Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Four-Day Odyssey to Sabah

Bismillah - Blessing to this writing

Welcome signage to the Wedding

The venue of the Wedding

The ambience around the venue of the Wedding

The Akad Nikah Ceremony- Rosmin in front of the Jurunikah, sandwiched between the 'wali, Nizam, the bride's brother and Mr. Justin, father of the bride 

The bride, Nur Bertha Jane, present during the Akad Nikah

The bridesmaids with the wedding gifts

The Koran is usually a gift item 

A cheque being the contribution to the 'belanja' (expenses)

Discussion on the preparation for the Wedding 

The family members of the bridegroom all dressed up, waiting in the lounge of Promenade Hotel

With brother, Adzmi

  1.  Introduction.  It was around October that Rosmin told us that his girl friend, known to us as Brenda, has agreed to marry him.  This was on the constant prodding of Rosmin's mother, who appealed to his son to get married as she was getting old and like to see her son,who is not young anymore, to get married before she leaves this world - the usual plea of mothers.  With that announcement and that Brenda is from Sabah, she has expressed the wish that the wedding ceremony be held in Sabah among her family members and friends.  It was agreed the key requirements for her marriage - Brenda's conversion to the Muslim faith, the akad nikah (the religious betrothal), the meeting of immediate family members and the wedding receptions, be held in Kota Kinabalu.  I was happy that finally, Rosmin who has many ladies who were potentially his life-long partner, has selected the Sabah lady and my thought was principally to get the religious requirements fulfilled and organise a simple reception for my close friends of the Sabah days and family members and friends of the bride.  I contacted my friend, Datuk Zainie Aucasa, and solicited his help in the preparation of the marriage and wedding ceremonies, as I feel that a local person was needed to facilitate the Event. He readily agreed and indicated that he will have the period free to assist.  I know that Datuk Zainie is a very busy person with his community work through the Rotary movement and his environmental commitments. I informed immediate family members about Rosmin's marriage plans.  My two daughters agreed to join the delegation, though my youngest daughter, Rozana has to leave early (a day before the wedding) as she was flying to London to accompany her second son, Syafiq, to England for his further studies.  My brother, Tan Sri Adzmi and my good friend, Col Prof Dato' Dr Kamarudin Kachar decided to join the trip.  In the meantime Rosmin and Brenda left for Kota Kinabalu earlier and we were glad to hear that Brenda's elder brother, Syahrul Nizam, has facilitated her conversion to Islam on December 22, 2015 and has adopted the Muslim name of Nur Bertha Jane and that the venue for the wedding was at Hibiscus Garden Hall  Pacific Sutera  Hotel. With the background, the schedule for the trip to Sabah was made, departing on December 29, 2015 and returning to Kuala Lumpur on January 2, 2016, allocating time, a. to pay our courtesy calls on the prospective in-laws, b. preparing and fine-tuning the akad nikah and wedding ceremonies, c. visiting old friends, and d. touring the wet market in Kota Kinabalu. We departed on the afternoon of December 29 for Kota Kinabalu on the Air Asia flight and checked in at Promenade Hotel.           

Performing the 'merinjis'

The newly wed on the wedding dais

Cutting the cake ceremony

Family members with Datuk Zainie and Datin Karimah

Kamariah with Nora, the bride's mother, and Datin Rubina
With the bride's auntie, Beatrice

With Prakesh of Astro, Subhian, Safiah Nordin and Nurul

The bridesmaids

Photo with members of the bridegroom's family

Photo with the bride's family

Photo with the bridegroom father's friends

With Mr Allen Tong and his grand daughter

Delivering my speech

The bride throwing the bouquet of flowers, symbolizing the successful end of the Wedding Ceremonies 
2.  Courtesy Call on Prospective in-law in Ranau.  Nur Bertha suggested that before the marriage that we meet her parents and the auntie who has raised her up.  Her mother, Nora, has separated from her father, Justin, and she lives in Ranau. Ranau is an estimated 100 km away from Kota Kinabalu and what particularly attracted me was the fact that we would be passing the Kinabalu National Park and Kundasang and that it provided me the opportunity to have a glimpse Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South-east Asia, of which I have a special place in my life as I managed to scale it 15 times and reaching its peak 10 times. I was also keen to see some of the after effects of the earthquake that struck the National Park and the surrounding region in June 2015.  Ranau is located in the heart of the Kadazandusun community, which I have visited many times and also patronised a popular restaurant there, said to be owned and managed by a beautiful divorcee which I failed to be introduced to.  Yes, I have many fond memories of these places during my ten year stay in the State, from 1989 to 2000, serving first as the first Director-General of the newly established Malaysian Cocoa Board and then as Executive Chairman of Promenade Hotel.
  Datuk Zainie and his wife, Datin Karimah, was kind enough to accompany us in his 4-wheel drive. Other members of the delegation were Kamariah, my brother, Tan Sri Adzmi, my eldest daughter, Rozita and her husband, Roslan, my youngest daughter, Rozana and her youngest son, Syabil Aiman; the bridegroom Rosmin.  We started from Promenade Hotel at 10.00 am on the third day of our stay i.e Thursday December 31.  We stopped in a number of places to take photographs with Mt. Kinabalu in the background.  But unfortunately, it was a cloudy day for the whole duration of the the trip and we were not able to get good shots (the accompanying photos testify to the unfavorable condition for photography of the mountain). We were in Ranau at around 1.00 noon.  I noticed that the town was full of cars, unlike many years ago when there were few cars seen on the road.  Nora's house is 10 minutes away from the the town, constructed on a terraced slope of one of the hillocks, providing a panoramic view of the extensive Ranau valley.  Nora was there with his sister, a brother and her daughters to receive us. It was a single, 3 bedroom house with a kitchen and a living room.  Nora lives there alone as she is separated from her husband Justin and the children join her on week-ends and holidays.  She spends her time gardening, growing such vegetables as long bean, chilly, cucumber, cabbage.  We were served lunch and after the photo session we departed back for Kota Kinabalu around 3.30 pm and arriving back at Promenade Hotel around 7.00 pm.  The lobby of the Hotel was crowded as it was New Year's Eve.  Adzmi and I decided to take a short rest and around 9.30 pm we were out strolling on the Waterfront of Kota Kinabalu not far from the hotel.  We had a late dinner at an Indian food restaurant at the Waterfront and went to bed at around 11.00 pm, not even waiting for the New Year midnight clock count, as our long day program made us quite tired.       
With Datuk Zainie and Datin Karimah at the Cafe of Promenade Hotel 

The thick clouds block the image of Mt Kinabalu in the background

At Nora's house in Ranau

Members of Nora's family with Datin Karimah

Rosmin and Nur Bertha Jane

Photo of the group at Nora's house in Ranau

Beautiful blue sky of Ranau Valley

The durian stall in Ranau where we stopped on our return journey to enjoy the King of Malaysian Fruits 

3. Marriage and Wedding Ceremonies.  I have been keeping trek of the preparation for the marriage and wedding ceremonies , through regular updates by Rosmin.  After the conversion of Nur Bertha Jane, both Nur and Rosmin had to undergo a marriage course conducted by the Religious Department following which, certain documents have to be filled, to fulfil the requirements and registration of the marriage.  I was glad the necessary requirements were fulfilled in time to enable the solemnization ceremony (akad nikah) to be performed.  The venue for the ceremonies was at Hibiscus Garden Hall at Pacific Sutera Hotel.  On the afternoon of my arrival in Kota Kinabalu, I was briefed on the preparation by Rosmin and decided to have a more detailed discussion with the management of the hotel and the MC of the Event, at the venue on New Years Day - January 1, 2016. It was held at 3.00 pm at the Pacific Sutera Coffee House in the presence of Datuk Zainie and Datin Karimah.  We went through the whole agenda, which were as follows:

                                      08.00 am     :   The bride and bridegroom to move the bridal suite at the Hotel            
                                      10.30 - 11.30 am : The Akad Nikah to be held at the Hibiscus Garden Hall      
                                       12.00 noon - 2.00 pm : Reception.  There would be cultural dances and                                                                                        performances by Jimmy Pulikat and Sabhi
Rosmin informed that there would be a wedding dais but there was not going to be the 'bersanding'. Datin Karimah suggested that since the dais was going to be there why not have the bersanding, as she pointed that this is an experience of a life time, it was worth having it with the 'merinjis' (blessing) ceremony.  I was supportive of the suggestion but expressed reservation as the necessary ingredients and equipments (such as the bunga rampai, beras kuning etc) for the 'merinjis' required time to prepare.  Datin Karimah indicated that the essentials could be arranged. So the bersanding was included as part of the wedding ceremony. It was at the meeting that I realised that the wedding ceremony was not going to be a simple and quiet affair as Rosmin indicated that there would be Malay and Kadazandusun cultural dances and artists under his music company's Nova Music label, Jimmy Pulikat and Sabhian would also be singing their hit 'Anak Kampung' and other songs.  It was also apparent at the meeting that the key person organising and financing the whole event was Rosmin, with some assistance from members of Nur Bertha Jane's family and accordingly, I emphasized that we have to make sure all our guests were properly received and accorded warm welcome. We agreed that a rehearsal be held at 9.30 am on the wedding day before the 'akad nikah' scheduled at 10.30 am.
 We were up early on the wedding day, 2 January 2016 as we have to do the packing and checking out of the hotel as I am scheduled to fly back on the 5.30 pm flight that day.  By 9.00 am we were in the lobby dressed up for the wedding reception and then departed for Pacific Sutera.  We had the rehearsal and by 10.30 am, the Jurunikah, Tuan Hj Mat Neem with a witness was in the Hibiscus Garden Room for the akad. Rosmin appeared around 11.00 am and the 'akad nikah' proceeded smoothly and ended around when guests for the reception started arriving at 12.00 noon.
 I was happy to see my  old friends of the Sabah days attending the reception, among them were: Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, Datuk Gibrielle William and Datin, Datuk Rajah Indran and Datin, Datuk Verus Aman, Datuk Vincent Pung and Datin Rubina, Hj. Abd Aziz and his wife, Allen Tong and Jeannette Tong, Frankie Foo and wife, Datuk Dr Heng, Dr. Matshah, Omar Kadir, Masaruddin, Safiah Nordin and Nurul.  Datuk Musa, the ex- Director General of the Malaysian Cocoa Board who succeeded me in that position was late as he went to the other hotel in the Complex.  Among the members of my family present were Datuk Zainie Abdul Aucasa and Datin Karimah, Tan Sri Adzmi, Col Prof Dato Dr Kamarudin Kachar, Rozita and her husband Roslan. On Nur Bertha Jane's side were her parents, brothers and sisters, and relatives and friends.  A total of around 150 attended the reception.
The 'bersanding' was a grand affair with the entrance of the newly wed escorted to the dais by eight bridesmaids in pink.  The 'merinjis' ceremony proceeded with, first by the mother followed by the father of the bride, Datuk Zainie and Datin Karimah, Tan Sri Adzmi and finally, the parents of the bridegroom.  The newly wed then joined the main table for the luncheon.  I managed to visit each of the table to express appreciation for their attendance and then participated in the poco poco and Kadazan dances when the cultural groups and singers were on the floor. The theme of the wedding, the way Rosmin wanted it, was National Harmony. I could feel, with the attendees made up of the Malays, Kadazandusun, the Chinese and the Indians to a wedding between a Malay bridegroom to a Kadazandusun bride, at a reception with Malay and Kadazandusun dances and songs, the warm,  harmonious and happy atmosphere of the occasion.  Finally, I was invited to say a few words.
  My speech covered the following salient points:
      a. express deep appreciation to everyone  for having attended the reception
      b. particularly happy on this trip to Sabah for three reasons - firstly that Rosmin has decided to               discard his bachelorhood, secondly, Rosmin's choice to get a Sabah bride perpetuates the bond             of the family to the State and brings together families of two ethnic groups together, and                     finally, provide the opportunity to meet and strengthen friendship with old buddies
       c. share with those present my nostalgic experiences of the ten years stay in Sabah serving as the            first Director General of the Malaysian Cocoa Board and Executive Chairman of Promenade                Hotel and at the same time being involved in such community work in environmental                          protection, hospitality industry; sporting activities organizing the marathons, mountain bike                race, inter-island canoeing race, participating in a triathlon, a relay swim across the straits                    from Sabah Foundation waterfront to Gaya Island in theTunku Abdul Rahman Park, white-                  water rafting, scuba diving etc.
        d. thanking everyone particularly Datuk Zainie and Datin Karimah, members of Nur Bertha                     Jane's family, the bridesmaids, the singers and dancers and the Hotel for their contributions
  Finally, everyone was provided the opportunity to have photography sessions with the newly wed. The whole itinerary went off smoothly and by 3.00 pm we were whisked off to the airport to catch the flight to Kuala Lumpur.            

4. Catching up With Old Friends. The Christmas and the New Year moods were much in the air during my end of the 2015 year visit to Kota Kinabalu.  On January 30, the second day of our visit, Datuk Zainie invited me to join him to an open house hosted by Datuk Verus Aman at his residence in Austral Park. Although many of the faces were unfamiliar to me, there were a few friends who were there. Among them was Hj Abd Aziz Mattar, an architect and his wife, Dr. Matshah, who is the CEO for the newly established Sabah Environment Council, a few retired Sabah State government officials  and of course the host, Datuk Verus Aman and Datin. On January 1, after the discussion on the wedding, we decided to visit another friend, Datuk Vincent Pung and Datin Rubina Pung, who has recently launched his 15 room boutique resort on their 49 acres of land on the Kokol Hill, not far from Inanam and a half-an-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu and gave an exotic name, Kokol Haven. The traffic up Kokol Hill was quite heavy and there were many cars parked around the Haven as, perhaps, it was New Years Day, a public holiday and being a new resort perched at a vantage spot overlooking the City,  Kokol Haven has become an attraction to visitors to Sabah.  We were served the favorite speciality of the Resort, Spicy Chicken Pizza and 'teh tarik'.  We did not stay long as Datuk Vincent had a family dinner scheduled for the evening.  In the City, Datuk Zainie insisted that we have dinner at Alu-Alu Cafe near the City Jetty Point though at first, I was reluctant as the Pizza and teh tarik was a heavy enough meal for a 78 year-old grandfather watching over his weight.
Alu-Alu Cafe, named after a fish species, is owned by the owner of a wellknown Gayana Eco Resorts in Gaya Island, the biggest of the five islands in the Tunku Abd Rahman Park, off the coast of Kota Kinabalu.  Only organic foods produced by the Company are served here. We left the selection of the dishes to Datin Karimah, who ordered steamed garoupa fish, fried mee, two vegetable dishes of bean sprout and a leafy one, fried prawns and fried squids with coconut water as our selection of the drink.  The food was delicious and inspite of the earlier reluctance to have dinner, the four of us practically cleaned all the plates leaving the fish head to Adzmi, who relishes this bony part of the fish. It was 10.00 pm by the time I crawled to bed at the hotel.      

With Datuk Verus Aman (seated on left) at his Open House reception

With Adzmi in front of the Pacific Sutera Hotel, waiting for transport for the trip to Kokol Haven 

With Datuk Vincent Pung at his new business venture in the hospitality industry, Kokol Haven

At the verandah of Kokol Haven overlooking the City of Kota Kinabalu

Sunset from the high vantage point of Kokol Haven in Kokol Hill
Alu-Alu Cafe

The tasty organic food dishes served

  5. Visit the Wet Market in Kota Kinabalu.  The wet markets have always fascinates me as it displays the species that are still abound in the marine ecosystems and the types of fruits and vegetables being grown in a particular agricultural region.  Visitors from Peninsular Malaysia are particularly attracted to the Kota Kinabalu market as the fishes, the shrimps, the marine products such as anchovies and shrimp paste (belacan) are relatively cheaper and availability of a wider range of products. It was on the third day of my stay i.e on the morning of January 1 that I set foot again at the market. At the fish market the species of fish displayed include the tuna, pomfret, garoupa, the red snapper and prawns.  The crabs were plentiful and so too, the sea-shells.  However, the prices of these sea products were not cheap any more, comparable to the prices to the Bandar Baru Bangi fish market where I usually get my kitchen supplies.  At the fruits and vegetables section of the market I am still amazed at the wide range of varieties and quantities available and the prices were cheaper. There were plenty of papayas, one of that fruits that we regularly have at meals; avocados, pomelo and soursop, rare types and seldom available in Bandar Baru Bangi.  But the only problem are their bulkiness and not attractive from the cost point of view to bring back home.  My purchases on this marketing trip were anchovies, shrimp paste and 'asam jawa'.      

The fruit section of the market

The tuna fish

  6. Concluding Remarks.  It was a satisfying four day trip.  I was glad that Kamariah, who usually gets tired easily and problematic in her mobility, was able to be with us and enjoyed all the visits and the ceremonies.  We were most happy that our last sibling have found someone acceptable after a long search with a string of girl friends.  Our new daughter-in-law, Nur Bertha Jane, must have many attributes that Rosmin admires and pray to Allah that their matrimony last a life time like Rosmin's parents.  The main event, the Marriage Ceremony and the Wedding reception went on smoothly. Three of my Facebook friends had this to say about the Ceremonies. Mr. Clement Lee, who is well-known in the scuba diving community throughout the world, made two postings on the Event, covering my dance performances on the floor and my speech delivery, portraying the happiness of the bridegroom's father.  I have to acknowledge that I have used a few of his photos in this article. Thank you, Sir.  Mr. Allen Tong, my ex-associate in a number of community activities, in his posting, described the Event as having 'great food wonderful company and a most delightful program. Enjoyed to the hilt' (I have got to get clarification from him as to how one enjoys to the hilt).  Safiah Nordin, who served as Public Relations Officer in the Malaysian Cocoa Board when I was the DG and presently managing a company conducting many courses for the government departments in the State and has recently embarked in a new business of hand made shoes under the brand name of 'Safi An' commented that the wedding 'was intimate and beautiful'.  I was glad to set foot in Sabah again after a long absence and catching up with friends. I owe the success of the Wedding to Datuk Zainie Abdul Aucasa and Datin Karimah who has devoted the entire four days,  totally with us, not only in terms facilitating the invitation to my guests in Sabah, particularly in providing the ingredients and equipments for the important and memorable 'merinjis' ceremony at the last minute and advising on  finer details on the wedding.  Allah saja yang dapat membalas sumbangan Datuk dan Datin. My thanks also go to the members of Nur Bertha Jane's family particlarly Syahrul Nizam who has facilitated the conversion and providing the 'doa' reciter; Elvin Justin, who coordinated the Event and the sisters and friends and who served as bridesmaids and have provided all types of services to make the Event a success.  My only regret on the wedding was that I have strictly limited my invitations to friends in Sabah.  My heartfelt apologies to those buddies, whom I have missed extending the invitations to the wedding.

Posted on January 28, 2016
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