Expat community glad to be a part of b’day meet with HM

National 3 minutes, 5 seconds


EXPATRIATE residents, longtime and new alike, were among the crowds who yesterday revelled in Temburong District’s celebrations of the 69th birthday of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

They excitedly joined thousands of other well-wishers at Temburong Community Hall, where the celebrations were held.

British national Hannah Sim, who is a primary school teacher here, was lucky enough to snap a selfie with His Majesty the Sultan during her first meeting with the monarch yesterday.

“I didn’t know if it was okay or not at first, but I saw some of the other locals doing it, and I gave it a go, and he was very friendly about it,” Sim said, smiling.

Sim described the experience as “surreal” as she initially didn’t know the meet-and-greet session would be happening as part of the celebrations.

“In all honesty, I’m really loving the celebration and how the community comes together. It’s a real contrast with celebrations back home in England, where no one really gets together to do anything on big occasions.

“Here, you get a real sense of the community spirit,” she said.

Dennis Guild, an Australian citizen who is also a teacher here, told The Brunei Times that he had the pleasure of attending last year’s celebrations at the same venue.

“I was absolutely amazed by the love that came from the local people for His Majesty the Sultan.

“I shook his hand last year, and it was an amazing experience. I found him a very gentle and very caring person, and he was genuinely interested in meeting some of our foreign cikgus (teachers),” Guild said.

He added that the celebrations were a great way to reflect on the good work the monarch has been doing throughout Brunei, particularly in the field of education.

“I think in Southeast Asia, there’s no other place (besides Brunei) that has such an intense high school English education with foreign teachers in the classroom,” Guild noted.

May Abrera, a Filipino nurse at Pengiran Isteri Hajah Mariam (PIHM) Hospital, shared that she has attended many previous birthday celebrations for the monarch, as she has worked in Brunei since 1986.

“As it’s still a once-in-a-year celebration, I will attend whenever I have the chance.

“It’s always a privilege to see His Majesty the Sultan,” she said.

Abrera said she felt like the monarch was her own ruler, having resided in the country for so long.

“I feel the love of His Majesty to his people and to us. He really looks after the people of Brunei, especially those who really need the help of the government.

“He doesn’t look down on whether you are a foreigner or a local, if you are rich or poor; his people are all the same to him,” Abrera said. She wished His Majesty “more good years ahead and more blessings to come for (the monarch) and his family”.

Meanwhile, Indian national Dr Ruma Gulati expressed admiration for His Majesty’s willingness to meet his people up-close and personal.

“I’m really amazed at how close he is to them. In India, even if there is a minister, there is lots of security and nobody can go near him,” Dr Ruma said.

In terms of the medical sector, she also praised the monarch’s leadership in continuously providing Bruneians with accessibility to subsidised and up-to-date healthcare. Dr Ruma said she could see that His Majesty “genuinely feels for his people” and how he would go out of his way to help any citizen in need.

“That is what’s really amazing about him,” she added.

The Brunei Times