Malacca is about 2,200 kilometers from Jolo, Sulu, the contentious island at the southernmost tip of the Philippines, which is where most Joloanos were born and raised.
The honorific Capitan was given to Alexander Tandico, by the locals when he made Jolo his home. As a trader from China, he had a huge home built for his second wife, my grandmother, with many rooms to house the children from his first marriage and his second family, my mother and her siblings. Unfortunately, I never got to know him. But, I would wander from room to room in this house, walking the highly polished, wide plank mahogany floors, admiring the beautiful furniture he collected from Borneo, Sandakan, Malaysia, Malacca and other neighboring countries. In drifts of snatches of conversation between my maternal grandmother and people close by, Malacca figured a few times. As a child, I took no mind, figuring out that she probably meant Malaysia and was just using the word in a deviated form of our local taosug dialect.
Thus, when I had a chance to travel to Southeast Asia, I jumped at the opportunity to visit Malacca to discover what this place was, a name remembered from childhood. I took a day tour from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca, now a World Heritage site and joined a congenial group, from various parts of the world. Our guide, who said he was a retired paratrooper and sounded like one while guiding us, had a lot to say about Malacca.
Malacca is a potpourri of cultures from prior European rulers, the Dutch, British and Portuguese. Malacca is also home to a narrow harbor, the Strait of Malacca, dissected repeatedly by talking heads on television during coverage of the ill-fated Malaysia 370, the airplane that to this day, no one knows its whereabouts and the 293 passengers it carried.
As with other historical sites, religion must have played a big role in people’s lives, as there are a number of significant churches in this small town.
We were also shown an old burial site of long dead colonizers and their kin.
After a delicious Nyonya lunch — a marriage of dishes of the diverse asian culture in this part of the world, the group then proceeded to Jonker Street, which used to be known as an antiques shopping mecca, now a hodge podge of ancient, “old” and new stuff and other side streets in Malacca and the other streets of Malacca. I imagined some of Capitan Tandico’s furniture must have been exported from here.
At one of our stops, there was a stand of elaborately decorated, colorful bicycle ricksaws. Although I did not venture to try out a ride, the approximate cost of an hour’s ride would be in the area of USD$12.00/AN HOUR.
As opposed to a ride in a New York humdrum bicycle pedicab, which is $4.99/A MINUTE!!!
Compare appearance of New York pedicabs to colorful Malaysian rides.
In our tour group, was a young Asian lady, who badgered everyone into constantly taking photos of her in modelesque poses with her cell phone. She would even duck into the bus for a change of accessories. After using practically everyone in the group who was capable of handling a cell phone camera, she approached a handsome young man of equal age for help. As with all unsuspecting tour companions, he graciously acquiesced, until he realized he was missing out on the ongoing tour. Visibly annoyed, he told her to get lost. The young man then realized amused eyes were covertly watching this side show, some taking bets on when he would get fed up. The last unsuspecting “victim” was the paratrooper tour guide who at first was happy to help the young woman, until the light bulb clicked. Smiles from everyone.