Return to Raya Open House outings


In Johor, we pride ourselves with the month-long celebration that traditionally kicked off with intimate family reunions before welcoming guests into their homes on the first day of Raya and then visiting relatives in the extended family.


Raya Open House hosted by Majlis Bandaraya
Johor Baru at the Arena Larkin indoor stadium

In my childhood days, we would visit the homes of our parents’ colleagues in their Open-Houses on Day One of Hari Raya to enjoy a homecooked meal of ketupat and rendang, along with a delightful array of cakes and cookies.


At such gatherings, “Tambah lagi?” was among the common Malay phrases I learnt because our hosts, who have a genuine heart for hospitality, would often encourage us to take a second helping of everything they served.


Over the years, I have learnt the knack of taking a tiny first helping so that I could oblige our host’s kind request to tambah lagi (add more!) and not over indulge in the tasty delicacies they served.


Our table at Persada International Convention
Centre hosted by Johor Corporation

Another tip I learnt was to eat slowly and to always keep something on your plate so that I have an excuse for not adding another helping.


As families and guest groups grew bigger, food was often catered from outsourced kitchens. And it soon became the norm for most gatherings especially those hosted on a larger scale by corporations and government agencies that were held in hotel banquet halls or big venues like an indoor stadium.


When guest lists grew longer, the hosts then opted to serve a wide range of festive food buffet-style, from live-cooking stations and stalls at their Open House events.


After the global pandemic restrictions and a two-year absence of Open-House gatherings, the events planned for Hari Raya Aidil Fitri seemed to return with double the fun in 2023.


A serving of Kacang Pool 

The celebrations this year seemed to be hosted on a merrier scale, complete with live music entertainment, special themes, games and prizes presented in Lucky Draws.


I was privileged to attend a number of Open House celebrations – one after another over two days – held from Johor Baru to Desaru Coast and Pulai, in a series of happy reunions to reconnect with corporate friends and associates.


When I arrived at the Open House event hosted by Johor Corporation held in the Persada International Convention Centre, the lobby was crowded with people but I was warmly welcomed in by a staff member who was familiar with me and My Johor Stories from their Human Library event in July 2022.


I could not help smiling when he enthusiastically addressed me as, “Mr Peggy of My Johor Stories!” so I graciously excused him for the error he made in my gender.


In the huge hall, guests at banquet tables were already eating while some were queuing for their choices of food at the live cooking stations even as the event MCs were sharing a lively banter on stage.


Such a massive hive of activity was rather overwhelming and I was glad when the host representatives met and escorted me to a table at the front of the hall, near the stage.


When I had settled into my seat, I saw that a number of dishes were presented in a central warming tray while other platters served skewers of beef and chicken satay and a portion of fragrant lamb kuzi rice.


I was pleased when the other guests already seated at the table, paused to introduce themselves by exchanging name cards with me.


Personally, I was impressed with their good manners because this was one banquet table etiquette that is sadly lacking in our community. So it was good that they took the initiative to introduce themselves instead of ignoring the new arrival at the table.


When the next guests arrived at our table, I did not hesitate to make the new arrivals feel welcome by introducing myself to break the proverbial ice and let any conversation happen in the next few minutes as we shared the festive meal together.


Meanwhile, the waitress assigned to our table served up a choice of hot coffee or milk-tea and came back with bowls of Kacang Pool, each with a thick slice of toast.


I observed two young ladies (I later learnt that they were from Kuala Lumpur!) looking at the Kacang Pool with a curious expression, so I took the liberty to tell them that this Johor specialty should be savoured by dipping the toast in the gravy.


From the stage décor that featured scenes of vintage P. Ramlee movie, Ali Baba Bujang Lapok (1961), the MC’s outfit and his quiz questions to participants, I soon discovered that the event theme was, Arabian Nights.


Then I met with Hasnina Hafiz, Senior General Manager for Group Corporate Communications, who was greeting guests from table-to-table.


By that time, the crowd of guests had swelled to double the number since I arrived so it was quite impossible for her to find President and Chief Executive, Datuk Syed Mohamed bin Syed Ibrahim, for me to say, Selamat Hari Raya, to him. So, I told Nina to please thank him for the invite and convey my greetings to him later.


Live music entertainment of traditional
ghazal at the Els Club, Desaru Coast

I was pleased to attend this Raya Open House in the first of their three dining sessions so that I could leave and take a slow drive to Desaru Coast for the next Open House event from 2.30pm, held at the Els Club, Ocean View clubhouse.


After driving around the parking lot twice, I finally found a parking space – probably the last lot there – because when I exited the event, cars were even parked on the roadsides.


Once again, I was warmly welcomed in to the Big Easy where a live band was performing traditional ghazal music. As the music ceased, the MC announced the next entertainment item, a traditional dance performance by pairs of youngsters.


As they danced, their enthusiasm was infectious particularly when the high-pitched voices of these young dancers pierced the air – over and over again.


A lively Malay traditional
dance performance presented
at the event in Els Club

Then the MC kept the guests engaged with encouraging comments as he invited participants to answer trivia questions on Desaru Coast to win Desaru Coast premium items as prizes.


I must confess that I could probably answer his questions accurately because I am familiar with Desaru Coast but I graciously let other guests win the prizes while I just enjoyed the food and pleasant company at our table.


It was good to be back in Desaru Coast and reconnect with friends like Stephanie Saw, Group Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels.


Through her support, My Johor Stories books were placed in the super luxurious, One&Only Resort Desaru Coast for the guests’ reading pleasure since 2020.


Then in 2021, I had the privilege to partner with Desaru Coast and Roslina Arbak, Managing Director and CEO of Desaru Coast Destination Resorts, where we shared a fun event which I had dubbed, Storytelling by the Sea.


A gift pouch and the woven rattan
coaster made by JARO

On leaving the Open House event, our gracious host presented guests with a gift pouch each. When I opened it, I was delighted to see that it contained a jar of Ragu fruit pickles with a gift tag attached to a coaster made from woven rattan by JARO.


JARO is the shortform for Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation, an award-winning NGO founded in Johor Baru since 1952 and a proudly Johor brand which I had featured in, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, the third and final instalment in the trilogy of My Johor Stories books, launched in 2022.


When I read the gift tag printed with a headline, Something Johor, I could not help feeling proud of the support given by Desaru Coast to JARO. It was indeed very special to see such tangible support from a renowned corporation to an NGO that continues to provide training to people with disabilities to create useful handicrafts.


Meanwhile before I received the invite from Tengku Tarmizi Tengku Aziz, Librarian at the Sultan Ismail Library in Johor Baru, I had already received the same invitation to the Open House hosted by Majlis Bandaraya Johor Baru posted in the Downtown Johor Baru group chat.


Dijemput hadir esok ye…” said Tengku Tarmizi, who assured me that he would be at the entrance from 10am to welcome me in.


One for the album: with Datuk Bandar,
Dato Noorazam Dato Haji Osman

With another two invites lined up that day, I made an early start to the event venue, Arena Larkin, the indoor stadium built next to the Larkin Stadium and was directed to a parking area behind the stadium.


Parking attendants ensured that cars were parked in an orderly way as guests arrived in throngs and walked to the Arena Larkin, undeterred by the scorching sun.


On arrival, I was pleased to see Tengku Tarmizi who led me to meet the host, JB City Mayor or Datuk Bandar, Dato’ Haji Mohd Noorazam Dato Haji Osman, for me to wish him, Selamat Hari Raya.


Inside the indoor stadium, a vocalist sang with a band to provide live music entertainment while guests helped themselves to a range of festive food served from stalls and happily ate, seated around tables.


This January, I met Tengku Tarmizi when he and his family joined my first Heritage Walk arranged under the My Johor Stories in Downtown Johor Baru project. This led to his participation in two more Heritage Walks in the following two months.


My choice of satay with that 
refreshing own-made iced-mango
yogurt drink

Then in early March, I presented my trilogy of My Johor Stories to the Sultan Ismail Library and my books were officially received on behalf of the city’s library by Datuk Bandar, Dato’ Noorazam.


I took early leave from this event at Arena Larkin to go on a short drive to Pulai Springs Resort for my next Open House hosted in the Kencanapuri Hall. [Upon registration at the reception, I was given a ticket for the Lucky Draw.]


General Manager, Sunny Soo, was dressed in traditional Baju Melayu Telok Belanga complete with songkok, and introduced himself as Mohamed Sunny/Sani. He and his team welcomed guests to enjoy the resort’s hospitality in a wide range of festive food served from stalls arranged inside and outside the hall.


In the scorching midday heat, their own-made iced-mango yogurt drink was a sure winner. [One tall glass was just not enough to quench my thirst so I had two.]


My score ranked No. 38
at the end of the game

In the GM’s speech, Sunny provided an update about the resort’s next project which aimed to meet the needs of the neighbouring community.


In between Malay cultural dance performances, the MC led in fun games for guests to win prizes. Then he went on to lead an online interactive game called, AhaSlides where guests were required to scan a QR code to register their participation.


While I am not big on electronic games, I decided to join and attempt the trivia questions in a game that required the fastest-fingers-first-to-log-in a multiple-choice answer.


I felt comfortable as the quiz questions were centered on familiar topics like Raya and Johor Culture-Heritage. After each question, the large screen in front will show a list of scores with ranking and at the end of the game, the top three scores will be deemed the winners.


My winning Lucky Draw ticket
and the Second Prize

At the end, I ranked at No. 38 with 565 points but on looking closer, I found it interesting that I was among the few non-Malay in this fun game who ranked among the top 40 participants.


As time ticked on, I kept an eye on my watch and was compelled to leave for my next appointment in the city so I left my Lucky Draw ticket with my friends.


The day ended on a high note when I received a message with photo from my friend who said: “Your ticket won 2D/1N stay with RM100 F&B voucher!!!”


Thank you, Pulai Springs Resort for a fitting end to my Raya Open House outings! Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment