Extract from: http://www.nst.com.my/nation/general/we-had-a-eurasian-kampung-and-sang-together-1.291579
Kampung Serani native Lt-Col (Rtd) Clifford Baptist recalls how life used to be in the enclave he calls “God’s Sweet Little Acres” in the 1950s, when the bond between the people in the community was strong. Baptist said the Eurasian environment underwent a drastic change when television was introduced in 1962.
“When the black and white television made its appearance, the whole community changed as each family withdrew inside their homes.” Baptist remembers people rushing back home to catch their favourite shows on TV and there was less interaction between the members of the community. “There was less social meetings, merry-making, greetings and gossiping. Blame it on the TV,” he lamented.
The 66-year-old retired serviceman said sports was one “glue” that held the relatively large community back then, together.
“I remember the evenings in our kampung, from 5pm to 7pm when boys and girls came out to the sandy pathways between houses and church fields to play football, cricket, rugby, sepak takraw and badminton.
“The large open sandy courtyard in front of 433 Burmah Road was reserved for serious badminton and boxing matches. Everyone tried to imitate the great sportsmen in the kampung!” he exclaimed.
Besides competitive sports, Baptist remembers the younger boys and girls playing communal games which are now synonymous with Malaysian culture.
“Ah Chi Lot, rounders, top spinning… in addition to the popular ‘Cops n Robbers’ or ‘Cowboys n Injuns’. We even made wooden play tools such as pistols, bows and arrows, tomahawks… all from tree branches, Milo or Ovaltine cans, and old bicycle tyres and spokes.
“If I could go back in time, I would not hesitate at all just to return and relive those wonderful, unforgettable years we all lived through in such happy times of fun and laughter.”
A father of seven children and 11 grandchildren, Baptist lived in the enclave until 1963. He then left for Kuala Lumpur to join the Royal Military College in Sungai Besi.
Baptist also recalled the “kampung gossip” sessions, with the ladies gathering outside the church compound. “Most exciting and memorable were when the older ladies in their kondeh (hair tied in a bun), sarongs and kebayas gathered to yak away while chewing their favourite sireh (betel) leaves complete with white kapur (lime) paste, red areca beetlenuts or puffing away on their self-rolled hand-filled tobacco (rokok daun).
“If anyone sat directly in front of them, he or she would be sprayed with red droplets, and with the occasional false teeth as well, when they burst into laughter,” he quipped.
La Salle Brothers director Brother Anthony Rogers remembers the role of Eurasians as educators and pioneer church elders in Penang in the early years. “The Eurasian community in Penang has been part of the Lasallian family for over 160 years, ever since we arrived in Penang in 1852.
“The community welcomed us and was part of the setting up of schools here. We continued what the Eurasians had already started, which was providing education to all,” he said. This year, the La Salle Brothers are opening one of their schools in Pulau Tikus to the Eurasian community for the second edition of the Eurasian Fiesta.
The first fiesta was introduced last year as part of the annual George Town Festival. The fiesta, according to its organisers, James Rozells and Kathleen Rodrigues, is meant to serve as a beacon of hope for the “forgotten” community and to promote awareness of the Eurasians.
Rozells and partner Rodrigues are both well known in Penang and possibly a dying breed of Eurasian artistes, who are intent on propelling the community to greater heights this year with a grander celebration than last year’s event, which was held at the Church of the Immaculate Conception’s hall.
This year, the fiesta is to be held on June 15 at Sekolah St Xavier’s branch in Jalan Brother James, Pulau Tikus. The venue will be a hive of activity from 5pm to midnight, and expected to see thousands of Eurasians coming from all over the world to renew ties with their lost relatives and weave new ones as well.
Rozells, 58, who is also a true-blue Pulau Tikus native, remembers the simple kampung life of his younger days. “Climbing up fruit trees, playing with friends, we were all so close together. We hope to relive that in the coming fiesta.” Artistes in the Penang musical fraternity include Jimmy Boyle, Joe Rozells, Larry Rodrigues, the Baum brothers Rudy and George, the Jeremiahs, Scullys, Colleen Read and Leo Aeria.
Equally integral to their culture is Eurasian food, which is a fusion of different cultures, such as the Dutch, English, Portuguese and local, combined into one, making it a unique gastronomical delight. Beef semur, chicken devil curry, stews and salted fish pickles, are some of the famous Eurasian staples Malaysians continue to love today.
The largest Eurasian community used to live in the suburb of Pulau Tikus and the inner city of George Town. The once famous Pulau Tikus Eurasian enclave, Kampung Serani, was the community’s pride and joy as many of them lived in the area bounded by Jalan Bagan Jermal, Jalan Burma and Jalan Kelawai.
In the mid-1990s, a large portion of the land, owned by the Catholic church and the neighbouring Church of the Immaculate Conception, was sold to a private developer. Things started to change, and what is left now is a Penang Eurasian Association clubhouse, built by the developer, in off Jalan Kelawai.