A get-together ceremony like no other
Izah Azahari

UNDER the unwearied sun gathered hundreds of well-wishers at Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien in the capital – unfazed by the heat – all eager to meet up close and convey their wholehearted greetings to the nation’s monarch, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, on his 68th birthday celebrations.

Always a highlight event for every photographer, especially myself, I set out to capture the once-a-year defining moment where the Brunei-Muara residents expressed an outpouring of love and devotion to His Majesty – a testament of gratitude from the people to the monarch.

His Majesty, accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office; His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade; His Royal Highness Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah; His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik; and His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen, descended from the royal dais to first meet the performers, signifying the start of the get-together ceremony for the Brunei-Muara District.

Donning a black striped shirt, His Majesty was seen with beads of sweat trickling down his cheeks, moving from booth to booth, reaching out and smiling to his countless loyal subjects looking forward to a brief encounter with their beloved ruler and the royal family.

With enthusiasm and fervour much warmer than the weather itself, a storm of people crammed under the tents – equipped with cameras and smartphones – trying for a photo opportunity with His Majesty and Their Royal Highnesses. However, never did His Majesty stop accepting the endless handshakes from his subjects, other than the few seconds he took to wipe his sweat from his forehead before continuing to offer his hand again. Security personnel around the Sultan were having a tough time just to keep the oncoming wave of people trying to take a selfie with His Majesty and other members of the royal family.

Wherever His Majesty went, the number of photographers never seemed to dwindle, whereas a few of the seasoned and experienced photographers would strategically position themselves, awaiting patiently, hoping to get the perfect shot of His Majesty.

Showers of praise and genuine affection were sung upon the elated monarch, while various choirs and birthday songs were also sung for His Majesty in the hope of getting a smile from His Majesty in return. Meanwhile, pesambah and letters were also presented.

A testimony to His Majesty’s love and care towards his subjects, as I witnessed personally – His Majesty came to a halt during his stride just to offer his hands to a young girl who was crying, asking the reason behind her tears. His Majesty then smiled to cajole the young girl which I managed to capture through my lenses.

His Majesty continued to walk a few kilometres outside the Taman before proceeding to the Lapau Building where His Majesty and Their Royal Highnesses changed into a new set of clothing before joining a Santap lunch with committee members of the get-together ceremonies.

There is no word that can perfectly describe the heart-warming ceremony, but with the best of joint efforts from all members of the media, pictures that are worth a thousand words are presented to all readers of the most vivid birthday celebrations of His Majesty. These dedicated individuals like everyone else look up to and love their benevolent ruler. Daulat Kebawah Duli Tuan Patik. - Borneo Bulletin (25 August 2014)