Class of 76 reunite in JB

“Side by side or miles apart, friends are forever close to your heart” is the phrase emblazoned on the souvenir T-shirt.

The printed souvenir T-shirt that I received at the reunion!
I took a peek inside my souvenir packet and saw this black Tee that also has a large replica of the school badge printed on one sleeve.  It’s good that the class of 76 used the original school badge design with the school motto: “Simple in virtue, steadfast in duty.”

I must confess that I had politely declined the invite when I received it from the organising chairperson, Vijaya Subramaniam.  Even though I am Convent alumni, I was neither a member of the class of 76 nor a former teacher.  It was rather odd for me to be there but it did not take long for me to agree to join them as a special guest. 

Some members of the class of 76 were posing at the photo booth set up in the foyer and some girls were gathered in groups, chatting and catching up with each other.  While some of them recognized me, some girls wore puzzled expressions probably because they were wondering if I was a former classmate who had changed beyond recognition!

The former teachers using a giant knife
in the cake-cutting ceremony
Then I was welcomed into the event hall and led to the main table where I was to sit with the former teachers.  I saw the same puzzled expression on some of the teachers’ faces who knew that I was not one of them.  Some teachers were familiar with me and I was rather amused to meet former teachers and renew our acquaintance – no longer as a student – and enjoy a meal with them.

Vijaya said this was the second time the class was holding a reunion and they were delighted that so many have reconnected and could join them in Johor Baru.  Some even came with their spouses and family members, all the way from the US, UK, Australia, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.  

Vijaya told us that the class of 76 went to visit the Johor Baru Convent that morning and were met by teacher Emelda, who graciously showed them around the premises that had been renovated and upgraded.  Emelda, who is the teacher in charge of the school’s award-winning choir, quickly organised a group of choir members to present an impromptu concert in the school hall for the visiting former students.

The event kicked-off with singing the school song
The choir gave an impressive performance that warmed the hearts of the class of 76.  And when they learnt that the choir needed to raise funds to buy new costumes, Vijaya and her committee decided to encourage their former classmates to contribute to this worthy cause.  

I had the privilege of enjoying the school choir’s performances when I attended several events at the school and even caught them in action while I was on holiday in Hoi An, Vietnam, where an international choir competition was held and the JB Convent choir was a participant.  This exposure for the secondary school choir has given the students much confidence as they continue to hone their skills to take part in more international choir competitions.
Cameras clicking away at the nostalgic sight of their
former school uniform
The class of 76 honoured their alma mater at their reunion by singing the school song to kick off the evening’s programme of activities.  The committee did a good job in organising the event with a Chinese banquet dinner in a hotel complete with souvenir T-shirt, lucky draw, an audio-video show and a guessing game where prizes were awarded to the winners.  For a start, they went out of their way to create a touch of nostalgia for everyone to reminisce about their days in the JB Convent. 

Having left the Convent for 40 years, the former classmates shared a special bond with their old school uniform.  When a classmate walked on stage holding a schoolbag and looking like a Convent student wearing the school uniform, they responded with excited yells and cameras started to click!

Magnolia chocolate, anyone?
She wore the original belted navy blue pinafore with box pleats matched with a white short-sleeved blouse, complete with white canvas shoes and socks.  Someone handed her a glass bottle of an orange drink with a drinking straw in it, and all could see from its logo that it was Green Spot, a popular drink in those days.  Another glass bottle filled with a chocolatey drink was handed to Vijaya and it jogged my memory of the flavour of the milky Magnolia drink which I recall, was such a tasty treat!

The former classmates thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into a bygone era and agreed that their years with the JB Convent were the best moments of their childhood.

From nostalgic fun to a sumptuous dinner, bouquet presentations to former teachers and a cake-cutting ceremony, the highlight of the evening (to me!) was when a member of the class of 76 and patron of the reunion event, Tunku Fatimah Faridah Tunku Osman, was invited to say a few words.

Tunku Fatimah, the daughter of Tunku Tun Maimunah Sultan Ismail and Tunku Osman Tunku Temenggong Ahmad, made reference to the historical aspect of the JB Convent, pointing out that it was her great-grandfather, the late Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Abu Bakar, who encouraged education for girls.  It was Sultan Ibrahim and his consort, Sultanah Rogayah, who presented the land at Jalan Yahya Awal to the Convent sisters to build the JB Convent.

The Sultan’s grandchildren were among the students who enrolled in the school when it was opened in 1927 as the first all-girls school in JB.  The sculpture of the Virgin Mary, an iconic feature in the façade of the JB Convent was also a gift presented by Sultan Ibrahim.

Cake time!
Tunku Fatimah was impressed with the many good and positive changes to the school and was proud of what it has achieved to develop education for girls of all races.  She emphasized that when we educate a girl, her community would also be educated!

She acknowledged her great-grandfather for his foresight for Johor in encouraging girls to be educated and urged the JB Convent to continue what they are doing to give girls a well-rounded education.

The class of 76 was keen to continue giving support to their alma mater and spontaneously contributed generously when a collection was made to raise the sum of RM7,200 for the estimated cost of costumes for the school choir.  One of the former classmates even volunteered to top up the difference, if there was a shortfall when the total collection was tallied!

The Convent spirit and pride in their sisterhood was evident among the former classmates as they enjoyed the rest of their reunion long into the night.  The evening’s programme of activities had ended and I was privileged to be their special guest who witnessed how the sisters were reconnecting again after 40 years since they left school.  As I made my way out of the event hall, the music was already turned up a few decibels.

One for the album: JB Convent Class of 76 reunion in Johor Baru in 2016

Some are CEO’s of multi-national corporations and successful career women while some are already grandmothers.  But when the former classmates got together, they were just girls who share the sentiment that Johor will always be our home and the JB Convent is still very much in our hearts.

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