Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ong Kiat Family Gathering

Last Sunday we together with about 600 descendants of the Ong Kiat clan gathered for the first time to see the launch of our genealogy book researched and collated by an Uncle and cousin Abdul Khalid Mahmood. We recognized many that were there but there were a lot more that we had never met before  and it was interesting to meet so many "relatives" for the first time. We were all dressed in assigned colours, Dayang Nyachi wore blue, Dayang Tangah yellow, Awang Besar red and the largest group Awang Damit green (Dayang Bungsu did not have any biological children). What a great afternoon and we all learnt so much about the past and about each other.

Ong Kiat was born Ong Yuen Rei in Zhejiang district North China around 1840. In 1867 he had a son, Ong Fei Liang. The following year Ong Kiat had a disagreement with his father and together with several male cousins decided to leave their village and seek their fortunes elsewhere. They headed towards Kowloon, Hong Kong but only stayed briefly. A few cousins moved on and settled in Thailand and what is West Malaysia today. A handful including Ong Kiat headed to Borneo. One cousin evetually settled in Kudat, Sabah, one settled in Keningau, leaving Ong Kiat to settle in Labuan.

Ong Kiat set up a business and worked hard. His hard work was paid off and his businesses included a shop, and pepper & timber trading. By this time he had also set up home with a Malay woman by the name Hamidah and they had 5 children, three daughters - Dayang Nyachi, Dayang Tangah, Dayang Bungsu -  and two sons - Awang Besar and Awang Damit. He had also become a leader in the community and was appointed to the Legislative Council of Labuan (or North Borneo) and subsequently awarded an MBE.  News of his success did not please the cousins that had travelled with him from China. In July 1885 Ong Kiat was found dead, supposedly poisoned. His eldest daughter Dayang Nyachi was 10 years old and the youngest Awang Damit was merely 40 days old. (Ong Kiat was buried at Kampong Sungei Keling, Labuan on a property he owned. The grave is visited by his ancestors today).

News of Ong Kiat's death reached China and his infant son Ong Fei Liang then 17 years old travelled to Labuan to claim part of his fathers inheritance. Tragically on arrival to Labuan, he too was brutally murdered. 

All five siblings lived healthily into old age. My Great Grandfather Awang Besar saw his 100th birthday. He passed away 8 months later from a fall (apparently he had a daily habit of winding his clock and one day lost his balance). Awang Besar too was appointed a member of the North Borneo Legislative Council and awarded an MBE. One of the main streets in the Labuan town centre is named after him.

Who we all are and how we are related to each other

My Dad going over faces with his cousins

Our own little clan minus Amin

A play depicting the life of Ong Kiat

Launching of the book by Grand Aunt Hajah Durah binti Awang Damit Ong Kiat, the oldest of the clan and last remaining offspring from the five siblings.

The afternoon finished off with a show. Above a dance from the Dayang Nyachi family. Our own kids did a dance representing Awang Besar family.

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