A cultural immersion – My Malaysia experience

My Malaysia trip was an amazing cultural experience for me. It was my first time to visit an Islamic country, not just in terms of religion, but further in terms of culture and architecture.

Malaysia is not too far from the Philippines in terms of geography. Manila to Kuala Lumpur is just a 3.5-hour flight away, and we are still in the same timezone and almost the same latitude. Same weather there too. A most of our ancient roots are from the same ancestors, the Malays and the Chinese. We diverged during the time that our lands were conquered – Malaysia by the British (and Portuguese in some areas), and the Philippines by the Spanish and the Americans.

The Spanish conquest of the Philippine Islands imposed a very Catholic faith and culture in the country, which is very apparent now. This is what I have gotten used to, especially living all my life in the capital. I do understand that there are still a lot of muslim communities in the country, mostly in the southern islands of the country, but I haven’t been exposed much to that. On the other hand, Malaysia has stayed very muslim. It is very apparent in all the grand structures in the city. Even the Petronas towers’ design is very islamic, with an 8-point star floor footprint. They have beautiful grand mosques and palaces. They also have still retained the powers of the Rajas and the Sultans in their States.

It was also Hari Raya time during my visit, and it was very apparent in all the decorations around the city and the events and promotions around. If I understand correctly, the Hari Raya is the celebration equivalent to our Christmas. It was very nice of my friends to introduce and explain a number of Hari Raya traditions to me. There were the raya cookies, the money giving of the adults to the children, and the open houses and visits to families, relatives, and friends. I know there is still so much to know about the Hari Raya and the islamic traditions and malaysian traditions.

The three largest ethnic groups in Malaysia are the Malays, the Chinese, and the Indians. You can also see buddhist temples in the city and the grand hindu temple built into the Batu Caves. The Malaysian food is also a wonderful rich mix of tastes from these major ethnic groups. I just can’t start writing about the food, because I’m starting to get hungry just thinking about them. =P”

A happy part of my immersion in Malaysia is finding out about very similar words that Malaysians and Filipinos have. Here’s a short list of what I can remember (M is for malaysian and F is for Filipino):

  • “Nasi” (M) same in Kapampangan (a local filipino dialect) – rice
  • “Jalan” (M) or “Daan” (F) – road or street
  • “Tolak” (M) or “Tulak” (F) – to push
  • “Raja” and “Sultan” (M/F) – king / ruler
  • “Laut” (M) and “Laot” (F) – the sea
  • “Empat” (M) or “Apat” (F) – four
  • “Lima” (M/F) – five
  • “Enam” (M) or “Anim” (F) – six

There are probably a lot more words that I can’t remember right now or I haven’t encountered yet.

It’s so nice to learn and be exposed to the cultures and religions far from one’s own. It opens up one’s mind and broadens perspectives. This is one of the things I really love about traveling. It gives me the opportunity to find out things that I don’t know about, meet people from different cultural backgrounds and learn from them.

I would like to apologize if every I got any of the details above wrong. Please do correct me if needed. I’ve written this article only based on what I could remember from my trip, and if I missed or misunderstood something, or have said anything that may be insulting to anyone, I hope you do forgive me.

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