His Majesty graces get-together in Belait District
Aziz Idris

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam graced the ceremonial get-together held in the Belait District yesterday with thousands of well-wishers from all walks of life welcoming the arrival of the caring monarch.

His Majesty also consented to receive 'pesambahs' or gifts from the people. Hj Sigai, a Belait-born local who runs an antique shop in the heart of the oil-rich district, presented His Majesty with a 'Sulang Ampang', a brass canister used to measure the volume of rice during the reign of Sultan Tengah in the mid 1600's.

Passed on from generation to generation, the 'Sulang Ampang' is well preserved, with the engravings of 'Air Mulih', 'Pucuk Rabung' and 'Balah Rotan' (traditional Brunei decorations) still visible.

According to Hj Sigai, the 'Sulang Ampang' was originally used to measure the volume of rice in palaces back in the old days but it is now commonly used for "marriage proposal" for the groom.

He added that the priceless artefact, which originated from the Belait and Dusun ethnic groups, holds considerable "sentimental value" for him.

Sharing the same sentiment was Shaikh Hj Khalid bin Shaikh Hj Ahmad, CEO of Serikandi Group of Companies, who presented His Majesty with a 'badil' or cannon made of brass, which is believed to have originated from the Portuguese occupation.

The six-kilogramme artefact comes with a wooden stand called "Kayu Belian" which is engraved with the symbolic 'Air Mulih' pattern. Shaikh Hj Khalid explained that the cannon was widely used for decoration for the Belait, Dusun and Iban ethnic groups.

The brass cannon is also engraved with the symbol of 'Pucuk Rabung', 'Balah Rotan and 'Bunga Simpur' - designs that originated in Malay Brunei.

He said, "It is my honour to present His Majesty with the pesambah as a symbol of love from my family and I. Without his guidance and leadership, my family will not be where we are today. We are forever grateful to His Majesty and wish the 'caring monarch' happiness, good health and longevity."

Meanwhile, a Malaysian photographer from Terengganu took the first flight to Brunei upon hearing of His Majesty's 66th birthday celebrations from a friend. He hopped on a plane late Saturday night to make it to the ceremonial parade at the Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar 'Ali Saifuddin in the capital on Sunday.

"It was a vibrant and momentous occasion at the Taman. I tried to snap as many photos of His Majesty and the spectacle," said Shahrulmizan, 27. However, he was denied access to the Royal Dais at the Taman because he could not get a 'photographer pass'.

"I used my zoom lens to take His Majesty's portrait from afar and managed to capture the perfect photo. Then I realised I would return home without His Majesty signing the photo that I captured," he explained.

Shahrulmizan then edited the photo using a 'drawing sketch' technique and developed His Majesty's portrait in time for yesterday's get-together in Belait.

He kept a copy for himself and presented another photo to His Majesty. "I'm going to hang it on my wall. I must say this is one of my highest achievements as a photographer," he said shortly after the monarch signed the portrait.

Children from Pusat Ehsan in Kuala Belait also took the golden opportunity to present His Majesty with a hand-palm artwork depicting a tree, which is a symbol of love for the monarch.

The artwork was created by 20 children from the centre with the help of their teachers. It also showed a birthday cake drawn by the children with the number 66 on top of the cake.

As for Mrs Tan Cheo Kiaw, 80, her gift came in the form of fresh mangoes that she planted behind her house. "Before this, my mango tree seldom bore any fruit, until recently. I believe this is good luck, so it is my gift for His Majesty," she explained.

She presented His Majesty with two ripe mangoes and in response, His Majesty thanked Mrs Tan for the humble gesture. "It was my first time up-close with the monarch and I actually had a brief conversation with him. I wish His Majesty a long prosperous life and good health, just like me," she joked. - Borneo Bulletin (17 July 2012)