| Siti Hajar & Khal Baharulalam |
IT WAS a day for Bruneians living in the United Kingdom (UK) to celebrate as the year draws to a close. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha consented to spend time with those currently away from home.
Thousands of Bruneians of varying demographics, some with family members and others with friends and acquaintances descended upon the London Hilton on Park Lane, to take part in a unique occasion that is only familiar to the people of Brunei.
Gathered early and dressed in their finest, most of whom in their traditional Malay attire, men and women as well as children were treated to a few hours of meet and greet with the royalty that happens on a yearly basis.
For many, the get-together with the monarch and other members of the royal family is reminiscent of the familial gatherings that have become a mainstay in Brunei’s culture.
Dk Nur Azimah binti Pg Abd Aziz said, “The event gave us Bruneians the chance to gather as one big family,” which saw her being reunited with her sister as well as cousins who are studying in different parts of the UK.
Sharing her excitement in being able to invest her time with other Bruneians, she expressed her gratitude to His Majesty and the royal family for consenting to be part of the event. “It feels like we are appreciated for studying here, especially being away from family and home.”
As with many other Bruneians on scholarship generously awarded by the Bruneian Government, the second year BSc Nutrition student also conveyed her gratitude to His Majesty’s Government for the opportunity to pursue her studies at University of Nottingham.
“Insya Allah, I will use this opportunity wisely and make use of this chance to give back to Brunei in the future.”
During the event, His Majesty delivered a titah in which the monarch emphasised the importance of education especially in a globalised world and also reminded the Bruneians to maintain their national identity, which Syazwina Kuan described as a “significant advice” to the Bruneians living in the UK.
The ceremony itself, she described, was a success, which she attributed to the display of gratitude to His Majesty who many see as a father figure, especially as Brunei continues to make its mark in the international arena.
A member of the choir group tasked to sing the national anthem, the Masters student in Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London said, “It was great being at the event and I enjoyed every moment spent with everyone and it was an overwhelming experience. It made me feel like I was back home in Brunei and it was indeed very festive.”
Sharing similar sentiments, Alizawaty Mohamad, currently pursuing her Masters in International Political Economy from King’s College London, said, “The get-together with His Majesty and the royal family presents an opportunity for Bruneian students from all over the UK and Northern Ireland to congregate. The large turnout is a symbolic representation of our close knit community and values which we proudly carry with us abroad.”
The UBD graduate and mother of three, who was also given the opportunity to study in the UK as part of the university’s Discovery Year programme in 2012, added, “Without the support and the drive of His Majesty’s Government to generate a knowledgeable society, we wouldn’t be here and for that I am grateful.”