This was the year when we set foot on the hallowed grounds of the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. For some, it was a dream come true, the culmination of many nights of burning the midnight oil. For some, it was a moment filled with trepidation and doubt. What had I gotten myself into? Why is this place called the Prep School? Will the seniors be nasty? The place looks ancient, the mattresses soiled and ridden with bedbugs. For some, it was a great sense of burden. Here is the school with such an illustrious past. And here I am carrying the hopes and expectations of the folks back home. Will I come back proud, or will I come back a disgrace?
Many thoughts ran through our head at the time, but one thing was certain: it was a start into a brave new world for us. Farewells were said, tears were shed, and amanats were given. We were left to face this new life alone, but in a company of strangers.
When 1st January 1992 came about, it had already been two weeks for us in this grand institution. A fortnight ago, we were but boys. But the new year saw us in a different light: we were (very) young men filled with a sense of pride for being admitted to MCKK. How could we not be? Just look into the past, and one can see many old boys who once walked these very same halls; who are now captains of various industries; who are leaders of the nation; who are leaders in everything that they sought out to accomplish.
It was the school of kings, the king of schools. Traditions abound, and they taught us what a man should be. In RJ Wilkinson’s words, the Malay College was set up to produce “…a vigorous and intelligent race of young men who will be in touch with modern progress but not out of touch with old traditions…”.
The Prep School prefects, with these immortal words in mind, educated us in the ways of a Malay Collegian in, sometimes, creative ways. Over and over, one thing was emphasized to our young minds: the spirit of brotherhood. Few other schools can claim the same level of brotherhood that we Malay Collegians have.
There were numerous moments that are often recalled by us these days, no matter how often they have been retold with the same group of people. It’s even to the extent that some of our wives are able to tell the jokes and stories as if they were there with us at kuala. And we can proudly claim to be the last batch to produce the Preppies magazine. No other batch, until this very day, has been able to produce this magazine after we did.
One thing that distinguished us from other schools had always been our cheering tradition. We got our first taste of it in the early weeks of our being in koleq. There would be cheering practices every weekend, most times right after we had inspection. The practices would be held at TAR Hall, and would usually run between an hour to two hours. The first few sessions were scary, because we were not accustomed to the seniors. But after a while, it got really exciting because we soon memorized the songs, and were able to clap in unison. All the efforts paid off during the matches we would have at the school grounds. Indeed, it was a grand thing to watch when all the students would clap and cheer for their team in perfect synchronization. The players would suddenly find reserves of energy they never thought they had. And for those cheering, it was something we enjoyed ourselves because it really would bring out our speret koleq every single time. It made us feel like we really belonged to the brotherhood of the Malay College.
All in all, it was a year when we got to know each other as brothers, and a year when we learned to be Malay Collegians.
If the year before saw us staying with the same set of people, this year saw us living with different batch members in the same dorm. Dorm A boys pretty much stayed together, with an addition from a few Dorm D boys. It was the same story for Dorm C and E boys, except that that there were no boys from other houses. The Dorm B and D Idris boys were the ones that were mixed together, and split into two groups.
Who could also forget having to walk the longest distance every day to class? The New Hostel was at one end of the school compound, and our classrooms were at the other end. But we did manage to get a bit of entertainment whenever the Downstairz Crew practiced their moves at the lower level of West Wing. KRU and 4U2C were the biggest names at the time (“Kami rappers, yo!”), and they inspired just about every teen to dance along with them.
1993 can also be remembered as the year when we had pretty cool t-shirt designs. The Old Boys Weekend t-shirt was based on the Guns n’ Roses album cover for Use Your Illusion. The Chess Club t-shirt was nice too, a definite improvement over the 1991 design (which was cool too). But for most, the definitive t-shirt of 1993 has got to be the Art Club t-shirt, popularly known as the Mindfu*k t-shirt (replace with the letter of your choice at the asterisk). The inspiration for this one has got to be Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger album cover. Not only was the design awesome, the t-shirts came in more than than the usual black or white variations. We even had our own cool t-shirt, which was designed for the Form One-Form Two Annual Carnival. Designed by our very own Shible, it was given the seal of approval even by the seniors.
One night, we were all assembled in the common room. In a somber mood, the prefects announced to us that we would need to start thinking for ourselves, as the year was slowly coming to an end. Beginning the following year, there would be no one to guide us but ourselves. Therefore, we would have to choose amongst ourselves those who could be our leaders. Although we knew that we would have to determine our own future sooner or later, the thought seemed a little apprehensive. It isn’t easy to be responsible for your own self, much less for others. In the end, these were the names that were chosen to be our leaders: Rama, Pillah, Ipin, and Jusoh.
The year closed for us without much fanfare. But we were both scared and excited for what 1994 had in store for us: it was going to be our first real exposure to the big boys.
It wasn’t easy adjusting to life at Big School (or Pavilion) at first. For one, we were the most junior batch, even though we were already Third Formers at the Malay College. We had to learn the intricacies of dealing with seniors directly. We had to watch how we behaved. We had to live apart from each other.
1994 swung around, and we all went to our assigned dorms, with many misgivings. But it turned out that our misgivings remained just that: the Fifth Formers welcomed us warmly. In fact, they were rather glad that we were going to be staying with them. We were a little wary at first, but that soon disappeared.
Most of us were given the usual assignment that we would get at the start of the new school year: to get the signatures of our seniors. Even though this wasn’t really a difficult thing in itself, what made it difficult was what we had to do to get the signature. We were made to sing, dance, or do other miscellaneous tasks before we could get the signature of the senior. At first, it seemed like torture, especially when the task was a ridiculous one. But we persevered, and in the end, the ultimate goal of the task was achieved. We got to know our seniors in a relatively short amount of time. And we embraced the new nicknames they gave us.
Even though we were the most junior at Big School and Pavilion, we ironically felt freer than when we were at Prep School or New Hostel. True, there still were standing rules, but even then, it seemed like we were allowed to lead our own lives. An instance of this freedom was in how we picked up fashion. Just a year ago, we were told how we could dress. But now, we could wear straight-cut pants and shirts with pleats on the back. We could even keep our hair longer than before, as long as we weren’t caught by the wardens during inspection.
Our Speech Day was a memorable one. The VIP invited for that day was none other than Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, an old boy from the class of 1964. At the time, you could say that he was at the peak of his political career. He was the hopeful to carry on the mantle of the then prime minister, Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed. He even played a round of badminton with the boys, partnering with Dato’ Ramli Ngah Talib, who was the state minister of Perak.
Even though we had loads of fun as Third Formers, there was always one thing that was constantly on our minds. That one thing, of course, was PMR. It was one thing to pass the exams as a whole batch; it was another to become the best-performing school. Here was the first biggest test for us as Malay Collegians. As the crème de la crème, it was naturally expected of us to do the school proud, and carry on the tradition of excellence that had been set by our forebears. Some started studying as soon as the new year, but most of us were busy having fun. Things probably got really serious when we realized that PMR was just a two months away. Suddenly, the classrooms took on a deathly silence during prep hours, with the occasional furious flipping through textbooks. Playtime was over. At least, temporarily.
As soon as PMR was over, the school suddenly had an abundance of free hands, and that was all of us Third Formers. Soon enough, we were conscripted into manual labor. Various ‘beautifying’ projects were carried out by us, and some still stand to this day: the numerous Ke Arah Keunggulan dan Kesejahteraan signs around the school, lots of shrubbery and the recycle bins, to name a few. The more permanent ones like the waterfall and the ice cream-shaped keris aren’t our handiwork, but they were erected during our time. There were also some that didn’t make it to this day, or were literally buried with the past. Who could forget the artificial fountain in the middle of the foyer? Or the small pond in front of the New School, where the flagpoles are? And what about the pink curtains in the Big School dining hall?
A few months after the PMR exams, the results came out. We had waited with bated breath, wondering if we would manage to beat the previous year’s performance. True enough, we did! There were a total of 78 of us that got straight As. We were in the top ten ranking among boarding schools throughout the country.
We said goodbye to 1994 with many fond memories, wondering what the next year would bring.
Most times, the fourth year of one’s life in college would be described as the honeymoon year. It was for good reasons: one, there was no major exam like PMR or SPM to think about. Two, Fourth Formers no longer had to do chores. The Third Formers are there to do them. We were pretty much left to our own devices.
As with the batches before us, we received new brothers in the first three months of the 1995 school session. Most of them came in on the stipulated date, but some received their offer letters from the school a little bit late. Nonetheless, it was quite exciting because these were new faces in our batch. More variety in our batch! However, we did not coerce them into doing things our way. At least, not immediately. We weren’t in Form One anymore, when almost everything was compulsory. So, we introduced them to koleq life slowly, and hoped they would embrace it well. Some did, some didn’t, but that was to be expected. Some even took the more extreme option, and left for another school. But we were glad that most chose to stay, and experience what koleq had to offer them.
Our batch foray into the debating world also took a better turn this year. All this while, we had always been represented in BM debates only, by Wira. He had been in the school team since we were in Form Two. This year, our batch went into English debate to represent the school. Traditionally, the English debate team had always done better than the BM debate team, having reached more semi-finals and finals. However, we’ve never really won the major competitions, and as such, the BM team would always be remembered for having won the PPM in 1992 and 1993. Nonetheless, even with such a green team, we managed to reach the semi-finals of the national level PPM English debate. Not bad, considering that we had no prior experience.
1995 was a year that made us grow closer, and it made us realize just how important brotherhood was for us. We really had our early years to thank for.
For some of us, the school year started earlier by a week. The librarians, prefects, and leaders of the other important student bodies were called back early to attend a leadership camp in SERATAS, Taiping. Even though the school was still empty, we came back very elated.
We were finally the kings! It was a feeling that is hard to describe, but we understood that we had a lot of responsibilities to carry.
Apart from starting off with a new year, we also had a new Headmaster. Baharom Kamari was assigned to koleq with the aim of replicating his success at Kg Kerinchi. He even had the seal of approval from the old boys, it was said. His style had managed to turn the school at Kg Kerinchi from hopelessness to one full of promise. We were curious to see if this new HM would be able to keep up with the institution that is koleq.
The national level PPM was held at koleq in 1996. it had been a very long time since PPM was held at koleq, but the school made ready for it. A PA system was fitted for campus-wide announcements, some of the roads were resurfaced, major paintjobs and cleanups were carried out. Koleq never looked better in our five years here. Koleq’s campaign in this year’s PPM was rather successful: the English debate boys managed to make it to the quarters (some would say that their loss at this stage was dubious), the hockey boys made it to the finals, as did the BM debate boys.
In 1996, the school decided to have a major celebration for Independence Day. Preparations for the event went on for approximately two weeks, because the school had invited the whole town to celebrate as well. When the day finally came around, everyone was excited because nothing like this had ever been done, at least in recent years. The boys who were acting in a play depicting events leading to our country’s independence made sure their costumes were all ready, and the stage was set up at the Big School field. Celebrations began after dinner, but alas, weather wasn’t really on our side. It drizzled lightly throughout, but everyone was in high spirits. The play itself began at 11pm. One of the most memorable parts of the play was when Kicap had slipped on the wet stage, and Pillah managed to cover for his unintentional slip-up really well. It just added to the drama in the play. We ended a bit after midnight, but everyone didn’t seem to mind.
Like the previous year, the sports day was held the day after the speech day. And as usual, preparations began weeks before the actual event itself. In this respect, it was no different from the sports day of yesteryears. But in our bid to make 1996 one of the most memorable, Ahmad house introduced a mascot that was in line with their house t-shirt, while the Idris house marching contingent was decked in white from head to toe (well, the shoes were black). As for the results, Idris house had emerged as the potential champions early in the game, but Ahmad house managed to snatch the crown from them at the last minute.
Despite all the things that happened in the year, ultimately, any batch of budak koleq will mostly be remembered by how well we did in the examinations that mattered the most: the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exams. It would be no different for us, and we were aware of that fact. Of course, some had started studying as soon as the 1996 semester kicked in, but most of us only started studying when there was no more fun to be had. In other words, that practically meant some time in August. By then, no more major events were on our calendar. With no more excuse to beat around the bush, we finally sat down with our books.
SPM commenced some time in the middle of November, and the very first set of papers we sat for was the BM papers. Then, there was a one-day break, which was followed by Pendidikan Islam. After that, it was a flurry of papers, interspersed with much needed breaks. It was quite funny when we sat down for our exams, because every time a paper was over, there would be shouts and exclamations of frustration. We could only hope for the best. For the most part, we sat together as a batch doing the papers. And for each of the papers we sat, we would always wear the college tie. You could say it was our final act of contribution for our beloved alma mater.
14th December 1996 was the final date of SPM, and coincidentally, it also marked exactly five years of our life spent in this grand institution known as the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. It felt surreal, knowing that five years had passed by so quickly. But first things first, and that was to get the final subject out of the way. Students of 5 Sc 1, 5 Sc 2, 5 Sc 3 and 5 Sc 4 walked into Hargreaves Hall on that quiet Saturday afternoon to complete our responsibility. As soon as the head proctor announced for us to put down our pen, there was a collective sigh of relief from everyone in the hall.
Finally, it was over.
As we exited the hall, there was the rest of the batch waiting outside. We jumped in joy, we wept with relief, and we planned for what to do next… there was a myriad of emotions happening. But we realized one thing: tonight was going to be the last night that we all were going to be together as a batch. We sure had a great time at the dinner that was prepared for us by the school.
The next day, it was the school-leaving certificate ceremony. It was attended by parents, siblings and relatives as well. A solemn affair, but the mood soon turned to one of sadness outside the hall. We gathered in a circle in the quadrangle, and sang Gemilang. It was a poignant moment, and deep in our heart of hearts, we hoped that we gave koleq a lasting impression, just as it gave us a lasting impression. We hugged and cried in the circle, realizing that this may well be the last time in a long time we may see each other.