Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chanting in your ears

This is another story from my grandmother's wake/funeral at the parlor; and it is not really any scary story but rather a bizarre one as it was a little something a few experienced.
Anyway, here goes...

My grandmother's funeral rituals were conducted the Buddhist way; although there was a touch of Taoism as well (don't ask me why just yet, let's just say, there's a confusion of religion among the people who organized it )
My maternal grandmother herself is a Taoist.

Anyway, the main ritual was supposedly Buddhism, and they are simple and fuss-free.
There is this speaker they turned on in the hall near the coffin, which plays the Buddhism chants on repeat mode.

As most of us descendants are there most of the time for the five days of the wake, we could constantly hear these chants. It's like the chants were just replaying itself or stuck in your mind forever as you listen to them.

That was the explanation I offered when my mum and two aunts told me about their story that they heard the chanting when they got home at night.
All of them were staying in the same house; the house that grandmother used to stay and they claimed that each of them heard the chanting on different accounts.
One of them heard the chants like it was being played directly near them when they were in the shower.

Another claimed that they heard the chanting in the bedroom as she was getting ready for bed.
And lastly, another heard the chanting in the living hall. Their claims were backed up by cousin sister who went home with them.
There was a point when all four of them were in the hall and they just heard the chanting sound exactly like it was played on the radio at the parlor!
They were chatting when they all heard it, and they all froze for a moment, thinking that only one of them heard it.

When they looked at each other, they knew that ALL of them heard it and there were only four of them inside the house.
They looked at one of the aunt who had this radio inside her room and she had this exact same tape which played the Buddhism chants as the parlor, and she used to play them quite often when she needs peace of mind. Of course, the last time she played it was when grandmother was in a critical condition in the hospital.

Everyone automatically gave her that look which did not say anything but somehow meant, "Was that your radio/tape?"
She shook her head, and she walked into her room and then came out saying, "I stopped playing the tape because my radio ran out of batteries. There is no way this sound came from my radio"

It was at that point everyone was speechless, and it was also at that exact same point when the chanting in their ears stopped.

When they told me the story, my mum suspected that it could be that grandmother followed them home and since she was being led the Buddhism way, she is being surrounded by prayers.

As usual, I do not take a doubtful or skeptical stand on something like this, but I can offer a simple explanation which is more scientific in nature.
When a specific sound goes on for a while and on repeat mode, it tends to stay on the mind for a while as it creates that kind of resonance/wave lengths (whatever that meant in physics, you can check that up).

Whether grandmother really followed them back or not, that is something none of us would ever know and I'd say to leave it at that.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Who's There?

I will probably do a post on funerals and rituals; following my own experience at a non-Christian funeral, but before that, I must share on stories which were shared by cousins and aunts during my grandmother's wake.

There's this cousin brother, let's just refer to him as B, who was always with grandmother. As his parents are running their own business/stall, he will be going to grandmother's place after school each day and therefore, they kept each other company.
I remember how grandmother used to tell us that B was a very good and obedient boy, and he would always eat anything that was served for lunch without complaining. He will also help to play the CDs or DVDs for grandmother or turn to her favorite channel, even if it means listening or watching some oldies that he had never heard of.
It was without a doubt that grandmother was quite fond of him and he too, was just used to being with grandmother.

When grandmother passed away, B was holding it back although tears were flowing down his cheeks, the poor boy.

Anyway, this is a story which B told us during the wake; which took place at this funeral parlor in Batu Lanchang.
There was a washroom located at the back of each parlor; the whole funeral parlor had 4 halls to hold four different funerals at the same time.
This washroom was attached to each hall.

The washroom was located all the way at the back but there was a small door that led to the kitchen and also another door where one can access the main hall, where the deceased lay.

B was having a drink and went to the kitchen to wash his cup; which was adjacent to the hall and also the main hall.
Take note that the kitchen faces the nearby cemetery. (Yes, the funeral parlor was located next to a cemetery)

When B was watching the cup, he heard someone called his name, "B, B" softly.
He thought it was his own mother, but he did not answer as he thought it was quite weird especially when the voice sounded more like grandmother!!
He was rooted to the ground and was scared as he knew that grandmother was just lying in the hall behind him, and he dared not look or run.
He just stood there, and the voice continued to call him, "B, B" but it slowly faded.
He said he felt frozen there, but when the voice could no longer be heard, he just ran out of the kitchen and back to the hall compound where the rest of us are.

He did not dare to walk to the back alone anymore, and each time he wanted to go to the washroom, he asked his dad to accompany him.
Furthermore, B was a rather timid boy and that incident clearly left him shaken.

Needless to say, he never walked into the kitchen anymore.

What do you say, was it grandmother, or was it another spirit?

People say that during the Hungry Ghost month, there are just endless wandering spirits everywhere and these wandering spirits have no home where they could go to, and relied only on the burnt offerings by the kind living by the roadside or at the temples.
These spirits could take on any form, and some of the spirits could be malicious too.
Never mind that in normal times we are often told not to simply answer when someone calls you softly when there is no one around; in places such as forests, dark alleys, and definitely not in funeral parlors/cemeteries, let alone now that this is during the Hungry Ghost month.

Thank goodness that B had that sense not to answer to that call, or who knows what could have happened to him.
Anyway, if it was truly grandmother, it was just probably her spirit coming to bid him farewell.

A Story of my Grandmother

It has been four months since my maternal grandmother passed away; and it seemed like yesterday when we saw her lying there on the hospital.
I was never really that close to this grandmother; maybe because we were far away and we only see her like once or twice a year since our childhood.

She had been battling with her rare blood disease for the past three years already, and as most of them are Taoists, they took faith in mediums and deities worships and have been traversing to consulting mediums on grandmother's fate.
The mediums helped in a lot of ways, or perhaps, scientifically it could be the doctors, but I will not choose to comment as I never take a stand to doubt the supernatural and what faith truly can do as I have experienced the power of faith before.

Anyway, I remembered how situation worsened by the year and there was this year (I think it was two or three years back), when grandmother's disease took a critical turn and she was just in so much pain. It took us several trips to the hospital, and for my mum, it was a long journey from KL to come and accompany her mother.
It was almost to a hopeless case, and grandmother did not seem to be getting any better.
All the aunts and uncles were frantically praying and rushing to the temples, and they consulted mediums from all these different temples.
There was this particular temple, which they frequent and I believed the deity was 'Tua Pek' and 'Jee Pek' (Grand Uncle and Second Uncle respectively), who are the guards or protectors of the underworld. They are two deities who are like constables; guarding the underworld and to supervise/control the wandering ghosts.
The appearances of the two deities are apparent; as 'Tua Pek' (Grand Uncle) is wearing a white tall hat; tall and skinny, and with a tongue hanging (it was believed that he died hanging himself) and 'Jee Pek' (Second Uncle) is shorter in appearance and in black.

The deities are trusted assistants of the King of Hades, and 'Tua Pek' is the Chief Inspector of Hades who always carries a fan, while 'Jee Pek' carries a chain.

These deities are sought for the past three years by the aunts and uncles who wanted divine help on grandmother's health condition. This included requests to prolong her lifeline.

I remembered during that time when grandmother was critically ill and there seemed to be no more hope, they rushed to the temple to ask for Tua Pek's help, to prolong the length of grandmother's life.
That included having someone in the family, who was born in the year of the Rabbit, to burn the amulet and rubbed it on grandmother's forehead.
I guess it worked, as grandmother soon recovered and she was alive and kicking for the next two years. (Before that, it was like every year, especially during the Ching Ming month or the Hungry Ghost month, grandmother would be unwell).

Anyway, of course everyone was glad that grandmother was finally fine, but there was just this one thing; grandmother seemed to have develop a few odd habits:
1. She will constantly look at the clock and ask, "What's the time now?"
2. She will always say she sees someone from the corner of her eyes in the quietest place of the house; i.e: kitchen, bathroom
3. She hears someone calling her, or someone is looking at her from her bedroom window
4. She constantly asks for her meals, even though she had just had her meal a few minutes ago.

She was not senile; though as she was fully aware of what was happening around her but her new habits just kind of spooked everyone out; especially the superstitious aunts who seemed to think that the Angel of Death or the guards from Hades are lurking around.
Anyway, the trips to the temple to consult the deities continued, and they were given amulets; one after another for grandmother's protection.

There was also a piece of advice handed out to them, to keep grandmother in the house most of the time, and not let her out especially during Ching Ming month and not at all during the Hungry Ghost month. It was also specific that she should not bump into any funerals whenever she goes out.
It was said that the above practices are due to the presence of the other wandering spirits, and particularly the guards/constables of Hades who would be around to guide the spirits. After all, grandmother was believed to have cheated death when her life was prolonged.

Anyway, all went well for the past two years, with minor admissions due to her blood disease, but never anything serious, until THIS year.
Grandmother was due for her medical check up which was like a routine, every two to three months where she had to go to the hospital per her schedule.
Now, you know how the elders really hate going to the hospital, it's like they sensed death whenever they are there.
My grandmother was no exception, but she did not really have a choice as she needed to obtain medication and also examination from the doctor to ensure that her condition is under control.

You know how it works at government hospitals, where the appointments are scheduled by the hospital and not by yourself. It does not matter when you are free, because you have to make yourself available or the date will just be rescheduled to a few months later ( a few weeks, if you are lucky).

Anyway, this year, she went for her check ups and then the next check up was towards the end of July; which coincided with the Hungry Ghost month (or the seventh month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar).
It was supposed to be a routine check up really, and when they found that her blood levels were low, they proceeded to do the routine blood transfer.
She needed three packets, and by the second packet, grandmother did not seem to be taking it too well and collapsed, in a seizure where the doctors and nurses had to rush her to the ICU immediately to resuscitate her.

She was placed in the unit for observation, and she remained in a coma. However, she suddenly woke up one day and was all well and healthy. She even mentioned that she wanted to go home already and that she was missing all her favorite food.
By the third day, everyone was looking forward to having her home, but she went into an arrest again, and was rushed to the CCU (for the cardio patients). It was there that she went into a coma and never woke up anymore for the next two weeks.

When I arrived at the hospital, I remembered seeing her in the ICU where she was being resuscitated for an arrest for the second time. That was the last time I saw her awake.
For the next week I went to the hospital every single day with my mother, as they were rotating in shifts to take care of the mother. My grandmother was widowed at a young age, and my mother only had her left since her father passed away.

I observed that grandmother was barely awake, but I saw her moving her hands and legs occasionally; which was brushed off as reflex. She constantly want to touch the tubes attached to her face, but we tried to keep her hands down. Mum frowned at all her actions, and it was only later that she told me why.
It seemed that my mum saw the same scenario when my great grandmother and grandfather passed away in the hospital.
The movements of the limbs; especially kicking of the legs are signs of the approaching Angel of Death who is probably nearby and they are just trying to get away from being taken by the Angel of Death.

Do you believe in being able to sense the presence of someone?
Honestly, I didn't, really, but I could tell you that I could sense, during that time in the hospital. The aunts and uncles were all drama kings and queens and they were all telling us about things they sensed, see and hear and most of it, to me, sounded like it was directly taken from the movies.
I am not being a skeptic, but trust me, when you have dealt with them long enough, everything, to them is a big deal and you just kind of get over everything to do with them.

Anyway, as I was saying, I just remembered feeling how grandmother was like, still struggling for her dear life, and I could just sense that she was just around the ward for a few days. Suddenly, there was this one day, I just couldn't sense her anymore, and it was also the day where I didn't see much movement from her anymore.
Maybe you could associate it to what I had seen; from her movement, but no, it had nothing to do with the obvious; it was really the sense.

Then we found out from the aunt who went to consult the medium, that grandmother's condition is getting critical and the medium predicted that the 14th and 15th of the Hungry Ghost Month was probably the most dangerous for her life. When they tried to beg the deities for more information and help to heal her, the deities (medium in trance) waved them away and told them that they were busy during that month.
The medium handed them only a gold-plated pendant this time, and told them there were no more amulets for them; there was just nothing much they can do this round as they can only leave it to fate.

I asked my mum, the meaning of the gold pendant; versus the amulet, and my mother shook her head sadly, telling me that an amulet means there is still protection against the underworld, and that the deities could still deter her from being taken away. When they don't give you an amulet, it means that there is nothing they can do.
How about the pendant, I ask?
The pendant is the highest honor given by the deity, and it is a form of prayer and blessing provided to reduce the suffering and to be on their way.

It was then I prayed; yes, grandmother may be a Taoist and I may be a Catholic, but that didn't stop me from praying so that she will not suffer from so much pain.

She survived on the 14th and 15th, although she did not wake up at all, but the machine still showed her pulse and heartbeat. However, the doctors have already given their opinions and told everyone to be prepared for the worst as there is nothing they could do if she does not wake up.
On Monday, which was the 16th of Hungry Ghost month and the 15th of August, grandmother was transferred to the normal ward in the late evening.
The normal ward was filled with patients, but grandmother was the only one in coma as the rest were just resting patients.

The ward seemed to be in pretty bad shape, and the power sockets located at grandmother's spot were not even working. She was placed in front of the medical/nurses counter, just like all the other ICU and CCU wards she was in the last few weeks.
However, things were not looking that good to me, and everyone in the ward seemed to be looking at my grandmother with such fear and anxiety in their eyes.

We went home that night, and in the middle of the night, mum and me were just finding it so hard to fall asleep, and we even had difficulties in breathing. Mum was practically having a lump in her chest that she was struggling with it and she kept telling me that she was just not feeling so well.
Just as I was sinking into deep sleep, my phone woke me up at 5a.m and I jumped up to pick up the phone.

I heard aunt's voice, telling us to rush to the hospital as the doctor informed that grandmother may not make it any longer. We rushed to the hospital and arrived at about 5.40a.m, and I noticed that her pulse and heartbeat were slowing down. The machine kept going off, getting on everyone's nerves and then when almost everyone is here except for one more aunt and uncle, grandmother's pulse seemed to have almost halted.
When that aunt arrived, grandmother's pulse totally stopped.
However, everyone screamed and told her that there is one more uncle.

I will not believe this if I did not see it with my own eyes, but it was like a miracle when there was a faint pulse detected although it was already a flat line for a few seconds!
When the uncle arrived and called her "Mother", the pulse was dead and it was at this time, the doctor arrived and they pulled the curtains around her bed while we waited.
We heard sounds and it was shortly after when I heard the doctor saying, "Record the time at 6.40a.m", it was then that we knew, she was gone, forever.

It was my first time, really, to be there on the spot and watch a close loved one pronounced dead. Although I was not really close to this grandmother, I was just filled with grief and sorrow to hear someone had just left the world.
My mum was holding it very well, and I guessed it was due to her own health as well.

We proceeded to all the necessary procedures; death certificate, transportation from the mortuary to the funeral parlor, and the funeral proceedings.

My mum then told me that she already had a very bad feeling that moment when grandmother was transferred to the normal ward, and I told her the same thing.
Mum further revealed that the patient next to grandmother's bed already told her that there was another patient who had just passed away that same morning before grandmother came and asked why was grandmother sent to the normal ward when she was in such a serious condition.

A lot of stories were slowly revealed as well, during the wake, about how grandmother may have met the Angel of Death.
An aunt mentioned that she brought grandmother out on the weekend, and she did not realize it was the first of the Hungry Ghost Month. The worse was that they stopped at a traffic light, and there was a wake/funeral going on at the adjacent house. They could not move the car away but they told grandmother to look away.

Another aunt mentioned that when grandmother was first admitted to the hospital and was well, there was another serious accident case which was sent to the same ICU ward and the young man was just a few beds away from grandmother's. Grandmother was very afraid and told the aunt to draw the curtains close. In a few minutes, the doctors pronounced the young man died; due to the serious brain hemorrhage.

Another aunt also mentioned that there was a death in all the wards grandmother was transferred to, and when grandmother was battling with dear life, they were relived that she was transferred to a different ward as that would 'confuse' the Angel of Death when they could not locate her.

Then there was one who mentioned that they smelt an odor when they were taking care of her in her comatose state, and that odor was confirmed by most aunts (including mum) that it was only found on the corpses. It was like the Corpse's Odor. Mum told me that whenever you smelt something weird in a hospital, never say a word or it could follow you for the rest of your lives.

There were all sorts of stories associated to the supernatural incidents or deductions they had when she was nearing her deathbed.
To me, I believe in God being the ultimate decision maker in our lives.
No matter how you hide, you can never run away from fate.

Life and death is something we can never control, honestly, and that we should just let it be.
If she was meant to live, she will live.
Furthermore, we should pray for her that she had gone to a better place, even if we mourn for her, for she is finally without pain and suffering and I am sure she would prefer that.

Rest in Peace, my grandmother... (16th August 2011)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spot Her!

I was sent this link to a YouTube video; featuring a Hong Kong commercial advertisement back in the 90's.
There were rumors that there were more than the intended number of children involved in the filming of the advertisement; with the main rumor saying that there were only six children but there was a part when they found a 7th girl behind the last boy who was looking down.

I played this video and watched it; trying to see what the story was all about and found that it was just a normal advertisement about the KCRC railway in relativity to their friendly services to the locals and the notion of using children in the advertisement is to show the commuters how simple and close the train company is to the commuters; similar to the game that children play; putting their hands on each other to form a train line.
KCRC is trying to send the message that they are reaching out to their commuters and that they are just friendly and relative to their commuters.

I have watched it a couple of times, and I still don't see the weird part about this advertisement at all; despite being told that there is an appearance of a 7th girl behind the last boy's back, at 0.26-0.27.

The Rumor
If you noticed right from the start of the advertisement, there seemed to be only six children playing the 'choo-choo' train game; there are 4 boys and 2 girls.

Nothing seemed to be wrong, and towards the middle of the advertisement; or as mentioned, at the 0.26-0.27 seconds, the last kid at the back of the line seemed to be a girl, rather than a boy.
Some of us may not have noticed it, but then in the last scene, you can see that the last kid in the line is actually a boy and not the girl.

Also, it was mentioned that the girl standing at the back of the line was looking down with her head bowed at the above mentioned second.

It was said that the last boy died shortly after the advertisement, and the locals linked it to the superstition of 'tapping hands on the shoulder' and in the forest where creepy things tend to happen.

KCRC was rumored to have only hired six children for this advertisement and that they were surprised when they aired the advertisement that there were seven children.

Anyway, as I could not find anything funny about the advertisement (I really tried!), I decided to try and do a little checking and research on my own.
I did my research online; Googled up the story behind this advertisement and also contacted my Hongkie friends to hear their side of the story, since this advertisement was reputed to be one of major rumors surrounding the country in the 90's; which was when this was aired on TV.

It was said that when it was aired on TV, it was taken off screen shortly which spurred rumors on that there was something creepy about the advertisement.
Imagine, at that time there was no Youtube yet and people had to wait patiently for the ad to appear and then count the number of children in it. Some even went to the extent of the recording the ad and playing it again and again!
(Thank goodness for the existence of technology and YouTube today!)

Thanks to the sources from Google and also my friends, I have managed to dig up a bit of information about this advertisement.
However, a disclaimer here; I am not able to speak on behalf of KCRC nor am I able to verify the rumors and these are only based on my findings.

I was unable to find much information from KCRC (For your information, KCRC is a railway service in Hong Kong and the abbreviation stands for Kowloon-Canton Railway Company), but I did come across a few forum threads discussing on this topic and, also sources from my friends.

Apparently this commercial was produced by KCRC and was aired on TV to promote their railway in the 90's, and it was scheduled to run for a period of time.
During its running period, there did not seem to be any rumor circulating around about the extra kid in the advertisement.

When the advertisement was taken down, that was where the rumors started whereby people started to say that there was an extra kid appearing in the advertisement and that KCRC probably realized it, hence the prompt removal of the advertisement from the national television.

People then started to talk about the advertisement, which also happened to be filmed in a forest and with its dark gray surroundings, as you can observe in the above video, made one associate the story to the supernatural (unbiased statement here).

The rumor started with the observation that there was supposedly six children appearing but somehow there was an extra appearance of a little girl behind the last boy in a scene. As the little girl kept her head bowed down in the commercial compared to the other children who were smiling brightly at the camera, she was reputed to be the 'ghost'.
Furthermore, the last scene seemed to lay the concrete on the rumor when it was obvious that the last kid was a boy!

There were lots of views on this rumor; and let's separate them into the supernatural and also the logical explanation part.
Supernatural Explanation
There was indeed a ghost, who was the girl behind the last boy because she held her head down most of the time and only appeared in one of three scenes.
1. The 1st scene showed that there were 6 kids, and the last kid was a boy. Then the middle scene as they marched towards the camera, there seemed to be another girl behind the last boy and she was just looking down. The last scene again showed that there were only six kids and that the last kid was indeed a boy.

2. The setting was in a forest, and the place looked a little gloomy, which usually could be a base for the supernatural scene.

3. All the children were always focused on the camera; and only the girl kept her head bowed down when they were supposed to face the camera directly in the middle scene.

The Logical Explanation
1. Bad editing; the order of the children kept changing throughout the advertisement, despite the short period of time.

2. KCRC probably hired more than 6 kids; and the director probably used different kids to achieve better results in the advertisement. There may be more than 6 kids, and at different points of time, the director probably arranged them differently and used more kids.

3. The little girl looking down could be seen in the earlier scene; the one in pink and with ponytail and not a ghost, as rumored. Furthermore, she was probably looking down at that point because she wanted to make sure she did not tread on the shoes of the boy in front of her.

My take/opinion on this whole story?
Well, if you ask me, I have to pick the logical part for this one, as first of all, I don't really see anything wrong with the advertisement and I would attribute the overall confusion to the editing process of the commercial.
I just don't really think that a little girl's ghost could appear so clearly and visible in an advertisement and also at the same time, looks like one of the girls in the advertisement.
(Yeah, you can consider a doppelganger, but that was not the point of the story in the first place).

I think there was just a little illusion involved, and it may be associated with the editing process by the production team. They may not be detailed enough to notice the parts of the editing which went wrong with the advertisement and probably they did not double check before they air it on TV.
When production filming takes place, there are always more than a few shots taken and the director may change his mind to alter the image portrayed in the advertisement (it is a lot of pressure when filming an ad). Perhaps the director's indecisiveness was not properly communicated to the editing team, who also went with their own professional opinion to fit in the best shots into the commercial.
After all, this was scheduled to run on national television, and should be artistically portrayed.

Whether the children or that particular kid died or not, there was no sound confirmation from any source, and therefore I will not comment.

However, sometimes, I believe the human mind can play a lot of games; and can make one believe what one wants to believe.
The girl has appeared in the other parts of the advertisement, and I still think she is just as human as the rest.

So, my conclusion? Editing and also mind illusion.
If you are not happy, well, maybe you can form your own conclusion and to aid you in this, you can also do more research and share with me.
I would love to hear from anyone who can shed some light on this story.

Additional information
You might be interested to check out some of these forum discussions:
The HK KCRC commercial; 6 kids or 7?
Extra Girl Ghost in KCR commercial
HK KCRC commercial

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pillars of a Building

Living in the modern and advanced 21st century surrounds us with tall buildings and skyscrapers everywhere we looked.
These skyscrapers and buildings have pushed out remnants of the past, and are now the icons which grace the skylines of our cities today.

Most of the time, we are in awe as we looked up at these buildings, but have we ever wondered how these buildings come to stand as tall as they are, from the flat land that used to stand in their place?
We have seen construction taking place when we drive around, or even walk past a building during its establishment phase and we see yellow helmets bobbing up and down; through the bamboo stick frames set up and perched on the ground, with an occasional shout from the half-complete concrete walls.
A familiar scenario, and sometimes just watching these men balancing themselves or walking around the eerily shaky poles makes one wonder whether they are safe or what happens when there is a mishap or if one is not careful; especially when most of these buildings are usually completed within a short period of time.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

The following story is contributed/shared by a loyal reader whom I now call my friend, Stan.
This is something which was experienced by Stan's friend, on a construction site of an upcoming mall. For the sake of the story, let's refer to his friend as Dan *
(*not actual name of the eyewitness).

Dan had an appointment at this mall which was still in its construction phase. When he arrived at the building, he was told to park his car at the lower basement of the car park; at B2. There were lots of cars parked at that level as well; including that of the workers and maybe vendors who are there for meetings.

He then proceeded to his meeting on B1; to meet up with his customer and when he arrived there, it was about 10.00am.

The meeting was short, and in a brief moment, he was getting ready to leave. He walked down to B2, and at that point, he needed to go to the toilet very badly, and since it was a construction site and he did not want to go to the inconvenience of going all the way upstairs again, he decided to just pee near one of the pillars in the car park in B2.

After easing himself, he got into his car and started driving towards the exit from the car park, which was located at B1.
When he reached the B1 level, he was surprised by the total darkness which greeted him and he could barely see anything.
He thought that he must have driven to the wrong level of the car park, and decided to drive back to B2.

When he descended to B2, he was no longer surprised but shocked when he saw that there was not a single car in sight!
(Remember I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of cars parked there? Furthermore, it was in the morning)

He was terrified and badly shaken yet he tried to drive to B1 again to seek help from the people at the site office, and no surprise when he saw that B1 was covered in total darkness and there is no site office in sight. In fact, the whole place did not seem like anything he saw when he was there moments ago.

Dan started to panic when he was driving around and he frantically tried to find the exit but there was no light in sight. The whole place seemed like it was thickly blanketed with darkness and nothing seemed familiar to him, at all!
He must have been driving around the whole place for what seemed like hours, and he was badly shaken by now.
Feeling scared and at the same time, anxious to get out of the place, Dan suddenly started uttering words of prayer which he knows.
He prayed and prayed, while he continued driving up and down; traversing between B1 and B2, in rounds, yet still covered in darkness.

Suddenly he saw a speck of light coming from a distance, and he stopped his car and got out.
He ran like a madman towards the faint light, and when he finally reached the light, he realized that it was emitted from the fire exit.
Without hesitation, he grabbed the door and ran up the staircase as fast as he could and grabbed the first door open.

This time, to his relief, he was greeted by a normal bustling scene of people and cars!
There were people walking around, and cars driving as though nothing unusual happened at all. He was so relieved and yet exhausted by his traumatizing experience that he just sat down in the midst of the busy scene to catch his breath and relax.

While he was trying to calm and recollect himself altogether, he was greeted by his customer; or rather, the site manager who was walking past and asked him about still being there when he had already left at 10.30am; which was two and a half hours ago.
Surprise, at that moment, it was already 1.00pm!!
(Guess he was not wrong that he had been driving for hours)
The manager was also surprised at his disheveled state; not to mention him drenching in sweat.

Dan started explaining the whole incident; ignoring the fact that he is probably going to sound like a crazy lunatic then and the manager just listened in patience, and surprisingly, without uttering a single word.
Upon hearing his story, the manager told him that he will arrange for someone to get his car from the car park which Dan thankfully agreed.

When the worker returned with his car, Dan thanked the manager promptly and almost instantly sped out of the building!
I don't think we can blame him for that!

Dan was probably left to forget and get over his trauma for a few years, and probably never to recall the incident had he not met up with the site manager again, by chance a few years later.

It was then that the site manager shared with him on the facts and stories about the construction, which shed light on his experience.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

During times of construction, there are times when the developer or the project owners have to complete the building within a short period of time.
Times like these call for desperate measures and in speeding up the construction process, the safety of the workers may not be considered. In fact,there may not even be specific safety guidelines to govern the behavior or to ensure that the workers are working in a safe environment; despite the laws set by the government.

There are some unscrupulous contractors who hire illegal immigrant workers whom they pay at a low price to help in the construction. It is no surprise why they will do that as illegal immigrants are not registered nor are they protected by the law, and there need not be much compensation or benefits for them as they themselves are afraid of being exposed and risk being sent home to their poor countries.
As such, most of the time, these workers will be treated with disrespect and not properly equipped with the gear and equipment to do the job.
Sometimes, due to their inexperience, may meet with fatal mishaps at their workplace.

How do they deal with the deaths which occurred at the work sites, you wonder?
Now, comes the spooky part; as the site manager reveals to Dan.
When these workers met with fatal accidents at the work site, their deaths are concealed as a secret by burying them underneath the piles of concrete and stones which build the very foundation of our buildings!
The reason is simple, when they are rushing to complete a building, accidents and deaths are deemed as potential showstoppers if they were reported.
The reports will lead to investigations and surveillance of the work sites, and these can lead to an order to cease all work immediately.
This may cause delay in their construction, and as such, loss in profits in huge sums of money.

Therefore, these unethical contractors will not reveal nor report any such incident and instead choose to deal with them in their own ways.
They will dispose the bodies in the most convenient way possible, and that means, burying these injustice deaths underneath the pillars of concrete, sand and stones which form the building.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

Now, you understand the reason why Dan was being haunted when he was in the car park? He 'peed' on one of the pillars, which probably was the grave of one of these workers and his act was deemed as disrespectful to the spirit.

These are probably restless spirits, and these pillars are regarded as their eternal resting places.
So, the next time you want to ease yourself of your full bladder, please be wary of the 'unseen' resting in these places, and just use the designated washrooms/toilets.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Heads or trails...

The Japanese occupation during the World War II had left lasting effects on most of the countries they landed on; even way after the war has ended.
In fact, you will be surprised to learn that there are still remnants of the occupation found in some of the places where some of the killings took place, haunting and lingering among the living.

I have heard of so many stories revolving around the hauntings and sightings of the Japanese past, existing in the present day. It is like they never left, even centuries after the end of the war, reminding the generation today of the terrifying incidents of the war.

The short story I am about to share is from a third party (a friend of a friend), who experienced a bizarre and disturbing incident during his stay in a hotel in a remote place in China.

He was traveling with his wife to this part of China, for sightseeing and relaxation and they booked a hotel. There was not much of a choice anyway, as the place here is rather isolated and they were not fussy with their place of accommodation as their primary purpose is to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the place, and the amount of time they spend in the room is secondary to their tour.
Furthermore the room they checked into was quite good, and therefore they left their luggages and started their tour of the place.

At night, they went back to the hotel which had two beds, and feeling tired, they just slept together on one of the beds.

In the middle of the night, the husband was slightly stirred by some movement at the side of the bed where he also heard some sounds.
He moved over to the side of the bed to take a look, and to his amazement (not to mention shock), he saw a rather transparent and grayish face looking back at him.
He then jolted up with a shock as he saw that it was a head (only!) of a Japanese soldier, with blood on his eyes and face.

He rubbed his eyes, and realized that it was still there!
He was unable to move although he tried with all his might to wake up his wife, but he just simply could not move nor speak!
The head just remained there, and it seemed like forever it was fixated in the air.

When he could finally move, the head sort of disappeared into thin air.
He turned and noticed his wife, looking scared and shaken, and apparently, she had seen the head too!

They were both badly shaken by that sighting and quickly turned on all the lights in the room.
Needless to say, they were unable to get back to sleep that night.

The next day, they went to the reception to relate the incident and to request for a change of room.
The guy manning the desk did not seem surprised when they told him the story, and apologized that the hotel was already fully booked and they were unable to change their room.
The guy also further revealed that it was due to the full occupation of the hotel that they opened up their restricted floor for guests, and that the room which they were occupying at that time was located on that floor.
It seems that the floor was closed due to some supernatural reasons, and that there have been reported sightings of Japanese soldiers.

Hearing this, the couple was freaked out, but the guy told them that these spirits are only appearing because they feel that their space has been intruded.
Also, the hotel has provided two beds in the room as one of the bed is reserved for the spirits and that the couple only need to sleep in the other bed to avoid any disturbance.
The reason why they saw the head the night before was probably because they picked the wrong bed, and that bed was the one which belonged to the spirit.

The couple had no choice, but to stay on for the second night although they were still fearful of the incident repeating again.
They tried to avoid staying in the room as much as possible and spent most of the day in the town, and only going back to the room for sleep (which they would prefer to skip if they had a choice, but the town was just quiet as well at night).

That night, they hopped to the other bed to sleep and cuddled up to each other tightly, not daring to look at any direction. They stayed awake for a while before finally falling asleep due to exhaustion.
When they opened up their eyes, it was already the morning and they were relieved and thankful that they survived that night without any disturbance.

They continued to stay for another night, to finish up their itinerary, and was relieved to finally check out.
They thanked the receptionist for his help, but he shrugged, telling them that is was a normal phenomenon and that usually the hotel will not choose to open up the rooms on that floor to avoid extra requests and complaints.
He also told them that the hotel was built on a site which had reported killings of soldiers during the Japanese occupation and that the hotel was occasionally haunted by the sightings of Japanese soldiers.

Nevertheless, the couple was glad to be finally leaving the place and going home.
I would too, if I were them, but I am still amazed they could continue staying there after the sighting that night!
I would probably book the next flight out, or if not, I would choose to stay in the lobby! :-P

Spooked, or Stay?

There are various stories I have heard which revolves around hotels, motels or vacation accommodations everywhere; be it local or overseas.
I have recently heard of a few more stories; really short and simple but I find it rather bizarre and how amazing some people can be taking things like these so well.

Most of the stories I have heard revolve around disturbances experienced during stays or some even to the extent of actual sightings!
Some would be too spooked to continue their stay, but I have also heard (and impressed) by the bold ones who chose to stay and ignore, no matter what happens.
Those who chose to stay usually share that the location is rather remote, or there are no other hotels around. Some also involves the trip itinerary and their flights out of the location they are visiting.
Some could be even due to budget constraints.

Whatever it is, I think it is a personal decision or a choice the eye witnesses have to make; as sometimes they are the only ones who encountered the spooks and only they know the extent of their fears.

However, sometimes I do wonder, to what extent can some take the spooks level.

I am going to share a short story here for you to judge, whether you can take it to stay another night.

Story: Disturbance in an apartment
This couple went on a vacation with their family and relatives to the east coast of Malaysia, and they traveled to a rather remote area of the state.
They booked an apartment to share with their family and relatives, and they were a rather big group, so it was all a merry environment.

When they checked into the apartment, they noticed there was a chair in the bathroom; which was rather odd, to be honest, but they just moved the chair away.

Anyway, as they were hustling and bustling to settle down, they heard noises coming from the bathroom and everyone turned to look.
They saw the bathroom door latch/hinge locking and unlocking itself repeatedly.
Everyone was speechless, and they just kept quiet.

They stared at the door, and it was obvious no one was standing there nor could there be any way anyone could do that to the door!
The door latch just lifted itself and dropping into the latch, and this just kept repeating itself.

Some were spooked, but they just ignored it as there is simply no other place to stay around that area as it was really isolated. Furthermore, they have already booked the place for their trip and moving out in groups could be inconvenient and so, they decided to stay back, as they didn't think there would be much trouble when they are in a big group.

Things didn't really escalate as well, which was rather fortunate, and they went to bed that night, with everyone sleeping everywhere in the apartment.

They turned the lights out when they tucked in that night, and everyone slept really soundly.

The husband woke up in the middle of the night and was surprised to see ALL the lights turned on. He was bewildered, and yet, in that half awake state, stirred his wife awake and asked, "Why did you turn on the lights?"

The wife, who was sleepy at that time, just answered him, "No, I didn't, No ONE did...we switched it off just now when we went to sleep!"

They realized that when the guy asked about the lights, even before the wife answered, the lights just turned off automatically and the whole apartment was in pitch darkness again!

Guess what, they just went back to sleep!

That was about the incidents which happened to them during their stay, and I am amazed that they could withstand these spooks.
Yeah, they may not be very damaging nor very spooky, but hey, if it was me, I would probably pack and run off immediately!

That's me, what would you do, if it was you?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Heating it Up

Some of us do travel quite a bit; especially when it comes to work-related trips, although there are also those who plan and make time for their personal trips.
(I am not referring to myself here :-P )

Typically when it comes to business trips, the perks are the 5-star hotels we will be staying in which we get to enjoy the comforts of home in a luxurious environment; not to mention the facilities located within the building itself.

On business trips, typically we get a room to ourselves, and trust me, sometimes it may be a good thing and sometimes, not really.

I recently heard stories from some of my hubby's friends who shared about their very own encounters in hotels; some are from overseas and some in our very own country!

I have one short story here on a business trip; where this person, let's call her J, who experienced something on her business trip to Singapore a few years ago.

It was a company trip; and her whole department were checked into the same hotel.
Each of them was assigned a room to themselves; which was quite a privilege.

J was uncomfortable to find that her room was at the end of the corridor; near the emergency staircase area. She never did like last rooms; as it is often so deserted.

She was quite tired from the flight and also the day's events, and went to bed.
She heard lots of noises from the outside; doors opening and closing and people walking, even in the middle of the night.

She brushed it aside, as she thought that they were guests from other hotel rooms who were probably enjoying their nightlife a little too late into the night.

After all, it was pretty normal for anyone to hear doors closing and opening at any time whenever you are staying in hotels, right? They are filled with occupants anyway.

She felt weird inside the room anyway, but she told herself not to think of anything.

She had a weird encounter, during her second week of stay in that room.

She was back from her meetings, and was getting ready to take bath.
She stepped into the bathroom and took a relaxing bath.
As she came out of the bathroom, she was surprised to see the electric jug kettle boiling with water and it just turned off automatically; as most electric kettles do when the water is boiled.
She was amazed and bewildered at the same time, as she was pretty sure that she did NOT turn on the electric kettle at that time.
She did not want to think too much about it, and she even thought positively about the whole incident like, "Hey, whoever is doing it, spirit or not, is just so considerate to make sure she has hot drinking water!"

Besides that incident, there were no major incidents that she could recall except another time whereby she caught the water heater in the bathroom being turned on.
Again, this spirit must be really concerned with the temperature inside the room, huh?

She stayed inside that same room for almost a month, and she sleeps with all the lights turned off at night, but she did not face any disturbance.

Honestly, I am really impressed with her courage to be able to stay inside the room for so long!
I think I would have probably requested for a room change when I saw the electric kettle incident, but then again, I do agree with the optimisim, that at least the spirit did not mean any harm and was often helping her out.

It is always good to be positive and to stay calm when in situations like these, although I must say that it is easier said than done.
When you are in the situations like these, you will not be able to just sit and think calmly sometimes.

I find this story really interesting, and not really the typical spooks type.
A good one to amuse my readers after a long break :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New spooks on the way!

I've just gotten back to blogging after my busy hectic schedule of wedding planning for the past few months, and I think, this is one of the most neglected blogs; which is totally unjust to some of my loyal fans and followers of this blog.

Anyway, I have good news to share; I have just gotten hold of not one, but a couple of good stories on spooks and personal encounters.
Besides spooking you guys out, I am also working on some cultural and tradition-based articles to share my experiences and knowledge with everyone.

It's a great thing to be back, and I have gotten around to updating most of my blogs, and now, it's time to revive this blog!

Thank you, if you have been patiently waiting for the resurrection of this blog, as you were not wrong, it is NOT abandoned!

Stay tune, a story coming up soon! ;)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Meaning of Names

Names are what we are known by, and called or referred to by our friends, family, relatives, co-workers, and even strangers.
Our name is the first reflection of our identity and the glimpse into our characters.

Have you ever wondered why we have the names that we do, or why our parents/grandparents spend time and put so much thought into selecting the best name for the babies before they were even born?

Some even went to the extent of consulting a medium, priest, astrologer/feng shui master or anyone in the religious authority to determine the name to suit their children based on the date, year and time of birth.
For Chinese, there is also the association with the zodiac year in which their childen are born to ensure that the right name is selected for their child.

It is all for a simple reason; besides identity is the association with the future and the good fortune of the child.
Really, it is just THAT simple.

However, the naming part is the one that could be slightly more complicated as there are just so many characters in each language; particularly the Chinese which could go up to more than thousands of characters and words.

I was having this conversation the other day, and it just hit me that I should just write an article on this, and do a quick research on the association of names and the future of the folks with great names.

Guess what? I have a list of names that can prove the theory above; that name can indeed determine the future of a child/person.
It is no wonder why most of the cultures place so much importance on the names of their offsprings as no parent would want a dim future for their child.

Even if you were to take off the superstitious and hopeful part, it is also wise and necessary to select a name that would be decent to spare your kid from the humiliation at school when other kids would make fun of his/her name.

In the olden days, Chinese farmers would tend to name their kids after animals or flowers. It is not something to laugh about, as then, not everyone had the luxury to receive any form of education, let alone higher education and thus, they do not know of the words/characters and just take it the easy way.
Furthermore, naming their sons 'Ah Ngau' (translates to Cow/Ox) means they hope for their son to be as hardworking as an ox while naming their daughters 'Ah Fa' (translates to flower) expresses their hopes for their girl to grow up beautiful and loved by everyone.

Names do hold a significant meaning/power over a person's fate/destiny in life, whether you like to believe it or not.
I am not urging for you to believe nor am I promoting/encouraging astrology calculations to decide on a name for your newborn.
I am not a huge believer myself, but I have indeed seen very good cases where the name brought success to the person.

I used to hear my parents tell me of this particular doctor whose Chinese name literally means 'drop/strip off underwear' and guess what, he is a gynaecologist!

Let's look at some celebrity examples:
Jackie Chan's chinese name is Seng Long; which translates to Successful Dragon. It was not his original name per se, but look at where he is today; tracing all the way back to his beginner days as an unknown stuntman.

Chinese names usually are selected based on the entirety of the meaning and also the compatibility of the birth date.
Usually Chinese names for boys contain words/characters like:
Seng - Success
Hock/Fook - Luck
Fatt/Huat - Prosperity
Loong - Dragon (Power and authority)
Hong/Kin - Health
Sui - Wealth

For girls:
Sam/Sum - Heart/Nobility/purity
Mei - Beauty

For English names, usually they take after famous people, or for Catholics, they take on patron saint names for their children to ensure they are blessed and patronized by the holy saints and angels.

Every name given is with thought and careful consideration, and I have seen more than enough examples; particularly of Chinese ancestry which had proven this point.
(I won't go too much into the western/English or names from other cultures as that would be too lengthy)

In my family, there are several examples already, but for privacy reasons I won't reveal the full name nor the relationship of the person to me.
Chinese Name means Golden Complete Circle/Reunion and yes, this person has a decent and complete life with a complete family (wife and kids), a job, car, house and decent salary to bring him through his life.

Smooth Fortune: This is a very lucky and fortunate person as he can win almost anything or get anything he want if he tried/participate.

Far Foresight/thinking: This person has displayed extraordinary calmness even in the most panicky situations. Furthermore, most of his plannings never went wrong.

Heart of a flower: Unique and rare, and yes, she is one who seeks to be recognized as an unique individual and not to be lumped as the majority.

Smooth and let it be: the person is the most carefree that I have seen, and nothing worries him at all because he does not care too much about anything in the world and just lets nature takes its course.

Now, moving away from the names in my family and celebrities like superstar Jackie Chan, there are also names in Christianity/western culture which are worth looking into:
Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most influential and respectable figures in history, and uniquely, his name Mahatma means 'one of a great soul, one respected for his spirituality'.

Just another one for thought, Bill Gates, which I have just realized and associate...isn't he the one turning on the tap or opening(gates) opportunities for the $$ (bills) to flow in?
That is a nice thought and association, ain't it?

Each name given is selected based on much care, thought and consideration and reflects on our parents' hopes, faith and prayers for us in our lives.
We should be thankful for their time and efforts.

Your name is yourself, and be yourself, and don't let yourself be affected by the superstition alone.
If you love your name, good for you...and if you dislike your name, too bad, but you can change it if you want.
Always remember, you can change your first name if you don't like it, but your surname is something that you can never be rid of unless you want to disown your own family.
That would be disowning who you truly are, as a tree can never be without its roots.

I hope to continue another time on this interesting topic, and do drop me your thoughts if you have any.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Dumpling Festival aka Dragon Boat Festival

The fifth day of the fifth lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar is dedicated to the Dumpling Festival/Dragon Boat festival, or also known as the Duanwu Jie (端午节) in Chinese (Mandarin).

The day falls on the 6th of June this year (what a pure coincidence!); which was yesterday.
As the name suggested, the festival is largely associated with the dumplings (food) and the dragon boat (activity) which formed the celebration of the festival.

The festival and the notion of dumplings and dragon boat takes us back to the early periods; BCE (Before the Common Era) during the existence of the warring states; 278 BCE, in ancient China.
As this is a Chinese festival, it is no surprise that the whole thing started from China.

The famous icon believed and popularly attributed to the origin of this festival is a poet and an official, Qu Yuan (屈原) who was serving the king of the ancient state of Chu, in the warring states period of the Zhou Dynasty. He was of royal descent and served the government. He opposed to the ruler's decision to form an alliance with the powerful Qin forces at that time, thus incurred the wrath of the king who sent him away on exile based on the allegations of treason.
When the Qin took over the capital of Chu and the kingdom, Qu Yuan was distressed and ended his life by jumping into the river.
His death was mourned by many who had supported and liked him, and they made lumps of rice to throw into the river where he died to distract the fishes from feasting on his body.
There were also some who went to the extent of rowing their boats to uncover his body and at the same time, scare away the fishes in the river.
He was dearly remembered for his loyalty and also for his poetry, which were mostly written during his time in exile.

The acts of the lumps of the rice, led to the notion of the dumplings today, while the boat rowing/paddling led its way to the dragon boat race today.

Other Sources of Origin
Qu Yuan remained the most popular figure to be associated with the origin of this festival, but there were places in China; i.e: Zhejiang which also commemmorates the filial piety of Cao E who tried to rescue her father and drowned to her death while doing so.

In short, most of the sources and stories related to the origin had something to do with the notion of loyalty/filial piety and included suicide/death in the river, and the acts of trying to protect the body from the fishes.

Rice Dumplings
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
The notion of dumpling came from the lumps of rice, which is now largely associated with the glutinous rice dumplings; also known as Zhongzi (粽子) in Mandarin or also Zong 粽 in Cantonese.
The rice dumpling is usually wrapped in bamboo leaves; in a triangular or tetrahedral shape.
The glutinous rice is the main part of the dumpling, and is usually cooked by stir-frying.

The traditional zong/zhang (Hokkien) is composed of black mushrooms, salted egg yolk, pork, chestnuts, and may contain traces of dried scallops/shrimps too.

The making of zhang/zong is a long and tedious process, and usually take a few hours and is a family activity (like all Chinese festivals) in the olden days.

There are also different types of zong with their fillings available, such as red bean paste, mung bean paste, chicken, or sometimes, no filling at all which requires the dumplings to be eaten with sugar or sweet syrup.

Dragon Boat Race
The paddling of the boat to search for the poet's body or to scare away the fishes gave birth to the idea of the dragon boat race which coincides with the celebration of the festival.
The notion of the dragon came about due to the period of the dumpling festival which occurs during the summer solstice, where the day presides longer. As the sun is often associated with the yang energy and also the iconic dragon, thus the boat race came to be known as the Dragon Boat Race, a symbol of the weather.

The Dragon Boat race is an annual event in a few countries like Malaysia, Singapore and China.

The dragon boat race is most popular and garnered much public attention in Malaysia; which usually takes place in Penang, an island located in the northern region off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia where most of the professionals participate to win the tournament every year.
Even schools sent their best teams to partake in the exciting race which attracted not only the foreigners but also local tourists from all over Malaysia to make that trip to the state to watch the race in action.

Public Holiday
The festival is observed as a public holiday in China and states in the republic; which includes Taiwan, Macau and China.

This year, in Malaysia, we were fortunate enough to have the festival coincide with the public holiday replacement of the king's birthday which fell on Saturday, and thus some of the companies replaced the holiday for their employees on the following Monday which was the day of the festival, thus making it a longer weekend :)

For more on the Zong (food), please refer to my food blog :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vesak Day in Malaysia

Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
Vesak Day, or Vesakha is a Buddhist festival observing the birth, enlightenment and the death of Gautama Buddha, all on the same day.

The celebration of Vesak Day falls on the first full moon in the month of May; which is also the 15th day in the Chinese Lunar calendar. The name Vesak is derived from the name of the month in the Indian calendar (Siddharta Gautama Buddha is an Indian prince).
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

The festival is celebrated in several countries around the world; which observe it as an annual national public holiday. It was traditionally observed by countries like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and also South East Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and also Malaysia.

I did not travel out of the country (perhaps someday I should) to participate in the festival celebrations or to experience how it is observed in other countries, but I think the festival is already observed with much importance in my own homeland.

I am not a Buddhist, but I was honored to be able to join in the celebrations with the devotees who woke up early in the morning to visit the temple, or the Buddhist Association; in this case, the association in Penang (located on Burmah Road).
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

Being early means one get to avoid the massive crowd which will form later in the day, and also to be able to see the setup and preparations of the volunteers for the big event; which included the prayers, blessings and also the parading of Buddha statue on the streets.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

It is not uncommon to spot stalls selling fresh flowers, candles (lotus shaped), and joss sticks on the roadside on this day; whichever temple or association centre you go to.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

Vesak Day is a religious festival, and is viewed as a very important celebration in the Buddhism context as Buddhists are to reaffirm their faith in Buddha's teachings besides the three momentous events; birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

Emphasizing on peace and nobility of life in serving others, Buddha called on his disciples/followers to do the same, through the observation and daily practice of the Five Percepts; which focuses on the commitment of abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxication and to adhere to the teachings of life towards humility, morality and simplicity.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

On important festivals/events such as Vesak, the Eight Percepts are observed, as an addition to the Five Percepts, but they are based on the moral guidelines to lead a more honorable life according to the messages preached by Buddha.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

Typically, as I was told, there are rarely joss sticks used in the worshipping of Buddha, but on Vesak Day, joss sticks, candles, fruits and flowers are offered to Buddha (the joss sticks are not allowed at the altar or inside the building though).
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

There is a meaning to the joss sticks and flowers offered, and is again, in line with the teachings of Buddha.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

It is based on the concept that nothing stays for eternity, and that there is always change revolving around all matters. Joss sticks are burnt and then there is nothing left but ashes, and flowers do not stay in bloom forever as they will wilt, dry and fall to the floor. It is the same with life, no one stays immortal nor young forever, we are also subject to death and objects around us could also be destroyed.
Therefore, people are urged to appreciate what is present and also not to do harm unto others.

The celebrations of Vesak Day also traditionally start before dawn, whereby devotees are called to the temples to assemble and witness the raising of the Buddhism Flag.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

Then there are Buddhism hymns sungs, which are verses from the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha; all of which are part of the holy triple jewel.(Source: Vesak, Buddhism)
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

Besides the worshipping and observing of the teachings, the devotees are also called to practise the peaceful and life-giving kindness to others.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
As such, some would volunteer to help with the preparations or painting/decorating the temples - painting of Buddhism murals, preparing food for the poor and the needy, donations to the poor (clothing, food or money) as these resemble acts of kindness, harmony, peace and unity among all mankind.

Another interesting ceremony to observe during the celebration is the bathing of the small baby Buddha statue which is placed standing in the middle of a golden basin filled with water scattered with fragrant flowers.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

Devotees will then take turn to bathe the baby Buddha, by using the ladle provided to scoop the water in the basin which are filled with the flowers and gently pour it over baby Buddha's head and body.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
This is significant in cleansing the bad karma from oneself (devotee/practitioner) and at the same time, remembering the birth of Buddha and honoring him with the offering of gifts and flowers.

There will be volunteers packing the 'bathing water' from the basin into plastic bags for devotees to bring home, as it is considered holy water.
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
Traditionally, the water is poured into the water tub in the bathroom as I was told, but these days, they will just put it in a basin for everyone in the family to bathe with a little of the water from the packet.

All religion do not condone the act of killing; so does Buddhism teachings. On festivals like these, the devotees are to abstain from food which involved killing of animals; in short, no poultry or meat and one has to adhere to a vegetarian diet on that day itself.
Vegetarian food
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

There are also doves, or tortoises being released as a symbol of freedom and peace.

Vesak Day is an important religious festival, and is marked by a national public holiday in Malaysia. Be respectful to others' religions even if you are not a devotee, and if you are interested to take photos, do be aware of your surroundings and be mindful not to be in the way of the devotees who are offering their prayers.

Another unique part about this festival is that it is unlike other festivals where people are dressed to the nines to celebrate, I noticed that most of the devotees are dressed in simple clothing and I found that it is also according to the teachings of humility and to be mindful of the teachings of Buddha.
Well, even if one is not required to dress formally, it is common sense not to go in your pajamas or micro mini skirts as well.

I wish all the Buddhists out there (whether you are my friend or not), a very blessed and fulfilling Vesak Day (it's belated, I know, but the teachings are never belated).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stories of Karak Highway

The infamous highway which was an interchange route for the urban city dwellers of Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia) to Genting Highlands; as the highway or expressway links the city to the town of Karak in Pahang.

The highway was built in the 1970s; originally intended as an alternative route from Gombak to Bentong in Pahang; using the Federal route.
The costs of the construction was rather high and tolls were then implemented to help to cover for the costs of the highway.

The Karak highway was notoriously known for its many haunting stories, told by the many eyewitnesses who drove on the highway.
There were just so many stories which emerged; and so many had been heard.

The highway garnered much attention due to the high number of accidents which took place on the highway, thus giving way to the rumors about the origin of the highway location and also the road being haunted.

There were a few rumored sources as to the reason for the hauntings on the infamous expressway:
1. The grounds on which Karak highway was built upon was said to be the burial grounds for the aborigines (also known as Orang Asli in Malay) or the settlement of the aborigines.

2. The number of accidents happening here since its establishment

The notorious reputation for which Karak was known seemed to turn it into a fearful area for motorists especially during the night due to the many stories shared by motorists who have experienced some of the hauntings while travelling along the highway.
The following are the few stories that I have gathered from some research and readings on this highway:

Story 1 (the most common/popular version of the haunting on Karak)
(I am not sure about the validity of this story or whether it really took place on Karak)
There was once a couple with a baby travelling on the highway at night. It was during the festive season, and they chose to travel during the ungodly hour to avoid massive traffic jams to reach home. Little did they know that their decision was about to change their lives forever.
As it was late at night, the roads were quiet along the lonely and deserted stretch.
It was at that time that their car broke down, finally giving way to the continuous jerks and weird noises for a while.
The husband was surprised as the car had been inspected and ensured to be in good condition prior to the travel.
As the road was rather deserted at that hour and barely a passing vehicle could be spotted, they were unable to get help. The husband then decided to get out of the car to check on the car instead of just waiting in the car as it was still a long way to dawn.
He told the wife to stay inside the car with the child and to keep the doors locked at all time and not to budge even if she heard sounds from the outside.
He got down from the car, and walked a little to see whether he could find any petrol station or house nearby.
The wife waited patiently in the car, but after what seemed like a long time, she started to worry for her husband's safety. The child was also crying and that made her restless.
At the same time, a car was passing by and it slowed down but sped off after passing her car. It was a police car, she noticed and the car stopped a few metres in front and the policemen got out with a loudspeaker and shouted for her to get down slowly and walk towards them and not to look back.
She was unsure of what to do, but she obeyed the orders of the policemen anyway, and got down with her child.
As she reached the police car, she turned back out of curiosity, and it was then she saw the most horrifying sight; her husband was headless on the top of the car, and there was a creature which was feasting on him.
The police hurried her into the car and sped away.

Story 2: The Yellow Volkswagen
There were reported sightings of a yellow volkswagen on the highway. It could be appearing from nowhere, sometimes no driver was spotted in the car!
The yellow car could be driving slowly on the right lane, thus making others try to overtake it. When you overtake it, you would realize that there is no driver in it!
Other instances could be the car would try to speed up once it had been overtaken by you and then disappear just like that out of your sight.
Most motorists have been warned to not overtake the car or it will keep appearing in front of you like the above stories.

Story 3: Sighting of Pontianak
There have been reported sightings of a pontianak (means female vampire in Malay) flying on the highway at night. The pontianak is believed to be a woman who had died of childbirth and harbors immense hatred and anger. She preys on men and is said to tear their organs apart. Pontianak could come in the form of a beautiful young woman in white to seduce the men.
Some motorists claimed to have seen a beautiful woman on the highway who could sometimes make heads turn (literally) and she could be by the side of the road, asking for a lift.
Whatever it is, it is wise to apply common sense when you are traveling along a quiet road at night and drive on instead of stopping when a lady or whoever is spotted for safety reasons. Even if they are not ghosts, they may be robbers in disguise too.

Story 4: Sighting of a small boy
A little boy had been spotted on the highway. He could appear at the side of the road, and seemed like he is looking for something. The next thing you know, he could be appearing next to the car and running along it; even if you are travelling at 110km/h. The boy would be asking the same question over and over again, "Have you seen my mother?"
Word has it that the boy and his mother was involved in one of the many accidents that took place on the highway and both were killed. Their bodies could have been thrown into different locations, separating the mother from her son and thus the little boy's restless spirit is constantly looking for his mother.

There are many more stories from the infamous highway which I probably didn't know about but these are the more popular ones.
It was perhaps this notoriety about the hauntings which attracted the interest of the local filmmakers in Malaysia to produce a film on the highway itself.

Produced by KRU, who were originally a talented group of three brothers in a band now turned filmmakers and producers, the movie Karak: Laluan Puaka is scheduled for release this month; 26th May 2011 and is said to include the different stories about Karak into this horror epic.

The plot of the story is about four young college students on their way back to their university from their hometown and trying to avoid the traffic jam on the major highway, they decided to re-route their journey towards the old trunk road passing by the Karak town.
It was not the wisest decision of their lives as this was about to change their lives forever.

The rest, is for you to find out when the movie is released this 26th of the month...

Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

Watch the official trailer here:

For more information on the movie, check out their official website

The movie would probably be able to give more insights into the stories on the Karak hauntings, as it combines all the stories from the experiences of the eyewitnesses after extensive research by the production team and from the trailer, it looks good :)

I am proud of our Malaysian talents and also the movies made to introduce our country to the world, albeit through the horror genre, but nevertheless, a good start.

Easter Triduum

Easter Triduum is the commencement of the exciting journey of three days leading to the Lord's Resurrection on Easter.

The Easter Triduum is also known as the Holy/Paschal Triduum as it observes the Paschal Mysteries and the triduum, as the name suggests, spans for three days and consists of the Passover on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Holy Vigil Saturday/Easter.

Holy Thursday, marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum and observes the event of the Lord's Supper on the night before He was betrayed by his own disciple.
The significance of this meal is symbolic in the mass celebration in the Catholic Church, and also the foundations of Christianity.
Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday, shows us Jesus's preparations for his own death on the cross for us sinners.

The highlights of the celebration of the Lord's Supper:
1. The washing of the feet - The priest reenacts Jesus's actions of washing his disciples' feet by washing the feet of twelve parishioners selected by the Church.
The meaning of this event is stated by Jesus himself that by the washing of the feet, they are sharing a part of Jesus.

2. Breaking of Bread and transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ
During the supper, the Lord lifted his cup and bread and performed his last miracle; offering himself for us. The bread and wine are His Body and His Bloo; in which we share a part of him as well.
We are joined in union with the Lord (though not worthy), as we drink from his cup and eat from his bread.
Blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ

3. Silent Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
The congregation is to leave the church quietly after the eucharistic celebration for the observance of the Lord's final hours at the garden while waiting for his death.
The altars are all stripped bare and the Cross and all the statues in the church are covered with a purple cloth to observe the solemn period (mourning).
The adoration can continue until midnight.

This is followed by the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.
It is important to note that Good Friday is the only day in the entire church calendar without a mass; and is only a service.
This is because a mass is always synonymous with a celebration, and Good Friday marks the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ (His Death), and therefore, it is not something to celebrate about.

The Good Friday Service is also divided into three parts:
1. Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross precedes the Good Friday service, as we follow the final of Jesus Christ who bore his own cross on His back towards His Death.
He died for us, and He suffered continuously in pain, humiliation and grief during his last hours. He was just as much human as you and me, which was according to the Scriptures as He was made to feel the pain inflicted on his own flesh like a man.
His death was cruel, but it was God, His Father's will.
God, is Our Father, and He Loved Us so much that He sent us His ONLY Son to redeem us from our sins.
At the part where Jesus Christ breathed his last, the whole church would observe this in silence with bowed heads and kneeling to mourn his death.

I would never be able to hold back my tears whenever I thought of His suffering on the cross for us, and I guess that is the reason the Church always hang a Crucifix inside the church or at the altar to remind us all of the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ.

2. Veneration of the Cross
The people in the church would make their way towards the altar servers/ministers holding the wooden cross to kiss the cross.
There will also be a box for donations (at your own will) for parishioners to contribute while kissing the cross.

3. Holy Eucharist

Good Friday, as I have always observed, is always raining, particularly around the 3pm period as it was also coincidentally the time of Jesus Christ's death.
Perhaps the recent years have seen changes in the weather due to the global warming, making the weather rather unpredictable.
This year, I did observe rainfall and thunderstorm inside the church during the service.

Holy Saturday is the period of observation of Jesus's lying in his tomb leading to His resurrection, which is the reason Holy Saturday is often known as the Holy Vigil/Easter Vigil.
The church combines the observation of Holy Saturday and staying vigil until the early Easter celebration.
This is by far, one of the longest running mass in the whole year as it usually takes around 3-4 hours, depending on the church.

The Holy Saturday is composed of four main parts:
1. Service of the Light
The church is in total darkness at the beginning of the mass and this is symbolic of Jesus's death and lying in the tomb, and also of how we all started out.
There was total darkness in the beginning of world, and Jesus Christ is our light.
The priest would say prayers and then light a bonfire upon which the big Easter candle (only used for sacred celebrations) is lit, and at the same time, proclaiming the words, "The Beginning and the End", "The Alpha and the Omega"/.

As the Easter Candle is lifted and led into procession into the church, the priest sings, "Christ Our Light" and to be responded by "Thanks be to God" by the congregation.
In some churches, the congregation and the priest gather outside the church and walk together in a procession into the church whereas in some others, the congregation are seated inside the church while the priest stands outside to light the fire.
The light from the Easter candle is then transferred to light the candles of each parishioner.
When the whole church is lighted up, it looks like a "Sea of Lights" to me, an indeed beautiful sight.
(The power in the church is turned off for this purpose and only candles are lighted).

2. Liturgy of the Word
Readings from the Old Testament are read during this time (at least seven readings), beginning with the creation at the start of the Bible, and one of the readings will also include that of the crossing of the Red Sea.
Before the Gospel, Alleluia is sung.
After the readings and the responsorial psalms, the ceremony will be followed by the Gloria where the bells and organs/musical instruments all are used loudly to signify the glorious moment.
The servers and the ministers would also use this period of time while the Gloria is sung to decorate the altar and to strip the cloth covering the statues in the Church.
(The unveiling of the statues and Cross)

3. Sacrament of Initiation (Baptism and Renewal of Baptismal Vows)
The new elects are presented to the Church for their baptism and confirmation ceremony as they join the Catholic family after a year of learning about Christianity. The rest of the church renews their baptismal vows and welcomes the new members of the Church.

4. Liturgy of the Eucharist

It is then the glorious celebration as the Church celebrates Easter and rejoices in the resurrection of the Lord.

Easter Sunday, is a day to rejoice in the Lord's rising and there is often morning mass celebrated in the church.
It is the most triumphant and joyous celebration of all, and is the main highlight in Christianity. Easter is observed as an even more important celebration than Christmas as we truly see and experience the Love of God and the redemption of our sins.

Praise the Lord, Alleluia!
(Alleluia is also used during the Easter period to sing praises to the Lord, as it means rejoicing and its usage start from Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday mass after a month of not being used during the Lent Season).

Christ is Risen, Alleluia Alleluia!~


What I observed on Palm Sunday this year

Besides Ash Wednesday, another major milestone leading to the celebration of Easter is Palm Sunday which marks the triumphant and grand entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.

The significance of this event is the laying down of the branches of trees; or palm leaves as Jesus rides into the town on a little donkey.
Back then, riding on a donkey was viewed as a more peaceful gesture compared to the might and possible threat of war when a horse trots in.
The act of the people laying down their cloaks and also the branches of trees, was also a form regarded as the highest honor for someone in certain parts of the east at that time too.

The people worshipped Jesus and was singing songs of praise and blessings to welcome Jesus into their humble town.

Palm, is a symbol of victory and triumph, as traditionally used then and continues to mark the symbolic event of Palm Sunday today.

Palm Sunday occurs the Sunday before Easter, and usually parishioners (church-goers) would be required to bring their own palms to be blessed by the priest and sing praises to commemorate this day.
Today, the Church provides the palm leaves for the convenience of the parishioners.

Holding the palm branch in our hands, we would then gather outside the church where we joined the priest in singing praises to the Lord in his Highest Name.
A procession of the congregation led by the priest would then follow into the church's building for the mass ceremony.

It is a standard sequence of the celebration and every born/practising Catholic has definitely experienced this more than once in their lifetime if not annually.

This year, I observed an ugly side to the parishioners at the Church while collecting the free palm branches provided by the Church.
I will not name which church; as it is not appropriate to do so.

The palm branches were scatttered on the bench in a separate hall/old building, where the congregation were gathering.
It was a huge crowd and people were standing there to join in the chorus of worship while there were still people making their way through the crowd towards the distribution area of the palm branches.

Due to the crowd, it is definitely best to just pick your palm branch and make way for those behind you to take one of the branches as well.

Imagine my horror as I saw some women (and even men!) standing there, and blocking others as they choose from the palm branches and throwing some of the palm branches back on the bench.
It was really disheartening to see such display of people who are there to attend a holy mass and to be part of God's children.

Sometimes, it makes me wonder, do some people really understand the purpose of going to church to worship?
Putting on your best behavior only in front of the priest and other people does not work, as God is everywhere.
I have seen worse displays of behaviors of the people in this church, which I'd rather not mention.

I hope that there would be more awareness on the meanings of the celebration in the Church and also on being part of the Church and God's people.

Being a Catholic is to be one who practises one's beliefs everywhere and to promote good behavior; not just one for exhibition when needed.

Repent and reflect, at all times...

God bless everyone!~