In his recent autobiography the late Rev. Brother Michael Jacques reminisced: "I have never lost the spirit of always being a Sarawakian and am proud of it. No matter how long I have been away, my roots are in Kuching where I came from," giving a subtle signal as to why the autobiography was titled ‘The Man from Borneo”.
Jacques was always proud of his French-British-Hakka ancestry. He speaks at length of his mother, Chin Jin Khoi, who was married to a labourer and opium addict, Soon Huat. It was not a happy union and so Chin married William Harry Jacques, a teacher at the Chung Hwa school.
In his teaching career spanning 48 years, Michael Jacques, served twice as Brother-Visitor in the La Salle provincialate of Malaysia-Singapore-Hongkong. He was also the first Asian elected to the post of Assistant Superior General of the LaSallian Christian Brothers headquartered in Rome. He was recently conferred a Datukship by the Penang State Government.
His teaching career took him from his idyllic hometown in Kuching to Penang, Ipoh, Malacca, Singapore, Bangkok, Colombo, Hongkong, London and Rome.
Strikingly, in the last leaf of his 390-page epistle, this educationist seems to have prophesised his absence at the launch, penning in Latin:"Dum spiro spero" (While I breathe, I hope)....incidently the motto of the illustrious fighting band called theSarawak Rangers....or the Iban equivalent: Agip Idup, Agip Ngelaban.*
And as if intended as an epilogue to his Latin musings, the last three lines of his memoir read: "We should never despair while we still have life. I shall have to make the best of it. My watchword is to live as authentic a life as possible, for the relatively short time remaining to me."
*The motto of the Ranger Regiment is Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban. A direct translation, word for word from Iban to English is "Still Alive, Still Fight." In spirit the motto means "Fight to the Death." It is conjectured that the motto was derived from Brooke family's Latin motto, Dum Spiro Spero which means "While I Breathe, I Hope." In this light, Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban could mean "While I Breathe, I fight." Dum Spiro Spero was the state motto for the Kingdom of Sarawak. In the other, according to the Journal of 1st Ranger Regiment, the motto Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban was derived from "Whilst There Is Life, There Is Fight", also noted as Brooke's family motto. The Royal Ranger Regiment is the only corps of the Malaysian Armed Forces using this motto in the Iban language.
Bro Michael Jacques, former Bro Theoderat Michael, was my superior. We did not get along well but I always respected this great pedagogue from a distance. Most times it always is better this way. Farewell Brother Visitor.
La Salle director for Malaysia, Brother Anthony Rogers, incidentally an Ops Lalang detainee, in his citation during the launch of “The Man from Borneo”, said it all about Jacques in just three words: "Someone for all".
(bits and pieces from here and there)
As a mark of respect
this blog will be silent
for a day.
Wake will be at the La Salle Hall, Jalan 5/15B, off Jalan Gasing from noon tomorrow. Funeral Mass is on 2 April at 10.00am at St Francis Xavier Church.