It was in December 1976 that I bade farewell to Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang after spending two years there doing my Form Six as a boarding student. Those two years were two of the happiest years of my life. It was where I really learned to be independent.
I bet all my Kolej mates who were fellow boarders at the college will never forget the fun that we had. Those who were day scholars may not relate to many of the incidents, some of which were extremely naughty. I think some of the following incidents are still deeply entrenched in our memories.
April Fool’s Day: Female students who had left their bras and panties on the clothes lines woke up on April 1 1976 to find them missing. And when they found out where their undergarments were, I think most were too shy to reclaim them. Their undergarments had ended up adorning the window panes and walls of the cafeteria and corridors of the academic blocks like little flags. This was the work of some very naughty male students. One student found his bicycle hanging high up in a tree near the dormitory. The school principal scolded the students during the morning assembly the next day. And a naughty student retaliated by dumping a plate of soggy rice on his car seat!
Food vendor Makcik in the cafeteria during recess time: There was this Makcik who was selling food in the cafeteria during recess time. Her mee goreng was very popular as it was quite nice and reasonably priced. Latecomers would often hear her shouting “No more, penis!”. I don’t know whether she did it intentionally. Maybe she mispronounced “No more, finish”.
Haircuts: We did not go to barbers for haircut. Fellow students acted as barbers as this saved us some money.
Missing dogs: As Higher School Certificate (the Form Six exams at that time) exams approached, a couple of house owners near the college were probably mystified by the disappearances of their dogs. They would never have guessed that their dogs had ended up in cooking pots of some of the college students who wanted something more nutritious than their cafeteria food as they prepared for the coming exams.
Midnight walks: On many occasions, we went to see midnight shows during weekends. The problem was that there was no more bus service after the midnight shows and we had to walk all the way from Miri town back to the college. During those days, the hill near the government resthouse was rather steep. It was a tiring going up that steep hill after you had been walking all the way from town. On one occasion, the group decided not to walk back that night and ended up spending the night in one of the classrooms at SMB St Columba. Imagine walking through the graveyard to access the classroom in the middle of the night! One of the students even climbed over the fence to go to GCM intending to have a midnight swim in the swimming pool. Unfortunately for him, the pool had been drained dry probably for cleaning purposes.
Used condoms: There were many incidents where used condoms were found in the cafeteria, the classrooms, the football field, the assembly hall, the photography darkroom and also some more remote edges of the college compound including Hick’s Bay. Must be the work of some “overzealous”students seeking practical experience of how their reproductive organs work. Practical biology, maybe? I heard the darkroom was particularly popular for a couple of students. And I suspect the moon must have witnessed quite a lot of couples getting intimate on the beach in Hick’s Bay. Sorry, definitely no photos for this!
Free Time Magazine and Newsweek: In those days, you could easily subscribe to Time and Newsweek and asked to be billed later. Our letters were distributed in the cafeteria by school prefects. Sometimes they would call out names when there were letters for us. Those were the days when emails were not even born yet. So we could often hear ridiculous names being called out, names like Siew Mo Chieng, Boh Heng Lui, Gua Bo Lui , Ngui Moh Chieng and the like. I bet Times and Newsweek had a lot of bad debts in those days!
Freshie orientation: Wow! How some of the lower six freshies were bullied! Washing laundry for the Upper Six, “baptism” in the sea at Hick’s Bay and the like.
Bullying of Form 4 Students: In 1976, Form 4 was introduced to the college. Quite a lot of the Upper Six students were not too happy with that as it was deemed a degrading of the status of the college. They vented their displeasure on the Form 4 students who were boarders, forcing some of them to wash laundry for weeks. A complaint reached one of the teachers who chastised the Upper Six bullies. The Upper Six students wrote a petition to the school principal, accusing the teacher of falsely accusing them. It became a big issue with the principal asking the teacher to explain her justification for the accusation.
Dr Mahatir’s Visit: In 1975 Dr Mahatir visited the college in his capacity as the Education Minister. During his address to the college students in the cafeteria, a very loud boo was heard. I think the boo was in protest against Dr Mahatir’s implementation of greater government control over universities and limiting politics on university campuses.The face of the principal, Oliver Kati Dhobby, immediately turned red, suffused with fury!
Fights: There were a few fights among the college students but one fight almost turned tragic. Two students had clashed on a few occasions until one day, one student tried to take the law into his own hands. Armed with a hammer, he went to the other student’s dormitory. The other student, realizing the danger he was in, climbed into the ceiling. It was lucky that a fellow student managed to coax the student with the hammer to cool down.
The Fight of 1976: The fight that reigned supreme as THE FIGHT OF 1976 was the fight between a group of college students and a rival group from Miri town. Apparently, a couple of college students had some misunderstanding with a couple of young hooligans in Miri who challenged them to a fight at Taman Selera. The college students accepted the challenge, resulting in the young hooligans being badly beaten. The hooligans tried to seek revenge, gathering a big group to go to the college on the night that the college was having a Mooncake Festival celebration in the assembly hall. A group of college students went out to meet the rival group. Sitting in the assembly hall, we could hear blows and sounds of running feet as a big fight broke out in the darkness of the night. Again, the rival group was beaten. The rival group did not stand a chance as the college group was made of many students who were members of the Tang Soo Do Club. And the college principal later commended the college students for getting rid of the outside troublemakers.
White mice: For our Biology practical, we had to rear white mice. There were a few occasions when some of the white mice we reared gave birth to baby mice. One of the students just swallowed the reddish baby mice as he believed these babies were good for controlling asthma.
Wild boar rearing project: A Dayak student brought a little wild boar to the college where it was kept in captivity in a forested area on the fringe of the campus. A group of students took turns to feed the boar by “hijacking” food from the cafeteria. It was a rash action, rearing a wild boar on campus! One day the boar died. The students brought the dead boar to Hick’s Bay where it was barbecued and consumed by them. A couple of students who ate the boar fell sick the next day!
The UFO Joke: One starry night, a group of us staying in Tiong Hostel cracked a joke on the female students staying in the nearby girls’ hostel. We stood outside our hostel, pointing at the sky and making a lot of noises as if we had seen some UFOs. Quite a lot of the female students, attracted by the commotion, came out of their hostel to look at the sky.
Mysterious Power: I had read a book in which there was a way two persons can lift a person sitting down using just two fingers placed under the thigh area of the person sitting down. One night during night prep, a few of my classmates decided to try it out. After a few attempts, they successfully carried out the feat, causing the whole class to erupt in loud applause. The commotion brought a lot of students running from other classrooms to our class to see what was going on.
Cafeteria food: We had sardines and black bean fish so often that we often lost our appetites whenever these were served. That was why Gemuk, the towkay of Chop See Hua not far from the campus, sold lots of Maggi mee as students satiated their hunger by cooking the mee. After my college days, it was at least a couple of years before I re-tasted sardines and black bean fish again.
Ghostly encounters: I never had any such encounter but there were tales of ghosts and apparitions from some students. I heard the matron had encountered ghosts and also sometimes heard weird cries from the cafeteria area. Her quarter was very near to the cafeteria.
Dramas: Each year the college students would stage dramas. In 1976, it was “Wang Pao Chuan” for Mooncake Festival with Genevieve Lim playing the lead role of Wang Pao Chuan. For Hari Raya, Bertram Joseph and Nargis Ibrahim were the lead roles in “Lela Mayan.”
I personally had a nasty experience one night just outside my Tiong hostel. I was just about to enter the hostel through its side door when I felt something crawling up my left leg. A fellow hostel mate helped me by gripping the creature but I really panicked when he said that it could be a scorpion. He slowly eased the creature down my leg until it reached the bottom of my trousers. It was a rat! Fellow hostel mates joked that I almost lost my balls to a rat!
Gripped by a deep feeling of nostalgia, I made a trip to Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang this morning. Arriving at gate, I got down from my car to ask permission from the security guards to enter the campus. They allowed me to go in when I told them I was an ex-student who just wanted to take some photos.
So much has changed. The road from the gate into the campus still looked the same, lined on both sides by casuarina trees. The old academic blocks and the old admin block are still there. The old staff quarters are still there. The old assembly hall is still there but I wonder it is still in use or not as the college now has a new multi-purpose hall. Many of the old giant trees are still standing.
On closer look, I found out that many of the teachers’ quarters are abandoned and in a dilapidated condition probably due to neglect.
When I got down near the old academic blocks, I was in for a surprise. These blocks were completely deserted. Not a student was in sight. I realised that these blocks are no longer in use. They all look fine so it is such a pity that these buildings are lying idle when there are many schools in Sarawak lacking even the basic infrastructure.
Some of the classrooms have windows with missing window panes. I entered one of the classrooms and saw that all the chairs and desk have been piled up at the back and front of the room. Those furniture would be heaven-sent if they are donated to some of the rural schools.
The new admin and academic blocks are now clustered in the area where the old dormitories used to be. So you won’t be able to find the old dormitories anymore. I did not wish to attract attention so I did not walk around the new admin and academic blocks. There is now a nice canteen too.
The new cafeteria is way better than the one we had during our time at the college. It is much cleaner and there are even tv sets and wash basins for students to wash their hands. I had an urgent call of nature and had to borrow the toilet in the kitchen area of the cafeteria. I saw that the kitchen area is really spacious and quite clean. And I noted a big pile of water melons…students now are luckier than during my days at the college!
The college also has its own bus now……lucky students!
I must admit that the garden in the campus looks much better than during my time at the college. There is nice landscaping, well-trimmed plants and flowers.
I made my way to where the access path to Hick’s Bay used to be but I was in for a major disappointment. I could not find any access path though I spent quite a while searching and searching. The whole area was overgrown with bushes. At one point, I saw what looked like a possible new route to Hick’s Bay but there was a locked gate at the end. Seeing a caretaker, I asked him about Hick’s Bay and he said there is no more access path to the bay. What a letdown! I was hoping to go to Hick’s Bay and take some photos of the gorgeous scenery there, including the rock pedestal that I loved to visit during my college days.
The tennis court is still there but I suspect it is probably no longer in use too. There is no fence around the court so it would be very costly to play tennis there as you will lose a lot of tennis balls as they fly beyond the bushes into the ravine.
As I was leaving the college, I parked my car outside the gate. I walked to the hawker stall which used to be a favourite of mine as its ais kacang was very nice. From the entrance of the college, there are now safety railings on the road leading to the hawker stall. The stall was closed but that is because it is still early. I believe the stall will open in the afternoon as I could see that its condition is more or less the same as in 1976. There were two notices at the hawker stall urging the students to respect the environment. Maybe one of these days I will drop by in the afternoon to try out the ais kacang though I suspect the hawker stall is now operated by different people.
The Diocese of Miri property still stands near the entrance to the college. It has some new buildings now, including the Diocese Miri Library.
Looking left and right from the hawker stall, you can see how clean and exclusive the surrounding residential area is. Before Miri tycoons started building their houses along Luak Bay areas, the area around Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang was the most exclusive residential area in Miri.