In this section, I will be assembling numerous natural or man-made structures which are unique to Sandakan. Some of these may have disappeared. Some should be accorded heritage values. For those icons still here today, it is hoped that the authorities concerned will do its utmost to retain and maintain them for posterity.
(A) Batu Sapi
Batu Sapi, or "Three Legged Stone (in Chinese)" is by far the most recognized icon that stands for Sandakan.
This natural structure is located some 10 km SW of the Town Centre in an area formerly known as Kg. Gas. Before the 70's, it was not possible to get to the site by road. Visitors going there must stop at the end of the Batu Sapi Road, walk a short distance and then climb over a small hill before getting there. Because of its rural, pristine location, it was a popular destination for group picnic.
In the late 60's, Yayasan Sabah Foundation (YYS) was alloted vast tracks of land close to Kg. Gas and development of its timber complex started. An access into the area was constructed by YYS in 1970/71. When the photo at left was taken, my VW Beetle was parked along the road a stone's throw away.
Batu Sapi is located at the shore or foreshore. As such, the area it sits on should have been on Government Reserve. However, during the fast pace of development of Sandakan in the 70's and 80's, this area was acquired by a private concern, which fenced off the area, denying access to the public. It was only during the last decade that the authorities concerned took action to re-establish Batu Sapi as a tourism target. Nevertheless, the access to Batu Sapi is still controlled by a private firm, and the basis on which the site is opened to the public leaves much to be desired. On one occasion, a group of us were there on a public holiday, when crowds should be expected, and greater fee collection could be anticipated, the operator's staff saw it fit to have a holiday also and left the gate shut.
Another worry is the increasing environmental problems on the site, resulting from the lack of maintenance by the operator and the indiscriminate dumping of rubbish by factories and the dense squatters population (many of whom are illegal immigrants) in the proximity of Batu Sapi. Unless some drastic action is taken by the authorities concerned, Batu Sapi and its environs will never recover the tranquility it once possessed.
(B) Sandakan Bus Station
The Sandakan Bus Station (SBS) located next to the then Central Market was constructed around the mid 50's. The architect/engineer was Mr. Parker Kwan, the sole architect resident in Sandakan in the 50's. At that time, it was ideally located to serve townsfolks who travelled daily from both the Leila Road and the Labuk Road areas to do their marketing. The pix below shows the SBS in its nascent conditions.
Not much has changed over the past 48 years as shown in the photo above. The SBS at the time the photo was taken was in dire needs of a major face lift though. The seemingly little increase in the volume of bus passengers could have been due to the many minibuses which pick up passengers from various points of the town today. As one of the few remaining colonial-day structures, the SBS should qualify for heritage preservation by the authority.
(C) Old Administrative and Post Office Building
This building is one of the first few permanent Government buildings erected after the Second World War. It houses the Sandakan General Post Office and the Residential and District Offices, as well as the Lands and Surveys and a host of other departments in the 50's. Even the small Sandakan Public Library finds a home there. In front, a small well trimmed field serves as a hockey field. (As it was seldom used for that purpose then, most kids would prefer to play football there, much to the displeasure of the Town Board inspector who was responsible for maintaining this hockey field.)
A shot from the same spot 48 years later shows the view mainly obliterated by trees planted after the earlier pix was taken. Today, the hockey field is a mini park. The building is no longer playing the initial roles for which it was put up, as the Postal and Telecommunication services were Federalized. Further, the Residential and District Offices have been abolished. It is appropriate that part of the building now houses the Sandakan Heritage Museum, as this 60-year old post war, permanent structure, is itself a heritage building.
(C) Memorial to Early Chartered Company Officers
This memorial to A. Jones, Frank Hutton and other Chartered Company officers was mentioned in the recently published "Spirits of Borneo", a historical pictorial of selected photos taken by Osa and Martin Johnson who visited Sandakan in the 20's and 30's. The 1920's photo taken by the Johnsons showed it standing proudly in front of a Government Building, and alongside a major road. Much prominence was accorded the icon then. In the 50's and 60's, it was still there, as the picture on the left shows. It was likely that it was occupying the same spot as the 1920's photo. The location was at the open space where the Sandakan Municipal building is now. In 1962, when this image was taken, the building behind was part of the Sandakan Police Complex erected after the War. Conceivably, during the development of the SMC building, this icon was put away to storage somewhere. In the 50's, out-of-town visitors would invariably be taken there for one of those "I was there (Sandakan)" snap shots.
This Memorial is now relocated in a prominent spot in the MPS Square, fronting the MPS (Sandakan Municipal Council) and the Heritage Buildings as well as the Court House. (See photo in the next section.)
(D) The Pryer Fountain
Another Sandakan icon which was the favourite photographic object of visitors to Sandakan in the 50's was the small granite fountain which was located at the open space occupied by the present SMC building. The fountain was a memorial to William Pryer, purportedly the founder of Sandakan. It had been relocated many times since the 1950’s.
This 1963 photo (below) taken from the viewing platform at “Red Hill Top” near the Sandakan Residence shows the locations of the two memorials then.
In the early 60's, the fountain was relocated to a vantage point overlooking the main padang (football field). It was still there when the photo below was taken. Alas, it had to move again when upgrading of the first stretch of the North Road to a 4-lane highway was carried out later. Apparently, the authority concerned put the Pryer Fountain into storage for some time after the road-widening works.
Finally, the memorial honouring the Chartered Company officers (left of pix)and the Pryer Fountain are now occupying two very appropriate spots in the MPS Square, a very short distance from their original locations.
***SOME MISSING ICONS
(....to be continued...)