Proud to be Johorean

Allan Fernandez, 34, splits his time between managing a clinic group practice and EightLido, a destination fast gaining a reputation as the coolest chill-spot in JB.

I’m the older of two brothers, born to medical doctor parents who have a private practice in Johor Baru. Coming from a medical family, one would presume that my parents would force me into medicine but they did not.  I was such a voracious reader that after reading my own books, I went on to read my parents’ medical journals, and as a result from an early age, I developed an interest in medicine.

I went to kindergarten at Hilltop Private School and started Primary school at SK Temenggong Abdul Rahman (STAR) II.  At age 10, I was transferred to study in a primary school in Woodlands, Singapore.  I had to wake up at 5am for the daily commute across the causeway for morning school and usually did not get home until about 3pm. 

When I was in the afternoon session, I would be lucky to reach home by 10pm.  I started secondary school with St Patrick Secondary but was later moved into a boarding school.  After completing ‘A’ levels at Methodist College, Kuala Lumpur, I went on to university in Melbourne.  But before leaving for studies abroad, I worked with my father and learnt the ropes in his clinic group practice.

Allan [2nd from Right] with dad, Dr Tibbs [Right] and
mum, Dr Merlyn and his brother Matthew [Left] in Melbourne
My father let me attend an Asia Pacific Healthcare Administrators Conference and at age 18, I was probably the youngest participant.  There I met some of the most experienced healthcare administrators in the region and learnt that hospital administrators are non-doctors.  This was a turning point in my life and my father was ecstatic when I made a decision to pursue studies in this career. 

By this time I had spent about 10 years away from JB and university life in Melbourne was so good that I thought I would never come back to JB again.  In May 1999, I received a phone call asking me to go home as my father was very ill.  At first, I thought it was his weak heart but later found that it was leukemia and the prognosis was fatal.

Allan is also a popular MC for private events
The next six months was the most difficult time of my life as I shuttled between Kuala Lumpur where my father was hospitalised and JB to look after the group practice.  

I was 22 and my brother, 16, when my father passed away and while my peers were starting their first jobs, I headed JB’s largest group practice.  I spent the next few years salvaging the company and restructuring the business while I encouraged my brother to complete his education and saw to it that my mother lived comfortably.

In addition to administrating our group practice, I also provide admin consultancy to other hospitals.  From four clinics, the group has now expanded to eight clinics.  Our group also obtained the first wholesale pharmacy license in a medical practice.

Allan [Centre] with business partners,
Mok Check Boon [Right] and Adam Matthews
While I was busy with my filial duties, I was never committed to JB and unprepared to grow roots here.  I thought that when the business was going smoothly and when my mother retired, I will leave.  Virtually none of my friends are here and over the last 11 or 12 years, I used to spend my weekends either in KL or in Singapore.

JB is often the brunt of jokes, sometimes called a “cowboy town” and has always been the border town next to an economically superior city.  While I felt the need to defend JB, I realized that there was really nothing much to boast about here.  But I recalled my uni days in Melbourne where we had personalized car number plates, and my pride as a Johorean was reawakened because even there, my car plate was, “Johor.”

Sunset at EightLido - Pix by  Straits Indie
In the last two years, I saw such a great deal of changes in the city that was not seen in the last 20 years.  I feel a renewed sense of optimism as people are looking for good things about JB and I thought, its about time I did something to dispel all the untruths about JB.  My parents accomplished so much here and while they travelled the world, yet they came home to JB – and if JB is good enough for them, it’s also good enough for me.

Late last year, when I saw No. 8 Jalan Skudai, I fell in love with the 95-year old Spanish casa and visualized how the sprawling hacienda can be turned into something special.  My business partners and I wanted to provide a destination that JB needed that’s not just as good as, but even better than the standards in KL and Singapore.  Everyone in JB can make an instant connection with JB’s Lido beach so we decided to call it “EightLido.”

This is the first of what I hope, is a destination in JB that is more than just dining and drinks.  Johor is rapidly developing into a modern metropolis and if Iskandar Malaysia is to succeed, JB must also be ready for the population migration here.  I look forward to welcoming the professionals who come here to work because they and their friends and families will certainly need somewhere like EightLido to dine and unwind.

A version of this interview was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 8 December 2011


  1. Anonymous2/17/2012

    You are lucky since you can pursue your interest in JB, but I can no longer do so as my chance to return JB is slim..., well that's life...

  2. Anonymous3/30/2012

    I enjoy your articles - it is the pucca Johorean in me responding to the love anyone shows for this state and town that is a part of me.

    Years and years ago, my grandfather and Mr Fernandez were great friends and he was the last of people who called me Molay.

    I was looking for something and the last person i expected to read about was the grandson of this family friend.

    Please dont stop writing.

    siva prasanna krishnan