This year’s Hari Raya celebration is different compared to last year, and I mean very different based on what I enjoyed. While the traumatizing congested roads and the jampacked malls with panicking last minute shoppers were a normal sight, our visit at NBT’s Hari Raya Exhibition, having eaten three Sungkais and going into an Open house made my Bruneiyuki Adventure on this festive season truly memorable. Then again, looking back, last year, my Dad was here with me on his 4-day vacation. On top of that, the palace had an Open House. This year, becauseof the H1N1 epidemic and for everyone’s safety, His Majesty decided not to proceed with the annual and long-awaited gathering and treat for everyone. Good thing, that didn’t spoil the merry season.
Admittedly, prior to the Hari Raya season, especially during the fasting month, most of the restaurants here were empty at day time and packed at night. That’s because most of the Muslims went for Sungkai, a buffet dinner, which was offered by most eating hubs at night, and for Sahur, an early meal at around 4 in the morning. In relation to Islam, Muslims are only allowed to eat after the prayer at night, at around 6:30 PM. But guess what, I heard some Muslims here just buy their food outside and eat inside their houses. Although I had not proven such undeground act, I guess stories from my friends were enough to affirm such roaming reality. Come on. Can you bear not to drink for the whole day and not even being allowed to swallow one’s own saliva for one whole month? Hard, right?
As a consolation on not eating, most shops and malls offered sale items. Yeah. Brunei launched it’s Grand Sale during the Ramadhan period up to the Hari Raya Season. As a result, hungry individuals opted to pacify their hunger by redirecting it to shopping. With the left and right bazaars and mall wide sale, everyone were stuffed in a whole new level! On one hand, I can’t avoid not to compare the sale here and in the Philippines. In the Philippines, sale is definitely a “sale,” a mega and uber generous sale. You’ll see loads of rock-bottom priced items and you’ll definitely not go home without holding a bulging plastic bag or a branded paper bag. While here, even the sale hits at 70%, you’ll still not get your appetite to buy. Aside from a few selections, still, the prices are pricey. Perhaps, from a budget-conscious like me, it’s not easy to shell out dollars. Plus, reality check, most of the items here can be found in our ever dependable and budget-friendly Divisoria, 168 and Tutuban. Bottom line, the Grand Sale just passed by on my face without even grabbing my shopaholic fancy.
Aside from stuffing myself in three Sungkais, I got also an invitation to visit an Open House by one of my colleague. That happened last 24 September at Nora’s house. I must admit, although it was a simple Raya celebration, the sharing of stories, tons of laughter and food munching were truly worth the visit. Here’s an annotation of what happened on Nora’s open house.
Those who came over at Nora’s open house were Shiela, Cecil, Nick, Grace, Aaron, Jimmy, Hazel, Jeffrey, Jomai, and I. We left the office at around 7:00. Oddly, when we reached Nora’s place, Nora was not yet “in.” She was still outside and doing some last minute grocery to feed us. And so, we waited outside her house.
The moment Nora arrived, we helped her with her grocery. First impression, Yeah, Nora gained weight, but, still Beautiful as ever. In fact, she’s prettier now compared to when she was still with our company. I suppose, she enjoys more her current job. Right?
(In the picture: Nora carrying the Ketsup for the Tom Yam Soup)
We entered Nora’s house and we were stunned. Although her place was just right for the size of her family, it was clean, fresh and well decorated. I just loved the earth tones of her interiors – form the wooden seats up to the curtains. I really saw Nora’s resourcefulness and ingenuity on her home! Perfect!
We seated and started devouring the little cakes and some chocolates. Oh yes! Yummy!
(In the picture: Amazed Jimmy looking at chocoholic Earvs)
Here’s the steamboat Nora prepared for us. The one with the red soup is called Tom Yam Soup. Although it’s a bit spicy, you’ll definitely love it. Believe me. Shiela just asked me to taste one and I liked it.
For everyone’s information, a steamboat style of cooking is very ideal especially on welcoming guests. You just have to boil water and put all the ingredients- crab meats, shrimps, fish balls, some veggies, and even eggs. Once cooked, serve it. But the interesting part on steamboat cooking, you continuously let the water boil as everybody enjoys their plate. The thing is, you have to buy that cooking pot to have a steamboat session. Perhaps, a simple stove and cooking pot will do!
The night was totally packed with HUGE laughs! Seriously, while watching the movie "Sea Beast" and the Hari Raya Videoke where most child stars looked old on their age, we were also throwing punch lines to warm the evening! Jeffrey shared his "egg" which Shiela was asking to have. And there, Nick dropped the bomb! Nick was asking Shiela not to only swallow Jeff's Egg but just LICK it! Hahaha! It was soooooo classic! On top of that, because of the what we call sugar rush, on the two roundabouts we passed by, since we're unfamiliar in the place, we followed Nick on making one complete turn in the roundabouts. Crazy guy!
(Top Picture: Nick shooting someone? Bottom Picture: Everyone peeping on Nora's Daughter's room)
Wearing a big smile and loaded with stories and jokes, we left her house at around 9:30. I sooooo loved the OPEN HOUSE. It opened a lot of smiles and mementos for us!
Frankly, I realized on our way home, an Open house is not only a time for someone to invite his/her friends and offer them with delicious foods and desserts, or a way of thanking Allah for all the blessings the family received and enjoyed, but it is also a perfect time to rekindle happy times and bring back good memories which may remind oneself how to be just and human, regardless of race and religion. Hari Raya Aidilfitri everyone!