Sabah quake: Pray for TKPS

Mighty Kinabalu in the background
Mighty Kinabalu

The Sabah earthquake and the tremble of mighty Mt Kinabalu shocked and struck many chords within me. I love trekking that mountain. As a pastor I have led three church groups (20-40 members each time), of young people and families mainly from eleven years old to over fifty. To hear of news of the Sabah quake and the deaths of young climbers aged 12, and teachers of Tanjong Katong Primary School is deeply sad and disturbing. I was a teacher before, and I am a parent too, and I understand to some extent a parent’s heartbreak for I have lost a child before.

The pointing of fingers have started. People blaming the “angmohs” for disrespectfully posing naked and peeing on the sacred mountain and invoking the wrath of the gods. People blaming the school, the Ministry of Education and impersonal policies and decision making processes. Parents blaming each other and themselves. This is not the time for all these. Not the time.

Writer Ovidia Yu posted this in her Facebook:

So long as we live, they too shall live,
For they are now a part of us,
As we remember them.

Poet, writer, artist, social commentator Gwee Li Sui posted a haiku on Facebook:

Haiku to the Sabah Quake Victims
As you sought to reach
the sky, it rained down boulders.
Nature has wronged you.

A church member Cynthia Koe posted in her Facebook:

In times like this it is not about what to say but what should not be said.

A time like this is a feel moment not a word moment. A listening moment not an encouraging moment.

Mourning takes time and a hand to hold not a ” aww, it is ok” hug time. Let them share their loved ones’ stories and lets hear with tears as they say their last goodbyes.

What she said is true and it inspired me to write a Haiku on my Facebook account:

Not the time for blame
But for tears and holding hands
For grief to mend hearts

So it was good that the Tanjong Katong Primary School opened it grounds for its school community to grieve.

It was good that the Ministry of Education mobilized its counselors to help survivors and classmates of the departed to grieve and process the trauma.

It was good that the government declared a day of mourning today: flags flown at half-mast, a minute of silence at all South East Asia Games venue before the start of events.

We need to pray for TKGS and all the bereaved families. It will be very very painful for them in the coming months. No, years.

RIP: Fellow Singaporean hikers who lost their lives in Sabah quake
RIP: Fellow Singaporean hikers who lost their lives in Sabah quake
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Mt Rinjani vs Mt Kinabalu: which is tougher?

Mt Kinabalu (4,096 m) in Sabah, Malaysia
Mt Kinabalu (4,096 m) in Sabah, Malaysia
Mt Rinjani (3,726m) in Lombok, Indonesia
Mt Rinjani (3,726m) in Lombok, Indonesia

At the end of our trek, we compared the level of difficulty of the Rinjani trek with the many Kinabalu treks we have done. Most of the trekkers have done Kinabalu a few times. It was unanimously agreed by all who have done both, that the Rinjani trek was tougher. I had talked about this with trekkers – people I do not know – I had met in Bukit Timah and most of them tell me Rinjani was tougher. When these fellow hikers in Bukit Timah mentioned the comparative difficulty I found it hard to believe because Mt Kinabalu is higher than Mt Rinjani. However, now that I have done Rinjani and am in a better position to compare, I have to agree with all the other people’s opinions.

Perhaps one factor that weakens my opinion is that I climbed Kinabalu about 5 years ago. Memory of the hardship and challenge has faded. However, my friends have climbed Kinabalu recently and their opinions are that Rinjani is tougher.

My friends and I are easy trekkers. We are kiasu, kiasi, and kia bo. These friends have done several treks in Nepal like Poon Hill, Annapura Base Camp, Thorong la Pass and other Everest treks. They have done Mt Fuji in Japan, Mt Agung in Bali, and a tough Trans Gopeng Cameron trek. When compared all other treks with Rinjani – everyone said this was tougher.

The comparison between Rinjani and Kinabalu will look like this in a table of comparison:


Mt Rinjani

Mt Kinabalu


3726 m

4096 m

Difficulty level of first leg

2.5 out of 4

3 out of 4


3.8 out of 4

3.5 out of 4

Nature of challenge

-Loose gravel that sinks as you step forward.

-Sleep overnight in tents and inconvenience.

-Possible altitude sickness and thin air.

-Sleep overnight in relative comfort.

Return leg

3 out of 4

2.5 out of 4






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Mt Kinabalu Youth Adventure 2

Nostalgia hit me today. We climbed Mt Kinabalu in March 2007. Agnes and I led a busload of youth and some of their fathers or mothers to climb this challenging but beautiful mountain. It was the second climb we organized for the church young people. It was almost disastrous, but the Lord in his grace and power, intervened and made it possible for everyone to climb. You see, permits to climb were given to quite a number at the Park HQ at the very last moment. The local tour agency had not booked sufficient beds but we had already booked our budget air tickets. The Lord was good and helped us through. Some miracles come only at the very last moment after you have kept faith in Him till the very end. I unearthed old photos from 5 years ago today and did this video for pleasure of nostalgia.

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Mt Kinabalu Youth Adventure 1

Eighteen (youngest 11, oldest 50)

It was after much thought and prayer that I decided to organize and lead a church-based expedition – Mt Kinabalu Youth Adventure 1, in March 2005. The idea was to use a physical challenge that was demanding but doable, to imprint confident life attitudes that will be useful for young and old to learn. A large part of EQ has to do with the setting of a goal; preparing and sacrificing in order to seek it (even postponing the gratification of desires); being able to relate with others and work as a team; and, persevering and never giving up despite obstacles. The preparation and the expedition itself brings these qualities to the fore: and the youths will learn from the experience.

It was a memorable trip with about eighteen young and middle aged adults. The youngest was eleven and the oldest was 50. Some were parents and their children, but most were youths. It was a joy to have my daughter Elaine with me on this adventure.

Elaine and me

March was a dry period and the weather was good. A simple slide was put on YouTube (the post is reloaded but the slides are new) so that you can see what the terrain was like, the clothing and equipment needed, and any other information you may observe.

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