Latest Event Updates

Legends of the Secret Tunnel of Malacca by Dennis De Witt

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Tunnels Badan Warisan Ad Poster



Dennis De Witt will share the tales of the subterranean tunnels under the historic town of Malacca that has existed for over a century. There were stories of a tunnel under St. Paul’s hill and how people had gone into these tunnels but were never to be seen again.

This talk will give an overview of the book. What secrets do the tunnels contain and why were people willing to risk their life by descending into the dark and unknown orifices below Malacca? Is there lost treasure still buried in Malacca? This book uncovers the layers of history that unfold Malacca’s most bizarre and amazing legend. He will share pictures of Malacca and the historic St. Paul where the tunnel is, some of which are featured in the book. A book sale will also be held after the talk.



Dennis De Witt, a management consultant in Kuala Lumpur, is a 5th generation Dutch Eurasian originally from Malacca. He has a keen interest in subjects relating to the history of Malacca and Dutch influences in Malaysia.

Over the years, he has participated, spoken and presented papers in various academic, private and public seminars and events organized by the Malaysian National Archives, and the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Malaysia, the Malacca Museums Corporation, the Institute of Occidental Studies at UKM, Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Universiti Teknologi MARA.

He also regularly conducts CTRE training for the Kuala Lumpur Tour Guides Association and speaks to the volunteers’ group at the National Museum. He has contributed articles for the Journal of Malaysian Biographies and written articles for various newspapers and magazines.

He has published several books, including ‘Reconnecting Through Our Roots’ (2006), ‘History of the Dutch in Malaysia’ (2007), ‘Melaka from the Top’ (2010), ‘Historical Tombstones and Graves at St Paul’s Hill Malacca’ (2016). In 2009, he was named the winner of the ‘Dutch incentive prize for Genealogy’ for his book ‘History of the Dutch in Malaysia’ and he received his prize in the Netherlands. He was the first-ever recipient of the prize who is not a Dutch citizen. His latest publication is entitled ‘Legends of the Secret Tunnels of Malacca’ was just released in 2018.

Summary of the Year 2017 at Badan Warisan Malaysia

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Badan Warisan Malaysia wishes all members & friends a great 2018!

We held our 34th AGM on Wednesday, 20 December 2017. We welcome Justine Chew to Council and thank Abd Razak Abd Bakar who regretfully had to stand down due to work commitments. 

Council 2018

President: Elizabeth Cardosa
Vice President: Ar. Dr. Helena Hashim
Honorary Secretary: Lim Ee Lin
Honorary Treasurer: Ishak Ariffin

Council Members
Justine Chew
Ar. Lim Take Bane
Liz Tajuddin
Maganjeet Kaur
Mariana Isa
Dato’ Zahim Albakri

Honorary Council Members
Johan Razak
Lee Jia Ping


2017 has ended on a really positive note. On Monday, 18 December, Badan Warisan received a generous donation of RM100,000 from YTL. This donation was in memory of the late Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay and in total, RM10 million was distributed to the 103 organisations. We are grateful for the continued support of Royal Selangor from the sale of their limited edition Mia series of pendants and we’d encourage you to support us by buying these especially if you are looking for gifts! In addition to this, the Chen Voon Fee Trust continues to support our work on research and documentation of Malaysia’s architectural resources. And although we had originally planned to hold a fundraising event in 2017, that was not possible and we decided to push this event to the second half of 2018. We will need a lot of help with this event, so please, do let me know, or inform the Secretariat, that you are available and interested. All help, no matter how small, is always much appreciated.

We have continued this year to grow especially in activities related to the RumahPenghulu Abu Seman. Our visitor numbers now exceed 2000 (compared with 1,600 last year), mainly due to support from three tour companies as well as our curated programmes for schools and other organisations. On an average, we host over 1 school or university per month with students ranging from pre-school through to primary and secondary schools and mainly undergraduate university programmes, from both local and foreign institutions. In addition, every other month we host three-hour long interactive visits for various private organisations and companies.

This year our talks and events programme has also expanded. We not only organise our own talks programme every other month, but we also co-organise talks by other organisations including ICOMOS Malaysia and MBRAS which means we are running these public awareness raising programmes on an average once or twice a month. MHHC (Malaysian Heritage and History Facebook Club) continue to hold their exhibitions and talks here and there have been some months when almost every weekend we are hosting an event. This brings in a lot of people who would not normally otherwise come to Badan Warisan. No.8 Heeren Street continues to attract a wide range of visitors all of whom without exception have excellent comments about the project and the tour of the project by both Colin Goh, Manager, and Raymond Fredricks, Assistant Manager.

In the coming year, we will be working on expanding our activities and adding on some site visits as well as developing trails for our heritage gardens (we have three distinctive gardens) and looking at how to enhance our visitor experience in our Malacca centre at No.8 Heeren Street. We are also hoping to help PNB develop a more regular visitor programme to Stadium Merdeka, and we started this just recently by bringing over 200 LHDN staff members to learn about the history of the stadium and its architecture. We intend to arrange a visit for Badan Warisan members to the stadium, as well as to the Masjid DiRaja Sultan Sulaiman in Klang where we were part of the team involved in its restoration. We also plan visits to other buildings which have been restored in the past couple of years in the Klang Valley and we’ll keep you appraised of the details of the visit programme. On this note, I would like to encourage those members who are interested in participating in programmes for members – talks, visits, exhibitions, etc – to please volunteer your time and expertise in giving us ideas and contacts and helping organise the activities!

Our Chen Voon Fee Resource Centre is in the process of digitising our various collections – we have been at this intermittently over the past three or four years, and we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Our image collection is for most part available in digital format, as are our newpaper cuttings collection. We are working on our maps and measured drawings collections. While we will not be digitizing the printed books and journals, the catalogue of these collections are already available on-line at the Chen Voon Fee Resource Centre website.

We are planning in the new year to start a regular training programme to enhance the knowledge and practice of matters related to cultural heritage. We will be collaborating with like-minded organisations including the Malaysian Institute of Planners in rolling out some courses related to heritage planning and cultural mapping, as well as conducting more technical workshops and seminars on cultural and architectural heritage. Watch this space!

In our role as a heritage advocacy organization, we have continued to be a main point of reference by members of the media – radio, online  and print – for issues and questions on Malaysia’s cultural and built heritage. We started off in January by commenting on the de-gazettal of the heritage status of the MATIC building and we have ended the year on commenting on the issues related to getting places protected by gazettal under the National Heritage Act 2005. Our website is now live! It has taken us some time to get to this place, and we are continuing our work on developing the content for this website. We definitely welcome all help on this – do come forward if you are web-savvy and keen on helping out with this project! In the meantime, our social media presence – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – together with our e-bulletin Warisan continues to gain traction and followers. Comments on how to improve them, or content suggestions, as well as bouquets, and shares are always appreciated!

Before I end, it would be remiss of me not to thank the staff at the KL and Malacca heritage centers for their dedication and perseverance in promoting BadanWarisan’s mission forward. I wish to thank Melanie who left us in October for her 7 years working with Badan Warisan, four of which were in Penang at Suffolk House, and to welcome Rosmiza who joined us in November. To our volunteers and members who tirelessly support our activities, a heartfelt thank you. Your continued presence will always motivate us to carry on! To my colleagues on the Council, thank you all! We strive on!

To all members of Badan Warisan Malaysia, we are depending on you to continue promoting the message that our past matters and that heritage conservation is not about keeping things wrapped up “under glass” so to speak, as in a museum. Rather, and I quote John Sawhill who was the President of the Nature Conservancy in the US, “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create but by what we refuse to destroy.”

I’d really appreciate your sharing your thoughts and ideas or if you just want to let me know how you can help! I’m contactable on If you prefer, send a private message via our Facebook!


Elizabeth Cardosa, President

20 December 2017



Brickfields: As Witness by Mano Maniam

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Mano Maniam Bfields



Brickfields is a diverse neighbourhood with dozens of religious institutions, schools, associations as well as social and welfare organizations within a square mile, all with a history of more than a century. It is in serious threat of rapid change and is at odds with its own past and its future. 

Brickfields: As Witness explores the changing image of this neighbourhood through Mano’s eyes. He fears that Brickfields will no longer reflect that colour and become just a giant communication “go-to/come-from place”. 

This narrative will also uncover the stories he has experienced as an inmate of this colorful suburb. 


ManoManiam01An actor, director, teacher and voice over artist, Mano Maniam is well known for his roles as Uncle Chan in the local TV series ‘Kopitiam’ and as Moonshee in Hollywood’s ‘Anna and the King’.

As a cultural anthropologist, he is curious on examining how cultures merge, collide and intertwine. Brickfields has become the center of his curiosity and observation.

Having lived in Brickfields for over 30 years, Mano has seen the land and peoplescape change, unsure of its destiny.

#DearMalaysiaAt60 twitter story

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In conjunction with Merdeka Day on 31 August 2017, we would like to invite all Malaysians to share your stories and memories of living and growing up in Malaysia!!






Get those creative writing ideas out and be sure to send in your entries by 28 August 2017!

Betel Boxes- Symbol of Wealth, Status & Social Standing

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A betel box with Mother-of-Pearl Inlay

The habit of betel chewing is believed to have started way back into the Neolithic Age, and for a long time, it was thought to be native to India because of several literary references including a Pali text dating from 504 BC describing this practice. Recent linguistic studies and archaeological finds, however, point to another origin, i.e., southeast Asia.

A carry-on Peranakan Betel Box, used by men. It is hooked onto the belt.

This conclusion is based on the discovery of traces of the piper betel seeds found in various caves in Thailand and Indonesia dating back to 5,000- 7,000 BC and the discovery of a male skeleton with betel-stained teeth in the Duyong caves in the Philippines dating back to 2680 BC. This habit (betel chewing) spread to cover a large area which included mainland southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Micronesia and a custom which was enjoyed by both men and women.

Over the years several accounts of the habit have been written by countless travellers and writers including references to betel and areca in Chinese accounts which date back to the 7th century. They believed that the betel and areca had many medicinal qualities most popular being that of a mouth freshener and it was said that its popularity in China only declined with the introduction of opium in the 19th century. In the “The Travels of Ibn Buttute” in the 13th century he described how he was welcomed by a plate of betel leaves and areca nuts on arrival at the palace of the Sultan of  Mogadishu, clearly indicating its association with hospitality.

The foreigners were fascinated and at the same time repelled by the black teeth and the red saliva describing the habit as vile and disgusting, but the habitual users considered these very same things as beautiful.  Chewing betel which is a mild narcotic evokes a mild euphoria and a general feeling of well-being. The British anthropologist, Tom Harrison claimed that a few minutes of betel chewing after an hour of hard climbing in Sarawak sent waves of energy through his body.

Carry-on betel boxes used by Malay Men

There are three main ingredients necessary for betel chewing, the betel leaf (from the piper betel vine), lime (from limestone or crushed incinerated sea shells) and the areca nut. One starts with the betel leaf to which the lime is smeared, and a few slivers of areca nut added.  The leaf is neatly folded into a small parcel which is called a quid or a “chew” and then popped into the mouth between the gum and the cheek. The Malays add gambir as a fourth ingredient which is said to enhance the flow of saliva, but its primary export value was for tanning leather.  Tobacco and spices can also be added depending on taste and custom.

A basic betel box, carved out of wood.

A receptacle was therefore required to house and transport the different ingredients mentioned above, and the Betel Box was born. This can be in the form of boxes, trays, baskets, and bags, fashioned out of silver, gold, brass, bronze, lacquer, wood, ceramic, glass, textile, etc. The shapes and sizes vary to reflect preference gradually becoming a status symbol to indicate the wealth and social standing of its owners.

An exquisite 200-year old Betel Box made out of silver & gold, brought over from Sulawesi by Pn. Zuraidah’s grandfather.

The grandest usually made of gold were reserved for royalty, and this then became part of the royal regalia in countries such as Burma, Thailand and the Malay sultanates. Over time the popularity of betel chewing waned, and when Malaya became independent from the British in 1957, the betel box was excluded from the royal regalia because it was considered old-fashioned. What has remained is its association with respect and hospitality in Malay custom and tradition and the Betel Box, therefore, plays an important role especially in Malay weddings

Equipment used for betel chewing (from left) areca nut cracker, mortars & leaf container

From what was described as an “unlovely practice” by Sir George Scott we have fortunately been left with a very rich inheritance of beautiful Betel Boxes and the various wonderful paraphernalia which were necessary for betel chewing. These include the betel cutters, tobacco boxes, spittoons and mortars which the elderly and toothless needed to pound the ingredients.

A brass betel box, from the personal collection of Puan Zuraidah Ghani

This post is written by Puan Zuraidah Ghani, long-time member of Badan Warisan Malaysia and avid collector of Betel Boxes, otherwise known as Tepak Sirih in Malay.