You’ve got your eye on a cute guy from the beautiful country of the Philippines. But you’re worried about cultural differences, and how the relationship might work out.
Fret not – I’m here to share with you what it’s like to date a Filipino, and what you can expect. winkwink
Now before we proceed, a disclaimer for the party poopers going “OMG Eris so you dated two Filipino guys, you married one and you have a bunch of Filipino friends – what gives you the right to generalise ? Smooth out your knickers, this is purely for fun. I mean, no one gets mad when people ‘generalise’ Virgos as perfectionists (entirely true, though).
Without further ado (but first a photo, coz we lookin’ cute):
Be ready for some extremely corny (but not unpleasant) pick-up lines.
Courtship is a big thing in Filipino culture. Back in the day, a man who wished to woo a woman had to go through the proper steps, first expressing interest in a friendly and discreet manner. Traditional Filipino society was conservative, so the process was often done through a ‘bridge’, a friend who knows both families. The bachelor would visit the family, asking for permission to court the lady. There might be a series of chaperoned dates, lots of gift giving, romantic letters and cards, serenading (called harana) and the like. Oftentimes, the bachelor would have to ‘court’ the girl’s family as well – gotta please the future in-laws lol.
Perhaps this is why Filipinos still have a strong notion of romantic love (be it through gifts, love songs, writing, etc.). Coming from a Malaysian Chinese family, where love is rarely expressed in words, it is refreshing to date someone who tells you they love you and puts in the effort to keep things fresh and interesting. I don’t subscribe to the belief that once you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, it becomes drab and dull. It’s only boring if you make it so.
I know this is not the best example (seeing as how he’s gone down in history as a despot lol), but ex-President Marcos once said to Imelda, “Just love me now, and I’ll court you forever.” We all know how that went, but you can’t say the idea isn’t romantic!
THEY GET JEALOUS EASILY
N and I had a huge fight early on in our relationship. I met up with an old friend from grade school, and since we hadn’t seen each other for so long, we got drinks after dinner and hung out until midnight. N was pissed because he said going out 1-on-1 with a guy constitutes a ‘date’ – despite how I tried to explain that we’re just friends. On my end, I felt insulted because it was clearly not a date and how about having a little bit of faith in me? I mean, even my super protective Asian parents didn’t give a shit, so why was he even mad? If the reverse applied, I wouldn’t mind if he went out with a female friend, because there’s this thing called trust. Long story short, he insisted I was wrong, I refused to apologise, and we made a compromise that I wouldn’t stay out past midnight with a guy (apparently a group of people is fine… I don’t get the logic). Now that we’re married though, he doesn’t seem to mind – so I guess it was a ‘we’re not really official yet so I’m worried someone might steal you away thing’ ?
PS: I know some people would call this a red flag – that if a man truly loves you they wouldn’t try to put a leash on you. But I think it goes both ways. If your significant other has made it clear that they’re uncomfortable about something and they’ve explained the reason behind it, weigh it against your own principles, and see if it’s something you can compromise in, in exchange for a more harmonious relationship. If you’re okay with it, by all means. I feel that couples these days can get too caught up in the ‘he/she has to accommodate ME’ attitude. End of the day, God gave you brains – use them to make rational decisions based on mutual respect.
THEY ARE FAMILY ORIENTED
In general, Asian cultures are more family-oriented than Western ones, and it’s not uncommon to find many generations living together under the same roof. Filipinos are no exception, and they usually have big families. While marriage is between two people, if your beau is living with his fam, naturally, you’d have to get along with his family members. If you come from an individualistic culture, this might be difficult to adapt to. I’m fortunate as my in-laws are nice and reasonable people but then again, I don’t live with them – it might be an entirely different ball game. 😛 At the same time, coming from an Asian family myself, I understand the importance of family to him, so I’d never ask him to choose between us.
A majority of Filipinos are Catholic and deeply religious. While they might not impose these beliefs on you, I think it’s important to respect the fact that religion plays an important part in their lives. N is Christian, and I’ve been to his church a couple of times to listen to sermons. Although he hopes that I will embrace Christianity some day, he has never forced me to accept his beliefs, and I’ve never insisted that he should be a Buddhist. When you come from different cultures and have different beliefs, respect is key. All too often, couples of different faiths have problems when they can’t find common ground, or dismiss the other person’s faith as lesser than one’s own.
YOU’LL NEVER GO HUNGRY
Filipinos are known for their hospitality and every time I’ve been to the Philippines for holidays, I always leave a couple of pounds heavier. His mom makes a killer nilaga, and his fam is always taking me out for good food whenever I visit. The Hubs likes to try new cuisine, which is great because Malaysians are big foodies as well. If you love food, marry a Filipino!
Hey guys! Welcome to part one of A Malaysian Chinese Wedding, in which I discuss pre-wedding preparations for my wedding ceremony, which was held last February. For those of you who’d like to know what a Malaysian Chinese wedding is like, read on! While I did not follow all the traditions strictly, I hope that by sharing my own experiences, this will help those planning for their own weddings as well 😉
A Malaysian Chinese wedding can be an elaborate (and expensive) affair, as there are many traditions and customs involved; some of which were inherited from our Chinese ancestors but adapted to modern times, others assimilated from the cultures of the region (such as ‘open house’, a uniquely Malaysian practice).
Growing up fourth-generation Malaysian Chinese, I’m not exactly in touch with my roots. But since the hubs is Filipino, I wanted him to experience at least a slice of Chinese culture. We decided to go for the traditional route as much as possible (ie tea ceremony in the morning, and a banquet dinner at night), whilst still keeping it simple and within budget.
Gear up, because this is going to be a long post! 🙂
PREPARING FOR YOUR BIG DAY: Planning is half the battle
N and I had our wedding in February, which was just before the pandemic blew up in the region. We were very lucky that we were still able to follow through with the ceremony. What made it complicated, however, was the fact that N is Filipino. Although we registered our marriage in November 2019, Malaysian immigration laws require a cooling-off period of at least six months before the foreign spouse is allowed to apply for a spouse visa – which would then allow him/her to stay for a longer period of time, rather than on a one-month tourist visa. Because N also had a job in the Phils, we agreed that he would only fly over with his family closer to the wedding date.
Planning a wedding without the help of your spouse can be tough, so I am thankful for my family and friends for lending me their support. If you have cash to spare, a wedding planner makes things much easier. It helps to make a list of things to do, because you might forget important things. Trust me, you’ll have a lot on your mind.
Engaging a chaperone (Dai Kum)
A dai kum (chaperone) acts as a wedding planner / MC of sorts. She (usually it’s a she, but there are male chaperones as well) will advise the couple on items needed for certain rituals, and guide them on what to do before, during and after the ceremony. On the actual day itself, the dai kum will be on hand to instruct the couple and their families on rituals to perform, keep tabs on the schedule of the day’s events, and liven up the atmosphere. I’m pretty much clueless when it comes to Chinese culture, so we engaged a dai kum‘s services. She also emceed our wedding dinner, so we didn’t have to look for a separate emcee. FB Page: Emcee Foong
Choosing An Auspicious Date
In Chinese culture, bazi(or the Four Pillars of Destiny, denoted by eight characters) is an important astrological concept based on the Chinese almanac, where it is believed that a person’s destiny or fate can be divined from their birth year, month, day or hour. If the couple’s bazi is incompatible, a specific date might be chosen to mitigate the effects, so that it does not bring calamity to the marriage. You can get a monk or a feng shui master to advise you on this. I’m not much of a believer in things like destiny (although I do joke with N that meeting him is tadhana – Tagalog for ‘fate’ lolol corny af) so we opted to skip this.
Guo dai lai (Betrothal ceremony)
Aside from the date of the wedding ceremony, you also use Bazi to pick a date for the Guo Dai Lai(betrothal ceremony) – in which the groom’s parents present gifts to the bride’s parents. We skipped this because it felt unnecessary, but for those of you interested to know what you need to get, I’ve included a list from our chaperone. Note that most of these items are in pairs, because it represents a ‘couple’, and aside from 8, 2 is also an auspicious number in Chinese culture.
The groom is required to bring:
-Gift box containing
2 betrothal ang paus (red packets)
1 angpau for the bride
2 angpaus for parents-in-law
auspicious dried fruit (lotus seeds, lily seeds, red dates, walnuts, longan)
chamaecyparis obtusa (leaf of a Hinoki cypress; this is apparently to ward off evil)
-2 hampers, containing:
A pair of wedding candles
a pair of wedding joss sticks
1 can of tea leaves
red cloth (9 feet)
2 bottles of wine.
Note: One of these hampers will be received by the bride, and then returned to the groom’s family.
-2 fruit baskets containing 9 apples and 9 oranges; one basket of which is returned to the groom’s family.
-2 boxes of Wedding ‘cakes’. These are Chinese wedding cakes that are given as gifts. You can get them at most Chinese pastry shops, and these days even online. Traditionally, the amount of cakes is discussed among the two families. The bride’s family has to return the exact number of cakes as was given by the groom. PS: The bride and groom are not allowed to eat the wedding cakes, which to me is complete BS because food
-A whole roasted suckling pig. Meat was a big deal in the olden days of China, as most of the population was poor and would only be able to eat meat on festive occasions. Two oranges are placed in the middle of the pig, and it is wrapped up in red paper before it is cut. The groom is required to give a red packet to the person cutting up the pig. The bride’s family returns the head and tail of the pig, as well as its four legs, to the groom.
-2 baskets of seafood containing: Scallop, abalone, mushrooms, nostoc (a type of edible algae), fish bladder. One is returned to the groom.
While the groom’s family does the bulk of the gifting, the bride’s family has to prepare some favours as well, which typically include a large Chinese steamed sponge cake (fatt gou), sesame balls, 2 bottles of orange juice, new clothing for the son-in-law (pants, belt, wallet, socks, shoes), red packets for the groom and the in-laws, as well as five kinds of grains.
All of the above is for reference only. In modern times, many people opt to include other items they consider auspicious – it’s the ‘thought’ that counts, basically.
I find it a waste to buy something that I’ll only wear once, so I chose to rent instead. There are plenty of bridal shops in SS2, Petaling Jaya, but I found one closer to my house so it would be more convenient to do fittings, alterations, etc. In Puchong, there’s Pick A Gown Gallery and Vivo Weddings and Dinner Fashion. I went to the latter as they had more designs in sizes that fit me – finding a gown when you’re plus-sized can be difficult. The prices are reasonable as well, and they let you keep the dress for a week. I chose a Chinese-style dress for the morning tea ceremony and a Western-style one for the banquet dinner. We bought a Chinese shirt for N to match, and he wore his traditional barong for the dinner.
Make-up and accessories
You want to look good on your big day, so a good make-up artist is a must! In my case, I engaged a friend of mine who works as a part-time make-up artist (she’s a computer programmer by day – talk about a different career, lol). She was very professional; she even rented a room nearby so that she could be at my house by the crack of dawn to start the makeup session in time for the tea ceremony. She also lent me some of her hair accessories, so I wouldn’t need to buy my own. FB:Sassy Makeover.
(Above) The trial makeup session in which I couldn’t recognise myself after. lol.
We decided to save on costs by doing our own photoshoot with N’s camera and a tripod we borrowed from my cousin. This was done in November last year, when N was still in the country and we were visiting Ipoh. While the photos are not up to the standards of a professional bridal studio, we had a lot of fun – minus the discomfort of putting on a wedding gown and having the makeup melt off my face in the Malaysian heat.
Dowry and Bed Setting Ceremony
Chinese society is patriarchal, and the bride is deemed part of the groom’s family after her marriage. Traditionally, the bridal chamber is at the groom’s house, as this is where the couple will be starting their new life together. The bride’s family is required to contribute a dowry, and also items required for the bed setting.
These include four basins called a ‘descendants’ set – comprised of a potty (yes, a potty. for peeing. Granted, it’s the traditional one called a tam tong, which is more of a chamber pot), two washbasins, and a mug. An apple, an orange and a red packet is placed within the pot, after which it is wrapped with red paper and tied with a red rope. On the wedding day itself, a young male child is required to reach inside the pot and retrieve the items within – and pray that the couple will have sons (patriarchal society, remember?). We didn’t do this as I didn’t have any young male relatives, and I find it ridiculous to pray for sons anyway.
2 bedside lamps and a tray of items for good luck such as peanuts, lotus seeds, red dates, lily seeds and dried longan (they’re all sweet, to symbolise sweet beginnings), a lump of carbon and two red packets are placed on the bed. They are usually placed the night before the wedding, and no one is allowed to sleep in the bed until the wedding ceremony is over. Also to be placed underneath the bed are five copper coins, one each at the four corners, and one in the middle.
Everything has to be new – new slippers, new clothes for the bride and groom, new make-up and skincare products, new bedsheets and pillows, etc. Aside from the bedsheet and pillows, we skipped everything else. If you’re a stickler for customs, you can, of course, observe these practices.
Due to our special circumstances ie N being from the Philippines, the bridal chamber was in my house rather than his.
Hair Combing Ceremony (Shang Tou)
The hair combing ceremony symbolises the transition of the bride/groom from a child into an adult, now that they are getting married and starting their own family. If the bride does it, the groom has to as well and vice versa. The ceremony is usually conducted separately the night before the wedding, at the groom or bride’s respective homes.
Items required: An incense burner, candlestick, wedding candles, wedding joss sticks, a mirror with a round shape, scissors, comb, descendants ruler (you can get this at specialised wedding shops), chamaecyparis obtusa (for dispelling evil and bad luck), needle and thread, three platters of fruit, 3 bowls of sweet dumplings (tong yuen) – one as an offering to the gods and ancestors, one for the parents, and one for the groom/bride.
Couples are required to bathe before the ceremony and wear a new set of pyjamas. After prayers, the groom/bride’s parents will comb their hair three times, while reciting auspicious sayings. Once done, they will clip the chamaecyparis obtusa to the groom/bride’s hair, and eat the sweet dumplings.
We also skipped this. Heck, it looks like we skipped a lot of things, no?
Buying Items for the Actual Day
More gifts! Now you know why Malaysian Chinese weddings are so expensive, lol. These are gifts that are exchanged between the groom and bride on the actual day of the wedding ceremony.
Basket containing 9 oranges, 9 apples and 2 red packets. If you missed out on anything during the Guo Dai Lai, you can also gift it together on the actual day.
Wedding hamper containing 2 bottles of honey, 2 large steamed sponge cakes, peanuts, chicken rice (this is for the bride and groom to share their first meal together as a wedded couple), two bowls of sweet dumpling syrup, longevity noodles.
You’ll also need to purchase a tea set for the tea ceremony, and a red umbrella which is used by the father of the bride to shield her as she ‘leaves’ the home.
Renting a Canopy, food for guests, etc.
If you’ve invited guests to the tea ceremony, there probably won’t be enough space for all of them in the house – in which case you’ll want a canopy to shield them from the hot sun outside, as well as plastic tables and chairs where they can sit. It’s also poor form to have guests attend your wedding and not have food for them. Again, to save on costs, my family helped out by buying the food, so we didn’t have to arrange for a caterer.
A few months before the big day, we spruced up the house with a new coat of paint. Closer to the ceremony, we bought ribbons to decorate the bridal car, and red cloth to hang up over the door (in Chinese culture, a family hangs up red cloth to indicate an auspicious occasion in the house). Also bought some potted plants for the room and small decorations.
Miscellaneous (bouquet, wedding rings)
Traditionally, the Chinese favour gold bands as wedding rings, as they are considered valuable (You can pawn them off in case of emergency, since the value of gold increases over time). But since it’s going to be something I’ll be wearing every day, I wanted something I liked (not that I don’t like gold, just not on my person. lol). In the end, we got a platinum band for N, and a platinum ring with a sapphire (my birthstone) for me.
For the wedding bouquet, we went for the cheapest option (that wouldn’t look like we plucked a bunch of random flowers lol). Flowers are lovely, but I didn’t want to spend a few hundred ringgit on a super elaborate set up just for them to wither and die within a week.
Coordinating your bridesmaids / groomsmen
This is a fairly recent culture, where bridesmaids engage in the ‘ragging’ of groomsmen when they arrive at the house of the bride. The groomsmen are made to play some games in order to get past the gatekeepers (the bridesmaids) and gain entry into the house. I think the practice started as a fun way to break the ice and liven up the atmosphere. If you’re planning on having this, then you’ll have to coordinate with your bridesmaids on what kind of games you want them to play. N and I are both reserved and serious types, so he was quite reluctant to do anything embarrassing lol. For appearances’ sake, we had a few groomsmen (my friends and my brother acting as stand-ins, since he didn’t have any friends flying over from the Phils) play a few simple games like dancing, singing and fishing mahjong tiles out of a bucket.
The Wedding Dinner
Malaysian Chinese weddings also involve a wedding banquet in the evenings. I wasn’t very keen on having this, but my parents insisted on organising one for extended family members and friends (I just wanted a tea ceremony and an intimate gathering, sigh).
We asked a couple of Chinese restaurants for their best prices, and finally settled for Moon Palace in Puchong because a) it’s close to my house, b) there is a hotel next to it where N and his family could just walk over from and c) there’s ample parking for guests.
The restaurant offers several wedding packages. Prices differ based on the menu. If you’re organising a big event (30 tables or more), the restaurant will usually have a taste test. Since we only had 10 tables, which is very modest by Chinese wedding standards, we did not have a taste testing. You can choose to bring your own wine, but not beer, as there is a corkage fee. As part of our package, the resto also threw in 40 free wedding invitation cards – we had to coordinate the design / collection with the affiliated printing company. For my friends and colleagues, I designed a card on Canva and just Whatsapped them the invitations.
Engaging a Photographer / Videographer
We didn’t get a photographer for our pre-wedding photos, but I wanted a professional to capture the moments on our special day. After a lot of research, we finally got James, on the recommendation of a friend. I have to say that he did a spectacular job and at a very reasonable price as well. If you’d like to engage his services, you can contact JC Photography.
I hope this has been useful for those who are planning their own Malaysian Chinese wedding. In the next few posts, I’ll be writing about the actual day, as well as cost breakdowns, so stay tuned! 🙂
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Hey guys! Today won’t be a travel or food post (okay, kind of still a food post lol). As I get older, I tend to forget things, which is sad. It’s like I have way too much on my mind and I have to constantly move things to the back in order to make room for newer stuff – so this blog is, occasionally, a ‘diary’ of sorts to look back and see what I was up to at a certain point in time.
I rarely see my extended fam except for Chinese New Year – but one of my aunts just recently moved to a place nearby, so the Moo and I went over for the housewarming party. A small gathering, but there’s always good food to look forward to!
The space is cosy. I really like the nook she made next to the window, complete with bookshelves. I’d love nothing more than to have a space like that in my own apartment (someday??), with a nice mug of hot chocolate on cold nights and a cat to cuddle up to (not allowed currently coz the Moo hates cats). And books, of course.
Gathering = food. My third aunt is an excellent cook, and I only get to eat it once a year so this was a nice bonus – at least until next CNY! Her signature is the chicken curry and fried mihun.
Large battered shrimps zomgs love.
We got some other stuff from take away as well. (Clockwise from top left) shrimps, charsiew (barbecued pork), siew yoke (roast pork), dumplings, ngo hiang (kikiam – stuffed spiced meat) and assorted kuih.
I’ve never been one to talk much even at family gatherings so it was mostly to eat lol.
**This might seem like a pointless post, but I’m sure years down the road, I might stumble upon it again and look back on moments fondly.
Here’s some good news for teddy bear fans: you don’t have to fly all the way to South Korea to visit their Teddy Bear Museum. We have one right here in Malaysia, and it’s pretty awesome!
Tucked within DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang at Batu Feringghi is Teddyville Museum, a fun and interactive space that features the iconic, well loved toys that have been (and still are) a comforting companion to generations of children and adults for over a century. Covering 9,000 square feet, the museum is a good place to learn not only about teddy bear history, but also the story of Penang island.
Don’t forget to pose with this giant teddy at the entrance! It stands (or sits) at a height twice as much as an average human, namely me. lol.
The first section of the museum is dedicated to classic bears, some of which date back to the 1900s! The teddy bears of today have a pretty standard look, but classic teddies varied in material and appearance, and came in all shapes and sizes – like the one above which had very long strands of ‘fur’, next to two carved wooden ones.
Have you ever wondered why they call it a ‘Teddy’ bear? The toys were named after US President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt.The story goes that the president was on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902. Roosevelt’s assistants cornered and tied a black bear to a willow tree, and suggested he shoot it, but viewing this as unsportsmanlike, Roosevelt refused. News spread about the ‘big game hunter’ who refused to shoot a bear – and it was immortalised in a caricature published in the Washington Post.
It is perhaps for this reason that early bears were depicted with ‘sad’ expressions, having been spared of a grizzly fate (grizzly/grisly geddit? i amuse myself sometimes ha.)
It wasn’t until the 1920s that bears started having happier expressions.
World War I soldiers often brought teddies along as companions. Sadly, not all (both teddy and human) returned to their loved ones.
Some of the most expensive pieces in the house include this 1925 ‘Peter Bear’ by Gebruder Sussenguth, valued at RM21,000 (5000USD!). It had a hollow head with movable eyes and tongue, and was made from a moulded type of plaster called composition.
It may be 21k but to me this looks like the Annabelle of Teddies. I wouldn’t want to have it in the room, let alone sleep with it!
The original Winnie the Pooh bear!
In the 1940s, World War II came and due to a shortage of materials, teddies were made with shorter snouts and limbs. This is much closer to the version we see today.
Rolling into the Rock N’Roll era, we have an Elvis-inspired teddy, complete with the singer’s signature white studded jumpsuit with flared collar.
The Teddy Ruxpin series, which were fitted with casette tapes and could ‘read’ stories, became best selling toys in the 1980s.
The next few sections of the museum tell the story of Penang from its inception. I loved this section and spent well over an hour exploring the displays and noting small details. It really showed how much heart and effort was put into the making of these teddies and sets! 🙂
(Above) Arrival of the British, as told through miniature teddies. Was super impressed with the level of detail !
For those not familiar with Malaysian history, Penang island was ‘founded’ in the 1700s by Captain Sir Francis Light, an Englishman for the British East India company. Foreign powers were expanding quickly in the Malayan Straits and Southeast Asia, and everyone wanted a piece of the pie. Penang’s strategic location allowed it to become a bustling centre of trade and commerce – so kudos to Light for having the foresight to ‘book’ the island under British influence.
A large teddy version of Light.
Stories go that he was a bit of an ass though, as he leased the island from the Sultanate of Kedah with the promise that British forces would help if Siam attacked the kingdom, but then bailed on his promise. He died from malaria at the age of 54, and visitors to the Protestant Cemetery in Penang will find his tomb there.
The next section highlighted the three main races in Peninsula Malaysia, namely Malay, Chinese and Indian.
The miniature Indian teddy set was done like a Hindu temple, complete with an intricate silver chariot pulled by bulls, kavadi-bearing teddies, temple priests, tiny coconut shells to represent the real ones used during religious festivals, and of course, teddies dressed in traditional Indian cultural garb.
The large kavadi-bearing teddy in saffron robes and a metal rod skewered through its cheeks.
A traditional ‘kampung’ (village) setting was used to highlight Malay culture. The ‘female’ teddies even wore tudungs, lol. In a corner (not pictured) were teddies cooking food in a kawah (cauldron) – a scene familiar to festivals and events in the kampung, where everyone pitches in to help with the preparations.
Immensely amused that the ‘Chinese’ teddies had slits for eyes lol.
Scene based on Penang’s famous Taoist/Buddhist temple, Kek Lok Si.
Moving on to landmarks in Penang, we have a recreation of Siam Road’s famous char koay teow stall. They even have the owner’s grumpy expression down pat! (PS: The owner of the stall is always grumpy looking coz he has a lot of customers to serve.)
Mini set of Gurney Drive’s hawker stalls. Again, super impressed with the level of detail. The teddies aren’t just in the same poses – we have teddies taking pictures of the food, teddies ordering, etc.
Penang is an island after all, so of course the museum has to have a set featuring its beaches.
Another famous attraction – Penang Hill – featuring the funicular train.
Lol school trip with cikgu and students in uniforms.
I could spend hours looking at the tiny details: teddy kids holding lollipops, a group of (presumably) teenage teddies with a miniature iPhone taking selfies, teddies looking through the observation binoculars.
Typical scene at a Chinese kopitiam in Penang.
We also have a teddy dedicated to Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, who popularised Penang through his beautiful street murals.
The process of making traditional batik.
Teddy decked out in the Penang International Marathon runner’s tee. I have one of these 😀
The dragon boat festival is one of the highlights of the island’s annual calendar.
The museum also gives a nod to Penang’s industrial side, with these factory workers assembling electronics.
Paying tribute to our national sporting heroes. Can you guess who they are? 😀
Here’s a short video I put together:
I really enjoyed my visit to the Teddyville Museum and it exceeded my expectations with its beautiful sets, meticulous attention to detail and wonderful showcase of Malaysian heritage. I think it’ll be a great place to take the kids to and teach them in a fun and educational way about Penang’s history and culture.
56, Jalan Low Yat, Puncak Ria, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
*Located within DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang
At the stroke of midnight on the first day of CNY, loud bangs and blasts were heard all over Ipoh: the sounds of fireworks being set off to usher in a new year and new beginnings.
Ten years ago I might have been among the revelers, but at 28? Tucked snugly into my mattress by 11PM. When the fireworks started, I was mildly annoyed and dimly aware of my uncle, auntie, cousin and mom talking in the living room. Then I went back to sleep lol.
Yep, middle-aged aunties and uncles have more stamina than me these days.
The upside? Woke up early, in time to catch the beautiful view of the sunrise! Since the cousin’s place is an apartment and there are no tall buildings around, I had an uninhibited view of the surrounding limestone hills. Beautiful ❤
The bro came out from the room and upon seeing this scene, we simultaneously started singing the theme from Lion King.
Busy, busy day! Time to visit relatives, a practice known as Bai Nian. There were some years where we visited some relatives but not others due to time constraints / frail health (it’s complicated. Me mum’s always sick /depressed) but this year, we went the whole hog and visited every single one of my maternal relatives.
We picked up my second aunt (Ah Yee) from her house, while my uncle and his fam tagged along. We went to visit my Dai Yee (eldest aunt), who is my mum’s half-sister from my grandfather’s previous marriage. She’s very old now, can barely walk and has dementia. As with many dementia patients, she keeps forgetting recent things and places, but remembers old incidences clearly. She has also reverted to speaking Sei Wui, the mothertongue of my mom’s clan, which none of us of this generation are able to speak anymore.
Dai Yee lives in a traditional wooden house, typical of Chinese villages built during the Malayan Emergency. The walls are mostly plank/wooden panels, with unpolished concrete floors and zinc roofing. Old pictures lined the walls, some of Dai Yee in her younger days, as well as other family members.
OMG there was a mingming. Chinese families don’t usually keep cats so I was super psyched when I saw this handsome kitty sprawled out on the floor of the kitchen. Immediately sat down and gave it some chin scratches.
Also some doggos on the outside. Old doggo (brown) was fierce and kept growling at us, while two smaller doggos sat around scratching themselves.
Sat on the verandah and munched on cookies and snacks while chatting. Then it was off to Gopeng to visit my eldest blood-aunt (I call her Sam Yee which is technically ‘third’, but she’s the eldest among my mom’s blood siblings).
The visits were slightly depressing coz they were all talking about how much pain they were in. Mum has a bunch of ailments like arthritis, insomnia, gastric problems, osteoporosis, mild depression, my second aunt has the same, my third aunt has diabetes and rather severe depression, and my uncle has the usual joint pains and stuff that come with old age. A lot of the stuff is hereditary, so I’m guessing I’ll probably have them as I get older too. Sigh.
Anyway I fell asleep on the couch because there wasn’t much to do. The good thing is that with so many visitations, I got a lot of angpaus lol.
Visiting my paternal family that night. One of my aunt’s had brought her ‘baby’ back – a mini schnauzer by the name of Pepper. The bro attempted to show off some magic tricks.
What a sweetie!
And just like that, the first day of CNY passed by in the blink of an eye!
I think it’s important to spend some time visiting relatives, because who knows how many visits I’ll have left? Many of my aunts and uncles are getting old, as are my parents, and we aren’t close to our cousins, some of whom have migrated or are in the process of migrating. It’s kind of a sad thing. Festivals used to be so much more livelier when my grandparents were around.
Nin 30 Man or Reunion Dinner night on the eve of the Lunar New Year is one of the most important occasions for Chinese families, where family members travel back to their respective hometowns and gather for a feast. For many of us who work in cities, it is perhaps one of the rare times that we see all our relatives under one roof….Although in recent years, since my grandparents’ passing, it has become rather quiet. Some cousins drop by for short visits, while others prefer going overseas for holidays. This year was a very subdued affair, since the only people in the house were my elderly aunts. My brother and I were the only ‘young’ ones lol.
Before the dinner, my third Aunt (Sar Kor) will cook some dishes to be presented to the Gods and my ancestors at the altar. Then we ‘invite’ them to join the dinner later at night. Traditionally, people used Xing Bui, a pair of cups, to indicate if your invitation has been accepted. The cups are thrown onto the floor and one should face up and the other down, an affirmative sign. Otherwise, we keep trying until we get the desired result.
In my family, we use coins instead of cups. The coins have been handed down for generations and look really old. Out of curiosity, I took a better look at them and found out that one dated back to 1896 (!!!!)
Burning paper ‘money’ for the ancestors.
Dinner time! A must-have dish during CNY is Yee Sang, a salad-like mix of shredded vegetables, pomelo, onions, condiments and crunchy snacks poured over with plum or fish sauce. The tradition is to toss the yee sang while saying some well wishes out loud, to bring joy and luck into the new year.
Aside from the Yee Sang, everything else was home made by my aunts 🙂 The poached chicken was done perfectly: tender and juicy, the meat’s flavour was brought out when dipped into a hint of soy sauce.
Shrimp is another dish that is good to have in the new year, because its read as ‘ha’, which sounds like laughter. My aunts cooked them with curry leaves for a fragrant aroma and flavour.
Roast pork belly was salty goodness, with a crisp and crunchy skin. Think of it as Chinese-lechon. 😀
It was also my dad’s/Second uncle’s birthday, so we got them a carrot cake. 🙂
How was your CNY reunion dinner? Hope you had a good one!