Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Heaving A Sigh Of Relief

If the incident happened on weekdays between 7.30am and 1.10pm, some forty motorcycles could have been crushed by a huge falling branch from a tree within the motorcycle parking area.
Students turning up for school this morning heaved a sigh of relief that the branch gave way, perhaps last night.
We are also thankful that no students were injured and no property damaged.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bravo, Cikgu

A Form Two student accidentally fell in class and sprained his leg. The pain was intense. His classmates, without hesitation, referred him to the teachers for advice. To notify his parents and wait for them to arrive at the school or telephone for the ambulance?
Fortunately, the timely arrival of Cikgu Zumairi saved the day. Apparently, some students approached him about the incident and armed with a bottle of ointment (could be some herbal concoction), he walked calmly to the school foyer. After some three minutes of treatment, the boy, who was earlier grimacing in pain changed drastically to a weak smile.
Aided by his classmate, the boy could now walk back to his class.
Students, who congregated there out of curiosity, gave a thunderous applause to Cikgu Zumairi before leaving the place.
Thank you, Cikgu. Your gesture was indeed honourable.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Browsing through the 1976 school magazine, chanced upon the outstanding achievement of the 29th Ipoh Scout Troop. Looking at the mugshots of the King Scouts above, we recognise two familiar faces.
First row, second picture is now Father Michael Cheah, who currently serves at St Michael's Church. On the second row, also second picture, is Mr Joseph Michael Lee, now St Michael's PIBG head.
For the rest of our old boys, we would like to know where they are and what they are doing. We would like to acknowledge them.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Flag Poles Used By The Japanese?

"The Japanese Advance troops entered Ipoh on 28 December 1941 and found a ready made shelter at St Michael's Insitution. The school was used as "Perak Shu Seicho", the Japanese Government Building in Ipoh. The entire school building was used to house various government offices." - extracted from My Story, 1994.
While memories of the Japanese occupation of the building have long forgotten by many, plaques put up over the years like the ones at the granite staircase and the chapel (State Legislative Council Chambers) somehow remind us of those war years of hardship and great endurance on the part of the Brothers, teachers and students alike.
Another discovery: Two very thick, heavily-rusty flag poles used by army officers during the Japanese era are currently lie in solitary, partially covered by shrubs.Surprisingly, the relics are still in considerably good conditions even after decades of expose to the elements.
These items bear strong historical and heritage significance. They are almost 70 years old and plans are already on to identify the exact location where the poles were placed before they were taken down.
We need photos or evidence from very old Michaelians showing, perhaps British or Japanese army officers, raising flags during ceremonies.
We are waiting for the time when St Michael's is able to raise the Malaysian and SMI flags during the Centennial celebrations.
Let us know if you have any leads.

Contact Brother Matthew Bay at the La Salle Centre or drop us a line.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Greetings and Raya Wishes to all our Muslim Michaelians (old and present) who celebrate HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI.
May all of you spend precious and memorable moments with your loved ones.
Warm wishes from Peter Khiew & family.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brother Matthew

It was a quiet affair at the La Salle Centre today until the arrival of some senior prefects. Everyone thought it would be another meeting or a session of group study at the centre.
Nobody realised that they were there to spring a surprise for Brother Matthew.
With a cake in tow, the prefects sang the Happy Birthday song.
Brother Matt was naturally very pleased with their gesture.
From us at St Michael's,
Note: Michaelians who wish to drop a line to say hello to Brother can do so through the comment area.

Brother U Paul's Legacy Leaves On

"In these years we notice that Brother Ultan Paul's main focus was on persons. Programmes, projects, his attention to administrative detail and even putting up buildings never took priority over persons. His door was always open to students, teachers, parents , even important people in public life. His gift was for people. All who came to him found ready welcome and the assurance of being fully understood, of being affirmed in their unique dignity and identity".

Extracted from The Michaelian Spirit year 2000, the eulogy given by Brother Vincent Corkery in honour of Brother U Paul (1920-2000)

True to the words described by Brother Vincent about Brother Paul during his tenure at St Michael's and various Lasallian institutions, Brother U Paul Scholarship continues to look into the crucial needs of deprived Michaelians. When a teacher knows of the needs of his or her charges, an application will then be forwarded to the Brothers for approval.

We thank Brother Vincent Corkery and Brother Matthew Bay for that touch of altruism, saluting them again for reaching out just like our founder Baptist De Lasalle did 329 years ago.

caption: Form One student Aaron Mart receiving the scholarship from Brother Vincent Corkery. Witnessing the occasion are Aaron's mother and SMI principal Mr Phoon Chong Chee.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

SMI Goes Global

"Going Places", Malaysia Airlines' inflight magazine is carrying a story about St Michael's annual drama production in its September 2009 issue. The magazine, known for its very strict selection of articles, has huge followings of readers around the world.
We thank the airline company for kindly offering us a thought in acknowledging SMI's efforts in establishing a great drama tradition. Thank you, Mr Adrian Tsen for alerting the school about the article and brought a few copies home for us. (He was on business trip to Perth, Australia last week).

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Discussions and Comments On MCO

From the Editor,

The post on MCO has generated excellent response from Michaelians from all corners of the world. It amazes me greatly as the MCO fraternity still stays amazingly close. When one extends a hand, so many responded to assist.

I salute Michaelians like Loh Kok Hoong, Saw Horng Yuan, Chee Kok Leong, Chan Yoon Suiew, Leow Hong Keat, Michelle Chew, KP Soh, Yew Guo Zheng, Gooi Harvey, Kah Wai, Victor Ho, Soo Kok Keat, Kar Pui, Chong Wai Chun, Khaw Yee Khai and Aaron Chan for their unselfish sharing of ideas and ways for continuous improvements.

Your deep concern for an organisation you cherish and hold in high esteem is to be commended. The alma mater is proud to have produced people like you who have so much to share and in the process of sharing, inspire.

With the great response we obtained, we trust the present batch of leaders now know who to turn to for counsel and a little advice.

St Michael's has always endeavoured in producing talents, harnessing individuals and moulding of characters.

I believe so much has been generated through your sharing and thoughts for the past week.
Therefore, the comment for the post is now closed!

With that, I thank all Michaelians for such invaluable guidance, seeking earnestly to assist the juniors and we believe we can learn from one another. This is Michaelian spirit!

It would be an honour to see all of you one day in school.

Best wishes and good day,
Peter Khiew

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Merdeka Tower- A Reflection of Unity and Comradeship

The scouts are at it again. Their industrious and always-on-the-go nature prompted them to construct an amazing tower, which they call, "Merdeka Tower".
SMI scouts simply have the knack to build towers. They honour the country almost every year, the teachers (during Teacher's Day) and when comes jamboree time, our Kinta 02 scouts would come up with towers that impress!
Our national and state leaders should drop by at SMI when they pass by the school and thank the scouts for a job well done. They passionately built this with their sweat, energy and spirit of patriotism!

Mr Yew Guo Zheng Replies...

Kudos for the response! It's certainly heartening to see such responses from seniors.

Much of what is written in the response is what a lot of orchestras do now. I have had the experience of organising performances and having a team of people to think of fundraising methods. We had to plan six months ahead, considering that we had international performers as well.

However, although this is not impossible for our young juniors in the MCO to handle, time spent is always an issue not only to students, but to parents as well. The learning curve is steep but not unattainable, provided that guidance is given.

While I acknowledge the truth in Horng Yuan's response (through Kok Hoong), we need to understand that the current board of leaders are not as mobile as we currently are. Being Form 4 students themselves, they are still very much under parental control.

There is a severe need to upgrade the instruments because contrary to instruments in the MMB, Chinese instruments cannot last long. For example, over the years, the snake-skin membrane of the er-hu will lose its tension and the sound quality will deteriorate rapidly. It is not an unknown fact that Chinese instruments need constant maintenance to ensure a reasonably long life span. Purchase requires cost; the same goes for maintenance.

I wish to share a few issues that happened between 2002 and 2005, as Horng Yuan questioned the happenings after 2002. The orchestra had been in a steady decline since 2002, my second year in the MCO (I joined the MCIG in 2001, the same year it was rebranded to the MCO), and I would say that we reached an all-time low in the year 2004 before Wong Sen Loong, Harvey and I took over the reins of the leadership.

Times were hard (we were just Form 4 students after all) and we were facing a great threat - a lot of our good performers decided to leave the orchestra due to dissatisfaction over the administration which was accumulated in the two years before 2004. Communication between the leaders was scarce, and politics were rampant. This was the hard truth for us to learn.

Therefore, in 2004/2005, with such a small group of people in the orchestra, even a decent concert performance was out of the question. Sen Loong, Harvey and I decided that it was at the interest of the orchestra to rebuild its foundations. We feared the worst – that the orchestra would die of natural death. We began pleading to our peers to remain patient in the orchestra and help them rebuild their passion, and struggled to bring up the juniors.

Nevertheless, we decided that we need to rebuild the foundations of the MCO by first having more members (after all, what's an orchestra without members?) and train them as best as we could. That was our one-term goal. However, there were ups and downs and though I wouldn't say we did a wonderful job, the results were good enough for Ng Wai Hong to take over the board in 2006 and develop it, and then under Lee Kitt Leong the MCO had a concert in March 2007 (plans were done in 2006).

It wasn't easy to maintain an orchestra without guidance from seniors because by the time my peers took over the leadership, we had inadvertently lost contact with seniors who left in around 2001 and 2002 (most of us didn't have mobile phones). Perhaps Horng Yuan and Kok Hoong faced the same issue as I did but circumstances could differ. However, with such advanced communication technology, it should not be an issue altogether.

While it is fair not to compare the MMB with the MCO, the stagnancy was based on progress within the MCO, and not compared to the MMB.

While Horng Yuan may contend that orchestras from UTP, Sam Tet and Ave Maria run on a different platform, it is not wrong to learn and emulate them on whatever values that are applicable to us. We do not copy others; we emulate them intelligently.

But I agree with Horng Yuan that the orchestra in UTP are run by undergraduates (no postgraduates involved so far) and this gives us some other advantages. However, the very fundamentals of administration of the orchestra are very much the same (I was the president and student conductor) and the problems we face are no different.

I am genuinely happy to see Kok Hoong and Horng Yuan still bear some interest in the growth of the MCO. I have been hoping that seniors back in the MCIG days could shed some light on this issue so that the current board can set up a way forward. As far as I know, there are very little records and details on the performances or major activities that had been conducted. It is important that such records and details be kept and filed for future references.

It is a well-known fact that every orchestra will have its highs and lows. It is vital that when the orchestra reaches its peak, the leaders must continue to help set a vision and mission so that the upcoming leaders can work towards attaining the new goals. An orchestra, devoid of a vision and mission, will only go on a decline naturally after reaching its peak. Sadly, between 2002 and 2004, there was little progress, if any, culminating in the deferment of any intention to organise events from 2004 to 2006.

This group of students leading the orchestra are mostly Form 2 to Form 4 students who have little knowledge, experience and guidance in leading an orchestra, not forgetting that they require the higher authorities to give them the green light in their endeavours. While we may be critical on our views, we must realise that they need time and effort to take one step at a time.

To the new board of the MCO, we have finally got seniors who helmed the MCIG back in the 1990s to shed some light. Now based on what I have shared between 2002 and 2005 and what has been written by Horng Yuan on the MCIG between 1997 and 2001 (plus his views), it’s time to plan our way forward. Do not feel belittled or discontented by the criticisms and comments that have been stated thus far. Use them as means to build a better orchestra. Seek us out!


PETRONAS Carigali Sdn. Bhd.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

In Respond To "A Letter From An Old Boy" - MCO

Dear Mr. Khiew,
On behalf of the MCO EXCO 1998/1999 until 2000/2001, please post the following on your blog, hoping that the content of the following post by a very senior and experience ex-member can enlighten and uplift the morale among the current members.
LOH KOK HOONG (Sixth Former 1999)

Dear Everyone,
I write in respond to the article "A Letter from An Old Boy" by Yew Guo Zheng dated 23 August 2009 which touched on the updates and current issues of Michaelian Chinese Orchestra (MCO), formerly known as Michaelian Chinese Instrumental Group (MCIG), before its inception as MCO in 2000.

Before I proceed, it is good to know that I was a proud member of MCIG since Form 1 (year 1994), MCIG President from 1997-1998, a member of the Advisory Panel from 2000-2001, a Concert Master from 1997-2000, and I remain a proud ex-MCIG member up to today.

Firstly, I rejoice with the success of the Michaelian Military Band (MBB) in the recent band competition. They have come a long way, no doubt about it, and they finally managed to defeat Nan Hwa after countless times of trying and persevering.

As a Michaelian, I am proud of MMB’s achievements. And as a very close friend to Mr. Lee, MMB’s instructor, I am proud and amazed at what he has achieved with the band for the past 10 years, and all the sacrifices that have been made.

I somehow disagree with comparing MCO with MMB due to two facts.

Firstly, both uniform units, though musically based, actually operate on different platforms. Whilst Western music remains popular and appealing to students of any races, the traditional Chinese instrumental music struggles to attract a generation of non-Chinese educated students in a Sekolah Kebangsaan. This explains why MCO has struggled with lack of members relatively to the band.

Secondly, MMB’s success in the competition should not be used as a yardstick to show that MCO is stagnant and has not been successful in recent years. For your information, the MMB has long-term and short-term plans. They are where they are now because of good and disciplined execution of their plans.

I am now directing a question back to the leadership of MCO from year 2002 and onwards: Have there been any long term or short term plans during your tenure? If there are, have they been successfully executed?

When I took over as President in 1997, my short-term plan (1 to 1 half years time) was to build a small but systematic musical group and to build up good relations with the orchestra in Ave Maria and Sam Tet. We achieved that. With this small group, the long-term plan (2 to 3 years time) was to raise fund to upgrade musical instruments (we barely had any money and good instruments then), and we eventually achieved the plan successfully by organizing a small-scaled concert in the school hall, and a large-scaled millennium concert in the City Hall, during the tenure of Lok Kok Hoong as MCIG President in 1999 and 2000.

Another long-term plan (3 to 4 years time) was to organize a Perak-level competition, which we eventually achieved successfully during the tenure of Khaw Yee Khai as MCO President in 2001, where our participating groups emerged as Champions and 2nd Runner Up respectively.

Success goes down to the leadership of the group, to the core leaders who either lead the groups to greater heights or just a stagnant phase. Leadership is about planning and making use of the resources that you have.

Asking for external supports and funds from the school, PIBG, or even the Old Michaelian Association may not help solve the so-called “internal problems” in MCO. If there is lack of fund, draw out a plan on how to raise fund, and obviously, having a concert is the usual way. But are you ready for a concert? Is your foundation strong enough? If not, maybe your plan now is to build strong foundations (both human management and music background) within the group, especially on the Form Ones, who will be the future leaders of MCO.

Towards the issue of “dormant” members, why are they dormant? It is funny when you have “dormant” members, and yet there is complaint on lack of members. Are you being selective on members then? How do you “convert” dormant members to active members? How do you train them up? How do you gel the group as one and strengthen the unity and bonds of the members? How do you get support from your members? What is the point of having good quality instruments without having good members? And is there an urgent need to upgrade the instruments (classical Chinese instruments sound better as they get older)?

Well, perhaps these are the real “issues” of MCO, and these are good “issues”, because these “issues” will help all of us grow and mature as we learn to handle these. This is the beauty of joining MCO and learning something not taught in the classrooms.

Current leaders of MCO, think big, start small. Achieve what is within your means, plan for what is beyond your means. Use the achievements of the past leaderships as a blueprint for your own success, build on it, improvise it, because you guys can achieve something far more wonderful and successful.

My sincere advice is that you should not compare with other groups, like the orchestra in Universiti Teknologi Petronas, because they are mainly run by undergraduates or postgraduates, who are at a different level as compared to where your are now, or the orchestras in Sam Tet or Ave Maria, which use Mandarin as their main medium and are exposed to more resources as compared to you, or even the school band which performs in a big group.

One of the many pitfalls is that you try to duplicate what others are doing, without having your own visions and objectives for your own group. If this is the case, you might as well quit MCO and join the above mentioned groups.Remember, the thing that makes MCIG/MCO a proud heritage is that it is a Chinese orchestra in a Sekolah Kebangsaan, and probably the ONLY such orchestra in the whole of Malaysia, if I have my facts right.

One last thought before I sign off. Most of us want to measure success through something tangible, viz. winning a competition, organizing a grand concert under the limelight in a city hall, raising RM20,000, or purchasing countless instruments of good quality. There is nothing wrong with all these. But for me, true success is how MCIG/MCO impacts your life, and how you impact the lives of those working with you. This is why I remain proud of having the great heritage of MCIG imprinted in me.

Horng Yuan, Saw,
M.Eng., B.Eng. (Hons.) (Chemical)Ph.D. Scholar, Massey University, New Zealand.
Former President of MCIG, 1997-1998, Advisory Panel of MCIG, 2000-2001