Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Closing Message


Thanks for dropping by luke4inspiration. Starting today (15 Sep 2010), I will no longer be updating this blog. I'm concentrating my energy on developing, a site that is dedicated to entrepreneurial development. Please come to visit it at

The new site is more focused and will provide you with information, resources and support to fuel your passion to venture out on your own.

Looking forward to catch up with you at Making the Change from Employee to Entrepreneur.

Luke Bong

Monday, August 30, 2010

You Can Create Wealth Seminar Live in Miri

I look forward to the You Can Create Wealth seminar live here in Miri on 1 Sep 2010. This program has really changed me in the areas of wealth and money. I'm proud to be associated with MasteryAsia which specialises in mentorship programmes in Asia.

This program is also a personal breakthrough for me because in 2 weeks, I managed to invite nearly 160 guests to attend this session. Before this, I would be struggling to even invite 10 people to any event. I believe that the most important investment we can make is in our own mind.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

I am a day dreamer...

... and I'm proud of it! It beats a sleep dreamer anytime. You see, when I day dream, I'm allowing myself the luxury of enjoying what I currently don't have. Yes, I am not a best selling writer but in my day dreams, I'm signing books for my legions of fans and speaking at packed stadiums. The joy that I got out of it is beyond words.

Actually, before you start to say, "Get real" or "Hello, planet Earth calling", let me say that there is power in day dreaming. When we day dream, we are either creating a beautiful picture which we want in our lives or a bleak picture of the things that we fear. Once we are snapped back to reality, notice that the residue of that feeling lingers on like the smell of cigarette from the pub?

Day dream is a form of creating the reality that we want in our lives. Best of all it is free. W. Clement Stone said, "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve." So, don't subdue your day dreams (of course, if you are driving a car, then that's a different story).

Believe it or not, I am doing now what I have been day dreaming about. (No, I'm not talking about writing this blog but rather, about being a professional speaker and trainer. That's my full time job.)

So, what are you waiting for? Happy day dreaming.

“All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out otheir dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Alone at the airport

You know, the thing about waiting to catch the next flight is the waiting. It seems like so much time is wasted particularly if one is waiting for the connecting flight. Well, that's the situation that I'm in now, all alone here in KK Terminal One airport.

However, this time, I'm not going to let that bother me. For once, I'm using the free airport Wi-fi. I'm not complaining. It's slow but it's FREE, right? Before starting this posting, I've completed an upcoming press release for Lighthouse Education's new intakes. Right after finishing this posting, I'll check on the training slides to make sure everything is in order for tomorrow and Tuesday. Actually, on the other tab on my Firefox, I'm still waiting for my email to be saved (that's like 10 minutes already) but I'm not complaining because it is ....

Sitting here contemplating about the past 3 months, it's amazing how good God has been to me. He is the provider, man. Since February, I've ventured out on my own, turning my back to the stable job as a manager in an insurance company to pursue my dream of becoming a full time speaker and trainer. I thought I was crazy but my wife was equally crazy, if not crazier for taking this leap of faith together with me. I really appreciate the trust she has in me. Sometimes it scares me, too. You know when a person can literally trust their whole future in you, the sense of responsibility and accountability can be overwhelming. But I trust God to give me the strength and wisdom to do the right thing.

(Still waiting for my email to save but I'm not....)

Cheers and God bless!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wisdom from Wally "Famous" Amos

What does the man famous worldwide for chocolate-chip cookies got to do with success? Plenty, actually. Wally Amos has written nine books and is a motivational speaker. Below is a quote taken from the most recent issue of "Success" magazine during an interview with him.

'A lot of people said, "You can't make a living selling just chocolate-chip cookies." I think what they were saying is that they didn't think they could do it. I believed that I could do it because I knew how to make chocolate-chip cookies and I knew how to promote, so why couldn't I do it? because it had never been done before? Oh well. At one point, nothing had been done, and look at where we are now.' ~ Wally "Famous" Amos

When we are intent on doing something, we will always encounter people who tell us that something can't be done. Take it from Wally Amos. Just because they can't do it doesn't mean we can't do it, too. If there's a will, then there's a way.

If it has to be, then it is up to me! Just do it!

Friday, April 30, 2010

My Humbling Experience

I had a humbling experience this week.

On Tuesday, I accompanied my mother to the Government Hospital in Miri to meet up with the Orthopedic specialist from Kuching to discuss about Mum's impending spine surgery. On that day, the wait was reallyyyyyyyyyyy long. I had canceled all my appointments that morning and figured out that the appointment would probably be over latest by 11.00am. Normally, by 10.45am we would be at the pharmacy already.

I looked at my watch. 11.30 am and it wasn't mum's turn yet. I was beginning to lose my patience and really felt negative about this experience. In my mind I was seeing all the unfinished work that I had waiting for me and wished I could be doing it then. So, my whining and "Oh me, Oh my" mode started operating.

Then, I believe God spoke to me. A thought flashed past my mind and I immediately regretted whining about the situation. Well, the thought was a simple one: When you were younger, your mother waited for you when you were in school and then waited for you to send you for tuition classes. Later waited for you again to fetch you home. And waited for you some more when you have any extra curricular activities. That probably went on for a good 12 years. What's your 3 hours compared to the years your mother waited for you without griping?

Like I said, I was humbled. I felt so bad about it. I'm not writing this because it's near to Mothers' Day and I suddenly feel sentimental. I think everyday should be Mothers' and Fathers' Day. Go and do something special for them to thank them and show them our love. They've showered us with theirs for a good part of their life (more than 50%, in fact).

I'll end this post with the video of the song "Child" or "Anak" which was originally a Tagalog song performed by Freddie Aguilar.

Father and Mother I Love You!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Words are...

harder than rocks, sharper than knives and deadlier than poison.

Just yesterday, I was at the clinic to buy some medicine for my son. Sitting next to me was a mother who was hugging her baby and next to her was her slightly older son who was probably 2 or 3 years old. The older boy wanted to put on his slippers and after a few attempts was still not making any progress (he was wearing his left slipper on his right foot and vise versa), his mother just said "So stupid" loudly and impatiently adjusted the slippers for him. Then, as if to register her poison in her son's minds, she repeated the same words again, "So stupid". My goodness!

Words can build and words can destroy. Choose to build someone today. In my opinion, the worst losers are those who themselves couldn't achieve their goal and would ensure that others couldn't achieve theirs, too, by using their poisonous words to destroy hope.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

House husband for 1 week

This afternoon I sent my wife to the airport to catch a flight to KL. She will be there for 1 week to get treatment for her sinus problem. So, I have to be the househusband from today till next Tuesday. I have a funny feeling that this will be a very long 7 days for me. Hmmm... I wonder why?

I guess it's not easy having to juggle household and work together. That's why all the working mothers who have to take care of their children and husband (sometimes the husband are even more difficult to take care of) have my full respect. This is a tough job, I tell you.

I'm missing my wife already. My son was even faster. Right after my wife entered the departure hall, Jordan looked like he was going to cry. But he was a brave boy and he just muttered to me, "I don't want to be friend with you." You see, I played a (BIG) role in him not going to KL. The original plan was for him to go to KL with his mummy. But then I felt the trip won't be good for him, what with the AH1N1 situation and all that is going on now. Better for him to stay at home, right? In the end he was persuaded (of course with the reward of going swimming at Eastwood Valley, visit to Toy's World, go to the Arcade centre at Boulevard Hypermarket and buy him a BOMBA toy set).

But children have very short temper. Within 10 minutes, we were the best of friends again. Then again, it's probably because I'm a great Dad, right? LOL!

Well, a new day awaits me tomorrow. And the best part is I'll be bringing him to attend an event planning meeting in the evening and he is so excited about it. That'll be a new experience for him.


Monday, March 29, 2010

The Fear of Speaking

The following is supposed to be the first article for my newspaper column with a local English Daily. However, due to some unforeseen circumstances, the column never really took off. Anyway, since it has been written, I just thought of sharing it with you. Feel free to comment. Thanks.

I was pleasantly surprised to read in the newspapers recently that University Malaya has revived its Speakers’ Corner to allow students to voice their opinions publicly after an interval of so many years. Although there were mixed reactions (justifiably so) from the public as to the purpose and effectiveness of setting up such a channel of communication, I believe the intention was right. We need to produce more graduates in this country who can speak English in public effectively. Now, if only more local institutions of higher learning would follow suit and set up their own Speakers’ Corner, too, as a platform to encourage more students and even teachers to speak more eloquently and confidently in public.
The ability to speak in public has always been highly regarded by men and women since time immemorial. From the ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle who attracted large groups of men to listen to them speak in ancient halls to the modern day orators such as Barack Obama who mesmerised people all over the world during his presidential election campaign (but not necessarily after), it is evident that great speakers have been immortalized by their speeches. Who could ever forget Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” or John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country could do for you”? Or our beloved Bapa Kemerdekaan Tunku Abdul Rahman’s “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!” These were speeches that defined their era.
Yet, public speaking remains a skill which many people wished to have but wouldn’t really believe they could have. It is as if the world is divided into two groups: public speakers and non-public speakers. When I conduct my public speaking workshops, I would ask the participants, “Please raise your hand if you are a public speaker.” Ten times out of ten, no one would raise a hand. “Well,” I said, “I know that we Malaysians are extremely humble. So, do you hide yourself in some corners first when you want to speak to someone?”

Of course not and that’s exactly my point! None of us is a private speaker (if such a term actually exists). We are all public speakers even though we may be speaking to an audience of just one. However, many people believe that public speaking occurs only when one addresses a large group of audience. Actually, that’s just one of the many types of public speaking situations. Other examples of public speaking situations include a teacher teaching a class, a manager conducting a meeting, a salesperson making a sale and even a parent disciplining a child. In fact if an office receptionist applies the techniques of public speaking when answering the phone, she would be a more effective frontline customer service personnel for the company. Simply put, mastery of public speaking skills will certainly benefit you.
I honestly believe that anyone can learn to speak in public. Even though a lot of people whom I’ve met revered those who could speak eloquently in public as if they possessed some forms of magical abilities, there’s really no magic involved. And I have some good news for you. Public speaking is a type of skill and as with all types of skills in the world, it can be learned. Just like you can learn how to ride a bicycle or play the piano. However, just because it can be learned doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy. A lot of people can ride the bicycle but not everyone wants to be like Lance Armstrong.

When it comes to public speaking, the first obstacle to overcome can be found in the grey matters between the ears. Sir George Jessel, a 19th century English judge hit the nail on the head when he said, “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public!” Those of us who have had the honour of suddenly being asked to deliver a speech during an official function would readily agree with Sir George Jessel. “My mind just went blank.” We hear that a lot, don’t we?

Comedian Jerry Sienfield once commented about a survey in the United States which showed that the fear of speaking in public ranked higher than the fear of death. He noted that according to the survey, if he were asked to deliver a eulogy, he would rather be the one lying in the coffin instead. Just how true this is, you might ask. Well, I’ve seen people’s faces literary turned green just before they spoke before a group. And some would rather call in sick than run the gauntlet. Perhaps the popular TV show ‘Fear Factor’ should consider adding public speaking as one of the challenges to be overcome. If the survey result was accurate, the participants would readily swallow the fat and juicy larvae than stand up to speak before a crowd!
So, how do we overcome the fear of public speaking? Just like if you were to go sailing, you would set the sail first, and so you must set your mindset right first before you could speak in public. The human mind is very interesting. It could think of positive and negative thoughts but not both at the same time. You must make a choice about what thoughts to think about regarding public speaking. If you think “I can’t speak”, “I’m not qualified enough” or “I’m so nervous I’ll forget everything I want to say” you will certainly freak out even before you start to speak.
Instead, since you are already thinking anyway, choose to fill your minds with positive thoughts such as “I’m a public speaker”, “I like myself”, “I’m an interesting person” or “I’ll touch someone’s life today”. By focusing on these positives thoughts, we would be in a more ready state of mind to deliver a speech. Anthony Robbins taught that what the mind focuses on grows. And my personal experience tells me that it’s true. A more confident person always outperforms a nervous wreck.

This week, choose to think positive thoughts about yourself speaking in public. The ancient Chinese sage Confucius said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Well, this is the first step that you are taking in this long journey of personal growth. Now, raise your hand if you are a public speaker.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing with you on other tips of public speaking and personal growth. Feel free to email me at

Luke Bong is a trainer with Lighthouse Education and Training in Miri.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Get Out of A Rut

"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow." Helen Keller

I came across this quote last week and it really had an impact on me. One of the biggest reasons was because this very sentence came from someone who was physically blind. Yet, despite her blindness, she was able to utter such words of wisdom about human sight.

Often times I get into a rut thinking about something that I either don't like or don't want to happen. Well, guess where that leads me to. Definitely not a very motivating state. Just recently, I was asked to do something at the very last minute. To make matters worse, I already promised my son that I would stay at home that night to spend some time with him. Imagine the guilt I felt for letting my 4 year old son down.

Well, thank goodness for the quote by Ms. Keller. I quickly focused my attention on the 'sunshine', i.e. the possible solutions rather than focusing on the 'shadows', i.e. the guilt and consequences of this situation which I have suddenly been dealt with. And surprisingly, when I started to focus my attention on the solutions, I was able to come to a real solution where I could execute the last minute assignment effectively and at the same time had a great time with my son right after that.

Well, the next time you face a situation which you don't like, just do what Helen Keller suggested. "
Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow."


Monday, March 15, 2010

Dealing with Setbacks

Every now and then, life throws us a curve ball. And it can be a painful experience. For example, you are really looking forward to something (e.g. relationship, business venture, opportunities) and everything seems to be going right for you when suddenly, you get a rejection or an answer which is contrary to what you have been expecting. I know how that feels as I have had my fair shares of the curve balls thrown at me.

Before we start trading curve ball stories with each other, let me get something straight. This post is not about inviting readers to write in their 'curvest' (if there ever was such a word) ball story to win a carton of Premiere tissue paper. This post is about how to handle the curve ball so that we can still be in the game. One of my favourite movie heroes is Rocky Balboa and he has a saying that I love a lot. "It ain't over till it's over."

So, how do we deal with a curve ball? Firstly, recognise that it's exactly what it is: a ball (metaphor you can use to substitute with 'events', 'problems', 'situations') Don't give it more value that it deserves. By giving it more value, we are magnifying it so much that we feel helpless about situations in life. Many times, people give themselves excuses such as "I can't do this because something or someone did something to me. Life is just not fair." And they burst out in tears.

Well, I'd love to humbly suggest an alternative way to deal with this curve ball situation. It's a principle in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) called reprogramming. The next time you get served a curve ball say something like, "Because something or someone did this to me, all the more I'm going to get (what you want) in life." Sure, it may be just a sentence. But don't our sentences and words give meanings to our lives?

I'll share a personal story with you about how Lighthouse Education was started. Ken, my wife and I had this idea that we needed more capital to set up this company. So, I approached SME Bank in Miri to apply for a start-up loan. We did a lot of hard work to prepare the proposal, presentation, business plan and we even gave a 30 minutes business presentation to the bank manager. Throughout the presentation, the manager gave us the impression that things would be positive and we would have no trouble getting our loan. By the way, we only wanted to borrow RM50,000 as start-up and initial working capital. The waiting period was 30 days so during this time, we went about our respective duties, eagerly anticipating the much needed cash.

1 month later, the moment we have been waiting for arrived. I called up the bank only to be told that we didn't get the loan. At that moment, I felt like I've just been hit by a stun gun. I politely put down the phone and I called my wife. I told her, "Our loan application has just been rejected. Because of that I'm sure Lighthouse will be a great success! Let's make it happen." Now that I think of it, my wife would have been pretty worried about my logical senses at that moment. Next, I called up Ken and told him exactly the same thing. And guess what, the pain of knowing that there won't be RM50,000 waiting for us as we start our business was not that painful anymore and a sense of pride was slowly building up inside of me. It's like a voice in my head telling me "Hey! You can do it! Now, make it happen!"

Well, to cut a long story shorter, we just went ahead with Lighthouse Education & Training and we are so glad that we did exactly that. The joy of knowing that we no longer needed the loan gave us a strong boost to our level of confidence.

I'm not writing this to impress you but rather to impress upon you that when you get served a curve ball by life, the immediate response from you is crucial. Make the choice to say the following: "Because something or someone did this to me, all the more I'm going to get (what you want) in life."


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The most powerful tool in the world is...

the human brain, of course. Yet, it is also terribly under utilized. I read in a book by Tony Buzan that people only use 1% of their brain to memorize things. I wonder what the other 99% is used for? Well, I know the brain is responsible for controlling thousands of bodily functions which we take for granted so that must be keeping it busy everyday.

In today's Borneo Post under the comics section, there was a very cute comic strip entitled Zits. Below is the conversation between Jeremy and his brain.

Jeremy: C'mon, brain! You have all of the knowledge I need for this final and I need it now.
Brain: Sorry, I don't work well under pressure.
Jeremy: Fine. I'll take the exam without you.
Brain: Wouldn't be the first time.
(After a moment)
Jeremy: At least help me with the multiple-choice questions!! (and proceeded to strangle his brain. I did say it was comics, didn't I?)

The brain is capable of great creativity but we tend to subject it to what Anthony Robbins called "Learned Helplessness". What do I mean? Answer the following questions quickly:

When you are wearing your pants, which leg goes in first? Left or right? If you were like most people, you would probably not be able to answer that instantly. Don't worry. Now go and try it and see which leg goes in first.

Done? The next thing for you to do is this. If your left leg goes in first, now try to use your right leg and vice versa. (This is when people start losing their balance and start falling down)

What's the purpose of this exercise other than finding out which is your preferred leg? Well, it's to show us that we don't challenge/ question the norm enough. That results in what my professor friend says 'square thinking'. And it also explains why people have predictable behaviour and habitual patterns.

To have a breakthrough, first start with breakthrough thinking. To have breakthrough thinking, start by challenging your own thoughts and ideas. That's what people teach in creativity classes. And it works! Try it.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who We Are & What We Do

Inspiring Learning ~ that's our mission at Lighthouse Education & Training. Both Ken Yong and I are passionate about making a difference in people's lives. And we believe we can. How do we plan to do it?

Lighthouse is set up to provide English education in a creative way to young people and the not so young people. We've all experienced it before at some point in our lives: dreading to go to school because either the subject was too tough and boring or the lessons were lacking in life. Education is not supposed to be like that. Learning is a basic human instinct. We are born to learn. Therefore, learning should be something which we enjoy doing. Yet, this is not always true, right?

The Lighthouse way is fun, creative and full of life - in short, to inspire learning. People learn faster and more naturally when they are enjoying the process. Therefore, we go to great lengths to make our classes fun and enjoyable. Although getting a good grade is important, we believe it is not the ultimate goal. Instead, we place building confidence and self-esteem first. Confident students do better in life. There's no doubt about it.

So, will we "make a dent in the universe"? Ken and I would certainly want to do just that!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New way to grow plants

On the 1st day of the CNY, I brought my family to visit some relatives who stay in Upper Tukau. On our way there, I decided to stop by our old house to show to my son who couldn't remember ever staying in Holiday Park, Miri.

We were surprised to see a lot had changed. There were housing development projects everywhere. Very different from the Holiday Park I left just over 2 years ago. Perhaps the most shocking (or amusing) scene was the picture shown here. It was taken directly outside of my ex-house. Perhaps the tenants have discovered a better way to grow winter melon.

Do you have any similar experiences?

Happy Chinese New Year.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Book 2 "Entrepreneur" Begins

Well, Book 1 was called "Employee" and it is coming to an end. I don't know what date it would be exactly because I'm still waiting for my company's HR manager to calculate my last day of service with my present company. Now, I'm about to begin my Book 2 "Entrepreneur".

My initial feeling about this is that it is a giant roller-coaster ride with me strapped onto my seat with no option to stop and get off. So, on some days I was really looking forward to it. On other days, I was gripped by fear that I may have made a wrong decision. I guess, that is a common emotion for someone facing a crossroad in life.

However, now that I've tendered in my resignation, there'll be no more doubting on whether it will work. I'll have to go by faith and courage to make it work. Through all these, I'm so thankful to God for His grace. My no.1 concern was whether my wife and parents would fully support me in this or would they advice me against it. Believe me, that was very difficult for me. Thank God that when I broke the news to them, they just told me that they would support me and there was no question at all whether I was taking a great risk or not.

The picture you see on the top is my new company's logo. More details about what we do in a later posting.

Till then, cheers!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lessons from "Think Big & Kick Ass" by Donald Trump

Firstly, you must read this book. It is packed with nuggets from this celebrity billionaire whose most famous tag-line is "You're fired!". I got so many ideas and inspirations out of it. The co-author Bill Zanker who started the seminar company 'The Learning Annex' also had an inspirational story to tell about how his team took on an impossible project and turned it into an annual million dollar revenue activity.

Well, the most memorable lesson for me was from chapter 7 "Big Mo!". 'Mo' stands for momentum. Just like an electric fan, once it is turned on, it will keep on spinning. When you cut off the electrical supply, it will continue to spin through the force of inertia before eventually coming to a complete stop. Then you have to do something else to restart it. Well, in this case the fan should be an easy appliance to restart. But what if there is a power failure? Perhaps, try to think of a locomotive. It takes so much more effort to start a stalled locomotive, doesn't it? Yet, while it is running on full speed, one would not think of getting in its way! Once the locomotive stops, it takes great effort to get it moving again. That's the power of momentum.

According to Donald Trump, when we start a new business, we are actually building momentum in our life. Initially, no one knows about us and what we do. Well, just keep at it. Tell everyone you meet about what you do. Be your own best spokesperson. Publicize, publicize, publicize! Soon, someone will need what you offer. Pretty soon, that one would lead to two and eventually to many. And from Trump's experience, there comes a point where everything comes together all at once and you will find it challenging to juggle so much business. So, what do you do next?

You have just got your locomotive running and momentum is there. Do you a) ride the momentum? or b) keep building even more momentum? The obvious answer is (b), of course. However, how many times have you visited a restaurant which started off great but the moment business goes up, quality of cooking goes down. Many things are easier said than done, but still it takes someone to do it first. Otherwise, it will forever just be in the 'easier said' stage.

Wishing you a "Think Big Kick Ass" weekend ahead!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Do What You Do Best!

There is a key to greatness that everyone can use to make their life fantastic, and that is 'Do what you do best!' To do this, you must first know without a certain doubt what your calling in life is. Then, as the Nike ad says, 'Just Do It!'. Don't doubt and don't waver. Be fully focused on the goal and know that you already have the resources within you to achieve it - your will!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An interesting article I came across today

A friend sent me the following article this morning. It was so well written that I thought of sharing it here. I agree with the author that there seems to be a lack of knowledge about the situation and needs of the East Malaysian on the part of our West Malaysian countryman/woman. Even in the workplace of a large national company, the needs of East Malaysian colleagues are always put on second place. Well, at least that's what I experience. Enjoy the following article and feel free to add your views.


by Erna Mahyuni

As an East Malaysian, I am neither surprised nor angry about Malay/Muslims being up in arms over the 'Allah' High Court ruling.

It was to be expected, really.

What does anger me is getting comments from West Malaysian Christians that it is 'silly' for Christians to lobby to use the word 'Allah'.

One rather un-enlightened Christian said that "Allah is also a word used to describe one particular god in a pagan for Christians to use 'Allah' is strange and silly."

The whole 'Allah' debacle highlights a bigger, more endemic problem in the Malaysian, or should I say West Malaysian mentality: General ignorance of how the 'others' or 'lain-lain' live.

It seems very hard for most West Malaysians to understand that:

* Not all bumiputeras are Malay.

* Not all bumiputeras are Muslim.

It isn't just West Malaysian Muslims who have a very limited worldview but Christians as well.

They don't understand that in East Malaysia, with its high population of indigenous Christians, Bahasa Malaysia is used in services.

Most of these Sabahan and Sarawakian Christians have spent their whole lives thinking, praying and referring to their God as 'Allah Bapa' (Father God).

And now the government says they can't. That only Muslims can use the word 'Allah' when that isn't true in other countries.

Look at Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, which allows the printing and dissemination of bibles in Bahasa Indonesia that refer to God not as 'Tuhan' but as 'Allah'.

The Indonesian Muslims don't worry that their brethren will be 'confused' by these bibles. So why is our Home Ministry and all these religious groups up in arms?

The answer to that is politics. Religion is, unfortunately, something as mixed up with politics as is race. Political parties unabashedly use religion as a tool to win debates, with Umno often accused of trying to 'out-Islam' PAS.

Religion is not a private matter in this country and is, instead, aired like so much dirty laundry. What other Southeast Asian country has officially sanctioned civilian peeping Toms who consider it their civic duty to weed out fornication?

Malay is our language, too

Despite the many varied ethnicities in Sabah, they have managed to get along without bloodshed or May 13-like incidents.

How have we managed it when West Malaysia's three main races mostly give each other a wide berth? It's called tolerance, people.

All Sabahans speak a slightly modified version of Malay with the funny little suffix 'bah' tagged behind a lot of words or sentences.

In rural areas, this heavily-accented version of Malay is the only means for most people to communicate with each other. They speak, think, dream and yes, even pray in the language.

Sabahan Michelle Quek asks: "Is it more important to recognise that some Muslims lay claim to the word as being exclusive to their faith, or recognise that a practical need for the word exists for East Malaysian Christians?"

Her question embodies the difficult balancing act that Malaysia has in attempting to address the needs of its varied peoples as well as the gulf between East and West Malaysia.

Kavin Ch'ng, who is married to a Sabahan, says that locally, for many generations, Malay-speaking Christians have always referred to Allah and Tuhan in the same breath.

"Why only now does the government kick up such a fuss?" he asks. What is important, Ch'ng says, is mutual respect.

"I think there is a way to co-exist - if only our government can actually wrap its head around the concept of context."

Sarawakian El'Bornean finds it disturbing that West Malaysians now want to dictate how one's personal faith is practiced.

"The true Malaysians are here in Sabah and Sarawak," he says, citing examples of his Muslim friends who have no qualms sitting with friends in non-halal stores and visiting churches.

Despite being surrounded by Christians, East Malaysian Muslims do not consider their faith easily shaken, he asserts.

Sabahan Dusun Zara Kahan has a humorous, if facetious, solution.

"If (some) Muslims insist on ownership of the term 'Allah' then Christians must do the same with the term 'Tuhan'. Do you know how many Hari Raya songs will be in jeopardy? End of issue!"

No, we don't want to convert you

In West Malaysia, technically Christian worship services in Malay are illegal. But Sabahan and Sarawakian students ask for them anyway.

Many of these Malay-speaking East Malaysians feel uncomfortable attending worship services in English because the terms are unfamiliar. Muslims often cite the 99 names of Allah and for Christians in East Malaysia as well as Lebanon and Syria, Allah is their name for God.

All this talk about 'confusion' is really the product of West Malaysians not mixing with their East Malaysian brethren.

If you visit the Dusuns in Ranau, you could well meet locals as fair as highland Chinese with slanted eyes who would greet you with the traditional Muslim salam.

Wander into an East Malaysian Chinese coffee shop and you would see tanned, Malay-looking locals happily digging into 'char siew' or other pork dishes

In East Malaysia, you can't easily tell what faith someone professes or what race his forefathers were just by looking.

This is very disturbing to the West Malaysian psyche. I have met West Malaysians who get very agitated when I refuse to tell them either what religion I profess or what race I am.

They don't know what to do with me because they can't categorise me. I don't fit into their safe little boxes which decide how they will treat me.

What annoys me as well is this West Malaysian paranoia that Christians have a secret ongoing campaign to convert Muslims on the sly.

Let us be honest. If converting Muslims to Christianity was as easy as pouring holy water into your drinking water or putting the word 'Allah' in all available religious literature, the Pope would have sanctioned it years ago.

Christians don't get 'brownie points' by forcibly converting unwilling Muslims.

I suppose all the Malay-looking Christian East Malaysians really confuse the locals to the point they rabidly proclaim that churches are succeeding in their nefarious campaign to take over Muslim souls.

In East Malaysia, Christians and Muslims come in various sizes, shapes and colours. Even huge extended families often have different religions, sometimes staying under one roof.

It is not unusual for an East Malaysian to have not just Christian, but Buddhist, Muslim and animist relatives. A friend of mine says it is a convenient excuse to celebrate the many public holidays with more gusto.

When told that someone is marrying a person of another race, the common reaction is: "Oh, your kids will be cute!" No heated discussion about traditions or religious differences because the unspoken assumption is that the couple will work them out.

Because they do.

Be Malaysia, not 1Malaysia

A well-known comedian talked about the recent Al-Islam undercover foray into churches. Its so-called investigative journalists entered churches on false premises and desecrated the communion wafer.

Did the Christians protest? asked the comedian. Did they declare bloody war? Did they have angry sermons and plan noisy demonstrations outside churches on Sunday?

No. What did the Christians say? "Forgive them-lor. Pray for them-lor."

The comedian mused that the incident was actually excellent public relations for the church.

Despite our annoyance with West Malaysian intolerance, do you see East Malaysians picketing?

We gripe, we grumble, we send politely-worded statements. Yet we still believe in the Malaysia that our Tourism Ministry tries to sell, but which seems to be a myth in West Malaysia.

Do you want to know why? Deep in the heart of most East Malaysians, we truly believe in tolerance. We believe in the ideals of Malaysia.

We don't have to give 'muhibbah' a name because we live it. Since 1963, we have lived as Malaysians, believing in true tolerance and that race or religion matters little.

We truly do believe that West Malaysians can and should get over us using 'Allah' to worship God. Isn't Allah the God of all mankind? Isn't your Malaysia our Malaysia too?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to take care of the voice, anyone?

I'm on sick leave today. For someone who makes a living using his voice, it gets a bit irritating to be down with bad cough and no voice. Lately, I've been speaking a lot and I feel my throat dry after long sessions of speaking loudly.

Yesterday, I started to get this 'sexy' tone, which is not at all sexy, if you ask me. Anyone has a remedy or good practice to take care of one's voice?