GEORGE TOWN - A Merdeka badge he received from his Standard One teacher in 1957 aroused in Syed Alwi Syed Omar a passion for collecting items related to Malaysian history which has never abated.
His collection now includes special edition Merdeka coins and a RM1 note signed by first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.
"On Aug 23, 1985, I dropped my aunt at the Perkim kindergarten in Jalan Utama where she worked as a headmistress. There, I met Tunku and I asked him to sign a RM1 note. He was a very humble leader and he duly obliged," Syed Alwi said, showing The Star the RM1 note.
Syed Alwi added that he also collects Merdeka coins from Bank Negara.
His special edition Merdeka coins are from 1977, 1982 and 1987.
"Many people dispose of their items not knowing that they can be priceless over time.
"I have gone through rubbish bins and collected several priceless items which may not be available in the market now," he said.
Syed Alwi is also quite proud of his Merdeka badges.
"My father's employer gave him a badge with the image of Tunku in 1957. My father gave it to me and I treasure it very much," said the retired Penang Municipal Council recycling and environment officer.
"Back then, there were a lot of such badges in the market and many people threw them away. I collected and kept them instead."
When asked about his message for Merdeka, Syed Alwi called on the younger generation to practise recycling to save the environment.
"Some items that may have been deemed as spoilt can be repaired or re-assembled and be put to good use. Be the unsung hero of the environment," he said.