A Homecoming Like No Other -
The 86th Old Paulians’ Association Annual Reunion Dinner
by Dr. Ganakumaran
Photos provided by Low
There is always a buzz about Seremban even as early as the beginning
of August each year. While the nation gears up with flags and banners
to welcome yet another Independence day, Paulians around the world
are excitedly making plans to return to their spiritual home in Seremban.
Like the Independence event, where the nation reflects on the past
to give thanks for the achievements of the present, Paulians reflect
on the time they spent at St. Paul’s Institution and how the
institution and its denizens helped shape their character, and career.
To many Paulians this Homecoming is a spiritual journey, a journey
many undertake each year without fail for the renewal of friendships,
revival of pleasant memories, reenactment of past experiences and
the rejuvenation of the soul.It is a special event indeed. It must
be for how else can anyone explain the ever growing number of Paulians
returning “home” for this annual reunion gathering.
The year 2012
marks the 86th time the Old Paulian’s Association Annual Reunion
is held in the 113 year history of the mighty St. Paul’s Institution.
This year only 1230 Paulians managed to secure all available places
in the largest hotel venue in Seremban, at the Royale Bintang Hotel.
Hundreds of others were left ruing the missed opportunity due to their
complacency in not making their reservations early enough.
As usual the annual
Paulian reunion festival started weeks ahead with the Old
Paulians’ Games carnival where the old boys and the young
school boys pitted their skills in football, badminton, table tennis
volleyball and hockey. The aim of the games apart from providing friendly
competition is also to build bonds between senior and junior Paulians.
On the morning
of the Reunion Dinner on 1st September 2012, the OPA
Golf tournament was held. The event saw a record number of 64
participants teeing off. Due to late registration another 8 were turned
away. Amidst the rivalry, the revelry of the reunion began early in
the serene Staffield Golf Club in Mantin, Negeri Sembilan.
That evening Paulians
began gathering at the Royale Bintang Hotel from as early as 5.45
pm. As planned the taps began to flow from 6.00 pm. The barrels of
Tiger beer seemed to vanish in no time and the boys began to move
into the ballroom where huge supplies of the golden liquid awaited
them. The CEGGO of the Class of 1980 embarked on a mission to raise
funds for the Bro. James Macken, FSC welfare fund by opening up a
Wine station. All proceeds from the sale were duly donated to the
fund. Wine was on sale throughout the evening.
The glamour of
the evening was adorned by the presence of many distinguished Paulians
and Lasallians including Rev. Bro Anthony Rogers, Rev. Bro. Felix
Donohue, Rev. Bro. Andrew Loke, Tan Sri Dato’ Chan Choong Tak,
Tan Sri Augustine Ong, Dato’ Lee Tian Hock, Mr. Chia Kwoon Meng,
Mr. Barney Lee Pak Lin, guests from other Lasallian and Mission school
alumni, current and former teachers of SPI, and current and former
head teachers of SPI.
The events of
the dinner started as planned at 8.00 pm with the welcome speech by
the OPA President, Mr. David Wee Toh Kiong. The most poignant moment
of the evening was the minute of complete silence observed by all
present at the President’s call to remember the Paulians who
had passed away in the last year. These included Mr. M. Joseph a great
Paulian Sportsman and his dear wife Agnes who herself was a teacher
at St. Pauls for many years; Mr. Peter van Huizen, the 1956 world’s
best hockey goalkeeper; Ms. Catherine Chong who served as teacher
in SPI primary and secondary and our beloved Rev. Bro.
James Macken who received his eternal reward in January in Ireland.
Soon after, dinner
was served to the delight of the hungry guests and Paulians, and toasts
were offered by the President, David Wee to HRH Yang Di Pertuan Besar,
Negeri Sembilan, Mr. Ng Yee Tim to the Alma Mater and by Dr. Ganakumaran
Subramaniam to all guests present that evening. This marked the beginning
of an irrepressible cacophony of celebratory cheers,Yam Sengs and
the trademark hum of Paulian chatter. In the midst of all this, the
Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Capt. Adrian Abraham managed
to get the Paulians to sing Paulian Victory March.
The evening also
witnessed the presentation of the several awards.
the awards concluded, the MC invited to stage the Class of 1987 who
were celebrating their 25 year anniversary. Together with this class,
everyone present sang the school rally with gusto. It is also notable
here the other year groups who had come in large numbers and made
the 86th OPA dinner their class reunions. Among them were the Classes
of 1959, 1967, 1969, 1973, 1980, 1992, 1999, and 2002.
OPA Dinner also witnessed the launch of the SPI – Lasallian School
of Excellence Agenda. This project aims at re-engineering the SPI
schools to reflect the great schools they once were. The graphic below
presents how the Agenda seeks to establish a single-minded mission
through the cooperation between the SPI schools, the Board of Governors,
the Old Paulians’ Association, the Parent-Teacher Associations and
the Paulian year groups.