In thanksgiving and gratitude for Hutchings

The annual thanksgiving memorial service for the founder of the Penang Free School, the late Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings, is steeped in history and tradition.

On the 21st of October each year (the anniversary of Penang Free School’s founding), prefects and school representatives both from Penang Free School and SMK Hutchings will gather at the tomb of Reverend Hutchings at the Northam Road Protestant Cemetery to commemorate his life and service to the school.

This year was no different and today at 7am, some 60 people comprising school prefects and teachers of Penang Free School & SMK Hutchings as well as alumni and members of the public, gathered for a memorial service.

The thanksgiving service was led by Reverend Ho Kong Eng of St. George’s Church, Penang (himself a Penang Free School alumni).

Hutchings – who died of malaria in Penang on 20th April, 1827 – was also an Anglican colonial chaplain of the Prince of Wales Island (Penang).

While in Penang, his inspiration led to the construction of St. George’s Church (the oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia) which was completed in 1818.

His invaluable contribution towards education in Malaysia can be judged from the fact that the school he initiated over two centuries ago – Penang Free School – has matured into one of the country’s premier schools.

His legacy continues in the development of Penang and Malaysia through the countless students whose lives have been enriched by Penang Free School.

Notable alumnus include Malaysia’s first prime minister the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, former Penang chief minister the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, and one of the state’s famous sons in music and film, the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee.

Other notables today who stand proud to be called Old Frees include global consumer advocate Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal, former College General rector Reverend Gerard Steve Theraviam and George Town Festival director Joe Sidek.


Celebrating Penang music and musicians

When my parents acquired the little black and white bungalow on Kelawai (or Kelawei) Road in the early 1980s, I doubt they realized the significance of buying into a little slice of Penang and Eurasian heritage.

House number 111 in Pulau Tikus, used to be the home of the Eurasian community’s and Malaysia’s outstanding composer and jazz pianist, Jimmy Boyle.

Our dear family friend the late Uncle Edwin (of The Edwin Rajamoney and the Island Rhythimics fame) was one person who spent plenty of time with jazzman Boyle. When we moved into 111 Kelawai Road, he showed us where Boyle had positioned his piano (next to the window) and composed and arranged scores of beautiful and patriotic melodies about Malaysia and her people.

Among Boyle’s notable works were “Putera Puteri”, “Ingat Ingat”, “Chendering”, “Melody of Love” and the first Malaysian Jamboree song “Kemegahan Negara Ku” which was reportedly played at midnight on the birth of Malaysia in 1963.

Jimmy Boyle died in 1971 but his music lives on via many platforms and media.

The house along Kelawai Road today has morphed into a business premise, as have many other residences on what used to be a leafy and peaceful thoroughfare.

Boyle’s story, his music and the legacy of many of Penang’s musical sons and daughters have been beautifully and respectfully preserved and showcased today at the Penang House of Music (PHoM) located in George Town.

This gallery which is dedicated to music and the musicians of Penang can spell nostalgia to those who grew up listening to P.Ramlee, Ooi Eow Jin, Boyle, Ahmad Nawab, Larry Rodrigues (and his evergreen daughter Kathleen), Rudy Baum, Joe Rozells, James Rozells, Ruby Rozells, the Rajamoney brothers (Edwin, Austin, Sydney and Wilson), Nancy and Albert Yeoh, Sweet September, Ahmad Daud, Raja Fauziah and her singing partner Nita to name a few.

Younger visitors will be taken in by the varied influences which have made their mark on Penang music.

The gallery’s resource centre houses a rich collection of audio, print and recorded documents, while a cinema room lends a blast-from-the-past experience which black and white movies and old tunes offered.

A really clever and interactive offering is the gallery’s Radio Room which allows a visitor the opportunity to present a song “live” and later download the recording.

Other cute corners found are a replica “kopi tiam” (coffee shop) which has proven to be the perfect backdrop for photo opportunities on social media.

My biggest takeaway from the visit was the place of pride created to honour the people, their stories, and the rich cultural diversity linked to Penang’s musical heritage.

An afternoon or morning at this gallery definitely beats sitting in a classroom listening to the evolution of the state’s music scene.

Small wonder that PHoM has received rave reviews on TripAdvisor and ranked #31 of 139 things to do in George Town. Congratulations Paul Augustin and thank you for a spectacular tour and your infinite patience with young ones, Kevin Theseira!

Thank you Mazeta Hassan, for sharing this precious photo of her mother Raja Fauziah singing Jimmy Boyle’s “Putera Puteri” for the first time with Ahmad Daud.

(Don’t be put off by the absence of more prominent signages leading to this music gem which is located at L4-02, Level 4, Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak (KOMTAR), Jalan Penang, 1000 Penang. Simply call 04-3706675 if you are lost in the maze of Komtar!)

Slices of Heaven (on earth)

When we celebrated Su’s birthday last week, we made a detour to the beach before dinner to enjoy the sunset and take in what’s left of the sea (which is yet to be reclaimed).

We are constantly reminded of the reason people make a beeline for our beautiful island and why grace and gratitude is so important for being blessed to wake up each day to either paintings in the sky or endless beauty at sea.

We counted our blessings to be able to enjoy this little slice of heaven on an isle where development and reclamation are fast altering the turtle-shaped silhouette of the coastline.

Several days later, Lin and I took in the calming and peaceful sight of the sea during our morning stroll on the drive.

The simple act of driving along the coast and the many sights of nature-in-blue are treats not enjoyed by those surrounded by plastic, steel and chrome in other cities.

Some of us like Betsy, Thamby, Cuteness and my sistas-and-dudes-in-the-tower, continue to stay blessed waking up to views like these and we pray that our little slices of heaven on earth are not sacrificed in the name of further greed and so-called progress.

Home is where the (he)art is

Built between 1924 and 1926, the Loke Villa along George Town’s sea-fronting Gurney Drive is perhaps the last of the heritage residences lining the prestigious promenade which still serves as a lived-in family bungalow.

Artist and designer Rebecca Wilkinson and her husband David, have been the loving and caring custodians of this house for the past 15 years. Loke Villa was designed by Scottish architect David McLeod Craik and built by Alan Loke.

The cool glazed tiles in the villa’s dining area (found also in the London Underground station) keep the house cool and offer visual impact.

“We are glorified caretakers of a house that we love,” says Rebecca of the lime-washed structure which is also known as the ‘Butterfly House’ or ‘Sunlight House.’

The Anglo-Indian mansion boasts Italian marble, French light fittings and wrought iron from Scotland for its materials, and virtually every corner of the home is a joy to visit and stick one’s nose in!

A peek into one of the guest rooms revealed that the bathrooms have not been changed and it’s enamel long baths are reminders of an era where gracious living, an army of household help, garden parties and sprawling bungalows were the order of the day for the well-heeled.

A stroll into the kitchen spelt nostalgia and a longing for the days when our grandparents occupied homes (not as stately as these) with kitchens like these …

Those who sign up for the ZafigoX Private House Tour this Saturday, Sept 2 at 3pm are in for a treat. The lady of the house is displaying her private textile collection, which includes the most exquisite vintage kebayas and sarongs.

Make a booking by registering at

Thank you Rebecca, for sharing an afternoon of gracious hospitality, taking us to vintage kebaya heaven and back, and reminding your guests how important it is to maintain heritage integrity.

The Eurasian Story

What better way to hear stories, discover or rediscover one’s roots and look to ways of preserving a once-glorious past, than through a celebration of culture, music and food?

The rich history of the Penang Eurasians and their significant contributions to the nation will be showcased this weekend through dialogues, the unveiling of a photo gallery, mouth-watering Eurasian cuisine and music.

The Eurasian Heritage Fiesta 2017 will begin on Saturday with a talk at 2pm on “Discover your roots to preserve Eurasian heritage” followed by the unveiling of a photo gallery at 4.30pm at the Penang Eurasian Association (PEA) House, 107-A, Solok Serani (off Jalan Kelawai), Penang.

Although the Eurasians and original residents of Kampung Serani no longer reside as a close-knit and vibrantly-rich Catholic community next door to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Pulau Tikus today, the spirit of their music and parties continue to live on in the PEA House.

The fiesta this year is a collaboration between the PEA and organisers of the Eurasian Fiesta and is part of the 8th edition of the George Town Festival.

The Eurasian community is inviting the public to experience its unique ‘Serani’ cuisine and rich musical talents.

“The new photo gallery,” says the event’s organising chairman and former PEA president Datuk Aloysius Gasper, “will be a proud display of our Eurasian presence nationally and not just remain brief references in the history of Penang and the country.”

On Saturday, food lovingly prepared from recipe books of Penang’s Eurasian families and live music will be available from 7pm to midnight, while on Sunday the event is open from 5pm till midnight.

See you for a bite of sugee cake and pineapple tarts or a spread of devil curries and more this weekend at Kampung Serani in Pulau Tikus!

Here’s a take-away of recipes shared by the generous hearts of several Penang Eurasians …

(Images courtesy of Datuk Aloysius Gasper)

Red, yellow, white & blue (cupcakes)

The bake-off fever continues to rage at Flex Malaysia with a special cupcake wars event to celebrate Malaysia’s 60th birthday.

What better way than to party with the nation and each other, than by baking dainty cupcakes, decorating them meticulously in colours found on the ‘Jalur Gemilang’ and then feeding your colleagues and bosses with these creations?

This is precisely what 36 Flex Johor employees did yesterday at the Senai (medical) facility. The lobby and a portion of the first floor had temporarily morphed into a mini bakery where cupcakes ruled the day! Thank you Alex and Ken for working your magic!

The Flex Merdeka Cupcake Wars was all about colour, creativity, cooperation and consumption (of the cakes!)

Judges Stella, Joe, Rebecca & Ed had the enviable task of eating their way through 18 cupcakes (and fears of going into a sugar coma!) which were lovingly baked and decorated by Flex employees from the Johor sites in Senai, Port of Tanjung Pelepas and Skudai.

Theirs was not an easy task as they had to make a second round among all the baking stations set up to be absolutely certain of their deciding votes for the cupcakes.

Val’s decision to acknowledge a surprise category of bakers with an additional mystery prize, is a reflection of Flex’s care and recognition of employees who go the extra mile.

Following very closely to the chosen theme of ‘Colours of Malaysia”, the teams gave their all in attending to the smallest of details, while staying calm and baking on.

The goodwill and new links forged were so apparent when a team had to turn to the other competitors for some extra eggs when theirs became runny and threatened to affect their cupcakes.

Equally heart-warming was seeing a judge help in assisting a team which was having difficulty using an attachment on their baking appliance, while another judge stepped in to assist with the photography set-up.

And the Pensonic products continue to spark joy among all the participating Flex bakers who now have some new baking goodies to call their own.

Happy Birthday, Malaysia!


The fun and excitement of the George Town Festival 2017 continue on mainland Penang this weekend, with the Butterworth Fringe Festival (BFF).

The exhaustive programme listed below is a reflection of a well-curated festival, where something is offered to everyone.

For the islanders, this is a good excuse as any to enjoy a leisurely ferry crossing over the Penang Channel to check out the BFF acts.

Thank you Masya for The List below:

Angin dan Air

An outdoor, cross-cultural, collaborative show by Zamzuriah Zahari and Liu Yong Sean of Malay Mak Yong and Chinese martial arts to carry out the story of Butterworth fishermen.

Shibori is a traditional Japanese fabric technique that involves twisting and folding the fabric to create intricate patterns. Organised by Lokalhouz Butterworth. Registration is free.
Art Market – Roots Street Art
The top 20+ vendors of Roots Fest make up an independent market collective selling a variety of indie merchandise. Organised by Lokalhouz Butterworth.
Roots Street Art Wall Competition
12 artists compete in a 20-hour wall art competition. Artists are allocated individual 8 x 4 feet plywood walls. Winners will be judged by 3 locally-renowned artists.
DIY Kaleidoscope Workshop
A craft workshop for kids age 9 and above. Make a handmade kaleidoscope using three pieces of mirrors, a paper towel tube, colourful marbles, and other materials.
Cartoon Workshop
Taugeh, Tembakau, and Along from the widely circulated publication Ujang will give a 3 hour free workshop on cartoon drawing. Organised by Lokalhouz Butterworth.
Poko Things
A doll painting workshop for both children and adults. Participants paint designs on wooden dolls, similar to Japanese Kokeshi Dolls.  All handmade by Pokothings.


Negara Buku
More than 10 independent publishing houses such as Buku Fixi, Lejen Press, Roman Buku will be selling writings in both English and Bahasa Malaysia in a warehouse for 2 days.

Mek Mulung
Mek Mulung is a traditional Malay theatre unique to Kedah. Incorporates elements of Mak Yong, Menora and Hadrah. Has a repertoire of 20 stories, although only a few survive today.

Jikey is a traditional Malay dance drama popular in Kedah and Perlis. Known as Yike in Cambodia and Likay in Thailand. Developed into secular theatre in the late 19th century.
Houz of Barber
One of the members of Lokalhouz, Houz of Barber was established in 2015. Collaborated with Roots Fest in 2016 to organise The Roots Barber Festival in Butterworth.
Silat Dulang
Originating from Melaka, an entertaining and educational martial arts performance chronicling the battle between legendary warriors, Hang Jebat and Hang Tuah.
Potehi – Kisah Pulau Pinang
Ombak-Ombak Art STUDIO’s Potehi group presents a tale of love and friendship employing traditional Hokkien Potehi glove puppets. Directed by ethnomusicologist Prof Tan Sooi Beng and young puppeteer Marcus Lim.
Penang Dhol Blasters
The Penang Dhol Blasters are known for their high-intensity traditional double-headed punjabi drums called dhols. They have taken part in many cultural events in Penang.
Konsert Kopi-Tiam
Konsert Kopi-Tiam will feature the talents of three generations of Penangites performing in English, Malay, Hokkien and Tamil. Each musical set is a mini variety concert of 90 to 120 minutes.
The Drum Roll
An ethno/fusion/world music drum performance by Eng Bok, followed by a communal drum circle with public involvement. No prior drumming experience required.
Pete Kallang
Singing professionally for four years now, Pete Kallang believes music has the ability to transcend borders and races. Channeling the legendary likes of Marvin Gaye and Frank Sinatra.
Dolphin Creative

Diego – The Chaplin Show: Diego is a multi-talented impressionist whose acclaimed portrayal of Charlie Chaplin has charmed audiences worldwide.

Great Dave: Great Dave started performing at the tender age of 14 in Covent Garden. His specialty is mixing high-level circus skills with comedy.

Jack Flash: The Jack Flash show is a comedy stunt show that focuses on fun and physical comedy. Featuring knife juggling and

JP Koala: Medieval axes, cute cuddly toy koalas and comedy chaos come together to produce an entertaining display of skill and improvised performance.

A Simple Space
One of Australia’s hottest and most original circus ensembles. In this award-winning show, 7 young acrobats push themselves to their physical limits.

360 Allstars
A phenomenal physical performance exploring all forms of rotation, 360 ALLSTARS connects the street with the elite to deliver a radical urban circus.

String Fling
String Fling! is a signature marionette performance by Frankie. This brand new production features the latest celebrity marionettes in the wonderful world of string puppetry.
Urbanights Film Screening
Described by the New York Times as “worth fighting your way through a crowd to see”, Gary Hustwit’s Urbanized explores the issues and strategies behind designing cities.
Urbanights Film Screening
The Human Scale by Andreas Møl Dalsgaard questions our assumptions about modernity, exploring what happens when we put people in the center of equations.
Urbanights Film Screening – Purge
A documentary about the dedicated and hardworking labourers who have contributed to the building of a city sewage system for nearly half a century.
Star Sanctuary Seberang Perai Photography Exhibition
Exhibition of semi-finalists' photographs submitted to the Star Sanctuary Seberang Perai Photography competition. This showcase reveals the hidden talents of Seberang Perai citizens
Temple of Colours Art Sculpture
Organised by BYG Architects, Temple of Colours is an art installation in cube form that reflects Butterworth’s rich arts, culture, and heritage. Easily identifiable by people from all walks of life.
Butterworth Also Can or Buttercan is a programme that aims to build creative communities in Butterworth by providing training, organising workshops, and providing opportunities and for Penang’s performing artists.

(Images courtesy of George Town Festival)