Written by: Goh Yi Xuan, Shannon
Edited by: Sarah Cheng
Balik Kampung – a commonly used Malay phrase meaning “welcome home”
And it certainly felt like coming home for the Malaysians taking part in the Malaysian Night held on the 18th of September in the KE Communal Hall. When we walked in, we were greeted by the beautifully decorated hall, with the Malaysian flag adorning the stage, a map and a few items commonly found in kampungs that managed to capture the quintessential Malaysian kampung spirit.
The night opened with short speeches by the co-head of the Malaysian night committee, Stephanie Tong, followed by one given by the hall master, Prof. Ho Yew Kee, welcoming all the participants and thanking the comm for their hard work. The Malaysian Night was an event that was organised to welcome the Malaysian students to Singapore and KE and also a way to celebrate the rich culture of our neighbouring country.
Our MCs came dressed up in their kampung-style best, declaring themselves the ‘Marilyn Monroe’ of the kampung, keeping us entertained with their banter as they introduced the first act of the night. Xin Yi and Ying Chong performed a rendition of 因为爱情. Their angelic voices captivated the audience, holding us spellbound, and the rapturous applause they received at the end of the song was well-deserved.
After the performance, we were allowed to roam around the hall to explore the various booths that were put up by the Malaysian students, allowing us to take part in some of the traditional kampung activities.
The first booth that I approached was the Bamboo Wheel, which sounds like a fairly simple game, in which the players just had to stand at a marking and try to toss a hoop onto a pole. However, this was easier said than done, as evidenced by the many embarrassing failed attempts that were made throughout the evening.
Balik kampung wouldn’t have been balik kampung without the games we had come to know and love, so of course, booths for both Batu Seremban and Congkak was present. Batu Seremban, more commonly known as Five Stones, is a traditional game favoured by many Malaysian children during their primary school days and is relatively easy to grasp. The game, as described by its name, involves five stones, and the main objective is to toss one of the stones into the air and pick up all the stones on the ground into your hand in one clean sweep.
Congkak was another familiar game present. Players had to place marbles into the pits of a playing board to move them towards their own “house” at the end of the board, and the game ends only when one manages to empty their row of marbles, successfully moving all their marbles to their “house” and winning the game. Although both Congkak and Batu Seremban sound easy to play, they require nimble hands and extremely quick reflexes. They are certainly not for the butter-fingered!
The last two games demonstrated were the Slipper Game and Jalan Panjang. As many of the children living in kampungs lack access to the gadgets that we take for granted today, they came up with their own games, using only the materials they had around them. This resulted in the creation of the Slipper Game, in which each player uses their slipper to build up a pile of slippers only to kick the remaining slipper at the tower to try and knock it down.
Aside from the games booths, there was also a henna booth, along with a photo-taking booth where visitors could dress up in kampung wear and take Polaroids with their friends.
Now, of course, we can’t forget the highlight of the evening – the free food!
We were treated to a wide variety of sumptuous traditional Malaysian food, from the familiar and well-loved curry puff to the savoury Peranakan kueh and my personal favourite, goreng pisang. While we munched on the savoury goodies, we were treated to another wonderful performance – this time by Eugene and Timothy. This was followed by a Q&A session and a brief sharing session of Malaysia conducted by Timothy. (Did you know that Malacca is one of the most culturally-rich places in Malaysia? This was due to the fact that it was once ruled by the British, the Japanese,and the Portuguese. The Malaysian Peranakans also originated from Malacca; they were the offspring of the foreign traders and the local Malaysians.)
After the sharing session, we wrapped up the evening with a final thank you speech. Strangely, as soon as we left the Communal Hall, we were struck with a rather disconcerting feeling – it felt as though we had really left Singapore for a few hours and travelled to the Malaysian kampungs, only for us to finally return to reality again.
Photos courtesy of KE Vision.