Final farewell to Pak Teh
إِنَّا ِلِلَّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ
Surely we belong to Allah, and verily to Him do we return.
My maternal uncle, Haji Musa Bin Sulong — whom I call ‘Pak Teh’ — has passed away on Friday, February 24th, 2023.
Pak Teh was born in 1954 at Kampung Pahang, Pulau Tekong Besar. He was the sixth of twelve children to be born to my grandparents, Sulong Bin Yunos and Jariah Binti Salim.
He received his primary education at Sekolah Melayu Pulau Ubin, and continued his secondary education at Sang Nila Utama Secondary School. While waiting for his enlistment into National Service, he worked mining for granite at Pekan Quarry (also known as Ketuk Batu) on Pulau Ubin.
Pak Teh served as a firefighter in the Singapore Fire Service and was posted at Changi Fire Station. He would then embark on a career path within the civil sector throughout his adult life.
My mom had fond memories with her elder brother growing up on Pulau Ubin. They would play badminton together in the open courtyard outside their home, and sometimes they would also head to the open sea on their sampan to cast fishing nets and to forage for intertidal creatures at the Chek Jawa wetlands.
She remembered helping to wash and starch her brother’s khaki-coloured firefighter’s uniform, to the point where it would stiffen under the hot sun. Once it was dry, she would sprinkle some water on it before ironing it with a charcoal iron.
After moving to the mainland and having to fulfil their own new familial obligations, my mom and Pak Teh still maintained close ties with each other — all the way till his last breath.
He valued kinship. During my primary school years, I remembered the numerous times I had to pass the house phone over to my mom because Pak Teh called in. Sometimes, the siblings would spend hours just chit-chatting away. I also recalled how Pak Teh would come and visit us on the first day of Hari Raya every single year.
Pak Teh was enthusiastic of his Malay culture, too. He could read and write the traditional Jawi script eloquently, and just like my mom, he would constantly reminisce his kampung and its way of life on Pulau Ubin. He was particularly fond of pantun — a form of Malay poetry based on rhyming schemes — and we used to craft and exchange poems together during Ramadan, Hari Raya, and on his birthday. But alas, these will now become memories.
Thank you Pak Teh, for everything that you have done for us. Thank you for being proud of your Orang Pulau identity as much as my mom is proud of hers, and in sharing your stories with me when you were still around. You will be dearly missed.
May Allah SWT grant Haji Musa Bin Sulong the highest level of Paradise, and may He grant the family immense strength and patience during this difficult time. Till we meet again in the Hereafter, God willing.
Gemburkan tanah dijadikan sawah,
Sawah yang subur ditanam padi;
Walaupun jasadmu dikandung tanah,
Kasih sayangmu kekal abadi.
Plough the land into a rice field,
On fertile soil the paddy are planted;
As the earth reclaims your body,
Your love for us remains eternal.