Mr. Ong is very kind in sharing some of his views and experiences on the entertainment industries. So, I repost this very interesting post on Mr. Ong’s behalf:
Let us continue our talks on opera and our cultures again.
Apart from aboriginal tribe, majority residents of Hainan Island were actually earliest immigrants from Hokkien province and a few others folks including that of Teochew, Canton, Hakka and even from far-off Indonesia (prisoners) and Vietnam. Hainan Island was ruled by Cantonese state government before independence as Hainan Province, thus Cantonese is still widely spoken in the capital by name Haikou.
It is understandably that’s the main reason why Hainanese has a crossed cultural practices of mainly Hokkien and Cantonese, and few others as stated above. For example, ‘hantaran ‘of a marriage engagement consists of “Pinang and sireh” ( under influence of Indonesian residents ).
Based on above historical background, a Hainanese understands easily even “classic” Hokkien language as spoken in Hokkien Opera. An old Hokkien and Hainanese could communicate very well, even speaking in their own provincial speeches individually. Same convenience happens between a Cantonese and a Hakka. When I was a teenager, I could communicate in Hokkien, Hainanese, Cantonese, Shantong and a bit Teochew, under influence of my neighbourhood that out of various provincial backgrounds.
As I said previously, Hokkien Opera is the oldest among others in Chinese history. Hence, the speech used had been modified to simplest from time to time, to be understood by audience effortlessly. Otherwise, none is interested to watch a stage show that spoken in strange language. However, the demand of Hokkien Opera is declined in Malaysia from years to years.
Back in 1980s, as a kid, I often watched Hokkien Opera booked by a local Hokkien club, during celebration of Ma Choo’s birthday. A character similar to smiling Buddha was performed by a masked actor, just before actual opera began. It was performed only on first and last days of the whole staging period. This smiling faced old man pulled down the folded scrolls page by page, showing greeting words likely- peacefulness to the world, prosperity etc. An old fold told me that the smiling faced mask should only be uncovered by using a piece of red cloth held with hands, once the actor returned to back stage. It was to avoid direct contact with hands. The reason for this is still unknown to me up till now, as I never asked more from this old folk.
We do have such offering ritual in Hong Kong movies industry, especially before making historical movies. The whole crew involved in shooting the movies, would pray to deceased souls whose stories are played. An Ang Pau is given to actors/ actresses whose roles are to be passed away in a story.
I was told by my Korean manager that, they had a offering to spiritual guardians at the site that where a constructional project would begin. This happened in our Gas Processing Plant.