Merdeka Day or Independence Day in Malaysia is celebrated annually on August the 31st. Every year, under the purview of the Education Ministry, all schools are required to initiate their own programs. Seen here in Penang are preschoolers in a National school singing patriotic songs~ both the new ones as well as the old and waving the National flags lending a unique charm to the occasion. Picture taken at Lorong Maktab, Penang.
~wile away seniors!~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012
Senior citizens have their own ways to wile away their time. While some prefer to tend to the needs of their grandchildren, others would sit around having nostalgic talks with friends at coffee shops or go for evening walks. In the morning, some practices “Tai Chi” to keep fit. But there are those who prefer to stay independent and carry on working till their twilight years nevermind if the returns is insufficient to make a good living because chances are most of them are cared for with pocket money chipped in by their offspring to ensure all is well. Confucianism has its good values and its precepts on filial piety are highly revered throughout the local Chinese community. This “apek”- old man in local colloquial Hokkien is seen tending to a traditional cake stall by the roadside. Picture taken at Carnarvon Street, Penang.
Sbaek Thom (literary meaning large leather) is a traditional art form from Cambodia. This shadow theatre made its way to Penang a year ago, being invited as a participant for our annual Georgetown Festival celebrations. Being awarded by UNESCO as a cultural rarity, it narrates solely the Hindu epic of Ramayana. Here, two puppeteers were seen rehearsing for their one night performance. Picture taken at Khoo Kongsi Square, Armenian Street.
~cannonball monkeys~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012
Cannonball trees are not native to Penang yet some fully grown ones of the genus (Couroupita guianensis) could be found aligning the entrance at the botanical garden. Basically it is a tree with long tentacle-like stalks sprouting and covering its trunk out of which brownish round fruits the shape of cannonballs hung. These fruits were said to possess medicinal qualities and had been used to treat colds and stomach aches but many wonders about its edibility.
~leg stretching exercise~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012
In this picture some monkeys (long tailed macaques) appear to be camouflaging (try locating its tail) and feeding on what appears to be the flowers of which blooms its fruits. Picture taken at the Botanical Gardens, Waterfall Rd, Penang.
About five feet wide, these planks built on bakau stilts takes one to the shrine (dedicated to “mazu”- deity of the fishermen and sailors) and further— as it also serves as a dock for smaller, much smaller feeder ships called ‘sampans’ and ‘tongkangs’ due to the shallowness of its waters which is why Penang, once a thriving port of the Southeast in the late 1700′s lost much of its glitter to Singapore after the latter was founded in 1819. On a curious note, the outpost fronting the shrine is a makeshift toilet- four walls, a roof and a pooping hole on the platform. Picture taken at Tan Jetty, Weld Quay, Penang.
Many local Chinese revere to “Datuk Kongs”~ spiritual deities of ‘Malay’ descent whom are believed to be overlords of the terrain in which one resides. Because of their roaming presence, most locals finding themselves in unfamiliar places restrain themselves from answering nature’s call, spit or utter anything rude or offensive in that vicinity for fear of offending or incurring the wrath of these spirits which are known to be fierce~ their punishment for offences, reputedly death! The words “Datuk” and “Kong” means the same. It stood for ‘Grandpa’~ the first, as spoken in colloquial Malay and the second, in Hokkien. These spirits have names and are identified by mediums after having undergone a trance and are to be addressed as such but how these Malay spirits came to be revered and honored by the Chinese instead of the Malay’s themselves I believe is due to the arrival of Islam which forbids pagan belief.
~Datuk Awang~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012
In this picture, a young man is seen going about his daily praying ritual of appeasing three ‘Datuks’ whose shrines are believed to be their homes. At the forefront is what he simply called “Datuk Kong”, the one behind, is known by Datuk Nenek (a female spirit) and Datuk Awang. One could see two songkoks (a malay headgear) placed at the right side of the joss stick censer. Picture taken at Jln Nanning, Penang.
~offering to spirits~ image copyright kris lee 2012
In taoist rites, prayers and offering to spirits normally begins with the lighting of incense and joss sticks followed by joss paper burning. Here a traditional chimney shaped joss paper burner stood at the front courtyard of the temple to receive the offerings while some pigeons oblivious to the smoke and heat emitting from the burners were seen pecking scraps from the compound. A temple worker also helps in the upkeep of the temple. Picture taken at the Goddess of Mercy Temple Jln Masjid Kapitan Keling, Georgetown, Penang.
‘Kedai Tuak Lorong Pasar’ or ‘Market Lane Toddy Shop’ as the signboard says is one of the only two licensed toddy shops still in existence. Toddy is fermented palm wine- a whitish alcoholic beverage made from the undeveloped flower of the coconut palm. The collecting and marketing of toddy is entirely an Indian affair and is enjoyed mostly by Indian labourers. A toddy sculpture was recently erected on its building facade to mark its uniqueness in our society. Picture taken at Lorong Pasar(Market Lane), Penang.