The COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival earlier this year put a stop to social gatherings for a time and among the type of gatherings affected were reunions.
Reunions provide an avenue through which people can get together to not only reminisce about the past but also to catch up on moments lost as well as to celebrate occasions of both the past and the present.
One reunion that successfully took place following the de-escalation was the 50th Anniversary Reunion Celebration for Alumni of Anthony Abell College (AAC), Seria.
The event saw people attending in a variety of ways, with some opting to do so in person while others made an appearance through various online services such as Zoom and WhatsApp.
These measures were employed as part of an effort to not only ensure that the number of people appearing in person was within safe margin but also as encouragement to participate whenever possible, even for those who are overseas.
Some of these alumni shared with the Bulletin their take on reunions and the importance of such events.
Shaikh Haji Hanafiy bin Shaikh Haji Ahmad shared his experience on the effort that went into organising the reunion as the chairman.
“The reunion was the result from the creation of our AAC Zoom Reunion 2020 WhatsApp Group which has 62 participants. The majority are from Brunei, while others are now living in Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Australia.”
Despite the difficulty of organising the reunions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the former students from more than 50 years ago were able to gather for the occasion, and this was something to be celebrated.
“Being able to meet up again, especially during such troubled times, be it in person or through online social platform, can help us get a sense of what our former classmates and friends have been up to these days, and to celebrate as well as to comfort each other during both highs and lows.”
This was evident as the occasion was rife with chatter as attendees were able to catch up on lost time, accentuated by the roaming of several laptops featuring several alumni who opted to be present through Zoom calls.
Controlling the number of attendees was done to ensure that the number of attendees is in line with the advice given by the Ministry of Health on mass gathering.
“We had more than 300 participants in our last reunion on February 21, 2015 and saw the presence of many comprising former students, teachers to ex-principal Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Haji Suyoi bin Haji Osman, who was the Minister of Development at the time. We want to enable these large and festive gathering to continue despite the current situation, with the use of the technologies that are available now.”
He was delighted to see the same cheer and happiness could be found similar to reunions held years ago, which serves as evidence that the bonds formed over many years ago still exist to this day and are being cherished and appreciated.
“Silaturrahim (bond) is definitely something that is prevalent in Brunei culture. We can easily use technology to send updates and photos through WhatsApp or Zoom.”
He also noted that these technologies are one of the many underappreciated platforms that the youth of the nation are currently benefitting from.
He hopes that the bonds that the youth make now will last well into their adulthood, as it will help them to appreciate and cherish the times they had.
Similarly, Muhd Idris bin Abdul Gapar, another alumnus who started studying at AAC in 1972, also highlighted the importance of maintaining a network of friends.
He said it is not about the status but rather about keeping in touch with the current happenings of once close friends and classmates.
“It’s all about being happy again, and to go back to a time that we can never truly go back to. Over the years, we have former friends and classmates who have left us or have passed away, so it is more important than ever to cherish and appreciate moments such as this reunion.”
He also underlined the importance of maintaining the historical aspect of their time spent at their alma mater, which can help paint a picture not only for the alumni to reminisce, but also to educate the younger generation on the change in lifestyle compared to today.
He added that the fond memories are among the many reasons why he strongly believes that such reunions should continue to be conducted.
“What we can do is to catalogue and record these memories so that it can help paint a larger picture of the life and times from yesteryear for the benefit of the younger generation.”