Friday, 30 October 2009

My Tanjong Lobang School

My Tanjong Lobang School
(Built on an exclusive plateau by a cliff facing the South China Sea. I studied in TLS from 1962 - 1967. I left in Lower Six to take up an offer to enter the Royal Military College in Kuala Lumpur as a military Officer Cadet. I was sad in leaving the school and all my friends behind. It had been my home for the last five years. TLS will always remain in my mind.)

Possibly, once a marshy, steaming land
where dinosaurs roamed.
A land once kissed
by the frigid artic
and interstellar winds.

Maybe during the time
that Earth was once a hissing ball,
this piece of priceless land
was once part of the molten core.

It was empowered.
Otherwise, how'd you account
for the magical hold
it had on us all?

I once sat on the cliff
overlooking Hick's Bay,
carressed by the cool sea breeze,
under a darkening, star-studded sky,
gazing at the horizon as far as eyes could see
and wondered what lay beyond the sea.

Today, I looked back to reminisce
on what was Tanjong Lobang
that held my mind to ransom.
Life then was simple yet awesome.

I searched my tattered heart,
but couldn't find the answer.
Was it the place? Maybe.
Was it the friends? Possibly.
Was it the teachers? Could be.

Then, it dawned on me.
It was the mixture of all three
that had made Tanjong Lobang
into what the world should be.

The Broken Chain

The Broken Chain
(Many years after WW2, the young men in my long house became restless. They were gripped by the spirit of "bejalai" (literally to walk or looking for greener pastures).

Four years had gone by.
No war planes in the sky
that could rain down destructions
at anything that attracted suspicion.

Sense of freedom we felt.
The life we had put on hold
was back to normalcy's fold.

'Twas back to farming.
Rice planting.

Though the War was over.
Never far were uncertainty and fear.
They held the hearts to ransom.
Only time could heal the reason.

The young men were restless.
Yearning for life beyond the horizon - curious.
Breaking free from the clutches of poverty.
Dreaming the eternal dreams for the family.

One night, three young men disappeared.
'Twas a paralysing blow to the community.
Irreparable loss and a huge liability.
Life in the long house changed immediately.

'Twas a blessing in disguise.
The community couldn't see otherwise.
Many years later they made good.
Two had joined the Police Force
The third disappeared and was never heard of.

'Twas a brave move by the young men.
To have ventured into the unknown, then.
Today, 'twas nothing strange
Migrating to big cities for a change.

No Pain No Gain

No Pain No Gain
(I paid the price for leaving my long house)

Plucked, half-starved
from the pit of poverty.
Heavy was the price
for discarding
the long house life.

Leaving the nest
was a heart-rending wrest.
The current was too strong.
All I could do was go along.

I pined day in and day out,
wishing I could shout.
Eventually, married to my job,
I simply must cope.
I realised then
there'd be no gain
without the pain.

Soon a family I raised.
My problem deepened.
More walls were erected.
Like it or not,
religious and cultural
walls I cannot hassle.

I resigned to my fate.
Thankful and grateful
for my family's full plates.
Though I couldn't quench
my inner and deeper thirst,
I realised it was God's wishes.

For after all,
without pain, there'd be no gain.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A Tribute to Marian Mckonkey (School Matron)

A Tribute to Matron Marian McKonkey

( Miss Marian McKonkey was our School Matron (Tanjong Lobang School, Miri, Sarawak) in the early 60s. At that time she was about 60 years old. She was sent under the United States Peace Corps program. She lived to be a centenarian. In her final years she was cared for in nursing a home. In 2007, we came in contact with one of our Peace Corp teacher, Robert Lynn who told us about her as he used to visit her. I wrote an article which involved her and passed it to Bob Lynn who read it to her just before her health deteriorated. It brought smiles to her lips. Shortly later on 29 April 2008, she passed away. May her soul rest in peace.This poem is in her rememberance)

The sad news came today
that she has passed away.
Being a Centenarian we knew
she would soon leave me and you.

But deep within us we wished
we could turn back the clock.
A piece of us is gone with her passing.
An era of our past seemed missing.

Something’s tugging at our heart’s string.
The mind’s broiling and thinking
of the days when she was around,
caring for our youthful life abound.

She was always there when we were sick,
prescribing medicine with professional restrict,
trying to ensure the best for each of us,
as she went about her jobs without a fuss.

Like a breeze she executed her duties,
making the rounds to ensure cleanliness
in dormitories, refectory and other premises.
I can vividly see her with her old bicycle
wearing a thick, round, black horn-rimmed spectacles.

Thick skirt that reached down to her calves.
Always wearing the smile that’s her soulful mask.
Can’t help wondering who’re her kins?
Who cared and loved her in her final spin?

Bob Lynn, you have done a noble job.
Keeping her company and keeping out pain of sorts.
You’ve been the bridge between us and her.
Through you, hopefully, we have made her happier.

Thank you Marian for giving us a part of your life.
We are grateful and wish you an eternal happiness.
We wish you all the happiness up there my dear.
Surpassing what you had had down here.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

A Life so Brittle

A life So Brittle

she came
to share
her laughter rare.

Her heart
she poured out
like there’s
no tomorrow.

We knew
she was a person
with problems

She was
a quiet lady.
But today
she was

The next day,
My God!
She was gone.
In the dark
without looking
left and right
she crossed
a busy road.

A car
with a demon
the wheel
mowed her,
and she
was gone

Monday, 26 October 2009

Hearts of Gold

Hearts of Gold

( Ibans’ hospitality is legendary)

Hearts of gold.
Unparrallel generosity.
Legendary hospitality.
Sharing is a way of life.

Share animals caught.
Share fruits they brought.
The unfortunate will have sympathy,
and kept from going hungry.

Heavy works they make light.
A single community truly might.
Alone they are prone to failure.
Combine they could success ensure.

In environment most basic.
Could breed the purest of feeling.
Considerate and caring for fellow beings.

How could that be?
What ingredients could we see?
Basic and primitive they may be.
They have hearts of gold
that the world should mould.


(Just trying to picture an anguish woman at the loss of her loved ones)

A woman bends double over a lifeless body.
Little lifeless hands dangling.
Little feet stark white.
Cheeks glued bathe in tears.

Tears streaming , flowing unending.
Storm of emotion triggered.
Making pleas to the Almighty.
To return her Heart and Darling Baby.

Why O Why must it be my boy?
Just when You have blessed me with joy.
Now You are taking it back - cruelty!
Your punishment is beyond humanity.

What’s there left for me in this world?
What wrong, what sin have I stir?
Take my life! Take my soul!
There’s no reason left for me to live.

You have taken all that are dear and bliss.
My mother, then father, husband and now my son!
You love them more but it was blunt.
But why so soon before the full moon?

What is there left for me to croon?
Life’s an empty shell.
Life’s void and a vacuum.
My heart and emotions doomed.

Take my life now I implore You.
End my misery, I love them too.
Life is meaningless to me now.
My world has collapsed somehow.

Time is Running Out


(Yes, as we grow older, time is running out for us)

Only sixty years ago,
we had plenty of time to grow,
smile with the sunlight
and in a star-studded night.

Oh! The sweet childhood memory,
fruits grown on a golden tree
has my mind in a velvet shackle,
imprisoned emotion in wind-swept tunnel.

Why, despite the successes I had made
I couldn’t bring the sunshine to light my heart?
Why do I feel this deep abyss of emotion
that time has kept frozen?

Suddenly, I realised time is running out.
Like it or not ‘tis the prophecy of creation.
Oh! I don’t want to ride the moonbeams.
I want to keep dreaming the impossible dreams.

Many dreams I haven’t realise.
God! Give me a second life
to better the bitter life of my folks.
God-willing, one day, it’d stop being a joke.

Oh! How I wish He’ll grant my dream
to paint colours into my colourless world,
to straighten crooked edges
and to bring laughter and cheers.

Let me close the gaping abyss.
Let me put on the lid
on my bottomless pit of emotion
before You end the life of your creation.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Forever Lost

Forever Lost
(After 50 years, the face of my village has changed. Some were lost forever)

Sixty short years had passed – magic.
So much have changed – nostalgic.
Many childhood friends and relatives had passed along.
Only their deep and fond memories remain strong.
Even the sky and the mountains that once were blue
Are now somehow of different hue.

Fifty years ago they held me in awe.
Shrouded in mystical stories – a lie.
Spurned with tales of the supernatural,
Home of the mythical warriors immortal.

Somehow now, the mountains are nearer.
Somehow, they aren’t as high for sure.
Somehow, they are not that blue anymore.
Has Earth shrunk and fallen sick of sorrow?

Once they stood majestically.
Guardians of our ancestral land eternally.
Once they looked like an invulnerable fort.
Keeping out enemies of sorts.

Today they looked ragged.
An old man overspent - tired.
Scarred by a century of intrusion,
Uncaring brutality emboldened.

Left scars unhealing,
Barren and void it bring

Alas! Where is the youthful beauty
That I once behold, really.
Where are the calls of the hornbills,
The barking of deers shrill.

The cry of the gibbons?
That once the jungle enlivened?
They all had long since disappeared.
Over fished, over hunted and speared.

Indiscriminate clearing of the jungles.
Are also contributing factors to the bungle.
Sad loss we never could regain.
Can we hear the calls of the gibbons again?

Or the calls of the deers and the hornbills?
Maybe, but not before the forest we heal.
And return them to the sanctuary we steal

So Near Yet So Far

So Near Yet So Far
(I pined for my home and my folks)

So near yet so far.
My hands could caress.
My heart could embrace
And plant with kisses.

My soul reaches out.
My heart calls out.
My emotion yearning
To cling and embrace the feeling.

But alas! They are only shadows.
They are rainbows.
They are silhouettes.
Emptiness and guilt!

Long have I yearned
To get closer to all that I have missed.
Family, friends, the river and laughter shrills,
The pepper gardens, the rice fields and the hills.

Let me feel the love I have lost.
Let me feel the life I have abandoned.
Let me feel the pulsation and vibration
Of the Bee community.

But alas! The current is too strong.
It’s dragging and pulling me along.
Faster and further away.
I’m hapless come what may.

I know this is my destiny.
Anguish that I may be.
Try as hard that I may see.
I still couldn’t be in proximity.

I leave my fate to God.
He can see what good He brought.
That I follow my destined path.
To my very last breath no fuss.

The Pain of Leaving TLS

(For more than 40 years I had to live with the thought that I had made the wrong decision in life. I had quit school while in Lower Six to pursue a career with the Malaysian Army, the Malaysian Rangers in particular. It had been a painful decision and even worse was leaving Tanjong Lobang School (TLS). It had been my home for five years. Many ex-TLS I think, shared my sentiments and feeling.)

I was ungrateful
To have left abruptly – a fool.
Seemingly without a thought and consideration.
Only God knows the pain and the yearn.

After five long years,
After having interwoven the threads of friendship dearest,
After having embraced all as brothers and sisters,
And accepted TLS as a home and a stepping stone.

My heart was torn into shreds.
My mind a mass of thorny beds.
My feelings were battered.
Reality won and decision honoured.

My tender long-house life was a struggle for survival.
My father combed the jungle,
Squeezed his rubber trees and ancestral land.
Herculean effort to keep us alive and made amend.

I was most fortunate elder brother took a city job.
Took me along to ease father’s rot.
Six years on I found Tanjong Lobang School,
Where I grew up and came out of my spool.

Five short years later, the Army found me.
It was love at first sight – absolutely.
For fanned by myths and legend of heroism
I took and accepted it like duck to water – infatuation?

Blinded, I couldn’t see beyond the horizon.
I couldn’t visualise what lay beyond the mountain.
I didn’t have enough depth in my thinking.
Vivid and clear for me to see through things.

True, there were some pangs of regret.
That it was a hasty decision I made.
Successes though I had earned.
However, deep within me, I wished I could return.

I wanted to gaze at the crimson sun set
Over the horizon of the South China Sea.
I wanted to walk and swim along the jagged coastline.
I wanted to be in the work party keeping the School pristine.

I missed the morning run.
I missed the meager breakfast, dinner and lunch.
Which, by today’s standard, would have us half-starve.
To us then, they were nice and just enough.

I missed the days when we had to walk to Miri town
To attend National, State or District events abound.
To participate in inter-school and community activity.
To remind us, we were a part of the Society.

I missed the days when we had to look for jobs.
To find that elusive Money and the good it brought.
To buy necessities and a taste of Gemuk’s niceties.
To us then, our need was negligible and hardly no worries.

More than forty years had gone by.
These feelings still held me in awe.
What were there in TLS
That held me in ransom no less?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

A Tropical Rainstorm

(In my long house in Sarawak)

Dark Clouds blanket the sky.
The sun disappears so shy!
They seem to touch the mountain ranges.
Guardian of the horizon and rivers.

Gusts of wind ruffle the trees.
And scatter withered flowers and leaves.
Those are its eternal responsibilities.
Since the beginning of Time and Mist.

The inky sky!
Bolts of lightning and thunder!
Little patterings on roofs.
The scampering of feet and hoofs.

The wind gathers speed.
To show its strength indeed.
It howls and the trees bend double.
In show of respect O so humble!

Within minutes the inky clouds
unload its load of rain to end the drought.
Drench anything and everything
seemingly with lavish spending that's nothing.

Men, women and children run for shelter.
Chicken, dogs and pigs scurry helter skelter.
A farmer bends double with loads on his back.
Trudges on slippery and flooded jungle track.

Lightning bolts light up the sky.
Claps of thunder - defeaning O my!
A reminder of a just concluded Catastrophe.
That Mankind must avoid to be carefree.

Kids' shrill shouts and laughter filled the air.
Muffled by the pour of the cascading downpour.
Running and splashing in the instant pools
Having the fun of their lives, it is school.

Shouts of "pulai! pulai!" broke the chain.
Worrying parents are a pain!
Lightning strikes should be respected regardless.
We must not play with nature's wrath.

The storm shows no mercy.
Leaking roofs and shallow drains
will show and speak for itself,
and make the builders blame themselves.

Yes, we enjoy the rain, unless it gets out of hand.
Kids all over the world are the same.
Little rain, torrential rain are enjoyable.
Like all else, a little of each should be the Bible.

Friday, 23 October 2009



(We cannot change the course of our lives that the Almighty God has laid out for us)

Holding scissors to cut strings.
Cutting loose offsprings.
Fate is blind and heartless.
But fair and just, nevertheless.

A path in life for each of us.
A chosen life and a specific task.
A mission to fulfill.
To carry God’s will.

Who are we to deviate?
Whatever you do is fate.
However far you may detour,
You can’t change nor alter.

In the process we are scattered.
All over the world – it’s fated.
For sure, it’s not by human mind.
If blame you must, it’s fate’s design.

God has a way to weave and wound
The intricacies of human evolution.
Only He knows each single sinew.
To mend and sew all things anew.

Peace and harmony be to all.
Play our parts and pass the ball.
For the world’s a stage.
For us to play our acts envisaged.