Letter to Daddy: Journey to My Johor Stories


Daddy, It’s December 2022 now and in a few more days, when January 2023 comes, you would have left us seven long years ago in January 2016.


The trilogy of My Johor Stories books

The first 12 months was the most difficult as we – mum and I – adjusted to your absence in our daily lives.


Nothing was ever the same again as we made every effort to cope with missing you, your faithful presence, your wisdom and even your wacky sense of humour.


A great deal had happened in the past few years. The most recent was in early 2020 when the global pandemic reached our shores and the nation went into lockdown in an effort to reduce the rapid spread of a deadly virus.


I still shudder to think about how people were getting infected with the Delta strain of the Covid19 virus and we know of friend’s whose family members infected each other and the elderly who were also infected, did not recover.


My Johor Stories books

It was a stressful time for me especially when travel was limited to only 10km distances and any travel was for essential items like food and medication.


Despite the challenges, I am thankful that mum is keeping well in her advancing age and when she turned 90 this year, I could not help but think about how we hosted grand celebrations for your birthdays. And if you were still here Daddy, you would have turned 100.


Daddy, your hobby in photography has given us a precious collection of photographs of Johor Baru in a bygone era and I have used your old photos which aptly supported my pieces, which somehow became popularly known as my Grandfather Stories.


Remember when my opinion pieces about the Johor Baru I once knew were published in Johor Buzz, (later rebranded as Johor Streets) the Southern section of The New Straits Times?


Book One of My Johor Stories 
was presented to schools in the 
Johor Baru constituency by the
then Member of Parliament

The NST Johor Baru Bureau Chief received calls from readers asking him about who this writer was…


And he had much fun jesting with them because I was not a staff writer but a contributor to the Travel Times, the Travel section of The New Straits Times, whom he gave the opportunity to share my Johor stories in the Southern section.


I started to get a “following” of readers who often called the JB Bureau to make positive comments or give compliments about something I wrote.


All this feedback just motivated me to do what you encouraged me to do, which was to “Never stop writing.”


Readers whom I met often asked me about what to expect in my column the next day and my reply was, “I don’t know,” because my contributions joined a queue to be published and I wouldn’t know when that would happen.


My Johor Stories: True Tales,
Real People, Rich Heritage
, at the
No. 1 spot on the MPH Non-Fiction
Bestsellers List in July 2017

Some readers who unfortunately missed the issue published yesterday would be so disappointed they had missed my stories.


I found a solution to this in 2011 when I started a blog, My Johor Stories at www.peggyloh.com to store my published stories and to post stories Exclusive to my blog, so readers may go there to read my stories at leisure.


Daddy, your departure left a huge vacuum in my life and I must confess that it took a great deal of time and effort to get myself back on my feet again.


I knew you would not be pleased to see me like that and it was truly God’s grace that set me on track again to do something which I know, you would not only approve but also support wholeheartedly.


You see, after Think City had established their work in Penang, they moved to Kuala Lumpur and then to Johor Baru to expand their projects in reviving cities.


Book One and Two of My Johor Stories are
also in the Resource Centre at Yayasan Warisan
or the Johor Heritage Foundation

While they were seeking ways to revive Johor Baru, they discovered My Johor Stories and urged me to compile my stories and publish it in a book.


Think City was giving out Grants for worthwhile projects and repeatedly encouraged me to consider the prospect of doing a book project with their grant.


In January 2017, on the first anniversary of your passing, I decided to look at their Grants application form again. Bearing in mind what you would want me to do, I filled in the form and submitted it.


Looking back, my book project in partnership with Think City Johor Baru and MPH Group Publishing Kuala Lumpur was the start of my book-writing journey to publish My Johor Stories in a book.


However, you know that technically, this was not my first book project.


It was 2006 when I embarked on an exciting book project and headed to Chennai in India (alone!) to walk alongside a lady missionary who had dedicated her life to helping women and children in work which was in the league of Mother Theresa.


While many books have been published about the work of Mother Theresa, this book project on the work of Colleen M. Redit, a lady from New Zealand who answered God’s call to serve in South India, was the first which documented her life’s work.


Realising a Vision through Faith – An Autobiography of Colleen M. Redit, was published in 2013, and distributed worldwide through the International Board of Trustees of Christian Missions Charitable Trust (CMCT), where all proceeds from the sale of this book were channeled back to the mission work by CMCT.


My Johor Stories Book One is among
the books in the Singapore National
Library Board...

Well, back to my book project with Think City Johor Baru: my application for their Grant was approved and I compiled a collection of my stories based on the most popular posts being read from my blog.


You will agree that God knows my heart when I embarked on this book project because He opened the way ahead so miraculously that we cannot deny His mighty hand Who led, blessed and guided me along, each step of the way.


I encountered so many people who contributed in one way or another to support me in this book project and can look back and vividly recall all the exciting details.


I’m not about to mention a list of names but I must tell you about my meet-up with then Member of Parliament for Johor Baru, Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad, who was familiar with my work in sharing Johor stories, published in various columns of the newspapers.


Book Two of My Johor Stories is also 
among the books in the Singapore
Library Board!

When I met Tan Sri at the café in Mutiara Hotel Johor Baru (the hotel had closed!) to ask him to write the Foreword for this book, he happily agreed and asked me how much each book would cost.


[I was just a writer and had no idea about publishing or costing but I told Tan Sri that I would find out.]


He was so confident with my work that even before I told him about the contents of my book, he placed an advance order for not five or 50 books but 500 books!


It was at a Book Talk event with student leaders in 2018 held in SMK Dato Jaafar, that I saw my books in the school that were presented by Tan Sri Shahrir to add to their school library.


Through the good office of Tan Sri, now every Secondary School in the Johor Baru constituency has my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage in their school library.


This amazing support from Tan Sri that led to schools which benefited from receiving – and hopefully, reading My Johor Stories – was just one of the many exciting experiences that happened in my journey.


Another was a wonderful miracle shared in My version of Great Expectations, where I drew a parallel between me and Datuk Ng Tieh Chuan, then MPH Group CEO, and Pip and Magwitch, characters in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.


Daddy, it was also significant that I should host my book launch event at a venue which was located on the same road as Ah Kong’s (grandfather’s) house at Jalan Ngee Heng.


This happened when Simon McGrath, then General Manager of DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru, graciously offered to sponsor the venue for my book launch.


During the book launch event on 15 July 2017, the retail team from MPH set up a Book Sale table and happy readers did not hesitate to buy my book for themselves or to present as gifts.


At the end of the event, a member of this team marveled that in her many years with MPH, never before at any book launch event did it happen that all their stock of books were sold out – and at my book launch event, all my books were sold out!


It was even more humbling to learn that on the first week of its launch, my book went to the Number One spot of the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers List.


This title stayed on the MPH Bestsellers List for consecutive weeks and months, and at end 2017, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage was counted among the titles in the Best of MPH in 2017.


My exciting book journey continued with the support of Think City Johor Baru and MPH Group Publishing Kuala Lumpur in publishing its sequel, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, launched on 1 December 2018.


A photo from Instagram that
showed Book Two of My Johor
Stories in the Sultan's hands!

Daddy, one of the highlights of 2019 must be the occasion of the Johor Sultan’s birthday when a copy of, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People was presented to High Highness Sultan Ibrahim, the Sultan of Johor!


I was also deeply honoured because Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) placed orders for the hardcover version of my books to present to their Board of Directors and as premium gifts to guests in Johor.


Some hotels and resorts here agree with me that visitors liked to stay in a place with a story and they bought my books to place them in their better rooms and suites for their guests’ reading pleasure.


Meanwhile, a resort in Desaru Coast have placed my books in their library for their guests to read while a stock of my books – autographed – are kept aside to be presented to VVIP guests so that they could continue their Johor stay experience by taking home a My Johor Stories book.


From school libraries in Johor Baru to hotel libraries, I was delighted that my books are also part of the Resource Library in Yayasan Warisan Johor or Johor Heritage Foundation, where they are often used by researchers seeking more information on Johor culture and heritage.


Recently cousin Dennis, an avid researcher for his work and local topics of interest (he lives in Melbourne), shared with me that while he was seeking some info online from the Singapore National Library Board, he discovered that My Johor Stories was also included in their collection of resources.


Dato Abdul Rahim reviewing my
manuscript to share his comments

In 2019, I started working on Book Three and derived much pleasure in compiling its Contents and met with Dato’ Dr Abdul Rahim Ramli to seek his comments and valuable advice.


I told Dato Rahim that Book Three will be the final instalment to complete this series in an exciting trilogy of My Johor Stories books and he laughed at me because as a fellow writer, he could not resist working on his next book and the next…


By mid-March 2020, the global pandemic caused by the Covid19 virus was upon us and the subsequent lockdowns called Movement Control Orders, changed my plans for actively pursuing this book project.


While obeying the conditions of these lockdowns, it gave me the opportunity to focus on working on various parts of my book project while I was staying quietly at home.


From the initial two months, the lockdown periods stretched into two years (2020 and 2021) and as conditions improved in 2022, I continued with my book project for Book Three with the support of MPH Group Publishing Kuala Lumpur.


In April 2022, My Johor Stories and I had the privilege to be featured in Astro Awani TV Channel, in a talk show with Host, Sharaad Kuttan.


My Johor Stories was back on
the Bestsellers List in Aug 2022

Daddy, you know I always preferred to be behind the camera but for this, I survived the harrowing experience of talking in front of a camera – masked – and the recording was done in one smooth take!


I believe this exposure on National TV may have revived some interest in My Johor Stories because in August 2022, I received another amazing message from MPH.


Once again, I received the MPH Weekly Bestsellers list, this time for the week from August 12 to 18. And guess what?


My Johor Stories was back on the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers List!


After more than two terrible years of the global pandemic and lockdowns, this was indeed a valuable encouragement for me to press on to complete the manuscript for Book Three and publish it before the year end.


The inspiration for this book is the many brands that were established in Johor and have expanded nationwide as well as exported abroad.


The contents of My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, will include widely recognised established brands as well as promising young brands in Johor.


Daddy, this final book will also include my memories of Growing Up in Grandfather’s House and our family’s pride in Badminton Glory Days.


As in my previous two books, Book Three is dedicated to you and mum, for bringing so much into my life while God gets the glory for enabling me to do all this.


Ahmad Fadhli was among the first
to get his own copy of Book Three
On the evening of December 14, my friend Ahmad Fadhli, sent me an exciting series of photos because he was in Kuala Lumpur, browsing around in Kinokuniya bookstore and stumbled upon My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now and was thrilled to be among the first to get hold of his own copy.


Just as My Johor Stories were once available at Borders, it was good to know that my books are also retailed in better bookstores other than MPH, in the Klang Valley.


I’m pleased that MPH had released this book nationwide on December 15 and are available from MPH bookstores nationwide and online through www.mphonline.com


With the past two years of uncertainties, MPH had closed all its bookstores in Johor Baru including the bookstore in the airport.


With permission from MPH, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now will be available from my Road Show events here. (Look out for more info.)


Meanwhile, under the My Johor Stories in Downtown Johor Baru Awareness Campaign from January 2023 for four months, I will host monthly Heritage Walks and Book Reading sessions for participants to join and get My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now. (More info on this very soon.)


Daddy, you would be pleased to know that there are exciting plans ahead for me and My Johor Stories, much more than I ever anticipated when I started this book-writing journey.


Thank you, Daddy, for a lifetime of love and support.

Even with all these happenings, I still miss you every day.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Chinese New Year to you Peggy ! I stumbled upon your blog while searching for R&F Mall and the Opera House. Through your blog, I go to know about your books. They are available at the National Library near me (I am in Singaporean). Would check out your books soon.