Remembering Mr Asia Bujang Taha
FOR A MAN WHO had done so much for bodybuilding in the state and country, it was no surprise that the bodybuilding fraternity and even people who had never even met Sarawak bodybuilding great Bujang Taha were moved to tears at the news of his passing last Sunday.
About 100 people visited his home at Kampong Tanjong, Petra Jaya on Monday offering their condolences and support to the family.
According to rising star in the state bodybuilding arena, Alzrin Abdul Ghani, better known as Awind, “What really touched my heart was that he never forgot those he ever trained. He never asked for any payment in return. All he ever wanted was for the success of the sport. He loved his students very much.
“Even when he was admitted to the hospital, lying down painfully in bed, he still managed to give us advice about bodybuilding. His last one being for us to stop smoking and lead a healthy lifestyle.”
For six-time Asian heavyweight champion Malek who flew in especially from Kuala Lumpur for the funeral, Bujang was a very humble man.
He first knew Bujang Taha when he just started getting involved in bodybuilding back in 1985.
“That was before people knew about me: He approached me in my room, introduced himself and hugged me then said, ‘Bagus orang Melayu badan besar macam awak masuk sukan bina badan’ and we kept in touch ever since.”
Malek described him as a great sportsman who always wanted to do his best to make Sarawak proud. He was also very friendly and concerned for all the young athletes to whom he always gave advice and joked around with.
“He did Malaysia proud in several competitions. His character was such that he’d never make enemies of people. We were all like brothers.
“Something that I will never forget that he always said to me when we met was: ‘Lek, abang sayang kamu. Harap kamu jaga diri baik-baik dan selalu lah telefon abang,’” Malek said through his tears.
One of the lessons Malek learned from Bujang was to do his very best to make the country proud. Even though Malek knew Bujang did not have much in terms of finances during his time, he recalled what Bujang said to him: “Apa yang ada abang akan gunakan, abang tak kira, janji abang mau menang.”
Malek requested all Malaysian bodybuilders to pray for him and added, “I am requesting this time to give recognition to Bujang Taha. Even before I joined the bodybuilding arena in 1985, he was making the nation proud. So, if my achievements have earned me the title ‘Datuk’, why should he not be given similar recognition? That is what I really ask the state government to consider.”
For Sarawak Body Building Association (SBBA) president Datuk Wee Hong Seng, Bujang was an athlete who emphasised on a clean healthy competition and made the state proud not just on the national level, but also in the global arena.
“He always reminded the young athletes that during his time in the 1960s and 70s, there were no supplements, so the only way to get his was from the food. We will always remember him and his advice. Even though he has retired from championships, he was still very active in supporting all the bodybuilding championships around Kuching,” Wee said.
In honor of all veteran bodybuilders, Wee also said that they will build a gym where they can all gather together and train new bodybuilders. “I will try my best to fulfill Bujang’s dream and hope the state government will also assist us with this.”
Other bodybuilders who came last Monday to pay their last respects included our state pride George Awi William.
“I represent the Sarawak bodybuilders when I say we are sad because we have lost our bodybuilding legend who has been providing guidance to all the young ones today. He always gave us the spirit to keep moving, take care of our food intake and to always train hard. He, who always referred to himself as ‘Abang’ for us had contributed a lot, not only to Sarawak but also to Malaysia,” said George, who is also the head coach for SBBA.
Local dignitaries who also came included Assistant Youth Development Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip and Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Islamic Affairs) Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman.
Daud recounted how Bujang had contributed a lot to the local bodybuilding arena. “He made Sarawak proud by becoming Mr Asia, twice in 1980 and 1981. Until today, someone is yet to be on par with him. We really feel his death is a great loss for the state.
“Even though we were very close, he never asked for this and that from the government. I am sad about this matter. Thus, I am requesting the state and federal government to pay attention to his family’s welfare and provide monthly allowance for them as he had contributed a lot in the field of bodybuilding,” Daud said after paying his last respects at his residence.
According to his eldest son, Razak Bujang Taha, 50, his father was a very compromising and friendly man.
“He always practiced the art of give-and take. Even though we were sometimes scared of him because he was very strict, he never failed to educate and guide us to help us become better people. He was also a very friendly person and easy to befriend,” Razak said.
His daughter in-law, Suzana Ibrahim also revealed that he was never one to let on when he was sick. “He was admitted to SGH last Monday, and even before that, he had a normal cough but still didn’t tell us that he was sick.”
After the funeral, Malek handed a cheque amounting to RM11,000 to Bujang’s widow, Norsanah Harun to ease the family’s burden. The contribution was given by the National Athletes Welfare Foundation (Yakeb).
Bujang was admitted to the Sarawak General Hospital due to an acute asthma attack last October 6 and breathed his last at 10.47pm on Sunday (October 12).
He was laid to rest at the Samariang Muslim Cemetery at 2.45pm on Monday (October 13). He leaves behind 10 children, 35 granchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was 77.
Brief facts about Bujang Taha’s bodybuilding career:
- He was among the pioneers of state bodybuilding alongside Soloman Esmanto, Liaw Teck Leong, Suhardi Mukmin and Andrew Grinsam, first competing in the late 60s.
- He won Mr Kuching in 1971
- He won Mr Sarawak in 1973
- He was Mr Asean in 1980 before winning the prestigious Mr Asia in 1980 and 1981.
- He earned the Ahli Bintang Sarawak (ABS) state award in 1982.
- He also won a gold medal at the 1975 SEA Games.
- He received silver at the 1982 Asian Games.
- He was named Sarawak’s Sportsman of the Year twice in 1981 and 1989.