Keeping alive a legacy amidst a sleepy backdrop

Tiong and his wife start their day with a simple breakfast.

William is learning to do business from his grandfather.

BELAGA: Sixty-one years ago, Tiong Hua Teng arrived here from Sibu together with his wife and their nine-month-old first-born, and there was no turning back.

Today at 84, Tiong, albeit with some hearing loss and impaired vision, is still going strong with his clear mind.

“When I heard of business opportunities trading with local natives here, I made the decision to come here, not to make a fortune, but to be able to raise my family in a decent way,” Tiong said with a sense of pride clearly seen on his face.

Tiong has nine children. Besides the youngest who has passed away, the other eight children are raising their families in Sibu, Bintulu, Peninsular Malaysia and Australia.

Tiong is the owner of Belaga Hotel, one of the oldest hotels here.

“Business is not good. During some of the months, the business is running at a loss,” he said.

He also operates a coffee shop located at the ground floor of the hotel.“When I just arrived here, we operated along the riverside. Later, the present row of shop houses was built and we relocated here,” Tiong recalled.

Noticeably, the businesses here are dominated by Chinese businessmen.

“Yes, out of the 21 shops along the first built row of shops, there are two Malay shops and one Kayan. The rest are all Chinese,” he said.

Asked why he had relocated to an interior town which was almost cut off from the rest of the world, Tiong said philosophically, “One should know one’s own limitations and the circumstances. I didn’t have the opportunity to receive higher education, so too my wife.

“With such limitations and what small capital we had, charting our path to this remote place, where life is simple and businesses were not complicated, was the best choice I had then.”




Through hardship and with perseverance, Tiong paid for his shop after a few years, started the hotel and acquired some land to plant some fruits and vegetables nearby.

He still holds to his belief that Belaga provides the opportunity for one to lead a simple and peaceful life. A few years ago, Tiong invited one of his grandsons, William Tiong Meng Fatt, to Belaga after he had completed Form 5 to learn to do business and be ready to take over from him.

The quiet, now 23-year-old William said with a smile “I am happy to be here to be able to look after my grandparents while learning to do business.”

The eldest of three siblings, William said he could get a handsome income from business in this small, isolated town.

“There are not many tourists, but the sales of the coffee shops are quite go,od. This is a place where you don’t spend money and can save much.”

The Internet connection is satisfactory in Belaga, thus giving William connectivity to the outside world.

His hope is that the government would build better roads so that more visitors and tourists will frequent this place.

Will William keep the legacy of his grandparents for another 61 years? Only time will tell.



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