Friday, 8 April 2016

Yusof bin Ishak

He was the first and the first Malay President of Singapore. He was born in Perak, Federated Malay States under British Malaya occupation. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were Malays of Sumatran Minangkabau heritage. They were descendants of the Minangkabau royalty of the ancient Pagaruyung palace in the central highlands of West Sumatera. Though they were of Minangkabau stock (supposedly a fierce warrior stock), they stuck fast to Islamic values and adhered to living together harmoniously. Many of the Minangkabau men of this heritage married Chinese women, and most of these women, coincidentally, were name Aishah! And almost every Aishah is a Chinese woman married to a Minangkabau man.

I have managed to trace the family tree of Yusof bin Ishak, after our 2013 family reunion in Penang, which was organised by Prof Ahmad Murad Merican. My husband and I then visited Prof Ahmad Murad Merican's parents in Kg Melayu, Air Itam in Penang. His parents were affectionately known as Tok Chu and Nenek. Nenek is related to my late father, and Tok Chu to my late mother - they were of Merican stock. Nenek and my father were Minangkabau descendants.

Nenek related to me her family tree and that of Yusof bin Ishak. Tok Chu showed me the big white rolled sheet that contained my ascendants and familiar names of relatives which I remembered from when I was a a little girl. I never knew their real names. Tok Chu made 7 copies of the family tree, which I distributed to my siblings.

At home in Kelantan, I studied the big sheet that had the family trees of my father's descendants and that of Yusof bin Ishak. I also bought books at the 2013 reunion. I studied them all and then put together the family tree for Yusof bin Ishak, my father and the rest, including Ami Aziz.

When I was putting together my text on Yusof bin Ishak, I had a hard time as I had never heard of him when I was a child, nor did I know what he looked like. I looked through books and the Internet. The only face I knew was that he resembled Walter Disney. I had thought Yusof bin Ishak was Walter Disney!

After watching many YouTube videos and Facebook posts on Yusof bin Ishak, I then could distinguish between Walter Disney and Yusof bin Ishak.

I did not know his wife and family. In 2016, I watched YouTube videos of Lee Hsien Loong on Singapore Rally, and he mentioned Puan Noor Aishah, and there were a few frames of the video clip that showed her. From there I searched her photos and videos online. In Facebook, my third cousin in Singapore, Baharin Thamby, informed me of 3 Bicara interview/YouTube videos of Puan Noor Aishah. The Singapore Malay language used in the video is something I have not heard for a long long time since I was a small girl. It took some time for me to understand, and I played the vidoes several times in order to clearly understand what Puan Noor Aishah said - she spoke real fast! Lee Hsien Loong spoke perfect Bahasa Melayu baku (book style) and that is easy to understand. Most Chinese lecturers in Malaysia today speak this Bahasa Melayu baku. However, the male and female actors spoke Bahasa Melayu Indonesia.

I have not met any of the family members in the flesh. I only know them from YouTube videos and from photos at blogs authored by journalists. There was a lady that sat at my table at the 2013 family reunion. I didn't bother to ask her whom she was as she seemed really sad. I may make her cry. As I look back, I think she could/could not be Puan Noor Aishah. She returned after the function in a big shiny black car. I have the photo somewhere in my many HD.

I have many Singapore relatives. I have only been to Singapore twice - in 1965 and 2011. In 1965, our family visited HABHAL's kicap village in Geylang Serai and we went shopping at Robinson. We also watched Disney on Ice performed in Singapore. In 2011, I visited Singapore to obtain information for my book on The Early Malay Doctors. I had no idea about Yusof bin Ishak in 2011, or I could have asked the people on the street about him and included a text about him in my books.

YouTube videos:
Sejarah Presiden Orang Melayu Pertama Singapura Encik Yusof Ishak

Family, family history and roots:

  1. Hj Yusof bin Ishak President Singapore
  2. Bako by Aziz Ishak