Meet Datin Winnie Loo and Marcus Teo, a stylish mother-son duo, Datin Winnie and Marcus share with us their personal takes on Merdeka. While we might expect significantly less pomp and parade, we could certainly do with a lot more of the Merdeka spirit.

If anything, our multiple lockdowns have laid bare the social pressures and inequality faced by the varying stratas of our society. Honouring our national birthday is a great way to remember how far we’ve come collectively, and an awesome reason to celebrate our humanity. As long as we’re jogging on the great wheel, we’re going to need each other. So we reached out across the generational divide, asking a veteran and scion what Merdeka means to each generation. Here’s what we heard back from Datin Winnie Loo, the stylish CEO of A Cut Above Salons and Academy and her son, Marcus Teo who acts as business development director for the business.

Datin Winnie Loo

What has changed most about Malaysia compared to when you were younger?
Life was definitely simpler then for me as I grew up in the 60s. My childhood was full of adventures since I’m very active in sports. Even simple games of hide and seek, jumping rope and climbing trees were fun activities that cost nothing. I have to cycle far just to pass a message to a friend unless I can get her on that land-line where many families do not even have. My years of growing up was nothing short of healthy activities.

Whilst the Malaysia today is all about being fast-paced and becoming increasingly digitised, everything is just a touch away. There’s so much more for me to learn from the younger ones in order for me to change with the times. Young children have personal mobile phones and they spend too much time on modern gadgets that they lose the real experience in growing up without them. We are living in the digital age where we don’t spend as much time together, even as a family. The pros and cons of modernisation, something that I now look back on and think that I am privileged to have seen more.

What is a local culture you’d like to see the younger generation pay more attention to?
Modernisation is good but I think that some forms of cultures and heritage should be preserved—so that it can still be an attraction for tourism, especially in the performing arts. To find a balance between Chinese operas and even traditional musicals like Puteri Gunung Ledang and scripts that remind us of our roots and cultures where younger Malaysians can pay attention to the past via such forms of entertainment.

What is a unique quality that you’ve picked up from the generation before?
A tradition that my parents have rubbed onto me is that I have to acknowledge them and my older siblings during meal time. The Chinese saying ‘sek fan’ which translates to let’s eat rice, may sound weird but it’s a trait that’s even passed down to my children now. They must wait for us before addressing dad and mum to eat together.

Can you recall a time that made you feel proud to be a Malaysian?
I would say being recognised as the first and only Malaysian to receive the World Master of Craft in New York at the Fashion Institute Technology in 1997 and being recorded in the first Malaysia Book of Records. This too has led me to the 50th Merdeka celebrations at Dataran Merdeka, walking alongside other distinguished Malaysians was a humbling experience. It certainly felt great to be able to come this far as a local hairdresser in the global scenes.

What is an important lesson you’ve learnt throughout the years about Merdeka that you wish the younger generation would always remember?
Independence has given us Malaysians the freedom to do greater things. With that, I really wish to see a more united younger generation that embraces diversity, one that will stand up for their rights and one that lives as ‘one heart and one voice’—in order to see a better Malaysia in the years to come.

Where do you see Malaysia in the next 10 years?
Currently with the ongoing pandemic which has probably set us back at least three years, I am still optimistic that Malaysia will bounce back once normality comes around. I believe that with new leadership and a better managed economy, Malaysia will be thriving again. After all, we are blessed with natural resources and the abundance of talented younger generations especially in sports with lots of hidden potentials. Malaysia was once great and I pray that I will see the glory coming back to our soil once again.

Marcus Teo

What has changed most about Malaysia compared to when you were younger?
The pace of life. Everything these days is just about speed. You can have anything in a split second and sometimes you wonder if life is moving way too fast.

I remember back when I was around eleven, I would actually walk for 20 minutes to get to BSC just to hang out with my friends for the weekend. When we called our friends and told them the time to meet, promises were kept as we didn’t have any instant messengers. These days you just
don’t do that anymore. Our phones allow us to get away with anything and everything. It is way too easy to stay connected and to get instant gratification at any time. It feels as though we’ve lost the sense of adventure as so much information is being fed to you without the need to explore anymore. Overall, Malaysia feels smaller since we’ve lost the whole deep sense of connection with one another.

What is a local culture you’d like to see the younger generation pay more attention to?
I was not able to see much about Malaysian cultures but I did learn about it. As interesting as it was, it has phased out quickly due to the speed of life but if there is one culture I hope the younger generation will have is to be a true Malaysian—where we do not judge someone on the basis of their skin colour or religion. A hope that we can all live in harmony and respect one another.

What is a trait your parents have passed down to you?
I would say just being a pure kiasu (a fear of losing out) — I was never the one who liked being on the losing end. I’ve always had the tendency to do one better and this was passed on from my dad. From simple things like getting a discount even though it’s 50 cents and it’s those small wins that give you the satisfaction.

Can you recall a time that made you feel proud to be a Malaysian?
It will be for any sporting event—you can really feel the passion from Malaysians whereby we all stand as one to support a cause. It just brings so much unity to the country in which we disregard all negative aspects.

What is an important lesson you’ve learnt about Merdeka that you wish the younger generation would always remember?
We must always stand and unite into one as we can do wonders together. Be focused, stand up for what is right and be driven for your purpose.

Where do you see Malaysia in the next 10 years?
I honestly hope we can be one of the leading countries in Southeast Asia whereby our infrastructure and healthcare will be of world class and that our markets will be thriving in years to come. Our country has so much potential and it is rather heartbreaking that it has not lived up to its true potential.

Hero image: (From left to right) Dato’ Richard Teo, Datin Winnie Loo, Juvene and Marcus Teo

written by.
Melissa Foong
Born and raised in the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur, Melissa is a writer that hopes to offer a fresh female perspective on the world of men's luxury fashion. When she's not busy chasing deadlines, you can find her tucked in a blanket rereading her favourite series of fantasy novels, Harry Potter.

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