by SC Chin
Over the past decade festive celebrations in Malaysia has served as opportunities for major brands in the country to share messages of virtue and respect through television commercials. One brand’s commercials that Malaysians have grown to look forward to are definitely the ones from PETRONAS.
With taglines that remind us that our greatest blessings are always right by our side these heart warming and often tear jerking commercials resonates with every Malaysian across all backgrounds by giving us a real life glimpse into our lives.
Through time the commercials from PETRONAS have grown into short films taking on more than just sending a product or service message. They’ve become films that remind us of deep rooted Malaysian values and virtues like respect for our parents, the importance of family and friendship as well as the joys of living in a mixed race country.
Every May for the past few years, PETRONAS takes us on a beautiful journey rich in culture and heritage through their Kaamatan and Gawai commercials. They’ve introduced us to the legends behind some of the traditions and celebrations. They’ve initiated us into long house family customs. They’ve made us turn green with envy as we feasted our eyes on the lush raw greenery and beautiful waters that are abundant in East Malaysia. They’ve tickled our senses with the bright colours of the traditional attires, the energetic songs and mysterious rituals.
This year’s Kaamatan and Gawai commercial from PETRONAS takes us on a slightly different journey. It also takes us on a reflection of strength, hard work and most importantly, gratefulness.
Celebrating one of the true spirits of Kaamatan and Gawai, this year’s PETRONAS commercial honours the omnipotent paddy. The spirit of the paddy plant is believed to represent the all powerful source of life and existence. Those celebrating Kaamatan and Gawai believe that the paddy plant does not only provide them with their stable food, but is also a symbol of love and life.
The Harvest Festival, as it is more commonly referred to in English, is a day of giving thanks to the Gods for the blessings of a good bountiful harvest and humbly requesting for the blessings to continue.
Starting with a scene depicting what Malaysians do best, the ad begins with a typical long house meal taking place. Loud chatter and laughter is heard as the large family with members of all ages are seated on their longhouse floor, gathered around their plates of rice enjoying each other’s company. Suddenly there is an idea to go swimming in the nearby river and a group of kids leave their meals abruptly to head for their river adventure.
The group of kids are no other than Anang and her friend whom we have met a few months ago in PETRONAS’s Chinese New Year commercial “It Came From A Tin Mine”. This time they are all back in Anang’s kampung to celebrate the Harvest Festival with her family.
As these city dwelling children run off to the river with their fancy swimming gear, Anang’s grandfather stops her and asks her to take the family buffalo over to the paddy fields first. He reminds her sternly, that Jojo the buffalo must be taken to the paddy fields before she can go swimming with her friends.
Disappointed with the delay in their plans for a swimming adventure, the five friends decide to help Anang get Jojo to the paddy fields so the process is sped up. How hard can it be, right?
Little did they realise that getting a water buffalo to move is no easy feat! Anang and her friends try and try and try to get Jojo moving. They put on their thinking hats and come up with a all sorts of ideas including trying to encourage Jojo up with a red towel like a Spanish matador and pushing Jojo from the back like a stalled car.
The light heartedness of these scenes in particular will bring a smile to your face as it depicts so well how unaccustomed urban children are when it comes to dealing with farm animals. The scene where all five of them run in opposite directions just at the wag of Jojo’s tail is a perfect example and will surely get you bursting with laughter.
True to children’s “never say die’ nature, just like when they were trying to catch the “the King of the River” fish in February, the five friends rally together as a team to continue coming up with new ways to get Jojo moving.
Anang’s family watch in amusement and cheer encouragement from their long house but no matter what the five friends try their attempts at getting the family buffalo to move fail one after another.
Watching closely from the window is Aki, or grandfather in Anang’s native language.Aki calls the kids in to take a break and have a drink, but when they get back into the long house all they see under the tudung saji are five plates of half eaten rice and vegetables.
Perplexed, Anang and her friends sit around the plates trying to figure out what is going on.
Once again, Aki’s gentle but stern voice is heard as he shares with the children how he and Jojo worked for months to plant, tend to and sow the paddy fields. He reminds them of the hard work and sacrifice that goes into ensuring they have rice on their plates every day. That the children are blessed with abundance and should not waste the blessings that are right in front of them. Guilt ridden and reminded of the true essence of why they’re celebrating the Harvest Festival, Anang and her friends quickly finish every single grain of rice left on their plates.
True to what it is known for, this PETRONAS commercial tugs at the viewer’s emotional strings, especially the younger urban generation as it reminds us of the hardships that go on behind the scenes while we are lucky to be born into a more modern time which allows us to enjoy an easier way of life.
It reminds us of how we are a generation quick to move on to the next exciting adventure before we can truly cherish and honour what is present in front of us.
It teaches us, just like Aki taught Anang and her friends that respect, determination, togetherness and a sense of gratefulness are values to be carried throughout our lives, and that behind every blessing lie hard work and sacrifice.