DARK GREY PANAMA WOOL MOHAIR HERITAGE JACKET WITH PATCH DETAIL FROM GUCCI; SPIRIT OF BIG BANG KING GOLD WATCH FROM HUBLOT
“This isn’t going to be harder than SPM examinations, is it?” Mej (K) Al Hambra Tun Juhar jests with an amused grin, as we sit down in a quiet corner at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa for a chat. The Prestige Malaysia team has just wrapped up a photoshoot with the Sabah native for our annual East Malaysia issue and despite it being the fasting month for Muslims, Al Hambra maintained a courteous and unassuming demeanour, with no objections to our requests.
“I am always used to being behind the camera but today was the first time that I became the subject,” he confesses, before revealing that he had once harboured a passion for photography, an interest he inherited from his father, TYT Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Juhar bin Haji Mahiruddin. “My father used to carry his SLR camera and developed his own film in his dark room. He bought me a DSLR when I was in university after I expressed interest in photography,” he enthuses and sends me a link to his Flickr account where his past works ranging from wedding photography and commercial photography are proudly showcased.
Photography isn’t the only hobby he inherited from his father as his face lights up when we breach the subject of music. “When I was in school, I was really into music. I started by playing the drums before moving on to be a guitarist and finally a vocalist. The instruments are self-taught and I played in a band where we performed at several venues.” When prompted further, he amusingly reveals that his band was named Red Panda. “It was a lame name,” he chuckles. “My family has a keen interest in music and both my father and sister still sing very well.” It was his father who once again encouraged his talent by gifting him with his very first drum set at the age of 13 which he assembled on his own.
Though he was born and raised in the city of Sandakan, Al Hambra spent five years in Kuala Lumpur pursuing his tertiary education at Sunway College where he completed a degree in banking and finance. “I have fond memories but I disliked the traffic jam and the high cost of living,” he says candidly. “SS15 was my playground,” he chuckles with a glint in his eye.
Upon returning to Kota Kinabalu, he landed his first job as a marketing and communications executive in Sutera Harbour Resort where he gained plenty of exposure. However, Al Hambra did not lose sight of his dream to start his own business and left after two years to establish a manufacturing business in bakery. “It was a huge learning curve for me because I had to deal with manpower, setup, layout and renovation of the plant as well as accounting,” he recalls, even going as far as to dub the business as his baby. He left the business due to a dispute with his partner.
While on an official visit with his father to Labuan, a federal territory renowned for its oil and gas operations, Al Hambra received an epiphany to venture into his next business. “We were hosted by an Asean supply base company which manages the logistics for most of the oil companies and I gained a significant amount of insight into the industry. That sparked an interest in me because I have always been partial to technology and engineering,” he states. Alhambra Petroleum was established in 2014 and is currently responsible for supplying safety equipment to oil majors such as Petronas and Shell. “The future of oil and gas lies in Sabah. In the future, 50 per cent of the national oil production will be from Sabah,” he discloses.
As the eldest child in a family of four siblings, Al Hambra has stepped up to fulfil his parents’ vision to help those less fortunate, by taking on the responsibility as chairman of Yayasan Nur Jauhar, a foundation established by his parents in early 2012. To date, the foundation has helped more than 1,000 individuals as well as multiple charitable organisations. “We extend help to the hardcore poor, as well as orphanages and schools. One of our notable charity activities involves a donation of RM50,000 to a religious school nearby which was in dire need of a new building as it was built on a wooden house,” he elaborates.
Besides that, the foundation also hosts an annual fundraiser and golf charity event known as the Head of State Corporate Charity Cup. “This is our third year organising the event and we have managed to raise almost RM500,000,” Al Hambra declares. Regular visitations to the hardcore poor villages are also part of his duty as chairman of the foundation. “Some of them do not even have a roof in their homes as it was blown away by the storm. Most of them live in wooden houses. Some are not even working, handicapped or plagued with illness such as cancer,” he says.
One of his visitations brought him to the home of a single mother with three children who lacked clean water supply. “She was in stage four cancer at that time and could not afford to set up proper piping. We extended monetary donation and kitchen supplies to the family. However, the mother has since passed away and the kids had to stop schooling to support the family,” he says.
He also reveals that it is common to discover thousands from the hardcore poor population residing in numerous districts in Sabah. “I don’t deny that we still lack infrastructure for a few of the rural areas but the Rural and Regional Development Ministry will be allocating RM5.83 billion funds nationwide and 50 per cent will be allocated to Sabah and Sarawak. Without proper infrastructure, it will be difficult for the rural folks to access basic needs such as healthcare,” he says with a hint of frustration.
When it comes to leadership, it is only natural that Al Hambra looks up to his father. “He was a village boy who grew up on a remote island north of Lahad Datu called Tambisan. He used to paddle a sampan to school and today he is the 10th Head of State of Sabah,” he says proudly. As the son of a politician, Al Hambra grew up in the public eye and acknowledges the sacrifices his father made throughout his career. “When my father was in politics, it was quite tough because you have no personal time. He dedicated his time 24 hours and 7 days a week to entertain the rakyat. But I never once heard him complain,” he says before adding on, “his stories and traits inspire me. It reminds me and pushes me forward when things get rough.” As for whether he would consider pursuing a career in politics one day, Al Hambra has no objections, but for now, he wants to focus on his business and help people through his foundation. “I think this is a very good learning ground,” he justifies.
His active involvement in philanthropy has also led him to be awarded the honorary rank of Major by the army. Apart from that, he was also appointed as Justice of the Peace (JP) by the TYT Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sabah. “We live in unity here and that’s what I’m most proud of. We don’t have much friction or conflict because we tolerate each other. The spirit of Sabahans is very much alive in us,” he sums up deftly.
PHOTOGRAPHY ERIC CHOW @ BLINK STUDIO | WORDS JULIE YIM
STYLING IBNU ASWAN | STYLING ASSISTANCE NIGEL LEE
MAKE-UP & HAIR GAVIN SOH
LOCATION SHANGRI-LA’S RASA RIA RESORT & SPA