Sunday, the 31st of August 2022 marked the first day of the 12th Brunei-Singapore Defence Scholars Development Programme. We checked in at noon, our parents sending us off to the Askar Simpanan Melayu Diraja Brunei (ASMDB) camp with heavy luggages, clothes hangers and a huge sense of relief that the household would be much more peaceful the coming 2 weeks. That's not true at all, our parents were so reluctant to let us go they stayed outside the barracks for a good hour taking pictures and for Alya especially, saying goodbye!
We had our wonderfully catered lunch at the dining hall, which everyone agreed was a good start to the programme already as we got to enjoy some delicious buttermilk chicken.
At 2200HRS, we hopped onto the bus to welcome the Singaporeans at the Brunei International Airport. They arrived as late as 2300HRS but somehow we were buzzed with energy, excited to meet our buddies. At the first sight of their arrival, we immediately started jumping up and down, waving our banner. They too had giant smiles on their faces despite having undergone a long journey with multiple transits. We immediately hit it off with our buddies the whole bus ride to ASMDB.
On the second day, our programme officially started!! Stoked and suited in our bright team shirts, we had our first breakfast together. I can finally properly talk to my buddy and see her face more clearly under the bright sky - last night we barely managed to introduce ourselves as everyone was so tired and groggy from the late flight.
You are not gonna believe where we had lunch afterwards - The Abode, Temburong. I've always just heard of how classy and fancy the Glamping location was. That impression was definitely confirmed when we were escorted by buggies into the open-spaced cafe. We felt like Guests of Honour or some VIPs!!
At Penanjong Camp, we made our first visit of the day to the Training Institute (TI) RBAF, where as usual, we were first welcomed by Lt. Col. Amirul Adly, the Chief Instructor of TI RBAF and briefed about their organisational structure, visions and missions. According to Capt. NorHamizah, the Training Institute is one of the major units of the RBAF, as they are responsible for all the basic military training introduced to recruits and officers, both men and women.
Before a hearty lunch hosted by the commandant, we were brought around the institute, observing missiles, grenades, mortar and learning how they were fired. Kiru, who was an artillery officer, helped us understand further how these weapons were operated.
Next, using a truck, they transported us to the live shooting range where we got to fire live bullets.
To make things even better, we finished off our visit at the institute with a fulfilling karaoke session, a chorus of 'I Want It That Way' by the Backstreet Boys led by Kai Sheng and Catherine.
His response was simple. "To give back to the government".
It started off as a normal day, super speed breakfast, bus ride to Temburong, presentation at Herbarium Brunei Forest Centre and another one at Tropical Biodiversity Centre. We were educated on the local plants and animals available in the Bruneian tropical rainforests, knowledge that would come useful to us later in the jungle.
The storm kept on getting heavier and heavier and the jungle started flooding. Our raincoats were just as soaked as our ground covers at that point. They let me help out for a bit until they announced that we are evacuating as soon as the sun rises. The only problem was: the sun rises in 6 hours. Hence, we spent the next 6 hours in the truck, where it was at least dry.
We finally reached ASMDB camp, where we all did not hesitate to wash up and at the same time clean the packs and kits to be returned. It was a Friday so the boys had to leave for their Friday prayers. The rest of us staying at the camp simply finished up with the cleaning and with the extra time we had, we napped. Following the Friday prayers, we departed to the Gurkha Reserve Unit (GRU) in Sungai Akar. I was particularly keen for this visit as I knew we were going to meet their canines, which we later did. Of course first and foremost, a briefing and welcoming remarks by the Commandant, Lt. Col. Muhd Suradzin and the deputy commandant, Maj. Krishna Bahadur.
We then toured around the kernels, where the cutest dogs and puppies were held. The kernels were so well maintained and the residents looked so happy. We even got to check out the veterinary clinic and meet the vet himself.
Our accommodation for the rest of the week? Radisson Hotel. Imagine the contrast our bodies felt as we transitioned to a fluffy hotel bed from a jungle ground sheet just the night before. Unfortunately we did not get to fully savor this two-star bedding.
That evening, for the first time in a long time, we all hung up our uniforms and switched them out for some glamour. The girls in our dresses and lipstick, and the boys all sharp in their button-ups and hair gel. Off to the Brunei River Cruise we went. That evening, we got to enjoy delicious local cuisine and spent the rest of the cruise singing our hearts out.
Time moves fast when you are having fun, this was proven when the cruise ended and we had to return to our hotel for closing ceremony preparations. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, so we walked to Coffee Bean, touring Bandar at the same time. Liessa had interesting stories to tell the Singaporeans of the different national treasures found along our walk. We got our coffees and returned to the hotel. We spent all night preparing, and I mean all night.
Again I emphasize that time really did move fast at this point. We woke up one day and it was suddenly time to officially close off our Brunei phase. I felt like it was just yesterday that we were all introducing each others' names at the airport and exchanging our Instagram (and TikTok…) handles.
Gathered around for breakfast, we all were excited to go through our final rehearsal of the event. In just a few more minutes, it was showtime. Guests were already starting to show up.
At the end of the ceremony, we were all gifted a certificate by the guests of honor. It's great to have something that can make us look back to this day. To top it all off, we had a whole group picture with all the personnel.
Although our Brunei phase was considered over, bonding time should never stop. We had especially planned a lovely R&R day to spend more time with our Singaporean buddies and show them the beauty of our birthplace. We rented out a whole VIP room at Julok, Beribi. Some of them actually did play the pool… whilst the rest and I… we continued our unfinished business from last night: the karaoke machine! It was so fun to live in the moment and just vibe to our favourite songs together. It was a sight to see Wayne and Kai Sheng unleash their inner Eminem, or the Disney duet Kiru and Haziq shared, and last but not least… Mr Red stole our spotlight with his rendition of 'Sekuntum Mawar Merah Sebuah Puisi' by Alleycats.
Dk Fathiyah Amanina binti Pg Roslan @ Dk Hanan Syafiqah
SCRBAF Scholarship recipient 2021
Aiman Abdullah Tee