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Getting in touch with Serani heritage

Getting in touch with Serani heritage
"Getting in touch with Serani heritage"

Happy Easter or Bong Pasku to those celebrating tomorrow.

In case you are wondering, Bong Pasku is Kristang – a Creole language – spoken by the Serani or Eurasian community in Malaysia, especially in Melaka.

It blends ancient Portuguese with local languages.

Sadly, it is a dying language, although a friend, Sara Frederica Sta Maria, has been keeping the Kristang language and tradition alive via her dance troupe, and lessons, on YouTube.

I know only a few Kristang words, although my mother and older relatives are fluent in it.

Another person determined to keep the Serani legacy alive is Selangor and Federal Territory Eurasian Association president, Datuk Sheila De Costa.

De Costa is involved in building a new clubhouse for the association to replace the one that stood in Jalan Pudu for over 60 years before it shut its doors in 2013.

The new site is at Jalan Bangsar Utama, and the club needs funds to complete the project.

“I managed to raise RM2 million, but it is not enough,” said De Costa, a lawyer. “I hope we can complete the first phase by 2026.”

So, is it Eurasian or Serani, and do they mean the same thing? Well, yes, and no!

Vernon Adrian Emuang, a cultural activist and founder of Serani Sembang – a website and Facebook page dedicated to the ‘Eurasian families of Southeast Asia’ – explains that the term Serani had existed for hundreds of years.

“The term ‘Serani’, to describe a community, existed for over 500 years, long before ‘Eurasian’ was coined by the British,” said Emuang.

“Some say ‘Serani’ is derived from ‘Nazarani’ (the Arab word for Christian). It was used for the Christian sailors who came to Melaka.”

But in modern times, ‘Serani’ became known as the Malay version of ‘Eurasian’.

Some feel ‘Serani’ is a more apt description, as over time, Eurasians in Malaysia intermarried with other races and are not direct descendants of a European-Asian union.

What brought about all this talk about Serani/Eurasian?

On March 25, I had dinner with Emuang, De Costa, and four others (main image). As we tucked into the sumptuous Eurasian delicacies at Memorie restaurant, in Petaling Jaya, the topic of discussion naturally centred on our heritage and how many of us are around.

According to the 2022 census, there are only 7,487 Eurasians/Serani in Malaysia. However, De Costa believes the number should be considerably higher as Singapore had 17,000 of us in 2012.

One of our dinner companions, Vincent Boudville, who has been researching his family history, was able to help me piece together parts of my family tree – something my mum and other relatives will be working on in the next few weeks.

Who knows, I may be able to trace a relative who was on board Afonso de Albuquerque’s ship!

Have a good weekend, folks.

WALK WITH THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB

Calling all walkers. The National Press Club of Malaysia is organising its inaugural ‘Jom Jalan with NPC’ event on Sunday, June 2, at Padang Merbok.

There are two main categories – a competitive 10km walk and a 5km fun walk.

The competitive 10km walk will have four sub-categories – Open Men’s, Open Women’s, Boys’ and Girls’ (aged 13-17). The fun walk, meanwhile, is open to all.

Those interested in ‘Jom Jalan with NPC 2024’ can register via Race Roster or Checkpoint Spot.

PINGMIN MIDNIGHT CANTEEN

Attention food lovers. Head to Sunway Open Carpark (Opposite Sunway Resort Hotel, Bandar Sunway) this weekend to sample a variety of food choices, along with some arts and crafts booths.

Called the Pingmin Midnight Canteen, the vendors are open until 1am today and 10pm tomorrow. Business starts at 5pm.

Admission is free.

PRE-LOVED BAZAAR

Da Men Mall in Subang Jaya will organise a weekly Pre-Loved Weekend Bazaar from April 27.

Those interested can contact Gilbert (018-2345022) or Janet (018-2217171).

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