Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Catholic Memorial & Pilgrimage Centre, Singai

“ Over a hundred years ago, a small Catholic Chapel was built among the Bidayuh on the slope of Mt. Singai, Bau, Sarawak in 1885. Today this majestic ancestral home of the Bidayuh of Singai is no longer inhabited following the migration of the people to the surrounding lowlands.

The site of the first chapel at Mt. Singai however has been turned into a Memorial and Pilgrimage Centre with the building, completion and blessing of the Centre in November 1999.

The Centre has attracted a lot of Catholics and other Christian Pilgrims and has become very popular with the local Catholics and other Christian denominations and those from other places, so much so that the existing living quarters, especially the washrooms and toilet facilities could no longer cope with the increase in the number of visitors there.”

Above extracts was from a memo (dated 30 July 2007) posted at the CMPC at Mt. Singai, Bau, Sarawak.

Mt. Singai, situated between Bau & Batu Kawa, about 550m high, is located about 40 minutes from Kuching. This is where the Catholic Memorial & Pilgrimage Centre to be found.

The CMPC is located just halfway of the plateau. Access to the holy place is by foot only, from the mountain foot. 30 – 40 minutes is all it takes for a normal healthy person to reach the holy centre.

Today the ancestral home of the Bidayuh, other than devoted Catholics and other Christian denominations, has become a popular weekend destination from the urban dwellers nearby especially Kuching, and also a tourist attraction.

Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tua Pek Kong, Miri

The history of Tua Pek Kong Temple, Miri is almost a century. It is one of the well known tourist attraction in Northern Sarawak besides being a place of worship & devotion for local devotees.

It was said that the temple was constructed due partly to an epidemic in 1913 in Miri town. In 1913, the Chinese population of Miri is about just two thousands, mostly settled down around the current wet market areas, with just 4 rows of wooden shoplots.

The Miri oil boom, coupled with population explosion, and unmatched infrastructure such as proper drainage & sewage system had partly caused an outbreak of mysterious disease to the locals, especially Chinese who were residing in the inner-town.
As in the old days, many believed that it was caused by harmful spirits or the like. A Buddhist monk was then invited from Kuching, and the Tua Pek Kong Temple was thus recommended; the rest was history.

Many locals, especially the Chinese, believed that the epidemic in 1913 subsided partly due to the Tua Pek Kong. For the current generation, the temple is a place for devotion & worship especially every 1st & 15th days of the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year, and many other special sacred occasions.

During the 2nd World War, Miri was one of the focuses of the Japanese due to its petroleum industry; many of the shoplots & buildings around the temple were devastated, the temple somehow survived the bombing. It was not known partly due to Tua Pek Kong spiritual power or partly the Japanese, being oriented to some Taoist teachings, respected sacred places & thus avoided those.

The current Temple was rebuilt in 1970s, and was declared a historical building under the Sarawak Cultural Heritage Ordinance 1993.

The 12 Nov 2007 fire happened on the 1st day of the Lunar 10th month, a worship peak day, partly was believed due to the extensive heat from joss sticks & candles, which caused short circuit to the electrical wiring.

Like many of the local temples, the Miri Tua Pek Kong will be back as usual or even more glamorous very soon, as can be seen from the dedication & concern of the local devotees, community leaders, businessmen etc.

Hong San Si, Kuching – the legend of the Host Deity

Shen Ong Kong or Kong Teck Choon Ong (in Hokkien dialect) or Guang Ze Zun Wan (广泽尊王) is the host deity of Hong San Si Kuching & many other similar temples in Sarawak.

Unlike many other host deities, Shen Ong Kong has a childlike face with teenage energetic appearance, after all, he was only 16 years old when he (or his human transformation) died, or departed.

Accordingly, he was born in 923 AD on 22nd day of 2nd Lunar Month in Ann Che District in Southern Fujian Province of China, in a farming family. Like many other legendary heavenly beings born into this physical world, the sky was adorned with colorful holy light, and fragrance permeated the whole room during his birth.

Kuo Chung Fook was his name. As a child, he was intelligent & very filial to his parents. He had a very special squared facial feature with big round eyes. However, his parents passed away earlier in his childhood, and he had to work as a shepherd for a landlord called Yang, away from his hometown for 3 years.

As a shepherd, he was treated quite well by Yang as he was dedicated to his works & was respectful to people.

His wealthy landlord or employer, like many other old time loaded persons, invited a Feng Shui master to seek an ideal location or ‘dragon cavity’ for the family cemetery.

Yang treated the master very well, providing good food & shelter & occasionally valuable gifts. The master, to ensure Yang’s sincerity & truthfulness, did not disclose the location for three years. Though Yang did not push hard on the master for the job, his wife had shown frustrating & annoying gestures, and even wanted her husband to get rid of him. The master was aware of the situation & decided to leave.

During the time in Yang’s place, the master had been constantly in touch with Chung Fook & discovered his intelligence & specialty; the master decided to pass on something to the kid.

There was another saying that Chung Fook revealed to the master that the mutton offered by the host was from a dead sheep, and he was so angry and decided to disclose the ideal Feng Shui spot to the shepherd.

The rest of the story was how Chung Fook had followed the directions the master had instructed.

It is believed that the present host deity statue posture (red face with wide open eyes looking afar & one leg hanging down) was his last posture as a human transformation before Chung Fook turned into god, or departed his human life.

Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak