Saturday, September 10, 2016

Once upon a 'Kuala' (Malaysia Day article #10)

View of the 'Kuala' or river mouth of the Kemena river
At left is the Melanau fishing village and at right (partially seen) is the original town of Bintulu
Picture shows Bintulu in the early 1960's
Picture credit : Ho Ah Choon, "Sarawak in Pictures 1940's - 1970's "
View of the 'Kuala' taken in July 2016, taken from Jepak Hill.
Note the development of high rise buildings around the town and the Kuala, especially condomimiums and hotels to capitalise on the beautiful seascape and sunset moments of Bintulu.
 In 1867 an Italian botanist named Odoardo Beccari entered the 'Kuala Bintulu' or the Bintulu river mouth.  He wrote some very valuable information about Bintulu in his book entitled " Wanderings in the Great Forests of Borneo".   It was  a memorable time because in that year too the first Council Negeri meeting was held in Bintulu.  The meeting marked the early beginnings of democratic government in Sarawak.  Later the name of 'Bintulu river' was  changed to 'Kemena River' which name is currently in use.  Why the name change would involve another thesis.  

As a young boy in the 1960's I used to go for afternoon walks from the town to the Kuala to enjoy the sea breeze and sunset with my grandpa. The river mouth played a very important role in Bintulu's history for it was the main gateway for goods and people to reach Bintulu or to go out of Bintulu. For instance, Beccari wrote in 1867 that the Melanaus were fishermen but a great number of them were engaged in sago making.  Beccari noted that the Bintulu sago is one of the finest quality and is in great request even in Sarawak.  Through the Kuala sago was exported together with other main export items of 50's - 70's like belian timber, jelutong and rattan.   The importance of the Kuala diminished with the construction of a federal port deep water port  at Tg. Kidurong some 40 kilo meters north of the Bintulu town  starting in 1979. Today only small coastal boats and ships, tugboats, timber barges and fishing vessels use the Kuala for their importing or exporting of goods or for sports fishing. 

Pic shows the Melanau fishing boat called "Barong" sailing into the river mouth.
At right of the picture can be seen three buildings. The long one is the government boat shed, the  middle building is my classroom when I was at Primary Four, St. Anthony School in 1962.

Taken on 14th June ,1962.  I am at the extreme right, front row.

 I have fond memories of Kuala Kemena because as a young student of St. Anthony School in 1962, one year before Sarawak formed Malaysia, I used to study in a house turned classroom situated by the right bank of the Kemena river going out to sea.  During break time we would chase crabs on the clean sandy beach and threw stones at fishes in the river.  Studying was a breeze because we had the beach frontage.  The picture at the inset shows the boys in the class in a group photo with our teacher,  Hasseri Lias who taught us for a short period as a trainee teacher from Batu Lintang Teacher Training College, Kuching.  At the background is the boat shed and to the left is partly seen the government wharf. 

The Kuala has more meanings in my life than I could briefly recall.  I will cherish all those beautiful  moments when I was there with people who mattered  in my life - moments when we were innocent and needed a hand to discover life and later  for the love of life and the meanings and lessons it bear upon us.

Live life to the fullest like the Kuala that pours its waters to the wide open sea.

Happy Malaysia Day Sarawak.

 (Note: This is Article #10 in a series to celebrate Malaysia's national day (Malaysia Day) - 16 Sept  annually)

No comments:

Post a Comment