Pasar Malam Sibu

A heaven for food hunters, Street food at its finest

Night markets have always been an exciting place to visit for me as I could browse through items such as electronics, fashion items, and most importantly, food! Hence, whenever I travel around, the first place I would Google up is the area’s ‘Pasar Malam’.

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Sibu. While I have been to Sibu a couple of times before, I have not gone for a throrough trip around town. This time, I planned my whole trip there in advance to immerse myself with local delicacies.

I was informed that there are two ‘Pasar Malam’ in Sibu, one at Sibujaya, which was quite far from the town centre. The other one is right in the middle, nearby Sibu Waterfront. Since I stayed in town, I opted to visit the nearer one as I could walk on foot.

When I arrived, I was amazed as it is not what I expected it to be. Sure, there are food, clothing items and accessories, electronics, but the display of the food surprised me.

While the food stalls are quite repetitive, the array of pork arranged on the stalls’ were mouth-watering. With the delicious three-layer pork, the pig’s head, pork sausages and the likes, it was certainly a ravishing sight.

Mouth-watering barbecued meat.

Cheap and delicious ready-packed fast food.

Other than that, there was also the colourful food from the economy fast food stall, and a dim sum stall selling a variety of steamed buns and siobee! It was definitely a food haven for anyone.

At the other end, one could not help but notice the thick smog from the Malay section of the market. I took a closer look and saw barbecued meats on sticks — chicken satay, beef satay and instantly my mouth watered as the fragrance smell of the barbecued meat hit my nose. 

There were also different types of ‘lok lok’ on sale and also the famous sweet red chicken. It was truly an amazing feeling to be surrounded by the food of ‘Sarawak’. I was spoiled for choice and if i could, I would have tasted everything available at the market.

The Pasar Malam is located at Jalan Market, Pekan Sibu and is open daily from 6 pm to midnight. During the day, before the market is opened, the vicinity is used as a parking lot for businesses nearby.

One interesting thing to note about the Pasar Malam’s drink stalls is the re-use of plastic bottles to store drinks. It was obvious, with the label being ‘7-up’ but the content was soya bean. According to one of the stallowners, it was the norm to sell drinks in reusable bottles. To them, it is another way for them to help the environment.

Pasar Malam — a symbol of unity

When I visited the night market, it was flocked with people of different races and religions. You could hear echoes of local languages and dialects — Mandarin, Iban, Foochow, Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Sarawak. It was a truly a magnificent sight. And amazingly, everyone could understand each other albeit the differences.

Not only that, the stallowners all came from different backgrounds, coming together to build a platform where food lovers can experience a gastronomical adventure. To be able to sit through all that together, side by side is proof of the unity that is one of Sarawak’s main identity.

There may have been arguments about which food is the best, or which stall provides the best goods, but one thing for sure, no argument could break the bond that is ‘Ibu Pertiwiku’.

A dim sum stall selling a variety of steamed buns and siobee.

Local desserts such as the ‘Bubur Kacang Hijau’ and ‘Bubur Sago’ can easily be found at the market.

Women with a mission

Making profits while maximising social benefits

Recently, two Malaya-based social entrepreneurs made their way to a sharing event organised by Angkatan Zaman Mansang Sarawak (AZAM Sarawak) in Kuching, Sarawak. Founder of Grow the Goose and Borneo Cocoa, Ida Faranina Othman has been an entrepreneur for 16 years, from owning and running a baking studio, event management company, supplier of corporate gifts, production house, advertising agency, photo studio to a kids party planning outfit.

Her entrepeneurial passion grew in her since her younger days. At 10 years old, she wanted a t-shirt that everyone wears. “I wanted it so my mum asked me to save up. So I sell things like recycled cans until I was able to collect enough money.” At 12, she started a cupcake business while at 15 she babysits.

Hence, after she took a break to focus on her family, she noticed a gap in the market on child empowerment programmes. It was a little experiment with her children that led her to launch ‘Grow the Goose’ — a social enterprise focusing on financial empowerment programmes for children to help them attain financial wisdom before entering adulthood.

From teaching her children to make their own money by selling healthy sausages, Ida now holds workshops teaching children, teens, and recently adults on money habits, ways to achieve their dreams and also how to earn.

Sisterhood Alliance is an NGO which advocates social changes by empowering young girls with life skills education.

Ida also mentioned that 60 percent of her net profits are used to run free programmes for children from marginalised communities. To her, it is important to learn entrepreneur skills as, “It is not about not wanting the children to be doctors and lawyers, rather it is important that they become doctors with their own hospitals/clinics and lawyers with their own firms.”

She elaborated further by saying that learning to be an entrepreneur does not necessarily mean stamping the future to work in the business line. By learning the skill sets of an entrepreneur, “They can learn critical thinking, troubleshooting, marketing, and also public speaking. And through the skills, they can address the unemployment issue where instead of looking for a job, they can create the job opportunities themselves.”

Ida represented Malaysia and South East Asia in the SE Forum Outreach Accelerator based in Stockholm, Sweden in 2017. The six-month programme saw eight social enterprises selected globally, fully funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

Menstrual Hygiene Management programme by Athena Empowers at Kampung Silad, Ranau, Sabah together with Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad. Teens were given a package of Athena cloth sanitary pads.

In April 2019, Ida represented Malaysia for the International Visitors Leadership Programme – US Department of State’s premier professional exchange programme. Later in June, she founded Borneo Cocoa, a social enterprise empowering small cocoa growers in Borneo with the knowledge and skills to create their cocoa-based products and earn better incomes through ethical and sustainable cocoa farming and production.

On the other hand, Anja Juliah Abu Bakar is the founder and social impact director of Athena Holdings Sdn Bhd (a social enterprise that empowers women with entrepreneurship skills), founder of Sisterhood Alliance (an NGO which advocates social changes by empowering young girls with life skills education) and a social impact consultant at ContentLab Sdn Bhd (a social impact consultancy helping companies to build their CSR capacity building activities and also consults businesses to become social enterprises as part of their business model.)

When met, Anja said that 23 years ago she was a college dropout with a fiery passion to go abroad. “So I knocked door to door at corporate firms for my crowdfunding. It took me eight months before I finally managed to save up, and with the flight tickets bought by my family, I flew to the UK.”

With her typing skills, she landed a job in typing dissertation for masters students, which intrigued her to go back to study. “I went back home to Malaysia. Years later I graduated, but due to my experiences before I was solely interested in starting my own business.” 

Grow the Goose — a social enterprise focusing on financial empowerment programmes for children to help them attain financial wisdom before entering adulthood.

In 2004, Anja discovered ‘cloth pad’ — an environmental friendly washable sanitary pad — and she found it to be a sustainable method for female menstruation period.

From there, she did her researches, surveyed, and later on commercialised it until one day she was approached to be a sponsor to struggling girls who skipped school because of menstruation. “I felt curious about why these girls need to skip school. Then I found out that they lived in hostels, away from home. They only had enough money for food, so to choose between food and sanitary pads, they chose food.”

The sponsorship awakened the social entrepreneur in her, and led her to start a campaign for the cause. She initiated ‘For every pack you buy, a girl gets sponsor’ campaign and in 2015, her company Athena became a 100 percent social enterprise company. Through the campaign, Athena Holdings Sdn Bhd has helped 1,990 girls since 2015 and has reduced 986,000 usages of disposable sanitary pads.

“Twenty-three years ago I was a college dropout, then I managed to empower myself to go further. Now, I want to empower other girls,” said Anja.

An alumna of MaGIC Accelerator Program for Social Enterprise (2015), Anja was the first Malaysian to be selected to participate in the Social Enterprise Forum in Stockholm (2016) by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and returned as a guest mentor in 2017.

Anja is also a committee member with the Chamber of Social Entrepreneurs Development Malaysia – SE Council for social entrepreneurship practices and ecosystem building in Malaysia. In September 2019, Anja and 17 leaders from 18 countries received an invitation to the White House to be part of the W-GDP (Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative), the first whole-of-government effort to advance women’s economic empowerment.

She was also listed as one of the Top 10 Women Social Entrepreneurs by Top10 Malaysia.

A master of craft

Albot Gudang, Preserving traditional art 

Met recently at the Borneo Craft Festival Sarawak 2019, the friendly Albot shared that it has always been his passion to hand paint prints. “I used to do it as a hobby, but after I stopped working, I work on this full time.”

The Bidayuh lad who originated from Bau, Sarawak first dabbled in hand-painting artworks in 2005. He recalled painting on a huge piece of paper — one he felt extremely proud of. “I became active after 2010 as I realised that I have talent in this,” he explained. It was then that he saw a market in hand-painted motifs as souvenir pieces.

Using natural resources found in the jungle of Bau, Albot regularly paints on woven sago, wood, tree bark, bamboo, seeds, stone, glass, leaf, fibre, shell and almost anything he can get his hands on. He regularly uses fabric cloth paint to produce his artworks.

With his talent imprinted on each and every piece, there is a definite feel in his art that embodies the essence of Sarawak. The pieces smoothed by Albot revamped into not only a piece of remembrance, but with the materials originating from the jungles in Sarawak, it is the epitome of ‘Ibu Pertiwiku’.

To him, his focus is not on the financial aspect. Explaining that it was his passion that drives him, he wants to immortalise Sarawak’s ethnic motifs for generations to come, “And I am not planning to stop until I am unable to continue.”

Albot also paints on walls and pillars. “Every piece that I produce is drawn free handed. To me, each one is a masterpiece.”

When asked what the challenges that he faced were while producing, he said: “Finding the raw materials for the products is a big challenge for me as I have to go into the jungle myself and face difficult terrain to get what i wanted.”

He disclosed that there are times when he will get lost in the jungle, “When it happens, I try my best to find my way back. I would navigate along the river and try to remember and recognise the surrounding that I have walked through.” Besides that, Albot also faces challenges in searching for seasonal raw materials, adding that “I have to wait for it to grow.”

He also lamented that it is hard to expose and gain the interest from the public to immerse themselves in traditional art, “Especially the younger generations. Therefore, I would do more exhibition to expose to the public.”Albot stresses the need for the younger generations to realise the importance of traditional and cultural art so that both can be continued for years to come. “It is important especially when it comes to understanding the natural resources and the ways of preserving, promoting and turning it into a handicraft that represents Sarawak.”

Albot can be contacted via Facebook Abot Gudang or Whatsapp at 014-9900295. He is also available for call at 019-8890169.

Albot’s hand-painted motifs on a ring.

Albot Gudang at work.

Kavin Jay, Let’s Get Ready to Grumble!

Pointing out the funny side of life

“I love the kolo mee! It is the only reason why I come to Sarawak,” said an excited Kavin Jay during his visit to Kuching, Sarawak. “I would rate Sarawak food as kolo mee number one, kolo mee number two and Sarawak laksa number three.” However, his next visit to Sarawak on October 30 will be to tickle the kolo mee out of Kuchingites as he performs onstage at Chemsain Auditorium, Kuching.

Kuala Lumpur born and bred, Kavin’s style of comedy leans toward things that annoy him, but he also mentioned that his family gives him enough material to perform on stage, “When my family talk about old stories during family reunions, I am like yes, that is a joke right there”.

One example he shared: “My mom bought a mobile phone and she would SMS all the time. Her name is Welma Theresa Fernandez which is a beautiful name. The only problem is she likes to leave her initial at the end of the message. So, I would get weird messages like ‘God loves you. W.T.F.’ She doesn’t get it but we just like it and laugh.”

The funny grumbler’s  background

Kavin, growing up in a conservative Asian family setting, was a smart but rebellious student fromyoung. “I have always wanted to go to art stream, but my teacher pulled my ear and dragged me to science stream. I also did not have the support from my parents to go pursue arts.”

To his parents, there were only four career choices: “Lawyer, Doctor, Engineer, and Disappointment,” but as a young boy, 39-year-old Kavin wanted to take up culinary arts, as he wanted to be a chef. Nonetheless, the little Asian boy managed a scholarship in engineering to the UK.

It was his time in the UK that inspired him to become a stand-up comedian. “There, I watched a lot of comedy shows and when I came back, there was not any because that time, we only had two comedians (Harith Iskandar and Joanne Kam) and their shows were every three months at best.”

That was when Kavin decided, “Aiya, I do my comedy show lah. How hard can it be?” — But he failed miserably, “Yes, it was hard. 13 years ago I put on a comedy show with 150 friends. Put them in a pub, and get onstage with my cousin. We told jokes, I did very badly. I did not know what I was doing. I was just telling statements I thought were funny. But the audience was like, where are the jokes?”

Nonetheless, a resilient Kavin never stops improving himself, and until today, he admitted that he is still improving himself. He advised those wanting to perform stand-up comedy that while recognising your voice and your sense of humour is easy, what is vital is to search for the happy medium.

“You need to find a happy medium where everybody is happy — where you enjoy telling the jokes and the audience enjoy listening to the jokes — that is the hardest part because you need to know what kind of audience you are performing to. He further elaborated that a happy medium is actually a platform where the comedian’s sense of humour coincides with that of the audience’s.

When asked whether he has given up on his choice as a full-time comedian, Kavin gave a resounding “Yes!” and exclaimed that he has given up many times, “I always say I want to quit, but I will always come back next week.”

The father of one said that the problem with performing onstage is that it is strongly affected by the mood of the performer, especially if the last show was concluded badly. “I keep telling myself maybe I should not do comedy but next week, I’ll try again, it works and that pulls me back in.”

Apart from that, the level of confidence in him plays a role, “Whenever my confidence is low, I quit comedy. But I always find myself going back again.” Kavin shared that he overcame the difficulty by constantly doing it. “At the end of the day, if you have a good day, it will help lift up your spirit and confidence.”

Check Kavin out on Netflix as he hilariously rants about his childhood and his days in the UK while undergoing his studies. He is also on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) under the moniker @kavinjay.

Overcoming the odds

Finding an escape through art

Reminiscing, Sue said, “For me, my diagnosis helped make sense, particularly of my childhood because I found it difficult to make friends. I was always bullied and I did not know how to talk to people”.

Diagnosed with autism, Sue added, “When I was a child, I remembered stammering, stuttering, and my parents telling me not to. I learned not to do it anymore, however, due to the stress I received after learning of my diagnosis, it returned.”

According to her, her body would react negatively when something that upsets her happened, and also at busy places like the supermarket or in noisy places with a lot of people. Fortunately, with the support of her current husband, she managed to overcome it all once relaxed.

“Autism is not something you grow out of, rather you learn to adapt to it. So it made a lot of sense in my life when I was diagnosed,” said the English woman.

Growing up, there were not much news and studies on autism hence there were very little information on Asperger’s. “I have always had problems with work and I could not work in one place for more than one year.”

Even so, Sue knew then that she was on the spectrum of autism as she studied the disorder a lot and had worked with autistic children before her diagnosis. When asked what motivated her to move on after she was diagnosed with autism, she said that it was the acceptance that kept her going. Sue has been volunteering for three years at a local art and craft facility for adults with learning disabilities back home in England.

Despite her disorder, Sue is an established painter with a Masters of Arts degree. Having dabbled in paper and colour throughout her life, she recalled a moment during her childhood, “My grandpa gave me a bird book for my sixth birthday. I would copy and draw the birds, and I had it in a folder until recent years when I lost it while moving houses.”

Always intrigued with the world of art, a determined Sue, a divorcee at 32, brought up her two children while immersing herself in art to get her degree. “My children and I studied together. They went to school, and I went to art school. It was a wonderful experience.”

Sue grew up on the outskirts of Suffolk, England, at Ipswich surrounded by the nature, which explains her always having a passion for both art and landscapes. “I used to play at the hedgerow, the fields and in the woods but in my late teenage years, modernisation came in and now there is nothing left.”

“Nowadays there are housing and industrial estates, shopping centres and it made me sad because the places I played at as a child is gone. I took it for granted as I thought it will be there forever and now it’s gone,” said a heartbroken Sue. Being intimate with the woods was what brought her to Borneo initially. “For 20 years I have always wanted to come to Borneo ever since I saw a TV programme in England.”

In February, she backpacked to several places in Borneo including Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Kinabatangan River and others. “I fell in love with Borneo Island and its people. I love the food here, especially the local green vegetables!”

The jolly mother believed that with driven passion, anyone can do pretty much everything. “Through passion, you should just do it! Do not let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. I desperately wanted to draw well, so I kept drawing.”

Evidence proved that her burning desire now bore fruits as her artworks are currently on display and for sale at the Autism Art Gallery located at Hilton Hotel, Kuching until October 27. Her artworks showcased her memories of on her recent trips all over Borneo recently.

English artist Sue Laughlin posing for a photo during an interview with New Sarawak Tribune.

Through her paintings, she believed that the landscapes have memories embedded in them, “And if you are quiet enough, this may sound crazy, but it will talk to you. Subliminally, you can access history and heritage because the landscape has always been here.”

For the intrigued minds, her artworks can also be seen on her website susanlaughlin.weebly.com or Instagram at @SueLaughlinArt.

Sue’s exhibition held at the Autism Art Gallery is in collaboration with the Kuching Autistic Association (KAA). Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to KAA. The Autism Art Gallery opens every Wednesday to Friday from 10am to 4pm and 11am to 5pm on weekends.

Beads and pieces of BIBCo 2019

Renowned Kuala Lumpur designer Bill Keith’s sophisticated and elegant designs were the creme de la creme of the gala dinner held at The Waterfront Hotel, Kuching on October 5. Paired with Sarawak contemporary bead designers Lucille Awen Jon and Juliana Ambrose’s stunning, and at time dazzling beading works, the models beaut donning the creations were certainly magnified.

The showcase was choreographed by Vicky Fong, and the event was a product needed to exhibit that there is still value for beadworks in high fashion. The intricacies of the art and rare finds have the potential to develop a lucrative artisanal bead industry in Sarawak, where beading works have always been a business for small-town designers.

Further proof of this was exhibited to the audiences when it was turn for international bead designers to showcase their valuable pearls on the runway.

Each with a story to tell, the striking features of the beads, whether as necklace, earrings and the likes, provide enough evidence that beading works can be fashionable.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah accepting a memento during the BIBCo Gala Dinner while BIBCo director Heidi Munan (left) look on.

The artists

The international designers that presented their designs onstage were Floor Kaspers from the Netherlands, Chris Lim Zamora from Philippine, Florence Wee from Australia and Elaine Robnett Moore from the USA. There was also a showcase by the Weaving Sisters from Laos.

The event was young Chris Lim Zamora’s first international fashion showcase. He presented three pieces of garments from his Enlacer Collection and three pieces of Tangkulo scarves, traditionally worn as a headpiece by male leaders such as chieftains and warriors in tribal communities from the Philippine.

Elaine Robnett Moore is the fourth generation of internationally-renowned artist whose medium of choice is beaded jewellery. A self-taught designer of with experiences of over thirty years, she finds inspiration in using beads as a mean to empower women globally, teaching the art of bead stringing and the business of it. Elaine’s creativity and artistry have evolved from passion to mastery which is highlighted in her designs.

Dutch bead artist, Floor Kaspers, is known as a bead researcher. She often makes large pieces that resemble a piece of cloth. Her showpiece was a woven piece weighing 2.5 pounds and made of 224 beaded ribbons. With more than a quarter of a million beads in it, she disclosed that she worked on it for more than six months.

Next up were the Weaving Sisters from Laos who are talso eachers of bead weaving. A click at their facebook page ‘The Weaving Sisters’ showed that interested parties travelling to Laos can visit their studio to learn about their culture and tradition through bead weaving.

The gala dinner’s opening showcase was from our very own local designer, Livan Handicraft. Livan Handicraft is one Sarawak’s leading brands in beads jewellery and craft. The brand was founded in 1988 by Roselyn Lah, who was awarded Malaysia’s Asean Mastercraft Designer and also the recipient of the prestigious Tukang Ulung Award.

With the night’s collection showcasing a younger and fun approach to the century-old heritage, the beadworks also combined the best of Sarawak beads. The collection were designed exclusively by both Roselyn and her daughter, Livan.

The BIBCo Gala Dinner and the BIBCo workshops are both parts of the What About Kuching 2019 programme.

With the establishment of WAK, October is filled with community-driven festival of arts, culture and lifestyles radiating outwards towards a greater Kuching.

Apparel designed by Livan Handicraft.

Life is a joke

An engineer who later became a businessman, 28-year-old Ashweein is a ‘macha kaca mata’ which translates to ‘brother wearing spectacles’ in Tamil. Widely used in Malaysia, macha refers to an Indian friend but to Ashweein, it means, “Majestic Amazing Champion Has Arrived”. Indeed he has and being a ‘Tambi’ (some may find it offensive but the word translates to ‘little brother’ in Tamil), he considers it as ‘Terrific Analogy of Me Being Impressive’.

And those are just some of the ways he uses to make life interesting. As a stand-up comedian, his inspiration comes from everything he sees. “I just see things happening around me and imagined it to happen differently, and how it would be hilarious if it happened that way,” he said.

To him, stand-up comedy is an art that requires passion and hard work. “Personally, I gave stand-up comedy a try because I have an inclination for it. I grew up watching Russell Peters, Chris Rock. I love the fact that it is an evolution of public speaking and it requires research and intelligence to perform it.”

Raised in Sarawak, Ashweein got the taste of what it is like to be a minority among his peers. Going to a Chinese school, he experienced being the only Indian in secondary school apart from his siblings. Ashweein chose to look at the bright side of things despite the setbacks.

“I was always referred to as Tambi, but I was not going to allow a word bring me down, or offend me because that is what Sarawakians refer Indians as. In a way, it is a form of respect as it meant little brother,” he disclosed.

His open-mindedness is what shaped him up to become who he is today.

Just sitting through the interview with him made me laughed at the funny anecdotes and puns he shared. With our diverse culture and differences in language, it provides him with a variety of words and ways to play with it. And as a Sarawakian Indian, Ashweein mentioned it allowed him to create an array of wordplay.

“Things like ‘klaka’ when told to a West Malaysian, they would think you are trying to tell them something funny. Or when they hear words like ‘tetak’ or ‘tikam’, they will feel like oh my God, these people want to chop me down or stab me but instead, it meant ‘laugh’ and ‘throw’ respectively.”

It is because of all these anecdotes and stories from growing up that Ashweein would tell his friends while working in West Malaysia several years back that motivated him to become a stand-up comedian.

“Honestly, I did not think I was funny until I received validation from my first performance. Nonetheless, the initial validation came from friends and families who would tell me I am pretty funny,” shared the man of many traits.

To him, laughing and making jokes is a way of relief for stress, anxiety and depression. “Because when you meet friends, you tell funny stories, you will forget the problems in life, even just for a while. And then you will realise that some of the problems in life is not that troublesome if you see it in a funny way,” Ashweein explained. His way of relieving stress is to draw a sarcastic picture around his problems.

When asked whether he experiences stage fright, Ashweein gave a resounding yes. “Stage fright and all is like a normal prerequisite. You would have butterflies in your stomach. I would get it all the time, I would feel like everything is going to be good but during the show, once I see the crowds, my heart beats faster.”

Being onstage, Ashweein uses talking points, and at times, he would rap. “But when I initially started as a stand-up comedian, I used to have a book of my talking points in front of me. It was lame to think I used to do that!”

Another thing that makes him funny is his ‘Saralawak’ crews, “We complement each other’s jokes well,” he said.

‘Saralawak’ is a group for comedians founded in 2018 by Ashweein and a few other comedians, namely Maclean Patrick, Camillus Caem and Terrence Aaron. Being one of the founders, he also shared a tip on how to be funny — the need to be open-minded, both the comedian and the audience.

“To me, comedy is about accepting who you are, your flaws and perks which gives you the ability to make fun of others. It can be seen as rude and derogatory, so you have to put it nicely.”

Started doing stand-up comedy in 2016, Ashweein encourages those who think they are funny to have a go at their open mic session. And for those who are curious to know how funny Ashweein and his crews are can watch them onstage for their stand-up comedy show La-WAK Sik?! Vol 2, on October 19, 8pm onwards at SMA Yayasan Sarawak Building, and also their Comedy Rap Battle called Bar-Olah, where the comedians will battle local rappers at Location X (the old Ting and Ting Supermarket) on October 16, also 8pm onwards.

Details of this can be found on Ashweein’s and Saralawak’s social media links at Facebook @ashweein.narayanan and Instagram @ashweein, or at Facebook and Instagram @saralawak. Ashweein is also one of the founders of HAUS Kch — but that is a story for another day.

Larissa ping A rare dime

Passionate about education for children

Bringing the colours of Sarawak abroad, Larissa played the sape on the big stage, and introduced our culture to the world.

The 20-year-old of Chinese-Kenyah descent initially joined the pageant as she saw the Miss World pageant is a platform for participants to help the underpårivileged. She had been following the pageant since the reign of Dewi Liana Seriestha in 2014 and when the time presents itself, she felt that there was no harm in partaking on the experience, especially since the audition was held in Kuching, Sarawak. “After all, I’m there for a good cause, and I’m there to win it because it’s for the people that need my voice.”

During her one year reign, she had empowered the Penan children of Long Seridan, Baram, learned and play with the autistic children, taking part in charity events and gave motivational talks to students. On top of that, she is currently a first year Law student.

Larissa tying a little girl’s hair during her ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ event at Long Seridan. Photo: Moses Paren
A group photo with the children from Long Seridan during her ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ event. Photo: Moses Paren

Before handing over the crown to the next Miss World Malaysia 2019, New Sarawak Tribune approached the friendly lady for an interview with the 2018 crown holder.

What are your best memories during your reign?

Running my ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ project in Long Seridan, Baram. Reaching out to the Penan children in Long Seridan to me was really memorable because I learned so much about them and also myself. To see these kids being so adaptive to whatever I teach them and to whatever changes we made to the school really touched me because they are willing to learn something new for the betterment of their future. It will always be a lifelong memory because the kids and I grew really close in less than a week, and leaving the village was one of the hardest part of the trip. The kids will always have a special place in my heart.

Photo credit: Kelvin Chan

Representing Malaysia at Miss World was definitely fun but it was also challenging. Having to to travel to Sanya, China all alone with 9 luggage bags, to do my own hair and make up every single day and having my phone missing in a foreign country was tough but a lot of blessings came in return. Now I have friends all over the world, and this whole experience has really made me appreciate and love myself more. It was really beautiful to see 118 contestants coming together to share their respective ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ project in their country and to be inspired by what they do.

What did you learn from your Miss World experiences?

I’ve learned that the title is only temporary and there is only so much that we can do, but the intention and the heart to do it is what matters most. Nothing comes easy. Passion and hard work will bring you to your goals and that your family are the ones who will always be there no matter what. At times, people will always try to bring you down, but it’s up to you to take it as a discouragement or to take it as a motivation to do better. You know yourself better than anyone else. So let your actions speak.

Your advocacy?

I advocate for indigenous children in the rural areas to have access to quality education. Why? Because my mother was raised in the same environment and condition, and I wanted to do my part to ensure that proper education to be provided to every single child in the village and it is not taken for granted of.

Along the way, I started advocating for other causes as well such as animal abuse, autism, baby hatches, and others and try to help as much as I can.

Why are you very passionate about helping children?

I’ve always had this special connection with children, and I strongly feel that good education for children can really shape the future of our country. I also believe that education is a right and no child should ever be stopped from going to school. Not much has been done to ensure primary school children in rural areas will continue to secondary school as there are still a lot of children who end up working or helping their family. There is still a huge gap between communities in the rural areas and the city. I just want to do my part to bridge the gap, and no groups should be left behind as our country continues to grow.

The future for you?

I hope to be able to have my own organisation specifically to help children to access quality education and to be able to apply my knowledge in my effort to help underprivileged children.

Curious to know what else will she embark on in the future, do follow Larissa on her social media accounts @larissaping at Instagram and Twitter, and @larissapingliew at Facebook.

Jolynn J Chin Beyond Classical

From classics to crossovers 

Just months ago, Sarawak-born international pianist, Jolynn J Chin released an Extended Play (EP) ‘Danza Hungara’ which became my current favourite. Recently, she had just released her long-awaited first album comprising of five tracks.  Piano virtuoso Jolynn said, ‘Beyond Classical’ reflected her journey from her younger days learning the piano. “The tracks in the album are not the old me that people used to know, a classical player. And I have strayed so far from that.”

“I want to explore different things and put it differently. I am doing something beyond from what the people used to know, hence the name ‘Beyond Classical’.”
With her parents being music lovers as well, the songs they listened to would also influence young Jolynn, “They would play songs from David Foster, they introduced me to Maksim Mrvica, Havasi, Vanessa-Mae — these are people who do classical crossover music, and I find it really interesting because those were tunes from my childhood.”

The EP tracks in ‘Beyond Classical’
— Toccata (Bach)
— Believer (Imagine Dragons)
— Every Teardrop is a Waterfall (Coldplay)
— Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)
— Danza Hungara (Johannes Brahms)

To her, classical crossover music which incorporated beats into classical melodies was something she wanted to do as well.  “When I was a teenager, I fell in love with jazz. I starting listening to Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson. And of course, as a teenager I was also exposed to the popular tunes of Gwen Stefani, Rihanna, Black Eye Peas, Pussycat Dolls,” she said.

All the exposure and influences led Jolynn to create ‘Beyond Classical’ — an album created for her to share what she loves to her audiences.
“This whole album speaks from my childhood to where I am today. You can hear the blends of modern sound and classical from my childhood melodies, together with song covers that I did, along with the element of jazz. That pretty much sums up what made my album,” revealed Jolynn.

The 24-year-old also reminisced being a nine-year-old student pianist, when she once created an album cover out of paper, scissors, colour pencils and jewel case. “I remembered it had big stars on them, it was a white paper with yellow stars!” Years later, it was a dream came true.

Jolynn’s perspective changed to an “I can do it” personality when she finally realised her dream. “When you get out of your comfort zone, you will see that all of this is possible. When you don’t, you will never know your true capabilities.” Looking back on her journey, she had undergone a multitude of hardships to get to where she is now, “If I had not put up the courage to contact Lion Studios Singapore in 2016, I would have never met my awesome producer, Roger Montejano and things would have never taken off from there.”

Fun times in the studio with Producer Roger Montejano.

Apart from that, a big-budget cost and some personal sacrifices were also among the barriers that she managed to climb over, “I believe that when you want to do something big, we should not skim through budget cost. It is just like being in the kitchen. You would not want to skim through the ingredients as the results depend on how much you put in it.”
Through the process of creating ‘Beyond Classical’, she also had to learn marketing, the way of social media (Instagram: @jolynnjchin), and even produce videos aside from documenting and detailing work.

Nonetheless, the road to today had made her who she is with her first album. Those interested can obtain the physical copy through her website jolynnjchin.com. Those wanting the digital copy can visit her accounts on various musical websites including Spotify, Tik Tok, Pandora and Google Play Music.

She also gives her thanks to Sarawakian artistes who had made it and encouraged her to move forward. “I am talking about Yuna Zarai, Zee Avi, Morgan Then from Slumberjack — these are the people who pushed me and told me that it was not impossible especially during the times when I was doubting myself and if all my investments were worth it.”

Recalling the fun times that she experienced with her crew, Jolynn said the most memorable was during the time she went to Indonesia to film her Danza Hungara music video (available on Youtube).
“Aside from that, i also appreciate seeing the hard work in the making of this album, the photoshoot session with the funny Kelvin Chan from Kuching, and studio time with my producer as I always learn something new every day.”

However, the pianist disclosed that the whole process of getting the album done was the greatest memory for her.  When asked what she had installed for her future, she answered, “You want something to happen but you can never tell if it is gonna happen.”

Nevertheless, Jolynn is always looking to create more music, work with different musicians, and have a world concert tour. “I am also looking to see myself living in Los Angeles in the next 10 years.”
The ‘Beyond Classical’ pianist also hopes that the Sarawak government would put more focus on local artistes based abroad. “As a Sarawakian, I would never forget my roots and I hope that I can bring awareness to other artistes who are no longer in Sarawak but made it outside.” She further said that this initiative can be a motivation to young musicians in Sarawak, proving that nothing is impossible.

MACC’s Goodbye Tour 2019

One last tour before going solo

Not the MACC that you’re thinking of, the Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians (MACC) want to say goodbye to their Sarawakian fans this coming October 12.

The four had got together under the MACC brand to bring laughters to Malaysians, sharing some observations and song parodies. Their anecdotes are always relatable to the regular Malaysian as their jokes often comprise customs and traditions, everyday-life experiences and such.

The group consist of Douglas Lim, Kuah Jenhan, Phoon Chi Ho, and Dr Jason Leong — the four would perform in English with a tad of Malay, Chinese dialects and others.

About MACC

Douglas Lim Yew Sin, 43, currently resides in Selangor and he started out as a comic actor in a local sitcom called Kopitiam. “I then ventured into emceeing work which evolved into stand-up comedy. I have performed in showcases nationally and regionally. I was recently featured in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and did a show in New York.”

The reason he chose to be a comedian was due to his attention seeking personality and also because he was a comedy addict. “I always feel the need to find the funny in everything. I found that comedy have an immediate and positive effect on the audience and I love the feeling of making people laugh and help them forget their problems for a while,” said Douglas.

For 35-year-old Phoon Chi Ho, he started his stand-up comedy act in 2006. Previously, Shah Alam’s resident Phoon was in a comedy sketch troupe as a writer. “My friends told me that I should do a solo performance, and back then I didn’t know what I was doing was stand-up comedy. Actually, I still don’t sometimes,” he conceded.

He further shared the reason he pursued his current career, “When I did my first ever paid stand-up comedy gig in 2008, I got paid RM200 for 10 minutes but the crowd was really good and laughed a lot so that got me very inspired.”

On the other hand, 32-year-old Kuah Jenhan admits he has the personality of an introvert. As he enjoys observing people, he also enjoys making his friends laugh back in school.

The Kuala Lumpur-bred Kuah started performing at 18 years old. But it was when he reached the age of 22 that he got into it seriously and never look back.

“Apart from performing comedy and writing in Malaysia, I have been to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for 4 years now, gathering high accolades internationally,” Kuah disclosed.

Lastly, 34-year-old Dr Jason Leong is a part-time doctor and a full-time comedian. For him, 2014 was his groundbreaking year as he successfully

spread his brand of comedy well beyond Malaysian shores.

He became the first Malaysian to win the 7th Annual International Hong Kong Comedy Festival. He then became the first Malaysian to perform a full professional set at the famous Laugh Factory in Hollywood, USA and Gotham Comedy Club in New York.

It was also in that October, Dr Jason Leong performed in what he fondly remembers as ‘the best night of my life’ as the opening act for Harith Iskander’s ‘To Know Malaysia is To Laugh Malaysia’ in front of 9,000 people at the sold-out Stadium Putra, Bukit Jalil.

Honing his craft since 2010, Dr Jason’s inspiration in becoming a comedian was due to his funny nature as a young boy. Loving jokes and telling them, it extended to becoming part of his interest and hobbies.

The Goodbye Tour

Happening on October 12, 8.30pm at the Chemsain Auditorium, Kuching, the ‘Goodbye Tour’ is the last tour before the boys pursue their solo careers. The tour consists of countries such as Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia, with Kuala Lumpur being the last stop.

Managed by Jom TEH! (Talents by Events Horizon) in Kuching, Sarawak, co-founder Joachim Then recalled their first show in 2015 in Kuching as a memorable moment. “They did not know what to expect, we are not sure what we are delivering as well, but towards the end of the night, the quartet thanked the the audience by saying, ‘you guys are the warmest and loudest we ever have’. That comment still brings me goosebumps till this very day.”

Jom TEH! is a sister-brand under a local event management company, Events Horizon. “We started to have this brand under quite a straight forward motive in our head — we want comedy shows like what our fellow Malaysian have over in the West, but no one is doing it here, so why not us? Hence we started the brand EHLL (Events Horizon Laugh Leh!). After two years down the road, we wanted to venture into other forms of talents as well, hence the re-brand to Jom TEH!”