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Essence Rides High at the Sixth by Tommy Htay

 by Tommy Htay
The proof of the pudding is in the eating of it. The essence of the 6th International Reunion of the Methodist English High School Alumni in Yangon, Myanmar (January 5-6, 2013) was history unchained.

Back again in the womb of our alma mater, MEHS, where we had had our wonderful formative years, elation was one of a seismic proportion with every heartbeat as we sang our school song and other songs in the Assembly Hall, our old habitat.

As Julia Win and Nyunt Nyunt, our comely Masters of Ceremonies, steered us through the January 5th morning programs, I looked around and the faces of the alumni in attendance spoke volubly that Life is Good.

The theme song of the Reunion “Let the Lamp Keep Burning” written by Salwyn Saw Wynn to the melody of Pola Bali, set the tone for the day. The words “Remember the days we stayed hand in hand. We played the games together, Methodist spirit will be in our hearts, Let’s keep our lamp burn eternal” resonated in with the heart-strings of the entire assembly.

Traditional and contemporary dances by the boys and girls of the Dagon State High School (1) in colorful dresses thrilled us all. It was good to know that the Reunion Organizing Committee had a big hand in providing those dresses of the dancers as well as a cash donation of Kyat One Million handed to Dr. Aung Ko Ko, the school’s principal.

Trustee Johnny Saing showcased the academically deserving and needy students, children of the alumni, who are pursuing higher education thanks to the scholarship funds they received from the Methodist English High School Memorial Foundation. It was a noble undertaking and the students looked promising too.

Then came a virtual bomb blast. Combative but joyous House Cheering by old students of the Wesley, Carey, Judson and Livingstone houses on the stage was at once raucous and riveting with a hearty participation of the audience below. It was all déjà vu once again to every alumnus in the crowd.

Group photo sessions by class and year – another big must for everyone to participate and to cherish and hold dear – were a humbling but clear reminder that we are all getting on in years but still enjoying life in the company of old friends.

And the Church Service at Methodist Church was solemn and soulful as well.

Refreshments served at the School Canteen, all Burmese delicacies, were plentiful and tasty and enough for everyone who partook of them to give a rousing cheering at the Htoke See Htoe game, a new feature in the programs. It was a truly traditional Burmese game that requires both tact and energy for the participants to make the edge.

The evening of the 6th of January, 2013 – the second day of our historic homecoming Reunion festivities in Yangon – began with all the symbolism that entails reflecting the new dawn of the on-going reforms in the country.

Sparks flew, cheers and applause went through the roof and cameras flashed like lightning when the evening’s guest of honor and the most distinguished alumnus of MEHS Daw Aung San Suu Kyi slowly walked into the Royal Garden Restaurant at Kandawgyi Park. The serene atmosphere of the lake surroundings simply glowed with sanctified splendor.

The Masters of Ceremonies for the evening Cyril Ba Than and Sheila Lao flexed every ounce of their diplomatic and intellectual muscles to keep the house in order. But the sheer volume of monumental welcome and expression of jubilation of the 700-strong alumni and guests was beyond human control and comprehension.

Perhaps, Cyril’s eloquent introduction of the guest of honor when she was finally seated at the VIP table vocalized the sentiment of the one and all. And, I quote, inter alia:

“To her friends she is known as “Suu Suu”; her admirers “Amay Suu”, “Aunty Suu”, “Daw Suu” or “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi”. But, to the international community she is a democratic icon, a symbol of freedom, human rights, justice and the rule of law. To us here in this country, a national leader, President of the National League for Democracy and a member of Parliament – Pyithu Hluttaw.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has all the accolades to her credit. She is internationally renowned for her sacrifice, singularity and sterling leadership – the first national of our beloved country to have received the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, 2008 US Congressional Gold Medal, 2012 Global Citizenship Award and 2012 Global Vision Award, to name a few.

“Recently, I am proud to share with all of you that the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine of the United States of America has ranked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as NUMBER ONE along with President U Thein Sein in its selection of the 100 Top Global Thinkers for 2012. What an honor! What an incredible achievement!

“What more could I add to this except the fact that she is one of us – the most distinguished alumnus of our beloved educational institution – the best in the country of the period, I might add, my Fellow Alumni and Ladies and Gentlemen – the great Methodist English High School!”.

Harry Taw, President of the Methodist English High School Memorial Foundation, on behalf of the alumni of MEHS, then presented the “Most Distinguished MEHS Alumnus Award” plaque to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Whistles, cheers and applause erupted ranting the air with abandon.

Aung San Suu Kyi showing to audience her award plaque
Aung San Suu Kyi showing to audience her award plaque

In her acceptance speech, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi extolled the greatness of the Methodist English High School which she said might have been “the best school in the whole of Southeast Asia region” at the time. And, as the privileged community that had received first class education from MEHS, she exhorted the alumni to try to help as much as possible to the underprivileged many in the country because education alone is the viable driving force for the country to move forward politically, socially and economically. Her oratory was unique and the inspiration was universal.

Edwin Tin Tut, Secretary of the Foundation, while endorsing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s concept of the importance of education postulated the challenges that we could face citing his experience in trying to raise funding for the Foundation’s noble work.

Dance performances by the school girls, Burmese and Western oldies by Victor Khin Nyo and his band and a lively performance in tribute to teachers of MEHS by our late beloved teacher Mrs. Hein Tin’s second and third generation kith and kin headed by Delphine lent an air of joy and relaxation for the evening along with good food, good cheer and good company.

If auctioneering is an art, then art and artifacts that are mostly related to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in terms of theme and import, changed hands with a good inflow of funding for the Foundation. The highest bidders Kyi Kyi Han and her husband Byron Law Yone (On the right with a Shan bag in photo) took away a lovely painting of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for US$600.

Kyi Kyi Han and Byron Law Yone with the painting
Kyi Kyi Han and Byron Law Yone with the painting

The Htoke See Htoe game winners and the golf tournament winners also had their fair share of kudos and prizes.

And, Dr. U Thaw Kaung, former President of the Methodist English Old Students’ Association (MEOSA) and the Yangon Organizing Committee of the 6th MEHSA International Reunion each received a prestigious Juliet Teoh Memorial Award plaque for their illustrious efforts to keep the MEHSA movement alive. The award is named, for the first time by the Foundation, in honor of the late Juliet Teoh, founder and organizer extraordinaire of MEHSA. More distinguished alumni will receive this award in the forthcoming Reunion.

As a movement, MEHSA has made great strides and notched many an achievement thanks solely to the MEHS spirit of camaraderie we embrace and cherish. After all, for us MEHS alumni, “Quality is our terra firma and Capability is our forte”, as I always say. We also believe in the concept of Unity in Diversity. Let us move ahead with the undying will of unity and continuity to keep the lamp burning ad infinitum.

And, as for the next Reunions, in terms of location, unity in diversity reigns supreme. Cheer on, folks!

Hello HONOLULU for 2014!!!

Hello YANGON for 2015!!!


By Myo

Myo Thant aka Michael Tin Hla during my MEHS years graduated in 1964. After graduation, I completed my medical school before I left for US. Currently, I reside in Maryland, retired from my hematology/oncology clinical practice but works at VA Hematology/Oncology clinic part time. My house at MEHS was Judson and I am proud to be a green martian.