Monday, December 12, 2005

A Gathering of Old Saints


It's time of the year again for our Old Xaverian Association annual dinner.  In spite of my early 4.00pm departure from SP to avoid the traffic jam on the Prai side of Penang Bridge, which is a regular occurrence on Friday evenings, it took me more than thirty minutes to get to the other side.  The queue started immediately at the turn-off from the interchange.  Anyway, I reached the Sandy Beach Paradise a quarter before 6.00pm and managed to locate the place in between 2 other hotels namely, the Corpthorne and the Crown Prince.  KS Khoo’s email mentioned Sandy Bay, but since that’s the only place called “Sandy” that must be it.  I wanted to arrive early on purpose so that I could drop by for a chat with my old folks at their apartment just a 5 minute drive from there.  Mum was preparing dinner and dad was at his favorite reclining chair in front of the TV.  Normally they'd maintain their youthful vigor by arguing about anything under the sun or compete for my attention with their opinions whenever I'm around.  But that evening they were rather subdued as if in reflection of the moody weather.  I hoped I brought them some cheer with my surprise visit.


When I arrived at the hotel later the 'car park full' sign was blocking the entrance.  A guard indicated an alternative parking space a bit further down the road on a vacant field next to the Dalat School next door.  On my way to the hotel from the car park it was drizzling, but I decided to leave the umbrella.  I noticed a lanky guy with clean shaven head behind me.  The face looked familiar.  My mind ran through the list of names and I guessed this must be Chin Soon.  I turned around and asked him and he said yes.  He couldn’t remember me, so I had to remind him.  We represented St Xavier's Branch School together in an art competition at Francis Light School when we were in Std 6.


We found we were the first to arrive at our table, followed by Gaik Im, the only rose among thorns at our table.  This bubbly lady got here all the way from Phoenix, Arizona, USA where she’s a property agent.  She's on one of her occasional visits home.  She was from our neighboring school, the Light Street Convent with whom we shared the playing field.  The common link we had was that she spent a few months in form 6 in SXI before she left for the US.  Ong was in SXI until form 4 after which he left for UK to pursue a course in fashion design.  He resided in UK for 11 years and then moved to Hong Kong where he now runs a boutique. That’s the gist of all the information I managed to gather from these early birds before the rest of our table mates showed up and the resident band struck up their oldies and goodies of the sixties and seventies trying to drown out our conversation.  We then tried to carry on by turning our voices up a few more decibels in between some photo-sessions and 'yam-seng' cheers.


There was Chin Kong back from Toronto, Canada.  We learned he’s into politics there.  I remember him as the guy who kept praising me for my artistic talents when he saw some of my works displayed in our school annual exhibition.  It looks like he's found his calling.  Too bad, I didn't follow mine.  I was glad to have also met Dean Liu, who generously supplied the Green and Black labeled whiskeys which put so much life into our little gathering in the midst of the larger gathering.  There also was Joseph Yong, Sik Kim, who's in civil-engineering, Swee Sim (MAS), our regular Cheong Tian the freight-forwarder, Choon Jin the low profile and humble tycoon and not forgetting JM Tan the security expert from Fairchild.  Our table was reserved by our OXA vice-president friend, KS Khoo former banker, now GM of Clarion. 


We were treated to the usual 8 course dinner complete with lucky draws offering prizes in cash and kind. To round off the evening, our vice-president got on the stage with the band and gave us his version of 'Secret Love'.  We assumed he wasn't singing about his personal life at this age. The guys decided that 10.15 pm was too early for them to crawl off home to bed.  They were just warming up and wanted to shift the party to another venue.  For me, I've had enough to last me till next year.  It felt great to sit among old friends and yak away the night, and I would have loved to continue but my neck wasn't really up to it yet.  I decided to call it a day, thinking about the usual jam in Green Lane and my long drive back to SP alone on the wet, drizzly night.


This was my 2nd attendance in this annual dinner and to think that I haven't seen some of these guys for more than 35 years.  Except for some receding, greying or missing hairlines, thicker glasses or reading glasses where there were none before, nothing much has changed over the years.  These guys still tried to insult each other without anyone taking any offence for that matter.  In spite of the din going on all around, this gathering was to me, to sum up in one word: nostalgic.  Looking forward to next year and I hope to see more new (old) faces showing up.


Sunday, December 4, 2005

People can be heartless?

Is it true people are heartless nowadays?  If so, how do we explain the millions in cash and kind they collect for earthquake and tsunami victims?   Or is it institutions and organizations with rules and regulations and the necessity to define everything to a “T” that create the dilemma we’re in?


I’m talking about the case of the student who died while waiting for a relative to come up with RM5000 before the private hospital could proceed to save his life, here are my thoughts.


Is it a tragic catch 22 situation we’re looking at?  Or is it the chicken and egg?  The question begs answering: To provide emergency life-saving procedures without the deposit or red tape or look at every admission as a $$$?  Standard Operating Procedures may be necessary, but when it comes to a decision as to what constitutes an “emergency case” who can decide on that?  As soon as a doctor is called he starts charging his time, and the administration counter starts ticking.  The trouble is; people who handle the admissions may sometimes get ticked off if they made the wrong decision.  And to protect themselves they put things on hold.  Or they stick fast to the so-called rules.  If the “case’ expires at the doorstep, the admission guy may just say it’s the rules, or he may suffer the guilt of having “killed” someone because he had to follow the rules. 


So, the question to ask is: Is there a clearly defined condition as to what constitutes an “Emergency Case” or should it be imperative for all hospitals to alleviate pain and suffering before the question of payment is asked?  I’m not familiar enough with such things but I believe these definitions are usually not so clear cut.  Those in the profession should know better.  To save lives as well as to save the health industry from being run down to the ground by dubious cases and bad debts, the Health Ministry and private hospitals must come to terms with the conditions and find a justifiable solution. 


Continuing my train of thought, about SOPs being clear cut; how detail can you get to ensure the elimination of error in judgment or to prevent deviations from the procedure?  All this goes back to the human factor.  Has our rote-learning educational culture produced a breed of workers and decision makers who can’t think out of the box?  Are our people now operating without their powers of reasoning, but depend solely on operating procedures (which is what some department managers and auditors argue about when they think certain instruction manuals are not detailed enough)? 


As in the previous case of the naked ear-squatting issue that rocked the two nations involved, we will probably be back to arguing on the point of procedures, principles, personal responsibility, accountability leading to decision making and risk management. 


Perhaps it should be the top of our agenda to teach the future generations that power comes with responsibility.  And if one is not willing to accept the responsibility, then one should not be given that power.  Recent events have shown that some of those in power don’t seem to be even remotely responsible for what they said or did and instead come out with all kinds of lame or side-stepping excuses.  Maybe I forget that it is the bottom-line or the almighty dollar that dictates every decision everyone is taught to make from the moment he/she starts to learn how to think?


Nice sunny Sunday afternoon, but my mind is still rambling over all these issues.  Wonder if I think too much.  Any volunteered opinions?


By the way, I forgot to add that this is how students are taught in here: Think_only_what_I_Tell_You and they are definitely getting fed up about it.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Stories from the workplace III


After I quit the nightmare job in Jakarta in 1985, I returned to Malaysia.  It was a bad year for job-hunting.  But by sheer good luck, a friend of my wife told me to contact her friend, a Managing Director of a plastics injection molding factory called Exzone.  My job involved anything that came along; from product and process designing, trouble-shooting, to delivery and debt collection.  The pay wasn't enough to cover our daily expenses, but I took it.  I set up a classroom in my rented house and taught Art and English in the evenings and took on any other part time job that friends could come up with.  Those were my new friends in SP town but they willingly helped me out when they heard my story.


One day, after I had been with Exzone for a year, I was told to report at Euston, an American owned contract manufacturing plant.  (The owner resided in Hong Kong.)  I had, on a few occasions met executives from Euston as we were one of their vendors.  I had often wondered to myself whether I could get a chance to work in there.  I went to meet the General Manager called Andy.  He wanted me to make sketches of Euston, the people at work, the machinery, the facilities etc.  His intention was to create a brochure to promote the factory's facilities in the USA.  He wanted something unique, artistic and low cost.  He hired me for a month to do the job.  I finished the sketches in about ten days and handed them to him.  He said he'll get someone in the US to take care of the rest of the job.  I don't know till today what happened to those sketches.  I never saw any brochure either.


I just knew that I wouldn't be short of anything to do with the rest of the time.  While looking around the factory, I met a supervisor who was wringing her hands in frustration.  She was struggling to meet a deadline to deliver some painted toys but the Tampon-Printer broke down and she had no replacement–part available.  The replacement part had to be ordered from Hong Kong.  She asked me if I could think of something.  I took a look at the machine and realized all she needed was a wiping blade.  I asked her to find me a box-cutter blade.  I replaced the broken blade with the cutter blade after leveling off both slanted ends on a bench grinder.  It worked just fine and she completed the order without a hitch. 


Then she asked if I could help her with another problem.  She was short of some spray paint of one particular shade.  To order it from Hong Kong would take at least 2 to 3 weeks to arrive.  I told her to get me all the colors she had.  I then mixed a few colors together until I got the right shade needed.  This and other little problems helped make my days get by easier.


Euston's temporary canteen was in bad shape.  The original canteen was turned into an office after a fire burned out the factory office and store earlier that year.  Andy suggested that we built another canteen.  He wanted it built like the attap huts he saw at the beach hotels in Penang.  So we threw in whatever we got in terms of experience in building a house with nipah roof.  One morning, Andy was trying his hand at tying the nipah leaves up on the roof and he yelled, "Ouch, Shit!" 

I asked, "What's that?" 

He said, "Oh, it's something soft and brownish and smelly..."  I laughed.  He then said he poked on his thumb with the sharp end of the split rattan string. 


He asked me what to do if a piece of split rattan string ran out.  I said to join it with another length of string by tying it in a weaver's knot.  That way we get the smallest possible knot.  After that I kept hearing him swearing away at weaver's knots until we ran out of split rattan strings.

We did not finish even one-third of the roofing when we gave up and he called in a guy who could do it professionally.  He used rafia strings and a big needle and finished the job two weeks later.


Before the end of that month, Andy asked the secretary to make out a check for me.  I was told that the company's cash in the bank was in limited supply.  There was also the guy who repaired the canteen waiting to be paid.  As soon as I got the check, I said to Andy, “I’m going to the bank.”  He remarked that I seemed eager to get my money first before anyone else got it.  I laughed and said I got a wife, a 3-year-old kid and a new born baby at home.  I needed the money.  Andy followed me to the bank.  He helped me to get the check deposited into my account.  It was the first time I used an ATM card.  He followed me to the house and I showed him the new baby, our second daughter.


On what was supposed to be my last day, Andy said to me.  “How would you like to work for us permanently?  We seem to get along pretty well”.  I thought he was joking, especially about the 'getting along' part, but I said I'd love to.  We discussed my salary and he said I’d get whatever Exzone was paying me.  I said it would be an insult to my current boss.  He raised the offer by another RM100.  I took the job.  I was to learn later that it was a colleague, who suggested to him about taking me on.  But a few days later, before he could give me an official appointment, he resigned as GM.  I was left without a post but he told me not to worry about my job status. 


One day the Managing Director came over from Hong Kong.  He told the secretary that as he was walking around the factory he noticed a "Chinese guy" who was working even after everybody else had gone home.  The secretary then explained to him the precariousness of my position.  The next day she gave me an appointment letter signed by the MD which I immediately accepted.  That was August 1986.  I was placed in charge a lawn-sprinkler production line as a "Project Manager". 


Three months later, I had the good fortune of accompanying a colleague who wanted to ask the MD for some extra benefits, and I raised the fact that my probation was up.  He immediately promised that I’d be confirmed in my appointment.  The next day I received a confirmation letter stating that my pay has been raised by another RM350.  For the second time in my working life I was earning a four-figure salary. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Stories from the workplace II


When I was at my first job I thought my boss was terrible.  One day I saw a poster on the wall of a client's office.  It said: "Be nice to your boss.  The next one may be worse".  The message became stuck in my mind.  The best boss I had was one Australian who declared: "My highest qualification is my driving license".  He actually had an Able-Seaman's Certificate.  He was a sailor before he became an automotive production engineer.  He was the Engineering Manager who hired me.  His method of solving problems reminded me of MacGyver.  He once used chewing gum to stick parts on a viewing platform of a gyroscope.  He has since retired to his farm in Australia where he built his own house from scratch.  The last I heard of him he was building a boat.


I learned never to argue with a boss.  I'd put in my opinion if I thought something wasn't right.  But I always kept in mind that no matter how stupid he is, he's still the boss.  But I had one boss with whom I had a huge tiff.  One morning, I was under heavy pressure to solve a few problems, all of which came up at the same time.  While I was handling the calls he announced and insisted that the report on our job responsibilities he wanted from us had to be handed to him as soon as possible.  I lost my cool there and then.  I raised my voice by several decibels wanting to know what's so important about the damned report when there were more important issues to settle.  Our unwritten rule was that production problems were treated as top priority.  Obviously, he wasn't aware of that.  He insisted that if I couldn't accept his demand as a priority, I shouldn't be disappointed at the end of the year when the appraisals were given out.  I couldn't believe he'd stoop so low.  Although I wouldn't give a damn about his appraisal, I ate humble pie and apologized for raising my voice, but the report he wanted still had to come later when all other priorities were settled. 


Weeks later, another of my colleagues had a tiff with him.  This guy didn't hesitate to give him a piece of his mind either.  Within the next few minutes, he'd type out a resignation letter and threw it on his desk.  I would have loved to do the same but that engineer had a Masters in Engineering from U.K. under the Prime Ministers Scholarship.  He could get another job as soon as he walked out the door.  We could sense that the working atmosphere in our department had deteriorated. 


There were several problems which the Supply Dept and the supplier couldn't solve.  A metal part cracked under our process.  Our boss had to answer to the CEO on this as the customer was demanding delivery.  He ordered me carry out several experiments which he proposed, to improve the results.  All of his proposals didn't show any positive results.  Without his consent I had done some experiments of my own.  The parts didn't crack but looked dull and might not be acceptable to the customer.  I proposed that we show the CEO the results of my experiment, but he hesitated. 


Then a funny thing happened.  The CEO called for an emergency meeting which included all engineers.  As expected the CEO was furious after seeing the results of the experiments.  I looked at my boss.  He looked like he was lost.  He tried to argue that some of the results he showed could be used as the rejects were quite low.  The CEO could not accept that.  He looked around the room and asked if there was any other solution.  I had the results of my experiment together with samples in my pocket.  I took them out and laid them on the table without a word.  The CEO looked at the samples and said if we could produce parts like that without any cracks, then we should proceed.  I said that we could introduce that change of procedure as a temporary measure until the supplier could give us improved material.  Somehow, that temporary measure had since become permanent. 


That boss of ours did not last out till the end of that year.  I wasn't surprised at all and I'd forgotten whether my year-end appraisal turned out any worse than usual.  Like I said, I wouldn't give a damn.  He didn't get to do anybody's appraisal anyway. 


A month later I had a phone call from a friend who was Finance Manager of the company that had just hired him.  He asked me what kind of an ex-colleague I had, who quarreled with the security guard on his first day at work.  I said that he was my ex-boss and he's not my problem anymore.  That finance friend of mine would eat people like that for breakfast if it comes to a showdown.  He used to be company secretary and also worked as consultant to several organizations and had a reputation of being very aggressive in the board-room.


Friday, November 25, 2005

The Story of a "Tiger" (Brother Lau Hor)

---------- Original Message ----------------------------------
From: Ng Soon Hong <>
Date:  Sun, 20 Nov 2005 15:33:59 +0800

            The attached old article published in June, 2003 tells of the human side
            of Brother Michael Paulin Blaise aka Lau Hor.

            The contributions were from Robert Augustin (Class of 47) and the late
            Mr. Khor Cheang Kee.

            Happy reading.

            Ng Soon Hong



Vignettes on "Brother Lau Hor" by two renowned Xaverians, as dug up and highlighted to us by Ng Soon Hong, the former President of Xaverian Club Kuala Lumpur:



 A  supplement  of   THE  XAVERIAN  FAMILY  e-NEWSLETTER




A man who was .....  is ..... and

always will be everything Xaverian




Comments, views,  recollections  of  school  days  received  from  fellow-Xaverians  are  posted  here for the reading of  the members.  If you wish to respond to them or share your  happier times,  or  unpleasant ones for that matter, of  your  school  days  at SXI,  SXBS  and  associated  schools,  please  email your  anecdotes to It is our  intention to compile all recollections and bind them into a book for the School’s Archives



The older Xaverians, who had had the fortune or misfortune of meeting up with him would remember him well. The above statement which appeared in the1971 issue of the school magazine aptly describes the man himself, Brother Michael Paulin Blais.


Response from Robert Augustin (Class of 48)


Dear Soon Hong,

In response to your request,  I have written something about Bro. Michael. I hope it passes muster. It gives another side of him.

Brother Michael was for some time our Form Teacher and Principal of St Xavier's Branch School. Pulau Tikus when my brothers, Herbert and Patrick (James) and I joined St. Xavier's. It was 1947 -1948.

I remember the first RK class we had. He regaled us with his experiences as a prisoner of war. He did this over three periods. I enjoyed this bit in particular: the news that war was over spread like fire in the concentration camp; there was unbounded rejoicing; our good brother was caught up by the waves of exhilaration sweeping through the Camp; he was so overjoyed that he gave vent to his emotions and even rolled on the floor, something unexpected of a Christian Brother, so much so that a fellow prisoner remarked sorrowfully:  "Poor Michael, to think that he should go mad just when freedom has at last come!"

I did not find him that fierce as some have made him out to be. Perhaps in later years when he had to take on the unenviable task of being discipline master he had to wear a very strict mien. He had a dry sense of humour. On April Fool's Day he sent a student to the sports master to ask for a length of rope with which to tie round a coconut tree. On another occasion, again at RK class, when we were learning about Baptism and what we should do in case of necessity if there was no water to be had, he posed several questions. Can we baptise with aerated water? Beer?  etc .... Then he asked: Can you baptise with soup? He gave his own answer. "With the soup Brother P. serves us we can." (Times were hard for the Brothers those days - just after the war). Another day it was about visions and he told us about a nun who was seemingly blessed with having visions. Brother demonstrated this with a trance-like look with deep breath and all. She told the Reverend Mother and Mother told the Parish Priest. On being questioned by the Parish Priest: 

            "Sister, when do you get  these visions?" 

            "After Holy Communion, Father." 

            "Exactly at what moment?" 

            "After  mass. As sacristan, I have to put away everything. Before I wash the cruets, I find there is wine remaining.  I should not  pour it back into the bottle and  instead of pouring it down the sink, I gulped it down". Q.E.D.!

One inspiring lesson he tried to drive home: "I want each one of you to be a leader when you go out into world". The first time our football team won, he asked each of the players to say a few words before the school assembly. He was proud of the school and wanted to instil a sense of pride in all the students. One day when listening to a local radio broadcast, we heard "Kronchong" music being played. He enjoyed it and expressed his desire to get a record or two. He loved music.

With best wishes for your efforts,

Robert Augustin





A Tribute By The Late Mr. Khor Cheang Kee - an illustrious son of SXI


They called him Lau Ho, which means tiger in the local dialect ; they stood in awe of him but they revered him. To several generations of Xaverians throughout Malaysia, Brother Michael Paulin Blais was more than a teacher; he was their friend, guide, philosopher, also their music maestro extraordinaire.


Many stories have been told of the remarkable French-Canadian missionary with a love for children and music - and all things beautiful. My favourite one is about him as a disciplinarian.


When St. Xavier's rose from its bombed ruins after the war, Bro. Michael as the school supervisor, had to handle a  new breed of pupils who had had no proper education during the four years of Japanese occupation. Many of them were beyond the school-going age. They were tough, resentful, even unmanageable. Among them was the school bully, a 21 year-old terror who had openly boasted that no teacher would dare discipline him.


When he was eventually hauled before Bro. Michael for brutally beating up a smaller boy, the Old Tiger was ready for him.


"You seem to be very good at hitting others who cannot defend themselves," he  told  the bully. "Why don't you try it  on someone more of your size?" He threw a pair of boxing gloves at the still defiant youth, took him to the school courtyard and asked him to go into the ring with him.


There, cheered on by the whole school, Br. Lau Hor gave the bully a boxing lesson which he was to remember for the rest of his life. His pride hurt more than his body, the boy emerged a reformed character. After the fight, teacher and pupil shook hands and became good friends.


This, then, was the mettle of a man for all seasons - Brother, teacher, disciplinarian and musician.


St. Xavier's Orchestra under his inspiring leadership soon gained the reputation of being the finest in Penang of that era. So, it was hardly surprising that in 1970, Bro. Michael was asked to stage the spectacular pageant: UNESCO IN THE WORLD TODAY, a combined effort by no less than 64 schools


After a lifetime dedicated to the service of the young in Malaysia, Bro. Michael returned to his homeland in 1983 to seek medical treatment. He had intended to come back to the country of his adoption but fate decided otherwise. In December the same year, he died, mourned by a host of former pupils throughout Malaysia.



Dated 28 June, 2003


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Stories from the Workplace

I read somewhere that working with idiots can kill you.  I'm quite sure of that.  I've had a fair share of working with some of them throughout my working life, enough to fill volumes.  But I'm not going to dwell on too much of it.  God knows, I was one big idiot myself when I first started out.  I got a job as an artist cum dispatch person in a small 5-man advertising company.  Luckily, there was no one around at that time for me to kill.

I didn't know how to use a telephone so I had to start to learn it the best way; by making mistakes.  You can't blame me though.  We didn't have a telephone at home until after I'd been working for a couple of years.  The first time it rang when nobody else was in the office, I almost panicked.  After its umpteenth ring, I managed enough courage to pick it up and put it against my ear.  I wondered why the voice from the other end sounded so far away.  And when I spoke, the other person screamed for me to speak up louder.  Oops!  I was supposed to speak into the mouth-piece which I was holding against my ear.  Talk about not knowing which end's up! 

Like all the 'macho' guys lounging around the office building, I wanted to look the same.  I decided I wanted to try smoking while at work.  The commercials at that time said it's "Sumber Inspirasi".  I bought a small, 5-stick pack and lighted one while sitting at my desk doing some artwork.  I took a few puffs.  Just then the boss walked in through the side-door.  Quickly, I snuffed out the cigarette and stuffed it in my drawer.  I didn't know why I felt so guilty about smoking.  Everybody else did that at work those days.  Besides, there was no air-conditioning.  The boss himself did that occasionally.  He looked around and sniffed the air and spoke a few words with me and the other artist who shared the same room with me.  After he left, I opened my drawer to retrieve my cigarette.  It was still smoldering and it burned a hole in my drawer.  I decided then that smoking and working doesn't go together, for me at least.  Anyway, I gave up on cigarettes.  I just wanted to know why people are always dying for a smoke.  I hated the smell.

I get so used to doing anything and everything at work.  We took turns to sweep the office and throw out the rubbish each morning.  On our way to the dumpster, we pass through the reception area of a newspaper office.  A young officer I happened to have met while I was working at another job remarked, "Wah!  Rubbish also you have to throw ah?" 

I said, "This is work, right?" 

As soon as he was out of earshot, an older guy said, "Some people don't understand the Dignity of Labour".  I was reminded of that episode while reading the following passage by the world famous IT magnate from India, Mr. Narayana Murthy

"Dignity of labor: Whereas this is an integral part of Western value system, in India, we revere only supposedly intellectual work. For instance, I have seen many engineers, fresh from college, who only want to do cutting-edge work and not work that is of relevance to business and the country. For anything to be run successfully, everyone - from the CEO to the person who serves tea - must discharge his or her duties in a responsible manner. We, therefore, need a mindset that reveres everyone who puts in honest work, no matter what it is."

From an industrial leader, that is a good lesson.

One day, the boss gave me a girl's name and an address.  He wanted to hire a secretary.  He told me to bring her in for an interview.  I found the place, told her where I came from and the purpose of my visit.  A short while later she came out in a mini-dress.   That was the standard dress those days.  There was no law that said you had to wear a crash helmet to ride on a motorbike either.  She just got on behind me on my bike and off we went.  I thought it strange she could just do that without hesitation, like it was the most natural thing to do.  I mean, riding off on a motorbike with a total stranger!  Oh, she was pretty alright.  A round face, large "Bambi" eyes and cute little mouth with full lips, and a voice so sexy, M&Ms wouldn't melt in her mouth.  My boss hired her and she started work immediately.  I found out later, her boyfriend was one of my ex-schoolmates.  (Awwww....)

We had an accounts officer working with us.  He was 2 years my senior, worldly wise guy with a pleasant personality and was a pretty smooth talker.  He got us to guess what color underwear the secretary was wearing each day.  She was mostly sitting behind a well covered desk in front of the boss' office.  I wondered how he could guess.  I hadn't taken any notice until the day the boss was out and she came into our office to chat with us.  She forgot to straighten her dress properly.  She must have got so used to it she wasn't conscious of her exposure until the accounts guy announced, "Today it's red color".  She immediately caught on to what it meant and screamed at him.  We laughed.  She made sure she came to work with longer dresses after that.

Some years after I left the company I learned that she'd married the boss.  Things don't usually work out the way you expected.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tropical Afternoon


Lazy afternoon

Gentle puffs of balmy breeze

Stirring the rustle of crispy dry leaves

Scattering, rolling across pavement

Sparrows merrily gossiping with mynahs

Pigeons cooing at each other about lunch

And wind chimes tinkling

The minutes

Counting it away

Like the shopkeeper

Flicking beads on his abacus


Giving way

To sudden dust laden gusts

And rolling dark clouds

Droplets on the hot tarmac

Sizzle into little spurts of steam

Twirling crispy dry leaves

Into miniature whirlwinds

Chased off unceremoniously

By a sweeping downpour

That lasts but a mere minute

And leave us sweating again

On the humid five-foot-way


Wondering whether to move on

Or stay

To while out the rest of the day

Watching the foamy rivulets flowing by

Along the roadside gullet

And the steam rising

From the road surface

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Cyber Debate - A Disciplinary Issue

While we were recently discussing discipline, a debate was brewing out of history; the history of St Xavier's Institution, Penang.  Involved was one of the biggest names ever in the history of SXI.  The name of Rev. Brother Michael or “Lau Hor” (Tiger) who recently passed away provoked contrasting views from everyone who passed through the gates of this institution during his tenure as the custodian of discipline.  While his other duties included teaching of music, he walked his daily rounds with his cane hidden up his sleeve. 


Much has been debated over the methods of discipline in schools.  While we are pussyfooting around with this issue, some ‘tough’ kids of today are growing up with the idea that they could get away with anything.  Eventually they found they’re already adults, yet they could still do what they’ve always been doing i.e. breaking the rules with impunity.  Now we even need Parliamentary intervention in the form of a National Integrity dept to try to bring back some dignity; a case of too little, too late.  We’re not doing it right and we know it.  But we’re still arguing about it. 


Disciplinary actions do not come in just one form.  Different kids need different approach and it is also up to the disciplinarian to dish out whatever he deems fit for the occasion.  In other words, the punishment should fit the crime.  As I said before, I’m not for beating kids half to death for slight reasons or in a fit of temper.  But I do know that the cane was wielded by “Lau Hor” more with love than malice.   Those who had the discipline to go by the rules didn’t need to fear him at all. 


Meanwhile the debate goes on.  Below, in order of sequence are the mails from Ex-Xaverians, for or against “The Cane of Brother “Lau Hor”


[Excerpts from emails forwarded by  CB at Chin B Ho & Xaverian Dispatch]


From: Mick Cullin
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2005 02:43:43 +1100

My name is Mike Cullin and I was at SXI from 1956 to 1964 - failed my LCE
and completed form 5 at the "private" school in Pulau Tikus.
Remember those days when you had to pass Bahasa Kebangsaan or else....see
you later....

Anyway, I have fond memories of my time at the school. I was a Scout in the
6th Troop later joined the Corp of Drums playing bass drum with Mr. Khoo
Lock Sen as Drum major- whats happened to him. A great art teacher who
inspired many students in the persuit of the visual arts.Also played rugby
for the school with a great friend of mine - Hugh Pestana who sadly passed
away in the early 70's.Playing soccer and hocky and
Rugby practices with
Brother Cornelius.Athelatics on the field across from the school in

But Brother Michael!!! What an ****hole !!! He wasn't there to teach, his
sole purpose was to put students through fear and intimidation - I'm so glad
that education of the young has come a long way from those days. Perhaps
thats all he knew - how to handle situations - with the cane. I saw him cane
students for not comming to school with the school badge!!! or not being
able to recite the school anthem or the National anthem!! Come on what
sought of attitude is that ??? I'm sorry but I feel there seems to be a lack
in christian morality with regards to his attitude towards the majority of
young students.Perhaps he took out his frustrations on little boys !!!!

So many friends I've left behind. I have come back on occasions but
has changed from the Leafy, easy paced tranquil
Island I left
behind.Condominiums towering, painted in lollipop colours that scar the
hillsides.Penang Road and the shopping going into decay.Very little thought
for the asthetics!!!!

About Myself - I left
Penang in 1968 to further my studies. I studied
Photography, Filmmaking, the visual arts and Graphic Design and for awhile
worked in the film and TV industry. Later went back to study and became a
teacher in the visual arts. I also studied the Indonesian Language and for a
while also taught the language in schools as there is a big push for
languages other than English to be included in the school curriculum. . I am
now the Education Manager and lecture in the Visual arts Department at the
Sunraysia Institute of TAFE.

I live four hours drive from
Melbourne in a small country Town of Swan HIll
on the edge of the
Murray River. We love it here. I left the rat race of the
city about 20 years ago. I am married to Wendy who comes from a farming
background here in Swah Hill and we have four children.Kate 23, Emily 19,
Peter16 and Tim 11 I work in one of the campuses attached to the TAFE
institute in the district.I am very involved in the community and am
involved in public art in the community and the Gallery here.I guess that
most of my life I have been involved in the Arts and I wouldnt have it any
other way.

Anyway,It would be great to hear from fellow classmates and thanks to
Richard Foley in Huston
Texas for this opportunity to make contact.

Mike Cullin


From: Mike Chin
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 6:30 PM

I think it's highly inappropriate of Mike Cullin to make such disparaging
remarks about a much-respected Brother, especially one who has passed on.
The unsubtle reference to 'taking his frustrations out on little boys' is
beyond the pale and borders on the libellous. Mike Cullin should adhere to
the basic tenet of accepted protocol - If you have nothing good or kind to
say, say nothing!

I will not be able to access any responses to this e-mail for a while as I'm
off home to
Penang for the big 5-O reunion for the Class of 72 this weekend!


Mike Chin


From: Mick Cullin
Sent: Wednesday, November 16, 2005 8:54 PM

Mike Chin,

Perhaps I am somewhat harsh in my comments about Br. Michael and I
apologise if I offended anyone, but I strongly detested his attitude towards
the young and the vulnerable. It was totally unnecessary. The draconian
attitude of inforcing the cane as a means extracting discipline on young
boys, even primary school students surly you too can see that it contravenes
Christian morality and should by no means be condoned. Perhaps you were one
of the lucky ones who escaped the heavy hand and scars of Law Hor????
There was no reasoning with him. His legacy as far as I am concerned will
fall short of respect for the man.

Mike Cullin


From: oklak 333
Sent: Wednesday, November 16, 2005 10:21 PM


Much as unothordox Bro Michael was, I think he has touched our lives (mine
at least) and taught us to persevere from our school days.

Yes, he caned me for not wearing a tie (which I could ill afford) on Monday
but it has made me respect life better.
I remember fondly how we used to search for him during our Civics class even
though we might face the rotan.
Mikey ... I cannot be there for the bash due to my work commitments but my
thoughts will be there on that day.

Tony Chua


From: "Anonymous."
Thursday, November 17, 2005 1:30 AM
** Normally we will NEITHER encourage NOR condone the use of a fake
email address to make public comments.

The thoughts from Mick Cullin, while harsh, reflects his sense ofchumanity
and sense of justice towards that of what he witnessedcthroughout his years
as a student in SXI. Should he have not been there and was merely stating
things from a 3rd person perspective, yes, it could have been considered
libelous. The truth is, unfortunately for him, that he was there, and was
witness to what (I assume) he considers highly unnecessary, repeated violent
acts, however justified, committed by Brother Michael.

Like other great men in history, Brother Michael may have been respected by
some, but may have also instilled (as demonstrated by Mick Cullin) a long
and deep sense of ill-feelings and resentment in others.

Mike Chin states that if we have nothing nice to say, say nothing. Is
Brother Michael so perfect that regardless of action taken, he is neither
accountable, nor liable? Are we only allowed to sing praises but turn a
blind eye towards misdeeds? Are principals infallible?

Both Mick Cullin and Mike Chin are living historians of events that
havecoccurred under Brother Michael, and since they have lived and
witnessedcthese events, they should both be given the chance to state the
merits of this individual, deceased or not.

- Anonymous


From: Soo Kar Peng
Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 7:05 AM

All Xaverians, while Mick Cullins has a balanced and true picture of things,
Mike Chin has lost his blind loyalty to Brother Michael with a stupid
perspective. Not all Brothers were or are Saints. We now know that, among
the Catholic clergy, etc, some "bad apple" types have surfaced to be capable
of misdeeds and child abuses. Lau Hor today would be reported and hauled up
by the Ministry and sacked. That is, if he is not himself assaulted by
parents and sued out of his white habits!

Sent earlier, also by KP Soo: Wednesday, November 16, 2005 9:58 PM

I think Cullin said the right thing. A teacher with that free reign
nowadays would be hauled up by the Ministry or battered by the parents,
packed and sued. Not all Brothers are Saints. Some were sinister
underlying monsters and fitted most of Michael's observations. I am one
with such a view too. But I am a staunch undying supporter of La Sallian

From: Cheah Cheong Tian
Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 7:50 AM

Hi Mick

I think Lau Hor's cane up the sleeves did instill discipline into many
generations of Xaverians. Look at what is in the world today -- Malaysia
Boleh is heard all over the country but we have to even chain our rubbish
bin to our fences.

There are so many human rights activists around the world. What about those
victims of Sept 11, the
London bombing, terrorist plans of the Jemaah Islam
terrorist groups and the victims of other Al Qaeda attacks -- don't the
victims have rights too?

What I want to drive at is that succ Lau Hor tactics may be cruel but it
brings about discipline and perhaps countries have to get tough in order to
instil discipline as well and peace. Think of what is happening in
cultured but does the country have to tolerate immigrants that put the fear
in the old and children in buses by pulling them out and torching their
buses in front of them?

I guess for many of us living in multiracial countries like MY and AU, it is
easy to think of cruelty, human rights and the horror of kids having to face
such simple disciplinary measures as being caned. I see that being caned in
the past at least made gentlemen out of kids and the "would be" roughs of
Love Lane, Muntri Street, Chulia Street instead of being extortionists,
rapists, robbers, snatch thieves where there are so many today.

May Lau Hor rest in peace.



From: Louis Moay SXI O-1962

Sent: Saturday, November 19, 2005 1:16 PM

Dear Mike,

My personal experience with Lau Hor was somewhat
different. I found that he did not use the cane
without cause. During our days we had weekly report
cards. One week I scored top marks for Maths and the
following a big fat zero. Lau Hor called me up to
explain. I told him I was also puzzled how it
happened. He advised me to be more careful in the
future. So I came out without a scratch from his
office. Not sure if others had a similar experience.

Many of my classmates used to put an exercise book in
their pants when they were called to Lau Hor's office
and their fake cries were very convincing.

During that period caning was common in all
schools...Oh Boon Tat as the deputy principal in BMHS
was also an other displinarian but he also had a heart
of gold towards students who deserved help. Under him
BMHS came tops in sports meets and games due to his
dedication to his vocation as teacher. He was highly
respected as a teacher and mentor.

Though some may feel otherwise, displine is the only
way the young can learn how to behave and respect
their elders and society. Without discipline this will
lead to the decay of society as we are facing today.
The behaviour of the youth today is a result of "you
cane we sue attitide". So teachers do not care if the
students study or not or play truant, for fear that
they will be sued by the parents, most of whom have
little time for them and allow them do what they want.

How I wish they still have teachersike Lau Hor and
Boon Tat around. They are teachers dedicated to their



From: khchan Chan Kwai Heng SXI O-1969 / A-1971

Sent: Friday, November 18, 2005 2:26 PM

Hi guys

Whatever Lau Hor had done is done, and considering that he had long passed on his way, and probably receiving what's due to him from his Creator, and is no longer here to defend himself against things said about him means that taking potshots at the man now is somewhat uncalled for.

While it is so true that if Lau Hor were still here today, his methods would certainly have resulted in serious repercussions not only for him, but for the school and the Christian brotherhood as well, we should understand that perhaps his disciplinary style reflected the times he lived in and was certainly not because, as suggested by Mr Mike Cullin, he wanted to take his frustrations on the boys ("a most unkindest cut" comment if I may say so). And don't talk about Christian morality; remember the Spanish Inquisition? The burning of witches in Salem, Massachusetts? The Crusades? The war between the Catholics and the Protestants? The colonisation of the non-Christian world so that the pagans can learn about the glory and the greatness and the mercy of the Christian God? Don't get me started on Christian morality here. In hindsight, we will say that those things should not have taken place but then they have, and those events occurred in light of the conditions existing at those times.

Parents of my generation (I am 53 now and was in St Xavier's from 1959 to 1971), and even some of the current enlightened generation used corporal punishment quite liberally and at that time, it was an accepted mode of bringing up and disciplining errant behaviours in children. My 13 years in that once beloved school had me once at least caned by Bro Charles, Bro Joseph, and Bro Coleman, the last who was my form teacher while I was in Std 6, and also by Mr Lim Gim Boon, the headmaster of the SXI primary school, and I wasn't even delinquent by today's standards. But I definitely have not the slightest of ill-will towards the aforementioned for the simple fact that I accepted the punishment because I broke the rules. But did this scar me for the rest of my life? Certainly not. These people had a job to do and they did it using what was acceptable at that time.

Of course, there are now many bad apples masquerading as religious men of the cloth (and there have also in the past), but to include Lau Hor in that category is certainly much too disrespectful. It was not as if Lau Hor used his cane repeatedly on certain selected individual students only, he used it on all and sundry whom he felt had crossed the line. The only complaint here could be that he used the cane perhaps a bit too liberally, but even then, for every student that he had caned, I am sure we could find at least another 10 whom he had not.

Lau Hor was certainly not perfect, but neither was he the devil so I don't think he deserved the type of disparaging remarks levelled at him at this time. Even God will only judge us on the LAST DAY, so who are we to cast the first stone?


K H Chan


From:Steven.Yeoh SXI O-1968 / A-1970

Sent: Friday, November 18, 2005 10:32 AM

My fellow Xaverians,

Harken you all for your voice is resounding...your voices are certainly
resounding through ether ...that is, the views of the Mike and Mick
(Chin and Cullin) who kick started this thought provoking LauHor
discipline "debate".

Bravo, Mick Cullin for the courage to openly say it as you see it. The
issue is not one of being disrespectful to Lau Hor nor was it whether the
man has or has not led a righteous life etc; we best leave that judgement
to our maker. So let's not pussyfoot around; was his disciplinary method
appropriate? It might seem in keeping with the era but have you wondered
why other teachers and brothers do not share the same method of instilling
discipline? Is it better to control using fear and terror or to win the
hearts and minds of people ? I would go for the latter anytime. There
are many examples of brothers and teachers having preached the latter are
long remembered for their kindness.

Why should talking about our "beloved" teachers and brothers be a taboo?
The sacred cow syndrome! Remember we are all humans, students become
adults, teachers were once students. So far this forum hasn't inhibited
anyone's expression, so accolades to Chin Beng.

Back to Lau Hor's disciplinary tactics. Personally whilst I have not
experienced the wrath of Lau Hor, I have always sympathised with those
who had. I can imagine the psychological scars ( not to mention physical)

left on many over the years ie those who are not smart or fast enough to
put a book over their bums. Not forgetting the trauma experienced by those
humiliated with a public flogging. I can't imagine any sane man would,
after being canned; say thank you ....I know you mean well give
me two more just in case I go off the rails in my adulthood !!! unless of
course you are a damn masochist (you heard the story of the saddist and
the masocist?).

So let's call a spade a spade. The discipline dished out our subject
brother was draconian, harsh, counter productive and goes against the
teachings of compassion. It is quite laughable when you hear others
defending such "disciplinary" tactics as a necessary evil. It is akin to
chopping people's fingers off for stealing. Ask these people if they wish
to have more fingers chopped off for their own good . So to the goody
gooders who see such disciplines as a means to an end, I would suggest if
their kids have been treated this way they will be up in arms...sign of
the times?

It would be interesting to hear from fellow Xaverians who had been harshly
disciplined "stand up" (figuratively if you still can that is) and tell us
what effect it has on their adult life. Remember, a country and its
people are judged by the "compassionate" its shows to others. I am glad,
canning and fear tactics is the order of the past. From a fellow
"Victorian"...good on yer Mick from Swan Hill. Hava drink on me mate !!.

P/S I'm from a batch of form sixers 68 to 70, the usual composite of
scientist, artists, non artists, now high flyers, non high flyers, smooth
talkers (still), wine buffs, pro-Elvis hair stylers or what's left), Matt
Monroe emmulators, elixir of youth seekers .... but all still with a
healthy zest for life I hope. Having gone through school is a phase of
life to be cherished, not one rather forgotten (I'm thinking of those
publically flogged) .......Toast to those who escaped the warth of harsh
discipline and are good citizens.... the one and only Hon San (dare I say
aka my " feather " chested brother), PohChye (aka Tua Pooi) , Soon Kooi
(aka still water), Eng Chew (aka tua Koh) , Patrick (aka Louis Armstrong),

Mun Yee (aka sanguine) Danny(the masterdebater) , Paul(the perfect
prefect), FLoh(name says it all), Federick(long lost brother), Boudeville
(aka cassius clay), William, Dr Kildare, Kean Leong not to mention
ChoonSim ( where art thou Juliet?).....and many more


From: Poh Chye Maung SXI O-1968

Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 11:47 PM

Hi all,

Let's call a spade a spade. And if someone is an ****hole, then rightfully he should be called that. In that sense, Cullin owes no one any apology. I, for one, have never agreed to the way those young teens were punished by Lau Hor.

I have had the misfortune of having my class next to Lau Hor's "Torture Chamber". No, I've never been caned by him, but visualise this!!! A KANGAROO JUMPING BACKWARDS WITH BOTH PAWS RUBBING HIS BUTT WITH A VERY PAINFUL FACIAL EXPRESSION.

Only this kangaroo was a Form 1 or 2 SXI student. The boy hopped backwards, out from Lau Hor's Chamber, into the open with tears rolling down his cheeks - partly from pain but more from shame. Hell, that was only the first stroke!!! The boy was yelled into the Chamber again, another cracking sound was heard and the boy hopped out the same fashion. Jesus Christ, this boy is barely into his teens. What did he do to deserve such severe punishment. For all we know, it could be true that Lau Hor was taking out his frustrations on young boys - as some suggested. He was a saddist; a Saddam Hussien of the 60s; a terrorist and a big big bully.

This incident happened well over 30 years ago and I can still remember it so clearly. So, can you imagine how much I hated Lau Hor. Frankly, Cullin is being polite by calling him an ****hole. I have other names for him but I'm not going to pen it down for fear of offending his 'fans'.

Was he a teacher, really? No. To me he was there just to instill fear. He did a great job; enjoyed and was proud of it. Once in a while, over the PA system, he would ask that we give him a loud Lau Hor-ish 'roar'. Oh yes, we all obliged and I can imagine him grinning from ear to ear at the other end - feeling proud.

If that boy was my son and I was told about this punishment, you can bet on your last dollar that Lau Hor would have been walking around minus a few teeth the very next day after the incident. No question about that.

Lastly, excuse me, I just have to conclude with this note. I was told Lau Hor died at an old age. To me he had lived too long. His passing away is no loss to this world. If the saying that "good guys go to heaven" is true, then I know where Lau Hor is now.



From: Teoh, Jade (Corp Credit - NY) SXI A-1975

Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 10:56 PM

I agree with Mike Cullin. While not having experienced autocratic rule under Lau Hor, I went through a similar regime at Convent Light Street. Such a regime was unnecessary, cruel and demeaning. I remember the little girl who was made to run round the field in her underwear because she forgot her shorts for PE. I remember the little girls who were made to wear trash cans over their heads for one minor infraction or another. I remember the school girl who suffered a nervous breakdown and never back came to school. Why? She could not bear another day with a teacher who was prone to epileptic fits and before her seizures would slap her and others, and fling books and book bags from the second floor classroom. The teacher would work herself into such a state that she would have seizures. Why did those teachers behave in such a despicable fashion? Because they could; the school implicitly condoned such behavior. Their victims were invariably the less fortunate – they were certainly not the daughters of the rich and influential.

I made some wonderful friends at CLS (they know who they are). However, the corporal and psychological punishment at CLS leaves a very bad taste.


Jade Teoh


From: Mick Cullin SXI O-1966

Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 8:47 PM

Dear Philip,

Yes, my grandfather Charles Reutens lived in a house belonging to the Brothers on the field before the war. My mother used to tell me tales of the happy childhood days living there.

I met Jimmy Masang many years ago in Melbourne perhaps in the mid 70's. He had just riden a motorbike across the Nullabour Desert from Perth to Melbourne and was looking for a bed to sleep before heading back by bike to Brisbane. - a total distance of approx. 3,000 miles. He worked for the Australian Broadcacting Commission - Radio and I think he had just retired and wanted to visit relations and friends in Perth, Melbourne and see more of this vast country.

Perhaps I am somewhat harsh in my comments about Bro Michael and I apologise if I offended anyone, but I strongly detested his attitude to the young and the vulnerable. It was totally unnecessary.

Mike Cullin


From: Philip Lee HC SXI O-1959

Subject: Re: Lau Hor's Larger-than-Life LaSallian Legacy

Pity most of you guys, and Julie Chin, were not yet in school when Bro Michael spent countless afternoons rehearsing with our school troupe for the operetta, The Royal Jester, in 1957.

If I only have the chance to sing for you all some of the songs he wrote (words and music), some of you might forgive him for his penchant for using the cane on the slightest pretext. He once caned me on the palm for failing my maths test. But it was not a wicked whack although it did hurt.

Back to the operetta: The words and music, in my opinion, were of the standard of Gilbert and Sullivan,

He was mighty talented. I wish SXI still has Bro Michael's operetta scoresheet somewhere.

The students today can put up the show again.

Let me, from memory, give you a sample of some of the songs:

When Trumpets Call

When trumpets call, with joy we march away,
Our country and our king to serve,
And though fierce the foe and deadly be the fray
And comrades around us fall.
With cause that's right, we'd never fear the fight
But gladly march to death, or glory bright
For never shall shame be brought upon our name
Nor dangers our stout hearts appal.....

Then marching should to shoulder,
Forth to the fight we go,
Our hearts ne'er fear all the danger,
When marching to meet the foe!


The king of Prittania calls for report from his military chiefs about the state of the country's defences.

Here is an excerpt of two reports in song:


We shall always have a right good navy
At the bottom of the deep blue sea,
Which ne'er again shall sail the main,
Nor follow on to victory.


So we say we have an army in the air,
When we really mean there is no army there,
When our hearts with joy abounding,
For we hear the trumpets sounding
But we haven't any army anywhere.
Still we say we have an army in the air,
When we know quite well there is no army there.
When our hearts go happy buns,
You can expect to hear the guns
Of our brave and noble army in the air.

Aren't the words wonderful? Wait till you hear it musically.

So you see, I forgive the man for his little lapses.


Philip Lee


From: Summer King (Sunny Y H Ong, PJK, SXI O-1972)

Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 3:21 PM


 People.....from my point of view, - I am what I am today. A good man,

a good family man, in fact you could say, a gentlemen. And I know

how to behave at the right time at the right places,...I know what forks,

spoons,knives,glasses, wines and what appropriate words and actions to

carry out in the situation I am in..,I know what clothing I should wear

for the occasion I am attending, I know how to treat and win a lady's

heart, I know how to understand the problems we are facing, I know

how to search myself to find the meaning why I am still here....I didn't

learnt all these in our M'sian eductaion system nor any civic books.

.I may not like the Man, but I've great Respect for him for turning me

into that kind of man I am today.


Look at the young people of today at our St.Xavier's Inst.? Look and

observe them, talk to them ....whatever interactions you could possibly

have with them and to be able to 'communicate' with them.

Draw your own the Sons and Daughters of SXI are

of today....would you like them to be your children, whom you could be

proud of ?

My friends, the answer is 'blowing in the wind', the chinese say 'Wind'

Say what you want, say how you's your rights.

To me, my ever grateful thanks and appreciation to a Man,

I dislike yet my great respect for his 'teaching'.


   ~  Sunny Y.H. Ong,



From: Tony Lim SXI O-1972

Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 2:52 PM


Hi all,


Just my 2 sens worth.


Lau Hor made us realized what was RIGHT and what was WRONG.


He taught us that rules are there to be FOLLOWED.


My years in SXI  were from 1962-1972.  I've only got caned ONCE.

A classmate was reading comics under the desk and old Lau Hor

was prowling the opposite block with his eagle eyes.  I was trying

to warn my buddy when Lau Hor happened to look across at us.

He promptly walked over and showed up at my class.  I was the

one hauled up.  He thought I was the one playing the fool.  I was

sent to his room for his trademark whack on our backside.  I did

not raise a protest.


Was I wrongly caned?  I don't think so.  I never begrudged that man.

He was a strict and good disciplinerian.


If you don't believe that there are now no discipline in school, just stand

at a busy crossroad in Penang and see how the young drivers

and motorcyclists behave on the roads.  It's just chaotic.  You see

people rushing across even when the lights are red.  These are all

indisciplined people.


We all need a Lau Hor in our lives.  Long live Lau Hor.


And please, don't compare Lau Hor with the behaviour of priests we

read in the newspapers nowadays.  Has anybody heard that Lau Hor

tried to sexually assault any student?


I would say that he only had our interest at heart.  He wanted us all to

grow up to be GOOD men.




From: Jimmy Yeo SXI O-1972

Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 2:19 PM


Dear Guys,

Bro Michael was indeed my hero.  I was caned by him a couple of times on my hands and a couple of times he even pulled my hair (I had more then and was it long!).  I must say I had a fair share of moments with Lau Hor.  Despite the caning and fear, I like him.  Rest in peace " Lau Hor"

Jimmy Yeo alias Apple


From: Richard Foley SXI O-1966

Sent: Sunday, November 20, 2005 6:02 AM


Hi Chin Beng,


This discussion is DYNAMIC.


So many Countries can learn so much from this discussion.

So many Corporations around the World can learn so much from this.


The advantages & disadvantages of having a 'Lau Hor'


A short sharing. On a hike, once sometime ago, I was marooned in the United States

desert. All I had around me was prickly (like the 'cane') cactus. But the prickly cactus was

my savior. It was both my food & water.


It emphasizes everything has its Pros & Cons. Some are wise, some otherwise.

So the wise learn from things that happen, they learn from the Lesson (ZEN teachings)

and become wiser then they proceed in Life with a Go Forward attitude.


Dale Carnegie is correct that, "You do collect more with honey" and then again, one

has to have King Solomon's wisdom to differentiate "What's RIGHT from WRONG."


How do we improve, WRONG, once we have decided and agreed upon - what's WRONG?

Would Singapore be so GREAT or GREATER or LESS, if it did or did not have 'a taste of Lau Hor'?

Would we, in the United States, be a better country if Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma Bombing 1995)

had a "Lau Hor' in his Life?

Would we have Terrorism, if every Country's Leader rewarded each and every citizen of theirs

fairly and justly but penalized adequately their own citizens that do WRONG?


Michael Cullin is and will always be one of my best friends. He steps up 'to the plate'

without Fear or Favor. Mike, you have, perhaps, made us all re-read Rudyard Kiplings'

" IF " [A copy of Kiplings's " IF" can be obtained from the Internet]


Thank you, Michael (Mike) we will take this important Continued Education...

"All through our College" & LIFE.


Please let me hear from all of you.


'Vaya con Dios'


Richard W. Foley

Houston, Texas, USA


From: weiwei lee SXI A-1992

Sent: Sunday, November 20, 2005 2:17 AM


Dear Chin Beng and all


With due respect, I would surely hope that we could put a stop on this negative feedbacks that we are getting from various people with regards to Bro Michael.  It is indeed not my business to interfere, but as I continue reading some comments, it is disheartening that after all these years, some are still holding on to the grudge and hatred that they have some 30 years ago.  I only did my Form 6 in the 90s and I indeed have pleasant experience and fond memories of SXI.  Of course, all these incidents which you all are writing and complaining about Bro Michael happened before I was born, but it doesn't mean that I don't understand the situation then.


As for those who are so hard and harsh with your comments on Bro Michael, perhaps you may have been born in the wrong era.  It is only in recent years that the slightest punishment from teachers are looked upon as a crime and parents would take immediate action upon those involved.  I believe at the very time that all this happened as per the comments, it is not uncommon in all education institutions to have this kind of punishment.  In my opinion, you all should be thankful for what Bro Michael has done for you all and for whom you all have turned out to be in your respective lives!  Why pick on him?  He may have been harsh or may have overdone some actions, but he surely didn't kill anyone ... so why punish him with such cruel comments?


It is sad that we tend to remember the "bad" thing of a person (even though it could be only one bad thing), though that person may have done more "good" things.  Perhaps it is time that we focus on the positive part.  For whatever reasons or harsh actions that Bro Michael has done, please do think of how much sacrifices he and other Brothers have made to make SXI a better place for our education and for what we are today.  Think of all the sacrifices that the Brothers have to go through - leaving behind their family and their worldly possessions just to serve God and for the good of the people.  The very least that we could do is to at least respect this.  Am sure Bro Michael has other positive attributes as mentioned in some emails that we could be appreciative of.


Punishments long time ago as told to me by my parents were way harsher as compared to now ... and am sorry that you all ( those who were born then) were born during those times.  We can’t turn back time, but we can surely make the best of the remaining time that we have now.  Of course you may not forget the past, but am sure you can forgiv ...


May his soul rest in peace.


Best rgds

Wei Wei

(A – 1992)


From: Ooi Chan William SXI O-1968

Sent: Saturday, November 19, 2005 4:48 PM


Hello to Everyone!


I am from Class of '68, which was the rowdiest class during that year, and that was when all lady teachers shed tears teaching our class - wow what a class!  I was caned by our beloved Lau Hor for smoking, coming late to class, forging his signature for  the 'going out of school' permission slip.  How do I feel now about Lau Hor - Thank God for such a disciplinarian!  I am okay now, gave up smoking and became a Born Again Christian - all these because I remembered those caning days and though it took quite awhile, I changed for the better.  I believe 90% of my class of '68 - form 5 Arts1 guys gave up their smoking habits and long hair (except me,  I still sport a pony tail).


Hey Guys, leave the poor soul alone - surely we can find a lot of better and positive things to say about him than his caning spree. Let Lau Hau roar wherever he is now!


William Ooi Chan