June 17, 2011

Who is Dato Shahbandar Makang?

It has been bugging me for months already and so far, the answer to my question has been elusive! I even asked a cousin of mine who is living in Kuala Penyu and even he did not know exactly who the man is aside that he was some important man. 

Who or what that has gotten my obsession? Dewan Dato Shahbandar Makang! It is a community hall in the small town of Kuala Penyu. I'm not fixated on the building itself, rather the man which it is named after. Just who on earth was Dato Shahbandar Makang??? 

In the quest for enlightenment, I therefore, am blogging this just in case someone out there know the story of this man and could shed some light for me. So if you're that person, please do leave a comment. 

Meanwhile, while driving my two guests from Scotland to Kuala Penyu recently in May 2011, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this man's grave! If you are coming from Beaufort to Kuala Penyu, the grave is about 10 minutes drive after the Batu 4 - Kiambor turn. It is on the left side of the road. I'm curious that I've never noticed the grave before because it is right smack at the road side. Even a relative of mine who grew up in Kuala Penyu asked me the location when I showed him the picture. 


You would be forgiven if you thought that Dato Shahbandar Makang was either a Dusun or Brunei Malay etc. To my surprise, Makang is actually the shortened or "Malaynized" name of the man's chinese name. Yup, Chinese! 

His name is Foo Mah Kang. Born circa 1808 and died circa 1876. 68 years old. He must had known my maternal great great grandfather Koh Thai Hock who was born in 1780 and died at a ripe old age of 110 years old in 1890. My maternal great great grandfather himself also had the titular "Datu". 

Like my great great grandfather, nothing much is known about Foo Mah Kang. How he lived, how he died and what did they do to be conferred the Malay titular from the Sultan. 

I saw joss sticks when I took the photos. Were they put there by his descendants? I sure like it to be because there would be a chance for me to track them down and see whether they could shed some light. 

I am guessing that both Foo Mah Kang and Koh Thai Hock were descendants of Ong Sum Ping's followers who resettled in Kuala Penyu. I read somewhere that according to Syair Awang Semaun, during the reign of the first Sultan of Brunei, he and his followers set out to subjugate the natives in North Borneo and among the first places to be conquered by them was Kuala Penyu. 

List of territories conquered by the sultan. 
[sic] Kuala Penyu, Membakut, Bungawan, Kimanis, Binunih, Papar, Putatan, Manggatal, Tuaran, Sulaman, Ranau, Tampasuk, Bangkuka, Marudu, Tampasuk, Bangkuka, Pahitan, Sugut, Lingkabu Island, Kinabatangan and Tungku Silam
Most of these places are coastal areas, if not, are accessible by rivers. At the beginning of the Brunei Kingdom, the Sultan was competing for dominance with the Sulus from north up of North Borneo, the Philippines. The Sultan formed a powerful alliance with Ong Sum Ping to repel the Sulu invasion. It would be highly plausible that Ong Sum Ping would have sent his men to aid the Sultan's men in defending their territories against any Sulu raids.

Kuala Penyu would had been made part of the Tanah Tulen or Tulin system practiced by the Brunei Sultanate then. The Sultan, princes and princesses of Brunei normally install people they could trust to rule in their stead in the region they owned. Dato Shahbandar Makang must had been the ruler of Kuala Penyu in his time. 

Until next time, I shall continue unearthing our lost history.    

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