Troupe drums up support to perform in France’s folk art fests

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 3 July 2017

Beating a path: The Orang Orang Drum Theatre and JB Drum Enterprise will be bringing the 24 festive drum performance to eight folk art festivals in France.

KUALA LUMPUR: A troupe of Malaysian Chinese drummers tirelessly raised enough funds to fly themselves to France this Wednes­day to perform at eight interna­tional folk art festivals from July 7 to Aug 22.

The team includes 20 profes­sional and part-time drummers from the Orang Orang Drum Thea­tre and JB Drum Enterprise.

“Whenever we perform overseas, people always ask if we’re from China or Taiwan.

“This is our way of showcasing the Malaysian Chinese story,” said Leow Sze Yee, 35, who is one of the more seasoned performers in the troupe.

“We’ve prepared four performances.

“Two are pure 24-festive drum performances while the other two are a fusion of the 24 festive drums with other Malaysian traditional folk instruments like the Malay kompang.”

Leow, who picked up drumming two decades ago, co-founded the theatre with her husband Boyz Chew, 36, in 2013.

Since then, the Orang Orang Drum Theatre has been invited to perform in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.

When the theatre received the invite from France last year, it extended the opportunity to the JB Drum Enterprise.

Founded in 2006, JB Drum often performed locally besides Singapore and China.

Leow added that their signature 24-festive drum performance, An Era, relates the story of Chinese immigrants in Malaya.

The two drumming groups raised about RM90,000 to fund their flight tickets to France.

Their foreign hosts will cover accommodation, food and local transport.

Leow’s younger brother, Damien, 29, who studied theatre in France previously, has been giving French classes to the troupe in preparation for the trip.

Tok Yong Shan, 18, the group’s youngest performer, is excited and anxious to participate in the six-week tour and visit Europe for the first time.

“We learned a bit of French but I don’t know if that’s enough to converse with the locals,” said the school leaver from SMK Taman Desa Skudai.

Tok picked up drumming after being pressured by her friends to join the 24-festive drum classes when she was in Form One.

Her friends eventually dropped out while Tok stayed on as her passion for drumming grew.

Upon their return, the group will be performing at the George Town Festival on Sept 1 and 2.

They presented a token of appreciation to their sponsors, including Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall yesterday.

Tan Chai Puan, who founded the 24 festive drums with the late Tan Hooi Song in 1988, was also present at the press conference.

At one with nature

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 28 June 2017

PUTRAJAYA: Cy­cling has led landscape architect Charles Teo to discover a hidden haven for birds in the administrative capi­­tal.

“It’s a peaceful place where many migratory birds have made their home.

“It shows that hu­­mans can bring back nature with proper planning,” Teo said when met at the Upper Bisa 1 in Pre­­cinct 16.

Storks, egrets and herons can be spotted roosting or nesting in Putrajaya Wetlands Park.

Teo, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, makes it a point every week to cycle and appreciate nature with his friends, or on his own to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Putrajaya is one of his favourite cycling spots as its parks are interconnected and safe.

It is also home to the largest man-made wetland in the country.

“I can appreciate the scenery, birds and architecture while I cycle,” he said, adding that joggers and cyclists throng some of the more popular routes here until midnight.

Teo believed it is important for town planners to create spaces where humans and nature can co-exist peacefully.

“Putrajaya is a good example. Before it was developed, this area was just made up of estates.

“Now, even within the city, there is this quiet space where migratory birds can call home,” he said.

Teo has suggested to Putrajaya Corporation to put up information boards about the city’s architecture so that visitors can better appreciate the significance of the buildings and bridges.

“Cycling then will not just be a recreational activity but also an educational experience,” he said.

Apart from parks, Teo also enjoys cycling along the coastal route in his hometown Penang, which stretches from the south of the island to George Town.

He plans to join the Ride for Malaysia cycling event on July 30 at Sunsuria City in Sepang, co-organised by the Star Media Group and property developer Sunsuria Bhd to inspire national unity and patriotism in the run-up to National Day.

The event is an opportunity for people of all ages and cultures to come together and enjoy the outdoors.

For more information and to register, go to For group bookings, call 03-7967 1388 and ask for Events.

A driving passion to care for senior citizens

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 12 June 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: As the founder of two old folks homes, Cheong Loy is responsible for the welfare of some 84 senior citizens.

Asked what it takes to run the homes, the humble businessman replied: “Not very much.”

Cheong, 64, was running a funeral parlour business at the Kwong Tong Cemetery in 1999 when he allowed former hospital patients to live on the floor above his parlour.

“They needed to visit Hospital Kuala Lumpur frequently. Upstairs was vacant so I let them stay, then it spread by word of mouth,” Cheong recounted.

When he accepted senior citizens abandoned by their families in public hospitals, the space evolved into the old folks home that it is today.

“It all had to do with the first lady resident, Siew Mun, who started cooking for the others. There were only about seven to eight people living upstairs then.

“If she had not volunteered to cook, we wouldn’t be able to accommodate more people,” Cheong said.

Now the Tong Sim Senior Citizens Care Centre houses 64 residents at its original site at Jalan Dewan Bahasa and another 20 at Kampung Baru Salak Selatan.

Cheong bought two pieces of land at Kampung Baru Salak Selatan and planned to move all the residents to the Chinese new village eventually.

He spent more than RM1mil to buy the land and build the facilities.

Cheong also hired two Indonesian maids to take care of the residents at Jalan Dewan Bahasa and a driver to send them to hospitals for check-ups.

Most of the residents at Kampung Baru Salak Selatan are capable of taking care of themselves whereas those in Jalan Dewan Bahasa require more care due to their medical conditions.

Some are mentally ill while many others are bedridden.

“The care we provide is not perfect but it’s the best we can do,” Cheong said.

Yet, he has been scolded by some who denied abandoning their parents at the home and instead accused him of meddling in their family affairs.

“I believe strongly in filial piety and gratitude. I don’t know what the parents have done to make the children behave like that.

“But I hope my children would carry on taking care of them,” said Cheong.

Abandoned and pining for family

by GAN PEI LING and LOH FOON FONG © The Star 22 May 2017

Good Samaritan: Tong Sim Senior Citizens Care Centre founder Cheong Loy checking on a senior citizen at the premises in Jalan Dewan Bahasa, Kuala Lumpur. The coffinmaker who runs the funeral parlour at the Kwong Tong Cemetery in Sg Besi started taking in abandoned elderly folk more than a decade ago.

EXCLUSIVE: KUALA LUMPUR: At first sight, it seems like most of them were just waiting to die.

The “normal” ones wear a forlorn look while those with mental illness stare into space.

These are the unwanted – senior citizens sent to old folks’ homes after being discharged from hospitals as their families do not want to take them home.

Most of the 50 residents at Al-Ikhlas Old Folks Care and Treat­ment Home at Kampung Pulau Meranti, Puchong, are bedridden.

They live with medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Sixteen caretakers look after them – feeding and bathing those with serious physical disabilities.

Former lorry driver Abu Abdul Talib, 52, lost the use of his right leg after being involved in a traffic accident in Singapore three or four years ago.

Resigned: Bored residents just sitting around at Tong Sim Senior Citizens Care Centre in Salak Selatan.

He was sent here from Hospital Kuala Lumpur as his family in Teluk Intan, Perak, could not take care of him.

A dark mood descended over Abu as he spoke about his family, who visit him irregularly.

“I have four children, three are still in school and one is working. My wife works as a babysitter to support the family,” said Abu.

Aladib Abdullah, 74, from George Town, Penang, broke down during the interview.

He is no longer on good terms with his ex-wife while his son and daughter take turns to visit him.

“I’m losing my memory. I cannot remember many things. I miss my friends. Please come and visit me.

“We’re suffering not because we don’t have food or drinks. There’s something we miss in life,” said the former employee of an English daily.

Better than hospital: A resident napping at Al-Ikhlas Old Folks Care and Treatment Home.

The mood is lighter at Tong Sim Senior Citizens Care Centre, where more residents are able to take care of themselves, at least partially.

Former butcher Hoo Chin Chan, 78, has been living at the centre in Jalan Dewan Bahasa for 11 years. This was after being discharged from UKM Medical Centre.

He was hospitalised for two to three months after a foot surgery and relies on a walking frame to get around now.

Hoo still visits the hospital for high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol checks. He has siblings but was not keen to talk about them.

“What more do you want to ask?” he said impatiently when asked more about his family history.

He only lightened up when the topic was switched to the living conditions at the centre, one floor above a funeral parlour.

“There’s nothing to complain. We’re given three meals a day and those who are fit can go out to buy food,” he said.

Hoo speaking at the Tong Sim Senior Citizens Care Centre.

Volunteers would take the residents out to restaurants for their birthdays.

The centre also hires a driver to take the residents to hospitals for check-ups and they get RM50 each a month as pocket money.

Voluntary Chinese medicine practitioners take turns to check on the residents every week.

“It’s better than staying in the hospital,” said Ng Thiam Hock, 59, who lives at Tong Sim Senior Citizens Care Centre’s second home, a two-storey house at Kampung Baru Salak Selatan.

After recovering from tuberculosis in 2015, Ng was sent from the Selayang Hospital to an old folks home in Seremban before being transferred thanks to a friend’s referral.

“I have four siblings but they have their own families, so I don’t want to bother them,” said the former construction worker.

“It’s better than when I was working and living alone. Most of us become friends after living here for a while.

“We cook and clean after ourselves. The volunteers help us with more difficult chores like cleaning the windows and changing the curtains,” he added.

Making room for unwanted parents…

by GAN PEI LING and LOH FOON FONG © The Star 22 May 2017

Restaurant owner Muji Sulaiman, 57, is another person who runs a home, entirely at her own expense.

KUALA LUMPUR: “Why don’t you just die? You are such a burden!”

This is among the hurtful things children say to their parents before abandoning them. And Cheong Loy has heard them all.

Cheong is the founder of Tong Sim Senior Citizens Care Centre in Jalan Dewan Bahasa. He says many parents are emotionally affected by the insults thrown at them by the children.

“Some will feel sad for a few days but will accept reality after about a week as other residents will also console them,” he said.

However, not all can cope with abandonment.

“We once had a lady who boasted about her son who worked as a chef. One day, he came and scolded her in front of everyone.

“I think that broke her heart. She died about two months after that,” he recounted.

Cheong began allowing former hospital patients to live on the floor above his funeral parlour at Kwong Tong Cemetery in 1999.

“Many of these people were not abandoned by their families. They just needed a place close to the hospital. Their children would visit often.

“Then, word spread about this place and those who had nowhere to go started living here. One lady started to cook for them. She has died, too,” Cheong recalled.

The number of residents has grown from seven to about 30 now.

Cheong hires two Indonesian maids to take care of the residents and a driver to take them to hospitals for check-ups.

“For those with family members, we will always try our best to send them back and advise their families to take care of them, but most just send them back to us,” he added.

In 2004, Cheong bought a piece of land at Kampung Baru Salak Selatan to provide a permanent and secure living space for the residents.

“I plan to move the residents to the Chinese new village eventually,” said Cheong, who does not accept cash donations from the public.

“I’ll only accept what we need. We donate the rest to single mothers or sell them if people donate without checking with us first,” said Cheong.

Restaurant owner Muji Sulaiman, 57, (pic) is another person who runs a home, entirely at her own expense.

For more than a decade, she has been taking in former hospital patients neglected or abandoned by their families, and looking after them until their deaths.

“If you don’t have the capability, don’t open a charity home,” said the former nurse sternly.

Muji set up Al-Ikhlas Old Folks Care and Treatment Home at a former surau in Kampung Pulau Meranti, Puchong, in 2003.

It is now home to 50 senior citizens, and Muji bears the monthly operational cost of RM50,000, including the salaries of 16 full-time caretakers.

“Some of their families found it too troublesome to look after them due to their medical condition. I had a lady who was left at the home’s doorstep.

“There are some who come in luxury cars to attend their parents’ funeral after their deaths. So, it’s not that they cannot afford it. They just don’t want to look after their own parents,” said the single mother of three.

…dumped when they are in need with nothing else to give

by GAN PEI LING and LOH FOON FONG © The Star 22 May 2017

PETALING JAYA: Kak Tijah* spent her entire retirement savings on her son’s wedding. When she fell ill, she was penniless. The son – and his wife – abandoned the older woman.

Susan* lent her life savings to her eldest child for business. She fell ill and was left in the hospital with no one to pay the bill.

These are just two of the many heartbreaking cases public hospitals have to deal with when family members refuse to take their now bedridden parents home.

“Some children genuinely cannot afford it but some are just irresponsible, and siblings push the responsibility to one another,” said a source from a public hospital.

The source said the hospital’s social work department has to deal with at least two such cases of unclaimed Malaysian patients every week.

Unclaimed foreign patients are dealt with by the hospital’s public relations department.

The source added that it is important for ready-to-be-discharged patients, especially those in emergency wards, to make way for new patients who need the beds more.

“If a Malaysian patient is sent in by a member of the public, and the doctors or nurses notice that nobody comes to visit them, the Social Welfare Department will try to locate their family members.

“If they have no documents, we will get help from the National Registration Department.

“If the family members cannot be traced or are not responsive, we’ll try to find friends, or a nursing home as a last resort,” the source said.

The abandoned are of any age – the youngest are babies and the oldest are in their 70s.

Most common cases are senior citizens in their 60s, who have medical conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s or physical disabilities due to accidents, stroke or other serious illnesses.

“Although they are ready to be discharged from hospital, most could still be physically or mentally ill, requiring extra care at home and periodic visits to the hospital.

“When they aren’t properly taken care of at home, they get sent back to the hospitals earlier than their scheduled appointments,” the source explained.

In such cases, the hospital’s social workers will try to counsel the family members to take better care of the patients and check if there are any issues at home.

However, if nobody comes forward to claim the patients, they will be sent to public or private nursing homes.

“The Welfare Department has a home for the end-life stage at Kuala Kubu Baru, but it is usually full.

“There are three to four charity homes we can send them to but these are always full too,” the source said.

(* not their real names)