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!~

Lent - season for fasting and repentance

Lent, to me is the preceding month leading to the jubilant Easter and is what I would term as the preparation for the celebration of Easter.

Lent season lasts for 40 days and is a commemoration of Jesus's forty days in the desert; fasting and repenting before he officially begins his public ministry/teachings.
He abstained from food and drink for that period of time, and was even tempted by Satan but his will was strong and he overcame the temptations.

This season reminds us of the times when we have fallen into temptation of sins and the deceptions of the world, and therefore, the Church observes the Lent season as a period of fast, abstinence, repentance and self-reflection to renew ourselves before celebrating Jesus's resurrection.
Traditionally, luxury or any form of entertainment is prohibited during this season which commenced from the Ash Wednesday.
This includes watching movies, tv, indulging in feasts or recreational activities as it would be viewed as a form of disrespect or weak willpower.

Ash Wednesday, marks the start of the observation of Lent, and is a obligatory mass where the most prominent highlight of the mass is the marking of the ash on our foreheads.
The significance of this event is to remind us of our origins which will also be the form upon which we will return to; "Unto Ash you return"

Lent is viewed seriously by the Church and during this time, the 4-5 weeks of the season will be observed with solemnity as we are reminded of Jesus's preparations and sacrifices for us.

Fasting during this month is not merely on food, but also from the worldly desires.
One of the main abstinence is from meat; as meat had always been regarded as a form of luxury food usually meant for celebration.

It is through Lent that we learn the sacred mysteries and experience for ourselves the sacrifices of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Journey through Lent makes us more prepared for the joyous and victorious celebration of Easter; where the Lord Jesus Christ is risen.

The Story of Ching Ming Festival

Ching Ming, or Qing Ming, literally translates from Chinese to mean "Clear/Bright Festival" in English.

This festival is also known as the following:
1. Ancestors Day
2. Sweeping Tombs' Day/Grave Sweeping Day
3. Chinese Memorial Day
4. Chinese All Souls' Day

Ching Ming is a festival traditionally observed by Chinese families; whereby the whole family would gather and make a trip to their deceased ancestors' tombs to pay respects/worship.
As this is a yearly event, therefore, the tombs would require to be tended to or cleaned up as grass tends to grow so long that it would cover the graves.
Despite the long grass being a nuisance, the Chinese would not have it otherwise as the longer the grass grows, it actually symbolizes wealth and fortune to the descendants.

Ching Ming usually falls in the month of April, astrologically, it occurs approximately 104 days after the Winter Solstice Festival, or 15 days after the Spring Equinox.
Most of the families would start to visit the graves of their loved ones as early as 10 days before the actual day of the festival, or 10 days after the date of Ching Ming, as long as they pay respects to their ancestors during this stipulated period of the festival.

The festival got its name from QingMing, the name of the fifth solar term as it falls on the first day of this term. The name of the term denotes the greenery during this time where people would be enjoying the greenery. It is aligned with the tending of the graves as well as paying respects to their ancestors during the annual homage by the descendants.

Ching Ming festival observes the remembrance of the deceased ancestors in the family, and this practice is associated with the concept of filial piety emphasized by the great teacher Confucius. However, besides the fulfillment of filial piety, there is also a story behind the origin of this festival; the story of the friendship/brotherhood of the Duke Wen of Jin and Jie Zitui.

It was said that once upon a time, the Duke Wen, before he became the duke, he had many followers, and one of them is Jie Zitui. At one point of time, Wen was put away in exile and after 19 years of living life in exile, they came to a time where they had no food at all. Not wanting to see his master suffering from hunger, Jie Zitui cut his own thigh and used his own flesh to make a bowl of meat soup for Wen. Wen enjoyed the soup and when he found out about Jie's sacrifice, he was deeply touched and promised to reward him in gratitude some day.
Wen then emerged victorious and managed to return to the land of Jin and became the Duke Wen of Jin. He kept to his word and rewarded people who have helped him during his exile and on his success in becoming the duke.
Perhaps it was a long list of people to reward, or the duke just had too many followers, somehow, Duke Wen missed Jie Zitui in the list to reward.
When Duke Wen finally remembered, he scattered his followers to locate Jie, who had now retired to a peaceful life with his mother in the forest.
Duke Wen was unable to locate Jie although he had arrived at the forest, and one of his advisors proposed to set fire to force Jie and his mother to run out of the forest.
Duke Wen agreed to the idea and so it was done, but he was greeted with adverse results, as the fire spread too quickly and Jie and his mother died in the ravaging fire as a result.
Duke Wen was distressed and overwhelmed with guilt, and he ordered the nation, in memory of Jie, three days without fire and then became a memorial day for Jie Zitui, whereby only cold food can be served and no fire is allowed on that particular day.
This day is also known as the Hanshi Day (literally, a day of cold food).
The land where Jie died was also known as Jiexiu (translated to 'the place where Jie is laid to rest forever).

Another version was during the Tang dynasty period; 2500 years ago:
The tradition of Ching Ming dated back to the period of the Tang dynasty; during the reign of Tang Emperor Xuanzong. During that time, the people would flock to the graves of their deceased loved ones with extravagant gifts and offerings from time to time, that the Emperor saw that the people were going overboard and thus declared that there is only one official day to tend to the graves; and that day was named Ching Ming. This practice was then solidified in the Chinese community.

Both versions are independent of each other, and have much truth in the practice of today's Ching Ming festival.
People would bring food and gifts in the forms of paper offerings to be burnt for their loved ones to use in the other world.
Food usually vary; and the most common would be chicken or duck, fruits, buns, and wine or tea.

During the visit to the graves, the rites are usually parted into 3 sections (unofficially):
1. Cleaning of the graves
2. Offering of food, joss sticks and burning of the paper offerings
3. Gathering of the family for lunch (the food brought for offering would be shared among the family members)

Ching Ming is widely celebrated among the Chinese community everywhere around the world although the way the tradition is carried out may vary slightly.
In general, this is very much a family affair, whereby everyone in the family meets in a crowd during this time of the year to pay respects together to their ancestors.
The requirement is understandable; as this is one year that respects are paid to the ancestors, and it is with due respect that the descendants should gather in honour of their ancestors.
In Malaysia, the day itself starts early in the morning to make way to the graves. Families would also pay respects to the tablets of their ancestors at the altars at home; this is an option and not many people observe this practice anymore.
Relatives and family members from afar would make their way home to meet up with the rest of the family before making the journey to the graves.
Upon reaching the tombs, the family would place their offerings aside and start cleaning up the tomb.
This usually involves shearing of the long grass growing around, on and behind the tombstones, wiping/polishing the name plates of the tombs, and then cleaning the premises surrounding the tomb.
Once the cleaning is done, the food would then be placed nicely on the plates and the wine in little wine cups (just like what one would do when preparing a feast).
Joss sticks and candles would also be lit and at the same time, the paper offerings of money and worldly items; i.e: car, house, shoes, clothes, and now, the newly made popular designer and luxury goods such as handbags and electronic items are burnt to their ancestors.
(The Chinese believe that their ancestors would be able to receive it in the other world, and they feel obligated to provide for their deceased loved ones' comfort and better living in the netherworld).

At the same time, the family members would take turns to bow down (or in Chinese, kowtow), three to nine times in front of their ancestors. The family members take turn based on their seniority in the hierarchy of the family; usually starting with the eldest.
After the kowtow, the family would then take out two blocks of wood which are crescent-shaped facing each other. These are used for the purpose of communicating with their ancestors to ask them questions. The main question to the ancestor is whether they are done with the food offering.
If the wooden blocks up in opposite direction (one facing up and the other facing down) when thrown on the floor, it means they are not done with the food.
If both face in the same direction (either up or down), it means that they are done.

When the signal that their ancestors are full came from the wooden blocks, it is then time for the descendants to have the food for themselves.
They would usually gather at a nearby park or shelter (as the tomb is usually too small or sunny for the whole family to enjoy their food) to have lunch/meal together.
This signifies the reunion of the descendants with their ancestors.

Typically the whole worship process takes about half a day and is a time of gathering for the families.
(Most Chinese festivals focus on the reunion of families)

This is not a religious festival, but a Chinese tradition as it is focused on the respect for the deceased loved ones and ancestors.
It is a tradition that will continue for centuries to come, and observed with accordance to the traditional sequence.

The only thing which evolves over time is the form of paper offerings and even the food.
I find the creativity of the vendors selling these paraphernalia items fascinating; as they kept themselves to date with the current trends.

Whenever I see the paper LV, Prada, Gucci bags hanging along the corridors, I knew that Ching Ming time is near.
This year, they even have IPhone 4 and Ipad, talk about innovation!~
Image Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing

The Ching Ming festival ended about a week ago; after about three weeks of time to worship the ancestors (and for family gathering).
It is a tradition which is important to be passed on to the subsequent generation to remind them of the importance of filial piety and to know their own roots from young.