I attended the clan gathering of my Dusun side recently on 20 November 2010 at Kampung Kabunau, Kuala Penyu. It is an annual gathering started by the Kimsin branch of our clan. The annual gathering is a way for us to rekindle and strengthen relations among the descendants of my great Grandparents, Peter Tananak & Monica Sanandu. This year, the honor to host the gathering fell to the Emok branch of the family.
I had the pleasure of having interacted with my great grandpa. He outlived my father in fact. My dad passed away on 19 December 1977 at the age of 39 and my great grandpa passed away on 22 November 1981 at the age of 103.
Most of the interaction I had with my great grandpa occurred at my late grandpa James Sunam's home at Kampung Takuli, Beaufort. I think I was no more than 10 years old then. Those days there was no electricity at my grandpa James Sunam's home. At dusk, my grandpa James Sunam would 'crank up' the Hurricane Lamp and there was no TV at night. So you could have guessed by now that I was not very big on staying overnight at my granpa's home.
On hindsight, I think I know why my maternal auntie Margaret Sunam tricked me and my younger sister into tagging along with her to my grandpa's home on one particular day. She enticed us to follow her to my grandpa's home and promised that we would not be staying overnight. I think they had wanted us to meet our great grandpa and resorted to trickery to get us going.
I remember that night I was throwing tantrum because I wanted to go home. It was dark, no TV and I was miserable. The adults made excuses as to why they could not send us home that night. I remember my grandpa called me to his side and I complied. Sitting next to him was a familiar old face, I had seen him before. My grandpa told me that the old man was my 'Datuk'. Still sulking, I acknowledged half heartedly. I was young and did not know the significance of the moment. How could I? The concept that my grandpa has a father was not apparent to me. I thought my Datuk was just another old men, a friend to my grandpa.
I remember that my grandpa was very (I mean VERY) respectful to my Datuk, almost to the extend of reverence. That night, my grandpa tried to prod me into having a longer conversation with my Datuk. I remember it did not last very long because soon I lost interest; I did not have any interest to begin with on account that I was upset at being tricked into staying overnight. I might even had been rude to my Datuk but he just brushed aside my attitude with a sagely smile. There is this vivid scene etched in my head, of him staring at me affectionately. His face was all wrinkly but I remember his eyes were very alive and alert. So there we were, my grandpa trying to make me talk and the surrounding was aglow in yellow hue from the candle light. Datuk spoke to me in Hakka but I cannot remember what he said to me. Anyhow, my Hakka was not really good anyway.
The next time I would see Datuk again, was at his home at Kiambor. By that time, he was bed ridden and frail. When he passed away, I was not brought along to his funeral.
I always thought that my siblings and I are second generation Chinese on the Chinese side of the family. Am I confusing you? Sorry, I have trouble putting my train of thoughts in proper order. Let me explain, my father was a Chinese Hakka, he was borned in Sandakan. His parents came from China. Hence, my father and his siblings would be the first generation Chinese Sabahans. My father married my mother (of course, Captain obvious) whom is a Dusun. So my siblings and I are Sino-Kadazan (The National Registration Department would of course say there is no such thing but I beg to differ, check Article 161A (6)(B) of the Malaysian Constitution which says that a person who either has one parent or grandparent whom are a native of Sabah, shall be considered as a native him/herself).
Apparently, my mother was not her family's first trailblazers in marrying someone of different race! My Datuk himself was either a Sino-Kadazan or full fledged Chinese! Why I cannot for certain say what his actual race is because we do not have the details of his mother. None at all! But we know who his father was.
Thanks to gatherings like our annual clan gathering, the older generations of our family could share their knowledge of our clan history. This is what I gleaned so far:
Great Great Grandfather
My maternal Great Great Grandfather's name is Koh Thai Hock. His 'tombstone' indicated that he was borned in the year 1780 and passed away in 1890. He lived for 110 years!
From family sources, I know that my Datuk or Great Grandfather Peter Tananak, could converse in Hokkien. The Hokkiens are minorities in Sabah. In Sabah, the Hakkas are the largest Chinese clan. Just as the Hokkiens are the largest Chinese clan in Singapore and Cantonese in the Northen part of West Malaysia. In Sabah, you could walk up to the first Chinese you see and speak Hakka to him and he would understand you even if he is not Hakka. Therefore, I can deduce that my Great Grandfather Peter Tananak was born into a Hokkien family. A Hakka person generally do not need to learn a second Chinese dialect in Sabah because the 'business' language in Sabah or North Borneo as it was known then is Hakka.
So in all likelihood, my Maternal Great Great Grandfather was a Chinese Hokkien and probably originated from Xiamen of the Fujian Province of China. However, we cannot for certain say that he is originally from China because some sources said that Borneo has been trading with China as early as 9th Century A.D. Great Great Grandfather Koh was borned in the 18th century and passed away in the 19th century. I cannot rule out the possibility that he was borned in Sabah or North Borneo.
According to family sources, before settling in Kuala Penyu, Great Great Grandpa Koh was doing business in Membakut. Like I said earlier, we have no details of Grandpa Koh's wife, whether she is a Chinese or Dusun, we are in the dark hitherto.
Great Great Grandpa Koh and spouse produced five offsprings as follow:
1) Sanagang - Born circa 1874
2) Manak @ Kuangang - Born circa 1876
3) Tananak @ Peter - Born circa 1878. This is my Great Grandfather. You notice by now his last name is actually his first name? In his NRIC his name is Peter Tananak when it should have been Peter Koh or Tananak Koh. Great Grandfather took the name Peter when he converted to Christianity. For some reason, his 'pagan' name became his surname.
4) Kuagang - Born circa 1880 ;and
5) Unggong - Born circa 1881
If you do the math, you would see that my Great Great Grandpa Koh was 94 when he had his first child and that my Great Grandpa Peter Tananak was twelve when his father passed away.
Two interesting quirks about my Great Great Grandfather Koh Thai Hock are:
1) He is also known as Bulangang, his alias ;and
2) On his 'tombstone', they inscribed 'Datu' in front of his name. Family sources said that this is a title but it remains a mystery how he got around getting it.
Great Grandfather Peter Tananak is the third child of my Great Great Grandfather Koh Tai Hock @ Bulangang. Details of his early live is a bit sketchy to me, I am sure if I talk more to my elders I would find out more but here is what I know so far. He and his youngest brother Unggong, were taken in by the Christian Missionary which sponsored their education. I know that Great Grandpa Peter had his education at Kuching, Sarawak. I am not sure whether his youngest brother was with him in Kuching though.
Thanks to the Missionary, besides being able to converse in Dusun Tatana and Hokkien (and some Hakka), my Great Grandfather was conversant in English too which is a big deal in those days. He was employed as a clerk (which is a big deal also in those days) in the Land and Survey department in Kota Kinabalau which was known as Api Api then.
He married Great Grandmother Monica Sanandu whom was either a divorcee or a widow. Great Grandmother Monica had a son from her previous marriage, his name was Emok. Great Grandfather took Emok as his own son.
Peter and Monica had the following children:
1) Kimsin - Later known as Martin Kimsin
2) Achi - Later known as Magdelina Achi
3) Sunam - Later known as James Sunam. This is my Grandfather
4) Amit - Later known as Catherine Amit
Each of the children including Emok, have offsprings of their own. Many! I have to add that if we follow the lineage of my Great Grandmother Monica, Emok branch is the 'senior', him being her first born.
Great Grandfather Peter was a leader of his community. He was the first Catholic Catechist in Kuala Penyu. There was a time when the European priest given charge of the diocese were absent for a long time due to resource constraint and it fell upon Great Grandfather Peter to tend to the congregation. Great Grandfather Peter was also one of the school teachers in Kampung Bundu in Kuala Penyu.
He was a religious man and walked in the path of God, I am sure he would be proud to know that two of his Great Grandsons, Datuk Cornelius Piong is a Bishop and Boniface Kimsin is a priest. Both of whom are my maternal cousins.
That brings me to the end of this post. If you are a relative and you see an anomaly in my facts, please rectify me :D. That is the whole point I am blogging this. I am reaching out. If you are the descendant of Koh Tai Hock or his siblings, whether you are in China or Sabah, please contact me :D.