United and soldiering on at the front line


Chiong (left) and her colleagues holding the Jalur Gemilang as their way of celebrating Malaysia Day at a private hospital in Penang. — Photo: LIM BENG TATT/ The Star

IT will be the second time that frontliners from Sabah and Sarawak working in Georgetown, Penang, will celebrate Malaysia Day far away from their hometowns as their priority is in shouldering their responsibilities in battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nurse Fathin Athirah Ladi, 27, from Tamparuli, Sabah, said she would be celebrating Malaysia Day with her husband’s family and her colleagues at the hospital where she worked.

“Since we cannot balik kampung due to work, I will get to spend quality time with my husband’s family and my colleagues,” she said, adding that since last year, most of her time was spent at the hospital due to Covid-19 cases.

Fathin, who is of Dusun ethnicity, said although she could not experience the excitement of celebrating Malaysia Day in her hometown, it was normal to share and discuss current issues with her colleagues.

She said the camaraderie between Malaysians from Sabah and Sarawak at her workplace was strong and they did their best to support each other during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fathin said this was the time that everyone must lend a helping hand to friends and colleagues.

Being so far away from home for such a long time does make her miss traditional foods like bosou and tuhau.

“Bosou, also called noonsom or tonsom, is the Kadazan-Dusun term for a traditional tangy fermented meat.

“Tuhau is a type of wild ginger, specifically the stems of the plant popularly served as a relish by the Kadazan-Dusun community.

“It’s so rare and I can never get to eat such food in Penang,” she said.

She urged Malaysians to always stay alert and adhere to the standard operating procedure (SOP).

Fathin also reminded Malaysians to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families.

Sarawakian nurse Chiong Sie Ing, 21, said every Malaysian should observe all the SOP mandated by the government.

“Do your part to stay at home while we stay at work for you.

Fathin will be celebrating Malaysia Day with her husband’s family and her colleagues at the hospital.Fathin will be celebrating Malaysia Day with her husband’s family and her colleagues at the hospital.

“We must work together to reach herd immunity to combat the pandemic.

“Let’s use Malaysia Day to instil the concept of national unity in our children and make greater strides towards a stable and prosperous society,” she said.

Chiong has not been able to return to her hometown of Sarikei since last year after the country was gripped by the pandemic.

She said she was aware that it would be difficult for her to travel to Sarawak or any other place following the spike in Covid-19 cases, and this was not the time to let her guard down.

“What we can do now is spend more quality time at home.

“I miss my home back in Sarikei, but duty comes first.

“I am thankful I have good friends and colleagues who are always here with me,” she said.

Chiong said Malaysia Day was a day to celebrate how far Malaysia had progressed.

Malaysia Day, she said, was a symbol of unity with various races living together as one nation despite their numerous differences.

She hopes that Malaysians will continue to help those who are in need.

She also urged everyone to stay healthy by avoiding crowded places and following the rules and regulation set by the government.

Chiew misses ‘ayam pansuh’, a traditional dish in her hometown of Sarikei, Sarawak.Chiew misses ‘ayam pansuh’, a traditional dish in her hometown of Sarikei, Sarawak.

Accident and emergency department nurse Nikki Fabian misses home as it has been more than a year since she went home.

The 26-year-old nurse from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, said that prior to the pandemic, it was routine for her to return home thrice a year including for Christmas.

“This is the longest time I’ve been away and I am longing to go back home as soon as possible.

“It is just different not being able to spend the holidays with my family in my hometown.

“I left home when I was 18 years old to pursue my studies at a college in Penang and continued to work at a hospital here.

“Ever since I was a student, I have always looked forward to Malaysia Day as it is a public holiday and my family and I would be off from school and work.

“We just gather together and have quality family time.

“Sometimes we go to the beach and have a picnic. Other times, we go to the mall as a family or do a family cookout of special dishes at home,” she said.

Nikki said she salivated whenever she thought of Kicap Cap Ayam from her home state.

“It is simply the best. I can eat it with just rice and fried egg.

“I also miss tuhau and bosou as it is really difficult to get them here, and I don’t know how to make them,” she added.

Nikki (middle) and her colleagues of different races are rooting for Malaysians to get through the pandemic together.Nikki (middle) and her colleagues of different races are rooting for Malaysians to get through the pandemic together.

Nikki hopes for life to return to normal as soon as possible.

“Many people have succumbed to Covid-19 and some are suffering from poverty and mental illness.

“Frontliners are exhausted.

“One thing I have learnt from the pandemic is that life is too short to be taken for granted.

“It is the time for us to humble ourselves and help one another,” she said.

Nurse Chiew Hui Ling, from Sarikei, Sarawak, misses ayam pansuh which is a traditional dish in her hometown.

“The dish is basically chicken that is prepared in bamboo with dabai (a type of exotic fruit in Sarawak). We cannot get dabai here.

“I really miss home. The last time I went back was in February last year before the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This is the longest period I’ve been away from home.

“However, I’m grateful that the hospital I work at, treated all employees to a lunch during the Kaamatan and Gawai festival, which made it feel like home.

“Malaysia Day is a memorable day for me as it commemorates the day when Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya came together to form Malaysia.

“Since it is a public holiday, I usually spend time with my family and friends doing things together to mark this special day.

“This year, I will stay at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has affected our lives in many ways and we have to adapt to this new norm.

“People should always follow the SOP and get vaccinated as soon as possible to achieve herd immunity,” she advised.

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