Tuesday, October 8, 2013


By Mansor Puteh

Some documentaries take a long time to be made; many others did not end up being made at all.

I was lucky that this documentary, ‘Berdansa ikut rentak Sejarah…’ or ‘Dancing to the beat of History…’ finally got made after so long.

And as it turned out, it is slightly different to the original version I had wanted to make.

The reason being the process itself is quite tedious and the documentary could go on different ways.

Even despite that no one had ever produced a documentary on the small Portuguese community in Melaka and in relations to their history, in this way before.

It would look even better if I had CGIs and be able to recreate some interesting historical scenes, which can cost a lot.

But if I had my way, I would not have been so direct; I would come up with a documentary which is more personal and subtle, unlike those programs on History and Discovery which are too direct and impersonal, which they call documentaries.

They are not; they are magazine programs or news or investigative reporting. They are also not creative since they use the same style for all their programs, using the narration as the strongest tool in their storytelling.  

And I was lucky or fortunate to be able to meet some persons and interesting information that allowed me to come up with this version, and one for Finas which is forty-five minutes and the other for the festivals which is fifty-six minutes long.

And surprisingly, editing was easy and it was done in no time, as everything flowed nicely from the first shot on, which I had to spend a bit of time searching for the right one as if it was not right, the whole documentary would also not look right. 

So that was why I had to wait a while before starting the editing, after I was done with the filming which started in May ending in August. 

It is a documentary I just produced for Finas, which will be shown later on RTM.

I had first tried to produce it for Channel Four of London in 1990 but it did not happen.

Fortunately, Finas agreed to finance the production of this 45-minute documentary which is basically on the San Pedro music group in Perkampung Portugis or the Portuguese Settlement in Ujong Pasir in Melaka, headed by Joe Lazaroo.

But the documentary is also on the history of the Portuguese invasion of Melaka and the other countries in the region including Goa in India; Macau and Sunda Kelapa now Jakarta and also Timor Timor.

Filming for the documentary was done in many countries including Portugal which happened in August. I returned to Portugal for the filming there for the second time. I was there in 1990 when my film 'Seman' was selected for the Figueira da Foz Film Festival where it was nominated for best film.

Some fortunate incidents happened when during the filming of the San Pedro group was taking place earlier, the Director-General of Unesco, Mrs Erina Bukova made a visit to Melaka so we were able to include the happening around the remnants of the St. Paul's Church on St. Paul's Hills or Bukit Melaka and also at the Porta de Santiago or Kota Melaka.

And while in Jakarta to cover the small Portuguese community in Kampung Tugu, Jakarta celebrated the 486th anniversary of its founding where they had shows in Taman Fatahilah where the Dutch administrative building is, and they had a recreation of a march led by Imam Fatahilah who was on his way with his men to attack the Portuguese in 1527. Sunda Kelapa was the original name of Jakarta.

The Portuguese in Kampung Tugu has a keroncong music group headed by Andre Michiels, who explained how many young Portuguese men from Melaka were brought to Sunda Kepala which was renamed Jayakarta before it was renamed to Jakarta, to become slaves.

They were converted to the Protestant religion.

They hid themselves in Kampung Tugu in 1641 but was discovered in 1675 by the Dutch who also built a church for them to pray in, where they played keroncong music instead of using the organ for the services.

And they were the original people who introduced keroncong music that we know of today.

The Portuguese also had been to Aceh where they was a community of them who comprised of fishermen. Unfortunately, the fishing village off the coast of North Sumatera was swept in the Aceh Tsunami of 26 December, 2004.

So there are now so few of them left.

However, unlike the Portuguese in other countries, including in Jakarta, the ones in Aceh are Muslims.

I managed to get some friends in Aceh to take me to see one of the men who survived the Tsunami called Jamaluddin Puteh.

We met one of the young girl who happened to be there and was told she has Portuguese ancestry. Her hair is blonder.

The Portuguese Settlement in Ujong Pasir was established during the British administration of Malaya in the 1930s when a priest proposed the idea to them, and they were given a piece of marsh land there where the state government built wooden houses for them to live in.

And most of the Portuguese in Melaka who were then living in Banda Hilir, Terengkerah and other areas in the state were brought there where the men mostly worked as fishermen.

Some of them are still catching fish in the Settlement till today, where there is now a Medan Portuguese or Portuguese Square where they are restaurants serving Portuguese-style food.

Michael Singho, the president of the Malacca Eurasian Association said the idea to create the square was Dr. Mahathir's idea. He had visited the settlement as prime minister and wanted the settlement to be a tourist attracting.

Joe Lazaroo says he is 73 years and he fears that the group he had started in 1973 might not be able to last since the young Portuguese are not inclined to perform. He trusts his son, Edmund who is also with the group to be able to take over from him. They have performed all over the country and also in Singapore and Macau on numerous occasions.

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