Saturday, June 29, 2013


I love the look of the  Eucalyptus, leaf, and they last very long

 as a plant decor. I was very pleased when the florist told me 

that it is a good repellent against cockroach. Now when I buy 

flowers for my friends, I tell the florist I want the  Eucalyptus,

 leaves for the background.

It emits an essence which my nephew and my niece do not 

like. It tell them, better the essence than the cockroach,

Eucalyptus oil has a history of wide application, as a 


and industrial uses. The leaves of selected Eucalyptus 

species are steam distilled to extract eucalyptus oil.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

San Lei Bo the adulterous.

Fellow Face Book friend Michael Lim posted this photo: 

Ancient china use this to dump those adulteress into the sea

There is a chapter on San Lei Bo in my book. In my 

Cantonese Kwang Ning dialect, San means Alive, Lei means 

separate. Bo means woman.

She was married to an invalid, had a child when everyone 

knew the husband couldn't consummate the marriage. She 

was caught sleeping with her Father in Law, and was about 

to be drowned in a cage like this as a sow. In nick of time, 

The Rajah Brooke stopped his wicked custom. 

They chased her away from the village, her Father in law 

got off Scot free, The baby killed. Such was the cruelty of 

the Confucian paternalistic society.

Thank you Michael.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Connecting with the Chew Family

Photo: My sister Margaret, " I got my  Pegawai Bintang Kenyalang (Officer of the Order of the Star of Hornbill of Sarawak) in 2010."

Dear John and Paul,

My siblings are also excited about being connected to you all. Will you please ask your Dad what the relationship is with the Governor of Sarawak with him and my Dad?

Dear Ann,

If  I am mistaken John Chew was the anesthetist whom we bugged all the time. During Father's last night at Normal Hospital, we kept on asking for additional dosages of painkiller and that required authorisation from the anasethetist.
The nurse would not ask the doctor and we would insist. When we got to the doctor who was at home as it was wee hours, we were really irritated with each other.

I don't know who his dad is, but Father always mentioned his name. Please ask John whether his dad knows the governor of Sarawak. 
His wife is Ruth and Jonathan school's Parent Teachers Association's patron in which I am chair.

When I told her that Father was a friend to her husband, she invited me to bring him to visit them. I told her that he has passed on. She replied many of his contemporaries had passed on as well. If John's Dad is friend to the governor, perhaps we can establish contacts.

Dear Ann,

I know Chew Chiong Tak. I remember they both attended Father's 80 birthday. I am not sure whether John is senior or junior to me.  I don't know them except coming across their names in Normah's hospital and Kuching Specialist Hospital. 
However, I know Paul Chew's wife. Dr Siew were the Sharlene, Arlene and Matthew's doctor when they were babies.

Coming back to Chew Chiong Tak and the wife, before I returned to NZ for my PhD studies, Father brought me to meet them at their shop, perhaps to be given pep talk. If it was, indeed it has worked.

I always ask Father whether he wanted to visit the governor so that I could have a feel of the astana. He never wanted to, but I got the honour when I got my  Pegawai Bintang Kenyalang (Officer of the Order of the Star of Hornbill of Sarwak) in 2010.

The previous governor, the late Zaidi Adruse liked to bring Sharlene around his farm and I remembered he told Sharlene to enjoy while the officers that included me had to work. She would around 4 or 5 years old.


Honoured for producing high achievers.

I was curious how Father's friend's sons connected us. I found the blog post that my friend Chang Yi, aka Sarawakianna posted. She mentioned that she had a story to tell about Mr. Chew.  I did a bit of investigating journalism myself and found this article in the New Straits Time.

Honoured for producing high achievers.

New Straits Times

| May 04, 2010 | Copyright

SIBU: Chew Chiong Tack's schooling was halted by the Japanese occupation but such has been his life-long commitment to education that 41 family members are now graduates. 

On Sunday, Chew, 86, and his wife Kiew Sui Nguk, 87, received Kolej Laila Taib's achievement award from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for having such a big number of high achievers in their family. 

The couple have 11 children.
"I am so proud of my family. Though I failed to achieve my ambition, I am proud to be able to raise a family of professionals," said Chew.
Chew is a first-generation immigrant from Fuzhou province, China, who worked in a Chinese medicine shop when he first set foot here. 

His wife was a rubber tapper.
"Life was tough for the both of us. The war, the Japanese occupation and the post-war period were the toughest times we have had to endure.
"Nonetheless, we set our goals and we wanted to make sure that our children got the best education. 

"We did not want them to live a tough life in future," said Chew in fluent English.
"Without education, there is no way for anyone to progress in life. To achieve that, one must dare to sacrifice for the future generation," said Kiew, who also spoke in fluent English. 

Dear Ann,

Thank you for the quick reply.
My Dad says it is ok to use the photo, I have not checked with my Mum about who made the dress.
My Dad says your Dad was a brilliant student, able to discuss openly with the teacher, unheard of during those days. During the War, they were classmates at Tung Hua, but your Dad was one year senior to my Dad. You fingered that out! My Dad started going to school only at the age of 14, having just arrived from China and they were in a composite class.

We are a large family.
Rose is in Melbourne, commuting frequently to Kuching.
James is in Sibu and next weekend we are assembling to celebrate his eldest son's wedding.
Cel is commuting between Kuching and Perth.
Angela is in Wollongong .
Myself am in Kuching , commuting to Perth. I am an Anaesthetist.
Paul is Ortho Surgeon in Kuching . Two children are in Singapore and the youngest is going to Bristol soon.
Michael is in Sibu, children in KL and Perth.
Lawrence is in San Diego.
Ita is married and settled down in Singapore.
Helen had settled down with her 6 children in Perth.
Evelyn is currently in Suchou, where her husband works for an aircraft parts factory.
My wife Esther has a sister in Auckland 

That wedding dress that produced 11 professional children, Mr. and Mrs Chew Chiong Tack. May be it was the dress, Mum was lucky to wear it and produce 9 kids.  

How did the people of our parents' generation do it?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Little piece connects to a whole story.

Mr and Mrs Chew Chiong Tack, wedded during the world war 2. Mrs. Chew lent her beautiful dress to my mum.

 Me and my best blogging buddy, Sarawakiana, I first met her when I was 13. Last year I returned to Sibu, and Chang Yi specially came from Miri. She took me to see our teacher Miss Ida Mamora.  Thank you Chang Yi for playing such a vital role in my family's history. We won't have known if you didn't post the blog.

This is my very good friend Chang Yi's blog that connected us to Father's very good friend Mr. and Mr. Chew Chiong Tack. 

The photographer, Lim Poh Chiang, I wonder if he is my dad's friend in Singapore, who owned the Longhouse souvenir.

Chang Yi's blog showed a wedding in a boat in Flooded Sibu. I  exchanged comments.


during the war , my father went up from Sibu to During in a boat to claim my mum as his bride. I imagine it was a smaller boat, only my Uncle Kok Fei went with him.

Mum wore a white gown borrowed from Mrs. Chew Chiong Tack. Also, it was the war, and there were no photos. So looking at your photo gave me fuzzy feelings.

Have you written the story of Mr. Chew?

Can I borrow it to post a story of my parents' wedding?ReplyDelete

Ann,was tht uncle of urs with surname Chan?Was he a school teacher in Sacred Heart and a very keen fisherman as well?
Is tht Mrs Chew Chiong Tack tht runs a chinese medical store close to the Palace ?
Wht a small world indeed ....

I still do not know this Anonymous person, 

  1. Ann...Toowomba is where one of my best friends come from. She has married a Bidayuh guy (my husband's school mate who studied in Twb) and came to Sarawak in 1972. Has been here since. She has two sons now living in Australia and a daughter in Perth. She is still teaching in Miri. We had a great time. I am getting myself invited to visit again...
    I was in Ipswich where your mum died...and I will put up some photos for you if it is alright.

    Have we got "YUEN" of what, you visit Toowomba of all places. This city was the city my late mother visited when she met her accident which took her life..
  2. About the is indeed eerie how we can travel in these kinds of circles...and when I visit Auckland soon we have lots to swap...

    I loved to wade in the water in Sibu...and never mind the sewerage!! I believe I did not see any...hahahahah
  3. all means take this famous day if I have a shop I would use this photo too.....
  4. Ann...Chiew Chiong TAck...I think I have a story about the family.....wait till I get photos.

Reflections: Surfers Paradise

This photo was taken on the Surfer's Paradise at the same time when I took another one which I talked of the Aquarius city.

This photo shows the back of my sister Elizabeth. Elizabeth hold the key to more memories of the Chan family, not because she is older, but because the rest of us younger than her had left our home Town Sibu.

This photo shows a fuzzy reflection, just like a fuzzy recollection of our youth. 

Two days ago, someone connected to me via a friend's blog while googling his Dad's name and came to my blog.

His comment to my blog and his brother's subsequent emails  were liken to opening the sluice gate and brought a floodgate of memories. 

Their Dad Mr. Chew Chiong Tack and our Dad were very good friends. So good that he loaned to Dad Mrs. Chew's wedding dress to mum. (Despite the fact that Dad's cousin Uncle Kok Fei was wedded not so long ago, and Aunty Kok Fei had a wedding dress. A mystery to us kids why Mum wore Mrs. Chew dress, which perhaps only Mrs. Chew knows,)

They sent me a photo of Mr and Mrs Chew's wedding photo. It was like holding a bar of gold, and fantasizing Mum in that photo. 

My youngest sister Grace never knew Mum wore a white wedding dress, and she said,"  Ann, your story about Mrs Cheong Tak is very romantic/nostalgic."

This morning, my little brother, Henry wrote to tell of recent dealings with the family.

Thank you Mr. and Mrs Chew Chiong Tack and your family. 

I will be writing more as I get more news.

Father and Mother 2.陳鹞飛/陈鹞飞


It was in the World War 2.

Father and Mum were forced to wed.

It was all due to the harshness of the Japanese.

Dad went up the river in a canoe.

Uncle Kok Fei went with him.

To bring his bride,

They had only seen each other once.

All 3 had to paddle.

Father said they had to be quiet,

Uncle Kok Fei was mischievous,

every now and then,

he played the drum.

Father had to hush him,

They were trying to avoid the ibans.

They were afraid of the Japanese.

Mother must have felt she was Pocahontas.

I am certain she didn't sit in a sedan chair.

Re: Aunty Kok fei's wedding dress,

when she became a grand mother, 

She gave it to her DIL,

May be to cover the baby  from mozzies.

Instead the DIl used it as a rag.

Aunty KOK was heart broken, but didn't say anything.

Kaypoh Ann went to the sarong,

and retrieved the wedding dress.

Aunty Kok Fei cried and told me her wedding.

--- On Fri, 21/6/13, Grace Chan-Tiong <> wrote:

Hi Ann

I never knew mum wore a white dress for her wedding.

I remember once she told me about her wedding. I was probably 8 years old.  We had just stripped off the changkok manis plant (she zai choi) and she bundled them and crafted them into a sedan chair.  She said that's where the Chinese bride sat while people carried her around.

She sat in one of them.  What I remember was she wore a Chinese red dress.  I supposed I asked because I used to draw and draw weddings and I drew many different dresses and I was interested in her wedding dress.

Ann, your story about Mrs Cheong Tak is very romantic/nostalgic.

Love Grace


My parents, John Chan Hiu Fei and Mary Kong Wah Kiew. 陳鹞飛/陈鹞飞


Handsome couple Mr. and Mrs. Chew Chiong Tack. Mr Chew Kindly let me use this photo. Mrs. Chew made the dress. What a beautiful dress it is. My mum would have been a beautiful bride. I love the bouquet,

I was pleasantly surprised to receive this email. It's from the 

son of Mr Chew. We older kids knew Father's good friend 

Chiong Tack. He had a shop near the wharf. Father was the 

Secretary of the Old Boy's Association, and Chiong Tack 

was the treasurer. I was indirectly involved because I help 

father to collate the annual report. We remember the DA 

POW from the association dinners. ( That resulted in my first

 published article in the Dolphin magazine).

I will copy Dr John Chew's first email, and his brother Paul 

Chew's comment to my blog post.I am sure they do not 

mind. Both my parents are dead, and finding Mr Chew 

Chiong Tack is like finding our relative.

Dear Ann, 

We have not met but our parents were good friends.

My brother was googling my father's name and came 

across Sarawakiana blog and your posting about my 

mother's wedding dress. My parents are 90 years old 

now and they remembered both your parents well. My Dad

 said your father and him were very good friends,and 

being in the Old Boys committee together for many 

years before your Dad was transferred to Sarikei. . He 

talked about their two heads clashing and my father 

ended up worse off with a black eye.My Mum remembered 

the unfortunate accident involving your Mum. 

This is a picture of their wedding 12th September 1942.
They are in Kuching now with us, and lately have not

 been of their best health.

My brother Paul tried to reply on your blog but I 

think email is better.

I  got to your blog through Sarakiana's blog after googling 

my father's name. My father is Chew Chiong Tack. Yes, he 

was your father's good friend. He even remembered your 

father's black eye from football injury. My parents are now 

staying with us in Kuching. They are both 90 and have fond 

memories of the good old days. 

Paul Chew 

My parents were married during the World War 2, (Japanese 

War), they didn't take a wedding photo. Sometime after mum 

had died in 1988, I tease dad if they eloped. I asked dad if 

Mother wore Aunty Kok Fei's wedding dress because I have 

see Aunty's dress and her wedding photos. Dad said he 

borrowed Mrs. Chew Chiong Tack's wedding dress. I never 

asked why his friend's wife and not Aunty Kok Fei's. I am 

curious, and now I have the opportunity to find out. Uncle 

Kok Fei was sort of Father's best man when they paddled 

the canoe up Rejang River to Durin and fetch Mother down 

to Sibu. 

The Japanese came, at fifteen, Mother gave up her dreams of studying in the big city and became a candidate for a child bride match making session. Ah Tai promised her that she would choose a young man of fine character, educated and from a good family. Ah Tai went out to reconnoiter with her cousin Lai Siong who was a match maker. She must have loved her granddaughter so much to travel during the perilous war time in a little canoe. Together they scoured fifty miles of both sides of Rejang River, and the whole of Sibu town. Word came that five miles upriver was that fine young man who fitted the bill. He was unfortunately not a Hakka but a Kwong Ning boy and a Chan.
Traditionally the Hakka Kongs married only the Hakka

 Lais, and vice versa. The Cantonese Chans married 

only the Cantonese Lees, and vice versa. But then beggars cannot be choosers.

 Was Father a willing partner? Father had to be practical and 

quickly find a wife. For him, it was the fear of forcefully 
conscripted to the Japanese army. 

I have got permission from my Mum for you to use the


Answers to your queries:

1. My grandfather owned a shop selling clothing 

material besides practicing as a Chinese Physician.

 During the Japanese Occupation cloth was in very 

short supply and there was a rush to get married amid 

rumours of conscription and comfort ladies. The 

wedding gown was made by "tukang" 
My Mum made the head band and bouquet out of paper 

flowers herself. Many brides did not wear wedding gown 

because of the rush and of the short supply! My Dad 

said many weddings were celebrated by as much as 

letting off the firecracker and nothing else! Mum said 

your Mum was about her size and she lent the gown to 6 

other brides!

2. The name Rose probably came the Catechism teacher 

so there were many Marys and Roses.

John Chew.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Living with the soil.

We love working with the soil, my brother Joseph is a lawyer, he has a beautiful garden. 

In the midst of a 21st century concrete jungle of Singapore, I protected myself with a green jungle, Nanyang technologgical University.  This jungle gave reprieve and enjoyment to my overseas friends. 

I had a gardening column in a website which provided a lot of information on "How to grow in a tropical island."

Here are just some of my plants.

Johor Ferns give a good carpet cover

I grew the bird's nest fern from a little seedling, and put it under a big tree.

Blue ginger aka galangal for curry, Thai and Chinese dishes.

Yellow ginger aka Tumeric,

Peace lily.



Banana for fruit and leaves


The others are local herbs.

Documentary made in Sarawak.

I was 15, in Form Three in Methodist Secondary school. I was excited. My class was chosen to be part of a documentary some Americans were making. Stardom was hard, we sat through takes and retakes. 

At the end of the day, most of us were not even in the documentary. It is interesting many many years later in 2012, the documentary made it to the internet.

I wrote to Michael Rogge who uploaded these documentaries.

Dear Michael,

I watched this year and again today. I was one of the students in that Class Form 3 B which was shot one Saturday morning, Unfortunately, the camera didn't show the rest of the students, including me. A Malay girl Aminah was featured. I enjoyed all the scenes depicted in the documentary. The Iban boy, his real name was Martin. I am happy to share with with my family members who don't live in Sarawak anymore and my foreign friends. Sadly Lee Ming Dan was killed in an accident last year, Thanks.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cultural Beliefs.

                            The Chan Family 1970 January

The capsize of the recent Kawan Mas express boat in the upper Rejang River reminded me of another, almost 40 years ago. This one at the mouth of the Rejang River.

In the December of 1973, an overloaded ship Pulau Kijang from Kuching to Sibu sank at the mouth of Rejang River. It was at the height of the torrential monsoon. A few hundred people drowned, there were few survivals. Most of the people were from Sarikei. 

While there was no one we personally knew who were affected by the drowning, the Chans were involved in the aftermath of it.

Father was in the committee for the Pulau Kijang Ship disaster. Mother was a “volunteer” as the wife of a senior officer. She was to accompany relatives to identify the dead.

They set up a temporary morgue. It was next to where Father was staying. Mother said, she could smell the terrible stench every time they passed by the building.

The bodies were bloated, there were many missing parts. He had to comfort grieving relatives. He accompanied the Chief Minister, Datuk Tan Sri Yakkub. The CM cried, Father and Mother were sure those were real tears. Mother said she could not eat for days after seeing the drowned, body parts and their grieving relatives. 

Mother told us that people believed that when a blood relative went to identify a body part, the part would bleed, but a non blood relative will not, even if they were a spousal relation. 

She did not know how true it was, but she did not poo poo them. It was gut wrenching to see relatives going from one part to another. Mother respected this, and matter how much Mother wanted them to rush through, she just stood by letting them cry out their loved ones name, and then in disappointment, move to another body part. They didn’t want their relatives to be homeless ghosts.

A 3rd Chan was involved. In 1977, my oldest brother Charles returned from New Zealand to work for the law firm that represented the ship owners.

We were all involved indirectly. Father moved to a class 2 senior servant quarter at Repok Road. The immediate previous occupant was the pilot who was supposed to drive the ship safely into the river. Some people asked us if we dared to stay in the house. People say the ghosts of the victims might come and haunt us.

Cultural beliefs are very sensitive issues. There is no right or wrong. I am an ESOL teacher, I am trained to respect another's culture. In New Zealand, I have seen where there are drowning at the beach, people come and leave flowers. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013


"What are your childhood memories made of? A game? A park? A special place you used to visit? OR Look around you. Watch for places and things you'd like your children to remember. Or maybe you see children creating memories as we speak. What will be the thing they remember as classic?" Ellisa

This is a sweet story dear to my heart and my siblings' hearts. It has a special meaning to us.

During the Second World War aka as the Japanese War in Asia, the Japanese soldiers conscripted all able bodied men to break rocks and build the road leading to the Sibu airport. 

In the morning, the men in our village had to walk, barefooted,  5 miles to the site and in the evening , 5 miles back. There was still animosity with the Foochows who had arrived in Sibu before us. The young immature green horns would get in a fight, and the Japanese punishment was harsh, both groups were punished.

My Grand dad was old, and it was back breaking work for him. The Japanese were cruel and beat the labourers at the drop of the hat. My dad knew my grandpa would not survive this cruel treatment and volunteered to take his place. Fortunately my dad who was in his late teens had studied his high school, and the Japanese relieved him of this hard work and gave him a clerical work going to the fields to assess the produce of farmers.

After the war, Dad and Granddad were proud that with their blood and sweat, they had built this road. When we were little, Dad would take us his his little Fiat and drive to the airport and watch the Fokker Friendship take off. He would say," I built this road."

These days, Fokker Friendships are not the only planes that fly from this airport. But for reminiscence, my brother Henry took his kids in a Fokker Friendship. He told them great grandpa and Grandpa's story and also by flying a Fokker Friendship, you get to feel how it is like to embark and disembark a plane.

Sam and I flew this Fokker Friendship to the Mulu Caves and he got to know a bit of his roots.

  • Cobalt Aviation Great story and memory Ann. The 

    Fokker Friendship was a real hard working plane those 

    days. I remember them coming into Miri- Lutong airport 

    back wen I was and too. This plane now going to Mulu Is 

    not a Fokker, but the ATR-72-500. I believe it's made in 

    Brazil. Fokker was Dutch made. But I think we just call all 

    planes " Fokker" coz that's our memory, right ?  I love 

    reading your blog !!
    Like · Reply · 14 minutes ago via mobile
  • Freddie Wong Ann Chin it is MAS WINGS ATR-7 and

     looks exactly like the pic
    Like · Reply · 1 · 9 minutes ago

  • Cobalt Aviation Yes, ATR-72-500 series