is for the Duan Wu festival which is to honour a wiseman in China. The people in China like him so much that when he drowned in a river, the people threw dumplings into the river so that the fish would not his body. The festival nowada

A Cup of Coffee

One of my friends posted this on facebook about a couple of weeks back. I know quite a number of readers out there have seen this but I am sharing this with those who have not. For you to ponder:- +++++ A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee. When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to t

Pay for Services?

There was someone who wrote either in Brudirect or somewhere that I read over the last few days about the need to clean up the housing estates and to charge people for the clean up. At the moment, the Housing Development Department is responsible for the common areas of the housing estates. There is also no charges for the work. Getting people to pay is always one of the biggest issues in providing government agency. Everyone is used to not paying. But where necessary people will pay. The toll charges at Rasau are the cases in point. But then there are also complaints about the Municipal new road parking coupons. I was reading Jewelle Tan's old blog entry on the national day celebrations . She mentioned the $20 her father donated towards building the National Stadium. When I wrote my Golden Legacy article for Brunei Times in October last year, I was quite surprised to find out that we Bruneians actually contributed towards the building of that stadium. The stadium completed in 1983

Bangar Jetty and the 1962 Memorial

Exactly one year ago, I wrote about the above 1962 monument . Yesterday, I read in the papers about the Minister of Communications laying the foundation stone for the new Bangar Jetty and Terminal Building in Temburong. What is the connection? At present, if you arrive or depart from Bangar, you would arrive in an open air small roofed structure. There is no other facility there. This $1.4 million structure is at last bringing better comfort to the travellers between Bandar and Bangar. Work started in June last year and expected to be completed by end of this year. For those who knows Bangar but have not been there recently, the terminal has moved to the other side of the bridge. The current terminal is before the bridge but the new terminal is after the bridge. So from next year onwards, everyone would have to go under the bridge before they alight. According to the press, the new building site is located adjacent to the Memorial Monument. That to me is slightly wrong. The building is

A City of Many Waters

[This article was published two weeks ago in my Golden Legacy column in Brunei Times] About fifteen years ago, there was an article about a book which the UBD Library had just purchased. It was described as the only book that was written about Brunei around the end of the nineteenth century. The article was written by C.H. Gallop, who was an expatriate teacher in Brunei writing under the pseudonym of Penggembara. The book entitled “A City of Many Waters” was written by Peter Blundell and published by J W Arrowsmith and Co in 1923. There is also an American edition published by Robert M McBride and Company of New York in 1924 with a slightly different title “On the Fringe of Eastern Seas: The City of Many Waters”. Other than the title, the contents of the two books are similar. The book described the writer’s life in Brunei around the end of the nineteenth century and the narration ended just as when Mr. M.S.H. McArthur became the first British Resident in Brunei in 1906. The bo

Brunei 1989 Paper Money

Yesterday I was talking about the Begawan money. Today I am talking about more money but more recent ones. My sister-in-law's husband (my biras) called me up the other day and said that he had discovered an old piggy box where he has been stashing his coins and dollar notes and he found about 15 pieces of the above and 1 piece of a $5 note. He asked me whether I wanted them. Of course, I told him. I asked him whether he got other tabungs that he could look through. The notes were all used and the valuation would not be very high. About the best one is the one above. The worst has even its corner missing. But give or take another 20 years, even that missing corner note would be worth a fortune. A brand new uncirculated note is currently worth around US$5 but I noticed the prices have been rising. About two years ago, I could still get this for around US$3 but I don't see this price anymore. The interesting bit is that this paper note first introduced in 1989 and was even reprint

The Begawan Money $50

Yesterday, I managed to get two of the above notes. The Begawan Series or the 1967 Brunei First Modern Series is still a favourite among collectors. Issued in 1967, it marked the first time that Brunei issued its own currency by its own Currency Board. Prior to that, Brunei currency notes were issued by the Straits Settlements Government and the Malaya-Borneo Board of Currencies. The $50 Begawan Series are rarely available in the numismatic shops. In Kuala Lumpur, an uncirculated note is being sold for around MYR800 and in Singapore for around S$400 and on eBay for around US$300. A used note depending on the condition would be slightly cheaper but not that much cheaper if it is very fine or very good. I chanced upon these notes accidentally. One of our local food blogger recently emailed me telling me that she has recently came into possession of these notes. She asked whether she should deposit it into a bank. Anyway, I gave some pointers including the value of the notes and asked if

Our Modern Conveniences

Do you know what this guy does for a living? He does not know do it anymore. His trade died out in the 1960s. But when he was doing his trade, he did not have much competition or any competition. Nobody else wanted his job. But if he did not do his job, the whole Brunei Town would suffer. That's how important his job was. I was quite surprised to see this photograph sometime last year during an exhibition on World Water Day organised by our Public Works Department. When I was compiling volume 2 of my book, there was an article about the subject matter and I remembered this particular photograph and asked the Water Department whether I could have a copy of this photo to go with my book. Yesterday I received this photograph and a few others. So, what did he do for a living? He collected human wastes from toilets. Prior to the 1960s, toilets in the town were mostly bucket toilets. Toilets would be built on raised platform with a bucket underneath it. Someone unfortunately has to go ro

Why can't we have a specialist phlebotomist?

By the time you read this, both my left and my right arms would be like bruised pincushion. I have to undergo the 'ambil darah' procedure. No disrespect to the nurses or the medical staff doing the procedures but apparently I am born with a delicate very deep vein which no one can find in one go. This bruised pincushion is something I undergo everytime I go to either our general hospital or the private hospital. I am the only one I think who had been passed to all the 'ambil darah' staff at the hospital as each one tries their luck at finding that vein. There was one time I had all of them and then I got sent down to the lab for the lab technician there to try his luck. At first I thought it was our general hospital staff who I thought are inexperienced but for the last few years when I go to the private hospital, it was a similar problem. Since then, I have learned to live with this problem. So I do envy people with nice big vein where the nurses can find that vein in

Who is a Pebalat?

I guess many have read that the Eskimo had many words for snow. The idea is that the language we speak both affected and reflected our own views of the world and since the Eskimos lived in a snowy world, they should have more words for snow. Though there is some argument how many words the Eskimos actually have for snow. In a popular 1940 article on the subject, the writer referred to Eskimo languages having seven distinct words for snow. Later writers inflated the figure: by 1978, the number quoted had reached 50, and on February 9, 1984, an editorial in The New York Times gave the number as one hundred. I have not studied neither do I have the time to do it - I would love to know how many Brunei words are there for fishing. Bruneians until the early 20th century were fishermen and seafarers. We used to have many fishing and sailing traditions but they seemed to have disappeared completely. Perhaps someone from the Brunei Studies Academy can look into this. Why do I ask? Last Fr

Ambassador to Brunei

Last week Dilbert had a short series about the 'temp'. In today's corporate America where there are lots of unemployment, many people find jobs by 'temping' which is to work for companies temporarily while hoping to find full time employment. Scott Adams, the founder of Dilbert, last week had a short series of these 'temps'. Dilbert's boss' secretary went away for a short holiday and the temps came in. The first cartoon about the temps was this particular one about a former Ambassador to Brunei. I know Adams wanted to emphasise the point about the temp being overly qualified by being an Ambassador but I am quite surprised to see Brunei being mentioned. He normally used a county called Albonia or something similar. I remembered my time in USA. The travel agents I spoke to either did not know Brunei at all or if they knew it, they had no idea where it is. In the end I chose a travel agent which had an Asian staff as she was about the only one who knew

The World According to Stercus Accidit

One of my friends keeps a blog entitled 'the world according to stercus accidit'. I won't put up the link just yet until he says okay. It took me quite a while but the other night I was wondering to myself what 'stercus accidit' was. You see, I took up Latin as a supplementary subsidiary subject when I did my Law and Economics degree. When you study law, knowing Latin is quite useful as many Latin phrases abound in law. For instance, 'ignorantia legatia non exusat' which literally means ignorance of the law is no excuse. In criminal law, we had 'mens rea' (literally guilty minds) and 'actus reus' (literally guilty act). So for a crime to have taken place, the two must exist - mens rea and actus reus. There was a famous saying by a 16th century judge, Sir Edward Coke who said 'actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea' which means "an act does not make a person guilty unless (their) mind is also guilty"; hence, both actus reus a

CLEX 2009

Her Royal Highness Princess Majeedah officially launched CLEX 2009, the Expo on Construction and Life Expo and Conference, last Thursday at the Plenary Hall of the ICC. If you are like going "uhhhh?", CLEX 2009 is Brunei's largest showcase for the construction and lifestyle related industries under one roof. The Expo featured both local and international exhibitors. There are many things for you to see at the expo and special offers too. If you have not been, come. You have until tomorrow.

I'm Yours

Over the last few months, I have heard this song with this opening lyrics:- Well you done done me and you bet I felt it I tried to be chill but you're so hot that I melted I fell right through the cracks, now I'm trying to get back Before the cool done run out I'll be giving it my bestest And nothing's going to stop me but divine intervention I reckon it's again my turn to win some or learn some But I won't hesitate no more, no more It cannot wait, I'm yours (Chorus) Oh, I'm yours Oh, I'm yours Oh, whoa, baby you believe I'm yours You best believe, best believe I'm yours You probably know what this song is and even the singer but you know, I have been trying like crazy to find out who the singer was. You can tell that I am not a music expert or listen much to the hits of today. But I liked this particular song and everytime I heard it either on radio or even been played in the shopping centres, I tried and wait for the announcer or the DJ to


I have always watched Yasmin Ahmad's short clips for Petronas especially during Hari Raya and Chinese New Year. She has a unique talent in turning 3 minutes into something really meaningful. Yesterday I read about her doing a clip for Singapore's Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports about the family. I had to see it for myself. In fact I found two videos. The first one is about a story between a daughter and her father. The other is about the love of a wife, interestingly enough the setting was a funeral. The second one is very moving. I hope these videos can remind us of our own families, the love of our families going through the good and bad times. Just in case you can't see the video, you can watch it yourself directly on youtube. The link is here.

Our Future Port

I was searching for something in my office when I came across this. This picture of Muara Port came from a BEDB presentation about the Pulau Muara Besar project (PMB is that island opposite the Port). For some reason when I saw the photo of the port, it really reminded me of my time when I was a Ports Officer. Many many years ago, my then Permanent Secretary had a policy that whenever a Division II or I officer goes on leave from one of the departments under the Ministry of Communications, he would try to put one of the Ministry's officers acting in that department. So during my stint at MOC, I ended up working for a few weeks at various departments and one of them was as a Ports Officer at the Ports Department. In the late 1980s, our Ports were starting to have competition from various ports around the region, there is Miri Port, Baram Port or Port Baram if you want to save yourself some embarrasment by saying the wrong thing. Ports competitiveness is the services and the prices t

The 'lost' camera

They found my camera! I got an SMS yesterday and hopefully when someone comes up from Ulu-Ulu sometime today, the camera will come along as well. The strange thing was that the camera was found at a place where I never did go on Sunday. So either someone found it and brought it there or it 'moved' by itself or 'assisted' by someone or something, that's what some of my officers were telling me yesterday. Me? I have had my fair share of the supernatural. I wrote about my experience two years ago which you can still read here. The question is - is there something there? I personally believe that there is another dimension which we humans cannot see. But there are times when they cross over. Going deep into the jungle such as Ulu-Ulu probably increases the chances of 'crossing over' activities. Let me tell you a couple of stories which we accumulated over our stay and I leave it up to you to believe or not to believe. I cannot vouch for the truth other than it d

Ulu-Ulu Resort

The last three days have been interesting for our Strategic Planning, Public Speaking and Team Building session at the Ulu-Ulu Resort in Temburong. I was going to write about it with lots and lots of photographs but unfortunately my camera did not make the trip back. I have no idea where it is. So if there is anyone out there who saw my Olympus, please let me know. In the meantime, if you want to know more about Ulu-Ulu Resort, please go to Ulu-Ulu Resort at this website. If you do want to go there, make sure that you love water, plenty of water as a lot of what you will see is lots and lots of water and rapids, the temuai ride and lots of sweat as if your sweat glands are on steroids. It is very very humid out there. Other than the actual public speaking session on Friday night and the strategic planning session whole of Saturday, I did not do any of the activities at the resort as they are just way too strenuous for me - I can't climb to the tree tops to do the canopy walk or tr

Through Other People's Eyes

I am away to Ulu Temburong for the next 3 days and there will not be any telephone or internet connections for the next 3 days. I leave last Sunday's article in the Brunei Times on the history of Brunei through other people's eyes:- +++++ BRUNEI’S recent history from the 18th century onwards is well documented. We can go to the British records and use those records. But as we go further into the past, historians have to rely on many sources. Some of them are not entirely accurate especially those that was passed down the generation or word of mouth or oral tradition. However, other sources are hard to find and not as easily available as one would have like. Brunei’s ancient history in most cases is written by somebody else. Luckily for anyone interested in the Brunei history, compilation of all known materials relating to one source have been done. Two of the most widely available are the “European Sources for The History of The Sultanate of Brunei in the Sixteenth Century” ed

What is the Sustainability Fund?

During the opening of the recent Legislative Council, His Majesty announced the formation of the Sustainability Fund. I have been asked a number of times what it is. I was still in MOF when the project started and the concept took quite a while to gel and after that the legal part took quite sometime as well because it affects the Constitution. Since there is still some interest, I thought I will spend a bit of time writing about it. But if you don't want to read my entry, you can actually read the law for yourself as it is now on pdf from AG Chamber's website. To make life easy for you, here is the LINK . If you read from the Sustainability Fund Order, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) is required to ensure the sustainability of the government finances and clearly identifies the financing required for government spending as non-oil and oil revenues. The main function of the fund will be to function as collection accounting and channelling funds to 3 trust sub-funds where it can be

Buku Adat Istiadat

Yesterday was the launch of this book by HRH The Crown Prince. This book has been in the making since 1958 reading the write up in the program book yesterday. I wanted to show the contents of the book but unfortunately I don't have the time to show them. Basically the book is full of things that you may want to know all there is about the Adat Istiadat of Brunei including where you should be sitting, what flag you should be waving etc. It is a massive document just by looking at it but the wealth of information inside it is immense. I am not sure where the books will be sold but for yesterday and today, the book is available at the ICC for a cost of $40 each. You get a nice bag as well as a VCD when you get the book. You also get the chance to be in a lucky draw. For every single book that you buy, you can get a ticket. The lucky draw prize I have been told is an umrah ticket. Most of us filled in the lucky draw ticket yesterday including my colleagues here. At the same time, if yo