Friday, September 26, 2014

A Memorable Eid Mubarak 2014 Celebrations

1. Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Eid Mubarak Celebration 2014 started on Monday July 28, 2014    after a month long fasting of Ramadhan.  Usually the Celebration preceded one to two weeks earlier with the receipt of Hari Raya Greeting cards from business associates, colleagues in the offices one had worked before and relatives and friends. The cards have the usual captions 'Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri - Dengan Ingatan Tulus Ikhlas - Maaf Zahir dan Batin'. The two key things in the greeting are 'Ingatan Tulus Ikhlas - Sincere Remembrance, not only those living but also to those who have gone before us, Maaf Zahir Batin - Seek Forgiveness'.  However, this tradition of sending out greeting cards appears to be dwindling. For this Hari Raya I received 11 cards as opposed to many folds this number in the earlier years.  of TSH ResourcesFor the purpose of the record, among the friends that have extended Hari Raya Greeting cards this year include Y. Bhg Prof. Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid, Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, Dato' Moehamad Izat Emir, Presiden Persatuan Pedagang dan Pengusaha Melayu Malaysia (Perdasama), Dato' Dr. Sharif bin Haron, DG of MARDI and the two DDGs, Puan Hazami Habib, COO Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Dato' Hj Aliasak b. Hj Ambia, Persatuan Pekebun Kecil Kebangsaan, Dato' Gabriel William, Executive Director, Outward Bound School Sabah, Puan Faridah Shamsudin, Utusan Publications & Distributors (my book publisher) and Mr. Lim Fook Hin of TSH Resources.   However, a significant number of the exchange of greetings have come in different forms - through the smartphones or the emails in the internet. This occasion is often looked at as a time to connect, strengthen relationship with family members, business and organisational associates and for the younger to seek forgiveness to those older than them. 

2.  I particularly look forward to the family gathering.  Our eldest daughter, Rozita, visited us earlier and informed that she will be spending Hari Raya with her in-laws in Alor Star.  Our youngest daughter, Rozana and her husband, Nizam and the three boys came in two days earlier.  Rozana usually makes sure that things are in the proper places or hidden - the various documents such as receipts, brochures and others were in their proper places, books which are scattered all over the living room , were transferred to the library, the carpets and cardboards were dusted and cleaned up and a few flower vases were filled up with sweet smelling flowers and placed in prominent positions in the living room and reception area. Our son, Rosmin, moved in on Hari Raya eve.

3.  The preparation for the Hari Raya slowly built up a week before the celebration, marketing to get supplies for the dishes to be served to the visitors and guests  Beef is a must for the 'rendang', chicken wings and drumsticks for deep frying, and 'daun palas' for the 'ketupat daun palas' which is our speciality every Hari Raya.  I get my regular gift of fruit cakes from Datin Pam and ordered a few types of cakes from the Persatuan Alumni UPM.  Other goodies were brought over by the children.             
Rozana, Shadzwan and Shafique filling the daun palas with beras pulut 
The ladies in the kitchen getting the ingredients ready

Fireworks in the compound of the house on Hari Raya Night

4.  The Eid day started with an early 'sunat' bath followed by the solat subuh.  I was dressed up in a red baju Melayu and together with my son, son-in-law and grandchildren headed for the nearby Surau An-Nur for the Eid prayer scheduled at 8.30 am.  The imam in his sermon encouraged the six day fasting in Shawal.

The scene at the surau where the Eid prayer was performed
5.  On returning home after the prayer, the next ritual was for every member of the family to salam and seek for forgiveness with the head of the household, starting with Kamariah, followed by the children and grandchildren. The duit raya was also distributed at this time.  

6.  Friends, and neighbors started coming over at 9.30 am and members of the family (brothers, nephews and nieces) at a later part of the day and I continued to receive visitors for the next few days. The main dishes that were served include tomato rice, chicken curry, 'ketupat daun palas', beef rendang, deep fried chicken wing and drumstick.  The various types of cakes and the traditional kuih were also served.  The drinks served were orange juice and hot tea.  Among the friends that visited us were: Hj. Ahmad Nordin and his wife, Hj. A. Rahman Daud, Tan Sri Mohd Noor Ismail and Puan Sri Zainab, Mr. Kong Hock Sian and wife, Prof. Emeritus Chin Hoon Fong, Dr. Ismail Hamzah, Datuk Noramly Muslim, Andre Sibert and wife, Prof. Emeritus A. Halim Osman, wife and son. Among the issues and topics discussed with friends include food security in the country, advancement in science and sharing one's experiences and wisdom by writing.   

Dishes served

Mr. Kong Hock Sian and his wife
Tuan Hj. Ahmad Nordin
Andre Sibert and Esther
Presenting my latest book 'A Senior Citizen's Journeys of Happiness to
Prof. Emeritus A. Halim Osman

Halim, Roslina and daughter

Acehnese students

7.  We were particularly happy to receive streams of family members.  As the eldest in the family with the passing way of my elder brother, Idris, I have to play the role of patriarch in the family.  I have taken the opportunity to remind those who are still in schools or higher educational institutions to work hard. I reminded the the older generation to lead a balanced life - success in their work career, exercise regularly, watch on the diet,  always rest well, be involved in community work.  Do not forget to share their experiences and wisdom through writing   

Brother Hassan Basri and his big family

Brother Ahmad Shadzli and his family
Niece Zaharah and her husband, Kamaruddin and family
Nieces from Rawang and their family

Cousin Rosli, his wife and children
  8.  In this auspicious Eidul Fitri month, many other events were organised - open houses, engagements and weddings.  Though official (government) open houses were cancelled due to the unfortunate MH 17 incident in Ukraine, a smaller scale reception were held.  I attended receptions organised by SAHOCA Alumni held at the Perdana Leadership Centre at Putrajaya, Persatuan Alumni MARDI (MASMARDI) held at MARDI Penang and Persatuan Kanser Negara held the Institut Kanser Negara Putrajaya.  I was the spokesman, on behalf of my niece, Faezah Mutalib and her husband Hj Mohd Yusof  in Ipoh at the engagement ceremony of their daughter Hanie.  On that trip, proceeded up north to visit my brother Adnan in Alor Star and then attended the wedding reception in Kangar, Perlis hosted by Tan Sri Shahidan Kassim, whose son married the granddaughter of my good friend, Dato' Kamaruddin Kachar.  There were three other weddings that we attended during the month.

At the engagement ceremony of grand niece, Hanie, in Ipoh 

The hari raya open house and reception for the engagement ceremony held
simultaneously.  It was a grand event
 My younger brother, Adnan (standing in red T shirt) with wife and other family members
The wedding dais at the Kangar wedding

At a wedding in Putrajaya

At the wedding reception hosted by Dato' Seri Makzdir Mardan. Photo with Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Nor
At the wedding reception of Tan Sri Mohd Nor Ismail's granddaughter held at Surau-An-Nur
With from left Tan Sri Mohd Noor Ismail dan Dato' Dr. Harun Din

Hari Raya Open House organised by MARDI Seberang Prai and Persatuan Alumni MARDI

Hari Raya Open House organised by SAHOCA at Perdana Leadership Centre

Open House organised by Persatuan Kanser Selangor dan Wilayah 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Friendship Journey to Cebu and Bohol, The Philippines: Sept 16 to 20, 2014

Friendship Journey to the Philippines: Sept 16 to 20, 2014
    1. Introduction.  My last trip to the Philippines was a quite a few years back when I was still working.  It was to the city of Zambaonga around 1998.  My first visit to the Republic was in the mid 1970 when I was sent for a short training course held at an agricultural training center in the province of Neuva Ecija, central Luzon and on that visit I traveled to the hill resort of Baguio  Subsequently, I made a number of visits to Los Banos to participate in the various courses and meetings organised under the aegis of Research Management Asia, a project of SEARCA. Since then, although destinations in the countries of ASEAN have been high on the list of favourites, the Philippines was not in the picture for a number of reasons - safety and security as there are many reports of security associated problems; secondly, it is the food as many of the local dishes are pork based.  However, on this occasion it is my involvement in the World Malay-Polynesian Organisation and the number of new friends that we have made in the country and the fact that I need to know more of the Malay-Polynesian connection, that rekindled the interest to visit the country.  During the planning stage, two destinations were considered - Cebu and Puerto Princessa and Cebu was subsequently chosen as, from the internet search, Cebu has many more attractions from the places of interest to the entertainment. The friends that have decided to join the trip were Abd Rahim Abd Rahman, Zakaria Md Saad and Adnan.  We booked out tickets with Air Asia which has a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Cebu.  We departed on schedule at 10.40 hrs on Tuesday Sept 16 arriving in Cebu 3 hrs and 50 mts later.  There is no time difference between Kuala Lumpur and Cebu.  We stayed at Mandarin Plaza Hotel.

The Philippines Island Archipelago

Chief Lapu-Lapu  (see 2.4 below)
Jose Rizal, the founder La Liga Filipina who inspired the people to fight
the Spanish colonialists
Women who were involved in the Philippines Revolution

    2. Places of Interest Visited in Cebu-Mactan
             We decided to tour the city on the second day of our trip i.e Wednesday Sept 17, renting
              a taxi which we paid P 4000.  Only Rahim and I were on the trip as Zakaria and Adnan
              decided to go on their own program.
             2.1 Basilica Santo Nino which is made up of the Church and Convent, was built by the
                   Augustinian Brothers in 1565.  It is a popular pilgrimage destination of the Christian
Basilica Santo Nino

               2.2 The Carbon Wet Market
                      The wet market is another favorite place that I visit any city, as it provides me the type                         of fruits and vegetables grown in the area and also the species of fish harvested and the                       type of meat consumed by the population.  The no of species caught appears to limited
                      and they are small.  From the display pork is the most popular meat, even chicken                                 appears to be consumed less.  

               2.3 The Chapel of Saint Pedro Calunson
                      The Chapel is  new, built by the developer who is in the process of constructing a
                       huge shopping mall nearby.

The chapel
The nearby shopping mall.  The photo was taken from the nearby chapel

              2.4 Museo Sugbo - Brief History of the Philippines
                    The museum provides the history of Cebu and the Philippines.  The country has been                            under the influence of Thailand and trading with the Chinese and the Arabs in the early                        days in gold, rice, millet and sugarcane. The Spanish influence started when their                                  armada led by Ferdinand Magellan landed in Sugbo (present day Cebu) in April 1521                          and converted the then ruler of Sugbo, Rajah Humabon and his wife to Christianity.
                     However, soon after, Magellan was killed by Panglima Lapu-Lapu on April 27, 1521 at
                     the Battle of Macatan.  The Spaniards withdrew from the country in 1898 as a result of
                     the fight for independence led by members of La Liga Filipina founded by Jose                                    Rizal and in June 1899 independence was proclaimed with Emilio Aguinaldo as its first                      President of the Republic. The independence was short-lived as the Treaty of Paris                              among European powers resulted in the country coming under the influence of the                               American and for a period (1941 - 1945) the Japanese. It regained back the sovereignty                       in July 1946.

At the monument of Lapu-Lapu in Mactan

              2,5  Shopping and Entertainment.  We spent the third day (Sept 18) at the Ayala                                          Shopping Mall just across the street from the hotel we stayed and the Mango Avenue.                          Ayala Mall is huge shopping area.  Rahim and I spent some time at the sports
                     shops looking particularly at the the mountain bike models on display and the riding                            accessories,as I was keen to buy a pair of hand gloves. I observed that prices of many                          items are  more expensive than those at home.  Considerable time  was spent at the book                      store browsing at various publications particularly on the various aspects on the history,                      culture, food, health etc of the peoples of the country.  Purchased a few books, among                          them on Jose Rizal and History of the Philippines.  Disappointed that I did not come                            across publications on the herbs and traditional medicines, religious affiliations                                      particularly Islam in the Philippines.  We then took a taxi to Mango Avenue.
                     The Avenue is the entertainment centre of the city. After a fish sandwich light lunch,                             as we passed Rajah Hotel we noticed an advert board in English and Korean on the                               massage rates.  The rates appeared attractive and we opt to go for a one hour 15 minutes
                      body massage plus sauna at P200 (around RM16).  We stopped at an Irish Restaurant                           for a drink and around 5 pm walked around stopping at a few entertainment centres but                       all of them were closed and were informed by the security guards that these places                               come alive only around 9 pm and last until the morning.  Realising we were too old to 
                      stay that late we decided to call it a day and headed back for an early rest as the next 
                      day itinerary- the trip to Bohol- was scheduled to start very early in the morning.       

 At the Ayala Shopping Mall
Street scene near Mango Avenue
Hotel Rajah at Mango Avenue

The jeepney is a common transport of the people

     3. Places of Interest Visited in Bohol
         Among the tour packages offered, besides the city tour which we covered on the second day of 
         our trip, are inter-island hopping and the trip to Bohol.  We opted for the Bohol trip, incurring
         P 4000 (around RM 308) per pax on the fourth day (Sept 19) of our visit.  We woke up at 4.30
         am and took a taxi from the hotel at 5,30 am to Ferry Terminal 1 for the scheduled 6.30 am 
         departure for Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol.  It was a two-hour ferry ride in the Ocean Jet in a          relatively rough sea.  After visiting places of interest in Bohol, we headed for the ferry terminal          around 4 pm and saw long queues at the ticket counters.  A few of the ferry services were                    cancelled due to the turbulent sea and our scheduled 6.30 pm ferry was listed as tentative.  We            waited and felt relax as we feel that the weather appeared good at where we were.  However, it
         appeared that the sea remained turbulent and all ferry services from Tagbilaran to Cebu for the            day were subsequently cancelled.  Fortunately earlier while waiting for the ferry to Bohol we              befriended an official working in Tagbilaran by the name of Riki Narona, who on realising our            unfortunate plight came to our rescue and assured us that he would help us until we are safe
         on the return ferry trip to Cebu. On his suggestion and in his car, we drove to Talibon (?) a                  small town around 54 km north of Tagbilaran, which is closer to Cebu and takes only one hour
         ferry ride to Cebu.  We attempted to get the scheduled midnight ferry but the tickets were sold            out.  We had no choice except to try to get the early morning rides the following day (Sept 20)            to ensure we get to Cebu and onwards to Malaysia as our flight was at 3.05 pm.  We stayed at
         a small hotel and were up early (4.30 am again) and headed for the ticket counter. The queues              were still long and the good network that Riki has subsequently paid off as he successfully
         obtained the two tickets.  We boarded the ferry which departed Talibon at 8.45 am, arriving in            Cebu one hour later, packed, check out of the hotel at 12.15 pm and departed on schedule at
         15.05 hrs from the Cebu-Mactan International Airport

 The Ocean Jet Ferry to Bohol
In the ferry

              3. The places visited in Bohol include:
                    3.1 Tarsier Conservation Area

 The tarsier is a nocturnal primate and sleeps during the day

                      3.2 Habitat Butterfly Farm.  There are more than 1000 sp of butterflies in the 
                            Philippines.  Butterflies feed on the nectar of flowering plants, the favorite 
                            is the lantana  

 Entrance to Habitat Butterfly Farm
 A female butterfly kissing the handsome man
 When in Rome.....flying like them

                          3.3 Chocolate Hill

                         3.4 Various scenarios on the river cruise

                     3.5 Python and Wildlife Zoo

                3.6 Bohol Church and Museum

          4. Concluding Remarks.  It was a memorable visit.  We made a few friends and visited many
historical places and museums which provide information of many aspects of the people which are linked to the Malay-Polynesian roots. We found and we were also told by our friends in the Philippines that Cebu is still not very safe to be moving around particularly to a foreigner.  We managed to resolve our food by patronising a Mikado Japanese Restaurant not far from our hotel. Sporting goods,  clothing apparels and books are comparatively more pricey but entertainment is relatively cheap.