AT THE blowing of Shirley Yap’s whistle, the entire ballroom went quiet and sat at attention.
Suddenly, it felt like school all over again when Yap, better known as “Mrs Choo”, SMK Perempuan Methodist Ipoh’s strict but beloved retired physical education teacher, instructed everyone to get on their feet and took them through some warm up exercises.
Then, with the proud declaration of the school motto “Our Utmost For The Highest” three times, began the remarkable journey down memory lane for generations of old girls of Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) Ipoh.
Launched on January 9 with a series of events, the school’s 120th anniversary celebration culminated in a thanksgiving dinner attended by over 1,500 people last Saturday.
Oldest among those present at the Kinta Riverfront Hotel & Suites was perhaps 87-year-old Yap Foong Kim from the Class of 1947.
Grace Yap, who accompanied Foong Kim, said her aunt was adamant about attending the dinner.
“She was really excited when I told her about this reunion dinner. In fact, she demanded that I bring her along.
“She kept asking and asking about it until this day arrived.
“I can see that she’s really enjoying herself right now,” said Grace, who is a former student of the school herself.
To make sure they stood out from the crowd, those from the Class of 1986 wore cats’ ears to the party.
Suriana Aliyuddin, who came up with the brilliant idea, said, “When we found out that we were going to be sitting at two tables in a corner of the ballroom, we decided on the cat’s ears just to stand out a bit and for people to recognise us.”
Admitting to feeling somewhat nostalgic, Suriana added, “It’s great to be part of a grand tradition. It’s a good school and it produces great people.”
Organising chairman Datin Clareen Choo Yueh Leeng said the response was so overwhelming that additional tables had to be set up in separate event halls on the floor above the hotel ballroom.
“It exceeded all our expectations. This place is overflowing with MGS girls and it’s a really good feeling to see so many of them wanting to come back,” she said.
Earlier, Methodist Church in Malaysia Bishop Dr Ong Hwai Teik said in his speech that celebrating 120 years is truly rare.
“It is a once in a lifetime occasion, which joins together the past with the present.
“There would be nothing to celebrate in the present if there had not been a past in the first place, which is why remembrance, memories and gratitude are vital to the way we choose to live and look at life in the present.
“In celebrating the past, we should also look to the future and seek the best. Somehow, past, present and future are held together in this one celebration,” he said.
The night was made more meaningful through the sharing of stories by old girls, some of whom had flown home all the way from Brunei, Shanghai and Japan for the special occasion. The event was also well attended by former principals and teachers.
A soprano currently residing in Japan, Judith Watabe dedicated the Panis Angelicus (The Angel’s Breath) to fellow students from the Class of 1968 followed by Ernani Involami (Let Us Run Away).
Accompanied by her husband, Mohd Khairul Abd Khalid, on guitar, theatre performer and part-time lecturer, Ezdianie Hayatie Omar from the Class of 2003 wooed the crowd with the beautiful ballads of Lagenda and Kau Di Hatiku.
The night neared its end officially when it came time to cut the birthday cake, although it would be a few more hours of laughter and catching up before the night ended.