Some essays, some thoughts

A Charm is Removed

Yung Kong Construction was awarded a contract: the construction and completion of Sekolah Rendah Agama at Semariang Kuching in the year 1987. As usual, we encountered numerous small problems such as shortage of materials, labour, stolen motor or starter from our bulldozers parked on site etc. But these were minor difficulties which could be solved, mainly by extra money. However there was a major problem confronting our foreman and all the workers on site, threatening to halt the progress of the project. This is the problem of charm!

It turned up that part of the land alienated for the School had been planted with many eucalyptus trees by some enterprising individual. The leaves from the trees were boiled for the production of some kind of medical oil. The owner came to my office, showing me many pictures on how he made the oil, hoping some sympathy and get some compensation from us. As this was not included in our tender sum, his requests were not met. We didnt think he got anything from the authority either. Not long afterwards, I received words from the site that there were charms everywhere, especially around the eucalyptus trees. It consisted of raw eggs, small bottles of oil and things like that. Fearing for the worst, workers would not get near the trees, machines would mysteriously stop while approaching the trees and so forth. Progress of works greatly slowed down.

Since these were local-version charms, Bomohs were naturally sought to remove them. Many Bomohs came, had a closer look at the charms and left. Too strong for them, they said. Somebody said there was a higher ranking and more powerful Bomoh somewhere around town. He was approached but to no avail. The charms were too powerful even for him, he wouldnt take the job. So what were we to do? We had to remove the obstacles otherwise the progress would be halted soon.

Even though we Christians do not believe in these charms, no body dared to remove them. So I approached a priest at the St. Josephs Cathedral. Rev. Fr. Vincent Chin was a young priest, the very first priest graduated from our St. Peters College, Kuching a major seminary for priesthood. I knew him quite well as I was a parish councilor and the Organising Chairman of his Ordination Dinner. Father, we have a problem, I petitioned, would you be kind enough to remove some charm from our site? He smiled and set a date. The arrival of the priest was greatly anticipated by all the people on the site, as it would relieve them of their fear so that life could go on as normal again. Early one morning, I drove the priest to the site. I brought him to the locations where the charms were deposited, accompanied by our foreman. Workers followed and watched. Fr. Chin picked up all the eggs, bottles, anything suspicious and put them into the basket I carried. Any more? inquired the priest, seemingly brave and fearless. Our foreman was thorough in searching for any more possible charm articles around. When all was cleared. I put the basket into the boot of my car and drove the father back to the Presbytery. He took the collection and waved good bye to me. That was that, I thought, a problem solved.

What did the Father do with the eggs? I was asked the next time I visited to the site. I dont really know, may be he fried and eat the eggs. I joked. After the removal, there were no more incidence at the site and the project was completed on time.

This true story tells us that if we believe in something, it existed, but if we dont believe in it, it never existed. Thus to the Bomohs, the charm was too strong to remove, while to the priest, the charm never existed!

- Ir Michael Hii, 1996


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