Thursday, March 13, 2008


Update : New images obtained of Mesapol shophouses destroyed by fire.
Friday, April 11, 2008

Picture: The public looking at the raging fire that is destroying two rows of shops built during the colonial time in Mesapol

This article is dedicated to Mesapol shops which were destroyed by the raging fire at approximately 16:00 Hrs on Monday, 10th March, 2008. The fire completely turned the two rows of wooden shop houses into rubbles and marked the end of the long, dedicated and faithful services of the shops to the Kadayan community within the vicinity. Sayonara. - Blog Administrator

Walking down the memory lane way back in the 1950s, Mesapol town was made up of two rows of wooden shop houses, a telephone exchange, electricity generator, mosque, cinema, wet market, two primary schools (GPS Mesapol and Chung Hwa School), police station, two units of teachers’ quarters and a mini rice mill owned by Si Ukau.

Mesapol Town or commonly known as “Kadai Masapol” by the village folks was established to replace the original township called “Kadai Lama” or commonly known by the village folks as “Masapol Lama” which was situated a few kilometres away from the new township. Masapol Lama was situated on the river bank of Lakutan River, a flood prone area and that was the main reason why it was shifted to a new location. The wooden shop houses of Mesapol Town were built during the colonial time in the early 1950s. The two rows of shops were a few years older than me and in the early years of its operation, the shop houses were owned and managed by the local Chinese shopkeepers selling mostly daily provisions, groceries and coffee shops. A few shopkeepers also purchased raw rubber-sheets from the village folks.

The earlier Chinese shopkeepers were best known by their nicknames given by the Kadayan village folks. The Kadayan village folks never used the real names of the shopkeepers when in communication with them. Most of the local Chinese in Mesapol Town speak fluent Kadayan dialect. It was difficult to recognise between the Kadayan people and the local Chinese when they conversed in Kadayan dialect without seeing them. I could still remember very well that a local Chinese by the name of Si Kula (nickname) spoke Kadayan dialect so well and to add to that uniqueness, all his children were Kadayanised as well. In fact one of his sons was the only known Chinese to have been admitted by ITM to study in the institution in the early 1970s. Another local Chinese who was so fluent in Kadayan dialect was Si Suah. As far as I can recall, he never speak his mother tongue even with his fellow Chinese.

The nicknames of the earlier shopkeepers in Kedai Mesapol that linger freshly in my memory were Si Batutu, Si Guan, Ukau (Billiard Shop), Unjuh, Manyung (Kedai Gunting), Si Puting, Suah, Apat (Kedai Kopi), Achoi (Kedai Kopi), Mungkon, Si Chan, Si Mangkai, Si Huntut, Si Aping (photography) and a few others. Most of the earlier shopkeepers had passed away and their businesses were passed down to their children.

There were at least two Kadayan “entrepreneurs” who dare to compete with the local Chinese shopkeepers at Kedai Mesapol in the 1950s and 1960s. Both of them were operating “Kedai Makan” serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. The most popular delicacies available at both eateries were soto and rojak / gado-gado. Satay was available only on Friday. For those readers who were hailed from Mesapol would be able to remember the two Kadayan entrepreneurs namely Yusop “Soto” and Tangah Mail. Tangah Mail and his family soon after that migrated to Labuan. The one and only satay vendor in this little town of Mesapol was the late Hj Yusop “Satay”, an occasional satay vendor who sold satay only on Fridays.

Jaluut (pic)

Friday was a special day for this little town. The village folks from the surrounding villages (Malalia, Naluyan, Lubuk Daat, Kg. lalang, Sungai Tiga, Katipooh, Kalamauh, Babangkung, Kg. Baambai, Pilakat, Sipitang Daat, Kadai Lama etc.) would come to this little town to buy provisions and selling their produce (fruits, vegetables, etc}. Friday was the busiest day of the week where coffee shops and eating places were heavily patronised by the village folks. The little wet market was bustling with activities not only by the noisy fish mongers and their customers but also by the presence of a few Brunei middle-aged women from Sipitang selling traditional cakes and biscuits. The traditional cakes such as “jaluut, pinyaam, binka, seri muka / kuih talam, kuih sapit, baulu, lamban” and occasionally “pais tamban” were sold for merely 5 to 10 cents each. There were no facilities such as table available for the vendors to place their cakes on, so they brought with them their own self-made mini wooden rectangular boxes to serve the purpose. The cakes, biscuits and other things were spread on top of the boxes and the sellers just sit down behind the boxes on a bare cement floor of the wet market.

My late mother used to take me along with her to buy traditional cakes from the Brunei vendors. Her favourite vendor was a lady by the name of Ninik Miah and my favourite cake was and still is “kuih jaluut”. Ninik Miah was a very kind and loving person. She used to give extra cakes whenever my late mother bought something from her. My late mother used to tell me that she knew Ninik Miah for quite sometime way back in her younger days in Sipitang. In her younger days, my mother was somehow closely associated with Brunei families in Sipitang. Her closed Brunei friend was married to a well known Pengiran family in Sipitang. The Pengiran family played a very important role in my life story which will be told and made available at Fast Forward ( in not a distant future.

As the call for Friday prayer (azan) was heard from the nearest mosque, the men would go to the mosque to perform their Friday prayer and the women would stay back to look after their produce or just mingling around at the five-foot walkways or sitting at the wooden benches provided by the shopkeepers in front of their shops.

Talking about Mesapol town in the 1950s and 1960s, ones could not afford to disregard an iconic water buffalo passing to and fro a lonely Mesapol street daily, pulling a cart filled with smoked rubber sheets. The water buffalo was owned by Si Ukau to transport smoked rubber sheets from the rubber smoking house to a storage place. The person who looked after the water buffalo, operating the cart and loading and unloading of the smoked rubber sheets was none other than Si Kula. The most distinctive feature of Si Kula was he never wore a shirt, not even a singlet and that made his skin dark / tan contrary to the normal Chinese skin colour which is fair.

“Kadai Masapol” meant so much to me; I grew up together with the town, lots of my childhood day’s memories happened in this little town. I attended my primary education here and it was the one and only town known to me during my childhood days. When I received the news that the two rows of “Kadai Masapol” were turned into rubble caused by the raging fire, I just refused to believe the SMS I received from my family members in Mesapol informing me about the sad incident; nevertheless I have to accept the fact that “Kadai Masapol” had vanished forever leaving behind sweet and bitter memories that lasted forever. The faithful and relentless services provided by “Kadai Masapol” to the Kadayan community residing within the vicinity came to an abrupt end. Its passing will be remembered by many and I for one will be missing “Kadai Masapol” so dearly and my next homecoming visit to Mesapol will never be the same again.

Depicted below is a media report about the most unfortunate incident in the history of Mesapol Town.

QUOTE – “MESAPOL: Two rows of shops built in the early 1950s here went up in smoke around 4pm yesterday.

The raging fire, which is believed to have started on the rooftop of one of the shops, also destroyed two vehicles.

With the two rows of the shops, comprising nine units and 14 units respectively gone, there is no other business structure in this town except for one shop which was set up at a former cinema building and one at the market area.

Fire and Rescue Services Department operation chief from Sipitang, Basni Samingan, said a distress call was received at 4.20pm and his men arrived at teh scene 10 minutes later.

Three fire engines, including one from Beaufort, along with 13 men controlled the fire within half an hour. The firemen ware still putting out the fire as of 7om yesterday.

"We are still investigating the total losses and cause of the fire," said Basni, adding no casualties were reported.

He added that the fire was put under control before it could destroy two houses. a hall and market, which are located close to the two rows of shops.

Meanwhile, Sipitang Member of Parliament Datuk Sapawi Ahmad, when met at the scene, said assistance would be given to the fire victims.

Initial census showed that at least 16 families lived in the destroyed shops.

"We will channel assistance to the victims as soon as possible. For now, most of them are putting up with relatives and if the need arises, we will provide them with temporary shelter at Mesapol Mini Hall." he said.

Sipitang District Officer Abdul Wahab Abdul Hamid said the District Natural Disaster Committee would help the fire victims and send report to the State Natural Disaster Committee.

He added most of the victims were businessmen and local here.” - UNQUOTE

Source: The Borneo Post (Wednesday, March 12 2008)

1 comment:

jacq said...

Hi there. Very nice tribute. I've linked this post to my blog because I recently mentioned about Mesapol town and the cofffeeshop that sold the mee soup there. It was one of my highlights during my roadtrip to Brunei in the past! Sigh.. Anyways, do you know any updates on this town now?