Story by Kaelanne Jordan,
Family, friends, well wishers and members of the theatre fraternity were reminded that Raymond Sulan Choo Kong would not want them to grieve over his passing, but to fertilise his vision by sowing the seeds that he tried to plant in the last 40 years of his career as an award-winning producer, actor and director.
“Don’t leave this church the same way you entered. Leave here because on walking out of this church, you have committed yourself to making society a place of joy and happiness. A place where humanity can find its true self,” La Romaine parish priest Msgr Christian Pereira said during Choo Kong’s Funeral Mass last Wednesday morning at the Santa Rosa RC Church, Arima.
From as early as 7 a.m. mourners began slowly filling the church long before the 10 a.m. service. Additional seats under two white tents in the church yard accommodated mourners, while onlookers stood in the nearby Santa Rosa park facing the Church’s main entrance.
As mourners gathered to celebrate Choo Kong’s life, Msgr Pereira warned that if they are tempted to focus on the crime which ended his life July 15, they may lose the real meaning of the epitome of his ‘Gift of PLAY’—not merely something that ‘Raymond’ wrote or performed, but the summation for which he lived.
‘P’ is for the Professionalism that characterised Raymond’s dedication and craft. He perfected his discipline and insisted that those associated with him must likewise be as dedicated and professional as he demanded of himself, Msgr Pereira said.
He recalled that one of the highlights of his ministry while parish priest of Arima was being able to work with Raymond, this “consummate professional” to communicate the Gospel to produce a Nativity play.
It was on this occasion, Msgr Pereira said, Raymond worked with “amateur” parishioners and made them into communicators of the great drama and message that was the Nativity.
‘L’ quite naturally is for Love. The laughter Raymond lived and the laughter he created among those who shared his interpretation of various issues that were part of our national experience. Raymond not only taught how to laugh, but he inspired all to regain the art of learning to laugh at ourselves.
“Raymond rose to great poignance as this society was beginning to forget the way to laugh at ourselves. We were getting too serious about all kinds of things, a seriousness that causes us to destroy one another. He tried to rekindle that aspect of humanity.”
‘A’ is for the Attitude which Raymond demonstrated and which he expected from all. Msgr Pereira maintained that none of us can face life or enter into the realm of “stunning work” without the deep passion of who we are and for what we do. Raymond, he said, exuded that “total engagement”.
‘Y’ is for the Yearning that sustained the attitude. Msgr Pereira questioned: “What are you yearning for? What is there that causes you to be the best version of yourselves? Is there a groaning within you? Because it is only then you yearn something that you are able to work, to cultivate that professionalism with an attitude that will last forever,” he said.
Msgr Pereira called on those gathered that as they bid their final farewell, to allow Raymond’s great life to remain in them in true PLAY wherever they go to make Trinidad and Tobago a better place for all, and especially the generations to come.
Member of Parliament for Arima, Anthony Garcia gave brief remarks. He shared that the theme of the service came to mind when he thought of the life of fellow ‘Arimian’ Choo Kong. Though he was “gone too soon” he left a lasting and impacting legacy, the Education Minister said.
Garcia observed that even in death, Choo Kong has continued to bring people together and to create unification through the many memorials held in his honour.
He told those gathered that if nothing else they take from the life lived by Choo Kong, take his passion, fearlessness and creativity and live life to the fullest.
“That is the lesson from which we can all learn…. That is what Raymond would want for all of us,” he said.