21 Sept 2007

One fine superwoman

Datuk Ariah Tengku Ahmad (the PBS Wanita Chief) was such an all rounder in her heyday of youth. Her photos were everywhere at the recent Women's Day Exhibition at the Palm Square, Centre Point Sabah in Kota Kinabalu.

Miss Jesselton 1956

She shared her story behind the Miss Jesselton photo with some women VIPs including Siti Jouyah the wife of Deputy Chief Minister:

"How old were you then?" asked the DCM's wife.

"Oh, I was 18," replied Ariah who is Sabah's first woman DCM. She turned 69 this year.

Ariah said she was preparing herself for tertiary education in Dunedin, New Zealand under a Colombo Plan scholarship when she spotted an advertisement in the old Sabah Times calling for participants for the Miss Jesselton Beauty Contest. It was organised by the Bangsawan Troupe from Singapore, then on a roadshow in North Borneo (now Sabah). Then Singaporean actress Maria Menado was the organiser.

"The cash prize was attractive, $500. It was a lot of money in those days. I decided to take part because I needed some money to buy some warm clothes and other necessities. In addition, the winner would get a wardrobe of clothing," she recalled. Ariah was chaperoned by her mother.

When she won, she received a sash and a trophy but no money was given. Neither was there a wardrobe presented as promised.

"I didn't get the money. I felt cheated, but I was na"ve and too shy to ask about it. Moreover, I was leaving for New Zealand in four days' time," she said.

"Why wasn't the prize-money given?" asked Siti Jouyah.

"Much later, I was told that the company organising the contest had gone bankrupt. So they couldn't pay me the RM500."

Ariah and Maria met up again in the late sixties, this time at a royal function in Pahang. By then, Maria had married the then Sultan of Pahang.

Ariah's husband, the late Tengku Ahmad Tengku Burhanuddin, was on transfer to the Peninsula as Brigadier-General.

"We were invited by the Sultan to attend his birthday party at the palace.

By then, Maria had forgotten me. When she realised who I was, she said, you have changed a lot, I almost couldn't recognise you."

"Did you bring up the subject?" asked Siti Jouyah.

"Yes, I did," said Ariah. "I just wanted to let her know what happened to me. I told her, you really let me down.

She offered to pay me but I said, now I don't need that.

She felt bad and apologised."

Woman deejay

Ariah's photo is the one on the most top at extreme left. She's known as Irene Pritchard back then

North Borneo's top woman athlete

Currently as politician

Ariah at right, she's 69 this year (long live)

I bet she can sing too...perhaps with the Saloma-type of voice...:)