It was an event that was planned over a period of eight months by a special fundraising committee set up by parish priest, Fr Martin Arlando of the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang (CDM) . They were first tasked to book a place and to sell tickets for CDM’s first Charity Dinner. The date was set to be the 8th December marking the last big event of the year for CDM . A total of 70 tables was its target bringing together 700 people. It was to be an 8-course sit down Chinese dinner. The committee comprising of senior parishioners took up the challenge and proceeded to seek a venue large enough to accommodate the people. In the end, Fr Joachim Robert, parish priest of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit was approached and he generously offered the cathedral’s parish hall free of charge. The next big task was to sell all the tickets for the dinner. Groups of volunteers were engaged to travel to many parishes on the island of Penang advertising the dinner and selling tickets. In addition, they also stationed themselves at the entrance of the church over many weekend Masses at CDM. By the grace of God, eventually all the tickets were sold. It is notable that the parish of the Church of Seven Sorrows gave the most support by purchasing the most tickets outside CDM itself. There were also many generous corporate sponsors who bought tickets and donated it back to the church.
The creative efforts of securing interesting and unique items to auction was then the next major task. There was the constant fear that those items secured would not be able to be attractive enough to the buyers. But with the full confidence that God would bless our efforts, various people including non-Catholics came forward to donate unique, authentic and unusual items. A total of 28 items were then selected for auction. These included a 100 year old Remington typewriter, two lockets made from a piece of a ship wreaked China wear of porcelain plate found around 200 years ago, bone wear porcelain plates, a bottle of 60 year old cognac, coloured bean woven paintings, paintings on papyrus paper, an aged Tissot watch, beaded sandals, alcohol beverages of different sorts, silver handbags and even a burnt rice grain painting of Jesus. In addition, there were a few fixed priced items that were generously donated from a member of the family of our first Chief Minister of Penang, Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee.
The auction was conducted by Gilbert Gomez and his wife, Rowena, helped along by their young son, Matthew, who loudly announced the sale of an item with a gong. In addition to the excitement there was also much humour in the proceedings. In one instance, a husband and wife were trying to out bid each other for a bottle of single malt whiskey. Eventually, the sister-in-law intervened to top all their bids. The husband was heard to remark that it at least stayed in the family and was hoping that it was going to him as an early Christmas present. There were also times when the auctioneer got confused with the price of the item on offer, uttering outrageous sums, going up then down. This brought much laughter to everyone. Even though some items were unsold, at the end of the auction some people came up to purchase the remaining unsold items at the last quoted prices. This was as they wanted to remain anonymous and offer it as their donation. The highest priced item that sold for RM2k was the 100 year old Remington typewriter. This machine definitely brought back much fond memories for many old-timers in the hall. About half of the fixed priced items were also taken up.
In addition to the auction, a calligraphy stall was available to those who wanted to obtain a specially inscribed message in Chinese. There was also a photo booth that provide three different scenic backgrounds for capturing a group instant photo in front of a green screen. This proved to be a popular attraction as many families crowded in for a shoot.
In order to bring cheer to everyone, a table was donated to the residents of the Little Sisters of the Poor to join in this event. Music during the intermittent times between the auction biddings was provided by two talented young groups of parishioners from CDM namely the Aflatminor and Nichotine. A parishioner also gamely joined in with a rendition of old favorites.
It was most endearing to witness the extend of help, effort and cooperation shown by many lady parishioners of CDM who tirelessly moved around the hall persuading people to buy drinks, hampers and peanuts. The event proved to be a success as only four auction items remained unsold. Much excitement was generated during the biddings and the food was on par to a Chinese wedding dinner. Those that didn’t obtain any of the auctioned items felt that they all got their money’s worth of a good dinner with live entertainment. The auction also showed the generosity of many contributing towards a worthy cause of building a new community hall to house the Free Learning Center of CDM. It was also an occasion to showcase the community spirit of the parishioners at CDM and their efforts towards making their church a learning center as an avenue for all those disadvantaged and those who needed assistance in realizing their full potential to become the best version of themselves.
Dr Ivan Filmer
9th December, 2019.