Sibu's Swan
With the edge to the water at the jetty where I cannot extend further to take a picture...
I have waited for 1-1/2 hour for the moon to move at the right location in my picture frame for this Sibu monument shot.


Text: Mae-V Ng <maev@mir.com.my> | Photography: MIR Photographers

The early risers in Sibu are already working since eight in the morning. Here we were, just touched down at the Sibu Airport 10 minutes past nine. The clear blue sky already greeted us through the cabin's window. And I thought to myself, "Welcome to Sibu, the Swan City". You know it never occurs to me that Sibu is a quiet place. Coming here with a mission to carry out my boss' visions, all I thought about was getting busy, rushing for tasks and the likes. But within the first few hours, already you can feel the town's pace - slow and steady. Like the gentle wave of urban development that lapped the town.

Sibu . old and new merged
Sibu has its origin in the nineteenth hundred, circa 1850s. The Melanaus, one of the aborigine tribes in Borneo, were believed to be the earliest settlers, with their longhouses built in Kampung Nangka.

But as years passed, we will learn from history that the town, along with other parts of Malaysia, would be affected by major historical events that will shape the way of life here. It was during this tumultuous period of time came the Foochows, led by Wong Nai Siong from Ming Ching District in Foo Chow City, China. He made an agreement with the governing White Rajah of that time, Sir Charles Brooke, to let him lead large groups of Foochows to open up the town for cultivation. The year was 1901 that marked a milestone in the history of the development of Sibu. The Foochows opened many virgin fertile lands for cultivation, kickstarted the economy in the area with not more than 1200 of them - men, women and children who toiled, built, fished, traded and produced.

Meet the New Foochow Community

Due to the fact that the majority of Chinese immigrants were Foochows and that the Foochows mass-opened the plantation area, Sibu was also known as "New Foochow" or "Small Foochow" for their contribution. In Malaysia, you can only find a majority of Foochows these two towns; Sibu, Sarawak and Setiawan, Perak; geographically separated by the South China Sea.

There were other communities as well - Kekhs, Ming-nams, Cantonese, Chiang-Chuans, Hing Huas, Hokkiens, Ibans, Malays and others - all played their social and economic roles in the early 20th century. The Hing-Huas were good in padi cultivation; the Cantonese planted pepper; the Foochows planted rubber; the Malays and Melanaus were the fishermen. Around 1950s, timber became the economic driver, and was vastly available. Hmm... Did you notice the Rajang River is brown?

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I am honoured to be invited as a writer for this column. But facts featured in this section are the produce of my Google search, with some reading on notable sites such as www.sibu.com.my and www.thelex.com/sibu. Please, however, respect the virtual property that are featured here - in this case, photographs contributed by Leonard Foo. We would appreciate your usage; and in good faith, we trust you will observe the terms of use below.

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