UNDENIABLY, there are far-reaching benefits in upholding the ‘open house’ tradition during major festivals in a multi-racial nation like Malaysia.
ONE BIG FAMILY: PWPM members and families in a photocall during Chinese New Year Open House 2013.
Leaders of the country use this concept to reach out to the communities. Among the major festivals where open house is held in Malaysia are Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Christmas, Gawai Dayak (Harvest Festival in Sarawak) and Pesta Keamatan (harvest festival in Sabah).
Open house means everyone can join the festivities by visiting the celebrating households. During such visits, food and drinks, specially prepared for the occasion, are served in the spirit of sharing.
The interaction and understanding consolidate unity and harmony among the country’s multi-racial population.
Non-governmental organisations like the Miri Petroleum Ladies Association (PWPM) have every reason to be proud of themselves, not only in upholding the open house tradition but also successfully promoting it.
The Association — besides holding open house for Chinese New Year (Feb 10 this year), Hari Raya Puasa (August) and Deepavali — Diwali — (October), also have open house planned for three other occasions this year — Japanese Open House on March 11, Fiesta Filipina Open House (June) and Indonesian Open House in Sept.
By holding more open house, PWPM is promoting not only the sharing concept but also solidarity among their members and the global community.
PWPM president Charito Paulino, in a Chinese New Year address on Feb 20, said members in Miri were lucky they could celebrate many festivals in peace and harmony.
SIGNATURE FOOD: Food prepared by PWPM members for the Open House.
“We are lucky in Miri with so many festivals for us to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company both as old and new friends. The festivals also help promote greater understanding and co-operation among members,” she added.
During a PWPM open house, members are enlightened on the significance of the cultures and traditions associated with the festival for which the open house is held.
For example, during Chinese New Year, among the traditions still being cherished are tossing of the Yee Sang ceremony (for longevity and prosperity) and lion dance performances.
As PWPM member Datin Judy Wan Morshidi explained, lion dancing was performed in the olden days to drive away the beast, believed to appear during the celebration to kill and eat young children.
“Red is used to scare off the beast – that’s why revellers wear that colour. Red is also believed to bring good luck,” she said.
While holding open house for a particular major festival, PWPM members make it a point to dress for the occasion (mostly in traditional attires) while signature foods and delicacies of the celebrating community are served. Members normally prepare the food gotong-royong-style.
ENTERTAINMENT: Lion Dance performance during the Chinese New Year Open House.
To promote greater cultural and traditional understanding during Chinese New Year, mini exhibitions and performances of traditional dances are held. Whereas during Christmas gatherings, there will be singing of apostolic songs and exchange of gifts.
Several expatriate members have applauded PWPM for holding open house to further enhance international relations.
Rebecca Hirse from Nigeria said: “It’s wonderful — something similar to what we have at home but not on a big scale like this. Ours is among family members and friends but here it is for everybody.
“It embraces everybody — that’s what I like, I told my husband when we go back home we will organise open house (like here) for Christmas, so everybody can come to my house.”
For vice president Anne Cunningham of Scotland, the open house tradition is “fabulous and steady, warm and welcoming.
“So many nationalities and ethnic groups coming together to celebrate — not just here but all over Malaysia. Very enjoyable. In Scotland, the community tends to stay together but here it’s much more open — good for multi-racial Malaysia,” she said.
According to Charito (Paulino), PWPM, although only having over 80 members, is an ideal platform to promote global peace and harmony.
The members come from 14 countries — Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Canada, Australia, the US, Scotland (UK), Spain, Netherland, France, India, China and Japan.
She said besides providing facilities for educational arts, cultural and recreational development as well as promoting goodwill and racial harmony, PWPM also organised various programmes both for members and the community either on its own or in collaboration with other organisations.
The programme planned for this year are International Women’s Day and Recipe Exchange (March 4); Earth Day Special Talk and Demonstration On Recycling; Miri May Fest Celebration (May); Craft and Bake Sale for Charity at SSB (May6); Mother’s Day Special (May13); International Dance for Humanity; PBC Summer Bazaar (June); We Care, We Share Project (July); National Women’s Day (August); Walk for the Cure, Run for the Cause (Breast Cancer Awareness) on Octr 5; International Dinner Party (Nov 9); Appreciation Coffee Morning and Shoebox of Thanks (Nov 12); PBC Christmas Bazaar; Craft and Bake sale for Charity at SSB and Christmas Party all in Dec.
KIMINO LADIES: Photo opportunity with the ladies clad in kimono during the Japanese Open House.
Charito said these programmes were in addition to their weekly cooking demos, crafts- making and dancing lessons.
PWPM is a non-profit organisation founded in1986 by Mary Jaya. Membership is open to all lady staff, wives of pensioners and families of Sarawak Shell Berhad, Sabah Shell Berhad, Petronas Bhd, Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd and contractors of petroleum-related industries residing in Miri.
In 1996, membership was extended to all ladies in Miri to encourage cross-cultural exchange.
The full membership fee is RM30 per person, RM20 for associate membership and RM10 yearly.
Further information is obtainable from Charito (012-8588102) or secretary, Heilda Amer (013-8148101).