A precious tribute by the Tan family


I receive all sorts of emails to My Johor Stories blog but my interest was piqued when I read a particular email in June. It read like this: 

Tan Kiah Teck at No. 1 Hans Crescent, the
British Council Residences in London

"Dear Peggy,  My name is Mei Ling. I was born in and spent my early years in JB and now live in Singapore. I came across your book My Johor Stories 2 at the One&Only Resort, Desaru Coast (it was placed by the bathtub).

I was very delighted because it brought back fond memories of my childhood in JB, which was partly what that trip to Desaru was about for me. I shared my find with my siblings, especially the story about Mee Ho Seng Kee, which was and still is our favourite wantan mee.

I must say that coming across your book was one of the highlights of that trip. Even though I finished reading most of it during my stay, I subsequently bought a copy (and a copy of My Johor Stories 3) through mphonline when I got home. You write about people, places, things and food very lovingly.

The reason I'm writing to you is because I've been wanting to put together a book of my father's life stories. The intent is to preserve his memories and experiences and to pass on his stories to his younger grandchildren who probably wouldn't have a chance to hear the stories from him. Your book showed me the form the book can take and with a more concrete vision in mind, I finally got my father started on it.

I am wondering if you are open to working with us to string his stories into a readable and coherent book? The stories are overlapping and interwoven but they are currently written as standalone stories. And perhaps to make the locale more vivid (both of you wrote about the same places but your descriptions were a lot more vivid and "alive").

So far, we have compiled around 20 stories, mostly written by my father himself. He was a lawyer (his practice was at Jalan Meldrum and subsequently Jalan Wong Ah Fook) so there are stories about his childhood, his personal life, and a few memorable cases he handled. Other than a few stories about his student life in London, the rest are mostly about his life and work in JB.

I wish you a good day and hope to hear from you."


My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and 
Inspirational People
, in the
One&Only Desaru Coast, Johor

As I read, my thoughts flashed to how My Johor Stories books, placed in this beach resort, were connecting people just as I shared in my 2019 TEDx Talk, Connecting People through My Johor Stories.


It was in July 2019 at the Ombak Festival that celebrated the official launch of Desaru Coast, when Stephanie Saw, Group Chief Executive Officer of Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels (now rebranded Destination Resorts & Hotels), told me that My Johor Stories books will be placed in the super luxurious One&Only Desaru Coast for their guests’ reading pleasure.


Then in early 2020, things ground to a halt when the global pandemic reached our shores.


In December that year, when a window for local travel was opened, a friend who was on a short break at the One&Only Desaru Coast, was pleasantly surprised to discover my 2017 MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage in her room and sent a photograph to show me.


Stephanie had kept her word and my books, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, and My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, were already in the resort to complement their guests’ stay experience in Johor.

Tan Kiah Teck on a school trip to Thailand 
while he was a teacher with Saint Joseph
School Johor Bahru, circa 1964 to 1966

Fast forward to 2023 while Mei Ling was at the One&Only Desaru Coast where she read My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, in her room. It was interesting that she easily identified with names and places featured in my stories because they were similar to those mentioned in her father's memoirs.

This sparked the idea to invite the author (me!) to help with compiling her father's stories into a book and preserve his treasured tales to share with their family members, particularly those in the younger generation.

While I pondered over this email from Mei Ling, I had a flood of questions that needed answers. To get a clearer understanding of what this project involved, I prepared a list of questions for Mei Ling to answer so that I would know how I may contribute to it.

Among other things, I needed to find out the purpose for this publication. When she replied my list of questions with relevant details, I learnt that hers was a genuine request to prepare a precious tribute to their father.

One of the questions in my list was, “Do you have a target date to complete this book project?” to which Mei Ling replied:

“At the beginning of this year, we targeted my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which is 14 January 2024.


However, my father’s oncologist just told us that he doesn’t have many days left and has advised him to state his end-of-life wishes.


So it will be nice if we can complete it while he was still alive but we shan’t try to stress ourselves over that. My father will be 82 on July 17.”


Tan Kiah Teck, in front of No. 1 Hans Crescent,
the British Council Residences in London

I could empathize with the sentiments behind this project and was deeply saddened to read what the oncologist said. I promptly replied that I was ready to focus solely on this book project with the aim to complete it in the shortest possible time.


I said, “Your birthday gift to your father on July 17, is the confirmation that we will embark of this project immediately and will work furiously on it, step-by-step to get the mock-up book ready ASAP. Once the layout and proofreading are approved, then it can go to print.”


While we were both aware of the work involved, I said this in a nutshell to reassure Mei Ling that I was ready to partner with her family to complete this book project.


In my reply, I shared with Mei Ling about my experience in writing an autobiography for Colleen M. Redit, a lady Christian missionary from New Zealand who answered the call to serve in Madras, now known as Chennai, India.


Her life’s work as founder of Christian Missions Charitable Trust (CMCT) in Chennai was written in the first person and when the book was published in 2013, it was distributed internationally among the churches.


Tan Kiah Teck was called to
the Bar at Lincoln's Inn,
London in July 1969

Mei Ling and I agreed that their book should also be written in the first person as the bulk of the content was her father’s recollections with a few pieces written by his grandchildren. Aware that her father was gravely ill, she aimed to publish this book as a tribute to him, only for private circulation among family and close friends.


Her father, retired lawyer Tan Kiah Teck, had established a private practice in Tan & Tan Advocates & Solicitors in Johor Bahru. Like many Johoreans, he and his wife decided to send their children to study in Singapore where many of these young people continued to have careers or settled down there.


Mei Ling and her sister experienced the daily commute across the causeway to school but when their younger brother started school, he did not have to commute because by then they had a home in Singapore with weekends spent in their Johor Bahru home.


When Tan retired in the early 2000s, he moved to live with his family in Singapore. While he enjoyed his retirement, Tan would regale his children and grandchildren with stories about his childhood, growing up in the kampung and his youthful pursuits in a developing Johor Bahru during the 1940’s.


Tan Kiah Teck with daughters,
Mei Ling [Left] and Huai Ling [Centre]
Tan also shared with them about his education, the turning point in his life when he decided to pursue a career in law, his experiences with interesting legal cases and the colourful characters he encountered during his law practice.


Encouraged by his children, Tan finally wrote these down and created a collection which Mei Ling thought, should be preserved for the younger generation to read as they may not have the privilege to hear firsthand from him.


Mei Ling then shared with me, two samples of stories her father had documented, one of which was a legal case that involved the then owner of Mee Ho Seng Kee.


From these sample pieces, I could anticipate the rewriting challenges I had ahead of me. I used the metaphor of tailoring to illustrate the task, that it was easier to cut and sew a garment directly than to unpick stitches and adjust the garment for a better fit. In short, it would be a lot of work.


Tan Kiah Teck with his children
on holiday at Genting Highlands 
in the 1980s

I also connected Mei Ling with my friendly printer – who helped to prepare the mockup for My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, as required by Think City in my book project in 2017 – to discuss her requirements and provide a quotation for her consideration.


Throughout July and into August, Mei Ling and I exchanged numerous emails and WhatsApp chat messages as we made rapid progress in preparing the manuscript.


Guided by information she provided in a timeline document I filled in the blanks and joined the dots to get a clearer overview of the chronology of events in Tan’s life to flesh out each piece Mei Ling provided.


And she was right. I easily identified the people and places in Johor Bahru like Jalan Tarom, Jalan Yahya Awal and Kim Teng Park, mentioned in her father’s memoirs to do my bit to make the manuscript more readable.


Tan Kiah Teck, speaking at banquet held 
to celebrate Mei Ling's wedding

From the outset of this project, I had urged Mei Ling and her siblings to think about the concept for the cover design and to propose options for the book title.


Then as I read the manuscript, it occurred to me that the generations who grew up in Singapore may not be able to relate to some of the details documented by Tan about his parents and their humble beginnings in a kampung in Johor Bahru.


I also thought that the younger generation may not understand some of the words and phrases that described things in a bygone era and suggested that illustrations may be created for readers to visualize what Tan was talking about in his memoirs.


Mei Ling agreed with me and arranged for talented illustrators to draw sketches to support the relevant stories while I proceeded to create an Appendix with words, phrases and colloquialisms listed in alphabetical order along with brief descriptions, for the readers’ easy reference.


Tan Kiah Teck with granddaughter,
Lea Goh, aged 6 on her first day of
Primary School, Singapore

We also agreed to prepare an Introduction that clarified the Special Link between Singapore and Johor – where families had links on both sides of the Causeway – as well as a sketch map that indicated the roads and landmarks in Johor Bahru mentioned in the manuscript.


With Mei Ling’s feedback and comments after each review, I revised every document until the entire manuscript was ready and only waiting for just one more piece of Foreword to complete it.


In my exchange of WhatsApp messages with Mei Ling on August 10, she mentioned that her father was very ill and it looked like he did not have many days left.


Then on August 12, my heart sank when I read a message from Mei Ling who said: “Good Morning. Received with thanks the revised documents. My father passed away yesterday so I haven’t had a chance to look at them.”


I shared their grief and immediately replied with condolences, knowing that the family would need time and space to deal with their bereavement.


Tan Kiah Teck celebrated his 
82nd birthday in July 2023 just
before he passed on August 11

While I was deeply saddened that Tan did not live to see the finished product, Mei Ling assured me that her father was aware that the book project was in progress. I believed that knowing it must have given him peace and comfort.


The book project hardly took a pause because when Mei Ling met her father’s partner in their legal firm at the funeral wake, he shared more details about their early years in the partnership and she was keen to add this anecdote into the manuscript.


Soon after that, her uncle showed them a bunch of old photographs of her father that they had never seen before and she wished to pick some to add into the compilation of family photos in the book.


By early September, the manuscript was submitted to the printer for layout and to prepare the mockup version of the book for Mei Ling to review.


Even as I am writing this, work is in progress to print the Tan family’s loving tribute to their father/grandfather, in a book simply titled, Tan Kiah Teck – A Kampung Boy’s Search for Truth and Justice.

The Promise...fulfilled


If you have read the Epilogue: Journey to My Johor Stories, a letter written to my dad documented in My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, you will be familiar with Mr. & Mrs. Cheong, our friends Whye Choon and Swee Gim, who connected me with then MPH Group Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Ng Tieh Chuan.


The Cheong's, Whye Choon and Swee Gim with
Dato' Ng Tieh Chuan and wife, Datin Meow Yin
at the book launch of The Promise on Sept 17

When the Cheong’s mentioned about my book project to Dato’ Ng, it marked a dramatic turning point in my book-writing journey when MPH Publishing Kuala Lumpur stepped in to partner with Think City Johor Baru to publish my first book and continued to do so for the trilogy of My Johor Stories books.


Nobody, least of all me, expected My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage to go to the Number One spot in the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list in the first week of its launch in July 2017.


Thanks to all you readers, this book stayed on the Bestsellers list for consecutive weeks and months, and at year end, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage was counted among the titles in the Best of MPH in 2017.


When I was in Kuala Lumpur for the Meet-the-Readers event hosted at the MPH bookstore in 1Utama Mall in October 2017, it was also an opportunity to meet with Dato’ Ng to thank him personally for his support of local writers like me.


Ng Tieh Chuan [Standing Centre]
with his brothers and parents
in a formal family photo

The next morning, accompanied by Mr. & Mrs. Cheong, we went to the Sunday service at Bandar Sunway Gospel Centre where I finally met with Dato’ Ng and his wife Datin Meow Yin, after the meeting.


This remarkable experience with the Cheong’s and Dato’ Ng in the early part of my book-writing journey, was duly documented in My Version of Great Expectations.


Fast-forward to August 2023 – three My Johor Stories books later and Dato’ Ng had already stepped down from his role with the MPH Group – when I received a WhatsApp text message from Dato’ Ng who wanted to call me for a chat.


Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised but did not hesitate to reply with a welcome for him to call.


Tieh Chuan with Meow Yin,
the early years together in Taiping

In our brief chat, Dato’ Ng told me that when his mother was diagnosed with cancer in March 2009, he asked God to let him witness to her and his family one last time.


He made a PROMISE to God that upon her salvation, he will share the story of His goodness to him.


Born to non-Christian parents, Tieh Chuan heard the good news of salvation at Taiping Gospel Hall and became a Christian in 1972. He faithfully attended all the meetings of Taiping Gospel Hall and took on leadership roles in church events.


Taiping Gospel Hall

He often thought that personal stories such as his may not be worth telling and one of his main excuses for not sharing his story was that his conversion and experience as a Christian was quite ordinary.


But when he learned that his mother was terminally ill, Tieh Chuan wanted to let his mother know why he trusted the Lord.


He was deeply troubled because he was not able to communicate fluently in Hokkien dialect and if he did not make an effort to share the good news of salvation with her, he would regret it for the rest of his life.


He and his wife prayed fervently that God would grant him this wish that his beloved mother would come to know and accept the Lord.


A copy of The Promise sent to me
for a read and to review!

His family members were also present when he spoke to his mother in Hokkien to share his conversion story, his experiences as a Christian and what God had done for him.


Two months later, on 3 May 2009, he received a handphone text message from his brother who said that he had started going to church last Sunday.


On June 4, he received the happy news from his brother that their mother wanted to be a Christian and had asked to be baptized. That afternoon, he and his wife were back in Taiping, overcome with joy as they witnessed his mother acknowledging the Lord in her life when she was baptized.


On 5 September 2009, his mother slipped into eternity peacefully at the age of 76.


Tieh Chuan in his rented room in SS2

In 2023, Tieh Chuan fulfilled his promise to God by documenting his life story and God’s goodness to him in his book simply titled, The Promise.


I was delighted that he wanted to send me a copy of this book to read and see if I could write a review to publish in a Christian magazine to share with others, God’s goodness and grace upon him.


While many may know him as Dato’ Ng, a successful entrepreneur in the book industry, I read that he struggled through a very challenging journey in his early years and by God’s grace and favour, gained the confidence of people in the higher echelons of society and had the privilege to publish their biographies and books.


In his rented room; Note the number of fans
to help with the ventilation inside the room!

In recognition of his achievements in the publishing industry, he was conferred the Ahli Mangku Negara in 1992. Then in 1999, he was honoured with the award, Dato Paduka Mahkota Perak, which carries the title, Dato’.


In 2012, he reached the peak of his career when he was received the award for Tokoh Industri Buku Negara.


In just 208 pages, Tieh Chuan shared a brief autobiography with highlights of significant events in his journey from his youth to the present day in a faith-walk to inspire others to trust and depend on God.


Dato' Ng Tieh Chuan, a montage
of photos taken over the years

On the evening of September 17, some 200 guests – including the Cheong’s – gathered for a relaxing dinner in Kuala Lumpur, hosted for the book launch of The Promise.


The invitation read: “See you on Sunday! It will be a night of fun and makan! Casual night with no VIPs, only old friends and no programs. Just makan.”


And so, it was a reunion of sorts where the guests gathered were mainly old friends from Taiping, many who have not met for some 40 years.


In the Preface, Tieh Chuan said, “I believe that as Christians, our lives must be an open book for others to see Christ through us. Many may not have the opportunity to read the Bible but they can read us.”


Tieh Chuan with the Tunku,
the nation's first Prime Minister

The Promise is a powerful testimony of what God can do to turn disadvantages into opportunities to deliver His promise and give Tieh Chuan a future and a hope. Many times, Tieh Chuan’s faith was sorely tested and through the conflicts he faced, his faith turned into a personal possession.


Written from his heart in simple language and supported by a collection of precious photographs, Tieh Chuan shared about his family, growing up in Taiping and his education at St. George’s Institution there.


Late one night, shortly after receiving his Form Five examination results and before leaving Taiping for Petaling Jaya to further his studies, he knelt in prayer to ask God to PROMISE him that, “should I stumble and fall, or backslide as a Christian in the future, that HE would catch me before I hit the ground and not let go.”


In that era when higher institutions of education were only available in the capital city, young people like Tieh Chuan who were seeking further education, moved to Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya from all over the country.


A personal note from the Tunku

When he ran short of money, he was forced to stop his studies and had to find a job. It was such a difficult time that he even had to be stingy with spending on food.


After attending 35 interviews, he landed his first job as an office boy with a small book publishing company. His daily tasks included menial jobs like cleaning the office and toilets, washing cups, wiping tables, wrapping and packing books, and loading and unloading books.


In the early years, he literally worked from the ground up, working his way to become the van driver before going on to be a travelling salesman for books.


With many setbacks and disappointments, it was not a smooth-sailing journey but Tieh Chuan was determined to learn everything there was to know about publishing books. In the production department, he observed and offered help to any staff.


Armed with the right attitude, he soon learned to do paste-ups on the manuscripts for new books, did typewriting on the IBM electric typewriter and also did typesetting.


Tieh Chuan [Right] with Tun Musa
Hitam [Centre] and Dr Bruce Gale

After 16 months in his first job, he was dealt another blow when the company had financial problems and he lost his job. With many failed attempts to find a new job, a friend advised him to start his own business. While his business partnership had a promising start, this venture ended in failure.


It was in early 1978 when Tieh Chuan experienced a new beginning in his job as sales representative with one of the biggest book distribution companies in Malaysia and Singapore. This marked the start of his career in book publishing.


His first breakthrough in publishing kicked off with the publication of the Malay edition of Living Crafts of Malaysia by Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard, Mekarnya Seni Pertukangan Malaysia, launched in March 1981.


In 1980, Tieh Chuan initiated a book project to document the history of Taiping Gospel Hall, the place where he heard the good news of the Gospel. This book, Reminiscences – Taiping Gospel Hall, 1880 to 1980, was published in 1981.


One of the most memorable days of Tieh Chuan’s life must be the book launch event for, Lest We Forget, the first book he published for Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the nation’s first Prime Minister, launched on 8 February 1983 to coincide with his 80th birthday.


Tieh Chuan with Tun Dr Mahathir
Mohamad at his book launch event

In 1984 when he established his own business, Pelanduk Publications, which focused on publishing books on Malaysia by Malaysians, Tieh Chuan had the honour and privilege to publish the Tunku’s authorized pictorial biography titled, Tunku: A Pictorial Biography, Vol 1 (1903 – 1957) launched on 25 August 1984.


His book publishing career continued to soar with publishing many quality books that featured biographies, memoirs and historical records of prominent personalities like Datuk Onn Jaafar before the founding of UMNO, Sultan Azlan Shah, Tun Musa Hitam, Tan Sri Lee Siow Mong, Tan Sri Dr. Tan Chee Koon, Tun Dr. Daim Zainuddin and Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.


We know that God was at work in Tieh Chuan’s life because He produces in the ordinary something that was so extraordinary and inspiring.


Blessed with a son and a daughter, Tieh Chuan and Meow Yin wanted them to attend Sunday School and be brought up in a church environment. Their children grew up in Bandar Sunway Gospel Centre, an outreach project of the Petaling Jaya Gospel Hall, the church he and his wife joined when they first came from Taiping.


It was always satisfying to receive recognition for one’s efforts and for his contributions to the publishing industry, Tieh Chuan was honoured by business awards, a federal honour from the nation’s King, a state honour from a Sultan and the appointment as a Justice of Peace.


The Promise is available in
English and Chinese versions

In The Promise, Tieh Chuan said, “I recount the above awards in this book, not so much to impress readers, as to illustrate the point that it is possible for Christians to gain public recognition without the need to get ahead by putting others down or engaging in the sort of dubious practices that so often tempt businessmen.”


“It had not always been easy, but I have always tried to conduct my business affairs in a way that would be pleasing to God.”


As Tieh Chuan kept his faith and obedience to God through some of the roughest times in his life, God’s unseen hands were guiding him. Even though he stumbled along the way, God remained faithful and vindicated him with countless blessings.


Dato' Ng Tieh Chuan with
his wife, Datin Meow Yin

In keeping with Tieh Chuan’s aim to share the good news of the Gospel and God’s grace, all proceeds from the sale of this book will go towards the Good News Community Church, Senior Citizens Ministry.


The English version of The Promise has also been translated into Chinese.


Priced at only RM20.00 each, The Promise is truly a labour of love.


Get your copies of The Promise available from Canaanland Christian Bookstores in Selangor and online from canaanland.com.my


Canaaland Christian Store, 23-25 Jalan PJU 1A/41B, Pusat Dagangan NZX, Ara Damansara, 47301 Petaling Jaya, and Canaanland @DUMC Dream Centre, 2, Jalan 13/1, Seksyen 13, 46200 Petaling Jaya.

Note: Old photographs from The Promise used with permission from Dato' Ng Tieh Chuan.

Calling Japanese film buffs in JB!


The much-awaited Japanese Film Festival 2023 promises to deliver the finest selection of Japanese cinema on the grand screen for everyone's delight.


The JFF 2023 comes to Johor Baru from September 14 to 17, presented at GSC cinemas in the Paradigm Mall Johor Baru.


All films presented will be in Japanese with English subtitles.


Now in its 19th year, this annual event features over 16 captivating titles across genres like drama, documentary, romance, mystery and animation, immersing audiences in diverse aspects of Japanese culture.


Opening the curtains to this year's celebration, "Small, Slow but Steady" (2022) is a cinematic masterpiece by acclaimed director MIYAKE Sho who made a special appearance at the opening ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur on August 29.


Following his applauded “Ju-on: Origins” (2020) series on Netflix and "And Your Bird Can Sing" (2018) which can also be watched on JFF+ INDEPENDENT CINEMA website now.


In conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship, JFF extends a special invitation to director Lim Kah Wai, known for "Your Lovely Smile" (2022), a Malaysian filmmaker who has been actively producing films in Osaka, Japan.


Adding to the cinematic marvel, the event proudly presents the digitally remastered edition of “LUPIN the Third, The Castle of Cagliostro" (1979).


This iconic masterpiece marks the first feature film from the legendary MIYAZAKI Hayao, whose illustrious career includes timeless animated classics like "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988), "Princess Mononoke" (1997), "Spirited Away" (2001) and many more from Studio Ghibli.


While enjoying the JFF 2023, festival goers will also be rewarded by collecting stamps which they can use to redeem exclusive goodies and prizes.


Tickets for JFF 2023 will be sold at an affordable price of RM 10.00 (except “#Manhole”) via GSC channels.


Tickets for the screenings can be purchased via GSC Ticketing Kiosk, GSC e-payment at gsc.com.my or GSC Mobile Apps.


A complete listing of JFF film synopsis, showtimes, and general information is available at jfkl.org.my/japanese-film-festival-2023 and gsc.com.my.


Get your popcorn and get ready to be captivated by cinematic excellence and cultural enrichment at JFF 2023!