By P Marilyn, Huraizah Ahmad & Yusrin Junaidi
Thousands of people thronged the capital yesterday for the "Bersama Rakyat" (royal get-together) event held in conjunction with the 61st birthday celebration of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.
Besides residents from the Brunei-Muara District, tourists were also spotted at the Taman Hj Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien.
New Zealanders Selwyn and Joanne Bently were among those who greeted His Majesty in person. Joanna said that she would always cherish the moment, as it was a "very thrilling experience" to be in the presence of the Sultanate's beloved monarch.
George and Linda Ward from Sydney, Australia, were very impressed with the enthusiasm of the young students who were happily performing for His Majesty under the sun.
They added that the timing of their visit to the Sultanate could not have been better, as witnessing yesterday's grand celebration was an enriching cultural experience for both of them. "We feel very honoured to have witnessed Brunei's unique culture," said Linda.
Mataya Otren from Slovenia, Eastern Europe, meanwhile, will be extending her stay in the country for a few more days to explore various places of interest.
Mataya, who is a banking officer, took a bus from Miri, to come to Brunei.
"I have been travelling on my own for over three months now across Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia and Borneo Island," she said.
One thing that fascinated the seasoned traveller was seeing His Majesty shaking hands with the people at the Taman.
"I find it really interesting that a leader will take time to meet and greet his people at such a big event like this," she said.
Meanwhile, Betty Ang, a 22-year old Taiwanese university student, said that she now has a better understanding of the traditions and cultures of Brunei after witnessing yesterday's 'Bersama Rakyat' event.
Betty considers Brunei as her second home, as she was born in the Sultanate. She occasionally visits her relatives in the country but had never witnessed the royal get-together event until yesterday.
It was also a very exciting time for the young performers involved in the grand event.
Koh Hui Shan, a teacher of Maktab Duli Pg Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah, said that her daughter, Zoey Lim, woke up very early yesterday morning because she has been looking forward to the big day. Zoey was among the kindergarten students of Chung Hwa Middle School who performed a dance at the Taman.
"The children have been practising during the school holidays and on school days. But it is all worth it in the end, as it is a very memorable experience for them," said Koh Hui Shan.
The whole event is a reflection of the people's love for His Majesty, said Sheikh Abas bin Sheikh Mohamad, a member of the organising committee of yesterday's event.
The Bulletin also approached some senior citizens who were patiently waiting to greet His Majesty.
Awang Salleh Mat Noor, 60, of Kg Anggerek Desa could not hold back his tears as he expressed his gratitude to the caring monarch. "His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has given so much to the people," he said.
When asked what he thought of this year's celebration, he said that the performances have been getting better over the years.
Another senior citizen from Mukim Burung Pingai, Hj Abd Kadir bin Damit, agreed. "This year's get-together has to be one of the best ones in recent memory," he said, adding that the performances for this year's joyful event were very colourful.
- Borneo Bulletin
(23rd July 2007)