By TAN JU-ENGjueng@thestar.com.myPhotos by CHUA KOK HWA
PAPAN is a quaint one-street town . The name of the quiet town may be familiar to locals and some historians but it is not a designated tourist stop.
It is by invitation that we found ourselves knocking on the door of No 74, Main Street, Papan one morning. On the outside, this house did not look any different from the row of houses across the street.
When Law Saik Hong opened the door and invited us in, we were captivated, not by what we saw but more of what we felt when we stepped in.
It felt like we had actually stepped into the house of legendary World War Two heroine Sybil Kathigasu and her husband Dr A C Kathigasu.
Sybil and Dr Kathigasu were famous for their work in helping to treat wounded guerrillas during the war in this house.
“I did not know what Dr Kathigasu’s clinic looked like so I worked on recreating the feel of the place with things from their era,” Law said as he pointed to a long cabinet which he had obtained from a clinic in Ipoh.
“I pick up some of the stuff that people here throw away, especially from that era,'' he said.
Law also showed us an old portrait of a rich man named Hew Chin Sin, which he had picked up. The walls are also covered with photographs of the Kartigasu couple.
From the living room we went into the backyard where Law had lined the floor with pebbles and tiles.
He has also planted herbs like the Pegaga, Aloe Vera and Snake Grass here.
“Since this place was once used for medical purposes, I thought it would be appropriate to plant herbs,” he said.
There are two other rooms in the back yard and he uses the one with a raised platform as a bedroom and the other is made to look like a clinic.
Law sees himself as a custodian of history and this personally funded project has been his passion for the past four years.
He managed to persuade the house owner to rent the lower part of the house to him.
He camps out here often and sometimes his friends join him.
Those who have read No Dram of Mercy by Sybil about her experiences in Papan would find it meaningful to take a walk up the hills at the end of the road.
Law, 55, is the president of the Perak Heritage Society and is a designer.
He worked for Selangor Pewter for a while before joining the family business in investment and properties.
Since the 80’s he has been drawn to the beauty of this town and its isolation but only came across the house in 2003 while driving around with his niece.
Meeting Sybil’s last surviving daughter Olga Kathigasu, 86, two years ago has given more meaning to this project.
Law took the authors of the book Faces of Courage, Norma Miraflor and Ian Ward, together with Olga, for a tour of the house.
During the visit, Olga had the chance to relive some of her memories of time spent at the house.
Her narrations are published in Faces of Courage.
“For me, heritage means preserving history,'' said Law, adding that he hoped house No 74, Main Street would help to draw more interest in the history of Papan.