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The site where the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus used to be. It is now a pond. (Unable to find the source of this photo and so we're unable to credit and/or seek permission to use.)

The pool that used to be an IJ convent

(Photos courtesy of Chan Sau Mei and the Convent Past Pupils Association Seremban)

JUNE 19, 2023: It is right in the middle of Seremban. A pool, beside the main bus terminal with the train station nearby and a short distance away are the government buildings. Despite numerous efforts the water cannot be drained out.

That is the spot where the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus was demolished 29 years ago. It was the only convent in Negeri Sembilan and was set up in 1904. It would have been 119 this year.

The convent had both primary and secondary schools, and it was sitting on a sizeable piece of real estate on prime land.

The state government said the convent was adding to the traffic congestion and persuaded the Infant Jesus Sisters and the Catholic Church to sell their share of land on which the school sits. Which they did. The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the grotto at the convent is now at the nearby Church of the Visitation.

The land was sold to a private developer who wanted to build a multi storey shopping mall and apartment building. They built two levels of underground parking and from then on things went awry. Underground water rushed out and submerged the whole area.

A lot of effort went into draining out the water but nothing worked and the pool is there to this day. Seremban and its surrounding areas are on high water table.

“It was a bad move,” says Chan Sau Mei. “The government said that the convent had to be demolished to ease traffic but the structure was still good. They could have at least turned it into a museum. Or at least waited till the convent turned 100.”

Photos taken by Chan on the last day of school.

She was in the last batch of students and was there when they started to tear down the building.

“They started to demolish the school during my SPM exams, starting with the primary school,” says the 46-year-old florist who lives in Seremban. She was 17 then, sitting for the year-end government examinations.

“It was noisy.” Chan is now the treasurer of the Convent Past Pupils Association Seremban.

“Our teacher told us to bring cameras to school on the last day of our exam and take as many photos as we could. Because that would be the last day for the convent. After that, it was gone.” She says she took as many photos as she could, even of the chipped windows and the school bell. This was the manual bell they used when there were power cuts.

Chan (in school uniform) with her three teachers on her left and right, and also behind her (left). The other two are her batchmates in school. The teacher in red (seated, right) had also taught the teacher standing behind Chan.

“At one time we had boys studying in the convent. That was during World War II when there were many orphans. The convent had an orphanage and the boys who were there also attended the convent. I know of someone whose father-in-law was one of them.”

She adds that even members of the Negeri Sembilan royal family attended the convent. “The Yam Tuan would attend our concerts and other events,” she says, referring to the state ruler.

Chan and other alumni and former teachers recently reminisced about the old convent at a reunion. “We all got emotional.” She says it was a day when nostalgic tears flowed down their faces as they looked at the old photos of the convent that is no longer there.

Former students and teachers at last months reunion.