BIZARRE: Expecting to hear a tale of a damsel pining for her lost love, Sim Bak Heng instead gets the creeps as he discovers the origin of the name Kampung Parit Puteri Menangis
THE origin of the name Kampung Parit Puteri Menangis (Village of the Weeping Princess) appears to be more eerie than what one would otherwise imagine.
Going by the tales of the villagers, there is certainly nothing romantic behind the name, such as a damsel pining for a long lost love.
Firstly, no one has ever seen the "princess".
Secondly, no one knows if she was human or from another world.
Thirdly, there was no palace anywhere in the vicinity, so how can anyone conclude that the person concerned was a princess?
After the end of my visit, the descriptions given by the villagers about this "princess" really sent chills down my spine.
It also reminded me of the Malay horror flick, Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam.
Soon after the interviews, I told the photographer to exit the village quickly before dark, although it was only 2.30pm, as I was starting to get goosebumps on my arms.
When I set foot at the village, I had hoped to meet and talk to elderly villagers who might have been lucky enough to have seen or met the weeping princess. Or, perhaps, a wailing ghost.
I was unlucky because none of the old timers were "lucky" enough to have had such an encounter.
Even among the very few who had the "privilege" to hear the audible weeping of the "princess", none had ever seen the person behind it.
This added more suspense to the mystery.
There is no proper documentation about the formative years of the village, located about five kilometres from the Jalan Benut-Pontian trunk road in Pontian.
However, the senior citizens there said the settlement was opened about 100 years ago by their great-grandparents, who migrated from Java, Indonesia.
Sudirman Padiyo, 67, a father of eight and a grandfather of 22, said the village was opened in the early 1900s.
"Initially, there were only a few houses near the main road. Later, they built a linear road and the village developed to what it is today -- a 13-kilometre stretch dotted with some 170 houses.
"From a handful of settlers, we have a population of about 2,000 now."
Sudirman has never heard the weeping sound, but his friend Jasman Tasnari, 51, has "gifted" ears.
In fact, Jasman said he heard the weeping twice -- once on the night of Hari Raya Aidilfitri in the 1970s and another on the same night of the Gunung Pulai tragedy on Dec 27, 2001, where a woman, her three children and another person were killed when a mixture of mud, rocks and tree trunks washed away four houses in Kampung Seri Gunung Pulai in a landslide.
"I heard the weeping sound of a woman in front of my house on both occasions.
"The sound did not come from one point. It was more like the woman was walking along Jalan Kampung Parit Puteri Menangis, the main road of the village, as she wept.
"As I opened my door to see who was weeping, the sound disappeared and I could not see anyone," he added.
Jasman is not the first to hear the strange weeping sound.
According to village elders, the first batch of settlers had also heard the weeping.
The place where the weeping was first heard is near a steel bridge about 200 metres from the entrance to the village.
As the weeping sound was heard deeper and deeper in the jungle, the settlers kept building their houses closer and closer to the sound, until they could hear the weeping no more.
It's a good thing, too, that the sound could not be heard anymore as I cannot imagine how long the village would have stretched otherwise.
The villagers of Kampung Parit Puteri Menangis are mainly farmers who are involved in the cultivation of oil palm, as well as growing fruits, such as durian, rambutan, mangosteen and pineapple.
The "princess" appears to have showered lots of blessings on the village over the years in terms of business opportunities.
Besides cultivating their orchards, some villagers also offer homestay programmes for tourists to generate extra income.
Last year, the village won the "Desa Cemerlang" excellent award for the Pontian parliamentary constituency.
I suppose this explains why the "princess" no longer weeps. Villagers say she is probably now overcome with joy.