Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri

Time flies and it's that time of the year again when Muslims all over the world including Malaysia celebrate Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. It is also known as Hari Raya Puasa. Puasa in the Malay language means Fasting. Thus, Hari Raya Puasa celebrates the end of a month of fasting which began on September 1.

Hari Raya Puasa is one of the two most important days in a year for the Muslims; the other being Hari Raya Aidil Adha which will be held later this year. It is also known as Hari Raya Haji, named after the Haj season in the Holy Land of Mecca. Both Hari Rayas (which means Day of Celebration) are public holidays in Malaysia. Islam is the official religion of Malaysia but the practice of other religions is guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

I wish all my Muslim friends, wherever they may be, Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri!

(Note: Selamat literally means 'safe' but Selamat Hari Raya would be better translated as 'Happy Hari Raya' as in Happy New Year.)

Fly Me To The Moon

When I was a kid, among the many fairy tales that I learned in the Chinese primary school was the story behind the Mooncake Festival, otherwise known as the Mid-Autumn Festival as it is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calender.

There were a few versions of the story, but the most popular of which concerned a Chinese King or Emperor who became a tyranny or dictator. He was growing old and was afraid of death. So he instructed China's best medicine men to find him a magic pill which would make him immortal and live forever. Never mind the King's name, I forgot. Even if I didn't, it would be difficult to translate Chinese names into English. He was a tyranny anyway.

After some time, the magic pill was found and delivered to the Emperor. His wife, the Empress, found out about it. She became worried that if the Emperor swallowed the pill, the Chinese people would suffer even longer under his reign of terror. So she swallowed it herself!

When the Emperor found out, he was of course mad. He chased her, apparently to cause her harm. Then, suddenly, with her new-found power, and out of desperation, she flew to the moon. Thus, the Chinese people made and ate mooncake yearly to remember her. This year's Mooncake Festival was held a couple of weeks ago.

That, of course was just a fairy tale, or as they say in the Malay language, cerita dongeng. But who would imagine that hundreds of years later, the Chinese would be able to fly to the moon, literally.

I am referring, of course, to the success of the recent Chinese space mission. Although it was just a 15-minute space walk, it was nonetheless half the battle won and I am sure walking on the moon would be next on the agenda of the Chinese. Infact, because it was the first space walk by the Chinese, an English dictionary even adopted the Chinese version of the word Astronaut, which is Taikonaut!

The three Taikonauts have since returned to earth safely, needless to say to a hero's welcome. At the time the first mooncake was made hundreds of years ago, who would have imagine that the Empress may soon end her lonliness on the moon by receiving Chinese visitors!

The success of the Chinese space mission came hot on the heels of another recent success by China - that of the successful hosting of the Olympic Games. Only a few decades ago, when millions of impoverished, hungry and sick Chinese were dying under the new Communist government of Chairman Mao Tze Dong, who would have imagine that one day China would host the Olympic Games and send astronauts into space!

Of course. I regret to add that in between these two historic events in China, there was the unfotunate incident of the tainted milk scandal which caused thousands of children to be sick or down with kidney stones. But then again, which country in the world did not have a scandal or crisis? America? After all, the milk scandal was not the doing of the government but a few selfish individuals, just like the present financial crisis in the US was not the doing of the government.

I am sure millions of Chinese living outside China all over the world, me included, are proud of the two recent Chinese successes. Well done, China. Keep it up and congratulations!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy Silver Wedding Jubilee

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Mass at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Kota Kinabalu; being part of the choir. The Mass was in conjunction with the Silver Jubilee of the Wedding Anniversary of Mr Saniban Amphila and Winnie Francis, both of whom originated from Tuaran but have now settled down in Kota Kinabalu where Winnie works. Saniban is a Native Chief, a community leader of the Kadazandusun people in Tuaran.

The celebrant of the Mass was Rev. Monsignor Primus Jouil while music was provided by the Benevolent Ministry of the Bethel Prayer Group of Sacred Heart.

In his homily, Fr. Primus said one should not take a Silver Wedding Jubilee for granted anymore for in this modern world more and more marriages ended up being broken. This is especially true among the younger generation especially those who are less deeply rooted in religion and less forgiving. In this respect, he congratulated Saniban and Winnie for being still together after 25 years.

Needless to say, those present and happiest were children of the couple, relatives, close friends and colleagues.


Saniban and Winnie with their lovely children

One for the album in front of the Chapel

The couple flanked by family friends and priest

The Holy Communion

The Offertory
The priest said "You may now kiss the bride". But I guess after 25 years it is not easy huh!
Take my ring, Saniban....

You're still mine, Winnie....

Blessing of the rings

Let us be joined again....

Till death do us apart....

Saying I do all over again....

Can't wait for the ceremony to begin....