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Published: January 13th 2011
This is just in front of Christchurch and Victoria Fountain. We walked from St. Francis Xavier Church after the 9am service towards this square.
Malacca. It is old Malaysia. Not the ultra-modern Kuala Lumpur, the capital. But Malacca or Melaka, with vestiges of its Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and British influences. The place is so ethnically diverse -- the stuff that makes it legendary.
And speaking of legends, Hang Tuah
is one legendary warrior/hero who lived during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah
of the Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th century.
Touted as the greatest of all the warriors or "laksamana"
, Hang Tuah was known to be a ferocious fighter. Judging by the many shops, streets, restaurants and buildings named after him, Hang Tuah is obviously held in the highest regard in present-day Malaysian Malay culture. Since I found him to be the most well-known and illustrious warrior figure in Malaysian history and literature, I thought I should start my history lessons for my own little cruising warriors on Melaka's famous hero. But I am getting ahead of my story.
Off the Cruise Ship, On to Melaka
We took a tender from the big boat to reach the Melaka Jetty Port. Credits go to the crew of Royal Carribean's Legend of the Seas for a seamless disembarkation and
distribution of tender tickets. Our family chose not to join any of the offshore excursions and to simply do the sightseeing on our own. After all , we had plenty of time. The ship docked at 7am, by which time we were nicely seated at the Windjammer's Cafe for our buffet breakfast. The ship departs by 6pm , so there's plenty of time. By 8:30 am, we were riding the tender to shore. All of 10 minutes or so, and we reached the no-frills jetty port. By that, I seriously mean "no frills". One simply gets off the tender, helped along by strong muscled Malaysian jetty hands, onto a wooden boardwalk, and out in the streets.
It was refreshing that there were unbelievably no touts around the jetty port to harass us. Sure, there were rickshaw or tricycle and taxi drivers offering to take us to the city center or to give us a tour of the city, but they were not pushy at all. Without a single ringgit in our pockets, we negotiated with two taxi drivers to take us with our Singapore dollars. We knew the rates they quoted were padded, but we caved in.
Very easily, I must say. There was a 9am Sunday mass at the St. Francis Xavier Church
that we didn't want to miss, even if the service was in Tamil. And there was only 10 minutes to spare. But it was a very short ride to the Church and we made it with a minute to go.
Stadthuys, ChristChurch, Bukit St. Paul, Porta de Santiago
After the service, we walked along Jalan Kota
, alongside the river, towards the red-bricked Stadthuys (in Dutch, this means Town Hall) and ChristChurch.
It was tempting to linger and shop among the many stalls. But no ringgit, remember? So we walked towards Bukit St. Paul
and climbed up the steps towards St. Paul ruins. My buffet-fed family took the stairways painstakingly slow, and I didn't know whether to worry or to laugh.
A little bit of history here. The ruins of St. Paul's Church was built by a Portuguese sea captain in 1521.
This is meaningful to many of us Filipinos. I mean the year 1521. It was in 1521 that the Portuguese Magellan, working for the Spanish monarchy, discovered the Philippines. This means that
Porta de Santiago
The gateway with a cheery rickshaw waiting for a client. This (plastic)flower-bedecked tricycle roams all around Melaka to pick up passengers. Some double up as tour guides as the city center can be rounded up in less than an hour.
at the time our islands were discovered, this Church was already standing on top of this hill overlooking the Straits of Malacca! The ruins included tombstones and some nice brickwork. It is not huge, but it was good to be reminded too that this was the last church St. Francis Xavier ministered before his death.
Atop this hill, we had a view not only of the Malacca Strait but also of our cruise ship! At the foot of the hill is Porta de Santiago
, or what's left of it, which served as the gateway. One can only imagine this fortress with a clear view atop the hill of any invading enemy ships. The Portuguese colonized Melaka by dividing and conquering Melaka's sultan rulers. And so the saying "Divide and Rule" truly rings true, ei?
A Mosque once stood here, was torn down, and replaced with a fort called "A Famosa".
The sole surviving relic of this fort is the Porta de Santiago. A silent reminder of what it was once.
The Sultanate Palace and the Story of Hang Tuah
Right on the left of the Porta de Santiago is the Sultanate Palace.
One of them must be Hang Tuah?
The other must be Hang Jebat (?) who avenged his friend's death.
This houses a massive wooden replica of a sultan's palace. As it was high noon, it was refreshing to get into this Palace Museum . The airconditioning re-energized our sweaty bodies.
And this is where I bring you back to the legend of Hang Tuah. Hang Tuah
is famous for quoting the words "Takkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia" which literally means "Malays will never vanish from the face of the earth" or "Never shall the Malay race vanish from the face of the earth". The quote is a famous rallying cry for Malay nationalism.
Hang Tuah, you may say, is the Sultan's favorite. He acted as general, advisor, ambassador. As such, he stirred jealousy within the ranks. One story tells of how a rumor was spread of Hang Tuah's illicit love affair with one of the sultan's stewardesses. The Sultan thus sentenced Hang Tuah to death without trial. Another romantic tale tells of how this injustice prompted Hang Tuah's childhood friend Hang Jebat
to avenge his best friend's unjust punishment and death. How? By wreaking havoc on the royal court and inciting rebellion.
There are many versions of this legend. One version tells that
Hang Tuah lived to a ripe old age because his executioner did not carry out his sentence. This version goes further to say that Hang Tuah was "recalled" to stop and kill his friend Hang Jebat when the latter rebelled against the Sultanate to avenge his friend's "death". To this day, it is said that the many versions of the legend is a constant subject of discussion among scholars and students. Loyalty and Justice. You bet there are varying opinions on this legend.
As for Martin's version? Hang Tuah is that soldier who was killed because of a gossip.
So what do you think, guys? That was an epic fail in story-telling, huh? Or maybe adults embellish stories so much so that many versions come off the same story. Ten-year olds like Martin has no patience for long-winding stories. The poor guy was gossiped about, and was killed. End of discussion. 😞
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